A Travellerspoint blog

Day 10 - Xi'an to Chengdu (via train)

rain 1 °C
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Today is a travel day Xi'an to Chengdu by long hall train. Anyway after breakfast was told by staff to get there early and glad I did, the train stations are very busy with thousands of people trying to get home to their families. I found the right gate to get through to the inside which was good and made my way to the soft sleeper lounge pending boarding (which is the equivalent of a business class for trains) so soft sleeper has four bed as opposed to six and glad I booked the four birth as their is barely room to move.

Anyway on the train for an 19 hour epic ride to Chengdu, which will mean not eating for the entire journey as I didn't have time to buy some snacks for the journey, sleep is impossible as the train stop and starts so frequently and I couldn't get used to the motion of start up and stop.

Anyway 19 hours later after arrival in Chengdu lined up in the taxi rank to get a taxi and it starts to rain, at least the line is covered.

Lessons Learnt - Part 6
After a while you just get used to being totally ripped off by taxi drivers as a westerner, no one wants to use a meter, and it's no other choice at 5am you just have to pay, which isn't that much more but you still get jipped. Figuring out that when it starts to rain it don't matter what nationality you are prices for cabs go up, which I was told in line by a English speaking Chinese guy, who offered to share a cab and help me to where i was going, which was nice he even split my fare when I got to my destination first. So I guess we both saved in the end.

Anyway a short walk from where the taxi dropped me off I have arrived at the hostel, which is down a pleasant alleyway, well it's dark and doesn't seem the least bit dodgy. But alas there is no 24 hour reception here even though i emailed saying that i was arriving early but its no big deal. So I am now sitting outside in the street writing this blog. Oh and a fully charged iPod will last an entire 19 hour journey.

Anyway pending checking in a couple of hours Chengdu is great, expecting big from the Place voted 'China's most livable city'

Night (morning) for now.

Posted by lee_1986 15:43 Archived in China Tagged taxi train xi'an chengdu Comments (0)

Day 9 - Xi'an

semi-overcast -1 °C
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Early start today, for the Terracotta warriors, the organized tour is picking me up from the hotel but a quick walk outside is needed as legs are a little stiff today. 

Anyway 8 O'clock comes by and the tour arrives, it's a van with no seat belts or heating and it is freezing cold today. The tour guide is really nice and has very good English but repeats the most important fact in the sentence after the sentence without even taking a breath like an echo. Joining me on the tour are a Argentinian couple so looking to get advice on South America from one of them who speaks great English.

First stop on the tour is Banpo Neolithic site, which is an museum with remnants of housing from 6000 years ago, it's quite fascinating but there isn't much of it left so videos basically show you everything plus you have to use your imagination quite a bit but the guide gives interesting information so wasn't to difficult. 

We went to a factory where they reproduce the warriors and they show you how they make them, but I mean let's not pretend it's not the shopping stop. But I did buy some reproduction figures, I mean can you leave Xi'an without them, fist purchase of the trip.

Next stop is the Terracotta warriors which is actually a museum so once in there are 3 pits it is really quite awesome what they have uncovered but it's not as impressive as it seems in documentaries. Plus it is so busy here which takes away from the atmosphere when people are pushing you trying to get a photo.  There warriors that they are putting back together are the most interesting and finding out that each one was filled with 3 liters of mercury to keep them standing and for protection was good.

Lunch is included for the group, well three of us and we get asked spicy or not spicy so we go for not spicy. The food comes out covered in chillies and is so hot we had to but bottles upon bottles of water just so we can eat the food although it is really good. 

Next a quick visit to the site of the tomb of the first emperor of china Qin  Huang Di for whom the Terracotta Warriors were built to protect in the after life. There isn't much to see aside from a huge stone telling you where the tomb ground are, so it's only a quick stop.

Back from the tour, I left its some good info about South America and that the Argentinean couple to tickets to Chengdu the day before they were leaving so this gives me confidence I can get out of Xi'an, so off to the train station to get tickets armed with the written instructions from the hostel. Waiting in line with hundreds of people also trying to get tickets to see family was stressful and tiring. There is no English counter like in Beijing so it is ore difficult and a lot of nodding and hand gestures later I end up with what I hope is a ticket to Chengdu tomorrow at 1.35pm (would have rather a later train but just glad for the ticket now). 

Back at the hostel it is confirmed that it is the right ticket so I'm all set for departure to Chengdu tomorrow after a full day sightseeing stayed at the hostel for dinner and had sweet and sour pork and fried rice which was way to much for one person and a pot of green tea to keep warm. Met two girls from the US one who teaches English  in China at the hostel and was nice to have a chat, they are having problems getting tickets to Shanghai, so the problem seems to be going east rather than west with the tickets at the moment. 

