A Travellerspoint blog

Xi'an, Shaanxi - Ancient Capital of China, Terracotta Army

Silk Road, terra cotta warriors

sunny

Two nights in Xi'an, main goal, to see the terra cotta warriors, an amazing archaeological find in 1974. Thousands of six foot tall terra cotta soldiers with intricate detail, each unique, as well as chariots and life size terracotta horses were buried near Emperor Qin Shihuang's tomb over 2000 years ago. 700,000 workers laboured nearly 40 years and were then buried alive in the tomb, a thankless job! Archaeological work is still underway, scientists are figuring out how to preserve the original colour which up until recently faded away once exposed to oxygen.
Xi'an was China's most important city until the ninth century, and is still the capital of Shaanxi Province. It is located at the southern-most point of the historic Silk Road.

We arrived in Xi'an at 530 am by train from Chengdu. We had a 'soft sleeper' and two other passengers shared the space. We only used the lower bunk as neither of us felt spry enough to climb into the upper. I did not sleep a wink.
It was a long trip, we left Chengdu about 130 pm - and chugged along in a north easterly direction for 16 hours. It was not a high speed train, stopped frequently, not restful at all. The distance was only 742 km - a really poky train.
In Xi'an our first taxi driver dropped us off in the wrong district and we had to catch a second cab to get to the Ancient City Hostel and we were given our room right away - it is now 630 am. Private bath, two twin beds, pretty basic but clean enough. There was a restaurant/bar on the premises and an elevator.

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My Couchsurfing contact, Jeff, met us at the hostel at 4. This was now our fourth encounter with a Couchsurfer in China and although I had brought along little gifts I had not actually given anything away yet. We had eaten all the chocolate, we had nothing else to give!! Therefore, I was determined to give him the red golf shirt with the Calgary Flames logo on it that was taking up space in my suitcase. Since it had not been made in China I considered it an appropriate gift. He was not familiar with hockey but was gracious in accepting a souvenir from Canada. We visited awhile in the hotel bar and then walked around the Muslim section.

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In ancient times the bell tower signaled the time at the start of the day and the drum tower served this purpose in the evening. The bell was rung every day at dawn for four hundred years.
The Bell Tower marks the centre of the ancient city of Xi'an and is the largest and best preserved bell tower in China.

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They Grow This Way - Better than Burnt Toast with Jesus Image!!

Quail's egg skewers - Street Food in Xi'an

Quail's egg skewers - Street Food in Xi'an

Not to brag but I actually gave Jeff his English name. When we met I asked him to repeat his name so we could try to say it correctly. "I don't have an English name" he told me and asked what I could suggest. His Chinese name started with a J sound so we started rattling off names - first Jim, "that's very common," was his response. "my son's name is Jeff" I told him. Then we suggested Jared, Justin, etc but he liked Jeff so he became my Chinese son. He taught ping pong and gourd flute at a local college. "Perhaps you could help me find a gourd flute,' I mentioned as we walked around the Muslim shopping district. Long story short the next evening we met again and he gave me a gourd flute - beautiful, painted, drones and in a case. He sells them online.

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We had supper in a busy restaurant, we ate the local dish of flat bread and mutton soup/stew.
We broke the bread as instructed and when the bowl was full of little breadcrumbs staff took it away and returned with a steaming hot bowl of meat, noodles, bread, with a slimy texture - it was super tasty. Within 12 hours I was having stomach issues but we all ate it so must have been something else.

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Jeff advised us to forego the terra cotta warrior tour offered by the hostel, it was easy and cheap to take a bus.

Terra Cotta Army
There was a long line up for the terra cotta warrior bus but we were on our way in less than an hour driving from the ancient capital city of Xi'an past the old city wall, through the modern part, eight million people live in Xi'an, into the country. It is about 35 km, and along the way we pass many produce stands and see corn drying on the side of the road.

