A Travellerspoint blog

China

Yangshuo

sunny 23 °C

Alice here again! Our final destination in China, the small town of Yangshuo.

Thursday 31st January

Made our first transport error this morning trying to get from our hostel in Guilin to Yangshuo, taking the right bus to the station, but in the wrong direction, oops! We realised our error when we got off after the 5 stops we had been told to take, to find ourselves on a random road with a few shops and not much else. Luckily it didn't take long for another bus to take us in the right direction, and we made it to Yangshuo by lunchtime.

Yangshuo is the smallest place we have visited, but is still a reasonable sized town. The scenery around this area in incredible, the town sits between the Li and Yulong River and is surrounded by huge Karst rock formations (so famous in China that a picture of the area is found on the back of 20 Yuan notes). Unforutnately we arrived on a grey, rainy day, which spoiled the views a little. We grabbed some lunch at a local cafe and did some washing at the hostel waiting for the rain to clear. When it finally stopped we went for a wander around town. Yangshuo seems like a nice place, with only one really touristy street, and great views across the Li River from the top end of town.

In the evening we had an unexpected bonus, two Chinese girls in the hostel were cooking dinner and invited us to join them. The food was amazing, the local 'beer fish' and some other homemade dishes - and they were offended when I offered to pay for some of the food and drinks!

Friday 1st February

Another big bike ride today. Bright and sunny day, and I have made it into shorts and t-shirt for the first time :)
The trip started up off along the road to see the famous 'Moon Hill', a rock formation with a large moon shaped hole in it. I took a couple of photos, but it wasn't as impressive as the guide books had made out. We then headed along a track up the side of the Yulong River towards 'Dragon Bridge', which was also meant to be a picturesque spot.
90_P1020945.jpg
Fantastic scenery along the river valley throughout the ride, although we were harassed constantly to take a Bamboo raft along the river rather than cycle. I was tempted when the flat paved track turned into a rocky and bumpy path, and I started getting grumpy as I was tired and hungry by this point. Eventually made it to Dragon Bridge though and a rest, lunch and cold beer sorted me out! Thankfully, after our long ride, the area around Dragon Bridge was beautiful and worth the cycle up there.
P1020964.jpg
We took a shorter route back along the opposite side of the river. Although again the track kept disintegrating into a bumpy, narrow mud path between villages, so it wasn't as easy as I had hoped and I was pretty exhausted by the time we made it back to the hostel.

After dinner at a local restaurant we finished the day watching 'Vertical Limit' at the hostel, sat on a comfy sofa with a beer...almost felt like home!

Saturday 2nd February

Today we took part in a Chinese cooking lesson...it was fantastic! We started off meeting our leader Kathy, a local restaurant chef, at the local market to go and buy the food for the three dishes our group had decided to make. It was really great to be shown round by someone who could tell us what all of the unusual vegetables and spices were, although I wasn't so keen when we were in the meat section and you could hear dogs yelping as they were killed - needless to say we were not cooking anything involving dog meat!
After picking up the ingredients we went back to the cooking school, above a restaurant in town, and set to work making three dishes, local beer fish (literally fish cooked in beer), sweet and sour pork and aubergine with garlic and chilli. It took a while to slice and prep all of the ingredients, but not long to cook in the huge woks. It was a lot of fun trying our hand at proper Chinese dishes from scratch, and we all felt proud eating the delicious food we had made ourselves. The aubergine was my fave whilst Dunc was a big fan of the sweet and sour pork. We all got recipe cards before we left so everyone back home can expect some good Chinese food from us when we get back, providing we can find the same ingredients back home of course.

P1020973.jpgP1020976.jpg

Spent the rest of the afternoon just chilling out in Yangshuo in the sunshine before taking the night bus to out of China to Hong Kong.

We have both had a brilliant time in China, although feels like we have only scratched the surface of this huge country, one month was definitely not enough!

Posted by duncan-alice 01:53 Archived in China Comments (0)

Dali / Kunming / Guilin

sunny 16 °C

Hello, Alice here..yes that's right, I have finally been allowed to contribute a blog entry! Don't expect too much detail though, but I have been instructed that a day by day account is necessary. So here goes....

