A Travellerspoint blog

From Beijing to Xi'an

View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

Spent Tuesday at the Summer Palace which is basically the Forbidden City but spread around a lake! I thought it was going to be a nice stroll around a park but true to form, the Chinese really do love their hills and steps!
Longevity Hill overlooks Kumming lake and has the Tower of Buddist Incense on top, it was quite a climb but had a great view out over the lake.

There are lots of gardens and pagodas and some exhibitions of artefacts from chinese history. there was a lot of intricately carved jade jewellery boxes and screens which were beautiful. there was also a street called Suzhou street which was meant to be a replica of a traditional street in southern china but it looked more like souvenir central!

There is a seventeen arch bridge which leads onto the south island where you can catch a boat across the lake. it docks next to a big marble boat aka the clear and peaceful boat (some of the names are brilliant!). in 1888 empress cixi decided to use money allocated to the navy to give the summer palace a facelift! the marble boat was the most 'naval' part of the remodelling. she used to use it for tea parties! it was built on the premise that 'water can carry a boat, and it can capsize a boat' and being as it was made of marble and unsinkable was meant to signify the Qing empire would never be toppled!

On Wednesday i went for my morning constitutional around Tiananmen square and headed for my audience with Chairman Mao! His body lies within the Mao Zedong Memorial hall which is at the Southern end of the square. on the way in a lot of people buy silk roses to lie in from of his statue (which im sure are just picked up and sold again the next day!) after filing past a big stone statue of him sitting very nonchalantly with his legs crossed you are herded through into the room with his body in by white gloved officials. The whole building itself it massive so i was a expecting a big open room but it was actually really small...two lines of people filing past...no stopping! the strangest thing about the body is they have a spotlight focused on his face which is a strange shade of orange so he looks like he's had a streaky st tropez tan!!

apparently the man who embalmed Mao had never done it before so he had a waxwork made as a backup. at night they lower the body down into the fridge next to the waxwork so it does make you wonder which you actually see!

on wednesday evening i headed to the station to catch the sleeper train to Xian. met a lady from london in the waiting hall and it turned out we had both lived on the same road in london.....how strange, the world is such a small place!

well i was really looking forward to the sleeper train and had all these romantic notions of being gently rocked to sleep and waking up refreshed in a new city.......WRONG!!!!!

i knew i had the top bunk which i thought ok thats fine thinking there would be 4 bunks to a compartment, no there are six!!! which means you pretty much need a climbing qualification and oxygen to reach the top bunk!
it was very tight quarters with the rest of my compartment mates. i was travelling hard sleeper so it was all chinese people. its not as bad as it sounds, you still get a mattress and pillow etc its just not quite as comfy as the soft sleeper (which has 4 bunks) and its a lot cheaper!
we left beijing at 21.36 so after about an hour everyone started to go to bed. i wasnt looking forward to getting up into my bunk! i'd already turned into the typically blustering foreigner by losing my phone (which i found) then losing my ticket (also eventually found) so i was imagining the things i could do to embarass myself while climbing up. well it got to a point where i couldnt put it off any longer and the climb up was ok! the bunks were pretty small, much smaller than the capsule hotel, i couldnt sit up or anything. was trying to sort out my bedding and managed to knock my pillow off the side and clout the lady in the bottom bunk with it...oops!
i had my fingers crossed that i didnt need the toilet in the middle of the night! i was writing my diary with the light on and the man in the bunk across from me was making noises like he was annoyed so i stopped writing and turned the light off and settled down to sleep. well now i wish i had kept him awake with the light because it turned out the man snored like a bear!!! it was so loud i had my ipod on and i could still hear him over the music!!! got about an hours sleep and then...obviously...i needed the toilet, great! so i planned my climb down route in my head and tried to silently climb down...big problem, the women on the bottom bunks had folded up the rungs so there wasnt anywhere to put my foot once i had got past the bunks below so i was stuck in the middle of the compartment! climbed back into my bunk and a guard walked past...great he could pull down the rung...tried to get his attention but he didnt see, so i was waving my foot out the end of the compartment trying to get someones attention, about four more attendants walked by but no-one noticed because i was too high up! so this was about 40 mins later and i'm pretty desperate for the toilet now! just had to go for it and managed to slither down the side of the bunks and head for the loo! oh the relief once i was back up in my bunk! i didnt even mind the snoring man!!! but 3 hours later without a wink of sleep and his snoring louder than ever it was the closest i've got to commiting GBH!!!
we arrived in Xi'an and i was so tired as i hadnt slept at all, luckily i was getting picked up from the station by the hostel. checked in and then went to bed!

in the evening i went to a dinner/theatre show with 3 people from the hostel. it was a meal of dumplings which i was unsure about but they were lovely!!! it was funny because they were in all different shapes, chickens, flowers, fish, walnuts, leeks! and they kept bringing out steamer after steamer of them, we really did get our moneys worth! i knew the show wasnt going to be amazing, it was dancing and music from the Tang dynasty. so they had lots of women in floaty dresses dancing round and then some percussion numbers. it was geared towards tourists so it was all quite cheesy! but it was worth it just for the meal!

havent really left the hostel yet so going to have a walk round the city today! it was raining yesterday but seems to have cleared up today.

