C.J Team's Travel Blog RSS

The adventures of Chrissy and Jav as they trawl through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China!

E-mail Jav

E-mail Chrissy

Jav's FaceBook

Chrissy's FaceBook

Archive

Jul
17th
Sun
permalink

Chengdu

It's a tall Mao afterall

So we FINALLY arrived in Chengdu after massive flight delays. It seems China didn’t want to let us go (or was trying to make us leave – we couldn’t decide). As we didn’t arrive until the vampire hours, we spent much of our first day sleeping. When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed we had to do what we always do, which is wander around. It may seem strange, but one of the most famous sites in Chengdu city is a Chairman Mao statue. You might believe that China is full of Chairman Mao statues (which it is) but there aren’t many really big ones. Plus, I had kind of invented a Chairman Mao statue challenge after reading the Lonely Planet one very boring day (probably during a power cut) where it mentions a statue tour of China. Damn you Lonely Planet and your ridiculous ideas! So, on with the story! We went for a ‘wander’ around Chengdu to find this statue. Actually it wasn’t very far from our hostel but being as it was stupidly hot it felt like miles. All in all it was a good statue. You can’t complain! It was something else to tick off the travelling checklist.

Which way was it again?

And you thought the traffic in Guilin was bad!

While we were out wandering we came across the local park. Having no idea what we were doing we thought we’d pop in and see what’s what. As a general rule, all parks in China are the same (old men gambling over a game of mah-jong, old women slapping themselves to promote circulation, young children going on badly constructed rides etc). The best part of any park is surely the ‘dancing crew’. There will always be, without fail, a group of oldies getting down with their bad selves in the park as part of some mass exercise movement. Normally we don’t pay attention to this but there was some pretty good moves going on that day!

It's a fine old life as an ear sweep

After all that excitement we decided to ‘chill out’ (laughable suggestion in that heat) at one of the local tea houses that Chengdu is famous for. We found one not too far from the dancers, pulled up a pew, and ordered some sort of dandelion/lemon tea. The only way I would be able to drag Jav to somewhere like this is with the promise of something infinitely more exciting like a good old fashioned ear cleaning. Strange, you might say, but they don’t make them like this anymore. After A LOT of haggling (this is Jav we are talking about here) the ear cleaner produced some most unusual equipment. It was sort of like tools of the chimney sweeping trade in miniature! First the ear cleaner dusted, then he twanged something to promote cleaning via vibrations through the ear canal, then he sort of scraped the ear. The whole while the old bugger insisted on showing me what he had taken out of Jav’s ear. Nice! Surprisingly I didn’t want to partake in this age old tradition.

What a twanger

We had done a lot of traditional things that day and we had one more thing to do. Hotpot, hotpot, hotpot! Chengdu is in Sichuan province, home to the spiciest food in China. We had to try this world famous dish. We expected hot and we got hot. The broth looked fairly innocent until a whole bag of peppercorns went into it. I think I lost about a stone in sweat that day.

As hot as the fiery pits of hell

You can't imagine what his farts smelt like later

There she is!

Now we had got the wandering out of the way we decided to do something really backpackery – go on a FREE tour. There aren’t many backpackers that I’m aware of that can pass up the chance of all things free. As advertised, we went on a FREE countryside tour arranged by our hostel manager, Mix. I tell you now, that tour was a bargain! We weren’t expecting much because of the freeness but it was a pleasant surprise. The countryside was very charming. Some good examples of old countryside homes (abandoned in favour of the new homes next door obviously) and it was a quiet and peaceful walk – until you got to the place where they were building a ruddy great big bypass. As we wound our way round the country roads and ended up where we started our eyes were searching for the van to take us home. Lucky for us, Mix had a surprise up his sleeve. After a delicious lunch at a local restaurant/shack Mix took us to an old village under the ownership of a Hakka Clan. The Hakka’s are a minority group in China who traditionally live on the east coast in these bizarre round houses. How they got to Chengdu is a mystery but it was a great opportunity to gain some insight into their culture. The town was filled with ancestral clan halls and we even found a clan hall from, can you believe it, Jiangxi province! The fun didn’t end there however. Jav spotted a man selling some ‘local’ foods such as crabs, grubs, grasshoppers and scorpions on a stick. Jav caved under peer pressure fairly quickly and soon he had scorpion legs dangling out of his mouth. I even gave it a little try (tastes like burnt chicken). It was amazing that Jav had a chance to eat anything as he chased around a group of young Chinese girls dressed in England’s finest Victorian corseted wear (don’t ask because we don’t know!). Naturally all this tradition got a bit much for us and later that night we headed to the most modern area of Chengdu we could find, Times Square.

Glorious countryside

Where did that hand come from?

The epitany of tranquility

The Jiangxi Clan

Chengdu's haunted house

Why oh why we ask you

Dear God that's grim

Pinch pinch

Ummm, tastes like chicken

Looks deceptively small

Naturally our trip to Chengdu just got better and better and on the third day it surpassed itself with our trip to Lushan and the giant (and we mean giant) Buddha there, carved into a mountain to prevent the flooding of the river that he grandly looks over. Apparently this bit of voodoo worked and therefore I shall never dismiss religion again. The first thing we felt we ought to do was to violate the Buddha in as many ways we could concoct in our sun addled brains. We kissed the Buddha, we rubbed noses with the Buddha, we put our fingers in his ears and nose and we made him drink out of a bottle. I’m sure this sort of behaviour was entirely original and had never been done before. Regardless of this deformation of his character we still held mighty respect for this monolithic creature. So big he was in fact, that it was near impossible to take pictures of all of him at once (cue much distress by Jav). He demanded so much respect that we actually weren’t allowed to smoke in the vicinity of the Buddha (we were still in China weren’t we?). We did get a few good shots naturally but it took the best part of the day. To cheer Jav up I allowed him to take some sneaky shots of people worshipping as this brand of privacy invasion is by far his favourite.

The buddha sucks thumb

The buddha gets a kiss

Here little buddha buddha

The buddha is thristy and needs a drink

My, what big feet you have!

Buddha likes fishy

Well done Jav Jav, that's a good picture

You better hope and pray the monks don't catch you doing that!

To top this spectacular day off we went to see the Sichuan Opera in the evening. We were never inclined to see the Peking opera as the singing is dreadful but we were assured that there was no singing at the Sichuan Opera. This opera was more about dancing, shadow puppets (they can get their hands in some crazeeee shapes) and the face changing performance. The face changing performance is what it is all about, where the actors rapidly change their masks in front of your eyes without you knowing what has just happened. You need to watch the video clip to really appreciate this as an art.

Can you do that with your hands?!!

Words can't describe the cuteness

I can barely write what we did next as it was so exciting and I do a little wee every time I think about it. We volunteered at a panda breeding base! Yes, the fourth day was all about those damn cute pandas. We arrived at the base and got to meet all the pandas (one is quite famous we are led to believe) and watched them all lounging around in their cages while their homes were being cleaned ready for them to go back on display. You can’t even begin to imagine how many photos we have of pandas now! When the main area had been cleaned we had the delightful task of cleaning their other cages. My word, those pandas can poo. No one ever told me that a panda’s life consisted of eating, sleeping and going to the toilet on every available surface. We do like to get stuck in though and we made short work of the panda poo. When the poo had been removed we prepared their first snack of the day – some big juicy apples. We got to feed them and everything! Apparently pandas are vicious so we had to skewer the apples and they took them from the stick. Our guide informed us that due to the lazy nature of pandas we had to make them work for their food so we made them stand up and come and get it. They are so darn sweet! My favourites were the group of naughty rapscallion teenagers who really loved their grub. As soon as they had their apple a day we had to start preparing their next meal of panda cakes. I’m not 100% sure what are in these things (although we did try them) but I’m sure that the Chinese had snuck some rice in somewhere. The pandas went even more crazy for these cakes and we didn’t even have to encourage them to come and get it. It was now approaching midday and all the pandas went to sleep so we got to walk around the rest of the base and see the other pandas, and the equally adorable red pandas, before we were shown a video about the problems pandas experience in their sex lives. A friend of mine once told me that pandas were pointless creatures that really ought to be extinct and now I have come to share these beliefs. Firstly, they don’t know how to mate. They have to be shown panda porn as some sort of instruction manual and even then the courtship rarely goes beyond the male panda chasing the female panda around a cage. If they do manage to mate the pandas all give birth prematurely and then freak out when they see this tiny, ratty looking, pink thing and they start beating their young! I thought the U.K had a problem with child abuse!

Step away from my bamboo!

Lovely panda poo

Just give me the bloody apple

The teenagers

It's a keeper

Me want panda cake now!

Bugger off!

Even though we had lost a lot of respect for the pandas we were still upset when the day ended so we thought we’d cheer ourselves up by going to the BBQ quarter for some of the spiciest beef we have ever had. I would say that this little titbit of information was unworthy of our blog but when I asked Jav what he remembered the most about Chengdu, this is what he said so here we are!

Spicy for your mamma

On our final day we were taking it easy ready for our 18 hour train journey to Xi’an the next day. We tried to do what we do best (shop) but it proved quite difficult. We went to the Tibetan area first but this was filled with Chinese soldiers as there was a lot of Tibetan unrest at that time. This made for an uncomfortable shopping experience so we thought we’d try out the Lotus Market hoping for a Beijing Pearl Market round two. Sadly the normal tourist tat wasn’t to be found but you could buy a gun or get your very own tattoo done on the street. Umm…. On to Xi’an me thinks.

Comments (View)
Jul
13th
Wed
permalink

Yangshuo

It's a twisty one!

