A Travellerspoint blog


Stop 21 - Xi'an and Beijing

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We arrived into a VERY hot Xi'an (42 degrees) after a slightly stressful cancelled train journey, meaning we got there a bit later than planned. We entertained ourselves drinking Chinese beer until it cooled down a bit and then went up onto the huge city walls to explore. We managed to make it around 20 minutes along before a crowd of people starting sprinting towards us and we noticed how dark the sky had got... Not wanting to be left behind, we joined the fleeing crowds from what turned out to be a sandstorm, followed by one of the biggest storms we've ever seen.

The sky was full of lightning for hours.


The biggest attraction for the city is the world famous Terracotta Warriors, a quick bus ride away. The warriors were created as part of the first Chinese Emperor's tomb and are just of a ridiculous scale. They were discovered in the 1970s by local farmers trying to dig a new well, stumbling across 3 giant pits that have still not been entirely excavated. Every single warrior is unique, with a different facial expressions and clothing.


Xi'an is fairly unique in China, having a large Muslim population and a pedestrianised Muslim quarter. The food was brilliant, with lots more street food than other parts of China, including the Chinese hamburger and cold, sesame noodles. There are also old, Chinese-style mosques, complete with moon-doors!


The city walls in the dark!


Delicious dumplings!


We had another cancelled night train that we were supposed to be taking to Beijing, so had to change our plans slightly and catch a much more expensive high-speed train the next morning. After dropping our bags at our AirBnB and making for the Forbidden City, we discovered the tickets were sold out for the day and headed up to Jingshan Park instead. The park contains pretty much the only hill in Beijing, giving amazing views of the city and directly over the Forbidden City.

Posted by Chloemillen92 12:54 Archived in China Tagged storm china beijing xi'an lightning terracotta_warriors jingshan_park muslim_quarter peking_duck chinese_hamburger Comments (0)

Stop 20 - Chengdu

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We got off the train in Chengdu feeling pretty grumpy and tired. A group of 14 year old Chinese kids had been screaming, shouting and running around the train for the entirety of the 25 hour journey. They had picked up our cards in the middle of the card game, kept (rudely) asking questions we didn't want to answer and were constantly dropping food all over the floor and our bed, one end of which they were using as an extra seat. We really couldn't have disliked them more if we tried. The weather was baking and our bags felt heavier than ever as we lugged them along but then out of the blue, just as we needed it most, a random man cycled up to us and gave us two bottles of cold lemon ice tea and simultaneously restored our faith in humanity. From this point on Chengdu and the surrounding area became one of our favourite places so far.


The city itself had lots to do, with a great selection of temples, nunneries, teahouses and shops. A real highlight was enjoying a Buddhist lunch ceremony at Aidao nunnery just around the corner from our hostel.


One of the main attractions of the area, located just outside the city, is seeing the super cute giant pandas at the research base. This place is trying to increase the (very small) numbers in the wild by encouraging the notoriously picky animals to breed and making sure all the cubs survive. We learned that in the wild if a panda has more than one cub it will only look after the healthiest and abandon the other!


The food in this area is well known for being spicy but delicious and the city has loads of great looking eating places. We tried one of the most well known local foods - hot pot! This one was different from anything we had ever tried before as there was a variety of broths to cook in and you could choose what you wanted to cook by going to the fridge yourself and filling a tray with as different skewers.


We spent a couple of days in the area surrounding Chengdu, the first of which was spent gawping at the world's biggest Buddha statue in Le Shan. It is 70 meters high and was build over a thousand years ago to try and prevent people dying in the three surrounding rivers. Apparently this was quite effective but perhaps moreso due to the amount of rock that was deposited in the river during the Buddha's construction slowing down the flow of water - who knows. In the same complex there was an amazing cave that was full of yet more huge statues and carvings.


Finally we headed towards one of China's four sacred mountains - Emeishan. The views from the top were spectacular and our nights accommodation in a temple at the foot of the mountain was serene. Waking up to the sounds of monks chanting at 5am isn't something you do everyday.

Posted by Chloemillen92 06:46 Archived in China Tagged mountain tea china buddha panda sichuan chengdu spicy emei_shan le_shan Comments (0)

Stop 19 - Xingping

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Our first stop back in China was a small hotel and attached organic, permaculture garden; we had organised to spend a few days there as part of a WorkAway and were helping out with general household work and making up guests' rooms etc. This was a little disappointing as it was sort of sold to us more on the permaculture side of things, something we are interested in learning a bit more about. However the setting was beautiful, food amazing and people pretty friendly so we decided to stick around.


As the hotel was busy, we were staying in tents upon the roof. This meant it was pretty warm, but did give us early morning views like those above! The scenery around Xingping is incredible.


Here you can see the mountain that the hotel and farm backed into - it was an incredibly spectacular!


After a few days at the WorkAway we spent a couple of nights in the nearby town and cycled around the area. The scenery features in the back of the 20 Yuan note!


Just a little idea of how dramatic the limestone karsts were - there were so many stars as well.

Posted by Chloemillen92 08:01 Archived in China Tagged china yangshuo xingping workaway guangxi limestone_karst Comments (0)

Stop 12 - Zhangjiajie National Park

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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.





There were lots of monkeys in the park which were suspiciously unafraid of people and had an evil look in their eye.



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.


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!


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 ;))




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)

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