Thursday, August 17, 2006

China's Golden Triangle

We have just returned from our 2 week trip, and what an interesting trip it was. Frustrating abounded as it always does in China, but we actually had a great time together.

The trip started with Brad and I going up to Shanghai. We spent day one trying to find a place that could book tickets from Beijing to Xian (because we thought they would be booked out). I almost wore my feet off, and we didn’t find what we needed. Then we went to find the buss we needed to pick up Peter from the air port. We finally got to the buss with an hour to spare and a friendly taxi driver convinced us that there wouldn’t be time!!! So we played 150 for a cab.

When we got to the airport (in exactly 40 minutes) we went down to arrivals and waited. And waited and waited some more. Peter too was waiting, on the tarmac for 40 minutes before being let into the terminal. TIC [This is China].

We also decided to take a cab back. We beet the guy down to 130rmb for the trip, and then he took us to a cab. We all go in the cab, he got his commission and then told the cab driver how much we agreed to pay. He got Y50 commission for a Y130 fair… and the cab driver looked a bit pissed off at him. At least Chinese screw each other, not just us.

After a nice drive back, we had pizza, tried to find out how to get to the International circuit in Shanghai and failed. Then went to bed.

The next day we tried to get a tour bus around the city but couldn’t find it, decided to get on a normal bus, went over the river by ferry (that was nice) and had lunch in the tallest building in Shanghai. It was about Y700 for lunch, and that’s even bloody expensive by Australian standards!!! But it was SO good, Japanese food, spectacular! I had Raw fish Tuna and something else, soup, noodles, fired bacon around veggies, and something else I can’t remember. It was called the yucky meal. It wasn’t yucky.

That night we went back to see the night view. We wanted a Hoegaarden but they had run out so we got some other expensive beer.

We walked around a bit more, then got all our stuff and went to the train station. It took about 1 hour of walking, changing trains, stairs and more walking to get to the Shanghai long distance train station but when we arrived the lady took one look at our tickets and became worried, saying something I couldn’t understand. Finally she said “ming tian” (tomorrow). OH NO. We went all the way back to the hostel and checked back in. 

The next day we went to the park and the Jade budda Temple and a few other places of interest, and then went back to the train to catch it to Beijing. The train was great! Soft sleeper, we got free dinner, and had a beer in the bar. Yummm! There was a nice Chinese girl in our cabin, and we chatted to her on before going to sleep.

Well rested and relaxed we arrived in Beijing. We got to our hotel but couldn’t book in, so we went to get a train ticket to Xi’an (the ticket that was impossible to buy in Shanhai. We got it, but a day later – the 6th not the 5th of August. After that we went a had a good long look at the military museum. Only Y10 to enter and the best display of tanks and guns and all sorts of interesting stuff. We loved it!

In the evening we went shopping to look for CDs and some medicine for Brad (who was feeling pretty sick). We found the medicine, but couldn’t find the CDs. We went up and down one of the main shopping areas and had almost entirely given up hope!!! Finally we found some in a tiny shop. I also bought a really cool watch, 2 really cool watches actually.

The next day we went on a tour. The summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and Forbidden city as well and lunch, pearl markets and Silk market – dam shopping).

It was very rushed, and we didn’t get to walk around the Summer Palace very much at all.

You could take a boat if you wanted, you couldn’t walk up to the temple on the hill because it was undergoing renovation.

We went there, then the pearl market then lunch.

Next was the temple of heaven, which was very impressive and recently renovated.

We didn’t get to spend enough time here before getting whisked away to see how silk was made and then to have the hard sell put on us. We sat outside in protest and refused to buy at the overpriced shop.

Finally the forbidden city,

we were hurried through, but at the end we left the tour and went off on our own. We walked around the forbidden city until it began to close and then walked back to our hotel. With no map or China book, I got us totally lost and we almost walked 10 km (or at least that’s what it felt like to my blistered feet).

The next day we went to Beijing Silk street markets. We were SO happy to buy clothes and jewelry and other things. I got some really nice shirts, western sizes and I was SO HAPPY!!! We also bargained pretty hard thanks to the wonderful lesson we received when we took the Indian people shopping. I am glad, it’s the best lesson in bargaining I have ever received. The best bargain I got was a pare of sunglasses from 375 to 25. I showed at the man and told him that 375 was a stupid price! He can down quickly enough.

After that (day 4 in Beijing) we went to the Simatai area of the great wall.

Bad traffic caused it to take 7 hours to reach the wall. Pollution prevented us from getting any of those marvelous sweeping shots that we all love, but we got some good closer shots. We also spent about 3 hours walking around on it. I was SO SICK that day, and I have about 5 packets of tissues, but the cable car and then the small cable train ensured that even mum could make it up there (with a bit of effort). I am glad we went to see that part, they haven’t finished restoring it,

you can still see the original wall. But restoration is underway everywhere in China, so enough all the old will be new again, and nothing will be genuine.

We got back to bed and slept very well.
On the last day it was so hot and polluted that we felt like doing very little. I was still sick and so we checked out of the hotel, dropped our bags off at the train and I went to get 20 items of jewelry for a bargain (I can’t tell you how much they were, cos I intend to give them as gifts.) Anyway – I think they are worth more than what I paid as they are the coolest thing I have never seen. One long sting of beads, and pearls and magnets. You can wrap them around your arm as a bracelet, or your neck, or your ankle or anywhere else, the magnets will make sure they never come off.

