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By this Author: gunnhild

Guilin


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The must-do-thing in Guilin is the cruise on the Li River, so we booked this when arriving at the hotel yesterday. We went by bus to the dock and boarded a river boat together with some Germans and Americans, loads of Swedes and even a few Norwegians. We spent most of the 5 hour cruise on the very hot viewing deck and the scenery was beautiful. There was not much water in the river, and about half-way we got stuck but one of the other boats were able to pull us off.

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When reaching Yángshuò we were supposed to have some time for shopping in the touristy main street. Luckily we were delayed and went straight through to find the bus for our afternoon tour to the Yulong River. We stopped in a small village to see how the local farmers lived, and to see the 600-year-old Dragon Bridge. We used bamboo rafts to travel up the Yulong River and were entertained by a local folk song singer on the way to a small dam. We walked along rice paddies and got postcard views towards the Dragon Bridge. In the field we were allowed to pet and feed water buffaloes. On the way back we got to see how trained birds were used for fishing.

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Back in Guilin we went for a quick dinner in an Irish Bar, a short city sightseeing and then back to the hotel to pack and get some sleep.

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Posted by gunnhild 04:38 Archived in China Comments (0)

Lhasa - Chengdu - Guilin


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Our guide took us to the airport and brought us to the first class check in. The flight was slightly delayed, but we still had several hours in Chengdu before our next flight to Guilin. We took a taxi to the Panda research base and made sure that nothing was closed before entering the park. We walked straight to the nursery and made a "donation" of 1000 yuan each. This earned us the right to hold, pet and feed a Giant Panda cub. We were dressed up in sterile clothes and waited on a bench while they prepared the panda. It was bigger than expected but not too heavy and very soft and cuddly. The staff took plenty of pictures with both our cameras. We continued to the mother and cub enclosure where three cubs were playing around. Very cute!

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We had lunch in the park before heading back to the airport. When booking the ticket to Guilin most flights were full, so we ended up with a first class ticket (still cheap!). The first class lounge was not much to write home about, but we got to check our emails with a chocholate and a cup of coffee/tea on the side. When boarding the plane we got to skip the queues and got our own comfy bus to the plane which was quite nice. The Chinese really dont know how to behave in a queue. Large seats, great food and presonal service was not bad either. :-) On the way to the hotel we got our first glimse of the karst topography surrounding this small city (pop 740000).

Posted by gunnhild 03:40 Archived in China Comments (2)

Lhasa - Day 2


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We were picked up at 9 am and went straight to the Potala Palace, once the seat of the Tibetan government and the winter residence of the Dalai Lamas. The 13 storey palace is built on the highest point in Lhasa, the 130 meter high Red Hill and contains more than a thousand rooms. We were not allowed to take photos inside the palace, but got to see hundreds of impressive Buddha statues and mandalas, pilgrims offering yak butter and ceremonial scarves called khatak, the tombs of previous Dalai Lamas and the apartments of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lama. Thousands of kilos of gold were used for the tombs and some of them were over 13 meters high. The layout of the Potala Palace includes the White Palace used for living quarters for the Dalai Lama, and the Red Palace in the middle used for religious functions.

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After eating Yak all day yesterday we went for a western breakfast with eggs, toast and hash browns. Yummy! We walked the pilgrim circuit (kora) clockwise around the Barkhor area and were quite fascinated by all the pilgrims in their colorful costumes from different parts of Tibet. Along the route there are hundreds of stalls selling prayer flags, block prints of scriptures, jewelery, yak butter, juniper incense, Tibetian art, clothes and souvenirs. Fascinating!

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At 2.30 pm we were picked up to go to the Sera Monastery, the second largest Monastery in Tibet. This was, like the Drepung Monastery we visited yesterday, founded by a disciple of Tsongkhapa (in 1419). The sights were quite similar as well but the highlight of the visit was the monks debating in the garden next to the assembly hall. They debate in Tibetan, but their rituals, hand clapping and gestures makes it very interesting to watch.

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In the evening we went back to the restaurant in the hotel to try some of the other local dishes (our guide actually recommended this restaurant). Again the food was excellent, and the locals were playing dice games and drinking loads of beer. The waitress obviously wanted us to drink more as well and lifted the glass which means bottoms up in Tibet. Luckily the glass was small! After dinner we were invited over to another table to drink with a group of Tibetans that only knew a few words in English (happy-happy, cheers and sorry). Of course they all wanted to do the bottoms-up with us (one by one), so we were quite "happy-happy" when going to bed. When their three english words was not enough they called a friend who spoke English and she translated over the phone. Quite an interesting and fun evening!