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There is a large compound with lots of street stalls around the Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses - good enough place to buy souvenirs, they will bargain too.
The Terra Cotta Warriors: Pit 1 is the essential point of interest as this is where the excavated warriors that have been put back together and cleaned up are located. It really is impressive, the huge clay army was buried near the emperor, Qin Shi Huang to protect him in the afterlife

Terra Cotta Warriors Xi'an China Pit One

Terra Cotta Warriors Xi'an China Pit One

Terra Cotta Warriors Xi'an China

Terra Cotta Warriors Xi'an China

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Qin Shihuang was the first emperor of a united China - he started the great wall, standardized the money and writing system and built a lot of infrastructure. He was paranoid about being assassinated.
The basic religion he followed was Legalism, absolute power to the emperor. Qin banned most religion, killed most scholars and burned a lot of books. He wanted history to start with his rule.
Legalism emphasizes the need for order above all things. Force was required and during the Qin dynasty it is thought the population was decreased by half. By fear of death the population was molded to obey the emperor. In China Legalism was kind of a harsh brother to Confucianism. Both philosophies embraced strong central rule, Confucianism is more benevolent. During Qin's rule all but the original version of Confucius' writings were destroyed and it is thought that in a skirmish in the years following Qin's death the library holding the originals was burned to the ground.

Qin built the largest single tomb in the history of the world. The huge terra cotta army would enable him to rule forever in the afterlife.

Qin Shi Huang is buried deep under a hill surrounded by a moat of mercury. To date, science has not come up with a safe way to excavate. Pretty clever for two thousand years ago.

In the evening our friend from yesterday delivered his gifts, the gourd flute and calligraphy of our names prepared by his father who is a calligraphy master. We are overwhelmed and don't know the protocol - what to do? Too bad he only drinks water, we could buy him a drink in the bar. As he sat with us explaining the calligraphy and what it said, what the stamps meant, etc a young man, Nick, at the next table got involved in our conversation. He was from Kansas and spoke very good Mandarin. So he sat with us also and there was a mixed bag of Chinese and English.

When our second Couch Surfing contact, Kai, arrived, It really looked like we were happening people, lots of friends. Introductions all around, Jeff left and Nick hung in for awhile. Kai was a very dynamic individual, a CSI cop, a body builder, kind of an American slant to his proficient English, he had hosted so many Canadians and Americans he knew quite a bit about our ways and our differences. In China it is common for parents of one child to put the child through college, buy their first apartment and babysit their grandchildren. Then it is common for the child to look after his parents in their old age. Well, folks, if you put your kids through college, bought their first home, and provided free child care, it should be payback time.
It isn't every single good looking guy who spends two and a half hours on a Saturday night with a couple of old ladies so our admiration for Kai is boundless.

Our last day in Xi'an was Oct 11 - another fine sunny day, we decided to go to the Shaanxi History Museum near the Wild Goose Pagoda before taking the train to Pingyao.

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It was Sunday, part of the National Holiday period, the lineup for tickets was enormous. After we waited at least one hour in line they closed the ticket office for twenty minutes. Since the tickets were free, (you have to show your passport, then you get a ticket), we decided to stick it out. We really saw very little of this huge museum, a few terra cotta warrior models, some pots. I like these three legged pots mainly because of the design of the Shanghai Museum:

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I recommend Ancient City Hostel. It is right next door to a Police Station. It serves reasonable meals and drinks, the bar area is pleasant, our room was pretty bare bones, but quiet, and the location is excellent, walking distance to the Muslim section, the bell and drum towers plus they offer tours. The staff is pleasant, help arrange for taxis, and there is a lift. For one or two nights, if you don't mind a hard bed, and most beds in China are hard, then stay here.

We are taking the high speed train to Pingyao. It is 525 km but with the train travelling at over 200 km per hour it won't take long - we have first class soft seats, should be fun.

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Posted by CherylGypsyRose 12:01 Archived in China Tagged trains travel in hostels china budget backpacking terracotta warriors Comments (0)

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China's Avatar Mountains

semi-overcast 29 °C

Zhangjiajie karst mountains in the Mist

Zhangjiajie karst mountains in the Mist

We fly from Shanghai to Zhangjiajie on the evening of 24 Sept. The flight is with Shanghai Airlines (East China Airlines) and we depart from Pudong Airport, 172 yuan taxi fare from the Bund. Takes about an hour, good roads, lots of overpasses, freeway, totally modern, well marked, we are amazed by the number of skyscrapers and high rises. The city is huge, some say there may be 30 million people.
Pudong Airport terminal is ultra modern, we are early, but check our bags and hang around in the vicinity of gate 10, charging our phones/cameras and watching the people go by. There are the usual assortment, smart, trendy, fashionistas, dowdy, (that would be us).
I contemplate things I was worried about that have yet to materialize:

  • Nobody would speak English - here in the airport signs are in English as well as Chinese and many of the staff speak English.
  • Crossing the street - we have crossed streets several times and survived even though we were warned not to. I prefer crossing with a bunch of people and sandwiching myself in the middle for a good buffer zone but "eyes in the back of your head," is a phrase that comes to me often as far as both pedestrians and drivers here are concerned. Pedestrians do not have the right of way.
  • I have been here for more than 48 hours and have not used a squat toilet

Shanghai was a good place to start, lots of signs in English, lots of western influence such as stores, and the service industry at tourist-frequented spots speak some English.
The flight cost just over one hundred dollars, we will be travelling south west for 1358 km. We booked the tickets through english.ctrip.com. It is helpful in dealing with english.ctrip.com to have an account with the Royal Bank.