Off to bed with not movies as its a weekend night, but watched this weird Chinese show about two fat people and she is trying to lose weight cause her old boyfriend still likes her and she has to get thin. It's a little weird and couldn't totally get it but oh well it was entertaining.

Nights rest and a traveling day tomorrow.

Posted by lee_1986 15:28 Archived in China Tagged xi'an terracotta warriors banpao Comments (0)

Day 8 - Xi'an

semi-overcast -2 °C
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I really like Xi'an so I have decided to book another night at this hostel, my room is great and I have to get onward train tickets to Chengdu.

A short walk to the Xi'an City Wall a much less famous of the walls in China but still quite spectacular. The wall is build around what would have been the defensive city of Xi'an which someone said was the former capital of China but will have to verify that. The wall is rectangular and surrounds part of the city where the hostel is. The entrances are in the middle of a four lane roundabout and there is not designated crossing so a quick jaunt across the road and have got a ticket to head up the wall. Walking along the wall is serene and it is very very quiet. I walk around half the wall and only saw 3 people and it was a long walk. It's covered in snow and it make it's look spectacular.

Lessons Learnt - Part 5
White snow - is soft and fine to walk on shoe sinks in a little.
Clear snow - is actually ice and is slippery no matter how much grip your shoes have you slip and fall.
Yellow snow - is self explanatory and is something you do not want to land in after slipping in clear snow.

So after a quick change of clothes was off to the great mosque and the drum and bell towers. The great mosque is really pretty but couldn't go in as there was a service on but the surrounds and quite nice.

The bell and drum towers are sister towers one with an ancient who would have guessed it a bell, and the other a drum. Saw a drum playing demonstration which was incredible and walked around the tower seeing all the drums on display. Signs everywhere with no striking on them seemed to be ignored by majority of the Chinese population with kids, teens, adults banging the drums like no tomorrow but it's only a historic symbol of Xi'an and  basically on of a kind.

The bell tower was a little different it only had one amazing bell. The rest of the tower was filled with traditional furniture arranged how different dynasties would have had it in each room of the palace.

Walked back through the Muslim quarter and ate some amazing food it's basically fusion food, between Chinese and the middle east. Some great stuff from kebabs to full on platters of food, the smell of this place cannot be described but is a foodies paradise, so all the walking I have done today has just been wasted. 

Back to the hostel now after a long day of walking and have been all over the city, stopped on the way for some snack foods for later.  There is not a lot to do at this hostel, but hit the Internet to make plans for the next day or two. The lady who runs the place is really nice and very helpful. She booked the Terracotta Warriors tour for tomorrow and wrote down the information in Chinese so I could get my twirling ticket to Chengdu so that's great.

Tomorrow tickets to Chengdu are a priority after seeing the Terracotta Warriors.

Posted by lee_1986 15:23 Archived in China Tagged landscapes china xi'an Comments (0)

Day 7 Beijing to Xi'an

snow -2 °C
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Up early this morning to hit the internet to sort out stuff to do in Xi'an. After running a little late for my flight had to do a mad rush trying to get to the airport. It is impossible to get a taxi so a last minute ditch to get there had to be by public transport and I was already 30 mins behind. Caught the metro to the airport transfer train, and then took I the airport express to terminal 2. 

At the airport it could not have been more convenient, the East China Airline first class check in desk was right in front. Wow I will never again fly economy, at check in you get a nice chair to sit on and a drink. Then someone takes you luggage and you follow to check in your bags. Then you get taken to the first class lounge, where you are given a full buffet so that as lunch taken care of. First class is not a roomy as on an Australian airline but it still was amazing, warm wet towels, champagne, meal, I must have had a bottle worth of champagne cause she just kept filling it up and the flight was only 2 hours.

After arriving in Xi'an , only to find it a little warmer with some snow, got a taxi to the hostel. Seven Sages Youth Hostel is amazing, staff speak good english which is nice and the room is brilliant double bed, western toilet and proper shower this time. So win for the hostel choice, it would look amazing in the spring but the grounds are also brilliant.

Walking around the streets of Xi'an it is noticeably a lot quieter than Beijing. Stopped at the convenience store picked up some water and snacks. Back to the hostel for dinner and had some tasty sticky pork and rice which is the most amazing thing I have had in china so far.

