A Travellerspoint blog

Wuhan - The surprise concert

Wuhan International Hostel Arena Concert

We stopped in Wuhan where for one night only, a session was being put on by the good folk of Wuhan Pathfinder Hostel. As the only Paddys staying there, we surprised the capacity 300 plus crowd, with a spontaneous rendition of an auld Irish song, "Big Strong Man", in an attempt to improve cultural relations. Needless to say it went down well, if only they knew the words were only half right, and the singing left alot to be desired!

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Posted by ruthandult 06:09 Comments (3)

Chengdu - The Yangzi River Cruise

Chengdu - Chonqing to YaChing on the riverboat

The Yangzi river is the third longest in the world, at 6300km it flows from west to east China with some dramatic scenery in the mixer.

A cruise may not best describe the route taken, but a boat nonetheless.
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A four day cruise takes in the fabulous three gorges and the lesser "smaller" three gorges from Chongqing to Yichang. There were mostly all Chinese tourists but we were joined with an American couple and an Ozzie couple for company. The Aussie, Guy, a retired "Blastings and Explosives" expert, and his partner were great and helpful companions!

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The final part of the cruise is a visit to the Yangzi Dam, which was a huge project undertaken by the government to utilise the rivers hydro-electricity to power vast parts of China.

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Posted by ruthandult 05:37 Comments (1)

Chengdu - The Pandas

The Pandas

The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base is about 25 minutes in a bus from the city, not to be missed. It was set up in the hope of increasing the panda numbers as they are apparently very particular about who they mate with and eat only one or two of the 100 plus types of bamboo available to them. In the wild numbers are low, so maybe with the help of this place, things will improve in the future. They're fabulous creatures. They have a smaller cousion, a red panda, maybe not as well known, but endangered too.

The Red Panda

The Red Panda

Some of the Pandas were surprisingly playful, we were later told that these two were "teenagers"

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The rest of them just chill out, eat, snooze and look around every so often for a photo opportunity. What a life!

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We managed to get the attention of this fella, up a tree, having his pre-lunch snack.

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But instead of coming down and saying hello, he just continued eating and looked at us upside-down...
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The silver-back patrolling his territory
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The Panda cubs are a big part of this setup, and we got a chance to meet a few of them just hanging out, once we got their attention.

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And got a chance to get closer...

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Just eating away, like not a care in the world...

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Posted by ruthandult 04:47 Comments (2)

China - Chengdu

Chengdu - Tearooms, Panda's and the Yangze River

Next stop Chengdu, a 17 hour train journey from Xi'an, in the famed province of Sichuan. A smallish city by Chinese standards of over 4 million people, this city is famed for its hot-pot cuisine amonst other things. Like alot of places we've come across there are tributes and references to Emperor Mao in either statue or picture form. However, Chengdu is one of only 3 cities that has a statue attributed to a Nationalist leader pre-dating the current regime, who is still kept in high regard. There is at least one person who is still fascinated by him.

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The tea houses are another feature of Chengdu. These are open, outdoor establishments that you can sit down and have a cup of jasmine tea which is refilled by the local monks, and just while the day away. Part of the experience includes an ear cleaning guy who, along with tuning forks and some kind of pipe cleaners, will clean out your ears for a nominal fee. Part of the tea experience, we were told...

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A great bunch of people:

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hmmmmmm

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Posted by ruthandult 04:33 Comments (1)

Xian - The Terracotta Warriors

The Terracotta Warriors and more

About an hours drive east of Xian is the site of the Terracotta Warriors. They apparently were created to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, and were only discovered in the 70's. There's about 8000 warriors currently excavated and it is believed there could be many more around the site as yet undiscovered. The warriors themselves are life-sized and in army formation all facing East. The workers who created them knew they'd be put to death afterwards, so each warriors face was carved to resemble the worker himself. Fascinating stuff.

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Lady Jaja, our guide

Lady Jaja, our guide


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Terracotta Warriors gets the Thumbs Up

Terracotta Warriors gets the Thumbs Up

The city wall around Xian is one of the few city walls that is still fully intact and it is possible to climb the wall and make your way around it. We decided to hire a bike with two saddles, two chains, two steering wheels, two normal wheels and a bell, and made our way around.

