A Travellerspoint blog

Airport fun!!

storm 26 °C
View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

Made it down to Sanya, on the first night there was a massive tropical storm, the biggest storm i've ever seen! In the middle of the night i suddenly heard a really loud noise at the door, sounded like someone was banging on the other side...didnt open it as naturally i was thinking it was some kind of serial killer! It kept on going for ages and i managed to fall back to sleep then in the morning i looked outside (In my room there was no outside window) and there was a massive storm and it turns out the banging had been the wind rattling the door! phew...! judging by the size of the storm i thought the whole island would have been shut down and was really worried but when i ran into the hostel owner she seemed to think it was a normal occurence!

so i was thinking the chances of getting to the beach were nil but after a couple of hours it was like there hadnt even been a storm, so weird! so headed off to the beach and had a nice lazy afternoon.

there is a big russian community in Sanya (strange to see the signs in chinese, english...then russian!) so it was fun to people watch on the beach. also to see the chinese holidaymakers in matching hawaiian shorts and shirt combos...somtimes entire familes...all matching!

had an early night as i wanted to head to some of the more secluded beaches along the coast (the one near the hostel, although only being 3 minutes away was a bit 'costa del china!') unfortunately the weather was still unpredictable so i spent the morning (turned into the day!) trying to sort out my departure from hainan.

now this journey seems to have been doomed from the start!!! there is a train that runs from haikou to guangzhou (which is put onto a ferry to get to the mainland...interesting..had to see this!) so i set about getting a ticket when i was back in haikou, but due to some misleading directions from the hostel staff it took about 3 hours and 3 return trips to the hostel for more directions! eventually got the ticket and went down to sanya and there i found out i could have got a train which started in sanya! (negating the need for the 3hr bus journey and complicated across town journey to the train station) so after asking the hostel staff they thought i might be able to change the ticket but then mentioned it would only be 300 yuan (21 pounds) to FLY to guangzhou...taking just one hour as opposed to 12 on the train, sounded like a plan as i was so tired of long journeys, even if it did mean missing out on the train on a ferry adventure! booked the air ticket and then headed off to the train station to get a refund (thought it was a 20 min journey, turned into a 3hr round trip!) at the station they said as i got the ticket in haikou they could not refund it here...great! but in the grand scheme of things not too bad as it was only about 14 pounds so not the end of the world. spent my last day enjoying the beach and in the afternoon a storm rolled in, thunder and lightening but no rain. hmmm would be airport be ok? as the last storm passed fairly quickly i was hoping it would be ok especially as everyone had seemed so blase about the last one.

got to the airport at about 8.30pm (flight due to leave at 10.30) lots of delays posted on the board but for flights earlier in the day... about 5pm time so i thought maybe the later flights would be ok. sure enough we were able to check in and head down to the gate....there the fun really started! the storm hit and the rain came thundering down...the information boards were a sea of red...delayed delayed delayed...cancelled cancelled etc. 10.30 came and went, my flight disappeared off the screens altogether as there were so many flights delayed. Time to find a nice spot to settle down for the long haul! already the departures lounge was starting to look like a third world country people all over the floor the roof was leaking on the upper level...people were buying their way into the VIP waiting lounge...airline staff started to hand out instant noodles and drinks. managed to grab a seat and spent the next 4 hours reading, wondering why i didnt just get the train and staring like a zombie at the information boards! didnt want to listen to my ipod incase i missed some essential announcement (luckily they were in english too, although heard to hear over the din of card playing chinese travellers!) eventually flights started to leave once the storm cleared and we took off about 3am landing in guangzhou at 4. got to the hostel about 5.30am and fell into bed exhausted! what a mission! hehe the airline was called Deer air...thought it was going to be the dodgiest thing ever but the actual flight was no problem at all, plane was really new and clean and i had probably more leg room than on the ba flight to beijing.

well that was the fun of last night!

after a couple of hours sleep i had a walk around Shamian island which is where the hostel is located in Guangzhou. the island itself is tiny, take about 7 mins to walk the length and 3mins the width! it is such a strange place as it was a foreign concession after the opium wars so is just like a little bit of europe! it was mainly british and french inhabitants, french took the east end, english the west! there are about 5 bridges that connect the island to the mainland and they used to have massive iron gates to keep the chinese out! a lot of the buildings have plaques explaining what the buildings used to be which is interesting.

