Sunday, 27 March 2011

China 3: Meiyou

First off, Its snowing :D (I am at 3000 metres but yesterday i was
barely needing a jumper.
This has two complications, there was no buses to Deqin today cause of
snow there, and there sure as hell won't be any today/tomorrow so due
to time I think I have to return to Kunming,(Deqin is 6 hours the
other direction and Kunming is a 12 hour bus journey in itself) more
of this later in a series of events I shall a call 'an interesting
series of debarkles'

So as the snow is limiting most activities I shall spill my literal sense.

The title of this email is Meiyou, Pronounced like 'Mayo' - its a damn
useful word to learn, it means "don't have" or "there isn't any" -
this can relate to buses/food/maps almost everything and happens on a
regular basis.

I think we left off at Yangshuo, I sailed down the Li river in almost
permanent fog, it was still pretty good watching huge karsts appear
out of nowhere. Having spent an enjoyable week in Yangshuo it was time
for Kunming. A nice sleeper train ride later and Bam, it the spring
city. It was almost 25 degrees, absolutely lovely although I was
informed it had snowed a week before. Kunming is a nice ish middle
class city, it even has a skater community. Having done the obligatory
temple/pagoda visit it was time to mingle at the hostel. Found the
irish contingent and as it was St paddys day time to find a guinness -
mission successful £6 a pint of watery BUT draught guinness. Ive only
mentioned this as it was st paddys day, but it was good to share
stories with the crew that accompanied us(irish, french, dutch) a
proper european invasion.

The next day I found a music bar with Country music and german beer on
offer, with an absolutely amazing fluffy dog! Some other stuff may
have happened in Kunming, and in a different order but it was time to
move on to the old haunt of Dali. I do realise this has started to
take a drinking slant, but I have done the cultural stuff in Dali
previously (lake, mountains, temples) and it is home to one of my
favourite bars, ever. The main goal I had set was to find some people
to walk Tiger Leaping Gorge with, and the best way of doing this is to
socialise anyway.

Bad Monkey was almost exactly the same with 3 major differences. 1.
Moved location. 2. Brewed its own beer (Wheat Beer, Red Ale, and a
stout. 3. Roast and Apple crumble. The beer and roast was excellent,
due to those to factors and Dali's lovely location, I could live here
for a long time.
Socialising in Dali

Even ferrets drink at Bad Monkey

However, mission achieved of finding (one person at least)- 'Wonton'
John; It was time to head to Lijiang for the Gorge. Finding 3 more
Kiwi's at 'base 'camp' we assaulted the gorge. Day one includes an
ascent of about 800 metres up a a section known as 28 bends. This
brought are elevation to about 2800m. This effort is totally worth it
for the amazing views and scenery. Probably the best thing I have
done. The gorge itself is rather big, surrounded by snow capped
mountains on either side, snown as 'Jade dragon snow mountain'

One day of walking later( 6 hours) we hit a lovely gusethouse (despite
hearing otherwise) had an amazing meal, the best toliet view
ever(sorry jacob an dave it topped the Peninsula) Breakfast view was
also fantabulous.

Next day was an easy trek to the point where you go down to the river.
Heading down to the river involved a 30ft ladder climb of almost sheer
vertical drop. Once reaching the bottom you could look up at the whole
gorge and do some bouldering (there was a sign telling you not to) up
to a big rock right next to the river - despite the sign, there was a
rickety wooden bridge to cross with a lady who charged us a pound for
the privilege.

Walked back the long way by the river to eventually return for a late
lunch and await the minibus back to lijiang.
On the way

Standing on the edge

Sun and Mountains
The river

Walking back
Lijiang is quite similar to Dali, an old town town with lots of
tourist shops. I bought a bracelet (oh yeah Liane, I have decided to
collect Bracelets from every country I visit) for 50p to go with the
necklace i bought on the gorge ( i have become such a girl). More
interestintingly Lijiang is home to the Naxi (at least it was) a
Matriarchal society. This was most evident in the guest house, Mama
Naxi's run by a eccentric bossy lady, Mama Naxi. She was lovely and
absolutely crazy, things had to be done her way and she would have
arguments with her husband in front of everyone and he would always
back down. It felt more like a home than a hostel, she did make you
feel very welcome. As i left she gave me a mama naxi good luck charm
thing - which to this point hasn't brought me much luck as brings me
to an interesting series of debarkles.

The bad luck run started with the Kiwi's, they left me and John to
carry on walking down the road to the ferry port instead of going
right down to the gorge as they didn't have time. They found the ferry
port after an hour long descent to the river - however no ferries!
Another Hour hike back up and they caught a taxi back to where we had
left them arriving two minutes after we had returned.