Retired to bed after a long day moving hostels flicked on a now working television to find that twister is on and a bonus is that it is in English. Contemplating spending another night in Xi'an as this place is so nice hostel and city included. 

Well thats the day, not overly busy but a nice moving day to recover. City wall tomorrow and then Terracotta Warriors and Ming tombs to come.

Posted by lee_1986 20:46 Archived in China Tagged beijing xi'an Comments (1)

Day 6 - Beijing

semi-overcast -4 °C
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Today after confirming my air travel I have been advised by email that I have been upgraded to first class. I wish to thank whoever scored this win, my legs were sore upon waking up so the extra room will be amazing (yet to find out if this is going to cost me when I get to the airport tomorrow).

Bumped in to the British guys in the bar while confirming my tickets and they said I could join them to check out the Chinese military museum which we have already decided will be quite bias in favor of the Chinese.

Took the metro down that way only to find that the museum is closed. So lunch was next on the agenda, at a place next door called Lu Lu Restaurant, anyways went inside and seemed easy enough got our table and then found out it may be more difficult that we thought. No one speaks English so difficulty right there, anyway I managed to get a drinks menu, which they didn't just hand out and order beers for all - thank you mandarin CD. The food was a little more difficult but ended up ordering duck, ribs, rice (which was the most difficult) and some sausage and pasta spicy dish the waitress recommended ( or just wanted to end this process which took about 10 mins) the food was good the duck and ribs were cold which we later found out was supposed to be as we ordered from the cold menu but the food was really nice and cost only $10AUD each.

After that we walked the streets and eventually made it back to the hostel after finding no a lot open. A few drinks and a couple of games of pool with the locals later and it was time for bed as tomorrow is a traveling day.

Posted by lee_1986 20:44 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (0)

Day 5 - Beijing

overcast -7 °C
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Went out today to see the temple of heaven with some of the guys from the hostel. A couple of tube stops later which cost 2 yuan to anywhere on the tube system (which is like 35 cents) we arrived right outside.

Temple of heaven is huge and very interesting and would have been a lot nicer in spring, as the gardens are all cut back or in hibernation for the winter, so the rose garden and and such were not so spectacular. First stop once inside the temple grounds was the seven star stones which really are just a bunch of rocks fenced by a knee high fence, pretty sure I they have been covered by a plastic rock like structure which is a little sad.

Next we walked through the China rose garden and the hundred flower garden which neither had roses or flowers for that matter. Onwards we reached the main attraction 'the hall of good harvests which is a vast tower in amazing colours and great architecture. Inside is an explanation of what the tele is all about but only the introductions and conclusion are translated into English so missed out on all the interesting middle.

We were quite amused by the 'animal killing pavilion' (nothing was killed there) which is right next to the 'divein kitchen'. After a look at the circular mound altar we left the temple of heaven and hit the subway.

Onwards to 'Olympic Park' we went, the whole Olympic complex is amazing, I though we would only get a look at the outside of the 'birds nest' stadium but there was a winter festival on at the time so as we were looking at the prices we were going to participate in snowball fights, skiing, skating and various other winter activities in the end we just bought a 'just looking ticket' which the ticket booth attendant made very clear. It's lucky that we did get looking only tickets as the festival was aimed at small children. For 50 yuan we saw the inside of the stadium and the well presented information about its construction. No a lot was open but enough to have a good look around.

Outside was the 'water cube' of which you can't go inside but was well lit up as it neared night it's amazing the amount of effort they have put into the whole complex every building is unique in its own way.

After a full day and finding no restaurants open had to settle for 'pizza hut' which is a fully fledged restaurant and serves everything from pizza, pasta, ribs, salad, desert, and Chinese entrees. We settled for pizza as it had been a long day.

Back to the hostel and after a short sit in the bar it was off to bed.

Posted by lee_1986 01:31 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (0)

Day 4 - Beijing

semi-overcast -3 °C
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Happy Chinese New Year Everyone! 

Well started out the day with very very sore legs, so decided to give the great wall of China a miss today as the thought of walking around more was making me sick.

As it is Chinese New Years Eve, there isn't much open around Beijing aside from the essential services so today was a hostel celebration day. Walked up the road to stretch out my legs to make sure they didn't get any worse, and found that even McDonalds was closed for CNY so went to KFC to get a coffee, which I was successfully able to order in Chinese. After coffee and the warmth of the restaurant walked around the street and picked up breakfast, my favorite fruit on a stick.

