A Travellerspoint blog

China - Xian

Its all about me!!

sunny 26 °C

The Terracotta Warriors are amazing. I am so glad that we followed the Lonely Planet (LP) advice and saw the short film then viewed the Pits from 3 - 1. Pit 3 gave us a small taster of what to expect. It was the smallest of the pits and contained about 70 warriors and horses, most warriors were without heads though. Pit 3 contained most of the senior ranking officers. Pit 2 was huge but most of it is still being excavated. You could see the structure of the pits and the roof beams, They approximated that there are about 1500 warriors and horses in this area. Pit 1 is humongous!!! It is 11 rows of soldiers about 6000 of them and horses all facing in one direction except for the outside row that face outwards to protect the rest of the troops. Each warrior is life size and was built to protect an Emperor in his afterlife. The whole thing took nearly 40 years to make and is 56 square km big including the Emperors tomb. Wow! That is one big Mausoleum and one big ego!! Each soldier was made from a cast out of clay, baked and then painted. Each one is completely individual and it is just fascinating. We took binoculars which was great and we were able to see the details, the expressions on their faces, the way the hair was plaited the folds in their armor - just incredible. We spent most of the day there and it just did not feel like it at all.

Of course I managed to get myself into a situation - again! What is it with me? Do I have a sign on my forehead saying "Hey you over there, yes you, I'm over here, I'm a tourist and I am looking for trouble - come and get me...."? Everywhere you go there are people trying to sell you their wares; postcards, nicknacks and statues. This one kid could speak quite good English and was trying to sell me a set of Terracotta Warriors. I kept telling him that I wasn't interested but he kept showing them to me and telling me that they were good quality and banging them together. There were about 5 little statues, cheap and cheerful but I did want to get something like that so I made the fatal mistake and hesitated and asked him again how much for them. His price kept getting lower and lower until it was ridiculous so I agreed. I gave him the money and as I went to take the box he said, "Which one do you want?" Hang on a minute this is a bit cheeky - I have a feeling I have been had. I said "No, price paid for all" again he said "Which one? Horse, archer, general?" so I again told him "No, for all" I had hold of the box so took it and started walking away. This kid was really starting to get in my face now - what a cheeky little bugger, I wasn't having any of his scam. I asked him to go away but he started to shout at me and the situation was getting ugly, and to be honest I was getting a bit scared so I started to shout "NO, NO, BAD, BAD!!!" still he was right in my face so I stated to run away, he was running after me waving money. I actually ran up to this guard and pointed at the kid and said "Can you stop him?" I have no idea if the guard understood but I am sure by all of the commotion he knew something was going on. Thank goodness he was stopped. Paul, Frederik and Eline were in stitches, laughing at how I always manage to get myself into situations. I spent the rest of the day hiding my face and expected the guy to be waiting for me at the Exit. In hindsight I should have just given him some more money at we are not talking about big bucks here but it was more about the principle and I wasn't going to let him get away with that scam - cheeky little bugger!!!

The next day we had the intention to walk the city wall, do half of it round to the Bell Tower where the international post office is and then to do the rest of the wall and get off at the Mosque. We got to the wall and found out that you have to pay (obviously!! we ARE in China) and not only that but we would need to pay twice. Sod that!! So we went to the Post Office anyway and watched this guy make boxes for our stuff which was quite interesting actually and then we go to another counter and get the forms to fill in and then to another to be weighed and sent. The bloody stuff we bought cost no money at all and the postage about 3 times the value of what was inside the boxes and that is even with them being sent by boat!!! That's it, we are not buying any more crap!! Yeah right. Once that was done we were off to the mosque. It took us about 3 hours to get there through winding alleys filled with market stalls. The stalls were awesome. Think of any designer or named brand item and you can get it here. This one stall had a couple of wallets that I was looking at and the woman said "Ah, what brand you like? Chanel, Louis Vuitton...?" "Gucci?" "Gucci! Come here!" and she pulls me into this room behind a curtain and it is stuffed from wall to ceiling with designer handbags and fake watches, blimey. I had a good look but the trouble is they look well made enough bu I am not rich enough to have a real Gucci and have no idea if the copies are that good. Cough, cough, not that I am condoning that sort of thing of course :0)

