Saturday, June 28, 2008

The last post

This is it...the last day in China. I am due to fly out at 9pm so a long time to wait. Had arranged with Neil to take him to the Silk Markets in the morning so had to get out of bed early. Had trouble getting a taxi (no Steve, that why). It seemed to take for ever and it was raining. Eventually got there but had to walk about a block and negotiate an underpass but got there. He picked out what he wanted and I did the bargaining. It worked quite well. Got back to the hotel just before 12 as that was the check out time. I did try to keep my room till six but it wasn't happening so had to fill in time on the Internet, reading and eating. Got too bored so at 4pm I went to the airport. At least there is more to do there. I got a taxi with no trouble but it seemed like he had never been to the airport before...not too sure what was going on there. Was very disappointed with the duty free and departure area at Beijing. I know that the airport has only been open a month but there is nowhere to buy a bottle of water and only one eating place that is a full on eating place. My plane left on time and I enjoyed not having someone in front of me on the plane and the plane appeared to be fairly new and clean (compared to the China ones). I arrived back in Cairns and was picked up by Kris and Amie which was quite cool. Not use to that sort of reception.

It was a good holiday. Physically challenging especially after having a horse fall on me. Best parts...definitely Tiger Leaping Gorge, The warriors and the Wall but the company was also really great.

Out and about in Beijing

Out semi organised trip was now over and some people were leaving. Gail and John had already left. I still had a couple of days left. Slept in this morning. Had arranged to go to the Silk Market with Steve and John sometime before lunch time. I had to move rooms into a room by myself. Caught a taxi with no trouble and headed off to the markets. Again not what I expected. It was a four storied building full of fake goods. Fake Nike, fake Rolex, fake IPOD's, fake everything. The guys had a lot of fun bargaining on prices. Numerous times I became their wife to get rid of some of the sales girls. It was a lot of fun. We had pizza at a western type restaurant in the markets and paid 100Y for it (too much!). We stayed there until about 4pm when we went back to the hotel, grabbed they guys stuff and went to their new 5 star hotel. It was quite nice and the staff spoke there's a first for this trip! Had a cup of tea with them and they came back to my hotel for a while to say good bye to some of the others. We hung around the 6th floor bar for the evening and then went to bed early. By this stage just about everyone had departed which was sad. Whitney and Dawn were still there as they were contemplating going to Mongolia and Neil was due to leave tomorrow at lunch time. For some reason I stopped taking pictures.

The Great Wall of China - the last test of endurance

Awake at 6am for a 6.30am departure for the Great Wall of China. It was a three hour bus trip to the Samatai section of the wall. Slept some of the way as feeling a bit nauseated due to the smell of sweet bread (same thing happened in Africa!). Arrived at the bottom of the hill where the Great Wall looked like it was at the top of a mountain range and a long way up. Took the chair lift some of the way up the hill and then what they called the 'mini train' a bit more of the way up the top but still had a walk to get to the wall itself. Kim, Andrew and I started at tower 5 and walked slowly all the way to tower 12 which was as far as we could go on this section. We made it in time to spend some time with the rest of the group at the top which was great. Coming down was hard on the knees and thighs and Andrew, Kim and I decided to go down the way we came up (I have a blood clot remember...I have an excuse!). Had a three hour trip back, slept some more and arrived back at the hotel at about 3pm. Mucked around and did some emails etc till it was time to go out for our last meal together which was Peking duck. After dinner we went to the 6th floor bar for some nibbles and drinks. Some of the group had had a lot of rice wine. In bed at about 11pm.

Back in Beijing

Awoke early due to the Chinese couple in my area of the train deciding to have breakfast at 5am! Couldn't get back to sleep. Arrived late into Beijing probably around 7.30-8am. Waited for ages to get a Taxi and got yet another one that could speak no English but mumbled away to himself in Mandarin. Arrived at the hotel at 8.30am ish and had to be set to go again at 9.15am to go to the forbidden city. Forbidden city - mama whowho (so so). LOTS of Chinese tourists and had to push our way around quiet a lot. Not really that exciting and in a bad mood after Eric made us walk hideously fast to the place (the blood clot in my leg was really bad at this stage!). After the Forbidden city we walked across Tienanmen square. Again, not that exciting. Did see about a dozen women scrubbing chewing gum off the pavers in the square. The rest of the group minus Gail, John and I went to a restaurant for lunch (at 3pm) but I needed sleep after a bad sleep on the train. I had a snooze and just chilled till 6pm. At 6.30pm we met again and some of us went and saw an acrobat show (180Y) which was in an old theatre but very well done. You could buy popcorn and sprite and sit in armchairs. It was apparently the Beijing Acrobatic troop. After the show we walked back to the hotel and then had pizza in the 6th floor restaurant. Off to bed at 10.30pm ish.

Xi'an to Beijing - the last train ride!