In a poll taken by myself, Yangshuo came up as the top place to visit in China. It has all the best bits of Guilin (mountains) plus some countryside thrown in. I thought it was about time that Lynne and Dad saw what 80% of China was like! We had practically lived on buses and planes during our trip so we thought we’d try another mode of transport – boat! We boarded the Li River cruise boat (luckily as our bus left without us that morning) in Guilin and 4 and a half hours later we alighted in Yangshuo. The cruise takes you past some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen so far (comparable to Halong Bay in Vietnam) and if that doesn’t take your fancy you can always partake in some betting on the race between the cruise boats (you didn’t think we’d be alone now did you?!).

Ok, so these aren't cruise ships but there were plenty

The deck was quite crowded (when they finally ‘let’ us up there) so we staked a corner just for ourselves, but it was quite hard work keeping it! Things really picked up with the return of an old friend – Dog Meat! He was as shocked/horrified to see us as we were him, especially when Dad told him he was a crap tour guide and we were going to write bad things about him on our blog (as if we would do that to him). Dog Meat made an extra special effort after that and even refrained from trying to sell us things (although he sensed vulnerability in Jav and had a go with him).

A whole lot of people!

Dog meat!!!

Yes Jav, you've done it again!

There were mountains, mountains and more mountains plus some bamboo rafts and bathing water buffalo. The picture taking competition between Dad and Jav really picked up! Lynne and I tried to take the high road and simply enjoyed the views (maybe Lynne was too tired to lift her camera?). In between knobbly mountains, there was a ‘Nine Horse Mountain’ where apparently there were 9 horse like shapes to be found on the cliff face. If you find them all you are supposed to become the next president of America (who the hell would want that job I ask you?!). In addition we passed the area where the picture on the back of the 20 yuan note was taken. Jav and Dad managed to find someone who would let them take a picture of their 20 yuan note to compare the view, while Lynne and I checked out the buffet. Jav threw a mini-tantrum when he realized he’d never get an identical picture to the one on the note, as their picture was taken from the trees (I found that fairly amusing). Once the excitement had passed, Jav stuck in his headphones and had a strop while Dad went asleep on deck leaving Lynne and I to have some sisterly bonding.

Thats attractive Dad!

Serene

Can you find the 9 horses?

The 20 yuan note

The real view

Before he fell asleep

There he is!

Dad was woken up and Jav was disturbed by our arrival at Yangshuo. As soon as we left the boat we were swarmed by touts. We had quite some time with them while we were waiting for our transport to the hostel (they don’t grow on you with time!). Lynne and Dad looked concerned that our hostel would be in the middle of the touristy area but they needn’t have worried. When the taxi FINALLY found us we soon realized our hostel was in the back and beyond in a small countryside village. We had all been looking forward to this hostel as we all received free upgrades and it sounded amazing. The rooms didn’t disappoint! They were decorated like a fairy tale (maybe not so good for the men?), with floor to ceiling glass on one side which led to our balconies and the bathroom. As you could imagine, we were a little nervous about taking a shower in front of a massive window (especially when we discovered the glass was a little more see through than they had first led us to believe!). We couldn’t fail to be pleased though. At this moment we would like to add to Lynne and Dad that this hostel was not the norm and we have had to rough it in some shitholes!

The view from our window

Lynne loves a bit of adventure so she went of on a bicycle to check out the countryside (she took a wrong turn) while Jav, Dad and I headed into town to find a BANK. We ended up at West Street (also known as Foreigners Street) after a walk from the countryside. On the way we had the pleasure of seeing a butt naked man having a swim in the river! Can’t get enough of these Chinese bums! West Street is a westerner’s paradise with plenty of touristy tat to choose from. Jav couldn’t resist some of the T-shirts! The irony of West Street is that it is filled with hundreds of Chinese tourists who have come to look at the foreigners (who aren’t so visible when surrounded by Chinese people). It was all looking a bit too Western for us until we had a stark reminder that we were in China. We had just finished taking pictures of a very Chinese looking McDonalds and were casually walking down the high street when a god awful smell attacked our nostrils. I was too busy gagging to really look for the source of the smell and all I really remember is trying not to breathe and skidding in something on the floor. You can bet I was in high spirits when Dad and Jav told me that the smell was coming from a man loading bags of poo and wee into a cart from the public squat toilets . I had skidded in poo!!! Shortly afterwards my flip flop broke and Dad picked it up to fix it without thinking. We needed to find a place for him to wash those hands!!!!

West Street

A very Chinese McDonalds

We had a few beers to drown out the pain then we went to meet Lynne for our night time surprise. Dad had seen something on T.V about Chinese fishing men using cormorant birds to catch their fish, and he wanted to see that while he was here. Speedy Gonzales himself came to meet us and made us power walk to the pier to catch a boat out onto the river. We weren’t really sure about what was going on till our boat pulled up alongside a fisherman with his little birds in the water. It was quite cool watching the birds dive under and coming back up with little fish in their mouths (they can’t eat them as there is some string tied around their throats). It was a little more disturbing to watch how the fisherman got the fish out of the birds mouth! He grabbed them by the neck, held open their beaks and squeezed until the fish feel in a basket. Delightful! After watching them for a bit, the fisherman took us ashore and we got to have pictures with one of his birds (while another bird tried to steal his fish). It was a miracle that Dad got a picture without any flash on his camera! This all happened quite late on in the night and we still hadn’t eaten so we went to West Street afterwards to get some food. I’ll leave it at that!

I'm on a boat motherf##?**!

Getting his fish

Jav's got a new bird

Get this thing off me!!!

One man and his bird

The next day we had booked in for some kayaking down the Li River. This was fantastic and I couldn’t praise it enough. We went to the part of the river where the tour boats don’t go and pretty much had the whole area to ourselves for 4 hours! Occasionally we had to share the river with some buffalo but no-one minded. There were some hairy moments, like when my boat went backwards down any rapid it came into contact with, and Dad and Jav got marooned on some rocks, but it was worth the effort and I felt like a semi-pro kayaker at the end of it. We even got a chance to stop and have a swim in the river and a coffee. Naturally, Lynne didn’t go for a wee at the appropriate time so we had to pull up somewhere mid-kayak and let her have a wee while Dad posed for some photos!

You can't tell, but I was shitting myself here!

A nice way to spend a morning

Jammy Jav got the best picture

What is with Lynnes cheesy face?

You would never know lynne was having a wee at the same time would you?!

It's just too damn cute!

We got back to our hostel fairly quickly after our kayaking as we wanted to go out into the countryside. Dad and Jav did not seem keen on cycling so we opted for mopeds instead. Lynne couldn’t join us unfortunately due to an accident earlier that day which we do not speak of (she was ok, minus some skin on her arms and legs). I’m a big wimp and wouldn’t get on my own bike so I had to share with Dad, but Jav was well away (he now wants a moped when we get back to England)! We had a nice route planned to a particularly beautiful village but that all went to pot! We managed to get lost in every village we passed and I think some of the locals were a little confused after they had seen us pass for the fourth time (poor buffalo people). Thankfully the locals were really sweet and did everything they could to direct us but the language barrier was always going to be an issue. We did finally manage to find the correct road if that’s any consolation and we got the cutest picture of some buffalo. I really want one as a pet now but I’m not sure it’s possible? We managed to be on the road for quite some time and we felt we ought to return to check on Lynne. As Lynne and Dad had to go the next day we had a quiet night at the hostel. Luckily, the students working there were from the city nearest to where we taught in China so they could rustle up some good food for us with plenty of chilli (just as Dad likes it). We also had a little picture slide show to say goodbye and to remind Lynne and Dad of what they had done because they had started to forget!

The real China

Jav was going really fast!

It looked better in real life

No words can describe my feelings right now

It all gets a bit sad from now onwards. The next day we all went back to Guilin as Lynne and Dad had to catch a flight back to Beijing. When they were safely at the airport Jav and I dragged ourselves back to our old Guilin hostel where depression set in. It just wasn’t the same . We spent the rest of the day trying to find a way to get to Chengdu and in the end we had to fly (but first we had to spend another whole day in Guilin). We were grateful when we left. We hope Lynne and Dad enjoyed their last night in China although their flight was really delayed so it was doubtful. Sorry.

Comments (View)
Jul
11th
Mon
permalink

Guilin

From the north to the south, from the biggest city to a small one, from a hot place to a sauna; we all flew to Guilin. Chinese people view Guilin as the Promised Land so I had to take the Grover clan there. A small city surrounded by mountains (sometimes with mountains poking out of the middle of the city), I can see how it would leave the Chinese in awe. However, it takes a little more to move us foreigners (maybe a blue sky?).

We all got great rooms at the hostel we were staying at and Dad got his first family suite (he always needs a bed for his bag). We were right by a river and the place had good outdoor smoking amenities. Perhaps it would have been better without the never ending chorus of crickets, but in time I felt they added to the atmosphere (with even more time I became suspicious that they were just taunting me!).

Breakfasting/smoking area

Dad was taking the picture of course

We had promised Dad and Lynne an easy day after the Great Wall and we had a simple plan to walk along the Li River, checking out scenic spots on the way. Walking down the high street (which is actually quite hard in itself due to the enormous amount of kamikaze motorbikes on the roads/pavements) we came to three lakes which seemed fairly photogenic. Naturally Jav was lost to us in favour of the camera but we discovered he would miraculously reappear when Dad took a picture. Every time he raised his camera, Jav would be in the frame striking a pose! I think a whole study could be done on this phenomenon (that’s me sorted for England). We all had a leisurely stroll around the lakes (Lynne went to the toilet), taking in the mountains and the water. Every now and then we were stopped by Chinese people for photos (Lynne went to the toilet), but it didn’t detract from our relaxation. We casually walked to the Shan Lake to stare at the Sun and Moon pagodas (and the ugly building they whacked smack bang in the middle of them) and sat on the rocks to watch the local fishermen in action, while Lynne went to the toilet. It really was the definition of tranquillity. Then Dad had a great idea – “Lets climb the tallest peak in Guilin to get some good views. Don’t worry, it’s all stairs”. We were all shocked to say the least. We thought he must be joking until we saw the excitement in his eyes. Dad could hardly contain himself! We had to run to keep up with him, such was his enthusiasm. Lynne nearly wet herself because she needed the toilet again (I’m not exaggerating about how many times she needed the loo).Ever since the Great Wall, Dad had established a natural affinity with stairs and we just couldn’t keep him off them. If he wasn’t on stairs, he was taking pictures of them! Forgive me if I’m wrong, but didn’t he used to make stairs at work as well? Maybe the problem is bigger than we first thought! Lynne became quite taken with the idea when she discovered there was a Chocolate Mountain in the area. Well, who wouldn’t (we never saw the chocolate mountain but I’m convinced it’s real). I don’t mind stairs, so I was up for the climb but poor Jav was devastated. He had hurt his knees you see and the prospect of going up and down stairs was quite daunting. Dad tried to encourage him but you could tell that Jav really didn’t want to. I think he was fed up with the Grover’s making him go up and down, up and down. It was like Dad actively sought stairs out or something!