As you know our family LUUUURRRVVEESSSSS a bargain (don't worry mum I wont mention the red stickers or the charity shops) and I tend to get caught up in the whole game of the bargain. Sometimes I wish you could just say, how much is that? and have a fixed price and know that you are not getting ripped off. The trouble is even after you have spent a while haggling over something and agreeing on a price you are still probably getting ripped off. The question you have to ask yourself is "Am I happy to pay that price?" If yes buy it. If no, you have to walk away. They can get a bit feisty though. Usually I ask how much and if it is ridiculously priced I wont even go into a haggle as you can usually get the item for half the starting price (and they are still probably getting a good profit). If you offer and then they counter offer but don't budge much then I will not get into the bartering. If however you really get into the bartering then you need to follow through with the purchase. You cant haggle for 5 mins and then walk away, bad haggling etiquette I did come away with a good jacket, I was looking for a rain coat and I got one with an added fleece. It is quite light but a bit bulky. I have with great effort squashed it into the compression bag that we had (which Paul is carrying - good man). The woman I was haggling with was a good seller, and it really is a game. She compliments me on how clever I am, I complement her on what a good seller she is and so the game continues. She said Paul is like a Buddha (and to be honest that is not the first time I have heard that) she said that he is always happy and loves me a lot. Sweet, and he is my lovely little Buddha :0) We didn't make it to the mosque in the end either.

Today is my birthday and it has been a bit of a strange one. While we were at the markets we came across a dress making shop and this one dress caught my eye. Paul was looking for something to buy me for my birthday (even though we had agreed no presents this year) so after again haggling a good price I was measured up and said I could pick up my dress at 4pm today. I went to pick it up and they don't have the material that I chose. I was going to wear the dress out to dinner tonight and we even picked up a cheapy shirt for Paul. I was a bit disappointed but we did agree on different material and they said they would drop it off by 10pm tonight!! I hope so, I don't know what we will do if they don't, we have to leave at 6am so don't really have time to work it out - lets not get into another situation before it has happened - I am sure everything will be fine. Anyway dinner is postponed until Lhasa and to be honest I quite like the sound of celebrating my birthday in Tibet :0)

The hostel today has been great - free internet for the day (thats why I am catching up on the blog) AND they bought me a bunch of flowers. 24 red roses and an oriental lily in the top to be exact. I did not expect that at all. Amazing. They have been really lovely and I would definitely recommend anyone that is saying in Xian to stay at the 7 sages hostel - its brill.

Posted by paulandjes 03:37 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

China - Arriving in Xian - Scary taxi driver!!!

Scary taxi driver!!! Warning to other travellers.

sunny 30 °C

Oh my God!!! Not a good start to Xian... I rang the hostel I had booked as they said they were happy to pick us up fom the bus station, they said that they were busy but to get a cab and that they would pay for it. It was only about 2km and I guess we could have walked but if they were going to pay it would save us lugging our backpacks - easy right?? Wrong!!!

We were travelling with friends that we met in Beijing and we had difficulty flagging down a taxi to begin with so when one stopped we jumped at the chance to get in. The taxi driver started shouting at us and someone in the street said he was shouting "quickly!" The traffic started beeping and we tried to put out backpacks in the boot but they were too big, the taxi driver jumped out of the car screaming at us and stuffing our bags in the boot, they wouldn't fit, the boot wouldn't close but he was waving us into the car so we leapt in with the boot still open. I was really worried that our bags would fall out. I gave the driver the flyer we had for the hotel and he made a call to find out where it was. We had already looked on the map in the Lonely Planet so knew it was not far. Eline and Frederik were following in a taxi behind and the two taxi drivers pulled up together and had a chat then ours pulled over. I lept out and grabbed one of our backpacks and put it in the back with Paul and I jumped into the front. Then the taxi driver started to drive and saying that we should pay, he held out 5 fingers and I said OK, 5 Yuan seemed a good price, then he got out his money and waved 50 at us and started shouting. 50 Yuan!! He was having a laugh, I told him no and he started screaming at me and waving the money, it was really scary. I told Paul that we should get out and pointed the taxi driver to stop, he wouldn't stop so I opened the door, the taxi driver was still shouting at us I got out and told Paul to stay in the car to make sure the driver would not drive off with our bags, I grabbed the bags and then Paul got out. The guys following us pulled over to find out what was going on and I said that I was scared and we will try and get another taxi. Our taxi driver then got out of his car and started shouting at the other taxi driver!! He was CRAZY!!! We gestured for him to go and after more shouting he did, thank goodness. We got another cab straight after and can you believe he drove us about 500m up the road and we were there. Phew!!!

I am so glad we left that scary driver - he was seriously trying to rip us off. The moral of the story, listen to your instincts and if you are not happy take control of the situation and change the situation.