I am excited about going to Zhangjiajie Mountain Park because the mountains resemble Avatar - a movie I have never really watched as I am not a fan of fantasy or science fiction. Still the pictures look incredible and whiling away a week at a mountain resort in China seems adventurous.

Zhangjiajie (pronounced something like jungjowjee)

Located in northwest Hunan province this mountainous region of towering sandstone pillars is reminiscent of another world, perhaps a world created by James Cameron. Avatar-like floating mountains. Talk about scenery!!

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The quartzite sandstone formations are unique to Zhangjiajie, it is a Unesco protected park. Hosting more than 20 million visitors annually it s not a remote wilderness.
Wulinguan Scenic and Historical Interest Area is 264 square miles, it has 243 peaks and 3000 karst pinnacles. Flora and fauna abound, macaques (monkeys), giant salamanders and the aloof clouded leopard (never actually seen), call this region home. Celosias are not a rare flower, but here they grow as big as geraniums!!

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There are cable cars and buses as well as stepped paths.

We are staying at April Hostel near the Wulingyuan entrance to the park. We have to be careful as the streets are being dug up and there is debris and uneven ground:

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The entrance fee to the Park is 248 cny or about 65 Can. and you can use the pass for four days. We found three days to be sufficient and of course many tourists come for just a partial day.

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We spend our first day, 25 Sept at the Wulingyuan side, walking and taking a little train as well as riding the free buses. It is all very civilized, really beautiful and although there are many hikers we find the parts we can actually walk to are spectacular enough for us. I can only take so much breathtaking beauty at my age!!

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26 Sept - I may have wasted money on that four day ticket as this morning I almost electrocuted myself. When I tried to unplug my phone from the converter found one prong was not inserted . I got quite a shock!! 220 volts did not kill me or maybe it was only getting 110.

The second day we took the bus from the Wulingyuan clock tower to the Zhangjiajie entrance, I think seven yuan for the bus, cab fare would have been ten times as much. You pay an attendant on the bus.
There have been world press reports about the Giant Salamander Festival being celebrated right here at Zhanghjiajie, this is a big deal around here, a real delicacy, signs and hooplah. Plus they make expensive skin cream out of parts of the salamander. It seems nothing goes to waste!!

We buy tickets for the cable car and for the first time I show my passport, maybe there is a discount. You bet there was and for seventy yuan I got a round trip ticket. It was really spectacular riding up even though there were four other people in the car with us. The cars are all glassed in to provide maximum viewing. It is almost scary going up, but the scenery is spectacular.
I was just as awe-struck on day two as I had been on day 1.

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The four day entrance ticket covers the park entrance and the free buses but not other modes of transportation. Each time you enter the park they take your thumb print as well as look at your ticket and any purses or packs go through an x-ray security check. We feel pretty safe here.
At the Zhangjiajie entrance to the cable car they take your picture - I thought it was another security check but no, when you get to the top you are offered your picture against a fake backdrop of the mountains. We both said no and carried on to the sightseeing points.

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We have been in China for about four days now and for the first time people are taking pictures of us. It was also the first day I used a squat toilet and while I was thus occupied tourists started taking pictures of Rhea so she was surrounded when I got back. Really on my toes, I instantly took pictures also!! I like taking people pictures, tourists, locals, etc..
I also took a picture of the squat toilet as I expect it to be the first of several encounters with this type of commode:

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Many places have a western style toilet, with a special sign on the door. These are not heavily used so you could actually come to China and never use a squat toilet, however, on this particular mountain there seemed to be only squats available even though there was a KFC where we ate as we wanted a cup of coffee.
It is kind of funny to see a KFC sign at a National Park in China but there are many western chains operating in this country and the Chinese are fond of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Besides chicken and fries they also sell items such as corn on the cob and warm, sweet custard tarts.
We do not think about the Chinese eating corn on the cob and potatoes but they do. Street vendors sell roasted potatoes and corn.

