A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: cazbatt

The last few days of my amazing adventure!


View My Awesome Adventure!! on cazbatt's travel map.

Wednesday
Well I'm not sure if I was full of beans this morning, I hit snooze a few times before getting out of bed and then had a bit of lazy morning. I've not got any plans today, I'm just going to wander about Kowloon. I left the hotel at twelve thinking I'd go straight for lunch to set me up for the day. I'd seen an Indian restaurant across the road which mentioned veggie food but when I got there they only did take away at lunchtime which wasn't any good, it was raining so I couldn't get something and say sit in the park.

I remembered I'd seen a veggie restaurant as I walked through Kowloon Park the other day so decided to go track that down. There are thousands and thousands of restaurants in Hong Kong , lots of them hidden away in big buildings, this one was up a little alley, up some scuzzy steps and on the second floor of a not too glamorous The restaurant wasn't the most well presented of places either but it was pretty packed with locals, there were quite a few empty tables but the waitress sat me opposite a lady already eating. The menu was massive with a huge selection of stuff and it took me ages to choose. I eventually chose a spring roll and "beef" and mushroom in a black pepper sauce. It turned up in minutes and was pretty darn good but took some eating with chopsticks, the mushrooms were the long stringy ones which could have done with being chopped up with a knife and fork, embarrassingly my side of the table wasn't quite as nice and clean as the lady at the opposite side of the table to me. I could see it absolutely chucking it down outside so I dawdled a bit til it baited a bit.

When the rain had turned into drizzle I decided to have a wander through the park opposite, it was a really nice walk and again it just amazes me how peaceful these parks are in the middle of this huge city. There was a lovely pond with flamingos and black necked swans - I've never seen them before, the had white bodies and black necks and heads, it looked like they'd been dipped in a pot of paint.

After that I spent the next few hours walking round Kowloon, finding some of the famous markets like Ladies Market which is just a bigger version of Temple Street Market selling alsorts of tat and fake stuff (how they managed to sell anything is beyond me), the Flower market which was mainly shut because it was late afternoon and I think you need to go there in a morning to see it at it's best. Then I accidentally stumbled across the Goldfish Market which I'd not planned to go to, it wasn't really a market just lots of shops selling fish and pets. The fish were stuffed into little bags with not much water in - poor things.

I carried on walking and someone stopped me to ask for directions which I found really funny, even funnier I happened to know where he wanted to go and sent him on his way - ha! I headed back through Temple street night market, walking round Hong Kong, no matter what time it is, feels very safe, probably because there are always loads and loads of people everywhere although in the night market I did have my bum pinched by a Chinese man - he pinched my bum then said "ooh sorry, was an accident!!" It blummin wasn't the cheeky rat!!

It turned out I'd been walking for seven and half hours and my poor flip flopped feet were aching so headed back to the hotel via M&S. Earlier I'd called in a shop which had a really good veggie section and I'd bought a can of veggie "tuna" so was going to make myself a "tuna" sarnie for tea, I called at M&S for bread, most bread in China is quite sweet but I knew the stuff in M&S would be proper bread. Back in the hotel I made myself my sarnie, I read the ingredients and it was made out if mushrooms and soya, I've absolutely no idea if it tasted like real tuna and to be honest it looked like cat food but it tasted quite nice.

Thursday
I struggled getting up again this morning, much as I don't want to go home and face real life again, I am looking forward to having a rest. I felt like staying in bed all day today (and my poor feet would love that) but that seems like a waste of a day in this fabulous city. I finished off the cat food, erm veggie stuff for breakfast, got ready and was out and about for about half ten. As part of my Big Bus ticket that I went on the other day there was a couple of extra stuff with it so I was doing them today, first off a harbour boat cruise which was a nice hour cruising up and down Victoria harbour, the weather was really nice too. I got off at Central pier on Hong Kong Island and called at the Maritime Museum (also included in the bus ticket) which was a good little museum with really well presented exhibitions.

When I'd finished in there, I decided to go and find the Mid Point Escalators (via Subway for a sarnie for my lunch). The escalators are 800m long and are the longest outdoor escalators in the world. Hong Kong Island is basically a big hill so the escalators were built to take Hong Kong residents who live on the hill backwards and forwards to the offices at the bottom of the hill. Between 6am and 10am the escalators run downhill and from 10am to midnight the run uphill. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't anything special they were just escalators but I went to the top anyway and then walked back down just as it started raining again.

I had a "food safari" trip booked so had to get back to the top of Kowloon to for 6pm so jumped on the ferry to take me back across the water (the ferry journeys were all included in my bus ticket too - bargain!!) I got to where the tour was meeting 45 minutes early so headed to McDs for a coffee to pass a bit of time.

At 6 I got to the subway station to meet my food safari group, there was the tour leader Danny, a couple of other women and a couple from London on the tour. I had prewarned the tour leader that I was veggie so he was prepared to have an awkward bugger on his trip.

The first snack we tried was at a street stall and was a tea infused boiled egg - which was just an egg that had been boiled in tea, it tasted better than it looked. Next we went to another stall for a drink of (cold) tea to take with us - I got a ginseng tea - the Chinese doctor I'd seen in Yangshuo had said I should drink ginseng tea to balance the ying and yang in my digestive system so I tried it, it was rotten so I think I'll just leave my ying and yang as they are and stick to coffee! We then called at another street stall which sold pastries and sweet buns, our tour leader recommended the pineapple buns and egg custards, I'd had a pineapple bun the other day (it doesn't have pineapple in it, it's just a sweet tea cake) so I bought an egg custard but decided to save it til later.

Next stop was a dumpling cafe, the dumplings were served in a soup like broth, there were no veggie dumplings so I had a plate of Kai-lan with soy sauce - kai-lan is a kind of green veg, a bit like a cross between broccoli and spinach which was ok but would have been better as a side dish to something else.

Apparently, the next place we were going didn't have a veggie option either so before heading there Danny took me to a veggie place where I could get something to take away - he recommended a selection of different stuff made from bean curd / soya - it didn't look too appetising but when I sat down to eat it at the next place most of it tasted really good (there was just one that I didn't eat which was supposed to be a mock fish - it didn't really taste of anything and was like a lump of jelly, the others had another soup thing this time with noodles in - there bowls were huge, it looked enough to be one meal never mind just a snack on a food tour!

It was another sit down place next which was famous for fish balls (fish balls are actually fish cakes made of all the low quality, bony fish that are caught that no one is bothered about eating on their own. The menu also had loads of other random stuff on like slimy spinefoot congee, swim bladder congee, fish lips congee..... All sounds delightful, I'm glad I don't eat meat!! My option her was something called gailan, Danny described it as a kind of fried dough wrapped in rice paper - sounds rancid BUT it was absolutely yummy, it was like Yorkshire pudding wrapped in rice pasta and served with soy sauce - I guess that description doesn't make sound any more appetising but it really was tasty (and made me miss Yorkshire puddings!). Finally (thankfully cos by this time I was pretty stuffed), we called at another cafe which only sold sweet stuff, the recommended dish here was sweet rice balls - I had a good idea they were the same things I'd tried at the Chinese opera (the ones which had the consistency of globules of hot bubble gum) so I went for a Mango sago with pomelo cream which was pretty tasty and quite light so just nice to finish off with. Danny took us back to the metro station but I decided I needed to walk to help some of the food to settle - we'd just eaten non stop for three hours. It turned out that Elaina, one of the other ladies on the tour, was in a hotel near me so we rolled / walked back that way together chattering about the best things to do in Hong Kong.

I had planned to do my packing when I got back to my hotel - packing my case for the last time on this trip - boo hoo! - but decided that it could wait and dived into bed, absolutely stuffed with achey feet I didn't take much rocking!

Friday
This is it, my last day of my travels and I got up, ready and sadly pack my suitcase for the last time of my epic trip. I say sadly, I would actually like to keep on travelling to more amazing places but I'm also a bit looking forward to going home. Seeing my folks, cats and friends and having a bit of a rest after my four fabulous months trip trapping round this amazing world we live in.

I checked out of the lovely hotel - I've enjoyed staying here, in fact if I had to design my perfect hotel room this would almost be it - I say almost, to make it perfect it would have had an amazing harbour view from the window - in reality my view was overlooking a grubby street so I kept the blind shut but really if I had had an amazing view the hotel would most likely have been well out of my price range and anyway, 95% of the time I've been in the room I've been asleep so not long enough to appreciate an amazing view!!

I'm not actually completely done with my trip, I don't actually fly until 1am tomorrow morning so I still have a full day left to do a bit more exploring so I leave my bags at the hotel and head out. My plan is to go to Lantau Island where there is a cable car ride to Po Lin monastery and a giant seated Buddha, I've been here before but it's a nice day and I really fancied doing the cable car ride. I got myself to the cable car station on two metro trains which was easy peasy, at the cable car station I nipped into Starbucks for breakfast of toasted cheese and mushroom sarnie and coffee and then went to get in the queue for the cable car. Two and half hours later I finally got on the cable car - wowsers, that was some queue!! The cable car journey 5.7 miles in total and is a nice journey, it was a bit misty but still the views are pretty spectacular and it takes you over the hills, forests and past the airport. There was someone in my cabin who I don't think liked heights, He sat with his eyes shut most of the time and I'm sure went a bit green at one point. The cable car ends at a Ngong Ping village which is a newly built tourist trap absolutely swarmed with visitors so I quickly walked through and headed to see the giant seated Buddha, which is apparently one of the largest seated Buddhas in the world!! It's quite a nice Buddha and inside is a relic which is supposed to be some of the cremated remains of a Buddha - this is tiny and kept under a little glass bell shaped thing so you don't get to see it really.

It was about 5.30 by now and I thought I better head back just in case there was the same sized queue for the return cable car journey, my plan is to get back to Kowloon, go to another veggie restaurant I'd spotted for a good tea before picking up my bags and getting to the airport. The queue wasn't as bad going back, only just over an hour but it was a bit of a pain because I was stood in front of a family with a load of kids, these people have absolutely no concept of personal space and I got trod on, banged into, elbowed, head butted by a kid - grrrr! Thankfully I wasn't in the same cabin as them otherwise I might have quite happily chucked them out!!

I got the metro back to Kowloon to the stop near Sino vegetarian cafe which according to Tripadvisor is the third best one in HK. I was sat down at a table with three ladies, one a Buddhist monk (nun?). I decided to have two courses, this will be my last chance for Buddhist veggie food for awhile (there aren't any Buddhist restaurants at home that I know of) so I ordered deep fried tofu for starters which was yummy and then a baked "duck" dish - this came and was huge, a massive plate of veggies and some soya "meat" in a creamy, cheesy sauce which I wasn't expecting, it was nice but much too big - I think I only managed a quarter of it.

I walked back to hotel and got there at 8.45, I'd planned to be back at 9 so was pretty chuffed with my time keeping. On the way I'd called at the supermarket near the hotel to buy a couple of tins of garlic Pringles to take home with me - I'm going to write to Pringles asking why they don't sell them in the uk - they should!! I was full so the Pringles were safe for the time being, I'm not sure whether they'll survive the journey home though.

Loaded up with my bags I set off to airport. I'd checked the route out earlier, there were two ways I could go - I chose one which I thought was quickest - it possibly turned out not to be!! It didn't help that I went out of the station at wrong place and had to pay to get back in - grr!! I was going on the airport express route so I used one of the in city checking in points, which is in the train station but you check your bags in and they send them direct to the airport for you - pretty cool and helpful when your bags seem to weigh a ton, althiufh according to the scales my big bag going home was 2.8kg lighter than when I set off.

