Saturday, November 25, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
Thursday, November 23, 2006
- Staying at the Tea Guest House. This was a pleasant way to start the adventure. A traditional room with wireless internet, no other place would come close for a pleasurable stay.
- Cheong Ju. Perhaps the surprise item of the journey. The traditional guest house where I stayed was more authentic and better set up for long term travelers. The sights were impressive and easy to get to. The people traveling there were as interesting as the place. The history was an unexpected surprise.
- In Cheong Ju and the nearby temples I was for a short time a rock star. At first I was having my photo taken, and having people wave at me. By the end of the day I must have signed 10 to 20 autograph books. Perhaps this is the only time in my life this will happen.
- The rock concert in Dan Yang. It was free, as it was part of the Sillia Kingdom festival and we had some of Korea's top pop performers. The old man was my favorite. It was broadcast live on SBS, and I suspect, as the only foreigner I may have been on the TV. One camera certainly spent about 15 minutes pointing at me as the light on the camera was starting to hurry my eyes.
- Being stuck at Gangneug station in a flood.
- The hotel at Sheng Yang. It was not a great hotel, but to get to it I had to go through a restaurant, down some dark corridors and up a lift to the top (8th) floor to get to reception.
- The plant sculptures at Taiyangdao Park in Harbin.
- The Acrobatics show in Beijing. This is a bit unusual as I do not normally enjoy these shows.
- Xitang, the water town south of Shang Hai scrapes into the list.
- Teaching the English class and visiting two schools near Yang Shuo. This was my first teaching experience. I did not know what to do and Eliot saved the day. In fact he organized it.
- Visiting the Islands of Cheung Chu with Richard and Lan Tao with Tebby were pleasant interludes at the end of a long trip.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
A small footnote - the TV here in the Hotel has two chanels in Japanese.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
More Yangshuo photos - http://flickr.com/photos/yewenyi/
I have also uploaded some much older videos from Dalian. http://yewenyi.blip.tv/
We arrived by train at shenzhen and crossed the border by foot. After that we caught the subway into Kowloon. We are staying at the Stanford Hotel. They are booked out for Saturday and Sunday, so we were unable to get a room. It turns out the YMCA and several other places I tried were also booked out. So I was worried all night about where to stay.
This morning I had a brain wave while having an early breakfast as I could not sleep. I asked the hotel to book a room and we now have a place around the corner.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Not sure why I am writing this. After school I spent some time working on the flaky internet connection back at my hotel. Now I am on the train from Guilin to Shenjen. We just had a photo session with Ewen for my photos and his. So I am on a top bunk. The camera is running on batteries as the power point is only accessible from the lower bunks. So we have a 220 Volt outlet with an Australian plug in the compartment. Very civilized. But there is no wireless internet on the trains... Yet.
scenery was spectacular.
This morning we headed off to a school. Eliot, who has been a teacher for many years, met these people who wanted people to come along to their school to help with English classes. In the morning we met this 81 year old Canadian man who has spent 4 years here in yangshuo helping organize the teaching of English. We traveled by small bus to a ferry upstream from Yangshuo and then went across from the river. The school had decided to have an impromptu picnic, which disappointed our guide immensely. I was surprised that he did not know any Chinese and I had to help with the translating until the English teacher arrived. We then headed back to their show case school. Here we held two classes at 11:00 AM. Elliot was great. I would not have known what to do in my first ever class of teaching English. But we got though about 20 minutes of geography, electricity and telecommunications before we lost control of the class. It was a most unusual experience. I took lots of photos.
Tonight we are off on the Train to HK. In a week I will be back in Australia.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
For some reason this message did not get through...
Well I spent an easy afternoon yesterday after the bicycle ride. In the evening I had my first western dinner for a long time. Spaghetti Bolognese and Apple Crumble. In the evening I went to a few bars with Brian who is currently my room mate.
This morning the others went on a Balloon Ride. We then went to a cooking class. It was very interesting. The woks are run much hotter than is possible in Australia with the Natural Gas stoves and hence every thing happens more quickly. I learned some interesting variations from the local provinces on the more Cantonese approaches I would use.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
In the morning I walked to the next village in the rice terraces with Betty and Heather. It was good as after the first half a kilometer we lost the women trying to sell us cloth, photo modeling and trinkets. The village does not get many tourists and was very interesting. In the afternoon we headed back down out of the mountains and on the way to guilin stopped to taster some tea. One was so good I purchased a small tin.