I left lijiang for Shangri-La which itself is another old town, being
spammed by the government as the FICTIONAL Shangrila - its old town is
so new its still being built. ( I did already know this) but it was
still quite disappointing to see it, what was better was the
tradtional tibetan towns we passed on the way here.
Upon arrival I inquired about the bus to Deqin, the whole reason of
being here "Meiyou mingtian" - None tomorrow, maybe the next day (i've
just heard there are none tomorrow or the next day) so no picturesque
6000metre mountains views for me, will have to setttle for the 5900
from the gorge :P
A bit disappointed with the whole of Shangri-La i went for some Masala
Chai and a slice of carrot cake.
Next for proper dinner, here on thinking that soups were usually small
i ordered a soup and some tibetan noodles (my first choices of Yak
with potato and rice was "meiyou") it turns out that Tibetan noodles
is a soup noodle dish and the soup i ordered was huge - OOPS I
couldn't finish either.

Then i went for a drink, I got hapy when i saw "london pride" on the
menu but alas, yeh I think you've guessed it.
Any this led to an interesting conversation with the chinese in the
bar, who sat completely on my own i had bought drinks for and they
eventually took me for my first KTV experience. Karoake in a private
room(luckily), they enforced me to sing so i was singing such classics
as the Bad touch, Backstreet Boys ( I want it that way) and Bryan
Adams (Everything I Do). Actually if anyones heard me sing you know
its not singing but that doesn't really seem to matter. It was like
glorified Singstar. You only live once.
Having done the KTV they got after hours food. Now this really
consisted of a DIY bbq, they bought an assortment of food, NO i mean
gristle. Chicken feet, bony meat etc. This was improved upon by the
arrival of Oysters with Chilli sauce.
Square in Shangri La
This effectively brings me to now. The snow hampering all travel plans
and sight seeing today which had just been a tibetan style buddhist
temple. But as its still a bit snowy, i'll add some observations on

Obviously China is undergoing drastic changes at a massive pace, this
is most evident in the construction going on almost everywhere you
look. This wasn't so different to last time around. What I have found
different is the influx of chinese tourists, everywhere. The weekends
are particuarly bad, evident in Yangshuo & Dali (Yangshuo was so quiet
after the weekend i thought it was a different town) They still like
to photograph us, while in Lijiang me and John were eating dinner and
a guy set up outside with his tripod and stood for about five minutes
focusing on us!(Im not really complaining I do exactly the same to
them, I just try an be a little discreet) The problem with the tourism
is that any real sites of interest are quickly becoming tourist traps
with commercialism rampant, or with Shangri-La; completely fake - sure
the scenery is pretty good but the towns and people aren't so much
(the rough guides estimates 90% of the origianl Naxi population in
Lijiang have left) The real towns and people, will be ignored by the
chinese tourism and so they won't get a real picture of their own
country. (which is actually a good thing as then they won't be

Tiger leaping gorge is still quite remote and the roads not so good
yet, but they are building the roads and about a million new guest
houses along the road at the Gorge, clearly expecting tourism to pick
up which can be considered both good and bad. But most of the
religious mountains now have cable cars and few chinese make the
proper treks up to them to really experience them. In Yangsuo and
Guilin the peaks that were easy to climb (and no cable cars) I saw
very few chinese make the walk to the top, yet the bottoms were
aplenty with them. I feel that they aren't experiencing the same China
I am (well obviously but in a sense that they would get a similar
If they build a cable car at Tiger leaping it will be massively
depressing, would remove all sense of reward from a trek that isn't
too hard. But that isn't the chinese way of tourism, walking and nice
views; its more about ticking off the list of sites and getting the
photo to prove it. Its a shame that facebook is blocked cause they
would totally love tagging each other in all the sites they have
visited standing next to the westerners :p.

Im probably a complete hypocrite, and am just collecting photos and
ticking of places i've been but I at least feel i want to discover
parts of China for myself, not be spoonfed them. This was the whole
point of going out to Deqin for a view of a small untouched area smack
bang next to a big mountain (also its pretty damn close to tibet and
that'd be cool). Finding the remote untouched towns is pretty easy
otherwise, just hire a bike and go for a ride. I did this in Yangshuo,
turned off the main road on to a little path and got happily lost in
the rice paddies.

In true touristy fashion though, the next step is to Chengdu (the
buses to Szechuan are also not running and western szechuan was closed
due to a tibetan monk setting himself on fire, so that route is out of
the question) for Pandas, Emei Shan (buddhist mountain, where it was
recommended i take the cable car up and walk down) and the great big
Buddha at Le Shan. After having a rant about chinese tourism im off to
do exactly that.