Security at the actual airport was a bit of a pain, they asked me to empty my hand luggage and were looking for something metal - they didn't find anything metal! They did take my deodorant, suntan spray and tooth paste off me though cos they were all over 100ml (well the bottles were although there was hardly anything in any of them. At the "other side" I found a bar and had a pint, I would have had time for another but the place shut at eleven so I got turfed out.

I had a look in my purse and I had 158.20 Hong Kong dollars left, I couldn't buy more drinks so I ventured to duty free, everything was more than I had left so I was just heading out when I spotted a bottle of limited edition Absolute Vodka reduced to 158hk dollars - it was meant be ha ha!! I checked the board and it turned out my flight was delayed for half an hour. As I boarded the plane I was given another boarding pass and told I'd been upgraded - hooraaaaah, on my last and longest flight I was well chuffed. When I got on the plane I realised I'd only been upgraded to Premium Economy - so the only extra perks were more leg room, more bum space cos the seats are bigger, a bigger pillow and a fluffier blanket - ha ha, it was still nice though!

There was another slight delay once we were on the plane because someone's seat wasn't working correctly, apparently the plane can't take off if the seats aren't working 100% so there were alsorts of maintenance men messing with the seat! they eventually fixed it and we could take off. Home sweet home here I come!!

Saturday
The plane journey was pretty uneventful although to say we set off two hours later than scheduled we only landed half an hour late, how does that happen? Does the pilot fly faster than planned or does he take a slightly quicker route?
We had two onboard meals - the first one almost as soon as we got on - mine was mashed potatoes and veg, with a little dish of melon and then some banana and cream hagan daaz, I'm not usually a fan of banana flavoured stuff but it was lovely. The other meal was breakfast, mine was potato wedges and beans, melon and a croissant. I watched a couple of films - Danny Collins where Al Pacino plats an ageing rock star which was really good and Son of a Gun with Ewan McGregor which was alright but a bit predictable. The rest of the time I slept.

The plane route took us over land from Hull to Manchester so we must have flown pretty close to over home, We went over Drax power station but then we were above clouds til we got to Manchester so I didn't get to see any other landmarks. Getting through the immigration was pretty straight forward, cos I have a new chipped passport I could use the electronic system so there was no queuing and my bag came off the belt pretty quickly and that's it I was back on English soil - the pilot had said it was 12degrees and it felt a bit nippy - so much for British summertime!! I had a bit of an issue when I got through the nothing to declare door, I couldn't remember what my taxi driver looked like, it is four months since I last saw him and then it was dark and I only really saw the back of his head. Just as I phoned mum to ask if she could describe him, he sent me a text telling me to look out for his bald head and red jacket - ha ha, he obviously he couldn't remember what I looked like either!!

The drive over woodhead was pretty, it was nice and bright (but still cloudy!) and there was no traffic - I've seen some amazing places the last four months but the countryside over woodhead is still very lovely. As we got closer to home it started feeling like I'd never been away - ha ha! I got back to my lovely house and my lovely mum n dad and fabby BFF Paula were there waiting for me - aww it was lovely to see them! Paula had put welcome home banners up and mum n dad had stocked up my fridge and cupboard with my favourite things - mushrooms, jacket potatoes and cheese (that's my lunch sorted - mmmmmm mmmmm!!) and crumpets for breakfast. I even spotted a couple of bottles of wine in the fridge - they know me soooooo well!! The cats weren't quite so welcoming though, they spotted me and both walked off in a huff! I bet Thomas will come found first and Sam will take a day or so!!

When they'd all gone I chucked in a couple of loads of washing - the joy of being able to do my own washing again and promptly nodded off on the sofa for six hours - with Thomas curled up next to me - ahhhhh!

And that's it, my four month round the world adventure is over and done with.

I've visited twelve different countries, stayed in 42 different hotels, 3 ships, 2 home stays, 1 hammock, 2 salt buildings, 1 tent, 1 brothers apartment, 1 monastery, 4 overnight trains, 2 overnight buses, a couple of planes and a few airport floors - wowsers!!

I've had the most amazing time, met up with some fantastic old friends, made lovely new ones, spent some quality sibling time with my gorgeous kid brother and seen some of the most amazing places and wonders of this fabulous world we live in! Back to real life and my next adventure - finding a new job, I never had my lightbulb moment while I was travelling telling me what I should do with the rest of my life but I have a few ideas of things I'm going to look into - more exciting times!

If you're still reading my rambling diary (it started out just as my diary to remind me what I'd been up to so I've no doubt I waffled on a bit in some places - sorry) I hope you've enjoyed coming along for the ride! I still have a few more photos to upload (pesky China's internet restrictions made it difficult) and then I have to create my photo albums - whittling just over 4500 photos into my favourite favourites will keep me out of mischief for a while!

Toodlepip for now!

Loadsalove

Caz xx

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Posted by cazbatt 00:02 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Leaving China and into Hong Kong

sunny
View My Awesome Adventure!! on cazbatt's travel map.

Friday
That wasn't the best nights sleep, it was too hot and at one point I was being attacked by a ruddy mosquito - I could hear the little bugger zooming past every so often and woke up with six bites - grr! We're on our travels again today, leaving China and heading to Hong Kong - I have only a week of my fabulous adventure left - noooooooo!

We were packed and down in reception for 6.30, ready for the minibus to take us to the train station which took about an hour. Our journey today is made up of two bullet trains and then two metro trains and we'll be in Hong Kong.

I've enjoyed China and the things we've seen have been absolutely amazing BUT three weeks have been long enough, I have had enough of the place now, it's all way too big and busy and crowded and the cities aren't really pretty places and the people aren't particularly that friendly or nice (sorry, I know that's a big sweeping generalisation!), I think it's all a bit too big and crowded for little old me! I know Hong Kong is big and will be just as crowded and mad but I'm looking forward to getting there, I've been before so think It will feel a bit familiar and I'm also looking forward to being able to unpack a bit and be in one place for a week rather than being on the move every couple of days, don't get me wrong, I love love love travelling and seeing all these amazing places I'm just a bit tired I think.

The journey to Hong Kong was pretty easy, other than lugging my bags with me - they feel super heavy today, no idea why. The two bullet trains were great - very clean and big. We were on the first one for two and half hours and that one got up to 246kmph and we were on the second one for about 45 minutes - that one reached 305kmph. All the stations were new and very clean and have been built specially for the bullet trains so weren't mad busy like the other train stations we've been through so made a refreshing change.

The border crossing into Hong Kong was super smooth too, it only took about half an hour. One thing that made us laugh were signs telling people they could only take so 1.8kg of baby milk formula (of all things!) across the borders back from Hong Kong to China, but it turns out that apparently smuggling baby milk is a big thing because the stuff produced in China isn't very good quality - as well as the officials signs there are also loads of adverts for baby milk everywhere in the airport which seems a bit mean. Our group got through easily but poor Jakkie, being Chinese, doesn't have it so easy - the immigration people made her shift her bag and show her tummy to prove she wasn't pregnant and scooting over to Hong Kong to give birth!!

Sadly, one of the great things about being over the border in Hong long is that I can use my phone like I'm at home - good old 3 feel at home service - so I have unlimited 3G, phone calls, texts etc - hooraaaah!! I know it's very sad to be so chuffed about something so trivial but after being so restricted in China it is very very nice!

Our hotel was just round the corner from the subway station and is nice and clean but has super hard beds - as in there's more cushioning on my carpeted floor at home!! We headed out for lunch at Tsui Wah restaurant (a famous chain restaurant which apparently are scattered all over Hong Kong) it wasn't the fanciest of places but the food was good and the portions were huge, I had a noodle dish with mushrooms, tofu and veggies, it was delicious but very expensive compared what we've been paying in China - something like about £7, I know that's probably still a bit cheaper than it would be at home we've been paying about £2 for similar over the last few weeks - ha ha!

We went back to the hotel and got ready to meet up again at 7pm and had our last group outing together, we all went together to see the symphony of lights which is a light and laser display done to music - the lights and lasers are on all the skyscrapers at both sides of the harbour, it's pretty impressive. Ben got talking to a German lady while we were watching the display so we got her to take some group pictures for us and then we said our goodbyes to Jakkie, our CEO, Who is heading back to China first thing and Jackie and Gary who are heading off to some nice sounding beach resort tomorrow. The rest of the group are leaving at different times over the next few days and then it'll just be little old me here! I love these trips but never like getting to the goodbye bit. :-(

The rest of us walked back to the hotel via Temple street market which sells lots of tat, and I'm guessing this is where lots of the stuff from eBay comes from!! I did find a fruit stall which sold some very delicious lychees and treated myself to a bag - yummy! I plodded through the market somehow losing the others on my way, it was about eleven by this time so I scooted back to the hotel and to bed.

Saturday
Well to say that was the hardest bed in the world, I had such a good nights sleep, we've not got much planned today so I didn't set my alarm and slept in til 10.30 - very nice - Elin slept even longer!! We dawdled getting ready and met up with some of the remaining gang in the lobby at 12. We headed out for breakfast / brunch / lunch and found a place nearby, me and Elin had a pineapple bun and French toast and coffee - I'm a bit worried that after three weeks being roomies we're morphing into one another, we're ordering the same food and I can finish off her sentences - ha ha!!

Nemo and Maria then say goodbye and six of us go for a wander, we find Kowloon Park which is a nice tranquil park in the middle of the chaos and then we head towards the main shopping street where we find M&S which even has a food hall - hmmmmmm! It's all a lot more expensive that at home but it's nice to see the familiarity and I might possibly come back here to buy a nice M&S salad for tea one day. Its funny they have a Taste of Britain section and there's all the traditional British food like Battenburg cake (is that really British?), strawberries and cream sweets, Pontefract cakes - made in Pontefract - that's got to be all of ten miles away from my house - ha ha! Outside on the street there are hundreds of men trying to sell fake handbags and watches, I'm sure last time I came they just wanted to sell tailor made suits, this time it seems to be fake everything.

Then it was time to wave Nat n Jordan off - boo hoo, they were the first folk i bumped into on this trip and have both been crackers the entire way through the trip! Then there were four! Me, Elin, Rachel and Declan found ourselves in a really good book shop and must be been in for the best part of an hour just reading the backs of books, there were some really random ones which I've written down and will be looking for when I get home.

We headed for a drink at a German bar which Elin had spotted, and after that Rachel and Declan went off to their next hotel and Elin helped me find my new hotel and helped me carry my bags - bless her! My new hotel is laaaaarvely, I'd originally booked it thinking that some friends were joining me in Hong Kong, when it turned our they weren't coming I went to cancel it cos it was a bit out of my price range on my own but as I was cancelling, out of curiosity I had a look how much it'd be if I booked it again then, it was a cheaper price and with a discount I managed to get it for about £175 less than the original price so I rebooked it and I'm glad I did. It's in a pretty good part of town, close to everything, is very clean and comfortable, super modern with a fridge and microwave, it has little butterflies on the pillows to show you which are the soft pillows and which are the hard ones (little things like that make me smile!!) and it's kind of a similar colour scheme to my bedroom so is sort of gently getting me ready to go home (I still don't wanna go hoooooooooooome!!!).

