A Travellerspoint blog

All Aboard!

But not if you have the wrong ticket!!

sunny 28 °C
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Nice breakfast at the hostel then off on a cruise around Er Hai lake (the huge lake in Dali).

Yet again we managed to join a tour where we were literally the only westerners (and this was a ferry load of around 200 people)! So yet again we stuck out like sore thumbs. As soon as we arrived at the port, the relentless 'paprazzi' were snapping sneaky photos of us. For whatever reason we were not in the mood for it today! So Jo made sure to pull a load of silly faces whilst I tried my best to hide behind her!

The lake was beautiful in the sunshine. Sunlight glittering off the water, amazing views of the mountains and a nice breeze on the boat (which unfortunately meant that we didn't realise we were going slightly red in the sun)!

First stop was a tiny island selling all sorts of hot food (mainly things caught in nets out of the lake). Jo was adventurous and got a flat potato cake with shrimp, little fish etc... in it. I was not so brave! Some spiced potato on a stick was all I stretched to today!

The next stop was another, much larger island, with a palace, Buddhist statue, and a sandy beach. After strolling around the island we decided to head to the little beach to dip our toes in the water and get some photos. One person asked to have their photo taken with us and that was it...we were there for about 15 minutes with people queuing up for us! Hilarious! But they were so lovely we couldn't say no!

Back on the boat to get to the next stop. Unfortunately for us, we did not twig that this was in fact the last place on the cruise. So after spending some time in the fruit market we tried to get back on the boat. Epic fail! We couldn't get back on!! What we hadn't realised was that our tickets were one way only. We were almost 30km from where we started that morning. Oops!! By some stroke of luck a driver had just dropped some people at the dock and was heading back to Dali so he dropped us back in Old Town for practically nothing. Thank you random taxi driver for taking pity on us!

We went for dinner on Foreigners Street in Old Town (actual street name) and then stopped for genuine Belgian waffles on the way back to the hostel (the man who runs the stall is from Belgium)!

A few beers in the hostel finshed another laughter filled day in China. New beer sampled today = "Happy Hours"!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 07:00 Archived in China Tagged dali Comments (0)

And the next stop on our tour....

The two blonde girls sipping beer at a restuarant down the road!

sunny 25 °C
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Not a very eventful day today.... The train ride to Dali was beautiful - mountains and a giant lake (who knew Dali was on a massive lake?! Clearly we have not read up enough on where we're going!!!). By 11am we were settled into our lovely hostel and had done some clothes washing. Then off into Dali Old Town. Very pretty!

We wandered the streets for a few hours and I FINALLY managed to get accountant Tammy to part with the equivalent of £1 for a very pretty bracelet - it has been a struggle guys! Whereas Tam is now under strict instructions to not let me buy anything else in China!!! I WANT ALL THE BRIGHT COLOURED DRESSES!!!!!

As you do in the middle of the afternoon when away from home, Tam and I decided to grab a quick beer in a little cafe on one of the main streets in Old Town. Whilst sitting there, a few people in a tour group requested to have their picture taken with us - no biggie. Five minutes later, the entire tour group was back to be filmed with us..... it seems we have now achieved the status of tourist attraction! Ace! Or maybe not! Whatever happened to a quiet pint?!

Still, possibly one of the funniest things to happen to us so far, perhaps barring the incident in the toilet at Tiger Leaping Gorge! Stay tuned!

Jo xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 06:58 Archived in China Tagged dali Comments (0)

Relaxing day in Shuhe

sunny 20 °C
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After a long lie in and a very lazy breakfast we wandered into Shuhe. We spent the afternoon walking the cobbled pathways and browsing in all the little shops. I managed not to buy anything. Jo was not so fortunate! But a lovely handmade silver bangle for £2; Jo could hardly say no!

We ate some more street food that afternoon in the form of a potato rosti type thing! Nice and greasy :-)

We treated ourselves in the evening to an Italian meal. The (actually Italian) chef made a point to come and introduce himself and generally make a fuss of us. I don't think they get that many twenty-something blonde girls in Shuhe! Great meal; pizza, garlic bread and italian ice cream! Yum!

Up early for the 8:38 am train to Dali in the morning so a relatively early night for us!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 06:09 Archived in China Tagged shuhe Comments (0)

Mountain expedition and the long drive home to Lijiang

Tour to Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La: Day Two

sunny 6 °C
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Another super early start for us; breakfast at 6.30am! Breakfast consisted of some kind of noodle dish, rice-like porridge and some steamed bread rolls. In the dark it was kind of hard to tell what we were eating but we tucked in regardless, thankful for something hot as it was freezing cold outside!

