A Travellerspoint blog

China

Yingshuo

New experiences and some shocking discoveries! HSBC and theft.

rain 8 °C

We were heading for a long journey leaving the mountains so decided that we would stay an extra night in Chengdu so we would be ready for the flight to Guilin with an overnight stop and proceed with a bus to Yingshuo. We didn't know very much about Guilin or Yingshuo so we were wondering what it was going to be like, mainly wondering about the food and the temperature. Being in the cold for such a long time really gets to you, now don't be thinking "cold...it's bloody freezing in uk" but you can switch on your heating! In China where we have stayed in the hostels there is no heating most of the time and somedays you could go out wearing anything under your coat because it won't come off so no one would know. That was a random though maybe I should thing of other comparisons!!! You obviously would need something on under your coat!

We had a good night in the Lazybones hostel and they actually had heating and good food, I was a bit annoyed we hadn't stayed here before but instead we had to put up with the obnoxious idiot who was marking his territory in the room. Anyway enought about the old place this one was good and we met a few Tazmanian guys and a classic old English gent called Oliver who had moved to China donkeys years ago to teach. There was an Irish girl to who had never had an irishi coffee and when Oliver found this out he insisted we all have one. Very kind of him but also very clever you see Oliver really liked his whiskey, he had already polished off two small bottles when we started to talk to him and was on his third. The bar had closed and he was itching to get another drink so the Irish coffee was an easy solution. Oliver was very interesting to talk to and full of facts, he stays in hostels every now and then just to stay in touch with Westerners as he now lives in a remote location.

We took our last chance to have a look around Chengdu and Chloe researched about the old town so we decided to look there. Wow! Lots of old temple style buildings used as shops/restaurants, we went into one and it was completely empty and looking at the price list I can see why! We came across two men with massive wooden hammers banging away on a tree stump. There was a crowd around them and they were hitting a mixture of sugar, peanuts and syrup.....yes peanut brittle! It was pretty cool to see how it was made in the good old days, no gloves or hair nets just plain old brute force on a wooden stump and yes we bought enough to rot our teeth!

The flight was suprisingly ok no one kicking my seat! We had a real short stop overnight in Guilin so can not make any comments about the town as we didn't see it. We got a bus to Yingshuo and again the Chinese hospitality shone through where we were charged 3 x more than the locals. As the bus got closer to Yingshuo the scenery completely changed now there were large rocks, like mountains, jutting out of the ground and it reminded me of Halong Bay. I was really impressed and so glad that we had come to this beautiful place. Our hostel was near to the river and one day we decided to go on an our boat trip, unfortunately the weather there wasn't too good so trecking was an no no. The boat looked like five long drainpipes tied together with some supped up wooden structures on top and a motor but it worked! Off we went with the driver/captain pointing out various mountains but we didn't have a clue what he was saying. Typically we picked the tour where they stop off to get you to buy something from a shop and this time the shop happened to be a little beach on the other side of the river. I saw a really old guy and thought "I know him". But how could I? Then I caught sight of some large black water birds, can't remember their prope names but you'll know what I mean in a minute. This guy was about 120 and was drunk, there was a sign asking for something like the equiveilant of 50p for a photo of him....turns put he is the guy from the HSBC advert with the birds that get the fish for him at nighttime. So we paid our 50p and stood next to him asking a group of Chinese teenagers if they would take a photo with our camera. You would think we had asked them to do the can can...they frowned and looked at each other one muttered something and left leaving just one girl who took the photo....a blurry one at that but at least we have one. I retuned to the boat being cussed by the captain for taking too long.....whoops!

Later that day we were sat in the hostel and heard a terrible noise..."what's that?" I said quite loudly and a girl sat near casually said "oh that's probably a cat being killed". What? So after asking a few questions it appears, and I can't believe I didn't know all through China, that they still eat cats and dogs there! This really shocked me because there are people there with them as pets and they appear to be well looked after. There is also donkey and snake on the menu. I was told to avoid the market if this upset me as there ar cages of cats and dogs waiting to be sold for meat. I still couldn't quite believe it but I didn't want to see for myself. As we walked round the town avoiding the market we saw a guy laughing with a woman and at his feet were two large ducks with their feet tied together and their head lopped onto the floor, they were still alive but not quite dead, something which is done to keep "the meat" fresh. It honestly made me feels sick and also very glad that we are vegetarian. I've never forced my veggie status onto people...except you Chloe, but seriously this makes you think.

