A Travellerspoint blog

Cruisin' for a brusin'.....or fever

semi-overcast 27 °C

Well our tour in now over and I am writing to you from Shanghai airport on the way to 5 niights in Honk Kong.

Last time I wrote we were off to the see the Pandas in Chengdu. Well the Panda Research Centre didn't disappoint. We saw many cute Pandas and even ones that were 2 days old and 2 weeks old. I was surprised at how small a panda is when it is born. They only weigh on average 150 grams. Unfortunately it was raining when we were walking through the park, which later (I believe) was the main contributor leading to my horrific cold I have!!

After the Pandas we set off to Chongqing to board our boat along the Yangtze for 3 nights. The rooms were quite initmate, but serviceable - we did have a balcony which was good. I did feel like I was in a Willy Wonker film as the Yangtze looks like a chocolate river - only not that inviting considering the rubbish that flows through it.

We had a shore excursion to Fengdu (The Ghost City). More stairs to climb, man I will have good legs when I return! On the second night the boat staff put on an AMAZING fashion show of Chinese costumes across the ages. These poor people, what they are made to do for a bit of entertainment was excruciating to watch - God bless 'em. Following the fashion show, there was an even more AMAZING spectacle - the disco. Our group commandeered the poor DJ - which was fine considering we were practically the only ones in there. Our tour guide David even joined in the fun having a few too many wines and getting up on the dance floor.

The following day we had massages in the morning and in the afternoon we had a boat cruise through Wushan misty gorges and the onto some sanpans to go even further through the mini gorges. It really was quite beautiful - completely different colour of water to the Yangtze. In the evening there was a talent show, which I didn't attend as was starting to get a cold, however, I heard literally was the previous night's fashion show with tap shoes and a couple of Germans singing.

Last day on the boat there was an excursion to the Three Gorges Dam, which I missed as was feeling quite rotten - apparently I didn't miss that much as it was too smoggy to really see it clearly. We got off the boat around midday in Yichang for lunch and boarded our flight to Shanghai.

I really liked Shanghai and wished I felt a little better to enjoy it more. As we only had 1 day in Shanghai out last day was pretty busy. We went to another silk factory, the old French quarter, Shanghai Museum, the pagoda looking tower (sorry can't remember the proper name) and on the fastest train in the world - it got up to 431km per hour. It can travel 31 km's in 7 minutes!! We then went to some more markets for some shopping, but not before stopping in to have a look at the beautiful Yew gardens.

It was then off to our final Chinese meal and we even got 2 bottles of wine with our meal!! It was sad to say goodbye to our fellow travellers, but now we are off to en joy the sights of Hong Kong for 5 days.

Talk soon

Posted by ronnie_23 17:50 Archived in China Comments (0)

Please sir can I not have any more...

overcast 27 °C

Well we have been travelling for just over a week now, and I'm sorry to say that if I don't see a bowl of rice again it will be too soon!! I love the food (except for a couple of experiences in Tibet, which I will explain later), but there is only so many meals in a row you can eat rice and noodles!

Well we have now arrived in Chengdu (capital of Sichuan Province), after a 3 day stay in Tibet. A lot of the group struggled with the altitude but we all acclimatised just in time to leave again.

We arrived in Tibet to a glorious day and my gosh blue sky and absolutely no pollution....we hadn't seen that in a while. However, for this pleasure, we had to endure the high altitude of 3,600 feet above sea level. As previousy blogged (which I really don't remember writing it actually - not due to inebriation, but to altitude sickness) we struggled, however, we went out to dinner and a show of traditional tibetan dances. Here is where my first food faux pas happened. As not a lot of people in Tibet speak english, we had no translation on what the food was. I will try anything and I thought I had picked a nice bean salad with maybe pork or fish??? After tasting and not liking, I pushed on to eat a bit more (as I didn't want to be rude) I later learned that it was not pork or fish, but in fact tripe!! Urgh!! I'm sorry to those who may like tripe, but it is quite disgusting. It took all my might not to regurgitate my meal.

The following day we visited NorbuLingka, the Dalai Lama's Summer Palace. The summer Palace was built in the 7th century by the 7th Dalai Lama and obviously this is where he resided in the summer months. We then went to Jokhang Temple, and to be honest we don't really know what it was used for, most likely the Dalai Lama used it in some capacity. I must explain our loal guide Larda, a lovely Tibetan man however, most of the time went into way too much detail that you actually don't remember anything he has said and his pronunciation was not all that clear sometimes....but a really sweet man. After Jokhang we browsed through some street markets just outside the temple.

