A Travellerspoint blog

Fujian Province

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Sunday we left Shanghai and took the bullet train to Xiamen. Being my first experience of a bullet train, I thought I'd be able to feel the G shock on my face but it felt just like a normal train! Bit disappointing. We then took a minibus 2 hours to our stop at a tiny village in the Fujian Province where the Hakka people live. The countryside is so pretty, it's full of mountain peaks and streams. It's also full of windy mountain-side 'roads' (I use this term loosely) which made the minibus trip rather interesting!! (I was pooing my pants).

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Monday was our first full day, and we spent it visiting several traditional roundhouses - one of which is the oldest in the world at 700 years old. We also visited the largest roundhouse in the world, which can house up to 72 families! The houses are huge circular constructions that are home to many families. The inner circle is a courtyard-type communal area where they'd most often have a temple, which they would use for various occassions. Each house within the construction is four storeys high, with only the top two floors having windows - so that in times past during periods of war the enemy couldn't climb in! The houses are still in use today, although many are now tourist attractions. The ones we visited offered tea tasting, which I really enjoyed!

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During our time, we visited a tea plantation, which meant more of the awful mountain-side roads to get there, thankfully the minibus got stuck halfway up so we got to walk! The tea plantation was fairly interesting, but the views it gave were the real highlight. I wouldn't mind working as a tea picker with those views everyday!
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Monday night the village was holding a festival. Apparantly only something they do once a year, so we felt very lucky! The locals were all so friendly and welcoming! There was even some fireworks, which was cool what with it being bonfire night the next day at home!

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Some of the group playing poker - only during an official festival is gambling legal in China. Ben won!

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As with each of the countryside stops we've made, (and especially with this being the last in China) I really wanted to stay longer. The pace of life and beautiful scenery make it so hard to leave! We're now however off to Macau, travelling our last night train of this part of the trip!

Posted by AmyRossiter26 22:36 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai!

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Shanghai has been my favourite city so far, and by far the most impressive with it's huge modern skyscrapers and pretty colonial-style buildings. Although it is clearly as busy as, if not more busy than Beijing there is none of the horrible smog as it's so close to the coast. There's also a large river running through the city, with amazing views from The Bund of the skyline.
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We arrived in Shanghai on Halloween, which meant a mad (unsuccessful) rush around the city looking for costumes! I settled on Devil-Cat and Ben French dead Harry Potter?! We had a really fun night though, going on a pre-arranged bar crawl. The first bar was all you could drink - as it was so busy Ben decided to play Barman and lent over the bar serving drinks to people! Needless to say, we all had a bit of a hangover the next day.
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Our second day in Shanghai, we visited a Propaganda Poster Museum (which was only slightly less boring than it sounds), The French Concession which was a really pretty upmarket part of the city with lots of French bakeries and cute shops, and an amazing Chinese acrobatics show. The show was fantastic and I'd say it's a must do! There's several theatres in the city that put on variations of the same show.

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Our third and last full day in Shanghai was spent walking around the city. We visited Yu Gardens, which I thought would be Shanghai's version of Central Park. It wasn't. But was still really nice, with lots of traditional Chinese architecture and Koi Carp ponds.
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The evening of the same day, we visited The Hyatt Hotel on The Bund. Definitely one of my favourite things we've done so far! The hotel has a rooftop bar and jacuzzi 32 storeys high. It was amazing to relax on one of the comfy beds with a glass of Pinot Grigio and the temptation of the jacuzzi. The views of the Shanghai skyline were incredible - something I'll remember forever and a fab way to finish our stay in Shanghai. Trouble is, I could quite easily get used to the life of luxury, not something my backpackers budget is going to allow me to do!!
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Posted by AmyRossiter26 01:37 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beijing... Brrrr!

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Well, I definitely was not prepared for the cold climate of Beijing!! I knew it would be cold, but freezing temperatures like that of a December morning in the UK I was not expecting. (I may be exaggerating a tiny bit, but nevertheless it was blooming cold!!) Despite the arctic conditions, Beijing was a lovely city to visit with it's traditional China meets 21st century feel. The main street of the city 'walking street' is full of shops from high street brands like Zara (I had to cross the road to resist temptation) to authentic Chinese shops selling everything from differing flavoured teas to custom made chopsticks! Beijing is also home to several good markets, one of which we visited. We visited the day market which is basically an indoor four storey high building full of stalls selling every kind of replica product you could imagine, and EVERYTHING is to be haggled for! The keeper will start at some ridiculously high price like 500 yuan (£50) and you'll end up getting it for 10 yuan (£1)! I didn't buy anything but people we've met did - we don't have any spare space in our luggage for fake Fendi!!

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Our first day arriving in Beijing we took a 2 hour bus journey to climb a non-touristy segment of The Great Wall - definitely one of my favourite things we've so far done! The views were nothing short of spectacular, and it felt amazing to be walking along something so tightly woven in history. Without a doubt a once in a lifetime experience, and something i'll remember forever. The hike is really strenuous but so worth it! The next morning we even got up at 5:30am to reach The Wall for sunrise - without doubt one of the most amazing things I've seen, no photograph will ever do it justice!
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Beijing is also home to The Forbidden City - another must visit place. The buildings were pretty cool and the history surrounding them interesting. For me though the most exciting part was the arrival of some Chillian official taking his own personal guided tour, complete with about 50 James Bond-esque guards! I kept trying to take photos but was given several death stares by a James Bond, I swear one even showed me their AK47!

By The Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square - an integral part of modern Chinese history. