Thursday, 2 July 2009

China


9/6/09 Tuesday
Our flight got us in around 9am Beijing time; by the time we had flown early evening on the 9-hour flight we had completely missed our nighttime and any sleep. Leaving the airport with the quarantine officer checking our plane before getting off and 3 swine flu checks followed. One person was not allowed off the plane because his temperature reading must have been too high. We got transferred to our hotel in Beijing, it was about midday before we got to bed and slept until 4pm, after that we went exploring. There were so many Peking dogs and bicycles, shantytowns surround our hotel, there are markets of fruit and fish everywhere, there are no other English people around and everyone stares. We went to a pearl market and I bought a necklace that she made in front of me. In the evening we were brave enough to go to a restaurant, and got our meal with a lot of pointing, we asked for the bill and said thank you in Chinese.

10/6/09 Wednesday
Everywhere I went today people stopped and stared, they pointed and waved and smiled, a few times people took photos of me or asked to have a photo with me. We visited three different temples and Talaman square, the second temple was my favourite it was a very old style Buddhist temple.




11/6/09 Thursday
It’s 6:50am China time, we are off from Beijing to the Great Wall in the Hebei province and after 3 nights in a row of no sleep because my body decided, despite being so tired I could sleep standing, it’s still not going to let me sleep.
The drivers are nuts, its not dissimilar to how I’d expect India to be. They drive through red lights, wrong side of the road and are forever honking each other. We were in hysterics in the car to the Great Wall because our driver was driving down the wrong side of the road being honked at by someone behind him trying to overtake in the opposite side of the road’s hard shoulder. Yesterday when we went to the temples, our guide explained to us that they light incense and pray to Buddha, not because they are Buddhist but because the Chinese will pray to whoever they think will give them what they want, regardless of religion. During that morning I saw a group of bicycles all going to market carrying huge amounts of garlic on plaited stalks.
We hiked up the Great Wall and walked part of it, then also walked through the valleys surrounding it, it was very beautiful, we had Sherpa’s through-out the way, and a driver who gave us fruit and water before and after. I feel good for having done it; there were hoards of goats everywhere trying to get up the trees and in the rivers, as well as huge white ducks.


During the evening we walked through the shanty town markets by ourselves, I was walking ahead taking photographs when I heard my mother yelp, I had noticed I was walking under a telephone wire with a lot of doves on and assuming, by the way she was touching her hair, that one had pooped on her, until she told me it had laid an egg in the air and hit her on the way down.



12/6/09 Friday
Chengdu; Ever since I was twelve I have adored Asian culture, it’s very odd actually going there and have people nudge each other and point at me, taking photos of me with there phones. I don’t feel congested for the first time in 5 days and I'm hoping that I can relax enough to sleep now. Chengdu is so perfect, I have never been in a hotel like this, everything is traditional Chinese from the street floor to bamboo to buildings, with lanterns everywhere, and the whole street is like this. I have found a Panda shop down the street. Chengdu is famous for its Panda research centre and they are very proud of it. Unlike Beijing it’s not an assault on the senses with people trying to get money out of you. This city is hotter and dry. I have seen a lot of Tibetan Buddhist monks, as there is a temple next-door; one on a Rickshaw bowed his head and smiled as he went past us. I can hear birds everywhere outside the mesh shutters; our room looks onto a courtyard with trees and tea tables, the hotel is the most beautiful I have ever been in, everything about it is so Chinese.



The last day of Chengdu; Eva our guide will be taking us to the countryside to see the traditional markets and old buildings. She is from Tibet and is only nineteen; she moved to India by herself at sixteen to learn English and now works in Chengdu.

13/6/07 Saturday
Today is humid, the air is sticky and damp and the sky overcast and misty. For lunch we went to the back packers hostel up the road; it’s down this alley that smells but the food is cheap and they have Internet access. There is a chicken wandering around outside, my mother has some jasmine tea. Tomorrow we are moving on again, no sooner than we got here.