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The South Gate of the City Wall was the focal point for the Lantern celebrations which is the last day of the New Year celebrations.

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Some tasty food available aswell...

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The worlds only dragon in captivity is kept at the South Gate as well. His name is Frank and although he's scary looking, he's actually a vegeterian so we've nothing to worry about.

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Posted by ruthandult 03:23 Comments (7)

China - Xian

Xi'an

Xi'an is the main city in the Shaanxi province in the midlands of China. A 13 hour train journey from Beijing awaited us. It actually wasn't as bad as we were expecting it to be. We got a hard sleeper ticket which was around 270RNB and although we didn't know it, we'd the top bunks in a little 6 person open compartment. The train was jammers, must've been thousands of people travelling back from the holidays.

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We arrived in Xi'an on time at around 05.30 on Sunday morning. It was incredible to see a train station buzzing with activity at this time, again what seemed like thousands of people milling around the place. We made our way to the Han Tang hostel, not too far from the city centre. The following day, we went for a stroll around the city, it has some spectacular land marks, the Bell Tower and Drum Tower probably the main ones.

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we've been getting a few funny looks from the locals, wonder why?

we've been getting a few funny looks from the locals, wonder why?


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The next day we went to whats known as the Muslim Quarter, a section of criss cross streets with markets and stalls and all kinds of everything being peddled. One of the highlights was fresh quail egg lollypops, and a guy blowing caramel into shapes of animals, which got a lot of attention! Fabulous!

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If you're willing to take a chance, take a chance on the street food in Xi'an, you'll definitely be rewarded. It's cooked up there in front of you, it's cheap as also delicious. Some of the meats are a bit non-descript, but even if you stick with what you can see and identify, you can eat breakfast, lumch and dinner off the vendors! Usually a smile, a nod and a point at what you want should do the trick.

General knowledge for 10 points. What could this possilby be an ad for?

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These words could only describe one thing.....

a comb

a comb

:)

Posted by ruthandult 22:09 Comments (4)

Beijing - The Olympic Park

The 2008 Olympic Village

The subway in Beijing is great. For 2 yuan (about 50 cents) you can travel from any one destination to another. As part of the Olympic set up in 2008, a new line was added to bring peolpe directly to the Olympic village. About 25 minutes from where we staying with a couple of stops, it'll bring you right up the Olympic village. Its in the north of the city, and is a pretty cool set up. There's loads of people trying to flog you stuff and you can have a bit of craic with them too. The main attraction is the National Stadium, more commonlly known as the Birds Nest. A very impressive looking stadium, from the outside particularly. Unfortunately, after the Games it hasn't been used all that much and I think there was even a possibility of knocking it all down and putting in shopping centres and stuff. Although I also heard they were trying to bring certain one-off sporting events there too, like the Bledisloe cup and possilbily a few soccer matches aswell. It was great to get to see it though.

The customary "Atlas" pose at the Birds Nest

The customary "Atlas" pose at the Birds Nest

There is also the Natioanl Aquatics Centre which was built for all the water sports of the Games. (Its called "The Cube" but its not really a cube).

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Posted by ruthandult 21:15 Comments (1)

Beijing - The Great Wall

The Great Wall of China

"He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man"

Mao Zedong

There are several different tours available depending on what you want and we decided to goto the section called Mutianyu. Its about 90 minutes drive north of Beijing, and is spectacular.

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We got lucky with the weather the day we were there and as the early morning mist cleared we were blessed with a beatiful day and only the hazes of sunshine in the distance blocked out what the eye couldn't see anymore. This section of the wall has a cable car ride which bring you over a vast ravine to a point about 1/4 way along the wall. Its a great view and recommended as if you were to walk the section from the first tower, you'd actually miss out a bit.

Amn't I some catch

Amn't I some catch

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When you get to end of the cable car ride, you're at tower 6 (of 23 on this section). I'd guess there's between 100 and 200 metres betwixt each tower so you have the option of walking back to tower 1 and doing the whole length, or just carrying on from where you are. The towers were basically lookout posts to keep an eye on the Mongol opressors, who were trying to invade, like a thieves in the night.