I take pictures of people who are in my camera's view, like this lady eating noodles on the mountain:

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There are many tourists, it is about to be a big holiday week all through China. We are usually the only westerners on the bus. We just point to the place on the map when we get on and the driver either signals for us to sit down or motions to where we should go.
The Chinese are great posers, I took pictures of a few posing and a few dressed in ethnic costumes.

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There is wifi here at all over the National Park, I am getting a better signal than I have in either hotel so I check my emails and send a few:

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There are places to get food, water and souvenirs in the Park:

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There were also a lot of monkeys around today, a pretty good day:

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Even though there are crowds of tourists, I do find a few empty spots where people have ventured earlier, noticeable by the big gob somebody before me had coughed and spit out on the rocks (no spitting!!).
We were alone in the cable car descent which was a bonus!!

At the exit they had keychains with our pictures on them and since these were only ten yuan I purchased my first souvenir.

We had supper at the neighbourhood cafe, we are not very adventurous. This was my first beer in China, I was impressed by the size of the bottle and the cheap price - less than two dollars.

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Even though we are in the mountains it is hot and humid and the beer tastes light and refreshing. The dishes and cutlery are all wrapped up, sealed in plastic, message, sanitary, clean.

On 27 Sept we take an elevator up the mountain. All glass, it is really breathtaking and I again got a seniors discount. I am amazed each time I view the scenery, so different from the mountains back home. Once we get back to the hostel we pack up as tomorrow we are moving hotels. We saw a lady washing clothes in the little stream or canal that runs close to our hotel.

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There are many sights we do not see at home, such as these carriers:

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28 Sept - for the first time we go to the fifteen yuan breakfast and decide we have been missing out - the coffee good and there are an assortment of western and Chinese dishes, I try the pumpkin soup but am not a fan. Rhea had dumplings and we had an enjoyable meal complete with noodles, pickles and corn on the cob:

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Rather than lug our heavy backpacks to the bus depot we decide we need a taxi. Sue at the desk offered to drive us and for that we are very grateful. Taxis won't take six block fares. She helped us onto the right bus and told the driver where we were going. This gesture increased my esteem of April Hostel tremendously. The room had been small and musty, something made me itchy, the view was of laundry drying, roosters were crowing every morning at dawn, the streets were treacherous, but in the end I loved April Hostel. And I will recommend it - very good service, helpful, clean towels, adequate cleanliness - the staff tipped the scale for thoughtfulness, yes recommend.
The bus ride is kind of fun, bumping along, picking up people, kids brighten up when they see us and say, "Hallo."
A familiar sight, clothes drying on the side of the road:

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Another familiar sight is corn drying on the pavement. China grows more corn than rice now. Who knew?

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 00:16 Archived in China Tagged mountains scenery china hostel budget karst avatar independent zhangjiajie wulingyuan Comments (0)

Zhangjiajie and Mount Tianman, China

Karst mountains, longest cable car ride in the world

sunny 26 °C

We moved from the town of Wulingyuan to the city of Zhangiajie on 28 September. We took the little bus from the clock tower, cost is ten yuan and the distance is about 35 km.

The driver had been instructed to let us off at the train station which was the last stop.

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When we arrived at our destination a teenage fellow passenger showed us exactly where to go to pick up our train tickets. People here are very nice to tourists.
I had emailed the hotel to get transfer service from the train station at two pm but had not heard back. Without wifi or cell phone service I had no way of contacting them so just hoped for the best. We had decided to pick up all our train tickets at once. A gentleman of Chinese descent who now lives in LA helped translate when there was a problem with the tickets.
We pre-booked all our train tickets through DIY China online. They charge a small fee but since we were travelling during a very busy holiday season in China we did not want to be stranded. Picking all the tickets up at the same station cost fifty yuan but saved lots of hassle. In all, we have five tickets each.
I was stressing over the hotel transfer situation, we tried to take a cab but they refused, too close. You needed a phone number to get onto wifi and so I could not get hooked up. Where was that American now??? I went to MacDonalds but there was a phone number requirement there also and nobody spoke English. Various people tried to help me get onto wifi but I could not seem to explain my issue due to the language barrier. I had a phone, but I did not have phone service. It seemed complicated to explain because everybody expects you to have cell service. Finally a guard seemed to understand, took out his phone and called the hotel. He signaled for me to stay put and from that I gathered that somebody was coming. I then plunked myself down beside Rhea and wept. Embarrassing but true. And at 205 pm our English speaking landlord arrived. He had a different name written on his paper, maybe he had been over at train arrivals holding that up!! True he spoke English but not enough for us to discuss the name discrepancy.
His hostel was maybe three walking blocks from the train station, a bit longer driving but honestly we would never have found it. From a main street you went down an alley street, lined with businesses and then at the last alley street that branched off you took a left turn. Our room was up a flight of stairs but staff carried our packs and we were pleased the room was bigger, backed on to an elementary school playground and had a lot of hooks to hang things up. The beds were hard but seemed a bit more comfortable than our previous bed.
We asked a couple of other guests, an American and Australian, where they had been eating and on their recommendation went to a cafe a few blocks away and I had kung pao chicken. Rhea was kind of off chicken, she had seen so many caged chickens in Wulingyuan, so she had eggs (???) and tomatoes. There was some kind of weiner-like substance in with the chicken so I pushed that aside.