First stop today was a visit to the local climbing store to buy some oxygen for the visit to the top of Snow Mountain! This we were not expecting. I figure if we need oxygen canisters to go and visit somewhere, we probably shouldn't be going there! Luckily our surrogate father explains how many canisters we needed and how to work them (thankfully not too complicated). We really would have been lost without him! Jo and I also decided to hire some long thick coats for our 'expedition'. We looked completely ridiculous! The coats were massive (see photo above) and because we were so cold we put all three of our hoods up (hoodie, jacket and coat). Our appearance again providing some amusement for everyone else on our tour!

Up the mountain we went, puffing on our oxygen canisters! It took two long cable car rides to get the top. Half way up we stopped at the visitor centre to drink some tea to help our bodies cope with the altitude and also to have a walk around the pretty Yunshan meadow.

At the top of the mountain we were blown away by the view (and almost literally blown off our feet from the biting wind)! There was even some snow at the top!! Stunning! We spent about half an hour at the top admiring the view and taking some photos (when we could bear to take our hands out of our coats)!

Then back down to the coach...poor Jo got a headache from the altitude so we made sure to get some more tea on the way down to try and help! We also had some people from our tour give us random bits of spiced meat to eat on the way down the mountain. It tasted really good (no idea what it was though)!

Lunch!! Another proper Chinese meal! Loads of veggies and rice and some random meat we couldn't identify. It was tasty! There was a little cart selling some fruit next to our coach so Jo and I decided to buy some oranges. Before we knew it, our surrogate parents were there helping us, weighing the fruit, speaking to the seller, passing our money over etc... So sweet of them! We did give them a pack of Oreos to thank them for being so lovey to us. Hope they liked them!

Then the long drive back to Lijiang. There was a stop at a random Tibetan style house on the way back. Not everyone got off so Jo and I decided to just doze in the coach with those that stayed on (we were exhausted)!

The rest of the day was spent in the coach. We did have a couple of rest stops on the way which were a source of comedy themselves. The style of toilets at these rest stops are not something that we're used to; just a long trench with hip height walls separating each 'cubicle' (no privacy doors). At one rest stop, Jo was unfortunately the last one into the toilets and so had to use the 'cubicle' right by the door. The rest of us therefore waited patiently until Jo was ready before opening the door. Unfortunately for Jo a couple of the ladies waiting could not stop themselves from staring even in this situation!

On getting back into Lijiang we stopped at KFC before getting a taxi back to our hostel in Shuhe! We felt like we deserved it!! And it was sooo good!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:10 Archived in China Tagged snow mountain Comments (8)

Leaping Tigers and Karaoke!

Tour to Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La: Day One

semi-overcast 16 °C
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Early start today - by 6.30 am we were being led through the near empty streets of Lijiang to our tour guide, who immediately started jabbering on in Chinese! Why exactly we signed up for a Chinese tour with a guide who spoke no English we were unsure at that point!! We were literally the only the non-Chinese people around. Luckily for us a lovely Chinese man on the tour spoke a little English (by far the most out of everyone in the tour besides us). Him and his girlfriend took us under their wing and became our surrogate parents for the two days!

For the first few hours of the drive our guide talked incessantly to a captivaed audience. Tam and I put in our earphones and began what would be a mammoth couple of days of reading! The kindle version of Lonely Planet's China guide book became our own personal tour guide!!

First stop - the first bend of the Yangtze River (we think!!!). Big and brown and surrounded by impressive mountains and a strange, eery mist. Next, lunch - a random mix of Chinese dishes..... we're getting pretty good with the chopsticks now but we're sure that our fellow tour members found our eating style amusing still! Then on to Tiger Leaping Gorge - stunning! We walked a mile or so to a viewing platform near the rock that gives the gorge its name. Lonely Planet explains to us that legend says a tiger once leaped onto said rock in an attempt to cross the huge river flowing at the base of the gorge. An epic feat! The sound of the water was amazing and the scenery was really spectacular! Whilst we provided a constant source of amusement to the people on our tour, the signs on our walk along the gorge bottom were pretty amusing to Tam and me..... translations were clearly not approved by an English speaker before being printed!!

After saying a reluctant goodbye to the beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge we headed onwards and upwards. Another few hours of endless chatter from our guide (what he could possibly have had to talk about for five hours we don't know - Lonely Planet seemed to sum everything up in only a few pages!)!! Next stop - Songzanlin Temple just outside Shangri-La. Amazing! A 300 year old monastry still occupied by monks, surrounded by run down little shacks. It was amazing!! Our surrogate father encouraged us to wander off on our own rather than linger around to listen to a tour that we wouldn't understand! We dutifully obeyed and spent the next hour exploring all the temples on offer. We heard monks chanting, watched the Chinese army marching about the place (a strange contrast to the monks!), and gazed at all the beautiful and sometimes disturbing Buddhist paintings.

