A Travellerspoint blog

City lights in Shanghai to quiet rivers in Nanxun...

5 °C
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What a lovely city Shanghai is! After taking a nice walk around the Yoyuan Garden, we went to a Chinese fast food restaurant. We all ate way too much, the food really is so good, and you don’t seem to get bored of it as there’s so much variety. We took a walk up to the waterfront and gazed at the sky scrapers and the famous bottle opener building across the water – quite a view! We spent the evening watching the Shanghai Acrobats – Oh my god they are out of this world. Seriously what they are able to do with their bodies just doesn’t seem possible. We spent the entire performance thinking they were going to dislocate something, or that the stack of people balancing precariously on the stage was going to collapse in a heap on the floor. But they are so precise and just faultless.

The following day it made quite a nice change to have a lazy day. We visited a Propaganda museum and headed down to the waterfront again. Seeing the river from a different side gave such a different view. On one side of the river the architecture was old, and the other was a sea of skyscrapers.

We then took a bus ride to a water town called Nanxun, but we didn’t really start the journey on the right foot with the locals. When we got on the bus people were in our seats. Our tour leader Jerry asked politely for people to allow us to have our seats, and this resulted in a slanging match with the bus driver and some people on the bus. Jerry told us to ‘show no mercy’ and to take our allocated seats no matter what, which we did, and then continued the journey with a whole load of Chinese people hating us, fab! Nanxun was quite a step away from the hustle and bustle of the cities we have seen so far throughout China. The old town section was like a step back in time, the buildings were the kind that would be listed if they were in England. It was very cute, though quite a mission to get there considering we didn’t have much time there overall. We had some local food in a little restaurant which dated back 100yrs. We tried a local vegetable which only grows in this town… and we have lived to tell the tale! We took a walk down the canal and saw local artists, various types of street food, and lots of small museums and historical houses all scattered along the waterfront.

With our next destination, Yangshuo, on the horizon, we made our way back to Shanghai to board a daunting 20hr sleeper train. Jerry gave us all the Chinese version of our own names. Mine was Xi Xi (pronounced She She). Lee asked what the Chinese version of his name would be… which we found hilarious… as he was then told that his name is in fact number 4 of the top 100 family names within China – haha! The journey was actually pretty relaxing until we got woken by the locals getting up and talking at the top of their voices at 6:30am… followed by the radio being put on in our cabin full blast. Once we found the off button, the locals weren’t impressed and then played music full blast on their phones instead… at 7:25am I might add. I’m not really a morning person to be honest… and especially not after that wake up call!!!

Posted by Cass - Lee 13:50 Archived in China Comments (0)

On the move to Xi’an

-3 °C
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Well the homestay in Beijing actually served up one of the best meals we have had so far… all dishes resembled foods we had eaten before so fingers crossed there were no surprises in there! If there were, they tasted good!

Backtracking a little, I think I forgot to mention the little cling on I encountered on our way to Kathmandu… a tick managed to sink its teeth into my thigh until I noticed it and ensured it made it a swift exit. That little beauty meant we had to take a bit of rushed trip to A&E before leaving Beijing, as my leg decided to come up with a dodgy reaction to the bite. I’m now being treated for Lyme disease… trust me eh.

We then boarded a sleeper train to Xi’an. I didn’t really get off on the right foot with the locals we were sharing our compartment with. I went to get our trusty loo roll out of my bag, and my eye mask was curled up in the middle of it. The elastic bits were hanging out, and in my silly little head they resembled spider legs. If anyone knows what I’m like when I unexpectedly encounter a spider they will not be surprised at the next bit. I proceeded to shriek and throw the loo roll at the poor unsuspecting Chinese man opposite me – nice one Cass. He didn’t bat an eyelid… maybe he is used to crazy English women launching loo rolls at him from across the carriage? My wake up call the following morning was the little guy in the bunk above me managing to stand on my foot as he got down, knock my covers off me, and then put them back on my bed uncovering my feet and making me freezing!

On arrival in Xi’an we were all looking forward to seeing what the city had to offer, and were ready for some more sight seeing. We were then told that their main attraction, The Bell Tower, was currently under renovation and was surrounded by scaffolding, so we couldn’t even see it, fab. We spent then next few days climbing pagoda’s and saw a really good water fountain show at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Lee was adamant he wanted to do as the locals were doing and head into the fountains to get a photo, and basically risk getting soaked. While I was taking his picture he was handed a Chinese baby and asked to pose for more pics – I mean seriously… who would hand their pride and joy over to a random stranger and say hey take him into the water fountain… this country really does crack me up!

We visited the Terracotta Warriors which was quite a sight. The actual founder of the warriors, a local farmer, was there signing books and shaking hands. Lee was in his element as he posed for photographs in front of Li Mountain (pronounced Lee)… yep he now believes he has a mountain named after him. Strangely enough I actually think the mountain was here first.