Went back to the hostel and hit the Internet for a bit and searched flights as I have decided to fly to Xi'an to both save time and extend my stay in Beijing, which will be my first job tomorrow. Where the train would take 12 hours, a flight is only 2, and costs only AU$20 more.

Lessons Learnt - Part 4
Never leave personal items no matter how worthless alone. Today a little Chinese boy (aged approx 4) STOLE my right glove! That's right I was buying some groceries and as I was paying I took off the glove to get money out and the little fella took it right off the counter and split. So if I develop frosted  bite on my right hand we shall all know who to thank.

Booked the hostel another night, which I have to fix in the morning as its for the wrong night, but that's another drama on its own. Settled in for the CNY festivities, which included a put on dinner at the hostel and some pool and beers (in traditional Chinese style lol) after a few beers and food the owner advised that the fireworks can be seen from the street out the front so we all gathered for that outside in the freezing cold and saw a decent display. 

The fireworks are a little disappointing as they are just put on by the local people (it's not a government funded event like Australia Day) but the atmosphere in the hostel was good and it made for a good night. Back inside for a few more beers and stuff. Met a few fellow travelers today from England, China and Germany which was really what I needed now after not speaking to westerners in a while it was nice to have some conversation without the need for hand gestures.

The Brits said the great wall is not to miss so will be booking that for the 24th my last day in Beijing. As for tomorrow we are set to go to the Temple of Heaven as a group so will be nice to have some company.

Anyway that is all for today, hopefully will have something for you tomorrow.

Posted by lee_1986 05:16 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 3 - Beijing

overcast -2 °C
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Earlier start today as I have decided to sight see overdrive. 

Mapped out a route and will walk to the Tianemen Square and the Forbidden City. 

Lessons Learnt - Part 3
Okay I decided I was supposed to work on my fitness before this trip, which I didn't at all, I was probably even lazier and indulged over Christmas and New Year a little too much.

Work on your fitness, now matter how Much you think it won't matter - it does. Any form of walking if you do none hurts, it hurts so bad especially when there seems to be a pull in the back of your knee after all of it.

So i decided since it is better late than never have decided to walk this route. 1.5 hours and 15 kilometers later I have arrived. 

Tianemen Square is huge it took forever just to walk the length of it. It is headed up by a big Mao head, Chinese national museum, Forbidden City and the people's monument. Got some decent photos and moved back through the security checkpoint (of which there are a lot of in China - so many bag scans). 

The Forbidden city looks like a very old very expensive housing estate, with vast amount of temples, and various other buildings which are easier shown in photos (which I could show if my memory card don't corrupt) but as there is still a lot there I didn't see It would warrant another visit if I have the time.

Another 1.5 hour, 15 km walk back to the hostel and some deserved rest much need had a bit of a lay around the hostel and played some pool.

Back out wandering around the Hutongs I can say I can find my way back from most places now. Did a little grocery shopping, a pineapple milk drink, a noodle bowl (just add water), water and some 'fresh pie' which is sponge with strawberry and cream filling in foil packets - so not so fresh. 

Watched some fireworks that were set off by someone at the building down the road (which is great but at the moment there are fireworks going off somewhere most of the night).

For dinner this time went to this little I suppose cafe which was really busy and constituted a Chinese Dome type set up. I ordered some satay chicken I think or pork hard to tell when it's in sauce and some Asian greens - it was divine so much better that Chinese food at home as it is all prepared fresh (no pre made sauces)

After dinner back to the hostel for a beer with a few of the staff and guests at the hostel and kicked back for some Chinese TV I think it's Chinese Idol.

I think I will update on expenses so far, I withdrew 2000 Yuan (AU$310) and still have 1702 Yuan, thus have spent AU$45.

That's it for another day. Job for tomorrow train tickets or flights to Xi'an.

Posted by lee_1986 18:53 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (0)

Day 2 - Beijing

semi-overcast -1 °C
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Late start today so not up to an intensive sight seeing day today, just a wander around the place this morning was bloody freezing.  So walked down and worked out how to use the ATM so now the cash problem is solved.

Walked through a we stall down the road the hostel is on, not a whole lot that is interesting so searched for a place to eat, since it is Winter and over Chinese New Year holiday there is not a lot open, but have found a restaurant that looks good and was busy so will be going back there later.

Lessons Learnt - Part 2
Always wear thermals even if you think you don't Need to! -1 in Beijing is not the same as -1 in Perth.  My jeans were basically frozen solid and my legs froze all morning. Glad I at least put a scarf, beaning and jumper in the bag, because they were basically on 5 meters from leaving the hostel door!

For the moment back at the hostel warming up, and grabbing some more clothes. 

