A Travellerspoint blog

Beijing - Xi'an


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After an early evening and a late morning we checked out of the hotel in Beijing and headed for the airport. After a 2 hour flight we arrived in Xi'an and took a taxi to our downtown hotel. On the way we organized a tour for tomorrow which was a bit challenging since the taxi driver only spoke Chinese. But with a phonecall we were able to confirm that we had agreed on what we thought we had agreed on.

The hotel in Xi'an was very cheap so we had booked an excecutive room. This was a bit more fancy than expected, and it took us nearly 10 minutes to turn on the bathroom lights... ;-) The best part was access to the executive lounge where we spent quite a bit of time drinking beer and making travel arrangements.

We found a very nice Chinese restaurant just down the street and had a great, spicy, vegetarian dinner. We had a table close to the kitchen area and were quite facinated by watching the five chefs prepare the food.

We did not take a single photo today (!!) but the rest of our photos should be available under "More photos" (to the right).

Posted by fredno 07:49 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Great Wall


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As the morning people we are we got up at 6 am, put on our hiking gear and left in our prebooked taxi with destination Jinshanling, a 2,5 hour drive. We were a bit worried for the views since it was very foggy in the morning, but when we arrived in Jinshanling the sun came through. We had to argue a bit with both the driver and all the "local experts" regarding our route, because we wanted to take the long hike and they tried to convince us to take the shortest route using the cable car. We did it our way and walked the westernmost path to the wall, and even walked further east from there to see the view from The West Tower with Five Holes. On a clear day you should be able to see the Simatai range from here, but we had some haze and couldn't see quite that far.

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We walked back east to the Zhuandou pass where we started and continued east from there towards Simatai. A few other tourists had entered the wall by now, but most of them went back down to Jinshanling using the cable car. The wall close to Jinshanling was restored in the 80's but after an hour of hiking most of the wall was in it's original condition. Still we only had to leave the wall shortly on two occasions to get around areas/towers that were not secured.

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One of the reasons we started early was to beat the crowds everyone was telling us about. We knew that this part of the wall was probably not as busy, but having the wall pretty much to ourselves was not expected. We met a couple of other groups doing the hike, talked a bit to some people from New Zealand and also shared experiences with a dutch couple walking in the opposite direction.

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The haze disappeared slowly during the day, the sun got warmer and warmer, the wall got steeper and steeper and the views were absolutely amazing the whole way. By the time we reached the highest point we were sweating in shorts and t-shirts, our legs were a bit sore, our cameras were running warm but we were still smiling from ear to ear. We enjoyed our lunchbox from the hotel and started our climb down to Simatai. This part of the wall was not as hard as the first part but it was still some steep climbs both up and down. Just before arriving in Simatai we heard some thunder, but we had time for both t-shirt shopping and a beer before the rain came.

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By the time we arrived at the hotel we were too tired to go out for dinner, so we went to the Italian restaurant at the 20th floor of our hotel. We were quite hungry after a long day and enjoyed a three course dinner with the views of Tiananmen Square.

Posted by fredno 14:12 Archived in China Comments (2)

Beijing - Day four


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Based on the experiences from yesterday, we decided to try the same approach for the Summer Palace, and got up early to take a taxi from the hotel. There were no queues and hardly any tour groups when we got there, but they poured in throughout the day. We started in the area around the East Palace Gate with the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, The Great Stage and The Heralding Spring Pavilion. We had a coffee and some cookies on the shore of the lake before walking over the top of the hill to the Hall of the Buddha Confirming his Doctrine, and down to Suzhou Street, a charming area around the Back Lake.

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We went back up to the top of the hill to see the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha and several pavilions, halls and gates on the way down to The Long Corridor (728 meters). From the end of the corridor we took a boat to the South Lake Island and walked the Seventeen-Arch Bridge back to where we started.

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Some of the buildings were impressive, but most of them were very similar to what we saw yesterday. But the lake were beautiful and on the hill there were plenty of caves and interesting stone structures. We even did some geocaching in the woods.

When we got back to the hotel we had an email from Mr. Liu waiting, and getting into Tibet is not easy. So we need some more time to get everything in order and have booked flights to Xi'an and Chengdu for now, and will probably go to Guilin as well before Tibet.

In the evening we went to a restaurant not too far from the hotel to taste the famous Peking Duck. After trying to figure out the details of the menu, we ended up with ordering a "package meal" which included 1 duck, special pancakes, sauce and different vegetables. Very good!

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Tomorrow we will spend the whole day on The Great Wall!!

Posted by fredno 07:55 Archived in China Comments (3)

Beijing - Day three


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Today we got up at 7 am to beat the queues at the Forbidden City. There were still a lot of people, but we got in without much waiting and walked around for a few hours. The renovated buildings in the outer yard were the most impressive, while the narrow and worn-down areas on the sides were the most charming. Beautiful details were found everywhere like the statues, the decorated roofs, the stairs and bridges, the huge doors and the 250 ton carved carriageway. On the way out we tried to get up in one of the towers to get a good view over Tiananmen square, but the lines were insane and we were not allowed to bring any bags, so we skipped it and made an old Chinese man very happy by giving him our tickets.

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The Tiananmen Square was still chaotic since it was filled with floats from the parade in addition to several enormous flower decorations and screens showing highlights from the Olympic Games in Beijing. We soon got tired of the chaos and went for a quiet lunch before going to CITS (China International Ticket Service) to try to arrange our trip to Tibet. They could not help us at all and had no idea who could. We contacted a different travel agency wo gave us the email address to a Mr. Liu that might be able to help us with our permits. Still waiting for a response.