lots of people were fishing in the Pearl river earlier as i walked around, some with rods and some just with little nets and i even saw the head of a chinese man bobbing along as he swam around the island! i dont like the look of the water much so think i'll be giving that one a miss!

oh also walking along the island at 5.30am i saw a few chinese people out exercising! they use the childrens play parks to limber up for the day!! such a funny sight. i know that they all do morning tai chi etc but have never been up early enough to see it!!!

massive thunderstorm at the moment, they seem to be following me around....!!

Posted by VanessaT 00:02 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Hmm...can't remember what i've done!

rain 27 °C
View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

It's been a while so i've forgotten!

Well for the last couple of days in Yangshuo the weather was not too good so didnt venture far from the town...on my birthday i had a lie in then went to the local farmers market...complete with live and dead dogs!!! Wasn't that distressing but i'm glad i didnt actually see them kill one...does make you wonder what you are eating!

went to one of the parks in Yangshuo and climbed the karst there, wasn't very high but gave a good view over yangshuo. Lots of the cafes have upstairs dvd rooms so went and had a lazy afternoon then spent the evening at the lengendary Monkey Janes rooftop bar!

the next two days did virtually nothing! took full advantage of the fact all the cafes served western food...lots of pizza! did boring things like laundry at the speed queen ( the name is not a lie it only took one hour!) and finally burnt all the photos so far onto disk...theres going to be a very long slideshow when i get back!!!!

Left Yangshuo last thursday, could easily have stayed longer and just lazed around but would probably never have left especially as for the last 3 nights we were in a hotel rather than a hostel so it felt like luxury!

Got the bus back to Guilin, a lot quicker this time round...no stops for the police! Checked into the Backstreet Hostel and spent the afternoon looking round Guilin as i had only passed through before. Not much there really, same landscape as Yangshuo but not as pretty as Guilin is a big ugly town! Walked down by the river and saw the boats practicing for the Dragon Boat racing which takes place all over china next weekend. Hopefully whereever i'll be i'll be able to catch some racing! The sound of the drums was quite loud and you could hear it as you walked around Guilin.

The next day i went to the seven star scenic area in east Guilin, a big park with seven karsts (one shaped like a camel!) it is quite pretty but it was a bit overcast. As always, being China, there is something completely random and this time it was that the park was full of foam figurines of cartoon characters, animals, strange beasties, transformers, the olympic mascots, even the teletubbies! all very weird!!!! they also had a small zoo but it wasn't very nice, the animals looked very sad and they had monkeys with chains round their necks posing for photos with the tourists...not nice.

  • *just had a slight meltdown as i accidentally closed the travellerspoint window by mistake...luckily it saved what i had written so far...phew**

the next day was the journey to the Longji (Dragons Backbone) Rice Terraces, bus to Longsheng then a small minibus up to Ping'an- home to the Zhuang ethnic minority group. The village is made up of tradictional wooden houses built onto the hillsides, there are quite a lot of hotels but typically i picked a hostel where they didnt speak any english! but got a great room rate of 20 Yuan (1.40) when the other places were asking 50-100! think i was literally the only person there, i saw the owners to pay and check in and then never saw them again!

had an early night so i could get up early to climb up to the actual rice terraces but when i got up it was very misty so had to wait a while for it to clear. there are two observation points you can walk to fairly easily and i just did a round trip of them. the views are truly amazing, the Zhuang people started to build the terraces (to enable them to farm the mountains) in the 13th century and it took them until the 17th to finish! Also living along the terraces are the Yao people whose women have long ankle length hair. they follow you up and down the terraces trying to get you to take pictures of them with their hair down (for a fee of course!) and also buy the hand made goods they make. Its fairly annoying but they do it with good humour, they are much more persistent than the Zhuang women who are also trying to flog handicrafts!!