After Elin has helped herself to some bits and bobs from my room (water which I won't drink and I think a toothbrush?!) we head back to pick her stuff up and I go with her to the airport express terminal which is super swanky and she can check and drop her bags off at the train station and they'll get taken straight to her plane - how neat is that?!? I wave another fabulous roommate goodbye - I have been lucky with my roomies on this entire trip and I'm sure I've got some new lifelong friends (Elin was super great cos looking at my side of the room compared to hers, she made me look tidy - ha ha ha!!)

On my lonesome I wander back to my hotel, we'd walked past a veggie restaurant earlier so I decided to go there for my tea. I've still no concept of times, days or dates so didn't really realise it was 8pm on a Saturday night and the place was jam packed but they managed to squeeze me into a corner under an air con vent, the man who sat me down was quite pleasant but the rest of the staff looked like they were sucking lemons and tried their best not to make eye contact with any of the customers. I ordered sweet and sour Vegetarian "prawns" made out of soya and seaweed and almond rice, it was delicious but huge. I'd asked for the drinks menu which had lots of nice sounding juices on but the only things they actually had were full fat coke and tea so I passed on them, a teapot of hot water was dropped off at my table though (by one of the sour faced waitresses), I didn't drink it cos I don't like water let alone hot water but when I went to pay it turned out I'd been charged for it - my bill for the "prawn" things, rice, unwanted water and service charge came to about £18 - ouch, I've been used to paying less than £3 for a bellyful plus a big beer and generally much better service than that - the trip adviser review will be pretty scathing!
It was about 9pm by this time to I call back at the lovely m&s for bottle of wine (which is very reasonable considering how expensive the food is!) cracked it open back at the hotel and then head to bed.

Sunday
Ooh I did have a good nights sleep in my lovely hotel room last night and was awake bright n breezy this morning. I'm spending the day with Mary, Mairead and Ben doing the hop on hop off bus today, they went to Macau yesterday. Im meeting them at 10 so I have a leisurely hour getting. Ready and then head to McDs just up the road from my hotel for breakfast - egg McMuffin and hash brown and a coffee, I'm not a fan of McDs usually but they're pretty spot on for a good breakfast.

I'm at our meeting point a bit early so have a quick look around and find the Big Bus lady, when the others arrive we get our tickets, we end up getting a two day pass which had loads of free stuff chucked in and works out to be a really good deal - the Big Bus sales lady is a really good sales woman but really nice too, Mairead manages to get us a discount and when I've done the maths I think we got a pretty good deal. We decide to do the Green line first and plan to get off at Stanley market and Aberdeen where we get a free samper (little boat) ride. The market is quite cute but after a while I remember I've been here before and Aberdeen is a fishing village on the river where people live and work on junks, it's great to visit but the river is filthy with loads of rubbish floating in it, not exactly a nice place to live and fish to eat and earn for a living.

Our next stop is the peak tram to take us up to Victoria Peak, the tram is a funicular tram (ie one that goes up a very steep hill!), the queue is huge but because we're Big Bus customers we get taken to almost the front of the queue. The tram is great, you don't get to see much because if the trees so me and Mairead entertained ourselves by photo bombing the selfies that the girls in front of us were taking - hee hee!
Some of the others were starving (they'd obviously not started the day with a McDs like me!) so after a while they decided that we needed pizza so we went to a pizza place at the top of the peak. It was a pretty nice but expensive meal - £85 for four of us to have a pizza and a drink each. Although the view we had while we were eating said pizza was pretty spectacular so I guess we were paying for that.

I decided To leave the others to get back down to the hop on hop off bus but when I got to the peak tram queue, it was huge (40 mins wait) so I decided I'd walk down instead, it was quite a nice walk although walking on a steep down hill track in flip flips isn't ideal - my trusty flips are doing an amazing job but the toe posts are taking some hammering! The Old peak road is quite a nice path although I was amazed at the amount if mad folk jogging past me uphill rather than downhill - wow impressive!! I got to the bottom and had missed the bus I wanted by a minute - grr! I had a drink waiting for the next one and hopped back on the bus, the one I'd missed was the last one to do the full loop so I only got chance to see half of the red loop, I'll come back and finish it off the day after tomorrow. The bus stopped at the Central pier which conveniently has a big Ferris wheel very nearby so I decided to go on that, it was just turning to dusk which is my favourite time to go on stuff like this - you get to see all the city lights coming on - Hong Kong skyline is definitely one of the best in the world. Next to the Ferris wheel was a temporary amusement park to commemorate one of Hong Kong's old amusement park from the days before all the big roller coasters so was just lots of hook a duck stalls and the likes, apparently the park had animals too and there were the stories about them too in a little tent which was lovely to stroll round.

I caught the ferry back to Kowloon and headed back to my hotel to get freshened up and then was straight back out to say a final farewell to the remaining G group - we do milk these farewells - ha ha! Mary had chosen an Irish bar near my hotel (turns our most of us were in the same area) cos she wanted to watch some Irish sports match, it turned out they didn't have it on (poor show for an Irish bar!!), I had massive de Ja Vue when I walked in the pub and it turned out that it was one which me and Paula had spent quite a bit of time in last time we were here. The crew left were Ernest, Tammy, Mary, Mairead, Rachel, Declan and Ben, we had a couple of drinks and shared a big bowl of chips and nattered about the highs and lows of the trip before saying our final goodbyes and all going our separate ways. I toddled back to my hotel and hit the sack - it's been a loch day but I'm a bit sad at swing goodbye to my new friends!

Monday
I felt a bit squiffy this morning - I must be out of wine drinking practice! I'm off out doing a hike this morning, yesterday I'd emailed the company I'm doing it with saying we could start earlier if they wanted so we'd moved our start time from eleven to ten - when my alarm went off I soooooo wished I'd left it at eleven!!!

I decided a hike needs a pretty substantial breakfast so called to McDs again for egg mcmuffin and hash brown - filling, yummy and quick! Then I head to the subway to find my way to the metro station where I'm meeting Rory from wild Hong Kong for my hike. The Hong Kong metro is really easy to use and very well organised so I get there with time to spare, as I was hanging round a little group of Asian hikers started congregating (well they looked like,they were in hiking gear!) so I went over to ask them if they were my group - they weren't woops! Bang on ten of clock a young man who looked very much like prince Harry headed towards me and introduced himself (in a British accent not far off prince Harry's!) as Rory my hiking guide.

We needed to get a bus to the start of the hike so jumped on a double decker and off we went, we were at our stop at the start of the Dragons Back after about fifteen minutes. It was quite a nice hike, not too strenuous, there were lots of steps for the first maybe quarter of a mile but then it just turned into a well walked path, to be honest if I'd have known how to get there I didn't really need a guide, it was such a good path and well signposted it was impossible to get lost. Rory was very interesting though, I'd say he's late twenties, born in Hong Kong but went to school in Scotland (not sure how that explains his queens English accent!) and loves his adventures - last year he cycled round Africa - on his own! It sounded like a pretty epic experience and he said he'd not had many problems while he'd been doing it (other than catching someone rifling through his bag once and a couple of pick pocket attempts!) - cool!!

The hike took about three hours and most of that three hours we swapped travel stories and talked about Hong Kong. We stopped a few times so I could take some photos, there was a good view over Stanley harbour where we'd been yesterday and also you could see the ICC building peeping over the hills in the distance - it was weird to think that this peaceful countryside was so close to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city.

The weather was quite weird too, it didn't feel particularly hot but was very very humid, we both sweated buckets, at one point, disgustingly, I had sweat dripping off my eyelashes which I've never experienced before - obviously my eyebrows are doing the job they're meant to be doing!!

The walk finished at Big Wave Bay which is a lovely little beach and very clean with blue sea, I did have my bikini with me but decided to just go for a paddle instead, the sea was lovely and warm. We cooled off with a cold drink (mango smoothie- mmm!) at a little cafe and then went to catch a minibus to take us back to the metro station. It was a really nice morning and definitely blew away the cobwebs.

I said goodbye to Rory and got on the metro to take me back to Central station on Hong Kong Island, it was only about 2pm and I'd not really thought about what I was going to do for the rest of the day. I'd got my flip flops with me so swapped into them and decided to have a wander round the city before going back over to Kowloon, the city is huge and it's not easy to keep your bearings because the buildings are so big you can't easily see the landmarks from street level so I got lost a couple of times and had to consult my good friend google to work out where I was!

I'd spotted there was a botanical and zoological gardens (both free entry!) somewhere near the peak tram so went to investigate them. The gardens aren't huge but big enough and it's nice that it's there, all peaceful smack bang in the middle of all the high rise skyscrapers. The zoo isn't a big one but there were quite a few bird species, primates, lemurs and tortoises and apparently the zoo is involved In Captive breeding of endangered species so that's a good thing. The funniest / best bit of wandering round was watching a Pygmy orang-utan passing a sack through the bars to a monkey in the next enclosure, the monkey wasn't putting as much effort in as the orang-utan and the orang-utan ended up getting fed up and chucked the sack away, it then came to investigate a few of us who were stood watching, he climbed up the bars of his enclosure and peed - purposely aiming his stream of wee directly at us, thankfully the little bugger missed but only by inches!!

I had a look round the rest of the park and then wandered back to the ferry via the HSBC head office, yesterday on the bus the narrative mentioned the HSBC lions who have been sat outside the building since they were commissioned from Britain in 1935. The lions, called Stephen and Stitt, after former managers of the Bank, have seen and survived lots including being used as target practice by the Japanese when they invaded and took control of Hong Kong in 1941 so I went to see and sure enough you can see the bullet marks in the bronze!!

My little feet were starting to throb a bit (turns out by the end of the day, according to the pedometer on my phone, I've walked 23km today!) so I jumped on the ferry back to Kowloon calling at subway for a sarnie for my tea (I forgot how good a veggie pattie on Italian herb bread with onion, olives, jalapeños and sweet onion sauce actually is) and sat on the promenade while inmate it watching the world go by.

On my way back to my hotel I bumped into Mairead, it's funny, this is a huge city but I still keep seeing / bumping into people I know. We had a ten minute natter, another goodbye hug (they're off home an hour or so later) and I flip flopped back to my hotel - quickly calling at a supermarket for some snacks and a bottle of wine, I was being good with snacks - apple, blueberries and dragon fruit but then I spotted garlic flavoured Pringles - wowsers!! First jalapeño ones in South America and now garlic ones here - such divine flavours, why are they not sold at home?!?!? Although really it's probably a good job they're not, I'd end up looking like a Pringle!

It was about eight o clock by the time I got back so I had a nice chilled rest of evening in my hotel room.

Tuesday
I first woke up at about 4.30 this morning but made myself go back to sleep for a couple of hours, I'd just nodded back off at about 6am when the hotel fire alarm went off - grrr! I waited for a minute hoping it was just a test but it didn't stop so I reluctantly got up and chucked some clothes on, went to open my bedroom door and that's when it was switched off - double grr!! My feet and legs are still a bit achey today so I'm not planning on doing too much walking, I've got the second day of my hop on hop off bus to use which is probably a good thing otherwise I may have just stayed in bed.