Lake number 1

Very nice, very nice

Look at Dads little face lightingup at the thought of stairs

Let's climb that baby!

So, it was with a heavy heart that Jav was dragged to Solitary Beauty Peak. This is a big complex but it had toilets so Lynne was pleased. It used to be home to a prince or something before the Communists uprooted all capitalist roaders. As it took so long to convince Jav to come here we didn’t have much time to look around (plus we thought we had better get him up that peak before he changed his mind). It didn’t take us long to climb the peak, once we found the entrance, as it was only ‘152 metres’ as Dad kept telling us (smug git). At the very top you got some great views of the city, but you couldn’t help but think it would have been so much better if the humid haze cleared.

Loving it loving it loving it

Maybe they should just have knocked the mountain down?

Jav gets upset if I don't include pictures of him

Jav kept us up there until sunset

After the climbing we had to cheer Jav up and the best way to do that is through his stomach. We had a bad start looking around for a recommended dumpling restaurant that no longer existed, but then we struck gold with this great local restaurant. Lucky for us no foreigners go there so the menu was all in Chinese and we got to pick things at random! The chefs were so excited to see us they even gave us some free local delicacies and the manager introduced Lynne and Dad to the wonderful world of toasting. The first free dish was a melody of cold meat (we guessed it was pork but we couldn’t specify what part) with chilli. We all gave it a try and Dad even had two bits until a bit of gristle put him off. He was overjoyed when Lynne then suggested it might be spinal column! Dads eyes really lit up when he saw the second dish – “a plate of black”. He thought it was a plate of dried chillies until we pointed out the little heads. It was just what Dad wanted, a plate of dried little fish. We were all sympathetic to his plight, we just hid it well behind hysterical laughing. It really managed to cheer Jav up who was crying with laughter. At least Dad could console himself that he took one for the team! He couldn’t remain sad when he saw how young the fear made him look when Jav teased him with a fishy! Besides, we had to try and calm ourselves as the staff were watching us to see how we reacted to their ‘gifts’ and we didn’t want to insult them (maybe too little too late?). Things perked up with the other dishes which appeared less offensive (apart from the garlic, right Dad?) and Dad had his beer at least. He was even laughing about things until we asked another diner what the ‘pork dish’ was and found out it was pig’s ear. It seems Dad doesn’t like that! It put his gag reflex through a good test run!!!!

LOL

We weren’t completely insensitive to Dads feelings of disgust even if we did laugh about it then, and now, and maybe next year, and the year after that. We tried to make things better with some Tiramisu, but it just wasn’t the same. A lone God must have been smiling on us though as across the road the locals were partaking in their nightly dance session. I’m sure we’ve mentioned on this blog before that throughout China, the older generation get their daily exercise by meeting in public places for a boogie. Lynne went to have a gander but we felt that wasn’t sufficient so I went over to have a dance with her (I’m not 100% sure but I think we were better than the rest). Jav soon got jealous so he joined in, then Lynne got jealous so she had a dance with Jav, then Dad felt jealous so he had a dance with me (by this point I was semi-pro).We must have sparked something in Dad as he suggested we go to a Chinese bar and get wasted. After consulting our guide book we found just the thing and the legend of 100% Bar was born (that’s not even its name by the way). We went back to the hostel, had a quick change (some of us fell asleep didn’t we Lynne) then we were off out hitting the tiles. We all ‘forgot’ to take our cameras that night so you will just have to trust me when I tell you this story. At times it may well sound a little far fetched but I can assure you that it all really happened. I’m not going to lie to you, Chinese bars can be a bit of a culture shock. First you have to contend with the ear-splitting music, then you have to get over the shock of seeing live singers and dancer’s intermittently on the stage (I think Dad could just about handle the dancers). Just when you start to feel comfortable, a bowl of popcorn and fresh fruit lands on your table and your sense of normality is thrust into turmoil again. I like to think that Chinese people are aware of these issues and so they concoct a clever plan to get you hammered. We are pretty sure we ordered just 12 beers but a crate of 20 soon appeared under our table (there goes our ‘2 beer’ limit then). As soon as a beer looks even slightly half full a cheerful waiter will appear at your side with a bottle opener and a fresh beer is thrust upon you. Soon even the most dubious foreigner is living the dream. Jav was dancing from the beginning and Lynne shortly followed (after she went to the toilet). Jav upped it a gear and started dancing on the podium, lone ranger style with a little crowd of people surrounding him cheering him on (he was really giving it some to the point where I thought somebody had slipped something into his drink)! Soon he dragged me up to the podium and Lynne was up there too busting a move. At this point Dad started dancing around the table but I think the appearance of the restaurant manager from earlier that day egged him on (that and the toasting we forced him to partake in). Next thing you know, Dad is ordering another round and then he’s on the podium giving it his all. I’m a bit gutted as Jav, Lynne, and Dad all established a little dancing posse but not me . It seems I have lost my touch. It’s good to know that they all gave something back to the community by getting the locals up on stage though! Once up there in their full glory, I couldn’t get them all back down! Someone had to be a spoil sport and get them all back home and on this occasion that person was me. I can tell you now it was no easy feat! I had to bribe them with McDonalds (it certainly did the trick). Our night was complete with a round of Big Macs and thick shakes while deliveries were made by old folk with nothing but two baskets attached to a stick on their back.

Check us out!

Look at him racing off!!!!

The next day some people were a little worse for wear, but in our wisdom we had booked a tour to the countryside at ridiculous o’clock to see the rice terraces. Longji Rice Terraces were quite a mission away, but at least we got to have a nap in the minibus (this was becoming quite a common occurrence). If we hadn’t done this trip we also would never have met Dog Meat and that really would have been a tragedy! Dog Meat (or Harry) was more than just our tour guide; he was also the ultimate sales man. He never gave up on his pitch (unfortunately for him, neither did we, and he didn’t manage to sell any additional trips that day). Dog Meat/Harry gave us some information before our trip to the rice fields but he spoke so quickly we couldn’t actually follow him most of the time. Dad didn’t care anyway – he was asleep straight away! I think Harry said something like this – “The Longji Terraced Fields are part of a big rice terrace region. Longji is a scenic area where the rice fields are particularly impressive as they climb up the mountainside. It took 600 years for the people in the area to build them. Longji is also home to the Long Haired People … blah, blah, blah … they have long hair … blah, blah, blah … the fields are all rubbish, why don’t you spend your hard earned cash on a heavily touristy and overpriced Long Haired People show?” Dog Meat then stopped talking for a while and went to sleep. Now that’s what I call value for money! Dad, Lynne and I had to resort to a brief trip to the rice terraced fields as Jav refused to consider the other option which involved a 5 hour hike between villages. Dad was a little disappointed as the Dog Meat trip radically reduced his contact with stairs. Lynne needed the toilet and Jav was just a massive stick in the mud. Despite initial disappointment, Dad soon cheered up when we reached the Longji area as the scenic spot was at the top of a mountain so we needed to climb an abundance of stairs after all. Hooray! Jav felt a little better when we brought him a walking stick. There you go old man! I stayed behind with Jav while Lynne and Dad sped up the mountainside. I was amazed to find that despite his discomfort, Jav was still able to dedicate a significant amount of time to picture taking (and picture appearances on Dad’s camera). I guess the climb wasn’t so bad compared to what we went through on the Great Wall. Saying that, there was an awful lot of sweat (apart from Lynne who doesn’t sweat at all). In the end, it was worth the climb as the views were brilliant and you couldn’t put a price on the quality time we spent with Dog Meat. Again, a nice blue sky wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Damn beautiful

Jav whoring himself out to the Chinese again

Us at te top

Those houses are looking a little wonky!

No comment

That is how a grover grin is done!

I pity the fool that climbs the stairs!

After we climbed up we went straight back down for some lunch. Lynne thoroughly enjoyed her chicken giblets cooked in a bamboo stick, and everyone was a fan of the curried beef! The only real downside to the day was that Dad didn’t get a chance to be carried in a sedan chair down the mountain. That would have made an amazing picture (I’m getting more and more like Jav everyday!).

Giblets anyone?!

We had another nap in the minibus on the way home from the rice fields (Lynne needed the toilet though) and arrived back at our hostel energised and raring to go. When we got back to the hostel it was so hot and we all craved a nice swim. We had noticed that all the locals go swimming in the Li River running right through the city. We put our swimming gear on and had a nice stroll down the riverside to our ‘swimming hole’. We had to cross the river to get to the ‘beach’ but then we got lazy and hired an old man in a homemade boat to take us the rest of the way (which took approximately 30 seconds but I think the boat wouldn’t have lasted much longer!). When we got on the ‘beach’ we chose the best spot, with a view of an old man in his pants bent over doing his washing. He even managed to have a sneaky stare at us through his legs! I have never seen Jav and Dad get in water so quickly! I was left behind taking pictures and enjoying the view. When I did get a chance to go in the river, it was a painful experience due to the sheer amount of rocks on the river bed. I had to go in on all fours with my bum in the air, making me no better than the old man washing his pants. When we were all suitably refreshed we tried some local beach BBQ then went to the high street to get some real food. Lucky for us a man found us and introduced us to his restaurant. Even better, it seemed his family owned Guilin! He could have recommended a whole weeks worth of his family owned activities!