Back to Guilin in the evening then next day onto the train down to Hainan, the island of the south coast of China. Almost the scene of another train disaster....i had tried to book a hard seat (the journey was in the day and only 8hrs) but they didnt have any so got the ticket anyway in the hope that i could upgrade to a hard sleeper even though i didnt actually have to sleep....was quite worried as 8hrs standing on a train was not going to be nice. after lots of wandering up and down the train to find the right conductor i managed to get one...phew. I had to change for a bus at zhanjiang which was a further three hours and then onto a ferry for 1 1/2 hrs with very hard wooden benches for the journey over to the island. all in all probably my hardest journey yet especially with the 6/7 hour return trip the days before to Ping'an! Think i've finally learnt why the Chinese have an automatic sleep button as soon as they get on any form of transport.

So after what seems like days of travelling i am finally on Hainan the 'hawaii' of china...unfortunately its raining so not made it to the beach yet but am getting the bus to Sanya tomorrow which is meant to have some beautiful beaches so fingers crossed! very weird to see palm trees everywhere though!

also been bitten by an insect all over my ankles and legs which is not a pretty sight...must be about 35-40 bites in all and they itch like mad! went to the chinese chemist today to try and get some cream and some antihistamines and it took about an hour but i finally managed to get the right thing but not before they tried to give my the chinese traditional medicine alternative!!!

off to bed now to nurse my bites/stings!!!

have uploaded some more photos onto flickr!

Posted by VanessaT 05:15 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

It's crazy in Yangshuo!!!

storm 30 °C
View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

After Shanghai i headed for Hangzhou, about 1hr 30mins by train south-west of Shanghai, it is a lovely city, perched on the site of the famous 'West lake'. My first day here was slightly stressful as neither of my bank cards would work so spent the day trying every atm i could find! Finally got it sorted after some ringing up of banks (thanks Mum!!) so could enjoy my second day.

There are lots of bike hire places, China is prime cycling country afterall so i joined the flow and hired a bike for the day. The only trouble is they all look the same so its quite easy to lose your bike once you have parked it up!!!

Cycled around the lake which took about an hour then went and looked round the local markets managed to control myself and not buy anything....i always think 'if i have to buy it- i have to carry it!!!'

the next morning it was back onto the train for a 22hr train ride to Guilin (bottom bunk!!!). the train left at 11am and all my chinese carriagemates went straight to bed! Whatever mode of public transport you are on in China everyone will generally be asleep with the curtains closed! i thought as they have such vast distances to cover they figure the best way to do it is to sleep through it....but they even do it on the bus to the supermarket!

at every station you stop at women run alongside the train selling snacks and drinks, havent been brave enough to try anything yet though, too scared the train will leave without me!!!

we got to guilin on the train early saturday morning and i did the 1hr 30 min journey to Yangshuo on the bus complete with chairman mao portrait swinging from the rear view mirror! (the bus got stopped on the way by the police...i think they were getting told off for carrying too many people as 2 mins before they stopped and made everyone sitting in the aisle on stools get off! )

anyway yangshuo is crazy! like a little bit of south east asia slap bang in the middle of china.

when i first walked around i was horrified at the amount of tourists and hawkers but once you get used to it the relaxed atmosphere is very infectious! everyone is very relaxed here, even the chinese, there is a very different feel to the rest of china which has come as a nice change!

the scenery around here is spectacular, the limstone karsts are like an alien landscape! yesterday we hired bikes and rode around the countryside, ending up at Moon Hill, a karst with a round hole near the top. we climbed right to the very top and the view was amazing (will upload some photos soon!!). Today we went kayaking along the Li river, so peaceful and calming. Also nice and cool as the rest of yangshuo is extremely humid!!! the weather is very changeble, it was sunny this morning and then big lightening storms this evening.

there is also a great cafe and bar scene here so have had a few late nights, looking forward to a lie in tomorrow morning!!!

getting eaten alive by the mosquitos too, my trusty 50% deet repellent is having no effect they obviously like the taste!

Posted by VanessaT 07:01 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Shanghai!

sunny 30 °C

Last Thursday i got the sleeper train to Nanjing...middle bunk so much better than last time, no getting stuck again, phew!

Was in Nanjing for two nights, there wasn't really much to do there really. The hostel was in a busy pedestrianised area with lots going on in the evenings. There were lots of street stalls selling un-identified meat on a stick which was tasty....just didnt think about where it had come from!