My breakfast is a healthy punnet of blueberries and an apple as I walk to the Big Bus stop which is only just round the corner from my hotel. This is the blue loop which is the route round Kowloon, my plan is to stop on the bus and just get off at the ICC which is the current highest skyscraper in Hong Kong and the seventh tallest building in the world, I was planning to go up it anyway but it turned out that the entrance was included in my hop on hop off bus ticket - bonus! It was completed in 2010 and is still all very new and sparky looking, the public viewing area is on the 100th floor, 393m above sea level (there's another eight floors above) and is the only building in Hong Kong to have 360* views in a public viewing gallery. It was nice up there and the weather was perfect viewing weather, it's been a bit cloudy and misty for the last few days so I definitely picked the best day to come up here. There was also some interactive thing when you downloaded their app and you could have daft pictures taken, I had one taken being the big kid that I am!!

I wandered round admiring the view and came across the cafe, I was going to just have a coffee but then spotted they did cheese and mushroom quiche with a coffee for just a couple of quid more - so I treated myself, kind of an early lunch and sat eating a delicious mini quiche overlooking Victoria Harbour, it was very pleasant. While I was up there I was watching something in the water moving about, it was big and grey and bit fish shaped but was moving quite slowly but I couldn't make out exactly what it was, perhaps it was a seal or something, will have to do a bit of research to see if animals like that do come this close to the harbour.

I finished my food, had one last look around and went back down to the bus stop..... Just as the bus was pulling away, Hells bells so I nipped back up into the shopping centre for ten minutes - it's soooo posh in there, dolce and gabana, prada, Vivian Westwood, Rolex....... All a bit much so I went back down to the bus stop to chat to the Big Bus lady - she's the one who sold us our tickets the other day and as well as being a blummin good sales woman, she is also very helpful too suggesting best routes, bargaining techniques etc, she's lovely so nice to natter to.

I had only a couple of stops left on the blue line so got off at the pier and hopped on the ferry and went across to Hong Kong island to finish the red route, I only managed to do a bit of it the other day. I had thought that I'd hop off at a couple of places but I ended up getting myself quite comfy, the temperature was a stifling 35 degrees and I couldn't be bothered doing much walking so just stayed on the bus and did the entire route, it was nice listening to the narrative and music as we were driving, in fact I think this is the best hop on hop off bus I've been on. After I'd done the full route I jumped back in the ferry back across to Kowloon, I was planning to go back to my hotel but then got side tracked by another shopping mall, it had a lot of designer shops in it too but also some more normal shops and stalls too so I mosied round them just browsing. Tea was at a Thai restaurant I stumbled across in the shopping centre - coconut shoots (still no idea what they are even after I ate them) mushrooms, fungus and steamed rice which was nice but I wish I'd have picked something a bit spicier. Then I hauled my weary self back to the hotel and crashed on the bed for the entire evening - it was lovely!! Hopefully after a lovely rest I'll be full of beans to do more exploring tomorrow.

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Posted by cazbatt 08:53 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Sailing down The Yangtze, the overnight train and Yangshuo


View My Awesome Adventure!! on cazbatt's travel map.

Friday
I woke up to the monks chanting again this morning but they must have been in a different temple because it wasn't as loud today. I decided not to bother going to watch them so rolled over and snoozed a bit longer. I got up at 7 to pack my stuff up as we're leaving the monastery today to head to our boat which is going to be our home on the Yangtze River for the next three days.

All packed and sorted, we took our bags to Patrick at the side gate of the monastery and walked down to the restaurant for breakfast - Patrick's enterprises have definitely had the monopoly of business from our group while we've been here but he has looked after us fabulously and everything has been very reasonably priced. My breakfast this morning was omelette and toast and a coffee. Then we got taken to the bus stop on a fourteen seater golf buggy which was a bit hair raising as we wove through the traffic but at least we had built in air con (ie no windows!!).

We're taking a public bus to our next stop, it's not as glorious as the South America public buses but much better than the Central America chicken bus although the personal hygiene of some of the native passengers left a lot to be desired! The bus was more or less full when the driver decided to take us through the bus wash - think a giant sized car wash which was quite a fun way to start our journey! We were on the bus for six and half hours, I wrote for an hour, snoozed for a bit then read the rest of the journey, my poor kindle which I loaded with books before I set off hasn't been looked at once (in fact I'm not quite sure where it is) but there is a book being passed around the girls called The Little a Coffee Shop of Kabul which is an easy read but is also a good mix of niceness, drama and grittiness so I got through half of that on the bus ride. We stopped once at a kind of service station where we could buy food but it all looked a bit grim so I bought a lolly and a bottle of coffee (cold stuff).

We got off the bus at Chongqing which is where we're getting in the boat on the Yangtze, apparently the population of this city is about 34 million - Wowzers!! It's full of high rise apartment blocks and not the prettiest of cities. We were supposed to be getting a taxi to the dock but apparently the taxi queue was huge so Jakkie arranged for us to get minibuses - although the woman she was booking them with might have told a bit of a fib as to how big the minibuses were, there ended up seven of us crammed into a tiny little vehicle with our bags on our knees, thankfully it was only for a couple of miles - although we got dropped off and quickly escaped the van only to be told we were in the wrong place and we needed to squash back in and be taken to the right place - groan.

When we finally got to the right place we had to lug our bags down loads of steps to our boat. Jackie had been told yesterday that we had been upgraded from the usual boat to a five star boat, it didn't look very spectacular from the outside but inside was quite grand - like a mini cruise ship. Apparently, it can hold 300 guests but there are only going to be about 120 of us on board for this journey.

We had a quick look around the boat and then Jakkie got our room keys, me and Elin are sharing, she'd disappeared so I headed to our room with my stuff, it's a lovely room - nicer than some of the hotels we've stayed in!! I was going to go straight back out to find the others but the bed looked very comfy so I had an hour more reading my book til Elin came to find me, excitedly waving a sheet of paper - the others had found details of the drinks packages (and were already propping the bar up!). We could pay around £110 per cabin (so £55 each) for unlimited beer and cocktails, soft drinks and tea and coffee - we worked out that if we had ten cocktails each it'd have paid for itself - we're on the boat for three nights so really it was a no brainer!! We went to sign up for it and of course start sampling the cocktails (they have strawberry daiquiris - mmmmm!!) We headed for dinner at 7pm, that's another package thing which works our at about £20 in total and covers 2 x dinners, 2 x lunches and 3 x breakfasts - another very good deal!

Tonight's Dinner wasn't part of the package, we had a group banquet thing with lots of plates, the two plates of veggie stuff was a bit bland but filled a hole but only cost about a fiver so we can't complain, then we headed back to the bar and carried on with the cocktails. The boat set sail at 9pm so we went to the top deck to take some photos of the Chongqing skyline which looked more impressive lit up in the dark than it did in the daytime and then spent the rest of the night chatting and having a laugh. Several drinks later (todays tally = 6 x cocktails and 1 x beer) I headed to bed round about midnight.

Saturday
I'd set my alarm for 6.15 but was awake at 5.45, me, Mary and Ben had signed up to do a morning excursion off the boat to a place called ghost city today but as I was getting ready it came over the in cabin speaker that the trip had been cancelled because not enough people had signed up for it - turns out there were only another two people wanting to go. I didn't mind being up so early though, breakfast is only served between 7 and 8 so I headed up to the restaurant where some of the others were. Breakfast was a good selection of cereal, hot food, cold stuff - in fact virtually everything you could think of for breakfast plus noodles.

Afterwards, it was actually quite nice not to have to get off the boat so I just lounged around all day finishing off The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, sorting out some photos - my three memory cards are virtually full so I needed to cull some of them and snoozing. We had lunch and tea in the restaurant which was buffet style and there was plenty for me but for both meals I also got a special portion of veggies brought out for me too. After dinner we all put on our glad-rags and headed to the captains welcome party and the ships cabaret show which was quite good - there was singing, dancing, a changing masks show, a bit of a magic show and then some people were pulled up on stage for a game of musical chairs, it was a bit amaturish but good. We then hit the bar - 4 x lagers, 1 x strawberry daiquiri, 6 x Kir royals, 1 x B52 and 3 x glasses of fizz, I've definitely had my money's worth of the drinks package and there's still another day to go. I've switched from the strawberry daiquiris because they've run out of strawberry purée so tried making one using jam - yuk!! When the bar shut at twelve we headed up to the top deck with a big bottle of "champers" (5% vol plonk) where we chatted and watched the stars for another hour. I headed to bed at 1.30.

Sunday
I was up bright and breezy at 6.45 waiting for my alarm to go off for breakfast at 7.15, being so with it probably shows how much the drinks are being watered down which is perhaps not a bad thing. Breakfast was yummy again and then I headed back to our cabin, I'm having another chilled morning today. I'd enjoyed reading that book so much that I found my kindle at the bottom of my bag, charged it up and found a book to read, I've got about 140 books on but I've not picked the thing up since I started travelling.

Lunch was at twelve and then we all met at 1pm for an excursion off the boat. We got off and transferred to a little boat for a trip up Goddess stream to see Goddess Peak. The Yangtze isn't the cleanest of rivers, it's a mucky brown with lots of rubbish floating in it, the scenery was very pretty though. It was a cute little boat trip though and when we got so far we got off on a little floating platform where the local guides did a little dance and singing performance for us including a rendition of Auld Langsein?? Then it was back on the boat and headed back to our ship. I toddled off to the bar with my kindle and had a couple of cocktails before dinner.

After the buffet dinner we all headed to the bar and started on the cocktails, today's choice was Cuba libre which is basically Bacardi and coke with lime. We were planning to stay up tonight because the ship is going through a lock gate tonight with five gates at the Yangtze three gorge dam - so basically the ship is travelling uphill and over the dam by going into a kind of pen that fills up with water so we rise up to the next pen and so on and I was pretty keen to see it. It had been announced that we'd get there at about 1am, we'd packed our suitcases and were comfortably waiting on the top deck and at 2am we were at the dam in the first pen but nothing was happening and I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer so I had to go to bed and missed the lock gates - boo!!

Monday
My alarm went off at 6.15 - groan I'd had about four hours sleep and I think those Cuba libres had been pretty strong!! We had made it through the lock gates about 3am and i'd slept through it all.

We headed to breakfast at 7am and were ready with our bags to leave the ship by 7.45. We're going on a bit of a trip to see the Yangtze dam before we get off on our travels again. The dam is huge at 1.4 miles long and took about 10 years to build. As they were building it, several towns and villages were in the way so about 1.5m people were displaced and a new city was built to house them all. The dam was pretty impressive and all the parkland around it was very pretty and well kept but I think I was a bit too tired to appreciate it properly.

The rest of our day today is travelling, we had an hour and half bus ride although we stopped after an hour to call at a Walmart supermarket which was the size of a small city itself to stock up on provisions because we're on another overnight train again tonight - other than the train loo situation which are always grim but I'm half looking forward to it cos I sleep like a baby on trains and I know I'll catch up on last nights sleep!

The train set off at 1.20pm and I think I was asleep by 1.30pm and I was fast asleep until 7 pm - ha ha! I read a bit, nattered a bit, got ready for bed and was back asleep by about 10.30.

Tuesday
My alarm woke me up at 4.30 which is what I'd set of for cos we were going to be at our stop at 5am. There weren't many happy campers in our group this morning, the train loos are pretty disgusting so everyone was complaining about them and not many people had slept well overnight - I felt a bit smug but also a bit guilty cos I'd had a lovely sleep and was lucky to only have needed the loo once the entire journey. My favourite exchange of the morning was Nat's outrage that Elin had let her walk in a loo where someone had left the biggest poo Nat had ever seen - Elin knew it was there but hadn't warned her! Chinese people aren't the most hygienic of toilet goers in the world - the contrast between Japan's super dooper super clean loos and China's grotty squat holes in the floor is amazing!! Anyway, enough bog talk - sorry!