We are OK....and have a story to tell :0)

Posted by paulandjes 19:55 Archived in China Tagged transportation Comments (1)

Beijing-Datong-Beijing-Louyang

Its all about Paul!!!

sunny 31 °C

We walked along The Great Wall of China!!! It was amazing. We did a tour as it worked out to be just a little more than if you did it yourself on a public bus and you got lunch included and the ease of being picked up at the hotel and not getting lost. Unbelievably it took 4 hours to get there and it is only 90km outside of Beijing!! Something that we are still getting used to is the fact that it just takes forever to get anywhere in China. We got to Jinshanling about midday - just in time for the searing heat of the day. And I have to tuck my tail between my legs and admit that we did get the cable car BUT I would just like to clarify it was a cable car to the wall, not instead of doing the walk :0) We were told that we could walk to the wall but it was very steep and that it would take an hour and the best views of the wall are from the cable car, so how could we refuse? What we have since found out is that you come across a lot of tall stories in China and we later found out that it only took 30 mins. I was starting to get worried as we were ascending the hills that if this was the best view then I would be a little disapointed. The view was not that great from the cable car actually but as soon as we hiked the rest of the way to the wall we were not to be disappointed. How they built this wall is astounding. The hills are steep and go on for miles around. The wall is actually filled with dirt and the "shell" is made from stone. Dotted along it are towers which are a wonderful relief from the heat of the day as you walk along it. The first section was particularly tough. In some parts it was like climbing a stone ladder!!! How they used to use the wall to transport food and goods or relay messages along it easily I will not understand. We did the less touristy excursion to the wall from Jinshanling to Simatai and I am so glad that we did. One guy on the same bus as us had done 3 different trips to the wall and although he was not disappointed with any he said that the one that we were on was the best. I was very pleased to hear that. I had heard that there are hawkers on the wall selling water, coke and can you believe beer. These little Mongolian people are like mountain goats and are very persistant. You get to learn the phrase "Booyar" very quickly (I dont want) we had one woman follow us for nearly 20 mins. They are naturally very inquisitve people and you have to remember that they are very poor and only trying to earn some money but it can be a little frustrating. I am surprisingly OK with it but it is the only time I have ever seen Paul get a little worked up - Patience it the theme of this trip let me tell you.

We have just spent 3 consecutive nights on hard sleeper trains. For those that have not been in a hard sleeper carriage I will just briefly explain. Each "room" is about 2.5 metres wide (8ft for those that are old school) and on each side is 3 beds, each stacked on top of the other. The beds are only about 1m wide (3ft). There is just about enough space to sit upright on the bottom bunk and the space between them gets smaller until at the top you can only just rest up on your elbow. We were lucky on the trip to Datong, we had the bottom bunks. On the way back I had the lower bunk and Paul had the top and then on the way to Luoyang we both had the top bunks. Paul is right it doesn't make that much difference one you are settled in for the night but if you are like me and have a bladder the size of a peanut it can get a bit of a hassle clambering in and out of bed.

I was pleasantly surprised by Datong. The Lonely Planet paints it in a bit of a bad light and yes it is dirty but I have yet to see a part of China that isn't (I still have my fingers crossed). When we got there we desperately needed to freshen up but the first stop was to find the CITS office (Chinese International Tourist Office), they charge a bit of commission but it takes the hassles out of things which is a relief if you cant speak or read Mandarin. We thought it was going to be a pain finding the office but there was a guy waiting to the exit of the station CITS meeting office. We easily organised our trip to the Hanging Temple and Yungang Caves and our return train trip back. We were really happy abot this as we had to be back in Beijing for the next evening as we had already booked our hostel and train trip to Longman. Anyway, time to freshen up and this is where it all becomes all about Paul. The poor bugger needed to do his morning, what shall we call it???? "Routine"! and we didn't have a hotel room for the day so had to brave public toilet. Let me just tell you that when I went to the ladies I could smell the loos from the train waiting room which is about 20m away!! Wretchhhhhh!!!! Anyhoo, Paul comes back all red faced. His door wouldnt lock, and it was one of those doors that opens outwards, as he was squatting (Chineese toilets are holes in the floor) he lost his balance and went to put his hand out and flung the toilet door open and some poor chinese man got a smack in the face and was not only stunned by that but got an eyefull of Paul with his undies round his ankles!!!! Hee hee hee!! Poor bugger!!!

The Hanging Monastry was amazing. It is a Buddhist temple built 50m up the face of a cliff and is about 1500 years old. It was a bit scary going into it and made my somach lurch a few times. The Yunang Caves are again about 1500 years old. They are manmade caves, they would climb up the cliff and chissel a small tunnel and then continue to carve the cave from top to bottom, this enabled the light to come in so they could se what they were doing. The carving are phenominal, truely breathtaking.