Then we went off to eat again and WOW, this place was not so good. Here was my second food faux pas and to cut it short I ate liver, heart or kidney, not sure which internal organ it was but positive it was one of them. This place ensured we all lost our appetite quite quickly and sitting next to the very stiky toilet did not help matters.

Next day bought us Potala Palace, which is where most of the Dalai Lamas are entombed (in pure gold tombs). We had reservations that we were going to make the 312 step climb to the top, but as Larda says "Yoooou caaan doo it" - (translation "You can do it"). Check the photos out to see how high we climbed, and a pretty good feat if I say so considering we were all still suffering altitude sickness in some form or other. To my surprise after the climb I felt the best I had in Tibet....I think the monks blessed us on the way. We then headed out to see more monks at the Sera Monastery, here we witnessed debating monks, where senior (standing) questioned junior monks (sitting) about philosophy. Can't understand a word they are saying, but quite mesmerising to see their activities. This session goes from 3-6pm daily.

You are now pretty much caught up on what we have done so far. We are only in Chengdu for 1 night which we are sad about as it is a really nice city. We visited the fabulous Jinli Old Street Markets, but only had 1 hour to browse through the many interesting and varied stalls. We looked like two crazed women competing on Supermarket Sweep, running frantically from stall to stall spending all our money!! Chengdu has also provided our two most favourite meals to date, nice and spicy chilli sichuan style dinners.

Tomorrow we are off to see the Pandas and then a 4 hour bus trip to Chongqing to board the boat for the Yangtze River cruise.

Bye xx

PS, photos are now up to date

Posted by ronnie_23 06:35 Archived in China Comments (0)

High in the sky....

sunny 22 °C

Well we have now reached Tibet, however, I need to catch you up on a few things.

Our last full day in Xi'an we visited the Terracotta Warriors. This place is truly amazing, you really need to see it to understand the size of this place. The Terracotta Warriors and Horses are part of tomb built for the first Emporer of the Qin Dynasty over 2,000 years ago. This guy was such a narcisist that he commissioned work to commence on his tomb when he was only 13. At this time China was not yet unified and at 13 he became King of his state. When he took over his states politial affairs in his twenties, and in his 30's he unified China and hence became the first Emporer of China. The Qin Dynasty only lasted 15 years as all monies were spent on the tomb and the Great Wall.

After the Warriors we explored XI'an city wall. This wall is the best preserved city in all of China and dates back around 600 years. After this we visited the Muslim Markets as Xi'an has a reasonably high muslim population.

We then had to leave the following day (today) at the rediculous hour of 5.30 to catch our plane to Lhasa.

We have had a pretty easy day toady in Lhasa to acclamate to the high altitude. The altitude has affected poor Zia to the ppoint she is bed ridden, hopefully she will be able to make it out tomorrow. We will be visiting the Summer Palace (where the Dalai Lama lives) and Jakong temple - another pretty easy day, but the day after will be physical when we visit the Potala Palace where will have to climb just over 300 stairs to reach the top.

I'm currently using the hotel computer, so I won't be able to load up any photos until I can get back on mine.

Chat soon,

Ronnie xx

Posted by ronnie_23 05:27 Archived in China Comments (0)

My oh Mao.....

overcast 25 °C

Well we have arrived safe and (now left) Beijing. I did fear for Revy a little as I thought Leroy (my beautiful dog) was going to kidnap him before we even left. Leroy is quite taken with Revy.
This is the first opportunity we have had to log on, as there was no Wifi in our Beijing hotel, and our first 2 days have been jammed packed with activity. Since this first blog will be long, I will break it up a little.

Flights to Beijing were pretty painless, but no sleep for us as we fell into couch potato mode and watched episode after episode of Homeland - which we are now both completely addicted to.
We finally arrived at our hotel around 10pm local time (12am Sydney) which meant we had been awake now for about 20.5 hours. Our national tour guide, David was kind enough to meet us in our foyer when we arrived which we were not expecting to meet up with him tomorrow when all the other travellers arrived in morning. Thank god we arrived a day early as I would not want to be the poor souls who arrive today.
Whatever you have heard about Beijing traffic, we can attest that it is all true. Paris and Rome are pretty crazy, but it is nothing compared to Beijing. Traffic signals and pedestrian crossings are only "suggestions", meaning drivers are under no obligation to stop at a red light or give way to those on a pedestrian crossing - you will receive a few unpleasant honks of the horn if they have to stop for you. It is however, a site to see with pedestrians, bike riders, cars and buses all wanting to go in the same direction at the same time with only enough room for one of them.
As chinese custom goes, their beds are very firm which our local guide Coco (who picked us up at the airport) warned us about. I like a firm matress, but this really has not give at all, pretty much like sleeping on a plank of MDF. However, surprisingly I felt quite good after a lovely 8 hour sleep.