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On 29 Sept our landlord drove us to the cable car entrance for Tianman Mountain. This is suppose to be the longest cable car ride in the world so we bought round trip tickets. Now to the long line up. The National Holiday starts officially on Oct 1 but there are so many tourists here it is mind boggling. We wait in line for 1.5 hours. Quite a few people stare at us, several take pictures, I don't know whether we are spectacles or celebrities, but it helps pass the time. If they take our picture I try to take theirs.
This dog was ahead of us in line and I don't think he had a ticket:

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The cable car ride is fun, it goes a long ways over fairly flat ground and eventually really climbs, kind of scary in one or two places.

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It takes about thirty minutes. Now we are at Tianmen Park and their are numerous cliff hanging trails, all paved with wood railings, but I am experiencing vertigo and want to hug the mountain wall side, not always possible with all the other tourists. Since I am dizzy and sort of scared in a fun way now, I decide the glass walkways will not be good for me and we do not go that route. For the next few hours I feel a bit disorented, guess I am a bit afraid of heights. However, we enjoyed the descent on the cable car.

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Back at the starting point of our journey we notice the line up is now really small - do not come first thing in the morning - wait til 1130 or 1 pm. I am sure the vast majority of tourists come early to beat the crowds!!
We take a taxi to a shopping centre and go first to the prominent KFC to have a cup of coffee and decide what we need to buy. While we sit there I take a few pictures:

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Rhea likes these split pants on babies, she is going to buy a pair for her new grandson.

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Eventually we shopped and the main item we wanted was a suitcase with 360 degree wheels. I was just so tired of struggling with my backpack, staggering around to put it on and then struggling again to take it off. There have been no cobble stone streets and I can't imagine arriving at our next hotel with those packs. So we buy a matching set, Rhea will keep the big one and I will keep the carry on size, they are kind of cheaply made but they move like a dream. The staff at the department store did not speak English but were very helpful. Nodding, head shaking, showing the price on a calculator, etc. We then wandered into a kind of upper scale department store where I bought a cute pair of pants for my two year old grand daughter. It seems I can always find something for her!!
We took a taxi back to our hostel and chatted with the two young backpackers who had had an exiting day getting lost hiking on Wulingyuan. Hey, we haven't been lost yet. The foibles of others make us glad to be alive and traveling independently in China. Of course we never venture too far afield but still...
The kids in the school next door seem to start quite early and there is a lot of singing. Pretty upbeat, some of it is in English and one song is a kind of phonetic ABC song. Maybe kids here should learn that song too. It is quite catchy.
Our landlord will drive us to the train station tomorrow. We have been to two mountain resorts in China now, we ate moon cakes on 28 September, we have eaten a lot of noodles and supplement with soda crackers, digestive biscuits and oranges. I bought a knife so we can peel fruit, we are getting more organized.
Now we can pack our clothes in suitcases and Rhea's case is big enough for the backpacks which we will use to carry souvenirs on the way home. For the next three weeks though we will not have a need for them, we feel quite civilized walking along with our new luggage, so easy to sit down, so easy to move them around. My right shoulder was sore before we started, now my left shoulder is sore too. High time to ditch the backpacks!!
On our last morning in Zhangjiajie we wandered around the neighbourhood. Just down the street from our hostel a band was playing. The girls working at Hotel California coffee house told us the reason for the band was the celebration of the birth of a new baby. Fun. Because the girls spoke good English we asked them to write the name of the hotel in Yichang in characters.