The mood didn't get any brighter when we were told the train was running late and we weren't actually getting off the train for another 45 minutes - oh dear, we could have had a bit longer in bed!!

When we finally got off the train we shuffled through the ticket barriers and onto a private bus which was going to take us the rest of our journey to Guilin Yangshou, I think that journey was about three hours but I slept most of it again - I've certainly caught up on my sleep the last few days.

In Guilin Yangshuo We dumped our stuff at the hotel which looks a bit tatty from the outside but Jakkie assures us it's better inside. We then head out to a little cafe called Minority for brunch, to start off with I ordered a cheese toastie but changed my mind when I saw the veggie Chinese breakfast and had veggie Chinese noodles and dumplings instead. We Spotted a place that did abseiling next door - with an absolutely awesome abseil off a karst mountain called moon rock which is a mountain with a crescent shaped hole in it - it looks fabulous but we need three people to sign up for it - watch this space.

We toddled back to the hotel for a chill, it's very very hot and humid here so a couple of hours in the air conditioning is lovely, I read a bit, tried to book a couple of hong kong trips but wifi is absolutely rubbish so didn't get very far and then Got ready to meet the others for an orientation tour - by the time we were ready we needed another shower - it's stifling! We met in reception at 4 for an orientation walk with Jakkie, this place is lovely, it's a bit of a back packers place so all a bit cool but quite touristy. As we were walking I spotted a veggie restaurant - a real one not just a figment of Trip Advisors imagination and made mental plans to go there for tea.

Me, Nat and Mary had booked to attend a Chinese Calligraphy class, it was good fun and quite chilled! I'll never become a professional though! I learnt to write the numbers 1-10 and a few random words like "person", "big", "tree", "forest" and "happiness" - like I'll ever fit them into a sentence - ha ha! I'd love to know what some of my words actually really say, I'm sure what I've written isn't what they're meant to say - there are about 5,000 characters in the Chinese alphabet so I'm sure my efforts look more like other words. Lilly the calligraphy teacher brought out a book of names, I laughingly said there was no way it'd have Batty in, I nearly fell off My chair when it did. Apparently, Caroline means longevity and Batty means beautiful - hmmmmm, I think she may have said that about all the surnames! ! It was a lovely way to spend an hour though. I mentioned to some of the others my plan for dinner, I'd planned to go on my own cos I feel guilty about dragging carnivores to solely veggie places but Nat and Jordan, Elin, Mary and Mereidh all decided to come with me - it was deeeeeeliciius, they let me pick the six plates for us to share - the pressure!! I ended up getting mushrooms and tofu, braised gluten balls, fried potatoes in a pineapple sauce, tofu and bamboo shoots, spring rolls, egg fried rice and noodles and we were stuffed as stuffed things when we'd done. Fourth time lucky with my veggie restaurants in China - hooray! There was a bit of a mix up with the bill, the waitress told us how much it was but took 100rmb (about a tenner) less off us, as we walked up the street, the poor thing came running behind us in tears trying to explain in broken English she needed more money off us, we got it sorted in the end!
We wandered round the market for a little while and saw some fab lightening flashes, the thunder came a little while later and then spots of rain so we headed back to the hotel.

Wednesday
I had a really good sleep in a bed in a building on solid ground for the first time in four nights although it was very hot through the night even with the air con on full blast. We were up and out trying to find some breakfast without much luck at 8am, I ended up finding a seeded roll with red bean filling (kind of a sweet thing - I'm looking forward to bread from home, the stuff here is more sweet than savoury) and a coffee and we scooted back to the hotel to meet up with the others (slightly late) for today's adventure - a cycle ride round the countryside of Guilin Yangshuo!

We got to the cycle place and it took us a good half hour to get sorted with our bikes, I half contemplated not wearing one of their crappy helmets but then thought that we had to get through the town roads to the country lanes first so better to be safe than sorry and vanity went out of the window! The bikes weren't brilliant but at least they had gears this time. We set off on a convoy of sixteen, our cycle leader up front and Jakkie keeping up the rear on a pink scooter! I was glad I'd got a helmet from the off, for the first twenty minutes we had to navigate the streets of Yangshuo - the traffic is chaotic, there doesn't appear to be any kind of Highway Code here although we did discover after a while that the bigger vehicles like buses and cars do eventually give way to smaller vehicles like bikes and scooters - someone not so jokingly said it's because they're worried about getting sued if they hit us!! We dodged through the traffic for a good while until we got on quieter roads and could take it a bit easier, it's very flat here so was quite a nice ride, we stopped at one point and all the girls bought little real flower headdresses from little old ladies at the side of the road.

After about an hour we split into two groups and most people went for a ride down the river on bamboo rafts, I didn't fancy it - it was an hour and half with someone else doing all the work while we sat in kind of deck chairs enjoying the scenery, I'd have wanted to get down and dirty and do the paddling so me, Elin and Mereidh decided to keep pedalling and meet the others later. We headed off with Jakkie, still on her scooter, and carried on on the country roads. We stopped at a bridge over the river at one point thinking we might spot the rafters but we didn't, as we were taking a couple of pictures three Chinese girls came up and asked if I'd have my photo taken with them (wonder what happens to all these pics - wonder if our little faces will be gracing someone's holiday photo albums?!) and then in return I took a selfie of us all too!

After about an hour and half of pedalling through lovely countryside we Stopped at the place for lunch which overlooked Moon hills here I want to abseil off tomorrow. The lady who's "house" we're having dinner at showed us some of the crops they grow here, they have alsorts from peanuts to squash and all the veggies you can think of and also fruit including loads of Passion fruit just growing above our heads - she picked some for us and we wolfed them down, they were the most yummy passion fruits I've ever tasted, not too sour - between three of us we must have polished off twenty of the things!

We were expecting the others to be with us about half an hour after we got there and as we waited it started raining a bit then the heavens opened, we all looked at one another feeling a bit sorry for the rest of the gown who we were imaging getting soaked while we were sat comfortably in the dry munching on delicious fruit! They did turn up a bit later and were soaked - oops! Good decision by us staying on the bikes! Lunch was the usual banquet, the stuff I could eat was garlic morning glory, potatoes, aubergine and peppers (all grown here) and rice.it was very good.

The rain baited and we set off off again, it was a nice ride until we got to a horrid new highway that they're building and ugly new buildings are being chucked up all over the place - right in the middle of the karst mountains - it was so sad to see, awful civilisation taking over the beautiful natural landscape - it took me back to a sign I read at the panda place "this earth is big enough for everyone's need but not big enough for mankind's greed!" That certainly rang true here!

Off the country roads we had to do the really busy ones again before we got home, at one point Me and my little bike was just about to get squashed between a tuk tuk and a BMW I knew my saying anything would be pointless so I made the loudest grunting noise I could muster and thankfully survived! I keep thinking about getting a bike at home and one of my worries / excuses is traffic - after surviving this lot, uk traffic will be a doddle, bike shopping when I get home here I come!! The bikes were dropped off all on one piece although poor Mary was a but bruised because she'd collided with a scooter and come off at one point.

I'd rounded up a few people to join me on tomorrows abseil down Moon Rock so we headed off to book with a couple of others who were umming and ahhing about it - we were told we couldn't do it because the weather isn't going to be good tomorrow!! Boooo, I thought they were just making excuses up and just didn't want us to do it so I sulkily went back to hotel - I am like a petulant child sometimes but I really had set my heart on doing it.

Tonight the few of us who had booked the culture pack are off to see another show - this one is a light show so I got ready and decided to head out for some food beforehand, I'd enjoyed last nights tea so much I went back to a Pure Lotus, the veggie place and had the tofu and mushroom thing and rice again and scuttled back to hotel to be picked up to be taken to the light show. We were squashed in a minibus and dropped off at a place with hundreds of people, we didn't have tickets and can't speak Chinese so were a bit dubious as to where we'd end up but somehow it all went very smoothly and we got our seats - right in the middle of the front Row in front of a big lake. As it got dark, lights came on and the mountains lit up and the show began. It was mainly based on the lake and the performers - all 600 of them moved across the lake on floating platforms and little boats. Apparently, the show has been going for eleven years and there has been 4000 performances, the man behind the dhow is the feller who did the opening show for the Beijing Olympics.

The show was quite good and very visually effective, especially a bit where hundreds of people seemed to walk across the water with costumes that were lit up and they flashed on and off in sequence. The only bit I wasn't impressed with was them using animals in the show - at one point men walked past us carrying birds with their feet tied to sticks but the poor things were still trying to fly, they also used a couple of cows in one part - both bits were completely unnecessary. Another odd bit was when a woman on a giant moon writhed about in a peach coloured body suit - It looked like she was wearing nothing and cos we didn't really know what the story was about it was all a bit odd.

It was a little bit confusing at the end, we hadn't realised the show had finished and everyone just got up and walked out - there wasn't any applause or finale which must have been a bit odd for all the performers.

Somehow we managed to find our minibus - through a combination of Mary being sensible enough to take a photo of the buses identification number and me spotting that our driver had an interesting hair pattern (think of a crew cutted Cruella DeVille), we got dropped off at the hotel and I directed Jackie and Gary to the veggie place (I'm not exactly sure they enjoyed it ) then I called for a mango and passion fruit smoothie which was yummy and had big bits of delicious mango in it and then headed back to the hotel and off to bed.

Thursday
I haven't got anything planned today, I'm still miffed that I can't abseil but when i opened the curtains it is absolutely wanging it down so the adventure company were right after all, it probably wouldn't be safe to do it in this weather and would also probably be a bit grim. Most of the others have got a cooking class booked, I've passed on it cos I assume they'll be cooking meaty stuff. The weather is awful so after I leisurely get ready I take some laundry to be washed, go and find a Chinese doctor that everyone has been raving about - for about £7 she does a diagnosis and let's you know if there's anything wrong with you, recommending massages, acupuncture etc to cure any ailments, I mainly went out of curiosity to see if she'd pick up my lurgy. I was also half expecting her to try telling me I needed this that and the other - obviously at a cost - she didn't! She examined my hands, eyes, had a look at my tongue and felt a few places on both wrists and the only thing she said was that my digestive system was slightly off balance and was more yang than ying so was a bit slow. To help this I need to stop eating and drinking cold things and perhaps drink a bit of ginseng tea - she suggested a bit of reflexology if I had time later but wasn't pushy and didn't try selling me the ginseng tea or anything else so I trotted off wondering if she'd picked up on my scepticism so not bothered trying to tell / sell me anything. Or perhaps I really am completely healthy and the lurgy has buggered off for good (Fingers crossed!).

By this time the rain was bucketing it down so I took refuge in Minority cafe (where we'd come for breakfast the other day) for a couple of hours, I had a grilled cheese sarnie and a couple of cups of coffee just watching the world go by in the rain until it stopped. I had a wander round the shopping streets and decided to head to find a pagoda which I'd seen perched on the side of one of the karst mountains it was a load of steps to get there and I flip flopped my way there, it only took about fifteen minutes and was alright but all looked a bit grubby and the view from the top wasn't very nice - it's a bit upsetting to see such an ugly city spreading out in what should be beautiful landscape. Ooh I feel a bit like I'm being a bit whiney about this place. I headed back to the hotel to find the others and hear what they'd been up to - am I glad I didn't give the cooking class a try, the food and cooking sounded alright but before they'd gone there they'd been to the market to buy fresh stuff and in the market there were live animals as well as dead ones - snakes, frogs and dogs - dogs OH MY GOD! This delightful lot had take photos which I made the mistake of looking at - uuuuuuurgggggggh!!!!