I hope everyone is well, I think I saw that the weather was quite
nice. Infact I know so cause my mum told me West Kirby was good.
Bye for now and write me back.

Added for the blog. After staying up rather late in Kunming listening to Rammstein with Germans I missed my train and have added this to the blog posts.

Monday, 21 March 2011

China 2: Mini Blog

The internets is too damn slow, it has taken about ten minutes to load this page.
I love Yunnan and Guanxi. Stayed up all night in Bad Monkey ala five years ago. Some trekking 2moro, mountains and rivers. Phone got stolen, I am fine.

Probably have to wait for a full update until the internets improve.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Beep Beep: China One

Day 13. Yangshuo, Guanxi. Total travel time 48 Hours.
 The title of this is cause, China is LOUD. Every thirty seconds some idiot hoots there horn for often no apparent reason.

I can access blogspot/facebook only because my hostel as a proxy running. Goodtimes.

Right formalities over with. Hello!
I guess i should start with a im safe and well, theres no earthquake in china (actually there was on the 2nd of feb in Yunnan, where im going next....that hasn't been reported in the uk...) or tsunami warnings, im too far inland for that anyway, although Nicola is on the coast and may have had a tsunami i don't know

I arrived in Hong Kong after a pleasant flight, i watched - Black Swan, the Expendables and RED. After not having noticed we'd landed (seriously) I got to my miniscule room, in the lovely warm bustle of the nuttiness that is Nathan Road Kowloon. When im not being sold "Suit--Watch-Hashish???" (the logcical step from a watch) I was busy avoiding cars/people. Anyway I watched light show and ate some food. Found a bar, sponsored by San miguel(not the spanish one). Staff here actually had matching outfits supplied by this company, they sorta looked like cheerleaders for beer, and radioed your order to the bar and then it appeared. I also saw two guys carry a cocktail as if it was the most delicate thing ever. Anyway enough bar talk...

Next day I sailed to Lantau and went to the big Buddha and climbed all the way up, on a bus. Got the Cable car back down, this was an epicly long cable car btw.Metro'd it home and over to aberdeen, which was a bit disappointing tbh. Quick trip home and then pub crawl with other expats. This was fun and ended up in a club some 20 floors up in some tall building. Slept too late for Macao (jetlag) and so relaxed and booked my train to Guanzhou where China really begins...

Guanzhou, well first impressions, its big, dirty and busy - everything wrong with China. However After a wash and chilling in my comparitively massive mansion of a room I explored, I warmed a little to Guanzhou. I walked along the less busy and nicely marbled waterfront, catching in the lights and bridges. The lighting as with most in china, is Neon and garish, it does make for nice photos(see later). I also explored Shamian island,. an old colonial concession with western buildings and a park. People come here in the evening to practice Tai Chi and Kung Fu. GZ offers some temples, which are like nearly all temples, however they do offer nice relief from the insanely busy roads. The mosque I couldn't enter but the grey minaret was a nice landmark. You know your near the temples because the number of hawkers and beggars nearly tripples. If anyone thinks the NHS isn't great, go to China and be horrified, I shan't digress but i've seen some messed up stuff already. Evenings I went on a river cruise which was quite fun and showed just how big GZ is, more neon'd buildings and an empty stadium with 4 huge screens all on. A huge waste of electricity! Anyway time to leave, little mix up with times meant I had to wait till 8pm, rather than 11am. But ten hours on a bus with a bed too...

Xiamen. Arriving at the silly hour of five am I found a place to have some breakfast, some dumplings. When the reasonable time of half six came around I rang my host and got the information on where to go. First impression of Xiamen were, its everything Guanzhou isn't, clean, less busy and by the sea. Hopefully Nicola doesn't mind me saying that her house was lovely. Tradtional Chinese affair with a open air courtyard, and two lovely dogs; Barry the licker(licked everything) and Shaoxingma (i've no idea how its spelt). Anyway eventually I got up and went to look at a big gun, used for repelling the English apparently, I commented to MuMu0 (again no idea of the spelling) Nicola's boyfriend that it wasn't doing a very good job. After this lunchtime, I had a chinese hamburger! amongst other things. Afternoon I climbed, Nantuo Sho temples hill, for excellent views of Xiament and the South China sea. Then I crossed in to the Botanical Garden(for free) and saw some Cactus' and Redwoods (laid by Nixon) Then a park, based on Central Park(it seemed to me) the first park I didn't have to pay to get in. Long walk home via a beer on the beach at sundown.  Dinner was a Chinese BBQ cooked in the courtyard, many people came over, chinese and westerners alike, songs were sang and beer was drank.
Slow day, haad dim sum for lunch/breakfast - some odd things and some gross things (fish stomach). Then Gulangyu island, another one of those old foreign hangouts. With western buildings and a rubbish aquarium. I should have known, it had fake fish. Evening was fish food and a foot massage, oh also some guy fixed my the massive hole in my shoe for a pound, which Nicola said was too much. On the way home we stopped in a 'private temple' for a beer - YUP. It'd be like if you built a church for just your family as people do, then said hey were not using this place 99% of the time, lets turn it in to a bar.