I looked up about the reasons why they still eat cats and dogs and it appears there has been a push to stop this....hooray! However, as politics are everywhere there is a divide, one half want it stopped and the other say it's tradition that needs to remain. There was an article in the mail a few years back about an 80 odd year old Chinese retired doctor who had rescued 250 cats from the streets of Beijing after the government had told people that cats carry SARS so people were throwing them out onto the streets ready for them to be collected and killed! But the plot behind it was to clean up the streets for the Olympics. That's what it says in the mail anyway.....

I had had enough of China now and was soo looking forward to going to Hong Kong where I had booked a rather nice hotel for Chinese new year for us both. Thank goodness I did because I never would have expected what happened next!

We had about a two hour bus ride back to Guilin which straight away came across to me as dodgy but we got on, got charged 4x as much as locals and off we went. Chloe had her bag on the floor between her feet throughout the journey and the long and short of it is that the bloke sat ink front leant under his seat cut into her bag and nicked our iPad. Gutted! He got off before we did so it was too late to do anything about it. We reported it to the police straight away which is difficult when they don't speak English and you don't speak Chinese! I'm hoping the insurance will pay out but I'm not holding out much for it. Tip...don't go on buses that do stops between your destination. Don't leave your bags by your feet.

We got onto our train very glad to be leaving China, loved the scenery but found the people we came across very cold and it was quite a depressing experience. I will say though we do not class all Chinese people like this so please anyone wishing to pick holes it's not the point we are making. We did of course meet some really nice people but when we needed help, assistance or information....no chance....its a battle to even get someone to give a try at helping, instantly we found they shook their head and turned us away even if we had the question in Cantonese.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 06:19 Archived in China Tagged china journey mother_daughter blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing yingshuo Comments (0)

Mount Emei - Emeishan

Teddy Bear Hostel

snow 1 °C

I think that I am missing home and friends more recently as I seem to be wanting to check my emails all the time which is difficult as I am relying on WiFi signal and over here it is definitely hit and miss. Even when there is WiFi it doesn't always mean you can connect to that network because it could be busy and you have to wait for someone to leave the network. Anyways it is so nice to see that someone has got in touch even if it is a short email just reading how everyone is getting on makes such a difference to the day. Although we are on this trip doing amazing things everyday it is a comfort to know that we can still chat to our nearest and dearest any day catching up on whats going on. So if I don't get an email then I tend to worry abit - it's like a security blanket - an unknown lenght of string that connects me to home - I know someone is at the end. Today I had emails so a good start to the day!!

We are in a small town called Emeishan which is at the foot of the mountain that reaches approximately 3.5k into the sky. We have a map that tells us that 2 hours before the top there is a ski resort......."we're going to that!" Chloe announces and I agree - what a brilliant idea - it will be great!

We are staying in Teddy Bear hostel which is as cold as all the other hostels so everyone wears coats inside. This is usual though - any shop beit the poshest department store of the local coffee shop they have their coats on with name badges. Teddy Bear hostel is great though all the locals come here to eat lunch and dinner. During dinner they have a drink and before each sip they announce a toast - to who I don't know but it seems they can't drink unless there has been a toast. They are up and down toasting and sipping for hours - cigarette after cigaretee, sip after sip, bottle after bottle- laughing and joking. The food that comes out smells great and the table is full of different dishes from fish to frog.