Saturday i headed for the Zijin Mountain and tried to find some botanical garden but got stuck half way up the mountain with all the signs in chinese, no idea where i was so gave up and came back into town!!! It turned out to be a good thing as i found a lovely lake to spend the afternoon by, almost had a seaside feel about it! Its funny to watch the Chinese 'relaxing' because they are all so serious about it! There was a 'team building' event going on and honestly you would think they were training for the olympics they all looked so serious!!!

Lots of kite flying and pedal boats, also in China when you get married you go and have your wedding photos taken in a park (or in a studio that looks like a park!) so there were lots of brides draped over trees getting their wedding dresses all dirty!

Got the train to Shanghai, only a couple of hours. Was pouring down with rain when i got here! Its annoying because it makes me want to stay in the hostel and not go out! Luckily it slowed to a drizzle so i borrowed an umbrella and headed out to the Bund the river than runs through Shanghai. At night its all lit up with the neon signs and buildings across the river in Pudong (Shanghai's Canary Wharf) saw the distinctive Pearl TV Tower all lit up and took the 'Bund Observation Tunnel' over to Pudong. The observation tunnel is the most hilarious thing. You basically go through the tunnel in a little pod and its meant to simulate travelling through the earth. Someone has just dumped a load of rope light and fibreoptic cable in there and in the pod you hear a disembodied voice saying 'heaven and hell.....the meteor shower.....molten lava' Poor mans disney!!!! very funny. You sit through it once then wander round Pudong and then you have to go through it again to get back to the otherside of the river!!!

On Monday i went to the Shanghai Museum, it was ok, well put together but quite dry. there was a nice collection of Chinese furniture with a chair display that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Geffrye Museum!
headed over to the Grand theatre which is just over the road but it was all closed up, big sign advertising Hairspray in July!

Next stop was the French Concession....almost felt like being in Europe! the Xintiandi redevelopment of the traditional shikumen houses is lovely, lots of cafes and space to sit outside. Visited the shikumen house museum which has a traditional stone gate house set out as it would have been in the 1930's.

Found the tourist information and tried to book for a Chinese version of Cirque Du Soleil but discovered that all entertainment events have been postponed for 3 days to mark the week anniversary of the earthquake. (the Olympic flame which was due to relay through Shanghai on Monday was also postponed).

I was still in the French concession when the exact moment of the earthquake week anniversary passed. It was almost more disconcerting than the earthquake itself! All the traffic stopped, literally all of it, traffic lights and all. people came out of restaurants and shops to stand together on the street, everyone in their cars blared their horns and it stayed like that for a full three minutes. It was like someone had pressed the pause button, i have never seen anything like it. Even after the three minutes had passed people seemed reluctant to move on, many wiping away tears, it was such a moving scene. reading the papers here is still heartbreaking, reading of children that have lost their entire families and doctors who are rescued from collapsed buildings and then immediately join the medical teams who were helping to free them.

Yesterday i went to the 'Old Town' more of a tourist attraction than anything else but in the middle they have the Yu-yuan gardens a traditional ming style garden which is so peaceful amongst the chaos of the markets! took lots of photos but havent managed to upload them yet.

went on a river cruise of the Bund which wasnt much to write home about and then meandered back to the hostel along the Bund, looking at all the 'Old Shanghai' buildings which housed the influential banks, newspapers and consulates of the early 20th century.

Thankyou for all the emails, sorry i havent had a chance to reply to them yet, its hard to get on the net in this hostel!! will write soon i promise!!!

Posted by VanessaT 18:41 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

Earthquake!!

sunny 28 °C
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This was probably the main event of my stay in Xi'an......nevermind the Terracotta Army!

I've been here a whole week which seems like forever! Had lots of lazy days as there isn't that much to do here.