Posted by gunnhild 09:08 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai - Datong


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We didn't get the best start to the day since Fredrik woke up with a flu. In the pharmacy a point to the nose started an impressive mime show behind the counter and we could pick the exact medicine we needed. We took it slow with a nice breakfast at Monica's second home - Costa. We went to the airport early, but everything went smooth. We were the only "white people" at the flight and got used to being stared at before take off. After a 3 hour flight we arrived at the very small airport in Datong, and took a taxi to the hotel. We felt a bit crazy when booking, and paid 11 NOK extra to get a deluxe room. Luxury!

When we arrived we booked a taxi for the whole day tomorrow to take us to Yungang Caves and the Hanging Monastery (250 NOK. Nice!). We're being picked up at 8 am, so we decided to take a slow evening and had dinner in the fancy, Chinese restaurant in the hotel. When the food was served the entire table next to us turned around to watch us eat. :-)

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Posted by gunnhild 08:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

On our way

In a few hours we're on our way to China!! The first few days we will stay with Monica and Stian in Shanghai. We have booked a flight to Datong on Tuesday and plan to stay there for 2 nights. That should be enough to see the main sights (Yungang caves, The hanging monastery, Drum tower, Nine dragon screen etc.).

We will try to catch a train from Datong to Beijing on Thursday and will spend at least 4 nights there. There's a lot of things to see in and around Beijing, and we're also concidering a 1 day hike on The Great Wall.

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Our plan after Beijing was to take the train to Lhasa, Tibet. But at the moment Tibet is closed (http://new.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=16384) so we will have to wait until we're in China to plan/order the rest of the trip, and might have to change the itinerary a bit. No problem at all!

Posted by gunnhild 01:36 Archived in China Tagged preparation Comments (0)

Lithuania


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This year Kristina and Jørgen finally invited us to Lithuania where Kristina grew up. We took a direct flight to Vilnius and were picked up at the airport by Jørgen and Kristina.

Our first stop was Druskininkai where we stayed one night in a spa hotel with a huge water park. We spent most of our time in the adult part of the water park where they had several jacuzzis and a bar in the pool. But of course we also had to test the 6 water slides, the wave pool and pretty much everything else they had.

The next day we walked around in Druskininkai before heading back to Vilnius for the weekend. On the way we stopped at Grutos Parkas where most of the remaining monuments and statues from the Soviet period can be found in addition to a small zoo.

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In Vilnius we met some of Kristina's friends (which we already knew from our trip to Mijas in 2007) for dinner at Lokys. We tasted several traditional dishes like pigs ears and potato dumplings (cepelinai). Dessert (Irish coffee) and local beer was enjoyed in a cozy pub in the old town.

We spent a whole day walking around in beautiful Vilnius. The old town, Gediminas tower, several churches (Vilnius is known as the city of churches), the bohemian district of Uzupis (World heritage site, declared itself an independent republic in 1997), the gate of dawn, the town hall, the university, the Frank Zappa statue, the Precidential Palace etc.

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On Sunday we were back on the road again. Our first stop was Trakai, a historic city and lake resort. The main sight was the Trakai Island Castle but we also tasted Kibinai, a local dish in the Karaim community.

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Our next stop was Kaunas where we walked down Laisves Aljea from St. Michael the Archangel Church to the town hall. After some shopping in the gigantic shopping mall we continued to Klaipeda where we were staying for the night.

In the evening we went out for some dinner and beers with some friends of Kristina (one that we met in Mijas and a few others). The next day we took the ferry over the Curonian Lagoon to the Curonian Spit (a 98 km long, thin, sand dune spit) and drove down to Nida (the westernmost point of Lithuania and the Baltic States). From the top of the sand dunes we could see over to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. We stopped in a few fishing villages on the way back to the mainland and had a long drive back to Vilnius where we spent the night before going back to Norway Tuesday morning.

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Posted by gunnhild 06:04 Archived in Lithuania Comments (1)

Nasca - Lima (Peru)


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We were picked up by our guide Leo at 6.30 am. It was a bit foggy so we went to visit the Cantallo aquaducts, which are still in working order and essential to irrigate the surrounding fields. We also had time to see how the local miners are working before the sky cleared up and we went to the airport.

We had a 35 minute flight over the Nasca lines in a small Cessna (3 seats + pilot). We heard that this flight could be a rough experience, but our pilot was excellent and we had a smooth flight.