Then, after a confusing half an hour in a very random tourist shop (selling spices, dried insects and crossbows and swords!) we were led out of the maze of counters by a kind girl on our tour. On to Shangri-La! Here we were led into a museum about the local minority groups in the area (we think!). By now we're pretty good at interpretting the jist of what people are saying. As we stood in the crowd the museum guide asked something of the group, who all then turned to look at us, then back to the guide and said "hello" in Chinese (one of the few words we do know!). We take this to mean that the guide has asked whether we can speak Chinese and the group replied to say we can only say hello! Our surrogate parents encouraged us to be rebels and leave the museum tour, when we weren't allowed to wander off on our own! We visit the nearby temple instead - much better! We spun the prayer drum and took lot of photos of the mountains and all the prayer flags.

Dinner is at a replica Tibetan home where we were given meat stew and a roasted pig. Watching the "locals" eat is still fascinating, tearing meat from bones in an almost animal like way! We watched some dancing and got involved in the Butlins like atmosphere of chanting to get the dancers and singers to come out and perform! Hilarious! Somehow we manage to follow what was going on. Yet again, being the only non-Chinese people in a large room of tour groups, we were a source of amusement and fascination! Then, horror of horrors, they started getting people out of the crowd to sing!! Someone else in our group offered to go up and sing but we knew we hadn't escaped humiliation yet! At the end of the night the guy running the show said something and all eyes turned to us. We knew what they wanted. After a few moments of refusal we realised that there was no way of getting out of the situation. We quickly thought of a song that would put us in the lime light for the least amount of time and approached the centre of the room. We were handed two microphones and started to sing..... Happy Birthday. Well we figured they would all know the song and we could only be up there for a minute at most! Everyone began to laugh, snap photos and clap. At the end we quickly scurried back to our seats in a fit of the giggles.

On to our very luxiurious hotel for a good night's sleep!!

Jo xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:09 Archived in China Tagged and tiger gorge shangri-la leaping Comments (0)

Into the calm...

rain 16 °C
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Early start for our flight down to Lijiang. Managed to grab a quick breakfast at the airport...at Pizza Hut...was surprisingly good!

As soon as we're out of the aiport in Lijiang we feel a sense of pure calm! The air is fresh, there are no crowds in sight and it seems that we left the sound of constant honking behind in Chengu. Bliss!

Our hostel is in Shuhe which is a few kilometers out of Lijiang. It's so peaceful. Cobbled streets, cute little shops, horse drawn carts...we love it!

We spent the afternoon in Lijiang's Old Town. It's like a bigger version of Shuhe. Loads of amazing shops, tea houses, arched bridges, and cobbled roads. Even in the pouring rain it looked gorgeous.

Back to our little Shuhe. The lady at our hostel very kindly walked us to a local Chinese restaurant and placed our order for us; Yak Hotpot! I was seriously dubious...I'm not that adventurous with food. But I'm so glad Jo convinved me; it was seriously tasty! We decided it tasted like a cross between beef and lamb (if you can imagine that)!?

Back to the hostel for some homemade banana bread and pack up ready for our two day trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La tomorrow!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 06:05 Archived in China Tagged and lijiang shuhe Comments (5)

Salsa, karaoke, chequers and poem writing

overcast 19 °C
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Tam may have found an alternative profession as a hairdresser after this morning's first task of chopping my hair into more reasonable shape! After a very leisurely breakfast we wandered out into Chengdu. First stop - train station to book some tickets for our future travels. Then People's Park. Here I'm a little stumped at where to begin. For such a small place it seemed to embody all the amazing oddities of these people. There were quiet little courtyards for meditation and poem writing, a lake for boating.... all sounds pretty normal so far right? Then we stumbled across five or six public dance classes within a few metres of each other, each playing very loud music and competing with each other as to the expertise of the dancers. A few meters on, cue the karaoke and men playing chequers, seemingly unaware of the riot of noise going on around them. In short, a rather bizzare little place!

After attempting to help some fellow foreigners find some sights to see in this city (and pointing them in the direction of the park!), we wandered onwards towards a bunch of outdoor shops in search of some more trousers for Tammy. Then to a monastry for 6pm to listen to the monks chanting - either they were very quiet or not punctual at all as we heard nothing! Back towards the hostel to find a restarant for food After managing to decipher the menu (very proud of ourselves) we were forced to leave, owing to the drunk (and a little sleazy) Chinese man that seated himself at our table intent on making conversation with us despite the language barrier. So back to the hostel for another very cheap and home cooked Chinese dinner.

Photos to come later tonight, we hope! Tomorrow, onwards to the much anticipated Yunnan Province and Lijiang!! We can't wait!!

Jo xxxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 06:07 Archived in China Tagged chengdu Comments (2)

Pandas and Planning

rain 16 °C
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We were up at the crack of dawn today to go and see the pandas at the Chengdu Panda Research Centre. It was amazing! Despite the pouring rain, the pandas were out and about which consisted mainly of eating bamboo, sleeping or trying to climb. Completely fascinating to watch. They are incredible! I think between us we probably took several hundred photos!!

