A Travellerspoint blog

Shanghai


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Arrived in Shanghai today after a 10 hour flight from Frankfurt. The airport here in Shanghai must be the smoothest airport in the world, we hardly had to wait for anything.
The taxi to Stian and Monica was fast, cheap and a bit scary, but the welcome was warm and the beer was cold!
After enjoying the view from the 25th floor we went for a walk in the neighborhood, The French Concession. We had lunch in a modern chinese restaurant and Monica picked her favorite dishes for us all to share.

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After some electronics shopping in a huge and slightly confusing shopping mall we picked up a few different world beers and headed back to the apartment, since Monica and Stian were leaving for the Philippines in a few hours.

So now we are all alone in a modest apartment (3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms) in a small, charming city (approx. 13 millon people) and look forward to a good night's sleep since none of us slept much on the flight.

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Posted by fredno 07:36 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)

China Planning


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The first big step is done, we have bought the tickets to China.

Our current plan is to fly into Shanghai from Europe, from there we will fly to Datong (Hanging monastry), take a night train to Beijing, fly to Xining, take a 24 hour train to Lasha (Tibet), fly to Chengdu (Giant Panda), fly to Xi'an (Terra-cotta Warriors), fly to Guilin (cruise on Li river), fly to Huangshan (Great mountain view) and then fly back to Shanghai before we go back to Europe.

We have not ordered anything of the trip in China so this plan can be changed. But we are 99% sure about the places we would like to visit.

Posted by fredno 12:52 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)

Puno to Arequipa (Peru)


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After a tight schedule we decided to take it slow for a couple of days. We walked around the island of the hotel to see the alpacas living there. At 3 pm we took the first class bus to Arequipa. It was a bit delayed, but with huge recliner seats that was no problem.

The next day we started with breakfast at a terrace at the main plaza with a great view of the city's grand colonial buildings and the surrounding volcanoes. We walked around the city with Jorgen and Kristina, visited a local market and the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. The monasterio is guarded by high walls. It has both colonial and andean architecture and is almost a citadel within the city. In the evening we had a briefing with the Colca Canyon tour organizer, and then went for a couple of beers in a so called Irish Pub.

Posted by gunnhild 05:44 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lake Titicaca - Taquile Island (Peru)


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This small island 35 km from Puno has been inhabited for thousands of years and the people maintain a strong sense of group identity. Taquile felt like its own little world, completely detached from the modern world. The island was completely covered by agricultural terraces, and the scenery was stunning. Red soil, blue lake and Bolivia's snowy Cordillera Real in the horizon.

Traditions are very important to the society. The men wear tightly knitted hats in colours showing if they are married or not. They take pride in knitting them themselves, and some say that a potential father-in-law would fill the hat with water, and if leaking the man would be a lazy husband.

Single women wear colorful skirts while the married women wear black. They weave colorful and very detailed waistbands for their husbands which are used to protect their backs as there are no cars or donkeys on the island, and everything is carried around.

Their handicrafts are among the best-made in Peru, and are sold at fixed prices in the cooperative store on the main plaza.

Posted by gunnhild 05:44 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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