A Travellerspoint blog

Day 12 and 13

Shanghai continued

semi-overcast 27 °C

Day 12 - June 25.: The day started with blue sky and sun making it quite hot already from the morning on. We spent most of the day trotting around the city and having a closer look at the places we discovered the previous day.

Both the Bund and the shopping street are hopelessly crowded so walking there can be stressfull. Going there in the evening is even more hectic but also quite cool with all the lights and neon signs.

Except for the traffic and the heat (that constantly makes you want to jump into the shower) we really liked Shanghai.

Day 13 - June 26.: Departure day again. No point in getting all sweaty before a 26 hour (new record) train-ride so we just relaxed and explored the area around the hotel.

We managed to stumble across a massage-place with a one-hour foot massage for only 20 quai so that was really nice.

So; how do you spend a 26-hour train-ride? I spent most of the time reading, taking a small time-off from everything. Others played cards and drinking games or tried to get some sleepe. There was another thunder & lightning storm so that was pretty exciting too :)

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Day 11

Shanghai

sunny 34 °C

Day 11 - June 24: When we arrived in Shanghai the heat hit us like a wall. Even the little walk from the train to the taxis made us soaking wet with sweat. Taking a shower at the hotel (Yin Bo Hotel) was just what the doctor ordered after a long train-ride and luggage hauling.

Instead of joining the 3-hour guided tour of Shanghai me and M. walked around by oirselves instad - as we usually do. I don't think we missed much as we walked "The Bund", found a couple of very nice and well-kept parks in addition to locating the shopping street (Nanjing Dong Lu).

Heading back we quickly noticed the clouds gathering. We just about managed to get back to the hotel and into our room before it started to poor buckets.

Even though we travelled on a sleeper train it wasn't easy to get enough sleep and rest so we chose to stay in in spite of it being saturday. The thunder & lightning storm outside did help make the choice easier too ;)

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Day 8, 9 and 10

Xi'An

semi-overcast 29 °C

Day 8 - June 21.: Arriving in Xi'An around 7 in the morning we got straight into the waiting bus. After checking in and a quick shower Nicole took us n a tour through the center of the city to show us where to find the essentials. Starting at a cofee shop, to wake us properly up, and progressing on to landry place, internet cafe.

We ate lunch at this dumpling place. It was the first time I've had dumplings and it was a genuinely positive experience :) It was also the first time in China that I felt completely full after having a chinese meal.

After lunch we walked through the muslim quarter with all it's shopping stands. A ton of stuff too look at and/or buy, but you better know how to haggle ;)

Xi'An is a relatively easy city to get around so to find our way back to the landry place later that night was no problem.

Day 9 - June 22.: We got up early and went out and got breakfast (yoghurt), some snacks and drinks for the day. At 10 we met the rest of the group in the lobby ready for the days excursion to the teracotta warriors 30 km outside of the city.

There was several people who hadn't thought about provisions for the day so we had to stop at a supermarket ont he way. This being one of the drawbacks of travelling in groups: "things take time". About 45 minutes later we were ready to move on. We then had 20 minutes on a local bus taking us to the train-station and another hour after changing busses.

The site of the Teracotta Warriors consist of two big and one small excavation site. In total they have found over 6000 separate figures.

Before we could go and see the dig-sites themselves we went to see a reenactment movie showing how the army came to be. Unfortunately we got there when the showed the chinese version and all we understood was some english texting for names of people and places. The interresting part however was that it wasn't a movie in a traditional sense. There was not one canvas, but 9 spanning 360 degrees around the circular room making you see the entire panorama.

Quite a bold consept which didn't quite work since we had to keep turning around to be able to see all the action. This wouldn't nessesary be a negative thing, but without proper dramaturgy (as in this case) we didn't quite know where to look so we sometimes missed key elements. A bit confusing.

The three dig sites was interresting to see, but they were all way too crowded for my taste and we often had to shove our way to get through so we could see the different artefacts on display. Numerous guides with their groups didn't make the situations any better.

It was the same way with the last building we visited; the museum. Here they showed the construction of the facilities as well as different kunds of pottery and other art. All in a very comunist-party propaganda-way ;)

We finished the tour about two hours before we were going to meet for the trip back and that's another drawback of what I mentioned earlier. You have to wait for the group since people o things at a different pace.

Waiting in the shadows of a tree was probably not a good idea since I got bitten by a tick. I didn't feel anything, but I saw it soon enough and got it removed before it could draw any blood. I don't know if the ticks in China carries meningities but better safe than sorry :)

Day 10 - June 23.: Since we were scheduled to leavee Xi'An at three a clock that day we didn't plan to doo too much. No use getting all sweaty when you can't take a shower before a long train-ride.

We went back to the fruit market around the corner from the Muslim Quarter. We took some pictures there but didn't find too much to buy.

After that we just walked around the city; checking out shopping centres and other stores. As we learned, it is very easy to get confused in the large roundabotut around the Bell Tower. The streets are so large that you have use the underground passage to get from one side to the other. We ended up using quite some time navigating our way back to the hotel, but we made it in time.

The 16 hour train-ride to Shanghai was uneventful. We spent most of the time playing cards or sleeping.