This morning we went to the Panda research centre, I loved it, they have something called a panda card, which gives you annual membership to places such as the research centre and the temples. I discovered that Pandas like to scratch their backs on trees a lot, they also like to sleep up very high which is odd to see considering their size, the babies are very mischievous and Red pandas are like raccoons or cats, all fluffy and fat. I also saw a baby panda scratching its belly with its foot, which was so sweet. Before we left a huge group of Japanese’s tourists decided they all wanted their photos with us, which almost made us late for the bus home. Here in Chengdu they have a panda festival once a year I so wish I had been there for it. They are very proud of the giant panda, it is a symbol of everything from cigarettes to buses, I plan to buy panda ear style hair band later and chopsticks. When looking at the map I discovered Wolong panda centre is also in Chengdu-not far from the city. This must be the region for the wild Pandas too as I know they do not inhabit the whole of china, there are snowy mountains and bamboo forests surrounding the city for them to live in. The more I travel the more I want to know about China’s intricate history.


Beijing is at the top of China below Mongolia, the Great Wall was used to keep the Mongolians out, now they walk the wall trying to sell merchandise tourists. The forest and mountains are almost European-like; as someone we were travelling with said ‘you could be anywhere, Spain, Australia’. The trees are all deciduous.
However when we flew to Chengdu we discovered it to be much more sub-tropical, a lot of bamboo, papyrus, and banana plants. Chengdu is part of the Sichuan province south best and borders Tibet, so there are a lot of Tibetans and Tibetan monks here as well as temples.


Later we wandered the city; I took many photos. There are monks everywhere and I really wanted to get a good shot of them. We passed men on bikes selling fruit from their cart and went to the supermarket. There were some live animals, toads, catfish, terrapins but it made me feel sad to see them so cruelly treated, if you’re going to kill to eat, do it but don’t cram them into tiny tanks making them suffer. I continued down the road and found a tiny little grey kitten, the scruffiest thing I’ve seen, the shop owner have him some milk and food, which he ate. I walked a few more steps and a sweet little puppy plodded towards me, surprisingly clean and cute looking, I took his photo then he licked my shoes. For a while we sat by a statue near our hotel and sure enough someone came up for a photo with me and once one had, all of a sudden everyone did and before long I had a crowd around me of people taking photos and wanting photos- it has truly been the most bizarre experience.
In the evening we went for a Sichuan hot pot; their foods is traditionally very spicy, it is an interesting meal because your table has a large pot embedded into it with a lot of chilli seeds and spices in, you then choose various meats, mushrooms, tofu, and bamboo which tastes like savoury melon, they bring plates and dump it all in the pot and you cook to taste. We found that people who seat you in restaurants and bars always sit us next to the window; during our meal a group of children decided to start taking photos of us on their parents phone cameras and didn’t stop for 25 minutes.


There is a lot of poverty in Chengdu, the monks help anyway they can, we saw a homeless woman feeding rice to her daughter with cerebral palsy, on the street and they gave them some money. It is very sad. I also saw a blind man playing an instrument on the street; he looked so beautiful but couldn’t take a photo so I gave him some money.



14/6/09 Sunday
Our tour guide took us to the Sichuan province countryside in a small van to see how other people lived; it was a very interesting experience. We drove through the potholed roads and lotus plant fields towards the country market. Everyone beeps their horns non-stop, and you could see pig farmers with these huge white pigs. I took a lot of photographs at the market; they probably speak better about the way the Chinese treat animals than I can ever explain.






After we went for a meal at the house of a family who lived near by, the meal was the best we’d had the whole trip.



I am now sitting in an old van over a bumpy road with my hair blowing in my face, the air is damp and cool today; the rice paddies are misty with butterflies all around them, surrounding that is bamboo forests. This is the area of the big earthquake you will have heard all over the news awhile back, a lot of people’s houses are still very damaged or being re built.