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Its a bit of a walk, so comfortable walking shoes are a winner. About 3/4s of the way up, there's a section where you can ride a cable car back down to the beginning, or otherwise there's a nice place to just sit down and take it all in. The closer you get to the end of this section of the wall, the steeper it gets, and its actually quite challenging toward the end, almost a sheer hike up some pretty steep steps at the last tower. Its hugely rewarding though as the views are breath-taking, and even just the idea to build a wall for 5000km is just mad.

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The customary "Atlas" pose on The Wall

The customary "Atlas" pose on The Wall


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The Great Wall definitely gets the "Thumbs up"

The Great Wall definitely gets the "Thumbs up"


Posted by ruthandult 19:53 Comments (0)

Beijing - Chinese New Year

2011 - The Year of the Rabbit

Chinese New Year 2011, fell on the 3rd of February. It was the year of the Rabbit on the Chinese Zodiac. Celebrations typically go on for a week or so, and so it's a bit like a week long public holiday.

There is an incredible amount of fireworks being set off on the run up to and including the week itself.

I've an idea, lets go see the fireworks...

I've an idea, lets go see the fireworks...

I've never seen or heard as many bangers, rockets, fizz bombs, crackle jacks, quarter sticks, lunar logs, pyro wheels, flaming dukes or sparklers go off in my life. I thought western New Year celebrations were impressive, which they can be, but this is mental.

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year


Chinese New Year gets the Thumbs Up

Chinese New Year gets the Thumbs Up

Fire-works can start as early as 6 a.m. These are usually quarter sticks or occasionally you might hear the odd half stick. This will continue on almost constantly into the evening and when it gets dark, everyone goes bananas. These are just locals, who have staked up van-loads of stuff, setting off in the middle of the hutongs. General rule of thumb seems to be, if you see someone in the middle of the road, smoking a fag, take cover. We were strolling down to get some noodles and spotted this guy of about 70, standing on the side of the road. As we got closer, he started shouting at us, but a split second later there was an almight bang. It put the heart cross-ways on me and honest to got I was tempted to slide yer man into a full nelson we were so shaken! He was a good laugh.

Its a great party night and everyone is on great form.

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Who looks most like a rabbit here...

Who looks most like a rabbit here...


We weren't sure whether this guy was a local rock star or a world class athlete, he was a pretty cool guy though

We weren't sure whether this guy was a local rock star or a world class athlete, he was a pretty cool guy though


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Another part of the lunar celebrations is a temple fair that takes place in Ditan Park, in the northern part of Beijing. It's fairly accessible using the subway. The park itself is actually known as the Temple of Earth, and there is a temple there that is still in use, although it a small enough part of the park as a whole. The day we went along, there were what seemed like thousands, possibly millions of people enjoying the celebrations. It seemed very much like a family affair, with grand-parents, parents and children all bustling around. The park is full of tree-lined avenues and is very pleasant to stroll around in. There were countless stalls selling candy-floss, non-descript meat on sticks and all sorts. In the clearer areas of the park there were local dancing routines being acted out with multi-coloured handkerchiefs and flags and the occassional dragon dance. Real traditional stuff, which was great to see.

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There is a moat that snakes around part of the city, just next to the park, which had frozen over so we had to give it a go..

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Posted by ruthandult 10:50 Comments (0)

Beijing - The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City

You can walk down the Forbidden city from where we we staying. It took no more than about 15 or 20 minutes. We were lucky that it was a beautiful clear, if still a little chilly day. It's pretty impressive, without a tour guide you can walk around at your leisure with the help of an auto language guide. This place is steeped in history, with some fantastic looking buildings. I'm guessing Europe was only coming out of the Dark Ages when the dynasties were building and re-building this. I think it was called the Forbidden City because of a Dragon named Raymond. In ancient times, it was thought that an even ancienter dragon who used to terrorise the city was slain by the protectors and its ashes were used to forge the first bricks to build the first building. In the old language, Dragon could be translated as Orbid, and Den was suffixed on in what appears to be something that was lost in translation many years ago. The F at the start is a mistake too. Hence the name Forbidden City. Q.E.D

Blindingly good stuff here

Blindingly good stuff here

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Posted by ruthandult 10:24 Comments (0)

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