Beijing: Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City

The following day I headed back to the centre of town to see Tiananmen Square, and Forbidden City, which was across the road from the square.



Statue outside the chairman Mao memorial hall.




Monument to the people’s heroes.Image


Military soldiers parade in front of the gate of heavenly peace.


The Forbidden City and palace museum were built by the Yongle emperor when he moved the capital to Beijing (North capital) from Nanjing (South capital) as a place to reside.


The city is made up of an impressive series of walled sections, including temples, halls for state functions and bed-chambers of the emperor and empress.




Five marble bridges cross this strip of water in the first courtyard.




After walking through the Forbidden City, you can ascend the hill in Beihai Park to get a sweeping view across the Forbidden City. It’s a shame that the weather was a little foggy, otherwise I might have got even better views.



Beijing: Olympic Park

Following the fieldwork, I went on and spent a few days in Beijing before flying home.

After arriving and trying to get to grips with public transport, I found my hostel and ventured into the city.

I headed first for Wanfujing, the shopping area. The city centre was packed, and I explored the markets and got a sense of the city.

Starfish, seahorse and scorpion snacks.

I later headed north of the city to the Olympic Park, home of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The Bird’s Nest

I was able to go into The Water Cube, which was incredible, I was able to sit in the competition hall, and see what I had seen on the telly.

Roundup of the second part of the trip: Qinghai Province and Yellow River

In the first part of the trip we visited the Qilian Shan Mountains and their alluvial fans, as well as the Badain Jaran desert.

In this second part of the trip we travelled to the Tibetan plateau, in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces, in order to sample the upper reaches of the Yellow River.

It is suspected that fluvial activity would be able to provide high volumes sediment found in certain areas of northern China, as preliminary data suggests major rivers may play an important role in sediment transport over long distances.

This is supported by the route of the Yellow River looping around the Loess Plateau and the Mu Us desert after it has drained the northeast Tibetan plateau.

First sample of the second part of the trip, on the Shui River.

Modern Yellow River near the town of Qinghai.

Just lower down from the Yellow River source lakes we took a sample.

Sandy sample close to the town of Dari.

Layers of silt and sand on the first big dog-leg of the river.

(All pictures from Tom)

Insta-blog post

The second part of the trip through the eyes of Instagram.

Grass, dunes, mountains.

Qinghai Lake over sand dunes.

Grey mountains.

Tibetan flags on the hillside.

Natural mountain river.

Hummocky mountain ground.


Huge selection of silk fabrics in Madou.

Sunshine through the forest.

Hot pot end of fieldwork celebration dinner.


A Right Chinese Affair

Back in Lanzhou we met again with Junsheng Nie and had a day or so in the city. We also met with Tom’s former colleague and Royal Holloway lecturer Xingmen Meng, now Dean of the research school of Arid Environments and Climate Change at Lanzhou University.

Whilst walking around the city, we bumped into Tom’s third year tutee and dissertation advisee, Chen Feng who was also in Lanzhou despite being from Shanghai.

She had been reading my posts before she came out too!

Small world, even in China.

(From left- Chen Feng, Tom, Anna and I)

The day we left was both Tom’s and Xingmen Meng’s birthdays, and Xingmen and his team had provided an enormous feast for us, which was very formal, with speeches and toasts occurring regularly throughout the meal, and then everyone leaving their seats to individually give toasts at different times.

Birthday noodles. Very very long – apparently like a wish.

Enormous slice of birthday cake.

Make your own bbq skewers.

Elaborate fruit platter.

(Pictures 2, 4 and 5 from Tom)

Muddy Feet

We got our last yellow river sample today near the town of Linxia.

We checked out some people exercising in the town square – video to come later on!

And did some driving through beautiful mountains and scenery.

We dropped right down from the high altitude of before, and it was a really noticeable change in landforms and vegetation.
Less rolling green mountains, more resistant rock landforms. Less plateau grasslands, more rockery shrubs.

The yellow river here in its lower course was travelling really fast, and the channel was really wide. The colour was much more blue than we were expecting and to what we had seen before, but was carrying finer material.

River terrace, showing distinctly different zones where the river has changed its characteristics through time.

We decided that today would be perfect for filming the sampling process.
It was also the day that I misjudged the river bank and stepped fully into the river sand, leaving me with feet caked in mud, like little mud booties.

Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for you this was all filmed and I will publish the video soon. Here are some stills from the video in the meantime.

We were sure that we could just pop my shoes into a sample bag and we’d have enough sample to test.

On the way back we stopped for more yak yoghurt, this time with the added element of banana.  The shop owner was very proud of her selection. We could have bought tubs of the fresh yakky goodness, but unfortunately had no way of keeping it cold.

(Pictures 6, 10 and 11 from Tom)


Short post today.


Beautiful scenery of grasslands, lakes and mountains on our journey, but don’t let the pictures deceive you, we had to go through an endless hellish dust bowl to get to our sample point.


The town wasn’t incredible either, seeing a yak being skinned was perhaps the highlight.



(Pictures 3 and 5 from Anna)