Went to go get some Peking Duck as this is the city it originated it is supposed to be the best. Went to a restaurant down the road, which has a big flashing sign of a duck and got a table, but alas no duck they had sold out (i think) from what I could make out. Oh well had some hot and sour soup with chunks of mystery meat (will buy 2 dollar application to reading menus tomorrow. It was  really nice and hit the spot plus saved me from going to McDonald's or KFC which I vowed not to do. Haven't found anything interesting to eat off a stick so I can post a gross out video but I'm sure I will soon enough. Did go get a fruit stick covered in toffee that I was eyeing off earlier, surprisingly tasty.

Anyway back to the hostel, which is not the happening place, a few westerners from Europe have checked in so hopefully it picks up a little at night.

Anyway that's it for the day, til next time.

Posted by lee_1986 18:50 Archived in China Tagged heyuan Comments (0)

Day 1 - Perth to Beijing (via Singapore)

all seasons in one day 34 °C
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Hello,

Firstly as I write this I thought I should advise that I have not slept as of 7.00am Wednesday 18 January 2012 which means I am now in my 44th hour without sleep.

Flight from Perth to Singapore was quite good as it was not a full flight, and therefore had a seat between the next passenger who was really frustrated she could not get her seat to recline (the whole 3cm it does and managed to complain about it the whole way) but aside from that the flight was very nice. Turbulence kept me awake the whole trip which was a little upsetting but nothing to ruin the trip over.

Upon arrival I was met by family friends for my epic 13 hour stop over in Singapore. Singapore is amazing and really hot and humid (so regretting wearing jeans, boots and thick socks ready for the cold of China) the amount of construction that is occurring at any one time is immense and it shows. The fact that they have developed a city that seems to be in the middle of a forest/jungle is a feat itself. Most off the foreshore precinct is reclaimed land of which the have just moved the ocean and built up the land to create more room for development is incredible.

Straight of the plane and a short cab ride to the apartment, The apartment has a fantastic view of a man made river and the new sporting complex which is under development. After a quick shower and lay down we were a getting in cab to go to the 'Insert hotel here' (the three towers with the cruise ship on top) . Breakfast consisted of every western food along with asian dishes not so traditional for breakfast at home. After breakfast a trip to the top of of the tower seemed irresistible to pass up, at the top you can survey every part of Singapore and as well as in the distance seeing Malaysia and Indonesia. 

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After a trip to the casino (no time for gambling, maybe on the way back) showed the difference between Perth and Singapore, the casino is easily 5 times bigger than the Burswood and a lot brighter and cleaner.  A shopping trip through the night markets (during the day) and orchard lane was great and the stores have millions of nik naks for the upcoming Chinese new year.

Lessons Learnt - Part 1
Well thought I would just include this as a little sidebar since already through preparing for this trip have made a few mistakes such as not buying stuff early enough, not pre packing and in general being quite unorganized.

So the first thing I have learnt this trip is to break in hiking boots, many people have told me I should have brought them early to break them in and I thought they would be fine but alas, after just 24 hours I already have a blister on my toe which I will now be covering as soon as I get to Beijing. So let's hope that these boots break in soon.

Stopped for lunch at this little Italian restaurant and had an Asian version of chicken caesar salad which was and interesting twist on the original, it was quite spicy.

Took the number 36 bus to the airport to make my connecting flight to Beijing, Singapore airport is huge just like many of its other monuments (worlds largest water fountain and floating platform) shopped around a bit but just settled for a beer and a relax waiting for my flight.

Flight from Singapore to Beijing has been frustrating, I am already tired and cranky and as soon as we are seated the 5 foot nothing Chinese guy reclines his seat (which I could understand if he slept at some point but he was watching television). So as you are all aware on the debate on to recline or not recline I think firstly that there should be no reclining seats in the first place and secondly I think people should have more consideration. I despise people that recline, so really hope his back is sore from having my knees jammed up there.

Finally arrived in Beijing after an long 24 hours. It is bloody cold with the temperature being minus 7 degrees Celsius upon arrival so am very glad to be inside.

Arrived at the Heyuan International Youth Hostel After a short taxi ride at 3.00am Friday. The room is quite nice even though it is a mattress on the floor and seems to be located in a bit of a rough neighborhood but seems clean enough and has a western toilet so a definite plus.

Off to bed to rest up for a semi early start tomorrow - first job tomorrow ATM! 

Posted by lee_1986 23:00 Archived in Singapore Tagged planes weather beijing perth singapore! Comments (0)

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