We arrived in Yangshuo, about 60 km south of Guilin yesterday evening. We had a yummy roof top dinner and today went cycling to half moon mountain. This place has changed very much since I was here in 1993 and I had a good talk about the change with our guide. We had one guide for two cyclists and I cycled with Heather. When I was here with Barbara we did the same bike ride. I think Yangshuo and the village at half moon mountain have changed as much as Shanghai if not more. The small village that was one Yangshuo is new a booming town. At Half Moon mountain, the village is now as large as Yangshuo was and almost all of the 64 mud brick houses have been replaced with many more three story high houses. There is now running water in the town.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Well tomorrow I expect to again get wireless internet and hence there will be a little burst of updates on my travels. We hopped on the bus to Pangan from Guilin airport. Eliot headed directly to Yangshuo I am guessing because of his back. On the way to Pangan we stopped at a roadside restaurant and had an excellent meal. Then it was up into the mountains. Here we are staying in an area known as the rice terraces and the photos will show why. While Pangan is the name of the village the area is called the Longji Scenic area. It is very beautiful. We are staying in accommodation built for westeners and there is another tour in the same building. However, it is quite basic accommodation, simple, clean and good. Though they say that next year they wilol get wireless internet.
In the afternoon we wandered the hills behind where we are staying. I then had my first massage, which was good, and then we had another great meal. The other group had purchased a local show, so we were able to watch that. It was somewhat touristy. Finally I had some wine, like rice wine, but made from some fruit that the owner of the place cannot explain in english.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Well we headed off after a morning of burning DVDs for Eliot to Xitang. We had a small bus and traveled along the motorways. The toll system is extensive, but there are tolls every ten or so kilometers. After about an hour and a half driving south of Shanghai, we arrived at Xitang. We went there because it is close but not too touristy. The fee for entry was 10 Y, but we payed the 60 Y for entry to all of the sites in the precinct. Xitang is a water town. All along the old grand canal there are towns where the main streets are waterways, though there are many roads on the land side of the towns. We split up and I headed off down the main canal. After wandering down many back lane ways and side canals, I purchased a bamboo flute. I spent about half an hour in the shop. They had many instruments, but they were hard to play and only played about 3/4 of an octave. I do not know why they did not play two octaves, most had the same holes as a recorder would have. In the end I purchased a bamboo flutes. I played all the ones in the shop to get one that was at least in tune with itself.
Wandering further through the town, I finally fond the small food stalls like we had seen when we first entered the town. I also met up with Vahid at this time. We had several different types of sticky rice, at 5 to 8 jiao per item (10 jiao in a yaun and about 6 yuan in 1 dollar). They were all very good. I also had some meat, steamed in bamboo leaves. However, these locals only seemed to know their local dialect and I wad not able to determine what type of meat. It seemed to be pork. I also had some chinese peanut brittle stuff that I have had many times and is very good and some kind of local roasted green nut or seed.
In the evening we headed back to the hotel and I spent the evening indoors. I am now on the 7:45 flight with shanghai airlines from Shanghai to Guilin. (flight FM 9335).
Friday, November 10, 2006
On the second, and last day in Xian we wandered off the few blocks to the south gate. Here we planned to get shots of people exercising in the park. But mostly there were musicians playing bamboo pipes, flutes and the occasional erhu. Betty and I wandered back down the calligraphy street and then I headed off to the Eight Immortals Temple. There are not many Daoist temples left in China. On the way I left the city walls behind and ended up in a residential area. There were lots of school children and they sent me the right way as I had travelled one block too far to the north. Again, I had some discussions with them in chinese and english and had groups of up to 20 children tagging along behind.
The temple was not a lot different in design to the buddhist temple, just the deities are the 8 immortals. I took some photos before heading back to the hotel. Here we met and caught the train to Shanghai.
In the train, we were split up. I shared a cabin with Eliot, the other Brian and a chinese woman who has lived in California for the last ten years. She knew little english and had a retinue of 4 young men (we presume family) to get all of her bags onto the train. The others named her the dowager princess. They did not enjoy sharing the cabin, though I was less concerned. We swapped bunks, and because the lower bunk is more expensive, she wanted to pay the difference. But I did not want the money. So after a 16 hour journey, we finally arrived in Shanghai.
It is good to be back here. It is the first place I visited in China, and it is still somewhat special to me. It is the best hotel so far. We went down Nanjing Dung Lu to theBund. I need to get back there at night to see if i can get a repeat shot of my favorite china photo. But I cannot remember which corner I was standing on. After that we headed off to Pudong and went up to a cocktail bar on the 87th floor of a building. It was excellent. We also had a great lunch and dinner down in the French concession. So the food here is Shanghai is excellent modern chinese cuisine.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
We had a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant. Then it was onto the train. Same as before, but this time the Z19 train from Beijing to Xian. We stayed up later having some wine. The night was disturbed a few times and we arrived at about 8AM.