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Day 6 and 7

The Great Wall

semi-overcast 26 °C

Day 6 - June 19.: Departure from the hotel was scheduled to 07:00, but our bus-driver didn't show up until half an hour later. When we first got started, however; it took the promised three hours to get us to "The Great Wall" (Jinshanling).

In total we hiked for about 4 hours on the wall and in the terrain where we couldn't walk on the wall itselfe. The scenery was beautiful and the tempo just right so it was a very nice experience. We got to se some animal and insect life too, like birds, a whole lot of centipedes and a scorpion when we took our lunch break.

I probably shot something between 150 and 200 images with my still-camera so it will be exciting to see how many of them turned out good when I return to Norway, but I have a good feeling.

After a shower we rounded off the day with joint dinner. For the first time the whole group was gathered for a meal at the same time so it was nice. We couldn't keep ourselves up long though so we were fast asleepe before 9 pm.

Day 7 - June 20.: It wass really nice to be able to sleep in for once. We had a slow morning since the bus didn't leave until 12:00.

The trip back to Beijing went by pretty fast. I have to say that the way they drive her in China strikes me as pretty reckless. Most of the time the frafic flows smoothly, but the drive-bys are crazy. Often; right before hilltops or turns on the road where you are sure not to see if there are any cars in the opposite direction. I'm surprised we didn't see any accidents. What we did see however was a lot of broken down trucks and lorries - which of course created more ugly drive-bys. In the end I had to stop looking ;)

We made it all the way back to Beijing where we had an hour and a half to shop for food and drinks for the train journey to Xi'An. The 14-hour train-ride we spent on hard-sleepers which isn't so bad as one would expect. The trains here in China has a pretty good standard compared to many other places.

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Day 4 and 5

Beijing continued

sunny 33 °C

Day 4 - June 17: Cleaning of the rooms in Chinese hotels start pretty early so that's a good incentive to get up and out to explore the city.

After breakfast we did the "Forbidden City" which where both impressing and not at the same time. First of all we took a wrong turn leaving the metro so instead of ending up right next to the entrance we had to go the long way around. Not that that was such a bad thing since the streets we walked throug was really nice - both architecture and trees. Althoug we had to ask directions a couple of times the people there were very friendly and helpful. A good tip is to talk to young people. It seems they speak better english the younger they get. At least they are willing to try :)

The worst thing about "The Forbidden City" is that it's way too crowded. I really don't like to have to stand in line to cross a big square. The compex is huge so it's hard to find your way around. We can probably blame ourselves for that since we didn't buy a map or an audio-guide. Do remember to get one of those since the guidebooks (Lonely Planet & Rough Guides) doesn't cover the area in detail. As well as we could tell they only sell maps on the outside so buy one there.

So we ended up walking around by ourselves and we managed to see the Imperial Garden as well as a lot of other dwelling belonging to different emperors. Impressing!

After "The Forbidden City" we went on to the "Lama Temple" which was a totally different experience in a positive way. Very peaceful and not a lot of people. A place to really relax. The only regret was that we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the buildings. The 18 meter high Buddah figure was truly impressing so a photo of that one would have been cool.

The metro is a great way to get around Beijing. Finding the metro however is a different story. Just starting to walk to see if you can find it is probably not a good idea either. Try asking people and they will point you in the right direction. Be sure to use "Metro" and not "Subway" or "Underground" since they won't understand that.

After The Lama Temple (which by the way is the larges one outside of Tibet) we thought we would walk the other way arond the complex to see if it was shorter to get to the metro that way. Up a hutong (small alley) we went and ended up walking, and walking, and walking. The alleys were straight so we had the overall direction, but we probably ended up covering a distance two or three times as long as the "right" way. Just going exploring this way is a great way to see how most Chinese live and maybe see and experience something new. Even at night you don't feel threathened in theses streets even though there are places you probably shouldn't go alone.

After dinner we went to see the Acrobats with a bunch of other people from the group. It was pretty much as we expected but impressing still to se the level of control trained people have over their bodies. Since the acrobats show was a good way from our hotel we had our own bus to get us there. On the way back the gang desided to go to this bar, recommended by our group-leader, so we tagged along. Finding the bar was not easy so after some more walking me and M. desided to head back to the hotel instead. Doing that when you have no idea where you actually are is not easy, but with some help (and more walking) we managed to find the metro instead of using a Taxi.

Day 5 - June 18: Originally we had planned to go to "The Summer Palace" and "Heavenly Temple" but after reading up on them we ditched both. Not that we didn't like what we read, but we felt like we got enough of the peace, tranquility and architecture part the previous day.

Instead we opted for "Beijing Zoo" because of the pandas. The zoo was not bad at all and we ended up spending most of the day there. Except from the big cats, polar bear(s) (we saw only one) and some of the other animals, the facilities there weren't as bad as at many other zoos I've been to. On the other hand, I really felt sorry for the animals that had to live in the crappies cages. We could see the tigers were really stressed out and the lion wan just lying there staring empty into the air. I really hope something get's done to improve on the situation since this is not a wotrthy way to keep captive animals.

The pandas, however, had large pens and seemed to enjoy themselves. They were quite dosile and I think one of them had passed out (probably just sleeping) because of the heat.

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