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Posted by CherylGypsyRose 22:42 Archived in China Tagged mountains travel car cable hostel budget karst seniors independently Comments (0)

Shanghai, China

the Bund, the Oriental Pearl, Yuyuan Gardens, River Cruise

sunny 29 °C

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Shanghai Pudong Airport - Hello China!! We arrived 22 Sept 2015 at 4 pm.

Since I woke up at 430 am in Calgary on Monday morning, Sept 21, and went to bed at 1030 pm in Shanghai on Tuesday 22 Sept, it seems like the longest day even when you factor in the fourteen hour time difference.

Other than losing my reading glasses on the Hainon Airlines leg of the trip it was an ok flight. I watched "Still Alice" not the perkiest movie but it passed the time.

Note - you need to fill in an arrival and departure card for China and the stewardesses pass them out. At customs you will show your passport , turn in your arrival card. Keep your departure card safe until you depart. At both arrival and departure your picture will be taken so if the guard says , "look over there," they mean look at the camera we are going to take your picture.

It took almost two hours to disembark and move through Pudong airport processing to where my couchsurfing contact Peng, was waiting. Since it was now rush hour we decided to take the train. Tickets were seven yuan each. We had to make a transfer, it was very hot and humid and by six thirty pm it was pouring rain.
There are two Fish Inns in Shanghai centre, Peng first escorted us to the wrong one , an honest mistake, the one we were registered at was about eight blocks away.

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After we checked in we walked to the Bund and viewed the incredible skyline through the rain.

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We went to the Coral restaurant in a shopping centre and Peng ordered a huge meal. It is now about 830 pm, my hair is so wet I can actually ring it out, and we are not especially hungry as we were well fed on the plane. We were enthusiastic about going to the restaurant as it gave us a chance to sit down. I eat a number of chicken feet, noodles, fish soup, green beans, two other chicken dishes, sliced, bone in, one hot, one cold, I just asked for a fork and dived in but I do not think we were up for this meal or the visit, too tired and disoriented.

It was great being met by a local, it relieved stress.
Couchsurfing is an organization that connects locals with tourists.

Fish Inn Bund is close to the Bund, Shanghai Museum, People's Square, Yuyuan Park and associated Market. This is a great budget hotel, we paid about sixty Canadian per night and booked it through HRS which we found on Hotels Combined, a good site.
The Bund is a famous area across the river from the financial centre skyscrapers. It is the area where the British, American, and various other countries had concessions back at the turn of the twentieth century. It has a European feel. However, people go to the Bund to admire Shanghai's amazing skyline, The Oriental Pearl is a show piece and they have recently constructed the second tallest building in the world.

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We didn't get going til noon on our first and only full day in Shanghai. 23 September.
30 yuan each for the hop on and off bus which we caught by the huge Forever 21 sign. Starbucks was nearby also. 24 hours of unlimited riding, earphones are provided for an English explanation.

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We rode around twice and then got off at People's Square. Shanghai Museum is here and it is free. All backpacks and purses go through a security machine at the entrance. We did a quick tour, the major bronze pieces are on the first floor and after visiting the tea room on the second floor (croissants three in package for eight yuan) spent the most time in the ethnic minority costume section.

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Shanghai Museum is designed to look like a bronze three legged cooking vessel.. The round top and square base mirror the ancient Chinese perception of a round heaven and a square earth. Very cool.

A large fountain dancing to music is in the square so we watched awhile before hopping back on the bus.
Our next stop was the cruise terminal and our timing was good, we only had to wait 20 minutes and during our hour long cruise it would get dark so we would see the skyline with and without lights.
Picture this: on one side of the river, European, old school style buildings complete with a Big Ben replica.

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On the other side the pulse of Shanghai's financial centre, futuristic skyscrapers, dazzling, stunning, diverse. This is not Chinatown. The river itself is teeming with boats and barges, a real happening place.

Oriental Pearl, Shanghai

Oriental Pearl, Shanghai


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We could have saved 20 yuan apiece had we bought our tickets from City Sightseeing, however we neglected to do this and paid 120 yuan or about 30 dollars each and it was worth it!! There were non stop breathtaking views.