We met a lovely couple in Datong after the tour and we had dinner with them before we had to get the train back. it was a real bonus that Max was born in China and could speak Mandarin so we left the ordering of the meal to him and feasted on the most amazing banquet to date. Lots of fresh veggies and beancurd and stewed fish - beautiful. The cab trip to their hotel was interesting though, Paul seems to fascintate the Chinese. Usually we get stares when we walk around and that is to be expected as we do look quite different but as Paul was sitting in the front and the lady taxi diver could not keep her eyes off of him. Paul as you know is very shy so he did blush quite a bit. Max was talking to her and we found out that she was mesmerised by his freckles!!! It hadn't even crossed my mind that they might find that interesting. Asians you see dont get freckles. Max reckons that if he hadn't told her that we were married that she would have tried to take him home!! Go Paulie!!!

Yesterday we went to Longman Grottoes. More cave carvings, later than Louyang and again very beautiful. There were many more caves but a lot of damage had been done during the Cultural Revolution and some vandalism and some removed for museums, which is a real shame. I would say that Yungang was more impressive Longman is definately more touristy - they even have golf buggies to take you from the entrance to the cave - we did not do this.

Anyway out of time again, love to everyone. Until next time Mwah, Mwah xxxxx Off to Xian today.......

Posted by paulandjes 19:16 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Beijing - Peking Duck and cheesy house music

sunny 31 °C

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Beijing - the Chinese think we are hilarious or stupid, probably the latter. I love the Lonely Planet and would not travel without it. It has advice in there that you couldn't do without. We knew that when we landed that we needed to get a particular bus number that would take you to the subway and then from there you get whatever train you need. Excellent except we got off the bus and couldn't find the subway. OK, it really hit us that we were travelling now. We couldn't see the subway anywhere. Paul walked up and down the road and then we looked in the LP for a map and although it is good it wasn't detailed enough to show us where we were. Obviously no one spoke english. We saw an official looking guard so I thought it would be a good idea to show him the subway map and point to where we were but they just looked at it and laughed!! Oh my god we are stuck in the middle of China it is really busy and we have no idea where we need to go!! Bugger!! We were just toying with the idea of jumping in a taxi - something that we haven't budgeted for but hey at least we would get to our hotel - when I asked the next bus driver where the train was, he obviously gave me a blank stare but luckily someone on the bus understood and pointed us in the right direction, it was only about 100m away. Phew. The train journey went smoothly and then we hiked with our huge backpacks on to the hostel. All the way i was thinking about what I could possibly throw away - I dont want to carry the backpack for that far again if I can help it.

First things first, we needed supplies so we went to the supermarket which was a funny experience. This one particular lady copied everything I said and then had hysterics. She thought the word 'banana' was particularly funny, she kept saying it over and over 'annana, hee hee hee, anana, hee hee hee, anana' ok you get the picture!!

We hired bikes and rode around Beijing and are still alive to tell the tale. I had many heart in throat moments but it was good fun - nothing like a mad china man in a BMW zooming toward you even when the traffic lights are red to get the heart pumping and adrenalin flowing!! (Don't be scared mum, its OK) We went to Tiananmen Square and we were a little disappointed that Chairman Mao mausleum is closed due to renovations. The whole of Beijing is one big renovation at the moment getting ready for the Olympics so it has been cleaned up a lot but there are a massive amount of building works going on. We biked to the Temple of Heaven which was pretty impressive but you cant walk in it like you can the Stately Homes in England, you have to admire from a distance. The temple was built in 1412 or there abouts from wood and does not contain one nail. It is very ornate and decorated in clouds, phoenix and dragons.

We have been experiencing the amazing Chinese cuisine. Luckily the places we have been to have had english translations all be it a bit strange but the menu's are also accompanied by photos of the food which helps lots. On the way back I thought I would pop into a couple of shoe shops - not that I should be buying them but no harm in looking. :0) I didn't really think too far ahead though - the Chinese are tiny and so are their feet. I felt like a giant trying to squeeze my foot into the largest size that they had. Paul said I should ask 'Have you got any shoes in Hagrid size?'!!! Thanks Paul, made me feel a lot better :0)

Yesterday we went to the Summer Palace which was beautiful. Again there is a story to tell about getting there but I wont bore you with the details. We arrived by boat which was really lovely. The river is lined with Weeping willows (Pauls favourite tree). The day involved huge amounts of walking (again) but it was worth it. Lots of beautiful pagodas, beautiful bridges and weeping willows everywhere. Lots of steps also - I have calves like grapefruits!!!