All I can say is Mum's heaven and Dad's hell....no not that bad, but mum you would love having an excuse for eating noodles and rice for breakfast.
The food so far has been amazing. Pretty much banquest style for both lunch and dinner varying in dishes - we still think we are getting the "western" dishes though.
We sampled the famours Beijing (Peking) duck which was delicious and we have eaten enough rice to last us the rest of our lifetime!!

We started the touring Friday morning heading off with a visit to Tiananmen Square. The vastness of this place is quite incredible - it can fit just over 1 million people. We only stopped briefly here for our group photo and a quick look around. We then headed over to the Forbidden City (just across the road from the square). The Forbidden City is where the Emperor lived built in 1421 in the Ming Dynasty. Again, a massive area covering about 72 ha. From here we then went onto the Temple of Heaven which is now a great park open to the public. Here was the Temple where the Emperor prayed to the God of Heaven . this temple reminded me of the one in Kung Fu Panda , where the baddy peacock lived. This night we had an optional excursion a Kung Fu show produced by Jackie Chan himself. The show was quite a spectacle also including ballet and acrobatics. Then onto dinner again for more food. There is no way that you can say they don't feed you well on this tour - we have not had to buy any meals yet.

Today was a highlight day with us visiting the Great Wall. We headed off early at 7am as it should have taken us about 1.5-2 hours....depending on the traffic (a disclaimer our guide uses in nearly every sentence). Surprisingly we arrived just after 8am and had 2.5 hours to explore the wall. Revy also made his first appearance today at the Great Wall.
There were 2 sides you could climb - the steep side and not so steep side. Naturally we set off for the not so steep side. Unfortunately we wasted about 20 minutes heading in the wrong direction (can understand now how people on the Amazing Race can get lost pretty easily). We then couldn't find how to get to the other side, so braved the steep slope. After what seemed an eternity, I made the first tower. Having felt that I had conquered the wall, I turned back so we could try our luck again to locate the other side again. We almost made the first tower on this side, but decided to turn back as it was starting to get quite crowded and not trusting the people in front not to topple backwards and cause a domino effect to the bottom of the steps. By now my legs were so rubbery I almost felt like a Thunderbird - squats done for a month!!
After conquering the wall, we headed back toward the city and visited a Jade Market (Government owned of course) where we we saw sculptors being carved and shown how to tell the difference between real and fake jade. The only test I remember is scraping the jade along glass - the one that doesn't damage is real jade. For some reason, I don't think many vendors would like you testing the jade in this way so I really am still none the wiser on how to tell the difference!
From here we had a vey brief pitstop and photo opportunity to the birds nest olympic stadium before we headed over to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace and its gardens were very beautiful, but by this stage it was almost 3 o'clock amd we were all feeling quite grotty and sweaty. Imagine how you would feel after doing stairmaster for 2 hours in a sauna - that is how we felt. All any of us wanted to do was go home and have a shower. Unfortunately, after the Summer Palace we were whisked off to an Acrobat show and then dinner - still no shower. Luckily the theatre was full so the performers received appreciation from the majority of the audience as our group was slightly over it by this stage.

Finally we got back to our hotel after being out for just over 13 hours.

We flew to Xi'an today and visited the Shaanxi History Museum. Interesting, but not a lot of time to really peruse the artifacts.
Anyway as I type this, our group is starting to mingle in the foyer to set of for our Dumpling dinner and Tang Dynasty dance show.

Sorry again for this being so long and I don't know when I will get another chance to write ...hopefully soon...

PS Photos will have to come a bit later....sorry

Posted by ronnie_23 03:42 Archived in China Comments (0)

Who's counting???

sunny 25 °C

Only 13 days, 10 hours, 32 mnutes and 40 seconds to go!!

Posted by ronnie_23 06:27 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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