The beach

Our preferred mode of transport

Have you ever seen a beach like that?

Dad and Jav just blend right in

The happy couple getting splashed like a boss!

Well done Jav

On the way back to the hostel we passed the Sun and Moon Pagodas but this time they were lit up. As Lynne didn’t know how to use her camera and Dad’s camera only functioned in daytime mode, I think it’s safe to say Jav won the picture taking competition that time (as it had become a competition at this point – mainly between Dad and Jav). It was a good way to say goodbye to Guilin as we were moving on again the next day. No rest for the wicked as they say!>(Jav’s Disclaimer – some events may not have happened as described – notably any mention of stairs and Chrissy’s Dad’s delight! On the contrary, he took quite a dislike to me as I always seemed to find and encourage walks of an inclined nature without even trying. Sorry Mick!)

Dad is getting his Chinese poses down

Comments (View)
Jul
6th
Wed
permalink

Beijing the Sequel

It seems we just can’t get enough of Beijing, but as the capital of China, there is always something to do there. Our curiosity got the better of us and we had to see what it was like in summer when everything wasn’t frozen and fireworks weren’t going off in our faces! Getting to Beijing however was no easy feat. We brought tickets for the superfast train from Hangzhou to Beijing (so far so good) but first we had to get back to Hangzhou from Tunxi. A sensible person might go to the long distance bus station and purchase the relevant ticket for the proper price with the assurance of actually having transport. Jav and I brought a ticket from our hostel/hovel at a discounted price with the assurance of no peace of mind. Our pick-up from the hostel to the bus station was late so we were sat in a rickety old mini bus, fearing for our lives as it sped down the highway, while our driver repetitively phoned the bus station to scream abuse at them. Eventually we got the long distance bus (by flagging it down on the main road) but as our tickets were dodgy there weren’t actually any seats! Jav had to squeeze on the end of a seat next to two kids who promptly vomited (this continued on throughout the journey). When we finally arrived in Hangzhou we were looking forward to our luxury speed train. As luck would have it, we managed to get the only seats on the train with no bloody leg room! Jav was unamused. Ah Beijing, the things we do for you!

We did get to Beijing in one piece though and made it to the hostel (the same one we stayed at during the winter holidays). We finally managed a smile when we realized the legend of our New Year there lives on. Our New Year message is still on the wall and it has been joined by a picture of Jav and I making dumplings with our tiger hats on! I knew that New Year was something special! On top of that Beijing still had a great atmosphere in summer making it a multi-seasonal favourite.

Check out the tannage

Having a sneaky fag!

My, my that dress is a short un

After a good night’s sleep we woke up and, low and behold – it was Javid’s birthday! Jav will never let a birthday go by without adequate celebration and this year he had chosen to go to the summer palace in Beijing (it used to be a summer retreat for the emperors/empresses of China). It was a bit out of the way so we took a boat there along Beijing’s canals. The weather was perfect, the water in the lake was perfect, and so was the summer palace. It was lotus season so all the lotus flowers were in bloom (trust me when I say you DON’T want to check out all the pictures we took of them!). The lake in front of the palace looked really picturesque with pink lotus flowers and little peddle boats drifting by (yes, I am getting paid for writing this!). I would say that the palace itself wasn’t anything special but the surroundings really made it worth a visit. It was also a great place for people watching and we managed to get an hilarious video of an old man having a sing song. You need to look hard at his face when he realizes we are filming him! In addition, we managed to find the best beard in China! All in a days work eh?! To top off the day, we had some drinks and did some window shopping. Happy birthday Jav – you old git

Beijings canal system

It's picture perfect

I love the lotus flowers

It's another good one by Jav

This guy is immense

Happy birthday Jav

The olympic flame

We finally reached a point in Beijing where we felt we had done pretty much everything of interest, apart from the Olympic stadium. Ye olde Birds Nest is as big in China as public spitting so we couldn’t miss it out. The architecture was pretty unique and it made a good backdrop for the temporary display celebrating 90 years of the Communist Party in China (featuring the necessary hammer and sickle motif). If Mao was alive I am sure he would commend the placement of a monument to communism in front of such a blatantly capitalist building. For shame, for shame.

A bloody massive bird lives here!

We've got a jumper!

Mao is pissed off!

There is only so much building watching you can do, but there is infinite time for shopping. We had heard rave reviews about the Silk Market in Beijing. Apparently it is THE place to go for knock off shoes, knock off clothes, knock off toys, knock off, well, everything! Everyone loves a good bargain so we had to go there. We went in with quite a reasonably sized ego, but after hours of being told how beautiful/handsome, and generally wonderful you are, we were in danger of needing medical assistance for an emergency head deflation. Flattery works a charm and they squeezed a decent amount of dosh out of us. The ultimate expenditure was on my foot peel. For a small fee, some poor sod will take a razor and file as big as your head to your feet to remove all traces of dead skin. My feet were as smooth as a baby’s bottom! To top off a great day we saw goose man! You may have to read our old Beijing blog to understand what the hell we are banging on about, but to Andie and Carrie – how ace is that?! The goose is still going strong but he’s getting a bit cantankerous in his old age. There were some attacks made on passers-by!

Get your fake stuff here

He's keeping it cool

Run whie you can!!!!

The Grover’s Arrive!!

Anyway enough about us. We now proceed to the exciting part of our blog – the Grover family holiday (with Sangra characteristics). Yes it’s true, the Grover’s hit China! There were tears of laughter, pain and sheer exhaustion, but it all began in Beijing. Lynne and Dad (Jav can call you that now, right?) flew in on the 9th July and there began the hardest week of their lives (they may deny it now the memory has faded but trust us, we were there). Jav and I made a pact to ensure that not a minute was wasted and we really put them through a lot. As soon as they landed cameras were out, beer was consumed at the hostel (do you miss Chinese beer?), and subways were taken to Tianamen Square. I suppose you would have to ask them what their opinion was of the square, but I would hazard a guess that the words ‘hot’, ‘crowded’, and ‘Mao’ would come up. It’s a funny old place, and reactions are always mixed. As for Jav and I – we love summer Mao!

An undamaged Lynne

Looking hot in the summer versions

Even better with us in it

On reflection, this may sound a little cruel, but we convinced Lynne and Dad that they should watch the flag ceremony in the square. At sunrise and sunset, the Red Guards march out from underneath the archway adorned with Mao’s face, and put up/take down the Chinese flag flying proudly in the centre of Tianamen (a ritual clearly stolen from the English guards at Buckingham Palace!). Jav and I had attempted to see this ceremony on our previous visit to Beijing but unfortunately we stood on the wrong side of the road (yes, it was my fault). All in all, this sounds like a fairly pleasant, cultural and harmless event, so what’s the catch? Well, it took a looooooooooooong time for the sun to set and we were sat on the floor claiming a good spot (it’s such a Grover thing to do). We were sat their so long our bums went numb. Initially it was all smiles and pleasantries as we sat there in the sun with plenty of space, but then swarms of Chinese tourists arrived and Lynne and Dad got their first taste of Chinese manners (being non-existent). In between sneaky pictures of the ‘laowai’, the Chinese pushed and shoved until the phrase ‘like sardines in a can’ wouldn’t adequately describe our predicament. This is how it works – first, children suddenly start appearing at the ‘front-line’. Shortly afterwards old woman start breathing down your ear hole, trying to get to their grandkids to look after them (even though they happily sent them to push in a moment ago). Dad and Lynne withstood the child onslaught well but some sneaky buggers still got through the net. Lynne even managed to stay calm when an old lady started repetitively grunting in her ear (translation of the grunt – ‘please let me past foreigner, NOW!). As Dad would say, it’s all part of the Chinese experience.

It started off so good

And ended so badly

They need to do some crowd control

Once the ceremony started, it seemed worth the hassle but I can only speak for Jav and I here and you have to remember that we weren’t sleep deprived at this point. The Red Guards have a good march on them – very co-ordinated and possibly the first sign of organisation I have seen in China! After some saluting and assuming position, two men finally made it to the podium to take down the flag. After some seriously ritualised folding, the guards salute each other again and crossed back over the road with the flag, back into the Mao tunnel. When the ceremony finished a miracle occurred in that we turned around to find actual space! We could breathe again! We took full advantage of the oxygen and had a cigarette! Once calm had been restored, we managed to get a taxi to a recommended Beijing Duck restaurant. Dad and Lynne were starving at this point so we may have ordered a little too much prior to the duck arriving (Dad ate half a pigs worth of ribs). The duck was nice and beer did flow but it wasn’t so easy getting back from the restaurant. All taxis suddenly seemed to become unavailable leaving cyclos as the only mode of transport. Our first attempt was hampered by the arrival of the police (I bet the cyclos don’t normally drive off that fast), but Lynne and I soon found a woman who was willing to take us back to our hostel for a very reasonable price while Dad and Jav stayed behind for a spot of haggling. Half-way through my cyclo journey I would literally have paid anything to our driver if it meant she would find out where we were going. She was asking Lynne and I for directions (possibly not our strong point?!). Thankfully Jav and Dad soon wizzed by and for a brief time our driver actually had a clue (only for Jav and Dad to bugger off into the distance and for our driver to return to utter confusion). We all arrived back in the right place in the end!

Oh the grand old duke of york . . .

