A Travellerspoint blog

June 2017

Stop 12 - Zhangjiajie National Park


View Overland adventures - UK to Ho Chi Minh City and back without getting on a plane! on Chloemillen92's travel map.

Stop number 12 was Zhangjiajie National Park, which apparently inspired the film Avatar. Our guesthouse was very remote and surrounded by beautiful mountains. We spent two days in the national park itself riding cable cars, taking photos at crowded but brilliant viewpoints and hiking down deserted paths with spectacular scenery.
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There were lots of monkeys in the park which were suspiciously unafraid of people and had an evil look in their eye.

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This was one of the most crazy and otherworldly places either of us have ever been to and to top off all of the beautiful views, our room was - by a very long way - the most luxurious place we have stayed so far!

Posted by Chloemillen92 03:37 Archived in China Tagged mountains china national_park avatar zhangjiajie hunan Comments (1)

Stop 11 - Hangzhou


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The kids packed us off with a couple of baskets of fruit and armfuls of gifts they made from us, ranging from paper spaceships, to hand-embroidered purses, to catapults. We caught a short train to the city of Hangzhou, home to the famous West Lake and a bustling, vibrant place with plenty of local tourists.

We wondered around the shops and cafes, and headed for dinner at 'Grandma's Home' - a famous local chain. It's incredibly popular and involves getting a numbered ticket to wait for your table before taking a lift to the correct floor to find your table, not so easy without English instructions... The food however, was great.

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The next morning we headed to the hills outside the city for the National Tea Museum, a pretty collection of gardens and buildings surrounded by tea bushes. It turns out the Chinese are really into their tea; there's about a million types of tea, which should be served in the correct type of cup and brewed with the right type of water, for the right amount of time, with the right ratio of tea to water! They also used to have tea brewing competitions which sound riveting. We had a tea tasting after and bought ourselves some tea picked in the fields outside the museum!

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We jumped on a bus to take us to the main attraction - West Lake. The views and scenery are incredibly famous in China for their beauty, and it certainly is beautiful. We cycled and walked around various parts of the lake, taking in views and admiring the ridiculous numbers of lotus plants in the water. There is a public bike hire scheme which is the largest in the world and free to use, making it easy to get around (it's also shortlisted for an Ashden Award this year ;))

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We also checked out the Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum in the city, in part of the buildings of a traditional pharmacy from 150 years ago that is still dispensing today. Again, there are a million different types of plants, seeds, roots etc. used for a multitude of treatments and Chlo has now decided to forgoe Western medicine.

Posted by Chloemillen92 09:16 Archived in China Tagged lake china west hangzhou zhejiang Comments (0)

Stop 10 - Workaway near Yiwu


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Another short bullet train later we were in Yiwu, the 'small commodities capital of the world', to join a Workaway host school for the week. Workaway works on the exchange of a few hours work each day (speaking English to the kids in this case) for food and accommodation. Our host was in a small village about half an hour from the city.

The school was listed as a 'home school', and advertised itself as being very different from mainstream education. When we arrived there were a few adults around who left about ten minutes later and didn't return for two days. We were told by the kids that one of the boys (who was only 12) was the 'leader' when the teachers went away...

The kids organised themselves; holding exercise sessions, meetings, fulfilling cleaning duties and studying under the supervision of 12 year old leader boy. The situation resembled Lord of the Flies a little too closely for our liking and the first night we went to bed feeling unsure if we should make a run for it. However as time went on we did settle in.

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Some mornings we woke up at about 6am to join the kids for an exercise session and learned some Tai Chi and Chinese boxing. One big positive of our week was learning lots about Chinese culture. Over the time we were there we spoke to the children and various parents about food, Chinese medicine, schools and more.

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The school was actually very beautiful both inside and out, with lots of covered courtyards and nice decorations. It was perched on the side of a lake which was often full of tourists on pedalos and surrounded by mountains. Above is a picture of the building from the opposite side of the lake.

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One evening, one of the parents took us to the local attraction, the Lavender Park. It was very neon and the lavender was rather sparse; it hadn't quite been the serene fields of purple we had been expecting, but it was quite hilarious.

As well as our confusion at the lack of teachers for the first few days of our stay, we experienced a bit of a culture shock due to the focus on rote memorisation and some of the odd punishments she used on her return. However after some Googling of education here it turns out that these are probably much more accepted ideas than we had realised.

Obviously being a home school with a big focus on self study, these children were getting a different style of teaching (which didn't involve much teaching, but more getting on with work at their own pace) than an average Chinese student but to be fair they all seemed happy and full of energy. On reflection we both agreed it had been a very interesting experience and a good opportunity to leave the tourist trail.

Posted by Chloemillen92 20:06 Archived in China Tagged china zhejiang workaway yiwu Comments (0)

Stop 9 - Likeng and Wuyuan


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After a very short bullet train to Wuyuan, we headed straight to our guesthouse in the old village of Likeng. The Wuyuan area is famous for its ancient villages and beautiful surroundings, and it did a pretty good job of living up to its reputation.

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Likeng was a very tiny place with streams running through the whole village, useful for fishing, plucking chickens and washing your clothes in if you're a local! There were plenty of small shops and well-preserved buildings to explore. The old buildings were used for a variety of things, some were lived in, some were for worshipping ancestors and one we especially liked which was 'the place for 'villagers to advise and to encourage others as well as persuade people to be good and learn manners'. We got pretty good at catching local buses/ lifts from locals for a few yuan to visit the nearby villages. The landscape was pretty spectacular, with green hills everywhere you look apart from the odd high speed rail track. Most of the villages were also surrounded by farmland and rice paddies.

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Lots of the buildings have these great 'moon doors', AKA hobbit doors...

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We spent a couple of days exploring these villages, before sharing a taxi for the day with a friendly Chinese couple, that took us to an area called Wolong Valley. The drive there was slightly interrupted by a queue as a landslide was cleared from the road, but the views were worth it. It was a beautiful, lush valley with a little cable car and plenty of steps to see the waterfall at the end.

On the way back we stopped for a pretty great lunch (it helps when you have Chinese people to do the ordering for you) and a trip to a huge cave (beats Wookey Hole hands down) that felt suspiciously like the Mines of Moria. After you walked through the maze of passages and steps, you caught a boat out to the daylight again.

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The final stop was a trip to the 'Rainbow Bridge's which was beautiful, but not massively rainbow-coloured.

Posted by Chloemillen92 18:31 Archived in China Tagged china wuyuan jiangxi Comments (0)

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