We catch the bus at 10am to get to the ski resort (it takes 10 hrs to walk from the resort to the bottom - a lot longer going up) and arrive at approx 1pm. Yes! Snow on the ground although the air is thick with fog. We walk for about 15 minutes down slopes and ice covered steps to get to the ski resort. We know we get 1hr free and to hire skis etc is 6 quid for the both of us so we were not expecting too much. When we saw the slope we thought 'ok' it was about 80 meters at a 45 degree angle with a button lift to the top. We went in to get our boots and the guy behind the counter just banged two pairs down without knowing any shoe sizes. These boots were back opening (that means they are really old) and mine didn't do up either. We sucked it up and went outside to get our skis and I was beckoned over by a young lad holding a pair of skis a make I had never heard of. "You...You.." he said to me. I took one look at the skis and then back at him, they were about 6ft long and there was no chance I was putting them on especially with the dodgy boots that I had on. I looked around at all the petite men and women and all their skis were massive it was no wonder they were all falling over! I was given a small pair after i pointed to the sky and then to my head this time my charards seemed to pay off. We put on our skis and headed over to the button lift and knew straight away we would be waiting for ever to get on. Each person got on .......then fell off...they veared into the fence or crossed their skis or simply leant forward.....it was so painful to watch but hey we are blessed with Europe being able to ski affordably but here it's different. We decided after coming down twice to give it a miss. To be honest I felt very uncomfortable coming down the slope which had big holes in and was quite icey, I worried about falling with my dodgy boots and hurting myself but Chloe zoomed down as usual!

We made our way to the summit where there is a golden statue as we went up many people were walking past us in the opposite direction, I looked at my watch by now it was about 2.15 and I thought if it takes us 2 hrs to get there thats 4.15 then 2 hrs to get down 6.15, time to look at the statue...6.30 - bus would have left so we decided to get the cable car.....6.50 each it cost thats ontop of the 15quid each just to go on the mountain not including the bus fare and another 5.50 to come down!!! It was a good call though because as we got into the thick of the fog we raised through into bright blue skies and the most awsome view of mountains 360 degrees lifting out of the clouds/fog. We walked further up the icey steps to see the golden shrine and that to was fantastic. By this time we were all 'stepped' out and couldn't even walk the extra approximately 100 steps to the top of the shrine but looked on and took some pictures and were then approached by visitors for our photos....again I think we were the only westerners there which is a novelty.

We made our way down and walked back to Teddy Bear and had a good night sleep. We decided to head back to Chengdu the following day because we changed our plans and now intend to fly to Guilin and spend a day in Yangshuo as we have been able to get our hands on overnight train tickets to Guangzhou which makes it easier for us to get to Hong Kong.

I think this place would be a brilliant place to hike and I would love to come back here one day and hike up the moutain, stay in the hotel at the top and then hike back down and visit the hot spring -----but when the sun is shining!

Oh there are monkeys on the way up to and very cheeky ones as well. Some of the Chinese lads were very cruel to them though - teasing them and throwing things at them and when the monkeys turn on them they run off - im suprised they didn't get bitten! The monkeys were very clever as well - taking a bottle of water from one guys rucksack and opened the lid and helped himself!

Colds are getting better though - but still here - Chloe hasn't been feeling too well but we are pushing on!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 00:12 Archived in China Tagged skiing china journey mother_daughter blog emeishan world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing mount_emei Comments (0)

Chengdu and the Panda's

Joys of dorm sharing in Hostels

6 °C

Our bus journey to Chengdu was scheduled at 1920hrs to 0430hrs so when we arrived at 0630hrs without any sleep and a full night of men gozzing up and spitting in the aisles we were seriously relieved to get off the bus. This wasn't our first stop though we did have breaks through the night. One was at a restaurant for anyone to have some food from the buffet, this was an open area with benches full of people eating from the buffet, spitting on the floor and smoking - you wouldn't be able to put your arms out without touching anyone so to say it was busy is an understatement! We decided that we needed the toilet and this was a great concern considering the cleanliness of the eating area! We went in and it was like going into an old cow shed, concrete floor (as the restaurant) tin roof and concrete walls and concrete partitains. I wondered where the toilets were and was then suprised to see a lady stand up from inbetween the partitains. I turned to look at Chloe and she had her coat covering her mouth and nose because of the smell - and yes it was bad - strong amonia right next to the kitchen too. We had no choice but to go - either that or struggle for another four hours! So I went to see what was behind the partitains.....an empty gutter that ran the length of the ten or so partitains containing alll sorts of stuff - YUK!!