Then they grab the flag

And off they go

That damn shirt was the new umbrella

The next day, Dad may well have wished he was still on those cyclos as we tackled the Great Wall of China. Jav and I did this hike in the winter and it seemed fairly harmless but come summer it was a different story! Love of the wall soon turns to hate of the wall! Even Jav found it harder, though he did have his Chinese-style black silk shirt on (that boy will do anything for a good picture – just ask Dad). Dad started off well by buying a bargain walking stick to help him with the journey and he did manage to walk the wall even if it nearly destroyed him! We would like to take this moment to apologise to you Dad for we are genuinely sorry and we honestly didn’t realize how hard it would be! If it wasn’t for his lovely assistants (or his ‘daughters’ as he called them – charming!) I’m not sure he would have enjoyed his hike so much. From the beginning Dad caught the eye of two local beauties who stayed with him the whole way on his journey to hell. They fanned him and kept him in cold water the whole 3 hours while simultaneously encouraging him and keeping him smiling. Maybe Lynne and I do have a thing or two to learn from our replacements? Dad and his ‘daughters’ persevered, and although the mere mention of walls and stairs is enough to give him night terrors, I think Dad secretly enjoyed the challenge! There was a point where I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to remove him from the sign signalling the end of the hike! Despite the heat and the exhaustion, the Great Wall is still a wonderful place and I’m sure we all got to appreciate its beauty (even if some of us had to wait for the black dots before our eyes to disappear first). Judging by the amount of pictures taken, I would say everyone was suitable impressed, if not in need of hospital treatment. I think the ‘I climbed the Great Wall’ t-shirts we brought at the end were worth the climb on their own!

Back when Dad was still happy

Then he looks around

Not so happy!

He thinks he's so funny!

Halfway there

There was a whole lot of stairs!

Dad and his daughters

Ah bless!

Look at the size of that!

1 down, 27 to go

It was all about the hat

It was the end!

Of course the day didn’t end there. When we arrived back at the hostel after a very sweaty bus journey, we realized we were just in time to attend one of Beijing’s infamous acrobatics shows. Four 5 minute showers later, we bundled into another mini bus and off we sped. Jav and I saw the same show a year and a half ago but we were pleased to note that they had changed it since then (after all, variety is the spice of life). The cast had grown up since then, so gone were the days where they chucked around small children wily-nily. Instead we got a juggling act and some very bendy women doing all-manners of unbelievable things. They still finished with ‘the bike’ finale where about 15 women all get onto one bike and make pretty shapes. Amazing. We didn’t get back to our hostel until late again so we didn’t eat until 9.30pm, and there concludes another tiring day for Dad and Lynne. Saying that, after some fantastic Hunan food (always the best) Dad tried to convince us all to stay up all night partying, so it couldn’t have been too bad. Unfortunately for him we didn’t all have day/night reversal and we had an early flight to Guilin the next day so we had to decline his invitation. Never fear though, Dad more than made up for it later on ;). With a heavy heart, we said goodbye to Beijing a second time.

Watch it love

Thats one hell of a picture Sangra!

Comments (View)
Jul
3rd
Sun
permalink

Huang Shan

China is famous for its mountains but only Jav had managed to actually climb one so far (Wu Gong Shan in Pingxiang). I was jealous in some respects and decided that in order to make up for it I would climb the most beautiful mountain in China (but Jav also climbed it so in hindsight it didn’t really make up for anything)! Huang Shan in Anhui Province is considered to be the most beautiful mountain so we made a beeline for it.

It's a biggun

Huang Shan is kind of in the middle of no-where so we had to stay overnight in a nearby-ish city called Tunxi. Tunxi could best be described as Pingxiang’s ugly brother! It was a very simple city with an abundance of filth (and bad smells). It seemed that the best way to get around was by peddelo as taxis never seemed to use their meters. We looked in the guide book to find a good restaurant and it led us to old street. Old Street was a nice surprise. It did what it said on the tin (it was a street and it was old) but it upped my opinion of Tunxi a little. It was also a very popular place with Japanese Tourists. The restaurant we went to was the most famous one in Tunxi because it had a long history. It was sort of a mix between a restaurant and a buffet and we couldn’t quite figure it out. Jav and I were craving dumplings so we ordered an inordinate amount of them, the bigger the better. It was a shame that all the big ones turned out to be filled with sweet potato. They were so filling! To burn off the food we had a walk around old street looking at the tourist tat and then had an early night.

I have doubts about it's age as it looks new fangled to me!

Is there a princess hiding in that tower?!

Have you ever seen such a variety of dumplings?

Show off!

The next day Jav and I had to get a local bus to Huang Shan. We got up nice and early to get there as the bus took 2 hours and it wouldn’t leave until every last seat was filled. I was excited about spending 3 hours climbing a mountain (there is something not right about that) but I was a bit disappointed when we arrived at the mountain. There had been a landslide on the trail leading up to the top of the mountain and we had to take a cable car up. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we got to do the 5 hour hike around the peaks at the top from east to west, which we would have been too exhausted to do had we climbed the mountain. The weather was perfect when we arrived so we really got to appreciate the views. Most of the peaks and rock formations had been named in typical Chinese fashion so I think we managed to see Lion Peak, Fawlty Towers, Peter Pan’s Point and Mao’s Magic Wand Peak (ok, I may have made some of those names up). Despite the horrendous amount of stairs we had to endure (they never end) we really enjoyed the hike (although my skin would have liked it better if it hadn’t been quite so red). We didn’t arrive at our hotel until 7pm for some overpriced noodles and a nice sleep. The overpriced noodles were a reality but the nice sleep was a thing of fiction. Jav and I had dorm beds in different rooms which meant it was just us and the locals. I think Jav enjoyed the attention from his card playing and beer drinking crew but I had two women and a little girl in my room who just stared at me all night, occasionally offering me some green tea, until I pulled the blanket up over my head and faced the wall. Even then the little girl had a snore on her like a lions roar and I constantly had to get up to shake the bed (I’m cruel aren’t I?!).

I have got that pose dooooown

The locks show their love shall never be broken

Ah, it's a beaut

We climbed that we did

Mist -tical

The next day Jav and I got up at 4am to see the sunrise over the mountain. We walked up a high peak for 40 mins to get the best views and plonked ourselves down on a rock at the top. Unfortunately the weather was quite cloudy and misty and we didn’t get to see much of the sun. It was quite spooky being up there as one minute you could only see your hand in front of your face and the next a gap appeared in the mist and a massive mountain peak appeared. I think I preferred the misty weather as it gave a very mystical (get it?!) appearance to the mountain. Jav and I have decided that ‘Monkey Looking Over the Mountain’ peak, or whatever it was called, definitely seemed more spectacular with the mist. Now you see the monkey, now you don’t, now you see the monkey, now you don’t etc. If you want the full monkey experience you can check out the short video we made. You won’t be disappointed, I promise you!

There are actual mountains there

You can see them a little bit now

Check out those stairs

After the sunset and some breakfast we had to start our descent sown the mountain. This was a killer as to get down you had to climb the two highest peaks; Bright Summit and Lotus Peak (these were actually their names). It was really daunting looking up at the steepest set of stairs I have ever seen and not be able to see the top. We made it though and we even got a medal at the top of Lotus Peak. Even better, the mist cleared for brief seconds so we could actually appreciate the view that we had climbed all that way to see. Thankfully the stairs actually started to go down after this peak and we walked down meeting some old men carrying up gas cylinders, bags of rice, and massive watermelons on the way (show offs). We have to admit that the last hour was ridiculously painful as our knees started protesting all that down hill walking and they were still stiff from the day before. We were grateful when we reached the bottom and caught a bus back to Tunxi for the night. All in all Huang Shan is a great mountain but not for the unfit. Actually, I enjoyed it so much I might take up mountain climbing as a new hobby . . ( Jav says no).

I ain't afeared of heights

But I'm afeared of stairs

Fear is a very becoming look

Comments (View)
Jul
2nd
Sat
permalink

Hangzhou

After Pingxiang, Jav and I took an overnight train to Hangzhou city (we actually got some sleep on the train!). This was really nothing more than a stop over before we climbed Huang Shan mountain, but it turned out to be a really nice place. When we arrived we had to navigate the craziest train station I have ever seen. It took us about 40 minutes to get out of it! Once we had cleared it however we were on the way to our hostel. Our hostel was in a perfect location by the West Lake.

Nice

Damn umbrella!

The West Lake is Hangzhou’s biggest tourist attraction. It is also a world heritage sight. Normally I find myself disappointed by big Chinese tourist attractions but the lake was worth the trip. It was massive with mountains facing one side, and it was surrounded by temples and pagodas. Jav was getting in picture mode so he brought a traditional Chinese wooden umbrella as a prop. I know this is for women only but Jav wasn’t having it (it has later been confirmed that wooden, ornate umbrellas have no place with men). To get the ultimate pictures for Jav, we decided the best way to see the lake was by boat so we took a short boat cruise to an island in the centre of the lake. The island was a nice get away and a shaded walk (it is unbelievably hot there!). It was enough just to check out the scenery but the suicide fish we saw kept it really interesting. There was a small pond full of fish beneath a walkway. The fish started off jumping out of the water and doing some somersaults and then they got really cocky and started jumping on the walkway much to the horror of the tourists as they had no idea what to do with them. In the end they just kicked them back in the water. I was deeply shocked that they didn’t just stick them in a bag to take home and cook later. It was very un-Chinese of them.

Thats what its all about

It's not very often you'll see me looking feminine

Sadly, Jav often looks feminine

Did I mention the massive dragon boat?

Can't get enough of those towers

After our boat cruise we took a trip to Leifang Tower. This used to be an old temple but it was destroyed after an earthquake and a tower/museum was built in its place. The museum was pretty naff and the main reason for going was to get the view over the lake from the top of the tower. We spent a long time up there as Jav wanted to wait until sunset (of course) but it was a quiet retreat so we didn’t mind. I think the cleaners might have wanted us to leave a bit earlier but tough luck! If the zoom function on our camera had been better Jav would have kept us up there till sunrise as well.

Where's the umbrella

And Jav said I couldn't take pictures

Here comes the sunset

But is it worth the wait I ask you?

I'll put a spell on you . . .