15/6/09 Monday
Last night we were dropped off in the middle of the night; we didn’t even know we were in the mountains because the roads were flat until the car headlights hit the side of a huge mountain and then we realized we were 1000 metres above sea level and surrounded with mountains. Guilian within the Guangxi province is just like Vietnam, the rivers, the mountains, the subtropical damp weather, the plantation, it is exactly how you would expect Vietnam to be. The airport was like Chinese Vegas, and while we flew to Guilian, there was pink lightning all around the plane, this made my mother very uneasy as when she first travelled to Hong Kong her plane went through a lightning storm and the plane started to drop considerably. We learnt when we got there that there is thunder and lighting everyday because of the humidity.
The hotel is rustic, Mosquito nets and wet room bathrooms where you cannot flush toilet roll, there is a pig farm behind us and has tropical rain everyday.


We cycled through misty grasslands and bamboo-rafted through the mountains. You can see large bat caves, birds of paradise and dragonflies; the crickets are deafening. During both the-bamboo rafting and cycling we were bothered by the women who try to sell you things; they run after you on your bikes, cycle beside you and come up next to you on their own rafts, trying to sell anything they can. They talk at you in Chinese yelling hello between every few words and shaking things in your face, everywhere so far we have been in China has them.
We cycled to the Moon Hill Mountain, which has a crescent moon shape hole at the top. My mother stayed at the bottom but I did the hike to the top, it was surrounded by bamboo forests - I looked but to my disappointment couldn’t find any bamboo snakes. Once at the top we could walk under the crescent shape in the mountain; large water drips came down and swallows that nested in the crevices flew around and danced with each other in the air. The path was slippery with mud and water on the way down. Afterwards we cycled around 5-6 miles back through the mountains to our hotel where there were a lot of buffalo. The long cycle ride gave me bruising on my inner thighs.



16/6/09 Tuesday
Tonight I wrote home - we had had a power cut the whole day. I have noticed how China blocks my emails so no one back home can get them, it also wont allow me into most websites. I could hear about ten different sounds from frogs, bats, crickets, locusts as well as seeing glow bugs and large spiders in the evening.

17/6/09 Wednesday
This morning we awoke to a lot of rain, the frogs are all calling each other in the rice fields which are full of water; I read in the hotel you can go swimming inside the Moon Caves around the mountains. This evening we are leaving, we are in the train station now getting a sleeper train to Guangdong province that borders Hong Kong, after that we pass through customs. I’m covered in mosquito bites. During our last evening here there was the most beautiful sunset over mountains, right before our taxi driver picked us up. Our taxi driver was completely insane, the drive to the train station was about an hour and half and during that time there are toll areas, instead of stopping to pay, she sped up and went straight through the barrier knocking it clean off, as it hit our roof she accelerated out leaving a lot of people standing there looking at her. As I tried to get into the train station my suit case wheels and handle all broke off and my suit case went flying down some stairs, which I had to go and retrieve.

18/6/09 Thursday
Hong Kong
The hotel was lovely, a giant dinner plate shower which I needed after the trip on the sleeper train, we thought the bathroom looked great until it dawned on us it was surrounded by glass walls and the room was covered in mirrors.


When we got outside I wore trousers to cover my legs, which were a mess of insect bites, they were swollen and lumpy. The air was chokingly hot and smoggy as if your head was in a bag. I found Hong Kong fascinating it’s somewhere I could see myself living. My mother said she was going to move to Hong Kong thirty years ago, which meant I would have been born there. Lots of major buildings have bamboo scaffolding, you wouldn’t think it holds as well as metal but it does, the women seem to do everything especially heavy lifting and everyone speaks English here. So many people were wearing paper masks to protect them selves from the flu.



19/6/09 Friday & Saturday
Over the two and half days, we explored everything, the hotels and news warned of a typhoon coming tomorrow, they put a big chart of the weather movement in the hotel reception; however we would just miss it. We found a market and haggled, I bought a dress and a bag. The MacDonald’s sold Happy Meals with Cinnamoroll toys in, which were one of my favourite Hello Kitty characters when I was younger. We went to a Japanese sushi bar and watched the sushi prepared in front of us - fresh salmon sliced and placed on top of hot rice - it was the nicest sushi I’ve ever had.



20/6/09
Left Hong Kong at 11.30pm