Sunday 27th January

Got up early for a huge banana pancake cooked by 'Mama' before heading off to Dali on the bus. The journey was interesting, looking at the rural Yunnan landscape with wide valleys and hills and lots of people farming in the bright sunshine. Although the driving made us a little bit nervous, in China it seems that if you honk first it is ok to overtake anything whether or not there is oncoming traffic or a blind bend!!

Having arrived safely we spent the afternoon wandering around Dali. Very enjoyable in the sunshine and I was down to a mere 2 layers of clothing! The buildings were not quite as old and interesting as in Lijiang, but there were far fewer people, and it felt a little more authentic despite the large number of Western bars and cafes.

Monday 28th January

Had a fantastic day cycling from Dali to a town further up Lake Erhai called Shaping. After a slightly chilly start the rest of the day was the perfect temperature for cycling and bright and sunny. We set off on the 30km cycle along the road directly to Shaping, trying to get there in time for the local market. We only made a few stops on the way up, largely for me taking photos of Bai people working in the fields and fishing on the lake. It was amazing to see the farmers in their traditional clothes carrying huge loads of produce that I'm sure I couldn't even lift, despite being half their age! Also saw a man fishing with cormorants, which I thought was pretty cool. We made it to Shaping in time, and the market was brilliant! Full of locals doing their weekly shopping for everything from wicker baskets, clothes, groceries to new years decorations and live chickens. There was even a dentist at one stall...not sure I would have wanted to go to him for a check up in the middle of the market though!

We headed back towards Dali at a much slower pace, taking some backroads down to the lake shore through the Bai-style villages. These villages were great, although they were poor farming communities all of the buildings had beautiful paintings on the white washed walls. We found a relaxing spot for a break and some lunch we had bought from the market on the lake shore. My legs were pretty tired by this point, so it took us a while to cycle back to Dali along the backroads with a few breaks in the villages along the way.

Having finally made it back from out 70km cycle we recovered with food and a pint of 'real beer' from a Western bar in town. Duncan particularly enjoyed this, I think he has been missing proper drinks rather than the weak Chinese beer.

Tuesday 29th January

Spent a lazy morning in Dali, wandering around the town and market again, before taking the bus to Kunming. This journey took about 6 hours, and was not so enjoyable, it was hot and sticky on the bus and the seats were not the most comfortable. Got to Kunming quite late so just grabbed some food in a local restaurant before going to bed.

Wednesday 30th January

Got up early to look around Kunming as we only had the day here with our flight to Guillin in the evening. Glad we didn't leave oursleves more time in Kunming as it is not the most interesting city to visit as a tourist. We wandered around Green Park lake which was quite pretty, and watched the locals dancing and doing tai-chi in the park. The only other sight of interest was the bird and flower market (although mainly birds and small pets). We grabbed lunch before leaving Kunming for the airport, going to a restaurant for 'over the bridge noodles' a classic Kunming dish where you are given a selection of raw ingredients and noodles which you cook in hot broth to make the final dish. The food was good when we finally got it, but the restaurant was very confusing and it took us 10 minutes to work out how to order at one counter and get food at another before finding a seat as no-one spoke English and we are still struggling with any Chinese!

After the short flight we arrived Guilin in time for a walk around the town centre. It felt quite relaxed for such a large city, and had several lakes in the centre which looked pretty with various bridges and pagados lit up coloured lights, although Guilin seems to have very few actual tourist 'sights' to see.

So that brings us to today, when we have arrived in Yangshuo, but I will leave it up to Duncan to tell you about that part of our trip next time (after he has edited everything I have written first!).