Our guide took us for breakfast in a very local restaurant, we said goodbye an had some time to walk around Nasca city centre and relax in the sun before taking the bus back to Lima at 2.30 pm. We had the front seats on the upper deck, the so-called panorama seats.

We arrived in Lima quite late and went straight to the hotel.

Our bags are packed and we have a few hours in Lima before we are going home. We will be in Norway tomorrow (Sunday) around 4.30 pm.

Posted by gunnhild 05:48 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Ballestas Islands - Nasca (Peru)


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We were served breakfast in the room in Paracas before heading to the harbour and meeting our group for the boat ride to Ballestas Islands. We were approximately 30 people on the boat, and our guide Leo made sure we got good seats. On the way out we saw a large group of dolphins, lots of large peruvian pelicans and other birds. We also got plenty of wind and salt water in our hair.

Ballestas Islands have many arches and caves and the number of birds are overwhelming. They produce nitrogen-rich guano (seabird droppings) which is used as a fertilizer. In the mid-19th century guano was Peru`s principal export! We also saw lots of sea-lions, crabs and penguins. On the way back we saw the Candelabra geoglyph, a gigantic figure etched into the sandy hills. And then we ran out of gas...

Safly back in Paracas we continued our private tour to Ica where we went to a small bodega (winery). We had a very interesting tour of the winery which still used old techniques like pressing the grapes by foot. Afterwards we got to taste different wines, piscos and marmelades, and ended up doing a little shopping.

The next stop was Huacachina, a small oasis in the desert. We attacked the sand dunes in a small dune buggy and stopped a couple of times to sandboard down the dunes. Fun!

We had lunch and a walk around the oasis before we hurried towards Nasca to visit the Palpa and Nasca lines watch towers before sunset.

We stayed at Hotel Majoro, previously a hacienda founded by the head chief of the valley. Most of the evening were used to try to get rid of all the sand in our clothes, hair, ears etc.

Posted by gunnhild 05:47 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima - Paracas (Peru)


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Tuesday we arrived at Lima Airport 6.30 pm and were picked up by a driver from our hotel. We went for dinner in a very charming Italian restaurant/deli/cheese shop/bakery. We also bought some breakfast for the next mornnig here. When we got back to the hotel our guide had left us a message saying that we would leave at 8 am instead of 6 am. Great!

We expected to be part of a bigger group, but were picked up by the guide and a driver and will be on a private tour most of the time.

Our first stop on the way down the coast was Pachacamac, an extensive archaeological complex used as a ceremonial center since 800 BC.

We followed the Pan-American Highway to Paracas. After checking in to the hotel we went to the Paracas National Reserve where we started by visiting a small museum/information centre. We had lunch (seafood of course) in the tiny fishing village of Lagunillas where we also could see a lot of birds. We drove around the desert to visit several lookouts to see sea-lions, more birds and various rock formations. In the evening we walked around the very quiet city of Paracas and had dinner almost by ourselves in a nice, little restaurant.

Posted by gunnhild 05:46 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Colca Canyon (Peru)


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At 7.30 am we were picked up in the hotel and started our journey towards Colca Canyon in a private van. We had several stops on the way to see lamas, alpacas, vicuñas, viscachas, different birds and of course the spectacular landscape. At 1 pm we stopped at the highest point of the trip, approximately 4900 meters. We had a buffet lunch in Chivay and afterwards we went for a swim and a beer in the hot springs.

We arrived in our hotel in Cabanaconde around 6 pm and after a beer and updating our webpage we went for dinner in a rustic, local restaurant. There were no electricity, only candles and a fireplace. Great food, great wine, great atmosphere and lots of smoke and sparks from the fireplace.

We got up at 6 am to eat breakfast before going to Cruz del Cóndor. We went for a short and freezing cold walk along the edge of the canyon before the first condors appeared around 8.30 am. At one time we could see ten of them gliding effortlessly on the thermal air currents rising from the canyon, some of them really close. With a wingspan of up to four meters they were really impressive.

Instead of going back to Arequipa the same way as most tours do, we drove through Cabanaconde and continued on a narrow dirt road over the mountains. At noon we had a picnic lunch in the park of the small village Huambo. We continued over the mountains, through the valley of volcanoes and went up to more than 4200 meters. On the way the landscape and the colours changed dramatically, and we had great views towards several snowcapped mountains, more than 6000 meters high.

The road down from the mountain was not as interesting. It was very, very bumpy and the view was mostly sand and cactuses for hours. We arrived in Arequipa around 6 pm, and after a long, hot shower we went for a farewell dinner at a recommended restaurant.

Posted by gunnhild 05:45 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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