Whitney's alarm went off at 6.30am but she didn't move till after 7am. Had to be downstairs and checked out by 8am then off to the terracotta warriors. First we visited a factory where they make replicas and brought two 'laughing' warriors. After that we went to the actual pits where they are buried. There was two massive pits and one smaller pit. It was what I imagined, perhaps a bit bigger. There must be heaps more underground yet to be discovered. I spent most of my time taking photos. Watched a movie about the story behind the warriors. I cant understand how a nation that documents everything so well, didn't record this and lost them in history (???). 1 1/2 hour trip back to Xi'an then free time till 4.30pm so went to Starbucks, brought another book and went to a supermarket to get snacks for the train. It started raining on the way back to the YMCA. Caught a bus to the train station to catch the 'express' train to Beijing. We departed from the VIP lounge which meant we weren't stampeded by the masses who weren't far behind us. Sat round on the train talking. A elderly Chinese lady on the train thought that I was 22 and very pretty. Had to kick another woman off my bed when I finally wanted to go to bed. I think she was upset with me because she was on a middle bunk and she wanted a bottom bunk. NO SALE!

Xi'an and lost again

Had a rough nights sleep on the train. Lots of stopping and starting. Arrived in Xi'an at 8am and was able to get into our rooms at the YMCA which was great because I really needed a shower to wake me up. Then we went to see the big wild goose pagoda. I'm not really into pagodas, they seem really lifeless. After the pagoda we went to the Muslim quarter for lunch. Was put off a bit by all the unrefrigerated food that was hanging by the roadside. Has a bun filled with chicken, spices and lettuce - totally dodgy but tasted a bit like a KFC zinger burger. After that we tried to find the Southern gate of the city wall. We found it after a bit of walking and illegal J walking across six lane highways. We climbed up the steps to the bike hire place so that we could bike on top of the wall. Did well as it was flat with some bumpy bits. Managed the 14km in 100min which was our allocated time on the bikes. After that we tried to get home and got lost again and ended up walking for 2 1/2 hours to get back to the hotel by asking a lot of questions and getting some very different answers. Was totally sick of China at this stage and I wasn't the only one. Most of the girls in the group has similar feelings. Tried to get a taxi back to the hotel but apparently too close to hotel and he refused to take us (we were about an hour away at this stage). Got back eventually. For dinner a few of us went to a dumpling dinner (278Y) where we sampled 22 different dumplings - 'it look like duck, it duck dumpling'. Didn't like the walnut dumpling, it was too sweet as was the dessert dumpling. This was accompanied with a dance show which was quite good and almost understandable. Walked back to the hotel which took about 20min (not 2 1/2 hour it took earlier). Totally exhausted.

Another train ride


Alarm went off at 7am as needed to be downstairs to see the panda's at Chongquin zoo at 7.30am. Took a taxi to a hotel near the zoo for breakfast. Driver got a bit lost (despite Chinese instructions) but eventually we found the hotel. Breakfast was mamam whowho (so so) (15Y) then we walked to the zoo (20Y) to see the giant pandas which weren't that giant but good to see in China. Also saw a red panda which looked like a raccoon. Caught the elevator train back to hotel (4Y) and ended up in the city square. Tried to find the electronics market but only found lots of electronic shops - not what I expected. Went back to the hotel to check out and then off to find some food markets but never found them but did get horrendously lost and ended up in some dodgy areas and streets. Got lots of steers from the locals. Eventually, and somewhat by accident I found the hotel and decided not to go to far this time so found a smoke pit of a internet cafe and then brought some snacks for the train tonight and then went to Starbucks and had a ham and cheese croissant. Met together again to catch the next train to Xi'an at about 5pm.

The Yangtze continues, then Fengdu and Chongquin

Awoke early because an ear plug had fallen out and I could hear the PA system. Stayed in bed for a bit longer then decided to get the diary up to date which took a bit of time. Had noodles for lunch again and packed to disembark by 2pm. Arranged for a porter to carry my bag up the 225 steps (yep..I counted them). She was half my size or less maybe but hey, I'm on holiday. The cost was 10 yuan which is about $1.20 but I paid her a bit more than 10 yuan because I felt sorry for her. We got into some small minivans then across the river to the new Fengdu. Over 1.1 million people have been relocated because of the Yangtze river which still has 20m to rise because of the soon to be completed Three Gorges Dam. Off the minibuses and onto a semi modern bus for a three hour trip to Chongquin. Arrived at the hotel which is the nicest yet but has a see through shower so that people in the living area can watch you shower which is very disturbing. At 8.15 we went for Dinner with Eric to experience 'hot pot'. They had tamed it down so there was a chili and non chili option but the chili was not to hot so had that. Ate alot, then back to the hotel for a great sleep.

Happy Birthday to me

Awoke early and read my book till Dawn woke. She said Happy Birthday when she woke up which was nice. Stayed in room till about 12. Some of the group had gone on the little Three Gorges tour but I choose to sleep in (they left at 7.30am). Had noodles from a paper container for lunch then stood on the front of the boat watching the scenery and taking photos. Spent some time in my room but generally just chilling. At 5pm we met for drinks to celebrate my birthday and had some red wine. Eric gave me a bottle of red wine. Eric sang karaoke happy birthday for me in English and Chinese and kept repeating to me 'you get prettier each day'...what does that mean? After that we climbed what seemed like 100 steps to have dinner. Dinner was hot Sichuan style with lots of chili and Sichuan peppers. Very nice but hot. Back on the boat and Eric taught us how to play marjong till about 11.30pm. A great birthday with lots of hugs and kisses. Very special day.