Shaping Market
P1020870.jpg

Lake Erhai
90_P1020892.jpg

Bai Farmer
P1020894.jpg

Posted by duncan-alice 01:52 Archived in China Comments (2)

Lijiang / Tiger Leaping Gorge

sunny 15 °C

Wednesday 23rd January

We had to get up at 0500 to make the short journey from our hotel to the airport in Shanghai where we flew to Lijiang. The airport was relatively busy even this early in the morning and we joined the queue for our airline. I had to go and have my bag searched (they weren't happy with our electrical adaptor) but we were most surprised when the check in agent said "you are first class, please proceed to the lounge". So we happily strode to the lounge where we were able to help ourselves to the free food and drink. Everyone else was a business traveller so we stood out stocking our bags with European beer and playing on the (painful) massage chairs but it certainly made getting up at 5 more palatable! On the flight we were both able to sleep with our extra reclining seats, pillow and blanket. It was certainly a nice surprise to start the day! At the airport we waited for the bus to take us into Lijiang. We were offered lots of private taxi services but kindly refused and insisted we would take the bus. It soon became apparent the bus wasn't going anywhere and we had almost 30 locals round us laughing at us as I insisted we would wait for the bus. In the end a young Chinese couple begged us to share a taxi with them and eventually we relented, on the condition we paid the same fare as the bus AND we got dropped off at our hostel. Bit of a contrast from the first class flight to haggling over a taxi ride! In the afternoon, we chilled out in the sun at our hostel which had a lovely courtyard. We then wandered around the old part of Lijiang, which was very quaint and full of the local Naxi people. We both enjoyed being in a smaller town, and despite there being lots of Chinese tourists it still felt authentic with the old buildings, waterways and lack of traffic. At night we ate at the hostel, as Mama Naxi does a family meal everynight for guests so it was great to speak to other travellers and try lots of dishes (disadvantage of only being 2 people in restaurants).

Thursday 24th January

Another early start today as we were going to do a 2 day trek to see the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a trek along the river Yangzi where fables say a tiger leapt from a rock across the river to escape capture from hunters. It was a 2.5hrs journey from the hostel to the beginning of the trek in the mountains on a very bumpy, twisty road. Also starting with us was a Korean singer songwriter who was heading into the mountains for inspiration for songs, and Caitlin an American rock climbing guide working in China. The walk started off relatively easy as we started to ascend the mountain with glorious views down the river. After a couple of hours we stopped at a guesthouse for some lunch before doing the hardest part of the trek, the 28 bends, which were about an hours worth of steep, twisty ascents. After that ascent it was a steady walk over the back of the mountain where we stopped off for the night, spending the evening with a collection of Westerners who were studying / teaching English in China and listening to their weird and wonderful experiences in China. Throughout the day the views were incredible looking down the gorge but also across to the other side where huge rocky mountains rose up. We also enjoyed walking through mountain villages and seeing the rural lifestyle. The view from the bedroom (and toilet!) were the best we have ever had the pleasure of in a guest house.

Friday 25th January

The walk in the morning to our ending point was simple and only took about 2 hours. We stopped and had a break before descending the rocks to the stone where tiger is reported to have leapt. It was a very steep climb down and not a lot of horizontal distance gained. We took a vertical ladder part of the way down and we were both glad it was a welded metal one rather than the wooden one it replaced which was still hanging behind! The view from the river bed was impressive as the river roared past the rocks. The ascent was very steep but easier in some respects than going down as it was steps but we were both extremely glad to reach the top and have a cold beer! Once back at the pick up hostel, we relaxed before taking a coach back to Lijiang.

Saturday 26th January

After several days of early starts and exercise we had a proper lie in before going for a walk round Lijiang to witness the locals dancing in the square, see where the ponds where the locals do their washing and, most importantly, enjoy the sunshine. In the evening we witnessed the nightlife Lijiang has to offer: a lot of bars with not a lot of people in them (if any) listening and dancing to a live singer / band.