To get rid of those images and horrid thoughts I headed out with Elin and Mereidh and we grabbed a coffee at a nice little coffee shop and whiled away an hour or so. They then decided to walk up the little mountain to the pagoda so I went back to the hotel to have a chilled couple of hours before we head out on our farewell meal tonight - it's not our last night together but Jakkie has said it's easier to all eat together in Yangshou than in Hong Kong.

We headed out to dinner to a place opposite our hotel which is popular for it's goose dishes, the place isn't a particularly nice place, it's huge and must be able to seat a thousand people, we've got a booth booked but we were a few minutes late and they gave our booth to someone else so crammed us into a tiny space meant for about six less people than our sixteen!! The food wasn't brill either, all the stuff I tried was a bit bland. Afterwards we all popped to a bar hidden away on a hotel roof, I think I'm deffo getting old because it was all a but loud for me and thankfully we only stayed for a couple. As we were leaving Mereidh and Elin stopped in the hotel lobby to have their feet nibbled by fish, as me and Rachel waited for them we spotted the most adorable little puppy, it was just a ball of white fluff and looked like a tiny fluffy baby polar bear, I had to use all my restraint not to pop it in my pocket and steal it - perhaps saving it from ending up in someone's dinner plate!!! We strolled back to the hotel through the shopping streets which were still jam packed set 11pm.

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Posted by cazbatt 17:19 Archived in China Comments (0)

Terracotta Warriors, pandas and sleeping in a monastery! :-)

sunny
View My Awesome Adventure!! on cazbatt's travel map.

Sunday
We didn't have the best sleep on the overnight train, this one was full of noisy people and clunky so I woke up lots, oddly I had a few nightmares in the on/off sleep I had too which didn't help. We got to Xi'an at 8.30am and lugged all our stuff off the train and what felt like miles til we found our bus. It then only took us five minutes to get to our hotel. The hotel seems very nice, much better than the last one anyhow.

We had time for a quick breakfast in the hotel - it was delicious, not really breakfast stuff - noodles, rice, stir fried veg, braised gluten (a veggie thing that sounds lousy but tastes yummy), and bacon and sausages for the meat eaters. We then just had time for a very quick shower and met in reception to head out for our days activity - we were off to cycle the city walls of Xi'an. The city walls are the only fully intact city walls in China.

The bikes we hired were a bit crappy with no gears but most of it was flat so we didn't really need them, the last bike ride I did was the Bolivian death road - this one was a lot more gentle - ha ha! The walls were in very good condition with 98 ramparts and dozens of watch towers. The ride was about 16km long and took us two hours, although we did stop at one place to have a drink of tea, I chose lapsing souchong which smelt lovely and fruity but didn't taste as good as it smelled. The weather was very hot and I think the bike ride was the best thing for us to do because the cycling created a breeze which cooled us down. It looks like the walls are actually the prettiest part of the city, the outer city is all big ugly buildings and apartment blocks, inside we could see a few temples,especially one with a golden roof but the rest all looked very run down and dull.

After we had finished our ride we jumped on a bus to take us to the Muslim quarter - xi'an was the start of the Silk Road in ancient times, which was where trade from China to the Middle East and the Mediterranean started and ended, apparently lots of traders from Persia settled here hence it being the Muslim quarter. Our first stop was at a restaurant for lunch where we had a Chinese buffet style meal as usual, I had a spicy tofu dish and it was delicious but much too much for me so I plonked it on the table for the rest to share - it's funny how long it takes all the carnivores to try tofu but all the ones who did enjoyed it. After lunch we headed for a look round some of the markets, I bought a very pretty wall hanging - it's only tiny but I've still no idea where I'm going to put it and then back to the hotel and had a shower and a rest, we were supposed to be meeting at 6pm but I decided to give it a miss, I was still stuffed from breakfast and lunch so just hung about the hotel for the evening - typically when the others got back from dinner they told me that it was virtually all vegetarian - ha ha! I was still glad I didn't go out, it was nice to have an early night.

Monday
Today we're off to see the Terracotta warriors - hooraaaaah ! We were up early and headed to breakfast in the hotel, it was good again - loads of veggie stuff but not much braised gluten today, think I'd polished off most of it yesterday. The bus came to pick us up and we were introduced to our local guide "Auntie", she was about twelve and not a very good tour guide, We got dropped off at the bus park and all headed through the entrance gates, we were all pretty eager to get in. Our first stop was pit one, which is the one which is the most photographed, it was rammed with tourists but still very impressive - the figures are great, just how they look on TV but we couldn't get too close to them.

The figures were discovered in 1974 And the place opened in the 1980s. Apparently, some farmers were the ones to make the discovery, it's not known if they were given a reward for the find though. There are three pits open to the public, in total with 8000 figures, although they do know that there are other sites which haven't yet been excavated. Each figure is unique, apparently, the figures were made in sections, arms legs and torsos were made in molds and stuck together and then the heads were added - each face and hair style is unique. There are different figures showing the different ranks of the army from archers to top ranking generals and all their outfits are different dependent on this - they are so detailed that the higher ranking officers are more portly to show they are better off!!! There are also statues of horses there too. Most of the army was carrying weapons but apparently most of the weapons were looted in years gone by so there are only a few items which remain to be viewed. Once the army was completed back in around 200BC (why am I always sceptical about things being quite so old?!) It was then covered with soil and rafters to "house" them. There were two other pits that were in stages of being excavated, and we could see some of the workers doing their stuff, each pit was huge. The warriors are generally in bits when the pits are opened and it's like a giant jigsaw puzzle putting them all back together. We had a bit of a whistle stop tour and we only had half an hour in each pit, but really that was enough because he heat was stifling and there were thousands of Chinese people elbowing us out of the way it was amazing all the same. I would have liked so much to have been in their in my own and be able to get up close to the statues, I imagine it's all a bit spooky.

We'd asked for some spare time so that we could all go back to out one to have a group photo in front of the warriors, they were taking professional photographs and were told we'd have to buy three pictures - equivalent of £60 - which we were fine with, it worked out at a fiver each. we asked if we could also have a copy to an sd card so we could share it electronically, we actually wanted that rather than the hard copy photos and the woman said yes that was fine, we had our photos taken and handed a sd card and the woman said no it was no longer possible - when we asked why she'd told us she would earlier she laughed at us and pretended that she didn't understand us - the cheeky cow! We all tried arguing with her and she said she was a worker not the boss so I told her to get the boss, she ignored me! We ended up having to walk away with just a couple of hard copy photos - she will be getting a mention in my trip advisor review!! Other than that little episode it had been a lovely morning!!

Back on bus we were taken to a local house for lunch, there were the most divine mushrooms - in kind of a spicy batter, they were soooooo yummy, I asked if we could have seconds, there were also pickled potatoes, broccoli with garlic, the desert was roast potatoes with syrup on - it sounds yucky but it was delicious, as the syrup got colder it started to set - hmmmm!

We got back to the hotel and some of us headed straight back out with Jakkie, we got bus to visit a "fake fake real" shop - it was supposedly one of the best places to buy the best fake handbags - they were about £90 each and I didn't think that they were even that good - although I can't proclaim to know much about real fake handbags. The woman selling them kept telling me "real ox leather" as if that was going to persuade me to buy one! After that we headed to the muslim quarter again for a walk round. We had a double whammy of hagan daaz ice cream which was lovely and then went for a wander round the market. We spotted a fish spa place so me Elin and Mereidh had our feet nibbled for twenty minutes, I'm sure that they enjoyed nibbling on my feet which are still not too lovely from the inca trail. We met up with the others a when they arrived into town and had a wander through the food markets, there wasn't as much dead creepy crawly stuff as in the food market in Beijing, there was lots of meat but at least most of it was already dead and not skewered alive waiting to be dipped in boiling oil! I'd spied some fried potatoes so opted for them - wow they were good! They were like baby potatoes cooked in oil with garlic, chilli and cumin - delish! I also had some plum juice which was lovely too. We walked home eating our goodies, we must have accidentally taken a short cut because we were back at the hotel before we knew it so we wandered around the park outside watching people dancing, doing tai chi and kids roller skating for half an hour before heading inside and to bed.

Tuesday
We were up super early this morning for a 5.30 pick up to take us to the airport, today we're flying from Xi'an to Chengdu. The bus driver ended up being twenty minutes late because someone had blocked his bus in the car park. We got to the airport and checked in, poor Jackie and Nemo got stopped and had their bags searched as if we weren't late enough, I tried getting an egg and cheese subway breakfast sandwich but when I tried ordering the woman just abruptly said "NO!" several times which I eventually took to mean they didn't have any, we realised then that the final call for our plane was being made - oops! I was pretty lucky I got a window seat at the emergency exit so got extra legroom too, I didn't have much time to appreciated much though, I was asleep before we took off.

We touched down and picked up our bags up pretty easily and we were at our hotel for 10.30, there was only one room ready at that time so we all dumped our stuff in there and went out for our orientation tour and to get some breakfast, we had black sugar pancakes from a street food stall, which were lovely, kind of like a naan bread with melted sugar (so like warm treacle) inside and a piece of fruit that I bought from a shop next door, I'm not actually sure if it was apple or pear but it was very tasty.

Our orientation tour took us through a lovely little old quarter called in English "Wide and Narrow alley". with lots of nice shops and cafés, we were all a bit weary from our early morning start so ended up spending half an hour In Starbucks having a caffeine fix to wake us all up. It was chucking it down by now so we squelched back to the hotel where our rooms were ready and we had an hour and half chill time, I spent my chill time having forty winks. Me and Elin ended up keeping the room where we'd all dumped our bags, on closer inspection it was a bit of a dump, very grotty and not well looked after, the bathroom was another glass cubicle with a dirty blind for privacy, there was no bathroom door just a thin curtain - Chinese people just don't seem to care about privacy!!

Some of our group had decided to stay at the hotel all afternoon but this place looks lovely so I was heading out to explore with Jakkie and some of the others. We got on a bus and went four stops to another old quarter called Jinli Street (the bus journey cost 20p - bargain!!), it was a nice walk and a lovely old place to explore with more cute shops and loads of street food stalls, I was a bit peckish so bought a pineapple thing - it was the bottom half of a pineapple which had been cooked and mixed with like a rice pudding mixture and honey, it was lovely but a bit messy to eat - in fact whenever I eat anything in China I always feel like I need a good wash afterwards, everything seems to be very messy to eat!

We got the bus back to the hotel. For dinner (today feels like a day of food!!) we're off to a hot pot place where there isn't really a veggie option - I've been told I can have rice!!! So I get on trip advisor to see if there's a veggie restaurant nearby - there is actually one on the same street as our hotel so before I start getting ready I go to do a quick reccie, I find the restaurant and a lady shows me inside where I ask to see the menu and get taken to the toilet - ha ha! When I finally get my hands on a menu, it's not really a veggie restaurant at all, there might have been the odd veggie thing on the huge catalogue of a menu but just in case they cook the tofu with meat or fish I decide to give it a miss and sullenly head back to the others - the hunt for a veggie restaurant fails again!! I ended up going to the hot pot place with others - the hot pot is a big pot full of a kind of broth where they throw veggies and meat in to make a kind of a soup - personally I didn't think it looked appetising at all (not cos of the meat thing). This was the only thing this particular place sold so Jakkie took me to another place next door where she ordered me a tofu and mushroom dish which they packed up for me to take and eat at the hot pot place - I did apologise to Jakkie for being a pain in the bum but she said it was fine and not to worry about it and I wasn't as bad as some other people she'd had on her tours - bless her!!