Posted by VanessaT 20:34 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Back in China!!

View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

On my last day in Japan i just wandered round Osaka really, went up the Sky Umeda buiding which has great views over the city!! the hotel had videotapes you could borrow but all the titles were in japanese...the only ones i could figure out were the james bond ones from the '007'! good job i like james bond eh?! watched goldeneye and you only live twice! had an early night as i had to be up to catch the boat back to china!

the crossing was uneventful, nice and calm...i was the only westerner on the boat!!! not really many conversation opportunities so mainly read my books!

the journey from Tianjin to beijing was a bit of a trek involving a loooooong bus ride to a train station which had been knocked down, a taxi to the right station and lots of running around the tianjin station ticket hall! luckily a chinese guy came to my aid and helped me get a ticket, i think i would still be in tianjin if it wasnt for him!!

am staying at the same hostel as before which is nice. i made a reservation before i went to japan but they didnt have a bed in the 6 bed dorm so put me in a 4 bed which turned out to be overbooked so i am now in a 3 bed room...on my own! it should be 5 times the price i paid so landed on my feet. i think this will make it a whole week i've had rooms to myself!

today i got up arly and went to the great wall of china. i went with the beijing sightseeing bus tour which is meant to be reputable but they ended up taking us on a diversion to a jade factory! something they are not meant to do! met a lady from oz, jenny, on board and we stood up to the tour guide and refused to go in! we were also having lunch there which we ate a little of but it wasnt that nice. we bought some peeled cucumbers from a nearby stall which led to much cucumber hilarity! its weird eating a whole peeled cucumber!

we eventually made it to the wall. because of my knee i had picked the easiest part to walk along and you could get a cable car up and back....well they say cable car when in reality it is this very strange toboggan arrangement which hauls you up in a long line to the top! then you whizz back down the hillside to where the buses are....in contrast to the wall it is the strangest thing ever!!! there is also a bear park with lots of bears being kept in concrete pens...it was really horrible to see as they didnt look very happy.

the wall itself was really amazing it is so steep i couldnt believe it! it really is hard to imagine how they built it over the terrain! took lots of pictures which i'll upload when i get a chance..it really does look like the postcards!

back at the hostel now. ive booked an overnight sleeper train down to xian where the terracotta army are and also booked my hostel in xian, think i will stay there a week and have a bit of a break!

going to visit the summer palace tomorrow where the residents of the forbidden city went in the summer, it is meant to be very pretty, especially in nice weather like this.

Posted by VanessaT 04:06 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

Bit more Tokyo then off to Osaka

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

the capsule hotel was great! there is more room in them than you think, it wasnt that comfortable though because like most matresses in japan it was on the thin side!

had my tv and radio and aircon all on a little control panel.

went out in the evening to meet Yasko and Steve. we met in Ginza which is a nice area with lots of expensive shops! we went to an izakaya which is a japanese pub and had a meal which was lovely...had lots of different things, chicken and pork (was it pork steve?) yakitori, different kinds of sashimi and.........horse meat!!! which was actually ok, just like salami really! then we went to a kareoke place! so funny, i can see how its easy to get addicted....i was even persuaded (well not that much persuading went on!) into having a go...you can see the pictures as proof! i couldnt believe how many song choices there were, its overwhelming! Steve and Yasko are great at it....lots of practice i think!

went back to the capsule hotel, i couldnt believe how many capsules had people in when i got there, its still obviously quite popular!

this morning i went back to ginza for a wander round as its close to tokyo station where i was catching the shinkansen from. went to the sony building to look at all the latest gadgets!

the shinkansen only took three hours to get down to Osaka, had my lunch of sushi and coke! because there are vending machines all over japan i find that im thirsty all the time!!!

tonight and tomorrow im in a hotel that seems to be for japanese businessmen, ive got my own room because it was cheaper than a hostel...its got a fridge and a tv so im in luxury! the internet is free too! think you can take a video to watch in your room too.

i spent the evening in the Dōtonbori area which is full of restaurants, all with lots of neon signs and people trying to entice you inside

i have uploaded some photos from various places in japan onto flickr and the address is at the top of the page, you should just be able to copy and paste it into your browser. ill use that site for photos now.

off to bed in my luxurious single room so i can get up early for a full day in osaka!

Posted by VanessaT 06:03 Archived in Japan Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Nikko and more Tokyo

View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

Yesterday i headed out of Tokyo, about an hour and a half north to Nikko. There are a lot of shrines and temples there but after Kyoto i was feeling a bit shrined out so got the bus up into the mountains which were absolutely beautiful...it was strange because it felt very european!

