Fragrance of fitness vs. KFC’s 11 herbs and spices

Over the weekend, I hiked to the top of a mountain at Fragrant Hills Park, an imperial garden in northwest Beijing. The park is well-known for its Smoke Tree leaves, which turn red in late autumn, attracting thousands of tourists.

I reached the peak – 557 meters above ground – in an hour and a half, and after I climbed the final set of stairs I turned around to take in a view of the city. Just as I pulled out my cellphone to take a picture, an old man using a walking stick passed me. He was hiking barefoot and shirtless, and moving at a brisk pace. He must have been at least 60 and was fit too, especially for his age.

The man who passed me at the top of the mountain.

I wouldn’t want to challenge this guy to a race.

While I stood in the shade to collect my breath and give my burning legs a rest, the man kept going, passing a large rock formation and an ancient temple, until I could no longer see him. Continue reading

The hunt for red November

One of the first parks I visited in Beijing was Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan). The park is best known for its smoke trees, which turn the hillside red in autumn.

I went in November, hoping to make a few nice pictures to send to family and friends back home. The climb to the top of the park took about two hours. Along the way I saw plenty of yellow and golden leaves, but no red ones. To make matters worse, when I reached the peak the view of Beijing was obstructed by pollution.

But the hike wasn’t a total loss. On the way down, I found a trail that led to a pond. The surface was covered with leaves and water lilies. I took several pictures, and then climbed to a higher spot so I could get the people walking around the water in the frame. From there I captured one of my favorite images of my first few months in China.