Sadly we only had one day in the city before we left for the mountain but it was a nice one. We would recommend a trip to West Lake to anyone brave enough to travel to China. We wouldn’t recommend buying a traditional Chinese wooden umbrella as it was a heartbreaking goodbye when we had to leave it in the hostel because it didn’t fit in our bags. Farewell sweet umbrella. Thanks for protecting us from the sun and providing many a photo opportunity. P.S – If you are reading this and you happened to stumble across an umbrella in a hostel in Hangzhou, then we would like to inform you that we have placed a curse on it and it will destroy all photos it is in apart from ours. That will teach you – cheapskates!

Comments (View)
Jul
1st
Fri
permalink

Goodbye Pingxiang!

In the two years we have been in Pingxiang we haven’t written much about it on our blog. Clearly, having spent nearly 2 years there, we have become very attached to Pingxiang so we wanted to write a blog entry saying goodbye to our second home – the sometimes lovely and sometimes frustrating Pingxiang.

We love the new chairman Mao statue!!

Our old teaching building

The running track - sniff

It is hard to know where to begin really! Our last week in Pingxiang was quite emotional as we had to say goodbye to all of our students and friends, some who we have taught and been friends with from the very beginning. The students were very sweet when they found out we were leaving for good and they lavished us with gifts. The photo albums they made us were incredible and will serve us as an excellent reminder of our time in Pingxiang teaching them. Hopefully all their presents will arrive back in England in one piece as we had some drama with China Post who refused to send anything but letters (what is the point of that post office?). We managed to convince them to send some things but they were unamused to say the least.

The last supper with the students

The second to last supper with the leaders!

Thankfully, the last ever karaoke

I think our last day in Pingxiang was the hardest. We met our closest friends, Olina, Carrie, and Fiona for lunch and then took a final tour of Pingxiang. Javid had his camera at the ready and has virtually recreated Pingxiang in pictures! The lunch was fantastic and we got to have our favourite dishes one last time

Too emotional to comment

Pingxiang city from above

Pingxiang locals

We had to return to our empty apartment in the evening to do some last minute packing but then we were invited to the last college banquet of the year. This was a brilliant way to say goodbye to everyone at the college and tears were shed (by me and not Javid surprisingly!). We were sat at the table with all of the leaders so naturally we got drunk (possibly very unwise before a 12 hour train journey?). We had our final toasts with Bob and Eric, our favourite leaders, who have always added cheer to our time in Pingxiang. We also got to say goodbye to fellow teachers such as Lydia (we are so sad we will not get a chance to see your baby), Henry, and Wayne who we met in the very beginning. After tears and hugs we returned to our apartment for the very last time to collect our bags. There was a really beautiful purple sunset so Jav set off with his camera while I cherished my last cigarette on our balcony, saying goodbye to the bat that lives in our roof. When Jav returned and our apartment was checked for damage (I think we actually left it in better condition than when we moved in), we got our taxi to the train station. Olina, Carrie, and Fiona came to see us off which was really sad and emotional. We were all doing ok until we had to board the train, then there were waterworks all round. Without these three wonderful ladies we probably wouldn’t have survived Pingxiang so we owe them a lot. Sadly they all left the college this year to go back to university so we didn’t get a chance to spend as much time with them as we would have liked this year, but we know we will see them again.

Pingxiang college crew

I'm looking forward to your babies

The fantastic Mr Eric

Da Bob Father

All that remains now is for us to say individual thank yous to the people who make Pingxiang so great. I guess we will start with Grandad the gatekeeper. We have always had a bit of a rocky relationship with old granddad but he still has a special place in our hearts. Yes, we have been angry when he has locked us out of the apartment (we will miss your plethora of locks) and gossiped about us to anyone who could speak Chinese. Yes, we may have been offended when he spat every time he saw us, and we may have been a little bit repulsed to see him go through our poo paper bin in search of plastic. He may of pushed it too far when he claimed we had mental health problems because we walked around in bare feet. Despite these things, he also gave us great cheer when we saw him in his big boxer shorts and vest every morning, when he talked to his Chinese flag, and when he smiled after receiving a bag of his precious plastic. At the very least, life with Grandad was never boring so we would like to say thank you to him for that.

The Grandad

The next group of thank yous go to all the food stalls on filth street, for without them we may well have starved. First, lets say thanks to fried food lady. Her deep fried sausages, potato, taro, and chicken have become the things of legend. At least once a week we would take a trip to her stall and she would always have a smile for us and occasionally free fried produce for us to try. Thank you fried food lady!!

Love you fried food lady!

I think Jav's eyeing up your sausage!

Jav's rocking the wrap

Next we have to say thanks to Shandong Wrap man. He probably received most of our custom. It is hard to explain a Shandong wrap as we are unsure of what some of the ingredients are, but needless to say they are exceptionally delicious and slightly addictive! Sometimes wrap man could be a little unnerving, speaking to us in Chinese really fast when he knew we couldn’t understand and sometimes having a laugh at our expense with the students, but we feel his heart is in the right place. How could we hold a grudge against him when he let us make our very own Shandong wraps in the last week? It is true that he had very little choice as we were all quite drunk after a banquet and fairly determined to make a wrap, but he went along with it. I truly feel I have learnt a lot from wrap man.

So far so good

Then it goes a bit wobbly . . .

You eat that wrap and pretend to enjoy it!

Then we come to fried bread lady. There is very little nice things we can say about her as a person as she is soooooo grumpy most of the time, but she gets credit for great fried bread. We often talked about the great fried bread challenge (eat a whole one in a sitting) but we never got the chance to do this. I think she may have actually smiled if we had attempted the challenge! This is no time for regrets however, so thank you fried bread lady for clogging up our arteries in style!

She is nearly smiling

The fried bread challenge that never was

Our very last Filth Street tribute goes to the dumpling providers. Baozi man, what can we say?! It started off so wonderfully. No one could do a steamed, meat filled dumpling quite like you. Sadly towards the end there was more grease than meat in your dumplings so we had to retreat, but we never forgot you. You have to know that we tried to stomach your dumplings every week in the hope that the grease would go but we remained disappointed. Still, with a smile like yours we could never be angry.

Give me some free greasy baozi!

Jiaozi lady, your dumplings remained consistently good. I looked forward to the weekends just so I could taste your dumplings again. Occasionally I would be a little confused when you refused to let me change my order (why do you always make me have two portions?) but I would always eat all that you gave me in the end. Thank you for many a wonderful breakfast and lunch.

I'm salivating just by looking!

I'll miss you most of all :(

We cannot finish our goodbye blog without some final mentions. Dumpling restaurant – you are legend! Walking street, we will miss your pyjama clad inhabitants. Rainbow road, you’re very colourful. Fake DVD shops, you have provided us with hours of entertainment. Hotpot restaurant, you stole our hearts. Finally, Babara – the only and best source of entertainment in Pingxiang. Sorry for the smashed tables, broken podiums and the many late nights we have caused you. We love you Pingxiang! See you again sometime…

Good times at the dumpling restaurant

Lets go walking in pyjamas

Rainbow road!

No more smoking inside :(!

Eh up - who's this geezer?

Filth street!

Comments (View)
Feb
7th
Mon
permalink

Sanya

To end our winter travels we decided to escape the cold and make our way to warmer pastures, and what better place could that be than China’s very own beach resort?

Complete with western pubs and not one, but three beaches (hence the name – ‘san’ means 3 in chinese), Sanya is the place to go for a sun-soaked holiday. Unfortunately for me, our trip there didn’t get off to the best start. On arrival, i was faced with an empty turnstile at baggage collection, only to later find out in a panic that my bag had been held back due to suspicious items. Turns out i had explosives in my bag! I am not a terrorist i assure you, i just packed some bangers i got in Guangzhou, and i also had lighter fluid for my fake Chairman Mao zippo lighter. Being a hot-spot for tourist holiday makers, airport security was resultingly tighter - that’s my excuse anyway! But Chrissy would probably say that i am just a stupid idiot! She is probably right. Needless to say, our first day was dampered somewhat by me being bagless, but we did manage to have a brief visit to one beach to have a quick gander. Fortunately, later that night, my bag did arrive at the hostel we were staying at, so all was well!

Sanya - Chinas own tropical paradise

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Or is it Jav?

Relieved, the next day we were hoping for better luck, but it seems Sanya just had it in for us from the get-go. We had booked a hostel online and had to move there in time for our reservation. Due to it being prime time tourst season for chinese people though, getting a taxi was nigh-on impossible. We ended up having to lug all of our bags onto a local, cramped bus, with little idea where we were going except some vague directions from the hostel owner. We got there in the end though, but it was rather more desolate that we had hoped. The private beach we had there wasn’t the most beautiful of all, so we decided to trip back into the main city to go to Dadonghai beach – probably the best one in terms of things to do. The are plenty of bars and restaurants along it so we managed to chill out with a cocktail or two.

Fag ash lil

The Russians love their volleyball

Luck was still alluding us though, as on the next day we decided to go to the train station to get tickets back to Guangzhou for our flight back to Pingxiang. With no hope in hell of getting a taxi, we took a bus which took an age to get there, only to find out that all tickets had gone (or they wouldnt sell us one – which is perfectly probable here in China). Hot, sweaty gloomy and possiticely pissed-off with Sanya by this point, we had no choice but to shell out a fortune on flight tickets. We had to salvage the day, so we took refuge on Sanya bay, a really long beach which wasn’t too far from the train station. It isn’t recommended by many, or the travel guide, be we quite liked it. It was tranquil and quiet here at least, so i had a nice swim in the sea and Chrissy dozed away her worries. It was also the spot where we saw a legendary chinese woman buried up to her neck in sand with an umbrella propped up over her head. The chinese really dont like the sun! It baffles us why they even bother going to the beach, but there you have it!

Putting the old suncream on

Why?