When we arrived in Chengdu we were ill and really suffering with the colds, being up all night hadn't helped and we couldn't wait to get into bed and hoped they would let us check in early, luckily they did. We had booked into a four bed dorm - now usually this is fine we have met some really nice people so we didn't think twice plus being in a dorm really slashes the price and keeping to a budget to travel for a year helps considerably. We got into the room and the receptionist turned the light on - a man sat up in his bed looking rather annoyed to be rudely awoken - yes not a nice way to get up but to be expected in dorms, plus by this time it was about 8am. We turned the light of and got into bed still constantly blowing our noses and coughing. About an hour had gone by and we had both drifted off to sleep only to be woken up by .tap tap tap.....tap tap tap...bang bang...tap tap...a rather still annoyed man trying to type on his laptop - this guy, Mark we later learnt, then opened the curtains and begun to make phone calls "YES - YES - I KNOW BUT I AM STILL IN CHENGDU!" he hangs up....a very loud annoying ring tone sounds on his phone "HELLO? HELLO? HELLO? CAN YOU HEAR ME?" I could him alright and was getting really aggitated by this bloke, how inconsiderate of him I was thinking but I tried to reason it out in my head - maybe he thinks we are lazy and should get up - maybe its none of his business if we stay in bed all day anyway - maybe he should go and sit in the lounge and make his phone calls where no one is in bed this is a dorm after all! I decided to say something "Hye - sorry about this morning - we have been travelling all night and haven't slept plus we are ill so we will be in bed today" I waited for his reply "Yes I am ill too and have been for ten days now - i've not been able to leave the Chengdu and I'm trying to get better......." his phone went off again "HELLO? HELLO?" he left the room. By now I actually hated this man and was thinking about when he was sleeping that night I would put the lights on and play angry birds with the sound on top level. Childish I know but I actually wouldn't do it but it's ok to think about. Chloe was annoyed too and thought what a selfish guy he was. We went back to sleep but he was in and out of the room all day (mostly in) making calls and tapping away. At about five we got up........he got up and closed the curtain.....so we couldn't see - we both tutted which must have been loud because he drew them back and apologised. Bloody idiot - enough was enough and it was clear this guy didn't want anyone else in the room so instead of having any hassle I decided to check out and book a private room. Bliss - best idea we had!

We went to see the Panda's - they are so cute! The centre where they are kept is really big and they are really well looked after. I was amazed to see them climbing up trees balancing on the thinist of branches. They were sat chewing on bamboo shoots muching away which is what they do all day apparantley! They look like men with costumes on though! The centre was really easy to get to as well only a bus ride away which cost 40 pence each way for the both of us for an hours ride. Transport here is very cheap! I took goodness knows how many pictures of them and will post them when we find a computer that will let us do this.

On our last day we asked the receptionist where we should go to for an afternoon and were directed to a place called Peoples Park. This area, which is a park, was built for the residents of Chengdu by the Government. We were expecting a green area and when we walked through the entrance we could hear very loud music. We walked on through and could see about 70 people dancing, all styles, really enjoying themselves. We went to another area and the same again - it was really wierd to see but also really nice to see all ages enjoying themselves with simple dancing!! They were really going for it! We walked across a bridge looking at the river which was green and looked beautiful - people were on little rowing boats with their children. We entred into another area and could hear a man singing loudly some kind of opera - it was karaoke - in the park - speakers everywhere so everyone could hear. I looked to my right and saw a length of red carpet with two ladies strutting down like catwalk models both aged about 60. I was trying to work out what was going on when an Chinese man spoke to me telling me that the people were restricted when they were young and now they are retired they are no longer restricted so they like to express themselves with Karaoke - catwalking - dancing, drawing etc. As we continued to walk around I noticed there wasn't any graffete or vandalism - no hoodies- no anti-social behaviour. This was a breath of fresh air.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 20:46 Archived in China Tagged pandas china panda chengdu journey mother_daughter blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (0)

Whats on the Streets

Terracotta Warriors and Snotty Noses in Xian

Right now it is 230 am and I am wide awake most likely reason is the cold remedy I bought from the pharmacy which shows a face with a red nose, red forehead and red throat. The rest is in Chinese so thankfully for the pictures we have cold remedies. We left Pingyao for Xian by bus which was a pleasant journey as soon as we got onboard there were no seats and so we stood in the aisle wondering if we had to sit there. This isn't unusual to sit on a upturned carton in the aisle but very uncomfortable! The driver got up and started shouting at everyone, god knows what he said but within seconds two seats became free and off we went!