Large waterwheels in Lijiang old town
DSC00406.jpg

Naxi people dancing
DSC00411.jpg

Tiger leaping gorge

Panaromic shots
DSC00448.jpg
DSC00451.jpg
270_DSC00539.jpg

Scary 25m ladder we had to descend / climb (rather than take the "safe path")
270_DSC00512.jpg

By the rapids at the bottom of the gorge
DSC00532.jpg

Posted by duncan-alice 05:41 Archived in China Tagged tiger gorge lijiang leaping Comments (0)

Hangzhou

overcast 10 °C

Sunday 20th January

We took a train in the morning to Hangzhou, a smaller city near Shanghai of only 6m people, famous for its West Lake. The good thing about Hangzhou is that the state has made all the tourist attractions (e.g. museums, buildings of interest) free entry so we were off to a good start when we heard that! We took a bus from the station to very near our hostel which was on the west side of the lake. The city has been developed on the north and east side so were the other side from the city which was nice to get some peace and quiet. It was only a 30 mins walk to the city edge anyway. We threw our stuff in our room and went for a wander by the lake. With it being a Sunday afternoon with the sun out, the lakeside was busy with Chinese families. The lake very much reminded us of Lake Bled in Slovenia. We meandered towards the city and walked along the oldest street in the city peering in the local shops and real Chinese medicine dispensers - very interesting. After a nap back at the hostel we went back into town for dinner eating at our worst restaurant yet where we tried the local carp from the lake in a sweet and sour sauce with some meat and veg. The food wasn't up to much and felt like it had all been microwaved.

Monday 21st January

We got up at a leisurely pace today and hired bikes from the hostel, opting for individual bikes rather than a tandem as they weren't permitted around the lake edge. The weather was misty and foggy today (which made a change from smog!) but we soon warmed up while cycling, stopping to see the thousands of carp and destroyed Emperor's house at the top of the lake. We both really enjoyed being in a quieter place and able to get some "fresh" air. For dinner, we ate at Grandma's kitchen which is something of a Hangzhou institution with apparently over 20 branches in the city. We had been warned to expect queues but as we were only two we were able to get a table straightaway. The entrance was on the ground floor where we were given a piece of paper with a number on it which turned out be our table number, while the restaurant was on the third floor of a big building. The restaurant was massive, full of young people eating. We had a menu and order form to order from, choosing Grandma's special BBQ pork, some greens fried with chilli, a sweet potato (turned out to be an orange stuffed with something sweet!), chicken with peanuts and some salad leaves (our first in two weeks!!). The meal was great and all for under a tenner. The couple beside us went all out and ordered a whole fish with noodles, stuffed whole duck and various other plates which they kindly offered us to try but we were both full by that point.

Tuesday 22nd January

On our last day here, we took a bus into the mountains to a local village famous for its tea called Longjing. The bus dropped us off half way up a hill with not much around us. We walked up into the woods nearby looking at the ruins of buildings and a famous well we don't quite know the story behind. We continued walking up the hill and after about 30 mins we were at the top with panaromic views across the small valley with tea plants everywhere. We continued along the ridge for an hour or so before descending into the village below. At the bottom, I had to overcome countless chickens and barking dogs on the path which I wasn't happy with! We walked through the village, stopping in an old lady's house for Alice to try a cup of tea which she thought was good, but not quite up to English breakfast standard . We didn't quite know how to get back to the bus so decided to continue walking down the village to its end where vehicles could no longer pass. We decided to follow this path further down the valley, crossing several streams with stepping stones. Neither of us were quite sure where this would lead and after about an hour of walking we were both secretly worried we were lost or on the wrong side of the hill. Thankfully, we came out at a bus stop where a bus we recognised began its journey so we were both grateful we knew where it was going although several miles from where we expected to come out! We took the bus all the way into town and went to Grandma's again for food. This time we tried grilled aubergine with garlic (amazing, will try at home), stir fry squid, honey roast pork, more greens fried with chilli and chicken wings. Again we had a great meal for under a tenner. At night we took a train back to Shanghai where we stayed at an airport hotel before an early morning flight to the south west of the country.

Writing this from Lijiang where we are now where the weather is gorgeous and we are in a picturesque town surrounded by mountains! Such a nice contrast to the busy (and cold!) places we visited in the north. More about Lijiang in next blog.

Hope the cold weather is over back home.