We were even lucky enough to see two baby pandas which are not even a month old yet! They were in incubators and looked so tiny and completely helpless. Very very cute though!

This afternoon we spent in the hostel lounge / bar / common room planning the rest of our route through China (so far we haven't planned more than a couple of days ahead). It took a while but we've succesfully managed to book all our hostels for the rest of our time in China!! Go us!!

We did attempt to go out for dinner this evening but quickly realised that no restuarants around the hostel have any pictures / english on them. Feeling a tad unadventurous, we opted for dinner at the hostel which was actually really good (and ridiculously cheap)! We've also made sure to write down the chinese characters for the essentials (chicken, pork, beef, rice, noodles, beer etc...) so we don't get caught out again! Thanks again Feifan for recommending the Translate app for the iphone; vey helpful! We'll give our new found knowledge a go tomorrow!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 21:58 Archived in China Tagged chengdu Comments (0)

Terracotta warriors and THE GREAT ESCAPE!!!!

overcast 16 °C
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So we spent yesterday hanging out with the terracotta warriors - amazing! Thousands of life-sized warriors that were buried in underground corridors to protect an emperor who was mad from mecury poisoning! One of the most epic sights I've ever seen! Tam and & I really struggled to get our heads around the amount of work that would have gone into creating such an army! Our tour guide assures us that this emperor was fantastic (because he unified China) but I think we are of the opinion that he was pretty brutal given that he killed every single worker that made a terrocotta warrior, and had all his hundred concubines killed and buried with him!

Had a lazy night last night catching up with family etc. which was nice - first time internet has been vaguely sufficient to allow skype! Whoop! Then went to see a light and fountain show in town, which was cool. Then a quick Burger King before home (shameful!)!

Today we got up late (9am) and showered in the brief window of showering possibility at the hostel from hell, had breakfast, got our laundry and (surprise, surprise) found that some items had gained giant blue splodges! After ANOHTHER argument with hostel staff we got a partial refund for the laundry and then grabbed a taxi to the airport!

And now, here we are in Chengdu! Already loving it soooooo much more than Xi'an and we've only been here a few hours! Tomorrow = visiting the pandas!! WOOOOOOOO!!!!! Can't wait!!!

Jo xxxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 07:39 Archived in China Tagged xi'an chengdu Comments (2)

We're not celebrities but get us out of here!

overcast 20 °C
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Our journey to Xi'an on the overnight train from Beijing was pleasant enough (minus the really loud snorer in our cabin; luckily Jo had earplugs for the both of us). But as soon as we stepped off that train, it was downhill for the day!

We waited a pretty long time for our hostel pick up at the station until some random guy told us he was from our hostel and could take us there. Us being the sensible girls we are did not take his word for it! It took about 15 minutes and several phone calls to the hostel for us to be satisfied that we weren't going to end up as the plot for the next 'Taken' film. All was fine in the end but better safe than sorry!! Strike one for the hostel - not having our names or the name of the hostel on a bit of paper!

So onto the hostel! A lovely building in an amazing location but possibly the rudest girl on duty when we arrived. Strike two for the hostel!

We spent most of the day seeing most of the sights in the city...The Bell Tower, The Drum Tower, The Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque. All of which were lovely! However the city seems to be shrouded in fog / smog that we're pretty sure isn't weather related. That coupled with the intense staring all day made it a bit of a suffocating experience.

Things went even further downhill when we tried to book our sleeper train tickets to Chengdu! Epic fail...all sold out!

We asked the hostel to try for us (cue surly reception girl who definitely does not like us). No luck again!

Further strikes for the hostel include...wi-fi only avaible within 5 metres of reception, hot water only available between 7am and 10m (so no showers for us today after spending two days of walking around cities and a night on sleeper train), lamp not working in room, wi-fi cutting off continually, having to get our own taxi to and from an excursion we paid the hostel for...the list goes on! Strikes infinity for the hostel!

Desperate, we decided we would just pay the extra for an air ticket to Chengdu rather than have to spend an extra night here! Hurrah...we managed to get a flight!!

Despite the disastrous day, we actually had a lovely evening at the Tang Dynasty show. Amazing food (unlimited dumplings) and a great performance! And a tuk-tuk ride back to the hostel!

Up early tomorrow to see the Terracotta Warriors which we're super exctied about! Then one more night here until we head to Chengdu to see some pandas!

Tam xx

PS - sorry for the negativity...we're actually having an amazing time (the bad stuff above is all just part of the experience and it has kept us laughing all day)!

Posted by Tam-Jo 01:19 Archived in China Tagged xi'an Comments (3)

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