The scenery onroute was beautiful a mix of canyons and mountains, rice fields and rivers. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep and so did Chloe. When we arrived my head was spinning and Chloe felt rough too. We were again instantly bombarded by men with their fake cabs trying it on one guy offered me 100 y (ten quid) for Chloe! ....it gets boring after a few towns and easier to walk away. We struggled to get a metered cab and when we did we sank into the chairs, we were getting ill.

Changing the subject ....you soon learn about different traditions and ways of life and who am I to question them just because it doesn't happen where I live. Where we have visited be it in the street, on a bus or train, men and women hawk/gozz up as loud as can be and spit on the floor. Yes its frowned upon at home but not here....no one minds. You could be walking along minding your own business and the person walking toward you......"kkkhhhhrrrrr.......puttttt" spits right by your foot......nothing - no disputes or exchanges of words or glances. This unique noise has really started to grate me now and I can't quite get my head around how its ok to do especially as when I blow my nose into my tissue I get odd looks. Chloe said its because I'm blowing in public and I should wait until I'm inside...no chance unfortunately gravity is incharge at the moment!

Another different way is with infants....mothers tend to carry their babies. I've seen one pushchair....not pram and it looked like it had come from a 1960's nursey. Some children wear split bottom trousers where there is a slit where the bottom is......with me still? The children can then wee or poo in the street, yes poo.....I saw it happen. So you often see mothers holding toddlers with bright red cold bottoms, being winter now, hanging out of their trousers. The toilets are mainly squat for ladies with no toilet roll, you have to take your own and throw it into a bin which is filled with other ladies items if you are still with me.

Still we must not judge, you will find great pride here and keeness to learn and work hard. I spoke with a teacher and the pupils work from 730 am upto sometimes 10pm in private schools. They are given extra lessons to speak in English to learn how to pronounciate and being a class they pick their own English name. The teachers, two girls I won't name to protect their identity, from Wales by the way and a good laugh......told me some of them.....

Megatron
Clever
Precious
Batman
Tom
Jerry

I can imagine "well done Megatron you have passed!" The guy at our reception is called Five.

So where was I? We spent an entire day looking for the train station and after a few hours and wrong bus direction we found it. Now again problems with the trains being Spring Holiday (I know its not spring but this time of year it is here) the trains are full. Foreigners as we are can only buy at the station upto 3 days before travel....Chinese can book online, at the station etc so suffice to say we were not going to get a train ticket for hell or high water and I doubt very much we will be lucky to get one this month. So we booked a bus for Chengdu 50 quid for us both and with tickets in pockets we walked the city and I noticed in some of the cracks in the pavements red glitter was shimmering. The traffic was chaos and pavements full of people looking at battery operated dancing fluffy clothed donkeys or singing dolls that walk.

We head back to the hostel for an early night, its a long night and I couldn't sleep through blowing my nose and coughing. The next morning with runny eyes we headed off to see the Terracotta Warriors....WOW! Found in 1974 by a farmer who now gets rent from the government of 300 quid a month to show these magnificent relics......at 16 quid per person...work that one out! They truly are amazing and the detail on them being made BC and underground all those years!

We promised ourselves a street hot potato, a street corn on the cob AND a subway (not greedy I understand you have to feed a cold) but typically we found none of these and got on our 7pm bus for our overnighter and already the gozzing starts ..........

Posted by Vicky Bailey 10:17 Archived in China Tagged xian chinese traditions terracotta warriors journey mother_daughter blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (0)

Pingyao.

The train journey and first day in Pingyao.