For the rest of the evening five of us had decided we'd like to go to a Chinese opera which was in a park just behind our hotel, it turns out the opera was only a little part of the show, as well as the singing which only lasted ten mins, there was also a comedy act, musicians, stick puppets, shadow puppets, and an act where they changed costumes and masks super quickly - no idea how they did it - and fire breathing, it was a really good show - we didn't really understand the opera or the comedy bit (it was obviously in Chinese) but the costumes were beautiful. While we were watching the show we were given jasmine tea, which was topped up whenever we wanted by a man carrying a kettle with a spout that must have been two foot long. We were also fed these sweet dumpling things in water - it was like eating something with the consistency of a huge globule of hot bubble gum - they were vile ha ha!! Also while the show was going on, just by me were some people offering massage and ear cleaning services - that was nearly as interesting to watch as the show, although some of the massage techniques looked more painful than anything else!!

We headed back to the hotel, It's been a long, tiring but really fun day!

Wednesday
Today we were up bright and breezyish because we're leaving Chengdu to head to our next port of call today. It's a shame we're leaving Chengdu so soon because it's lovely here (apart from the scabby hotel room.) We were up, checked out and in breakfast at 7am, breakfast was ok - all stir fried spicy veggies which was tasty and hot orange juice which I passed on - all for the equivalent of £1.

Before we actually leave Chengdu, we're calling at a panda sanctuary which most people are super excited about. I'm looking forward to it but I have mixed feelings about pandas - firstly, considering they've supposedly been on the earth for 8 million years they're lazy so not helping their own cause for survival - all they do us eat and sleep, they've also evolved from being meat eaters to being vegetarian (ok I'm with them in that one) but they only eat bamboo which isn't the most nutritional plant being about 60% fibre which is why they have to keep eating to get any energy. Apparently they can eat up to 45kg of bamboo a day - that's about twice the weight of my luggage that I'm lugging around the world with me - every day!!! They eat for 14 hours a day and sleep for the remaining ten. My main beef isn't really with the pandas themselves but with Chinese people, they love their pandas so much and are going to all sorts of lengths to protect them from becoming extinct but they're happy for other extremely rare animals in the world to be murdered for their stupid Chinese medicine - as if rhino horn can cure impotence but rhino horn is worth more than gold because these stupid ignorant people believe the keratin in it (same stuff as our finger nails) can do this so they have my favourite animals slaughtered - muppets!!

Anyway, it was a nice, well organised place and the giant pandas are cute really. The first bunch of pandas we saw were sub adults (teenage pandas) all stuffing their faces and posing for photos, we all took lots. As we walked there were also enclosures for red pandas which are really more like raccoons whereas the black and white giant ones are from the bear family - the name "panda" actually means bamboo eater. I personally prefer red pandas to giant pandas, they're gorgeous little ginger creatures which have a bit more character about them, they're a lot more lively and look very mischievous.

We strolled around and came to the panda nursery where we saw an eleven day old baby in an incubator, it was tiny and looked a bit like a rat. Because they're so precious they're whisked away from their mums almost as soon as they're born, panda mums aren't very maternal and generally don't know how to look after their babies and with the newborns being so tiny they can easily get injured or squashed so they're mainly kept in incubators other than when they're given to mum several times a day to feed.

The next section was panda kindergarten where pandas up to a year old were playing, they have eleven one year olds and these were really cute playing with each other, one was playing with a box and kept falling out just like a toddler would.

After that we went to see a short film about how the centre was trying to help with the panda breeding programme. Apparently, The lady pandas are only fertile for about 2 or 3 days a year and sometimes they can be very grouchy at that time so the male pandas have no chance so IVF is a much better option! It seems to be working as they had eleven baby pandas born last year and they've already had their first one born this year - that one was unexpected because it was a couple of months earlier than baby pandas as are usually born.

There was a gift shop with anything and everything that you could think of panda style - most of it so tacky and expensive that I passed on it all. Next we headed to get some lunch at a little cafe, I had peanut butter on toast and a delicious cup of coffee. Afterwards we headed back to the panda enclosures but they'd all been taken inside cos it was starting to get very warm so we headed to Swan Lake and the rose gardens which were lovely - Swan Lake is named because there are black swans living on it - they were gorgeous and had kind of ruffley bum feathers, in the lake there were also enormous koi carp - honestly not far off the size of the swans!!

We all congregated at the entrance at the time we were meant to meet and headed back to the bus. It feels like we've had a packed day already but we're still only half way through and have even more excitement to fill the rest of the day.

Our next port of call was a couple of hours later at an actual mini port at Leishan where we hopped on a boat for a twenty minute boat ride to see the tallest standing Buddha on the world (everywhere wants to have the biggest - I've already seen the biggest laying Buddha in Thailand and the biggest seated Buddha in Hong Kong (I think it was there!)). It was pretty impressive at something like 72m tall, it was carved into a rock face at the meeting point of three rivers and was quite a nice little boat ride. Then we were back on our bus to the place we're going to be staying for the next two nights - Boudain monastery..... Yup we're sleeping in a monastery for two nights, I'm not sure if I'm excited or a bit weirded out by it.

The monastery is absolutely beautiful, it's huge and has loads of parts to it from temples to shrines and beautiful courtyards, when we get there it's still open for the public to walk round which is weird especially as lots of them seem more interested in us walking through with our suitcases than in the monastery. We dropped our stuff off at our room - here we're in a bit of a dormitory and I'm sharing with Elin, Mary and Mereidh and there are a couple of extra beds for us to dump our stuff in. The rooms aren't the most modern of rooms but hey oh we're in a monastery, the monks have better stuff to do than decorate so this is totally acceptable to us unlike some of the hotels we've been in!! The setting is beautiful loads of greenery and temples and Buddha statues everywhere and the odd monk wandering by every so often, it's very peaceful.

Jakkie introduced us to a guy called Patrick who is a local guy and who'll be helping look after us while we're here, first things first he takes away our laundry - although to be honest some of our stuff almost walks off on its own! Then Patrick and Jakkie give us a bit of a guided tour of the monastery to show us the showers and loos, the loos are all squat ones and the showers are just open cubicles! Nothing luxurious here! It turns out that there are a couple of hundred nuns staying here with us too so Patrick suggests we get in the showers quick before all the hot water goes. Just for a bit of shower privacy we create our own shower curtains with bamboo poles, towels and a hair clip - ingenious!! They're actually really good powerful showers.

We then walked down into town to head to dinner at Patricks place - it turns out he has a hotel, a restaurant, arranges our transport, does our laundry and is a general man who can! For dinner it's the usual buffet style selection, I have rice, veggies, the most delicious chilli sauce (made of soy sauce, chilli oil, garlic and chilli.), Chinese chips which are a bit herby and garlicky and a beer.

Afterwards we have a bit of a walk round the market round which is full of rubbish and then walked back to the monastery, the town is quite a pretty town with loads of statues and rock carvings and waterfalls - although it turns out that all these are very recently man made tourist attractions, although it still looks very pretty. We're back at the monastery and tucked up in bed for 9.30.

Thursday
We'd set our alarms for 5.45am this morning, apparently, the monks are up chanting at 6am and it was nice to watch - we'd been given duff information, they actually started at 5.00 and we needn't have set our alarms because the noise of people milling about woke us up before then anyhow. We got up and popped to the temple to have a look, there were lots of Monks and nuns praying and chanting to a big gold Buddha sat on a pretty white elephant, it was impressive but I did feel like I was intruding a bit so only stayed for ten minutes then headed back to bed for an hour or so.

When we got up properly, we went to Patricks restaurant where I had pancakes with honey - they were nice but not as good as my mums pancakes and I really prefer pancakes to be served savoury with oodles of onion gravy than served sweet.

Our activity today is a hike in Mount Emei, which is a mountain dotted with temples which was going to take the best part of the day. We had the option to do a short version or a longer hike, I decided I wanted to do the longer one, we've done a fair bit of walking when we've been sight seeing but I've done all that in my flip flops so it's not been anything strenuous! A bus picked us up to take us to the start of the hike - the bus was driven by a mad man, how we, or anyone else on the road, survived the twenty minute journey I've no idea.

We got dropped off and set off on our walk, we were walking on a path which had loads and loads of steps so it wasn't super challenging but some of the step climbs were killers on my old calves and it did remind me of a combination of the Great Wall and the inca trail! The total walk was supposedly 20km or so. The scenery was beautiful and we passed tiny villages with stalls selling fruit, street food and trinkets and also Chinese medicine, which seemed to be loads of different types of mushrooms and roots, all along the way.

There was a place which I'd been looking forward to which is where monkeys hang out, it was actually very disappointing, the monkeys were lured there by people selling monkey food and there were loads of people there to take photos of us - at a price obviously! Chinese people aren't very respectful of wildlife and it was all a bit chaotic and noisy and not a very nice place. There were some very cute monkeys though, including a family of four which reminded me of a monkey version of our family - ha ha!

We got to the half way point where we could stop it we only wanted to do the shorter walk where a few left to head back. We carried on, not long after we came across a river and waterfall which looked ever so inviting so we stopped, some of the group took a full dip, it was blummin freezing so I just had a paddle but it was very refreshing. The last half of the hike was very up and down and mainly steps, the up steps weren't actually that bad other than a bit of thigh and calf burn but the downward steps were an absolute killer on my knees. It was good though and I thoroughly enjoyed it and as an added bonus we saw a snake, not a huge one but possibly adder sized. After we'd been walking about 6 and half hours we got back to town, we're not sure exactly how far we walked because a few different pedometers told very different readings but we think it was perhaps 15 / 16 km.

Back in town there had been a power cut but Patrick said he could still arrange food for us. Our plan tonight was to go to a hot springs so we ordered our food and went to get our swimming stuff while it was ready. My tea was mushrooms, spring onion and garlic with rice and a beer all for £3!! Afterwards Patrick herded us all to the Hot Springs, we were on foot and he was on his scooter - that was very funny to see! The springs themselves were very poor - the entrance and changing facilities were very grand but the pools were varying shades of dirtyness, there was one I stuck my foot in before I realised the green colour wasn't paint it was algae on the bottom - yuk! The slides, wave pool and some of the nice sounding pools were closed even though there were signs saying they were open June to September (we are in July aren't we?!?). This should have cost us about £25 but Patrick had arranged for it to cost us £16 each which was still more than it was worth but we still all had a good laugh together - although it was mainly about the state of the place - I not so jokingly said I'd kayaked and rafted in cleaner rivers!!

Me and Mary sauntered back to the monastery to find Elin, Mereidh and Rachel were having a mini party in our room so joined in until it was time for us all to go to bed.

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Posted by cazbatt 22:55 Archived in China Comments (0)

Super dooper Shanghai and dodging the typhoon


View My Awesome Adventure!! on cazbatt's travel map.

