Day 1 - Arrival
Shanghai airport is HUGE and on our arrival pretty deserted. The pilot described the weather as foggy but I have a suspicion that the murk we see is entirely or at least partially man made. Formalities completed the first hurdle was would we actually be met by someone from Sinoway travel or was it just a well manufactured internet scam? Add a comment
by the ten o'clock pick up time the overnight rain ceased completely with the bonus that the temperature was at a far more comfortable level too. First stop was the euphonically named Jade Buddha Temple, an active monastery where they have not one but two large Jade Buddhas. More interestingly there was a buddhist service in progress, not a richly festive as the Tibetan version but still pretty interesting. Our visit culminated(?) in a tea tasting and Mary bought a large packet of an unpleasant tasting herbal infusion claimed have healing properties that with luck will languish in the pantry for some time before being discarded unopened.
Next stop an 'Arts and Crafts Centre' where I, having a nose for this sort of thing, spotted 'retail' at the first object, a Jade carving the size of an automatic washing machine, with a price tag in excess of two million NZ dollars. I was in the wrong place but Mary loved it.
Add a comment
Bella has arranged to pick us up at 11 and take us to a silk 'factory' thence to the airport. A bit more forethought would have had us change his to something more interesting but that's really only hindsight.
The silk factory was as anticipated interesting but predominantly a retail opportunity, We bought a useful silk quilt and an even more useful parasol (not silk). Don't ask, I have no idea. Add a comment
Promptly at 9:30 Ling Ling collected us on a lovely sunny day for our first stop at Tiananmen Square. Hard to believe the scale of the place and the sad fact the locals demolished one of the gates of the Forbidden City to build a horrible monument to the unlamented Chairman Mao. There has been little consideration to the retention of old stuff until very recently.
Today included visits to the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven, both wonderful World Heritage areas about which much has been written about far more eloquently than I can. Neither were what I was expecting and both were really quite eye opening. Ling Ling managed to slip on the steps at the Temple of Heaven and fell firmly on her bottom unfortunately she bruised both ankles in the process which rather slowed her down. Add a comment
It's a Great Wall
First stop was another factory (read shop). This will be the last one but made some sort of copper lacquer ware the name of which was French but eludes me for the moment. The shop has a vast array of the stuff complete with christmas trees and Santas, very nasty. I hope we'll decline any more shops.
The Ming Tombs are the last resting places of the Ming Emperors. The 'Sprit Way' leading up to the tombs is pretty impressive but the tomb we saw (Chang Ling) while impressive ,is a bit dull after the Forbidden City. Worth a look if you're nearby, the main feature however is the Great Wall. Add a comment
Eventually morning came with another hotel breakfast and yet more packing. Packing and hotel breakfasts are two of the unavoidable downsides of travel. Cooler, overcast and much clearer today which is a real win for our programme.
Rather touchingly Ling Ling had a small pendant as a gift for us, with the ideograph for peace on one side and happiness on the reverse. She has been an excellent guide and we have thoughily enjoyed her sense of humour and knowledge. Se have promised to send her some photos.
Add a comment
First the Jinci Temple, set in splendid grounds there is a huge amount of work going on to extend the gardens. We saw the oldest bridge in China, (read, a new bridge more or less in the style of the oldest bridge which used to stand here but probably wasn't made of concrete), a 3,000 year old tree (LP says 1,000, you choose) and a splendid old pavilion. David's pretty good but does tend to draw it out a little.
A better lunch than yesterday at a large complex with fish in tanks, indoor fountains and streams and Heaven knows what else catering to locals.
Add a comment
Pingyao is a walled town and the walls are as far as we could tell complete, note the usual caveat that these walls have been extensively 'repaired' applies. We walked around the top of the wall from the North gate to the East getting a splendid view over the town including what appeared to be a very nasty prison.
From there there were several temples (Taoist and Confucius) a 'city of hell', another Buddhist the old city Hall (I think), the first bank in China and several businessman's houses. I could be wrong about any or all of these and to tell the truth there is a great similarity between them. With tired legs it gets progressively harder to maintain an interested appearance :) Add a comment
David was wrong about the attendants on the train, he said they would come around and make up the bed. They kept themselves to themselves and looked stern whenever I went past. I left them well alone. Add a comment
The actual exhibition is on a huge scale and has a 'wow' factor when you first go into the building. Truly it is well deserving of the title “Eighth wonder of the world” but where does that leave the Great Wall? Ninth? They have both got to be on your list things you must see. Add a comment
A moderately early pick up at 9am so we can see the Great Mosque and Bell Tower in the centre of town before we leave for the airport. Wendy tells us that serving large tea mugs is a sign of respect as big is better and so old tourists like us get them, I'm a bit unconvinced myself. She also tells us she's going to take our advice and get married at Chinese New Year in the spring.
There's a small alley leading to the mosque with vast numbers of street vendor stalls which opens onto the mosque. Very Chinese in style it's well worth a visit. Outside on the street a water cart passed playing 'Happy Birthday' while spraying cyclists and pedestrians with water intended presumably to damp the ubiquitous dust. Add a comment
After our pick up at 8:30 Julie had a go at selling us an acrobatic show for tonight. Tempting as it looked we declined, there were more people spinning on silk streamers and that was more than enough for me.
All that said the Long Ji Terraces are as good as the Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall. The villages, paths, irrigation, terraces and buildings are all very reminiscent of Nepal, even the people have striking similarities. Whatever, this is another great place to visit. Add a comment
I though we had been told that the boat would pick us up opposite the hotel but actually we were taken some 20 plus minutes out of town to a large, we'll call it a port for want of a better name. Needless to say you can buy all sorts of stuff there, including according to Juli, naff electronics and dodgy memory cards. These latter she suggests you avoid as they are likely to have been relabelled.
She also warned us that prices on the boat for extras such as books, food and drinks should be avoided, advice we took. Our advice would also be to be prepared to minimise lunch, it's not one of the great experiences and I suspect much use is made of river water in the catering, despite Juli's assurances it didn't look so clean to me. The loos are also an unrewarding experience and one could lead to another I'd bet. Add a comment
The rain has stopped and breakfast at the Paradise would have been fine had we not had to share it with a party of American College kids. Someone should warn them before they leave the US that the rest of the world does not really want to hear their views of bargaining, vegetables and college life. If they want to share them with each other that's fine but please - not so loud.
Just outside the hotel we were provided with bicycles (BMX for me, ladies no gear for Mary) and we wobbled off down the road. Given the manic way they drive around Yangshuo (and the rest of China) this is probably not one of the all time safe activities we have undertaken. Unlike 'Bungee Jumping' you could easily get killed. Apparently a lot of the rental bikes are seriously inferior models and many tourists have problems with the bikes themselves and being charged for 'damage' when bits break.
None the less we gradually got the hang of the bikes and Juli led us out into the so, so scenic countryside with the vast rocks (hills? mountains?) called karsts rising nearly vertically out of the paddy fields. About now the rain started mildly and we donned our emergency raincoats (thin plastic bags) and carried on.
Add a comment
Beyond that it's an airport and the usual tedium of travel (we hope) Add a comment