We know from our walk with Peng last night that we are a fifteen minutes walk from our hotel but we choose to get there on the hop on and off bus which takes 1.5 hours. We road the bus around its complete circuit three times today.
Thus ended our first full day in Shanghai, 23 Sept, 2015. We have crossed many streets since our arrival, watch behind you as turning cars and scooters may be on the move, don't expect drivers to stop for pedestrians:

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On 24 Sept we got up early and made it to the bus at nine but had to wait due to some kind of hold up. We arrived at the old town about twenty to ten and had to see Yuyuan Gardens and be back on that bus by noon. (24 hour ticket).

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Entrance to Yuyuan Gardens is forty yuan or about eight dollars, seems to me entrance to Butchart Gardens in Victoria is forty dollars. Yu Gardens has been ranked as one of the twelve most beautiful gardens in the world.

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Lions frequently flank doorways in China. The male, with his paw on the globe is on the west side, the female, with her paw on a cub, on the east side. (Feng shui).

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The old town is a pretty orderly place, merchants call out to you or come right up, come I will show you...
We rode the bus back to the Nanjing Road area thinking we would take the little train that runs up and down the walking street, just five yuan for one way. We didn't take it as it always seemed to be full.

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Instead we watched the amazing parade of shoppers walking along Nanjing Road.

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We returned to the Coral Restaurant for a late lunch: mushrooms and pea pods, noodles and coffee. We were back at the hotel by ten to two as today we fly to Zhangjiajie. The taxi to Pudong Airport was 175 yuan (four yuan went to the hotel for booking the cab for us). The ride took over an hour through miles of skyscrapers and super overpasses. There is not as much honking here as in Istanbul.
There are trucks, buses, cars, many German makes, motorbikes and bicycles, very few people wear helmets, two on a bike, they are free as the breeze in the busy traffic of the world's largest city. Lanes are flexible and signalling optional. Honking is mandatory.

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Shanghai has a population of over 26 million. It is China's biggest city and in fact is the largest city in the world. It is also compact with a skyline full of highrises and streets full of traffic including cars, buses, bikes, scooters and pedestrians. Shanghai is the financial hub of the second largest economy in the world, in the most populous country of the world. An auspicious position.

The guidebooks tell you that trains in China are punctual and that air travel is not. Our flight cost just over a hundred dollars, train fare was almost as much and would have taken longer. However, if you factor in the long drive to the airport, getting there almost two hours early, a flight delay of almost one and a half hours, do the math.
We flew Shanghai Airlines (East China Airlines) out of Pudong Airport. The airport is clean shiny and modern, very cosmopolitan, signs are in English as well as Chinese. English signs abound in Shanghai and there are many western stores as well as high end stores such as Gucci. If we cannot speak Mandarin other than Nehow, hello, at least we speak the other most common language here. I don't know how travelers without Mandarin or English manage. They teach English now from the youngest grades and have an abc song, different than ours but we often heard children saying or practicing their ABCs and young kids frequently greeted us with an enthusiastic "Hallo" and were equally tickled when we responded, "Hallo." In another ten or twenty years China will be like northern Europe, all the young people will speak English fluently.

By the time we boarded the plane Rhea was sick and it was a bad two hours for her as she struggled to maintain her equilibrium. We thought later it was likely dehydration or a bit of heat stroke as it was so hot and humid in Shanghai.
We had arranged a transfer to our hotel in Wulingyuan at a cost of one hundred yuan (about twenty dollars Canadian). The ride took about forty minutes along a twisting country road in the dark, the driver chatted away on his cell phone and there were no seat belts. Pretty standard. April Hostel had really high review scores on Booking.com and I was looking forward to our garden view. We pulled into a muddy narrow lane, too narrow to drive all the way, we piled out and went with high hopes to our abode for the next five nights.
Sue at the desk spoke clear English and somebody helped us carry our packs up a flight of stairs. Rhea laid down immediately and I paid the hostel fee and set up our things, what a small room. There was a flimsy clothes rack that blocked my side of the bed so positioned it in front of the door. Well at least we have a garden view.