Our train last night arrived early at 23.00 and departed the station at 23.20. We said goodnight to the french ladies we had just eaten with and went to find our bunks - 003 and 004. "021, 015, 009..." we heard the noise at the last lot of bunks and I knew thats where we would be. I heard mum "Oh for god sake this better not be ours!" I could only laugh inside- YUP IT'S OURS! Due to mums back I tried reaching to place our bags on a top rail but thankfully a man helped me and got them up, he then asked to see our tickets so he could help us 'find our bunks' - even though we had already found them. We think they just like to help foreigners and practice their English but they're usually very kind. We had the 2 middle bunks out of the 6, we were very tired as we had little sleep on the train the previous night but the thought of a hot shower the next day was so exciting! We cimbed up to our bunks, the people were quiet (well i say quiet but i mean not shouting like before, still pretty loud) the bunks under us were empty even though we were told the train would be full! We put our heads down waiting for the lights to be switched off- waited.... waited.... Then about 4 girls aged about 19 walked in and sat on the bunks below shouting a crunching on sun flower seeds! GREAT! About 10 minutes later the lights were turned off but they girls continued to chat (probably having a gossip the same as I would be with my friends. I just stuck in my head phones and listened to some music as i drifted off.

I was woken up by the usual poke in the foot which made jump and nearly kicked the guard in the face, she looked at our tickets and kept speaking to us in chinese which we obviously could not understand but just nodded and agreed. It was 6:30 and we were told the train would arrive at 7am so we had plenty of time to get our stuff together. The train started to slow down, we were told "you stop, naw it you stop!" so we put our shoes and coats on and another man got our bags down for us. Its was only 6.40 so the train arrived early. We tried opening the door to get off but it was locked so we walked to the next one- Locked! A guard came over with a panicked face "neo koi che geo foi" Huh? "what you stop?"
''Pingyao we answered but the doors locked?''
She replied in more chinese and i could see the train began to move before mum did "I think we've missed our stop. The trains moving" I told her "What?" Typical really.
The man who help get our stuff down just before came over but spoke little English (more than the guards) they all tried to explain that we had missed our stop- Yes we know! Thankfully the nice guys wife spoke English so he called her and we were able to talk to her over the phone and she told us they would get us on another train to get back for free and the next stop is 15 minutes away. Yay! We arrived and they got us straight onto another train and within 20 minutes we had reached Pingyao. The train staff were all very helpful too.

It was about 7:20 and there was a lot of snow! Brrrr didn't expect that! We went outside the station and got a taxi to our pre booked hostel. Whilst in the taxi we got a quick look at the ancient city and the city wall that was built in 771 BC! Wow!

We decided to book the cheapest room- a 7 bed dorm for less than 2 pounds each! We checked in and were showed to our dorm, there were 4 others in there still in bed so we quietly got into ours to get some more sleep. I woke up at about 11am! There were still 3 others in bed- heavy night? I woke mum up and we got our stuff ready to go down to the bathrooms, i saw mum shuffling through bag after bag so went over to see what she was doing "I think I've left the shampoo and conditioner....." Typical Mother!! Luckily we had some sachets of shampoo that were taken from a previous hotel so we went down for our 'well looked forward to' shower. We walked into the mixed shower block and there were 2 showers, the floors in there were FREEZING. Actually, the whole room was freezing! Thank god the water was hot!

After we went back up to our dorm to find everyone still sleeping so we had to be quiet, we ditched our stuff and went back down to get some breakfast. It was 12.30pm after all this and it was cold inside so we didn't want to know what it would be like outside! We booked an extra night here so we can have a look round tomorrow instead! We've had a kind of lazy day on the internet and drinking hot tea its now 18.00 and to what we know of there are still 2 people in bed- one got up about 2 hours ago. We've heard a lot of coughing and sneezing and just hope it really was a late night out and not that everyones ill! We've found a nice restaurant online that we are going to go for dinner as it said they have good vegetarian food! Ciao for now!

Posted by Chloe Bailey 08:09 Archived in China Tagged hostel wall ancient journey mother_daughter blog pingyao world_trip back_packing yuman chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (0)

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