Went for an amazing meal last night - Peking Duck. I know, I know not very vegetarian but I couldn't pass on Peking duck in Peking. I convinced myself that it grew on a tree anyway. It was lip smackingly tasty.

We wangled our way into a group that are staying in the same hostel as us and went to a Chinese club last night (feeling a little seedy today) The club was hilarious 'Coco bananas'. Jam packed full of rich Chinese people ready to party the weekend away to very cheesy house music. Stuff we have not heard for years but it was great!!! I danced my little heart out until the wee hours of the morning - cheesy house even managed to get Paul on the dance floor (shock horror!).

Posted by paulandjes 21:54 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Hong Kong hot and sticky

sunny 30 °C

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We got to Hong Kong OK - JUST!!! We nearly didn't get out of the airport in Brisbane. We got to customs and were told that we could only travel in and out of Australia using our Australian passports as our British passports didn't have any Visas in them. Well, that was a major problem as our Aussie passports were in a container being shipped to England. Well, you can imagine, I got that horrible warm sinking feeling in my gut and went bright red and nearly burst into tears. We had just had some lunch in the airport and left going through customs with only 5 mins left until boarding time. We had to sit at the side while the supervisor sorted it out, thankfully it was sorted out, phew! We got a bit of a slap on the wrists but you see we didn't want to travel with both passports for security reasons. Well, as soon as she told us that we could go she handed us our passports and I jumped up and we went through the security check,Paul's bag came through OK and then I waited for mine, and waited. Other peoples bags came through and I still waited for mine. The security guy looked in the xray machine and my bag was no where to be seen. Oh my god!! I have lost my bag already, how was that possible?? Panic started to set in and then as I looked over to the seating where we had been waiting for our passports my bag was still there!! Ooops. Security nearly didn't let me back to get it but I think he saw the panic and tears welling up in my eyes, he let me go and get it and I think all of the security guys had a laugh as I was convinced the machine had eaten my bag. Finally on the plane and a few deep breaths later we were on our way.

I was bit anxious about Hong Kong as it has about 20 million people in a very small space so I was expecting it to be really manic but it isn't. The public transport is very well organised clean and on time. It is amazing. There is even a flashing light on the subway map on the trains showing you where you are and advises you what side of the train to disembark from. Very impressed. I can now speak Chinese... well, "please mind the gap", "The next station is...." and "Doors will open on the left hand side of the train" Does that count? :0) We got the train straight to our hotel, well 100m from it which was fantastic. We are staying in Chungking Mansions and let me tell you that they are FAR from mansions. I got to the room and nearly hyperventilated. The rooms are soooooo small, very claustraphobic. Paul always knew my initial reaction would be a bad one. The bathroom is not really a bathroom but a "shoilet" this shower over toilet。 Wait until you see the piccies!! After you have spent a night in them the shock wears off and they were not too bad and you don't really spend too much time in them anyway. The beds are solid as a bloomin rock though but we have improvised and put our sleeping bags on them which is much better.

Having Won Ton soup for breakky is a bit weird but we knew that part of the excitement of different countries is the food, I am trying to avoid meat but it is nearly impossible and Paul has not been game enough to try the chicken feet - euuuukkkk!!!!

We were a bit buggered on the first night but knew that we couldn't sit in the room for longer than was necessary so we decided to go for a walk along the harbour. We went to see the city lights which were amazing. Hong Kong from here didn't look as big as I expected, the lights on the buildings were great. It made changing my lightbulbs at home to the envionmentally friendly ones pale into insignificance but I still believe that if everyone does their bit it will make a difference. Anyway we had a wander and it was still hot and humid but as it was evening it was a little cooler - slightly.

We have been to Lantau island to see the HUGE bronze buddha which was pretty cool and well worth a visit. From there we saw a view across the Islands. The budda is 26 metres high and about 56 tonnes of bronze I think. It was built pretty recently in 1992 which was really surprising. The buddha is beautiful though, really peaceful.

We got the tram up to the peak on our last night to see a panoramic view of Hong Kong and I must admit it was the first time we really appreciated the scale of the place. Seeing as a lot of the island is not able to be built on because of the mountains they have certainly packed in the buildings. We then spent hours walking back from the peak. The guide book mentions a huge escalator apparently 800m long and we thought this would be fun to get back down to the city. However, we soon discovered that the escalator is only one way and is it not even one escalator it is several. We ended up walking down what seemed like millions of steps. My feet were pretty raw. Well at least it wore us out so we were exhausted and just drifted into a slumber when we got back to the "mansions".

Posted by paulandjes 20:11 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

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