On our last night in the city, we decided to stay at the hostel and have a few drinks and play some games. As much as Lee will say I’m just fluky, beating one of the guys in our group three times in a row at pool, and Lee twice (when he had spent the evening undefeated until I came along and showed him how it’s done), I actually think I’m a bit good after all. Though I’m sure there will be a re-match in the not too distant future, where I’ll be knocked off my perch :)

It was then time for another wonderful sleeper train, though this one involved lots of card games and good old UNO… not to mention lots of moaning by me as I’m feeling flippin rotten with the medication I’m taking. It’s even put me off my food – Yes I must be ill!

Posted by Cass - Lee 20:28 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beautiful & bustling Beijing

-3 °C
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Well… I was a nervous wreck again during our flight from Kathmandu to Hong Kong… and then had a second one to endure to get to Beijing, very turbulent and boy was I glad to touch down on the ground again. Not sure if the 13 flights (and more to book) are actually going to cure my fear of flying after all!

We were told that travelling would include mishaps and things wouldn’t go to plan at times – and sadly that day arrived. After being in Beijing for no more than 3hrs we had foolishly been scammed and were £100 worse off :( Such a shame that for our first time in China – being done over by locals is the thing we will probably remember most – note to self, don’t let your guard down and sadly trust no-one, no matter how genuine they seem.

Feeling a little unsettled after that, we decided to head off out to see some of the city. We headed to the 2008 Olympic Stadium, The Birds Nest. A pretty amazing piece of metal to say the least! But my god, it was freezing! On the way back to the hostel we walked through an underpass and came across a little market where people were selling all sorts… fish, bunnies, corn on the cob, pop corn, jewellery and posters – random! We also took at a look at a couple of restaurant menu’s… pigs intestines, bullfrogs, fish heads, duck skeleton, fermented something or other and something else that mentioned manure. Hmm, think our trip to KFC was a wise move ;)

We have now joined our next tour and have a new group. We went to visit the Forbidden City which was pretty amazing and unbelievably huge. We also visited Heaven Temple which was beautiful. It is set in a huge park and was full of hundreds of locals taking part in group dances and other forms of exercise. Lee decided to join in and start doing some gymnastic style exercises on bars, though was put to shame by some locals, probably in their 60’s. Everyone was unbelievably supple and fit, with such a social atmosphere and everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves. Back home, just the cold weather would be enough to stop you bothering to head outside to exercise, but in zero degrees these guys were having a whale of a time! We also visited Summer Palace which is set on a lake, absolutely beautiful and about 4 hours/5 miles later we had completed the circuit of the lake. Beijing has been quite a whirlwind – so much to see and do. We have now experienced some of the local food, with the help of our guide. Again some very interesting options on the menu, the group decided to try some deep fried milk, which was apparently very nice. I think the funniest moment for me was being given a bowl of noodle soup, and chopsticks. With the amount of walking we are doing, and the whole chopstick thing, I should shed a few pounds – it’s just too much effort to eat!

Today we hiked along The Great Wall – WOW, another highlight for the book! We’ve seen it in photo’s so many times, but nothing compares seeing it right there in front of us. We were taken to a really quiet section where very few tourists go – and that was exactly the case, we barely saw anyone else. Such a gorgeous view across the mountains with a lake in the distance, it was so peaceful up there. Over 10,000 steps later and we were down again… a few more calories burned, and now for another fight with the poxy chopsticks. We have a ‘homestay’ tonight which is a farm just off the wall… and we have been told to expect ‘farmer’ style food… intestines anyone?

Posted by Cass - Lee 12:47 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (0)

Our first tour comes to an end...

semi-overcast 20 °C
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Pokhara… where to start, what a beautiful place!

When we arrived, due to the clouds coming in, we had no idea of the scenery around us. With another 4am wake up call looming off to bed we went, in preparation for the sunrise jaunt to Sarankot the next morning. Of we all trotted, up the hill, half asleep and in need of some breakfast. I say trotted… what a slog it was! 45minutes uphill constantly, to reach the 1592ft viewing tower. Now is when we wished we had spent more time on the stepper at the gym. Well it was certainly worth the wake up call, seeing the peaks of the Annapurna range slowly become illuminated in a beautiful pinky orange colour. The view from the tower towards the mountains, and across Pokhara was just breathtaking.