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Although the Fish Inn accepted credit card payment most of China requires a cash payment. Our room and beds were bigger at Fish Inn, and the bathroom was more like what we are used to in that it had a shower curtain and the shower was contained. Here at April Hostel and many other places where we stayed the shower is just part of the bathroom but the water goes down the drain as the floor must be slightly sloped. Still everything gets wet unless you are careful. It is humid here too, the windows open, the night air is cooler and we can hear crickets chirping. Early, very early the roosters crow.
Everything seems a bit damp, smells a bit musty, I flat iron my hair in the morning and it immediately poufs out due to the moisture in the air.
Something here at April Hostel makes me itchy here, the allergy pills help. I have to save a few in case I get bit by a spider or bee. Did I mention the beds are very hard?
I have never been a very enthusiastic camper and this reminded me a bit of camping or at least of staying in one of those budget cabins in the mountains. I'll tell you what, nothing was as crumby as the motel I stayed in at Rockglen Saskatchewan this summer. So, maybe it is China, but this is no worse than a lot of places and we are at a famous mountain resort, walking distance to the park entrance and our room costs just over 35 dollars per night, breakfast is an additional three dollars. Rockglen was 88 including breakfast, just for comparison.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 17:40 Archived in China Tagged gardens travel hotel bus the square river cruise museum budget sightseeing feet chicken shanghai bund yu seniors couchsurfing people's Comments (0)

What not to wear? Packing Tips for frugal Travelers

What does a 66 year old backpacker wear in China?

26 °C
View China for Cheap on CherylGypsyRose's travel map.

Preparing is arduous.
I am using the same frameless backpack I took on my 89 day journey in 2012.
It qualifies as carry on and expands a bit if I check it coming home. In addition I have now borrowed a very light weight daypack from my son. It also expands if I want to bring back souvenirs in my carry on.
I pack and then edit. I can't rely on finding things to wear on the trip as compared to the local population I am an oxe. That happens to be my Chinese Zodiac sign. Rhea is a monkey.
I took, including what I wore, 2 pairs of capri pants and one pair of slacks, one sweater, one lightweight rainproof jacket, 5 tops, one pair of shoes, socks and underwear and a baseball cap. One top and a pair of leggings were my pjs. Almost everything was black.

Other things I packed and comment on are:

  • tylenol for colds and flu - used these
  • Polysporin and band aids - never used but just in case
  • antibiotics just in case - used these!!
  • ibuprofin, imodium and allergy pills - used them all!
  • toilet paper - used, rarely supplied at public washrooms but you could just grab some from your hotel every day.
  • A couple of sleeping pills just in case - did not use
  • ear plugs - used a few times
  • face masks for smog and germs - never used, well once as an eye ask to sleep
  • purifying water bottle - not needed only drank bottled water
  • inflateable pillow - used
  • hand sanitizer, sunscreen, deet, bb cream, lipstick and mascara, comb, toothbrush and toothpaste - used
  • p standing up gadget - never used, easier to squat
  • plastic forks - used - I can't knit either and using chopsticks is a talent beyond me.
  • granola bars - ate them up in first four days
  • Cell phone for wifi and pictures (did not have phone service) and a tablet for backup. Handy for looking up hotels, points of interest, general entertainment when you can't sleep.
  • chocolate, T-shirt for gifts - only gave away the t-shirt, super enjoyed eating the chocolate!!
  • The jury is still out on the packable down jacket - I took it, brand new and lost it sometime during the first three days, never wore it but not only would it have been welcome in Pingyao, it would have been great back home!!!
  • moleskin for blisters just in case - Rhea used the moleskin to make her shoes smaller.
  • Reading glasses and bifocals.
  • Eyeglass prescription just in case. I lost my reading glasses before our Hainon Airline flight left Seattle so wore bifocals during the trip and did not purchase glasses but glad to have the prescription along.
  • 2 super compact survival towels, activates with water, size of a matchbox when dry. We always had towels at hostels and hotels, did not use.
  • flat iron - hot and humid, so kind of a waste of time but used it every day.
  • Pen and small noteblook - really handy for asking someone to write something for you in characters.
  • Coffee packets for instant coffee - used them all!!

This was my uniform, I wore it the most, due to comfort:
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  • a pair of fold up ballet flats to wear on planes and trains. Two days into the trip I threw them out as they were not comfortable and were taking up room in the backpack.

On day 8 of our trip we purchased suitcases with 360• wheels, so much easier to move and walk with them, not much cobblestone in China or at least not where we went.
Temperature during the day averaged 26 degrees C and cooled off after the sun went down.
In retrospect a loose cotton dress would have been cooler.
I took wrinkle release spray but did not need as it was so humid.

Keep in mind the time frame was 22 Sept to 18 Oct and even Beijing had temperatures of about 26 degrees C, some days a bit warmer. We hadn't expected it to be so hot!!

I could have managed with one less top.

Posted by CherylGypsyRose 06:11 Archived in China Tagged and backpack light shoes budget hot pack humid essentials Comments (0)

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