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Stop 11 - Hangzhou


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

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 5 - Irkutsk and Lake Baikal


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

Our next stop was Irkutsk - our main reason for visiting here was to visit the world's deepest lake but the city itself also sounded pretty chilled with a few interesting things to do. We arrived late and took the tram in the wrong direction for about twenty minutes until we found ourselves at the edge of the suburbs. We showed the tram driver where we needed to go and he waved us back on. Thirty minutes later we were inside our strange but comfy alpine themed hostel eating pasta and weird tasting sauce that we found in the supermarket.

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The city itself was nice with some interesting wooden buildings and a great selection of traditional Siberian windows! We visited the house of a Decemberist and his family who had been exciled to Siberia as a punishment for his political views and actions. We knew hardly anything about Decemberists before coming here but learned that they were a liberal group protesting against Tsar Nicholas I. The house in which this particular family lived was a weird mix between a fairly fancy European house and a Siberian peasants house. It had expensive bookshelves and beautifully designed fireplaces but the ceilings were wooden and low.

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We picked a beautiful and sunny day to visit Lake Baikal and it was really very impressive. The lake is 1642m deep and holds one fifth of the world's fresh water! It was perfectly blue to look at from a distance but up close the water was very clean and c!ear. Although the lake itself was incredible the lakeside village that we had taken the bus to was a bit strange and less attractive that we had anticipated so we ventured out to find a cable car to a view point we had heard rumours of. After an hour or so of walking we managed to locate it and enjoyed a peaceful ride up a very big (and slightly snowy) hill. The views from the top were really worth the effort of getting there and we spent a good hour or so up there taking photos and eating an omul (a lake Baikalian fish) pancake!

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After two days in Irkutsk we boarded the train, once again in Platzkart, for an eight hour overnighter to Ulan Ude.

Posted by Chloemillen92 07:42 Archived in Russia Tagged lake russia trans-siberian baikal irkutsk siberia Comments (0)

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