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We spent the afternoon in The Temple of Heaven Park. It was very peaceful and quiet compared to where we spent the first part of the day, but there were still a lot to see and do. The park was used for flying kites, playing badminton etc. The main sight within the park was the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, built without using nails. The Imperial Vault of Heaven was placed inside a round wall named the echo wall, where you should be able to hear whispering from one side to another. The Round Alter was also impressive, and a bit different from all the Chinese architecture we have seen the last few days.

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In the evening we tried to take a taxi to Nan Luogu Xiang where there are plenty of small bars and restaurants, but all taxis were busy. After a long time and a long walk we finally saw someone getting out of a taxi and we were on our way. But the whole city was one big traffic jam, so we spent 30 minutes on queues and detours. It was quite an interesting experience though, with people leaving their cars on red lights to ask for directions and driving on the wrong side of the road or in the bisycle lane. We had dinner at a small pizzeria and stopped at a bar for an Irish Coffee on our way home.

Posted by fredno 07:49 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beijing - Day two


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This morning we found out that the Autumn Festival was in the first week of October this year and because of that the October vacation was extended with one day (yesterday). In addition we learned that this years most popular destination was Beijing and the Tiananmen Square. No wonder it was chaotic!

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Beijing is a bit bigger than expected and it takes time to travel around, so we decided to stay one more day (until Tuesday). Today we took it slow and started with a visit to the Olympic area and especially the birds nest. The views were great, the architecture was impressive and the area was huge. Not as much staring anymore, but several Chinese people asked if they could have their picture taken with us. :-)

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After a Chinese lunch (we're getting good at both ordering and using the chop sticks) we spent some time in the Lama temple, most of the buildings are from the 15th century. Relaxing, quiet and very beautiful. The most impressive part was the 18 meter high Buddha statue sculptured from one single block of sandalwood.

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Posted by fredno 07:55 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beijing - Day one


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After a very short flight from Datong we arrived in the hotel 1130. We decided to explore Beijing on foot and a natural place to start was Tiananmen Square since it is just a couple of blocks from our hotel. But most of the area was closed off because of a parade or something, and it was total chaos with people everywhere. After walking around for a while we decided to take a taxi to a different part of town instead. We had a beer on the roof terrace of the Drum & Bell Bar, but we were not able to visit either the Drum tower or the Bell Tower since they were both closed for renovation until tomorrow.

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We walked around in the narrow alleyways of Beijing called hutongs. Some of them were mainly residential and easy to get lost in. Others were filled with small shops, charming restaurants and even a couple of hotels. One of the hutong bars had Irish coffee on the menu, and we could not resist to try it. Surprise! It was good!

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In the evening we confirmed that the Tiananmen Square was still a complete chaos and walked down Qianmen Dajie instead. This is the main street south of the gates to Tiananmen Square and when the forbidden city belonged to the Qing emperors this was the area for the Chinese people. There's a lot of old stores in the area, specializing in things like herbal medicine, tea, silk and pickles. The local "pharmacy" has been in business since 1669. We ended up in one of the hutongs to the west of the street and had dinner in a very local, Chinese restaurant where the other guests had a cigarette in one hand, chop sticks in the other, used the floor as an ashtray and left the table as a huge mess. Bizarre but charming!

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Posted by fredno 09:42 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beijing


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This short post is to get you out there who are reading this to comment on our trip and update us on what's going on back home :). We understand both Norwegian and English (no Chinese please).

For you that do not know, facebook is unavailable here in China (we are breaking the law when using it).
Our cellphones are very unstable here (Gunnhild received one SMS 11 times and others may have been lost).

We arrived in Beijing this morning and will add more information and pictures later.

Posted by fredno 04:35 Archived in China Comments (0)

Datong sightseeing


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After a small taste of the huge breakfast buffet we were picked up by our taxi for the day at 8 am. For the first time so far in China the taxi driver actually spoke some English and tried to tell us a bit about the things we saw on the way to the Hanging Monastery. We also stopped to visit an old man living in an even older cave. Last year he even got electricity and a TV.

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We arrived at the Buddhist Hanging Monastery at 0930, before the big crowds. The Monastery is more than 1400 years old and is built hanging off the cliffs about 50 meters above ground supported by long stilts. It was very impressive from below, but walking on the catwalks was a bit sceary since they were narrow and the fences were built for small Chinese and not tall Norwegians.

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Our next stop was the 5th century Yungang Caves containing 51000 ancient statues. The carving of the caves has combined the Indian Buddhism and the Chinese traditional art. The statues are from a few centimeters high to 17 meters and they are all very impressive! They were renovating the area around the caves and building a huge park, so this will probably be an even better tourist destination in the future.

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Back in Datong our taxi driver dropped us off at his favorite noodle restaurant, and we managed to order even if the menu was in Chinese and the staff hardly knew an English word. Great lunch! In the afternoon we stopped by some of the downtown sights like the Drum Tower and the Nine Dragon Wall - a 45 meter long glazed tile wall built in 1392.

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Tomorrow we had planned to go to Beijing by train, but we decided that it was a lot easier to book a flight online than to try to get train tickets. Also we pretty much get an extra day in Beijing since we're taking a morning flight.

Posted by fredno 06:12 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)

Sightseeing Shanghai


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We started the day with breakfast at a local sandwich place, and then took a taxi to The Bund - Shanghai's Champs-Elysées. This was somehow a disappointment, because the whole area was under renovation for the upcoming Expo, but still the colonial buildings were nice and we managed to get some views to the new business area Pudong.

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We tried to to follow Lonely planet's walk in the old town, but after too many markets we took some shortcuts and spent some relaxing time in some of the parks in the area instead.
One of the more exiting shortcuts was our walk through some of the old town alleys where all activities like haircuts, cooking and bicycle repairs happened in the street.

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Posted by fredno 08:34 Archived in China Comments (0)

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