Having seen 2 out of the 3 famous beaches here, we thought we might as well go for the triple, so Yalong bay was next. This is a private resort that is quite a way from the main city, so we decided to book transport with our hostel. Fat lot of good that did us! They told us to meet a driver at a bus stop in town. Of course, he didn;t show, so we had to make our own way there. A man in a van was hollering for tourists wanting to go there, and with the help of a little haggling and bludgering communication with chinese touists, we managed to barter our way to the beach at a reasonable price. We are glad we did too, as Yalong bay is easily the most beautiful of the 3 beaches. You even have to pay before you can enter (we have heard many people avoid this by sneaking in through the hotels, but after the time we were having, we couldn’t be bothered). The funny this is, on the way in you are herded through a shell museum – i have never seen anybody so fascinated by shells as the chinese! Bless their hearts. We sped through having seen a million shells in our lifetime though, and enjoyed the beach. We had a gorgeous day too and got totally burnt to a crisp!

The Jav pose

The Chrissy pose

Look at that water

To end the day, we made our way back into town. This time we got a local bus which was rammed – we were stuck at the front right on the dashboard though so it was quite a thrilling ride with great scenery of the island! We then saw a BBQ buffet restaruant which looked promising, so we gave it a try. It was the strangest buffet ever – they had chef-waiters who came out intermittantly with boiling hot skewers of various meats that they piled onto your plate fresh off the grill. Our chinese for obscure meats isn’t that great though, so we had no idea what we were eating. We are pretty sure we had a chicken heart at one point! To follow our feast, we were then invited to a BBQ by some chinese folks staying at our hostel. They were a very kind and friendly couple from Guangzhou of all places, so we had plenty to chat about over beers.

Is this the food poisoning culprit?

BBQ joy

Red as a lobster

Chezi

Sadly, Chrissy was ill the next morning – to this day we dont know if it was the chicken heart or some dodgy BBQ oysters, but in any case she was out of action. There wasn’t much i could do for her either except let it all come out. She wanted to be alone in this time of trauma, so i took advantage of the hostel’s offer of free hammocks, found some trees nearby and swayed the day away. I felt like Homer Simpson! I had the beers and everything! There were some chinese brick-layers right by me too sweating and slaving away, which made my relaxation all the more enjoyable!

Hammock whore

Chrissy was still a little queasy the next day, so we took it easy back at Dadonghai beach. We played frisbee with some Hawaii clad locals and generally had a nice day, topped off with a fantastic pizza at an Italian restaurant we sniffed out. Seriously, it was immense! Real cheese (blue cheese included) has never been as mouth-wateringly delicious than after a half year of cheese craving. Yum.

Hawaii

And the sunsets on another glorious day

Ah, relaxation

Pretty beached out, we decided for a change and so planned to visit a spa/hot spring resort. Stupidly, we tried to arrange a trip there with our new hostel (Sanya was that busy, we had to vacate our last one) but as with our previous experience, this wasn’t to be. After our adventurous journey there, which included a local tricycle dude, and after problems with our booking at many different information desks, we finally managed to kick back in some hot spa and jacuzzis. The most confusing part of the whole experience was the pool filled with fish that ate your body. Everyone’s sitting there calmy enjoying the fish sucking off their dead skin while Chrissy and I sat there in hysterics, piercing the calm atmosphere with our screams of terror. In the evening, we met up with our friend Tan and had a piss-up with her and some folks we met that evening (with her help of course – she is a master of getting together with strangers that woman). We played ring of fire (of course) and headed to the beach for some late night frolics. Me and Chrissy would have preferred to go to a club, but seeing as they were dead we had no choice but to watch Tan’s master plan of ‘losing’ her clothes in the sea come to fruition in pursuit of some french dude. It was all pretty fun in the end though.

Jav loves the oldies

The fish love a bit of dead skin

That was pretty much it. We had one more day there before we left, so we ate more and more western food from the pubs, said goodbye to the Tan machine and flew back to Pingxiang.

Comments (View)
Jan
31st
Mon
permalink

Guangzhou

Guangzhou is like the Hong Kong of mainland China so we thought it would be a good place to see in the year of the rabbit! Guangzhou is also massive but with many a Western treat hence why we spent most of the time either drunk or hungover! We did get to see some things though, it wasn’t all about the alcohol abuse! The first day was probably our most active in fact. In the centre of Guangzhou they uncovered an ancient tomb in a hill. The tomb was of an ancient emperor called the Nanyue King. Jav and I our secretly into our history so we enjoyed a great day there.

Sadly, this burial suit was missing a body

The tomb has been excavated of course, but they have put most of their findings in a great museum. It was really fascinating to see how they buried kings in those days. For a start, when the king died all his concubines and his wife were buried alive with him along with some guards. Now that is true love! Unfortunately their bodies have long since decomposed but we did get a good look at the king’s teeth.

 And sadly these teeth were missing a skull

After the museum we walked to Yiexiu Park which is the largest park in Guangzhou. It was a pretty standard park but there was a nice pavilion which you could climb up and a statue depicting the legend of the Five Rams (five immortals who came to earth as goats and founded Guangzhou). Jav felt a bizarre affiliation to that statue! When we finally got back to the hostel it didn’t take long before we met a suitable group of drinking partners. It didn’t help that our hostel was situated on bar street. Things were bound to get messy! We went to a bar called Amigos that night where the singer harassed me until I stood up and did the Macarena on stage with her. It was no wonder I had to get drunk first! This night was the beginning of the end for us and so started our massive 5 day drinking binge. I didn’t think I could consume so much alcohol at my age. The hangovers were pretty evil. When our friend Hannah (and Taz ) arrived the next day (she is also teaching at our college) I was in a pretty bad way! Hannah and Taz soon joined in the merriment.

 You'd be hard pushed to find a park this nice in England!

The famous Guangzhou goats

The view of Guangzhou city from the park

On the third day our hangovers had started decreasing so we made our preparations for the Chinese New Year. Being the year of the rabbit we had to go shopping for some rabbit paraphernalia. We found what we wanted on the main high street but we made the mistake of wearing the ears in public and we were followed/chased down the street by photographers who were determined to get about a million pictures of us with our ears on. Seriously, I think Britney Spears or Michael Jackson returned from the dead still wouldn’t have gotten as much attention. It was crazy!!! To escape we had to go clothes shopping. Well, it is tradition to buy new clothes for the new year! That night Jav, me and our drinking posse all got hideously drunk and checked out some nightclubs (stripper clubs?) Unfortunately Taz went AWOL and we are yet to find out what happened to him that night as he still hasn’t recovered his memory! Unlike Beijing, fireworks have been banned in Guangzhou so there wasn’t the firework spectacular that we had hoped for.

Welcome to the year of the rabbit!

Who knew that rabbit ears could cause so much pain

let the fun begin!

Such a small lion

The reason we went to Guangzhou for New Year is that we heard it was the place to see the Lion Dances. On New Years Day we went on a hunt for these but we were disappointed. Some of the shops had small lion dances for good luck but nothing on the scale we were hoping for. We ended up back at the high street where we were in awe of the sheer number of Chinese people you could find in one place! It was nuts! After this we went to Shamian Island. This used to be a British Colony and still has many foreign delights (starbucks, alcohol etc). It is also the place to adopt a Chinese child and we saw some western couples getting to know their new baby girls there. We played in the exercise parks for a while and stocked up on booze for the night.

Anyone for a spot of shopping?!

When we got back to our hostel we were in luck. The place was swarming with police and army guys as a firework display was to take place that night outside our hostel as there was a huge river. Thankfully we managed to get quite a good spot but there was a looooong wait (as there always is in China). To pass the time we entertained the masses with our personal rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. It seemed to do the trick as the fireworks started soon afterwards!!!! Despite all odds, we still managed to get drunk again that night. By this point I think the hostel was annoyed with our rowdiness and threatened to call the police on us so we tried out a new club called Velvet. Sadly, I can’t really remember much about that night! I remember going there and then it all becomes a blur …

Waiting, waiting and more waiting

Finally some action

It just kept on coming!

It finally dawned on Jav and I that we still hadn’t seen much of Guangzhou so we decided to go to the famous military academy. It was here that they trained the army for the revolution (in secret as they were supposed to be working with the government at the time). It is also a place of dedication to the first man to introduce democracy to China (look at how that worked out!). There is still a military base near the Whampoa Academy so it was hard to take pictures on the way but it involved a nice ferry ride down the river. When we arrived at the museum it was a bit hectic! It was rammed with Chinese people and there wasn’t much to see. Trying to get the ferry back was a nightmare. I have never seen queues like it!!! I got beaten by an hold lady holding a pram, such was their desperation to get on the godforsaken ferry! By the time we got back to our hostel I was in desperate need of some BBQ. Guangzhou has some amazing BBQ stalls. We would definitely recommend the BBQ aubergine!

The founder of democracy in China

As it was the last night in Guangzhou for a lot of our drinking crew we said goodbye in style by taking a Pearl River Cruise. We had given up on alcohol at this point so we could just sit back and enjoy the views. It was a sad time as we had become quite attached to our posse.

It was enchanting

We had a gay old time

What is this thing?

Everyone loves a colourful bridge

What else is there to do on a boat but be a tower?

On the 6th day we took the remaining people on a trip to China’s biggest theme park, Chime Long (no trip with Jav would be complete without it). Despite my reservations I was actually very impressed. They had some amazing rides, like the double drop oblivion, and for us cowards there was a nice circus as well. Only in China could you go to the circus to see bears riding bicycles! They also had a stunt show with some wicked special effects. I think the past part of it for Jav was the tiger mascots however!

It had to be done

Rides that make chrissy cry - number 1

Rides that make Chrissy cry - number 2

I'm the one with the whip

Bears on motorbikes, whatever next . . .