Last Saturday i went to the Big Goose Pagoda, which is just a big pagoda surrounded by a Buddist temple.
DSCI0006.jpg
the main attraction there is in the square to the North where they have a fountain and music show. The show itself is great but what is funnier is watching all the chinese tourists running into the fountains to have their pictures taken and getting soaked! They run in while the jets are going upwards for the photo but then the sideways jets come on and completely soak them. they also run in with umbrellas which are no help as the water is coming from underneath!!! even after standing and watching one group of people get soaked it doesnt deter any of the others and they run in to get soaked as well!!!
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sunday i went to see the Terracotta Warriors, i've wanted to see them ever since Yvonne and I watched a segment about them on Blue Peterabout 15 years ago!! There are 3 big excavated pits. one is the 'command post' with the higher ranking generals and horses and chariots (the chariots were wooden so are no longer there!) the second you cant really see much, just some sections of collapsed warriors.

when they were found all the warriors were in pieces they werent built up how you see them today so seeing the mangled warriors in pit 2 makes pit 1 more impressive. this is the pit you see in all the pictures with rows and rows of upright warriors. it must have taken hours of work and lots of superglue to get them back together!

the whole feat was obviously an amazing achievement and it took about 30 years to complete the army and Qin's tomb but as there is so much exposure in the media, especially because of the exhibition at the British Museum it didnt have the wow factor that i imagined it would. one thing that suprised me was how big the statues were! most chinese men are not particularly tall and the statues tower over them, perhaps they built them with larger proportions to make them more imposing...or the chinese have shrunk over time!!?

monday was the day of the earthquake...i was on my way to the hostel from the supermarket (how glam) when everyone came running out into the street, at that point i couldnt feel anything so was wondering what was going on! they all had their hands over their ears so i wondered if there was going to be an explosion or something? but then the ground started to shake so it was pretty obvious it was an earthquake! its is such a strange sensation, really hard to describe. because the street i was on had flagstones and all the buildings were quite traditional it felt a bit like i was in a theme park on an earthquake ride! it felt very surreal. the ground and buildings were swaying rather than shaking. every 10 seconds or so everyone would stagger as the ground moved again. it probably lasted about 3-4 mins? its hard to tell. soon made it back to the hostel but we had to wait outside for about 30 minutes before they would let us inside incase of aftershocks. got straight on the internet (luckily the BBC website isnt blocked by the government at the moment!) as the hours went by it became more apparent that down near Chengdu there was a lot of damage and even now unfortunately the death toll is still rising.
In the evening most people stayed in the bar at the hostel. it was interesting because the atmosphere that was created by everyone coming together to talk about where they were, what their experience of the earthquake was etc was very similar to london after the bombings.

Even though we could feel it in Xi'an it wasnt strong enough here to cause major damage so its business as usual here really.

I did have a train ticket booked for today to Chengdu but am obviously not going now! i think its possible to get there and chengdu itself isnt that badly affected but the last thing they need there now is a load of tourists!!

I am heading east towards shanghai instead, another sleeper train...this time i made sure i got a middle bunk!

yesterday i went for a bike ride around the city walls of Xi'an, you can cycle the 14km walls in about 1hr 20mins with stops for photos! its nice up there as they are pretty deserted. you hire a bike from the little bike shack on top of the wall, it was quite well adjusted, i thought they would all be tiny as the chinese people are quite short. the brakes just about worked so it was the best i could have hoped for i think!
DSCI0052.jpg
most of the wall is quite smooth, its about 5m wide so plenty of room. there are parts that are quite potholey though so you get good at weaving in and out, some bits are unavoidable and i thought the bike was going to shake apart at one point...it was making a bit of a death rattle!!!

it provided an interesting view of Xi'an and was great for nosing into peoples lives. as i rode past the train station there were a lot of police and soldiers loading people with bags and suitcases onto army trucks. i dont know if these were people who had been evacuated from the earthquake areas or people who were heading into it. it was like the evacuations you see in the big disaster films....quite un-nerving actually...

the weather here has been lovely, always sunny and its very hot today. the air quality is also much better than beijing, you can see the sun rather than just a big expanse of grey cloud. today i'm just killing time untill my train at 10.40 tonight. have had a great time in Xi'an the hostel was really nice, met lots of great people and it was nice to have a bit of a rest. i do think 7 days was a bit too long though but quite lucky really else i'd have been in chengdu when the earthquake hit!

oh i forgot to say, i've put a few more photos on flickr!

Posted by VanessaT 22:44 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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