Then we grabbed our bags and sat in the train station awaiting the 8:30 train to Xian. We were so tired; we only wanted to do that. On the train (which was also a soft sleeper – almost as nice as the one from Shanghai to Beijing) a lovely Chinese girl came past and asked us if we would like tea of coffee. We said yes (thinking not as good as free dinner, but oh well). After she gave us a little crappy paper cup, a pinch of tea leaves and used the hot water from our room she said “ten Yuan please”. We were so pissed off, but just paid the money because it’s easier. Shouldn’t have, but did.

We were in Xian for 2 days that is the dirtiest part of China I have seen, unless you just want to see theTerracotta Warriors DON’T bother with Xian! The hostel was great actually, very nice environment. We were in a place with rooms surrounding Chinese courtyards. They had a comfortable bar, and the staff were pretty nice. They lost water while we were there but they got a truck to come and supply their communal bathrooms with water so no problem!

We went to visit the TWs on the first day,

and they were really amazing. The government is spending heaps of money painstakingly restoring every one of them. The story of there discovery is pretty great. A few farmers were digging a well, when they discovered a cavern. They reported it and were giver 51 fun (Chinese cents, .01 yuan) as a reward. Imagine getting 8 and a half cents for discovering the 8th wonder of the world!!! Anyway – for a long time no one cared who discovered them, but Bill Clinton cake to China to see them when he was president and he asked to shake hands with one of the men who discovered them. He got his signature too. Now the farmer often sits in one of the souvenir shops shaking hands and writing signatures. He still looks poor though.

The next day we went to visit the bell tower

and the drum tower in the middle of Xian city, saw a very cool drum performance

and bought some cool paper-cut art. At night we saw some Chinese dancing. Pretty.

The next morning we took the train to Luoyang (near Shoulin). This place was very dirty as well. I grungy little city with lots of air pollution. We organized to take the bus to Shoulin in the morning and went to the ‘old city’ for a snack.

The next morning we found that our buss to Shoulin was a tour buss, not a normal bus. It took 4 hours to get to our destination which wasn’t even where we wanted to go and then had to get a cab to the place we DID want to go. At 11:30 we finally arrived with not enough time to do everything we wanted to do.

The Shoulin scenic spot has really been changed for tourists, however the monetary and the students are still there. The best thing I think was the pagoda forest. Every Kong Fu master is built a pagoda in this forest, the oldest one is in need of repair

but it is an amazing, quite, interesting place (good for photographs).

The next day we went to the over-prices Longmen Grottos. Not quite caves, there are thousands of Chinese religious symbols carved into the rock.

Many of them have had their head’s removed by looters in the past, but they were still fairly impressive, even if they were extremely expensive.

That night we got on the train. We were unable to buy sleepers, so we were stuck with hard seats. It was hell. The trip began at 10pm and ended at 2:30 the next day. A distance which should have taken less than 13 hours suddenly became a 16and ½ hour trip because we stopped at every stupid little station along the way for 5 to 10 minutes each. We stayed up all night, we took turns sleeping on the little table, an hour here, and hour there. Finally at 10am, we upgraded to hard sleepers and slept the last 4 hours of the journey.

It was crazy. As soon as the surrounding people knew what was happening they gathered around and started trying to sit in our chairs before we have even gotten our bags down. We tried to get them to back off, but they put their things under the chair and moved closer and closer. We kept pointing to our bags, and the chair, yelling what have many bags, they need to come down, but they were either stupid or so desperate they didn’t care. Peter ended up picking up a ladies bag, giving it back to here and pushing her away.

After finally getting our bags down we had to walk through the carriages. Packed carriages! Literally packed like sardines in a crushed tin box. Peter was in front with his huge bag, then a Chinese man, then me and finally Brad. Peter (having been in China the shortest time) wasn’t doing so well pushing through all of the people so the Chinese man pushed past him, grabbed his bag and just started ploughing through the mass of humanity in front of him. We were very thankful to him, but truth is it would have taken a bloody long time if peter was in front, so he was helping himself too. It was still really nice for him not to leave us in his dust.

When we got to the carriage the lady was pissed because she really didn’t have enough beds available, but it was ok, I say with brad until we go to Nanjing and then some people got off, and I went to sleep on their bed. It was SO good to get out of the carriage of 10 thousand people.

Peter’s last evening in Shanghai we did a practice run to the Air-train (the one that goes 430km/h) and had a few pizzas and drank a lot of 2 for 1 Tiger beer at the hostel, then stumbled up to bed.

On our last day in Shanghai we said goodbye to Peter, then went back to the hostel for a rest, then went to see the Shanghai Science Museum which was pretty cool

but there was an internally created rainforrest which I thought was a bit strange. They have destroyed SO much of their environment, they have a tree musium, and they chage the people a dollar and a 1/2 to see them.

and finally had a nice dinner before getting on the bus to home.

Overall, the trip was okay – the company was awesome but the pollution was disappointing. Out of the 14 days Peter was here, we had unpolluted blue sky for about 4 of them, 3 days in Shanghai and one of the Beijing days.


Anonymous Nel said...

Sounds like another awesome adventure for you guys!

Sorry it's been so long, internet access problems have been a constant for me... It's good to hear that you're still enjoying your time over there and seeing as much of the place as you are.

things are ticking along nicely here, work goes well at Griffith Uni, I have a new car and a few other things. Work at Griffith finishes in mid to late october, so I'm looking around now for a new one (I've been filling in for people on Long-service leave).

Bummed that I missed your Birthday, I hope you had a great day? Do anything special? I was knocked out all week with a nasty flu and couldn't get near anyone's PC to send off my best wishes.

Anyway, just wanted to drop youa quick line and say hi. Email me sometime??

Catch you both again soon I hope! :)

8:41 pm  

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