Left Xiamen for Guilin on a 17 hour bus journey - complete with bed and films. Ate some Blueberry flavoured crisps, actually pretty good.
Gulin - comparitively quiet and set in the middle of Guanxi, this is where the picturesque chinese scenery starts with huge Karst jetting out. I climbed two within the city, and then went to the park which housed about seven. (They had another presidential visit, this time Clinton) There were excellent views and this has probably been the best view/thing so far.... until today actually. Firstly Guilin ended with me sat in a bar on my own, there just was nobody around... anyway time to leave....

Yangshuo (where I am now) I have four days here to just chill and do things. Situated smack bang on the Li River its a hangout for everyone really, but more importantly it has bars with people in them :p Think Dali jacob/Dave but a bit busier and bigger. Actually Im really here for the impressive Karst scenery*. They are literally everywhere, particuarly looked good today with mist surrounding them. The river is also flat and full of bamboo rafts. I should cruising it tomorrow or the next day. I arrived yesterday and orientated myself, and as a loner what happens is people occasionally come and sit and talk with me, this time quite a switched on Chinese guy whose friends as he put it were "being boring in the hotel still". Anyway we shared some beer and a rarity discussed politics and economics. Quite nice to see him bring up the topic on what is usually a taboo subject in china. Today I rented a bike and cycled through the scenery, stopping at The Bunyan tree, where I inadvertantly bought a ticket to do some punting of my own on the river. This turned out pretty fun and tiring, some chinese folk wanted me to take a picture with them, and as I was rubbish at punting I couldn't escape and they boarded my bamboo boat. Then I ascended Half Moon Karst, for probably the best views so far, topping Guilin. I cycled home off the road along a muddy path via vice paddies and water buffalo. I wouldn't say I got lost along the way but more Hitchiker style I just didn't know exactly where I was.

*For Rosy, these Karst are basically the home of climbing in China. There are quite a few climbing shops in Yangshuo, and there was a plaque on Half Moon dedicated to some americans who established routes in the 90s.

This brings me to here, I was going to write some cultural stuff about tv and music - mostly about how rubbish it is.

Still to come.... here it is a detailed Itinerary...

Yangshuo - a couple more days here, going to sail the river, watch some fishing and generally mingle with the expats.

Kunming - a short stay here on the way to remoter Yunnan, its the train station. Then on to Dali for some more western style drinkin, lakeside cycling, then Lijiang as a base to walk Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Here I am unsure as to try an ascend Xumei Shan as well.

After Yunnan it'll be time to head to Sichuan to visit Dafo, Le Shan(biggest carved buddha) and then Chengdu, home of the Pandas.

From Sichuan, I will most likely stop off in Xi'an again, then to Tai Shan to climb another buddhist mountain, and live to 108 years old( so the legend says)
before finally getting to Qingdao and sailing off to Korea.

Anyway, time to go and enjoy the cheap (but weak) beer and some food. They sell all western food here, including pizza, which is surprising as Cheese is so expensive. Tomorrow I will have a steak.
I'll leave you with some photos... actually this failed. My bad.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The First One

I realised I haven't posted my Itinery on here yet, and also wikipedia says Blogspot is banned in China. SO while I have twenty minutes of downtime and some tasks before I go silent for a couple of months, here we go.

In Chronological order:
Fly to Hong Kong
travel north through China to Qingdao, sail to Korea for 2 weeks.
Sail again to Japan for a month. Fly (via beijing) to Canada 1 month.
Meet Welshie in Chicago, Travel all around america, 2 months.
Fly to Panama, to do Peru and Chile in 2months,
Cross the international Date line for the second time flying to New Zealand. Throw shrimps on the BBQ in OZ and then South East Asia before returning to home.

Well, I know that isn't the best prose ever, nor is it detailed, but hey i'll save the details for hindsight and im in a rush. This is a start...

Hong Kong is lovely and warm after a 12 hour flight, hotel is Miniscule but for 11 pounds whose complaing (theres no pound sign on this keyboard) right im off to eat dinner. Zai Jian