There are lots of onsens (japanese baths) in the area but i didnt visit any. i went to kegan falls which are close to chuzenji lake, they were very pretty but it was quite cold up the mountains!

oh the shinkansen up to Nikko was a double decker....how exciting, ive always wanted to go on a double decker train!!! was strange looking out of the carriage at the level of the platform.

Today i got up early...6am!!! we went to Kokugikan the sumo stadium in Japan. the main sumo tournament is in may but they were having an open practice which the public were allowed into for free!

the stadium is great, in the round, the seating area is all tiered and you have a little area to sit on the floor (with your shoes off...like most places in japan!)
i was suprised beause although the sumo wrestlers were big compared with normal japanese men they werent huge huge!

not quite sure what was happening really because it was all in japanese but the wrestlers all stood round the ring and took it in turns to wrestle. every 45 mins or so a new group would come out and i think it was going up in ranking of experience because towards the end all the japanese people started clapping when certain wrestlers came out!!

After i wandered round the area im staying, asakusa, its got a couple of shrines and a great road called the Nakamise which is full of little stalls.

on a road nearby there are lots of kitchenware shops and they sell the plastic food you see in the windows of lots of japanese restaurants! its meant to look appealing but it makes me not want to eat there!!!

just about to leave the hostel to check into a capsule hotel for the night!! should be an experience!

Posted by VanessaT 22:31 Archived in Japan Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Kyoto...to Tokyo!

View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

Am trying to remember what i did in kyoto!! wasnt there for long but managed to see a fair bit...

you were right on quite a lot of counts auntie val!! first i visited Kiyomizu quite a big temple up in the eastern hills of kyoto, very pretty, alas no cherry blossom left to see! all the trees are an amazing colour of green though. will upload some photos in china where its cheaper!

the headed up to roanji temple, which has a famous zen garden....just 15 stones all arranged just so...
the grounds were very peaceful and pretty...........all of Kyoto temple and shrine-wise is pretty!!!

then just down the road is kinkakuju, the golden pavillion, which is again very pretty!

then headed to south eastern kyoto to fushimi inari shrine a 4km walk around the hills walking through hundreds of orange gates which are offerrings to the fire gods....very atmospheric!

had a quite evening then in the morning went up into the western area arashiyama, to a bamboo forest which was amazing....also to Okochi Sanso the villa of an old silent movie actor which was probably the most beautiful place i went in kyoto and with the best views, it must have been amazing having those views from your window!

whizzed up to tokyo on the shinkansen sat on the mt fuji side but it was too cloudy to see....i'll try on the way back down!!!

i feel quite at home in tokyo i suppose because it has more of an urban feel....so so big though, the metro network is just so complicated!!!!

went out to a local bar last night and had plum wine with a sake made from sweet potato which is very nice!!!

running out of time, will write more later!!!

Tokyo continued............

Didn't get up very early as we had a late night so headed out into Tokyo about midday.

Visited Shinjuku which is a big shopping area in Tokyo......well most of Tokyo seems to be mainly about shopping really!!!
The station is HUGE- it's so strange because they often have massive underground shopping centres attached so that gets you even more lost! There are so many rail lines to decipher too!

Went up the Tokyo Government building to the observation floor which gives you a great view over Tokyo, was a bit cloudy but still an interesting view.

Wandered round Shinjuku for a couple of hours, stocked up on books for the boat journey back to China!

Got lost in Shinjuku station again looking for the train down to Shibuya...this is the area with the massive crossroads made famous by the film Lost In Translation....its so hard to convey the sheer amount of people!! I will never think London is busy ever again! Shibuya is where all the cool Tokyo kids hang out and shop. Big towers full of Pachinko halls too, wanted to have a go but it looked far too confusing! Some people looked like they had been sitting and playing all day long! Very hardcore!

Headed back to the hostel to meet up with Diane and Charlotte and we went out to a teppanyaki restaurant where you cook your own dish on a teppan in the middle of the table. Had a Japanese omelette type thing and yaki soba which was lovely. It was quite near the hostel i'm staying in which is in the Asakusa area which feels very relaxed and there are a few shrines in the area which i'm going to have a look at on tuesday.

Have just realised that the travellerspoint website only gives you a small amount of photo space per month so am probably going to find another website to upload photos on to. Have put a few on facebook though.

Its funny in japan they stand on the left of the escalator and walk up the right- took me ages to figure that out because its the other way round in london. also unlike in china where they ride their bikes on the road, here they ride on the pavement and you have to watch out for kamikaze bike riders whizzing past!!!

its funny, as i spend time doing things i always think of things to tell everyone but then i come to sit down and write it and forget everything!!!

off to bed now, night night!!!!

Posted by VanessaT 20:32 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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