Thursday
The sleep on the train was actually quite a good one, I slept from about eleven til 6 waking up just a couple of times. I think the rocking motion of the train lulled us all to sleep and the bed was hard but comfortable, the only complaint was that it got quite stuffy at one point in the night but other than that it was fine. The train didn't get into Shanghai station until eleven so it was nice to be able to just chill and not have to rush to get ready and go out so we just lazed about all morning til it was time to get off. We lugged out stuff off the train - including the eleven cans of lager that hadn't been drunk - thinking back I ought to have just left them on the train. On through security and to the taxi rank, we got into the taxi in threes and our taxi man was a bit scary swerving in and out of lanes and doing u turns in the middle of the road, we did wonder if we'd get to the hotel in one piece, we did and it turns out the others all had similar experiences!! Taxi drivers in Shanghai are all a bit mad!

It was about 12.30 by this time and even though we all wanted to head out to explore we also all needed a shower after the train so we all checked into the hotel and found our rooms, me and Elin are sharing for the entire trip so headed to our room - erm the bathroom ie shower and toilet are in a glass box in the corner of the bedroom, ok the glass is partially frosted but still absolutely no privacy!! I decided to go for a wander in the hotel to let Elin get a shower in private and she did the same - It turns out there is a curtain that can be pulled round the glass box but still!! think it'll be getting a mention to Gadventures in the evaluation at the end!! There was also a note from the hotel telling us that we may get cards pushed through the door advertising call girls but to ignore them - nice place we're in!!

Anyway, once we were ready we all headed to the hotel foyer to head out for lunch and then on an orientation of the city. We called at a restaurant which is supposedly one of the oldest in shanghai, we were in a private dining room which was all wooden panelled and olde looking and the table was set very nicely, Jackie ordered for the others alsorts of meaty / fishy stuff and She ordered me a tofu and black fungus clay pot stew - it arrived and I had a poke about as usual and spotted it had chicken in it along with the tofu and fungus so it got sent back and I had to wait for a new one to be made!! When it did come correctly it was very tasty.

After we'd eaten, we headed out to have a bit of an explore of the city, we walked through the peoples park where apparently parents take photos of their kids and try and fix them up on blind dates with potential suitors - it had started raining so we didn't spot anybody.

We went to shanghai Museum which was a good one and had a huge exhibition about money as well as jade and beautiful Chinese pottery and porcelain. We had an hour to kill before we headed to a theatre so Jackie dropped us off at a shopping complex, some of the others headed for pizza so headed to Pizza Hut, I was still quite full from lunch so headed to Starbucks and had a fruit salad and a caramel macchiato - hmmmm! Once we all met up again we headed to a theatre which was shaped a bit like a mini Epcot centre calling for ice cream on the way - rum and raisin with the most alcoholic raisins I've ever tasted!! We took our seats and from the minute the show started to the very end we were mesmerised! It was a Chinese Acrobat show and was fantastic - there were girls riding on bikes, jumping from one bike to the next ending with six of them in a pyramid formation riding the same bike, to men doing somersaults through hoops to amazing gymnasts, a man doing football skills with a very heavy looking vase, eight motorbikes all riding inside a sphere...... as well as loads of other stuff!, it was a fantastic show. Afterwards we got some more mad taxis to take us back to the hotel. We got back to our room to find cards advertising call girls - nice!!

Friday
Before meeting the others at 9am, me and Elin went to find some breaky, there were loads of little street food places near our hotel- I had no idea what most of it was so I headed to a coffee shop called Zoo and ordered cheesy garlic bread and coffee. The cheesy garlic bread was half an uncut loaf smothered in garlic and cheese - delicious but way too much - no idea how Chinese people are so small with the size of the portions out here! The coffee wasn't good and got binned. One thing I noticed is that shanghai is much more expensive than Beijing!

We all walked onto the Bund which is the promenade on this side of the river. When we walked over a bridge we saw the most amazing view that we'd not seen yesterday because of the mist, the shanghai skyline is pretty spectacular. We walked along the promenade taking photos and spotted lots of British style buildings - it turns our that it was historically taken over by the British and Chinese people weren't allowed to live there or even visit that part of time - it does make me embarrassed to be British sometimes when I hear about what we did in the past as we tried to conquer the world!!

We continued walking to the old section of the city called the yuyan area and old Shanghai street which was lovely but very crowded with tourists and people trying to sell selfie sticks!! We went in some really nice gardens in the middle of the city which were ever so pretty and peaceful considering how hectic it was outside, it was funny also that a couple thrust their kid at me and asked if they could take my photo with him - ha ha, my turn to feel like a celeb! afterwards we met up again and went to the French concession - the bit the French occupied in the past (they were worse than the British and they burnt down lots of temples) and had cocktails In a bar we found, we only planned to have two but when we ordered the second one it turned out to be happy hour so it'd have been rude to have missed our free drink - I had a lychee mojito and two passion fruit ones - hmmm!

The others were going to an art gallery of van gough artwork - not the real stuff but copies done in really contemporary ways (ie printed on illuminated Perspex and giant versions of his pictures), I wasn't that bothered so made a plan to find a real veggie restaurant to have my lunch / early dinner. I had looked on trip advisor and found one not a million miles away from where we'd been so I said see ya to the others and set off walking...... And ended up at a building site, looked like the place I was looking for and several blocks surrounding it had been flattened. There was another one in between where I was and our hotel so I set off to find that one, the map took me to a huge block of buildings which were all lace and button shops, I walked round the block and up some of the alleyways but didn't find the ruddy thing, I tried asking at a hotel but no one could speak English and the concierge pointed to the hotel meaning I should look for it on my phone - that didn't help me ha ha! I eventually gave up and sulkily set off walking back to the hotel cursing myself for being veggie and for not speaking the language and cursing China for having stupid writing I didn't understand and huge blocks of buildings that I couldn't fathom my way round and cursing trip advisor for giving duff map coordinates! I was starving but didn't understand any of the menus of the places I passed although I did pass a woman with a shaved Dulux dog (well it was shaved other than it's head so it looked like a grey and white lion) and then a man pushing a bicycle wearing pink animal print pyjamas so I has a good giggle even though I was starving. I also seemed to be more noticeable on my own - lots of people stopped and stared which they don't seem to do when we're in a group. I had walked miles in my trusty flip flops and then spotted a Costa coffee so popped in there just on the off chance they had something I could eat - they had a toasted cheese and mushroom sandwich, I was in heaven as I tucked into that and had a nice coffee. Feeling much better and a bit filled up I headed back to my hotel - on my way, one local man stood at the side of me at a crossing and said hello then proceeded to tell me when it was ok for me to cross and then goodbye - I think they might have been the only words he knew and he looked pretty proud of himself as he waved at me - ha ha! I finally got back to the hotel at 6.20 - I'd been walking since 9am only stopping for cocktails and my sarnie so my feet were aching a bit and I was meeting the others at 7pm to head back out for dinner!!

We did meet at 7 and eventually (after ages and quite a bit of dilly dallying!!) decided to walk back to The Bund and down towards a bar which Jakkie had recommended to us. The weather was pretty rubbish, apparently we were getting the tail end of a typhoon which has hit the Philippines or Taiwan so it was very windy and rainy but the shanghai skyline from the Bund was spectacular all lit up. Well it was all lit up apart from the pearl tower which stood pretty miserable in the middle of all the others (although really it still looked fab!). Me and Mary messed about taking photos (in the rain) while the others toddled on to the bar, the promenade seemed to be getting busier then all of a sudden the pearl tower lit up and a big "ooh" went up - it was lovely but odd that it had lit up at 8.15! We took more pics then followed the others to the bar. The captains bar was ok, very dark though but there was a pretty nice little terrace where we had a good view of the skyline - oddly the pearl tower went dark again at 8.30 - it had only been lit up for fifteen minutes. We ordered tea and drinks - thankfully the menu was in English and Chinese, it wasn't a sparking menu but there was a veggie pizza so that'd do (third meal of bread and cheese in one day- Oof!!) and I had a few beers too - Tsingtao beer is pretty good but it cost equivalent of a fiver for a small bottle when we've been paying between 40p and £1 for large ones up to now! We had thought about going to one of the posh buildings with really high sky terraces but they all cost at least a tenner just to get in and then have really expensive drinks on top of that. because the weather was so crappy we decided against that, me and Mary ended up accidentally losing the others and scooting back to the hotel. We had plans for tomorrow anyhow so it wasn't a bad thing getting back to the hotel before midnight and the wind was really picking up by then.

Saturday
Well today has been fun and games. I was awake at 6 - an hour before my alarm went off. Me and Mary had decided we wanted to go on a hop on hop off bus today and also head to the pearl tower, I think most people thought we were mad because we're still being battered by the typhoon and the weather was forecast to be rotten with 100% chance of rain all day. I was up and packed ready to check out and down at reception to meet Mary at 9, as I'd been getting ready Elin had decided that she was going to come with us too. I'd suggested that we went back to yesterday's Costa for breakfast but apparently there was one closer by so we headed there...... it was closed. Off we went to the one I'd been to yesterday which was close to the hop on hop off bus start point, we got wet through and blown about on our way but it was quite fun walking through all the puddles in my flip flops. I had cheese and mushroom toastie and Caramel macchiato, Elin had a bun with her sandwich and they did look delicious so I had a piece of passion fruit cake too. As we were eating i got a text from Jakkie telling us that tonight's train had been cancelled so we were now booked on an earlier train and rather than leaving the hotel at 4.30 as planned we needed to leave at 1.30, we'd have to cut our bus ride short but that was fine we could do the bus route that took us to the other side of the river and back and still go up the tower.

We went for the bus aaaaaaand the route we wanted to do wasn't running today because of the weather so we scrapped the bus idea and decided to get the metro across instead - the metro cost 30p each way so we saved ourselves nearly a tenner and the metro was super fast. We got our tickets to the tower at just after eleven thinking we'd have plenty of time to get in, up and have a look in the museum before heading back, we didn't realise until after we'd got our tickets that the queues were inside the building - it took almost an hour and half to queue up to go through security and actually get in the lift to get up to the top - oops! By the time we got to the top we had five minutes to look round before we had to come back down - it wasn't actually that bad because there wasn't much to see because of the mist - ha ha although it wasn't thick mist and we did get to see some views as the clouds quickly rolled round the tower. Getting back to the bottom took about twenty minutes and then we dashed straight to the metro which thankfully was running smoothly and a couple of trains got us just a few blocks from our hotel, we got back to our hotel with five minutes to spare.

The others had all just hung around near the hotel all morning and I'm sure they'd had a nice relaxed time but I bet they'd not had as much fun as we had - it might not have gone exactly to plan and we'd got wet through a few times but we'd dried out quick enough, we'd had a good laugh and we'd been up the tallest building in Asia (the third tallest building in the world) and mastered the subway so all in all has a pretty fab morning.

A bus came to pick us up and take us to the train station at about two o clock, we boarded the train at three thirty and set off at about four o clock. This is another overnight train taking us to Xi'an. I bagsied myself a top bunk (third level) again and climbed up to get me and my bags out of the way while everyone else got sorted, I must gave got myself quite comfortable because the next thing I knew it was eight o clock, I'd nodded off as soon as the train started moving. There wasn't much to do for the rest of the journey so I wrote and slept, thankfully only needing the loo once in the sixteen hours we were on the train - the good thing about sleeping lots and not drinking - there were no western style loos on this train just holes - yuk!!

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Posted by cazbatt 05:24 Archived in China Comments (0)

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