On waking the following morning, boy did we have a room with a view! There were the Himalayas towering above. We decided to hire a boat and head out onto the lake. Again, stunning scenery, and such a calm setting. Lee was in charge of the rowing, and whilst all the other rowers were given a life jacket as they had to be perched on the end of the boat, the boat man just pushed our boat out and off we went! Now Lee did do his will before we left the UK, though the lack of life jacket wasn’t my doing, haha ;) Luckily I didn’t notice the fact that we were floating on what was basically a boat graveyard below the water… lots of boats identical to the one we were in, laid to rest at the bottom of the lake. After relaxing a little following a few panics at the thought that we were going to capsize our boat I noticed something in the water – and it was moving. Lee was wanting a closer look, which I was over the moon about, as you can imagine… what could it be? Yep, a power cable, and there was me thinking nessie was in the waters. As we floated along we watched the many paragliders sweeping around the mountains, all very peaceful :)

There was lots of shopping to be done, or should I say window shopping for me, being a backpacker and all that. No room in my backpack for the million scarf’s I would like to buy, not to mention bags and clothes, it’s like a form of torture I swear. The nightlife was good with live bands playing, and beers flowing. Well, I say beers, we can only handle 2 each as then we’re away with the fairies due to the medication we are on – cheap date we are! The town seems to go to sleep by 11pm ish – perfect for us old foggie lightweights :)

Feeling very sad to leave beautiful Pokhara, we began our journey to Kathmandu. Such a busy and bustling city… and feeling a little templed out we were left with more window shopping to do… or should I say torture. The days are just rolling along whilst we spend our time in little coffee shops and bars. Saying goodbye to our group has found me missing home a little, it feels like the end of another little era, and now we are back to the same feelings we had when we left home… wondering what to expect next!

Off to China we go tomorrow :) Place your bets now on how many bowls of noodles and rice we can stomach before we end up in McDonalds ;)

Posted by Cass - Lee 17:40 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Country number 2... introducing amazing Nepal!

sunny 25 °C
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Bus journey to the Nepal border… lets just say it’s put us off travelling any more long distances by road! Tried to sleep but being like a rag doll it’s near on impossible! The roads are just so bad, and a 300km drive took us about 10hrs…

Stayed in a lovely border hotel, Lee almost gave himself concusion when opening the curtains and going to step out on to the balcony, only to realise that there was a further glass door in front of him. Specsavers for him when we get back!

First stop Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace. Such a calm and tranquil place, watching the monks praying, and seeing the many different coloured prayer flags hanging from the trees. Lee had his photo taken with one of the monks, who held his hand. At first I wondered if the monk had also mistaken me for a man and thought that Lee may be that way inclined, though we then found out it was him passing on his positive energy.

We then arrived at our accommodation on the edge of Chitwan National Park, called Sepana Lodge. Sepana means ‘Dream’ in Nepalese. The owner began his education as a child though his family were unable to fund it, and he left school and got a job as a waiter for 5yrs. Whilst working he met a Dutch couple on holiday and after becoming pretty good friends they asked him what his dream was. He said that it was to have his own lodge/hotel within his village where he could earn money to put back into his village and be able to fund a school for local children. When the Dutch couple arrived home they contacted him and offered him the money to start his business. Sepana Lodge is a stunning place, in such beautiful surroundings overlooking the farmland and river. The owner also has a very small factory where local women make handicraft items to sell. He has 22 staff which means an income for 22 local families The school is currently in construction and his dream is almost fulfilled. Such an inspiring place and we would so highly recommend it if travelling to Chitwan.

We spent our afternoon walking around the village, literally just in the middle of fields, and taking in the most beautiful sunset, followed by drinks and games around a campfire. Then we had a very busy day ahead! To start, the Elephant trek. Off we went into the forest, spotting monkeys, pretty little deer and three sleeping rhino! Then for the elephant washing. Oh my god, one of the most amazing things we have ever experienced! We got squirted a million times and then the elephant sat down and we both went flying which was hilarious! We gave her a scrub while she lay on her side thoroughly enjoying herself, playing and squirting water up. Then on we got for our own little ride back to the lodge which was amazing, no trainer on her, no seat or anything, just us, what an experience!

Next up, canoeing… I spent the entire time praying we weren’t going to tip into the water… with the crocodiles. Yep, there they were on the banks and islands, sunning themselves up, while we were floating past precariously close to the water, I’m talking inches here peeps. With feet back on solid ground, I was ready for our nice afternoon stroll through the national park. It was then that our guide told us that if we encountered wild elephant, rhino, cheetah, tiger or cobra…. Not to run off in every direction into the jungle as we’d get lost, and could encounter even more animals. He said we were better together as a family, all eyes and ears together. He did however say he would not stop us finding the nearest tree and climbing like we had never climbed before. Nervous… me… never. It was actually a lovely walk and we saw buffalo, rhino, crocs, elephants and lots of different birds. Lee also had a nice encounter with a leech who decided to hitch a ride on his sock whilst having a nibble on his leg – he has the war wound for proof which he’s quite proud of!

Today we are on route to Pokhara and have just stopped off at a small village called Bandipur, after a white knuckle ride up the mountains around hair pin bends, with sheer drops. I say white knuckle, that was just my version, Lee was quite happily almost hanging out of the window snapping away with his camera. We had lunch in a really pretty little café, with a connect 4 tournament going on between our bunch, and views over the foothills of the Himalayas, not a bad way to spend an afternoon. I did wonder when a certain place might tug at my heart strings, and I think I might have just found it :)

Posted by Cass - Lee 22:10 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

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