We went to the hotel and then wandered around the Muslim district. Xian has changed so much since 1999. There are many more large buildings, though I am in a different part of town to last time. The muslim quarter is still very interesting and the other Brian and I had a lunch of roast persimmon patties filled with red bean paste, followed by a soup of bread, noodles and beef. After that we had lamb on a stick. In the afternoon we went to the terracotta warriors. The place has been updated a lot since 1999 and was much more pleasant to wander around. The warriors have not changed, though more seem to have been uncovered.
After this we had dinner at a place thatturned out by chance to be the same one as where we had lamb on a stick. We had a steam-boat type affair with lots of everything from bread and vegies to crab meat on a stick.
Monday, November 06, 2006
We headed off to the Great Wall. We went to the great wall at Simatai. It has to be the most spectacular spot. We had a quick lesson on the bus. At the wall we tuned left and headed over the suspension bridge. I suffer from vertigo and was prepared for the walk. It is climbing down that causes the most problems, but it is the lack of sides that scares me. I also have trouble when the slope is higher than a certain amount. I made it to about tree towers along before we hit a section of wall with no sides as it was being rebuilt. So I waited for the others to return. It was cold, but as we were all rugged up, it was not too cold.
On the way back we stopped off for dinner. I have some nice foggy photos as my lens fogged up when we entered the restaurant. Later we stopped briefly as there was a head on accident on the road. I think that one of the issues with the roads here is that the is such a large difference in speed between the different vehicles. Drivers are constantly trying to overtake some truck going at 30 kmh. When the fleet of vehicles all become modern, there will be far fewer issues.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Ewen gave us a lesson on Photography in the morning. We then went to the drum tower and then the hutongs and wandered around. After lunch Ewen and I went down to the Temple of Heaven and he helped me to learn to use my wide angle lens. I was surprised. I remembered the Temple of Heaven from 1999 as very grungy and I did not enjoy it much. However, they have renovated it and now it is spectacular. I still am struggling with it. Later in the day we went to an acrobatics display and then had a Tibetan dinner. I consider the dinner the highlight of the day. They had lots of great music and I purchased a CD. The others however did not enjoy the music so much. We had yak for one of the dishes.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I think the day of rest of did me wonders. The overnight train was great. As I had the most expensive ticket, I was able to stay in the VIP lounge. They came and got me when it was time for the train. We left from platform one, and the wealthier people were driven in their cars right up to the carriage, so there were lots of cars on the platform.
The Z16 train was new. Soft sleeper is actually harder than it used to be. Also there are now 4 people rather than 2 per sleeper. So I shared my cabin with three well dressed women. The cabin also had a TV for each bed with about a dozen channels and headphones. There were two American movies mostly dubbed into Chinese and the rest were chinese shows. In the morning we arrived in Beijing. About every two minutes we passed a freight train going the other way. The journey took about 11.5 hours for a little less than 1300 kilometers.
Our little group is small. There is a tour guide, our shr fu, Ewen, Elliot, who is from the USA, an Irainian man who lives in Nevada, A canadian woman, two women from Melbourne and Geelong and a marketing man from the USA who does marketing in the USA for Grasshopper Travel who are running the tour.
I have uploaded the photos to yesterday afternoon. http://flickr.com/photos/yewenyi/
Friday, November 03, 2006
Well I extended my stay in my room. I have finished uploading the video's of my time in Korea to http://yewenyi.blip.tv/ . They are in reverse order. I missed a few, most deliberately, but one accidently, so I may upload the rest when I return. So I will check out at 18:00 and my train is due to leave at 20:30. I have also been going through the backlog of photos and uploading some better ones from previous days. I may do some more of that this afternoon. So they will be on Flickr - http://flickr.com/photos/yewenyi/sets/72157594288785478/ . The cold is not too bad, but I want to let it rest rather than have a bad cold over the next few days.
Well I am spending the morning here in my hotel. I have to check out by 12 PM. I have a cold and I am somewhat bored, but I think that staying inside rather than going out into the cold is the better thing to do. I might have to pay more so I can stay here for this after noon.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Today I wandered off to visit the temple district. On the way I passed three churches, two of which seemed to be Russian. At the western one they invited me into to listen to the sermon. However, it was all in Chinese. I did wander inside to see what it looked like. A plain room with bench seats. However, I explained that I did not know that much chinese and excused myself.