Yichang to the Yangtze River Cruise

Up to go to the supermarket to buy more noodles for the boat cruise along the Yangtze. Apparently one cannot predict what standard the food will be till you get on the boat. Breakfast was at the Beaner coffee place that was western in nature and had big comfortable chairs. We then walked across the big bridge that crosses the Yangtze. It was very foggy and the views were a bit limited but spectacular and mystical. Walked across with Whitney, Neil, Steve and John. Met up with Gail and John at the beginning of the bridge and walked back together to the hotel to check out. Back to KFC for lunch again and then back to the hotel to catch a bus to the Yangtze which was about 1 1/2 hours away. It was foggy and raining and we cant see much. We pull up to see the Three Gorges Dam but can't see a thing. But take photos to say that that is where it is meant to be. A bit further down the road we get off the bus and head down to our boat for the next two days. The boat is a bit old and run down but sufficient. Again the shower has stagnant water and shoes are required to go into the bathroom. Sat up till 11pm watching Chinese Karaoke then off to bed with earplugs in.

Foggy and wet Yichang

Off the train at about 8.30am then to the bus station to catch a bus to Yichang. Into the hotel and then to lunch with Eric at 1.30pm at a local restaurant. We sucked it up like we hadn't eaten for days and the sweet and sour pork was brilliant. We were so hungry we had to order extra food. After lunch we went to the mini version of the Three Gorges dam and watched the boats come and go through the lochs. It was amazing to how fast the water was pumped in and out but then there is a lot of water in the Yangtze river. It was cool/cold and drizzling. After that we went back to the hotel to warm up and then out for dinner with except Brent, Andrew and Kim. Eric stayed for a bit to help out with the ordering and then left. Back to the hotel and in bed early and slept soundly even through the massage call at 11.30pm. Below are some delicacies (baby crayfish and sparrows) that I found just outside the hotel.

Li River and another train trip

Up early again to go on the Li river cruise. Still hot and humid and a bit foggy, though I think it is now also smog. Had a 30min mini bus ride to the boat and then a 2hr boat ride down and up the river. Very pleasant. We sat on the bow of the boat and just took photo after photo. There were no stops along the way and we made it back to the hostel at about 11.30am and had a shower and checked out. Had KFC for lunch and then wandered till about 4.30pm then back to the hostel to catch a bus to Guilin railway station. The train left at 7.30pm to Wuhan. This train was more comfortable than the last one. I could hardly stay awake so went to bed early with my ear plugs in but woke up often either hot or cold or hot again but so did everyone so I think it was the trains aircon.

A flat tyre and a lot of sweat

Up for a bike ride at 8am. Am assured that it is flat and easy going and all on bitumen. Bike has gears and good breaks but the seat looks a bit uncomfortable. The bike ride starts well but soon the heat and humidity gets to me and I am sweating +++. We have regular stops for photos which provides some relief. We have a local guide called Chelle who leads us through paddy fields. We stopped at an old town from the Ming dynasty that was cool and damp and still had people living in it though the roofs were a bit scarce. I found it hard work and then Andrew said 'you have a flat tyre'!!!! No wonder I am sweating so much. Changed bikes. The views were spectacular and I loved looking at the hills, just so unusual. I think it was probably 30-32 degrees and about 80% humidity and no breeze. We had lunch at Moon Hill. Has a dodgy cheese and tomato sandwich which had bread like toast. Then another 8km back to the hostel. All up we did at least 30km. Have a major sore bottom and glad to get off the bike. Decided that I would get the hostel laundry slave to do the washing as all my sweaty clothes wont dry in the room and will stink out my backpack. At night we went and watched cormorant fishing. The boat was an old clunker with no lights of navigation lights but somehow they found an old man on a bamboo raft with his 8 or so birds on board. The birds have string around their throats and catch small pilchards type fish. It would be hard to make a living. We were on the river for about an hour. Afterward had sweet and sour pork at the hostel restaurant and in bed by about 11pm.

Kunming to Yangshuo via Guilin

Stayed in hotel room till 12. Have seen enough of this city to enjoy a relaxing morning. Gradually everyone else surfaced and we sat around and I had another pizza then at about 4pm we left for the airport to catch a flight to Guilin. The flight was on China Southern airlines which was cleaner and had a lot more room than the Air China flight. I had a window seat which was great. Took some photos of Kunming from the air. Arrived in Guiling in the dark but lots of neon lights at the airport.

Onto a private bus to Yangshuo. Out the window you could see outlines of the Karsts (hills) which make this place ledgendary. Arrived in Yangshuo at about 9.30pm and went to bed again in my own room. Very hot and humid room and a damp, stagnant aroma and again I have a shower with a leaking shower tray.