Bears in wheelchairs - it's inevitable

The restaurant of doom

On our final day we decided to go to the best dim sum restaurant in Guangzhou. We didn’t really try any good dim sum in Hong Kong so this was our last chance. The restaurant is very famous as it is so old (there aren’t very many old things left in China) so the queue was out of this world! Luckily, the restaurant was near a beautiful lake so we could entertain ourselves while we were waiting. However, as luck would have it no-one can escape the wait!!!! The wait was worth it though, the dim sum was amazing! I’m pretty sure your only supposed to order a few dishes but we were starving so we filled our table (much to the amusement of the other guests). After this we stocked up on McDonalds and coffee as we had to stay up all night for our 7am flight to Hainan Island.

A stroll in the local park

I think I'll eat one of you later

This has to be dog abuse!

I am not a fan of waiting!

I call this picture, Dim Sum Madness

Comments (View)
Jan
21st
Fri
permalink

Lijiang

Of all the places we traveled to in the holidays, I was most excited about Lijiang. Yunnan is full of ethnic minorities but Lijiang is famous for the Naxi people who are a matriarchal group (meaning the women rule the roost!). The Naxi people don’t really marry and all heritage goes through the women. Lijiang is their birthplace and it is well preserved. Jav was most excited about the 2 day trek we were undertaking (of course!).

Same same as Dali but different

On the drive from Dali to Lijiang, Jav and I were struck by the amazing views. It is really mountainous in this part of Lijiang and the countryside is phenomenal. We went past some beautiful places but sadly we didn’t know how to get back to them. Fortunately, I had a lovely reminder of that wondrous journey in the form of food poisoning. I hadn’t had food poisoning in a while so it was like a visit from an old friend (or mortal enemy). When we got to Lijiang, and our traditional Naxi family house, Jav spent most of the day nursing me. I’m pretty sure it was one of the highlights of the trip for him.

You have to admire Chinas countryside

Thankfully I managed to sweat out my food poisoning in one day and we were ready to explore the labyrinth that is Lijiang the next day. The streets and houses have no order at all in Lijiang and as there are so many tourist shops, everywhere looks a bit similar so of course we got lost. There were maps dotted around but it would have helped if we could read Chinese! Jav and I soon decided that getting lost in Lijiang is the best way to explore it and we had a great day wandering about and checking out the local products and food (anyone for some dried yak meat?).

You have to admire Chinas countryside

It's all about the lantern shots

Shops, shops and more shops!

Jav looking beautiful

The center of all cities in China seems to be KFC. If you find KFC you have found the hub of that place. While Jav and I were sitting in KFC taking in the ambience, we saw all the Naxi people gathering outside. We had heard that the Naxi people liked to have impromptu dancing sessions so we ran out to join in. All their dances take place in a big circle and they are very patient in showing you the moves (and it helps that it is quite simple). Some of us embraced it more than others (Jav!). It think he just liked holding peoples hands!

Don't be shy, give it a try

Jav can't stop those dancing feet

Jav and I were feeling a bit ethnic after all that dancing so we brought tickets to see the Naxi orchestra. After the revolution in China, many local and traditional instruments were lost and people forgot how to play them. In Lijiang they have managed to preserve this culture so we wanted to have a look. It was soooo worth it! It was hysterical (for all the wrong reasons). Nearly everyone in the orchestra was over 80 and, bless them, they could barely keep their eyes open. While they were waiting for their section, they each had a little nap! They looked amazing though in their traditional dress with their long beards and their music was quite good, but Jav and I couldn’t help but place bets on who would keel over first!

Oh to have a beard like that

IOh to have a nap like that

Oh to have a drum that big

The view from Elephant Hill

On the third day Jav and I went to the local park. It’s called Dragon Pool Park and it has a huge lake in the centre of it. This lake is at the heart of Naxi culture and the local people worship it. Lijiang’s skyline is dominated by a massive mountain called the Jade Snow Mountain, and this park was a good place to get the best views. It was a bit of a mission to get in the park as there were people trying to scam you everywhere. The park is free but all entrances are covered by people telling you to buy a ticket (the money goes to them). We found one entrance but the woman would not let us past until we agreed to pay her for being our guide. She was the worst guide I have ever had the misfortune to meet! She literally walked us down the road, took us in a side gate and demanded money! We tried to ask her what she actually wanted money for but she called on her other ‘tourist guides’ and we ended up in a bit of a slanging match. We ended up paying her half of what she wanted but I’m sure she made a lot of money off other vulnerable tourists that day! When we finally got rid of the women, we had a look around. We took many a picture of us by the pagodas with the mountain in the background. We also climbed Elephant Hill (it felt more like a mountain to me!) where we got really spectacular views. It’s amazing how you can waste a whole day in a park!!

A room with a view

Can you see the mountain?

Can you see it now?

Wish you were here?

The fourth day was the big day as we embarked on our two day trek to Tiger Leaping Gorge. This is a famous trek in China and we had heard many things about it. Just check it on the internet! Half of the people who have been there have said it’s a Chinese must do and the other half warn of certain death. Naturally we were a bit apprehensive!!! Either way we had to go. We had seen pictures of the views and they were worth dying for! We left early in the morning from our guesthouse and we meet a great group of people on the drive. Josh, Seb, Rachael and Hattie were all teaching in Guangdong province so it was nice to compare experiences. In addition, the drive to Tiger Leaping Gorge was really long so we were glad of the company! When we got to the start of the trail we got a little scared. The 1st three hours of the hike is all up hill, and it was the one place in Yunnan province where it was hot. Jav and I managed the first 2 hours alright then we bailed and hired some horses. The last hour of the trail was a part called the 28 Bends and is notoriously hard work as it’s very, very steep. Thankfully, our horses/donkeys could take the strain. We did feel a little bad to see the 50 year old horse owners strolling up the 28 bends while we stole their horses though!

out of this world

That is the best pose yet

Me and my horse

Is it a horse or a donkey? You decide!

The views on the trek are out of this world, so even though it is strenuous we didn’t really notice as we were just looking around us the whole way. We did start to feel the strain by the time we had reached the halfway point and our hostel. Seven hours of hiking is pretty knackering! The hostel was really great and it was the perfect way to unwind. It had some great food and even better scenery. Even though it was pitch black, we saw the best views that day on the ‘star deck’. The night sky on a mountain is so clear and it felt like we could see every star in the sky. If it hadn’t got so freezing at night time we probably would have slept out there.

Jav is getting on in years near and needs some stick shaped support

JHappy every day!

One day I'll learn how to look at the camera

Ahhhh

The second day of the trek was by far the hardest. It was all down hill but it started to get quite dangerous as the trail wasn’t clearly signposted. We meet quite a few people along the way stranded on random rocks! Lucky for us we had a guide. The hostels at the end of the trail had managed to train their dog to meet tourists and lead them back to the hostels! Seriously, this dog was with us the whole way. If anyone fell behind the dog went back and waited for them until they caught up and then the dog would run to the front to continue leading us. It was great! I honestly think we owe a lot to that dog and he managed to get us to the end safely. I say the ‘end’, but it wasn’t really. Tiger Leaping Gorge is named so after an old legend about a tiger leaping across the river in the gorge on 3 stones. On the last part of the trek you can walk down to the river and see the stone. It was difficult getting down but it was amazing to see how big and fast the river was as we had only seen it from very high up and it seemed tiny.

It really is safe to walk through a waterfall on a mountain

Our guide

So thats what the river looks like

Which one is the Tiger Leaping stone?

Jav's giving you a clue

Needless to say when we finally got back we needed some serious down time. We went for a celebratory dinner at an Italian restaurant with our friends and on the way we stumbled across the Naxi folk again, this time dancing around the bonfire. They are so talented! After a boogie it was straight to bed we went and we stayed their whole of the next day.

Where is the dancing?

Jav - the one true Naxi

They don't make wall paintings like they used to!

On the 7th day we felt whole again so we took a trip to a local village called Baisha which is the original settlement of the Naxi people. The village itself is nothing exciting but it was nice to see old the old Naxi people walking around doing their thing (which meant the women did all the hard work while the men sat around playing mahjong!). We were only there for a few hours until we became unsettled by the sheer amount of livestock in that place. We tried to see a famous Chinese medicine doctor while we were there but sadly he is getting on in years and was taking a nap. We did manage to see some preserved temple paintings from way back when inside one of the temples there. It sounds boring, but we love these pictures of ancient gods. They are so vengeful and colourful!

See what I mean about the livestock?

Fancy a game of mahjong?

The next day we decided to do the one thing that tourists usually come to Lijiang for – that is the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. We had heard it was magnificent with yaks walking around and huge meadows. Sadly in winter it is not the same. The mountain itself is massive and at the top you can suffer from altitude sickness so you have to get a very expensive cable car up to some of the points. We headed to the meadow (of course) but there was nowt but snow and not a yak in sight. Jav was quite upset as he had been promised a glacier but all the guides on the mountain had seemed to forget where it actually was. On the way down we spotted a lake with some yak hanging around so at least we got to see those. We wanted to touch them but they did not look amused by that idea! There is a lesson to be learnt here – Chinese people do not know the meaning of customer satisfaction!

Snow mountain from afar

I don't even know what to say about this pose

The view from halfway up

Peaceful

Jav - the one true Naxi

Touch me and you die

Looking at the past pavillion

The 9th day was our last and Jav wanted to explore all of Lijiang properly now that we had started to get our bearings in the maze. I suspect he also wanted to do some shopping! We went to the highest point in Lijiang, the ‘Looking at the Past Pavilion’ where we got a good idea of how chaotic the layout of Lijiang is! After this we looked in some shops and Jav decided to buy a traditional Chinese instrument (a bit like a flute) in the hope of being the only English person who can play it one day. He has since given up on this dream! We had to get a sleeper train back to Kunming that evening and it was hard work convincing him not to attempt to play the thing on the train!

Ever heard of a town palnner?

Jav was so tired he'd sleep anywhere

What are they trying to prove with these oversized wheels?

Goodbye Lijiang

Comments (View)