90_P1020528.jpgP1020530.jpg90_P1020572.jpgP1020587.jpg

Posted by duncan-alice 01:43 Archived in China Tagged lake hangzhou Comments (0)

Shanghai

sunny 10 °C

The overnight train to Shanghai from Xi'an wasn't the most enjoyable experience. We struggled to get a bus from near our hostel to the train station and then to find the train platform once within the station but a young girl who spoke perfect English kindly helped us as her train wasn't for another 4 hours. I was beginning to feel rubbish and just wanted to get to Shanghai as soon as possible but our train was delayed by an hour. It had orginated in Lhasa, Tibet 2.5 days ago and we were joining it for the final 14 hours. We were travelling in hard sleeper and I had the upper bed which was the highest bed about 2.5m off the ground with 0.5m headroom but I did get a ledge at my feet to put my bag. Alice had the middle bed, lucky enough to be above the world's loudest snorer ever - we didn't think it was possible humans could make such loud noises while sleeping! Needless to say neither of us got much sleep and when we "got up" at 9am thankfully other people had disembarked so we could sit on the bottom bunk. I was feeling rubbish and buried myself under a duvet for the morning while Alice read. As the train was an hour late on leaving we didn't know when we should arrive but it was about 2 hours later than timetabled.

Thursday 17th January

From Shanghai main railway station we took the metro to our very conveniently located hostel in a residential area. I went straight to bed while Alice went to find some food. After a couple of hours nap, we both freshened up and went into central Shanghai to get some food, walking along the famous East Nanjing Road and eating in a mall. The girls beside us thought it was hilarious when Alice started using her chopsticks the wrong way round and quickly pointed it out to her! In her defence, she says she wasn't concentrating and its the only time she has done it.

Friday 18th January

I awoke still feeling rubbish, and self diagnosed myself as having a smog induced chest infection, but after a warm shower I felt a bit better so we went into central Shanghai. We started off at People's Square, deciding not to go into Shanghai Museum as the exhibitions didn't interest us (we are Chinese Bronze aged out), and then walked towards the Bund, on the river where banks and trading houses set up as the city developed. The views across the river were spectacular of the Shanghai skyscrapers. For lunch, we headed into the old town where we went round a traditional garden before queuing for takeaway steamed buns (pork and crab) - best lunch so far. Back at the hostel we played some pool before heading out for dinner. On the way, we bought a knee support for Alice as her knee is still giving her a lot of pain and I bought some face masks which make me look suitably stupid! We stopped off at the French Concession looking at the trendy boutique shops and bars before eating dinner at a nearby restaurant. We had Singapore noodles and fried rice with beef - safe but boring dinner.

Saturday 19th January

We could imagine living in Shanghai but it's not the most exciting tourist place, so today we headed to Suzhou, described as Venice of the East by Marco Polo. We took a high speed train from Hongqiao station which was another mammoth station. We walked for a couple of hours into the historic parts of the city but where we passed by wasn't very impressive with little sign of canals and lots of western designer shops. Alice wasn't impressed by my map reading skills as we I struggled to find the restaurant we wanted to eat at. Eventually we found it and were glad to have a seat and some steamed buns in front of us - I thought better than yesterdays and still under GBP4 for both of us. In the afternoon we wandered around a park and then some of the canals which were disappointing - lack of activity on and around the canals. We then made it to the touristy part where the canals were packed with Chinese tourists doing day trips from Shanghai and sampled tea in our first teahouse which Alice thoroughly enjoyed! Once back in Shanghai we went to the financial centre to admire the skyline before heading home for dinner, randomly stopping at a restaurant which turned out to be a hot pot restaurant. We chose a satay broth with chicken, squid, bamboo shoots, some green veg, noodles accompanied by German style Chinese brewed beer and some prawns thrown in courtesy of the chef. We were the table right at the door so the staff enjoyed watching us eat but also helped make up a delicious dipping sauce for us (no idea what went in it!) - best dinner so far!

Photos to follow asap - promise!

Posted by duncan-alice 01:43 Archived in China Tagged shanghai suzhou Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 7) Page [1] 2 » Next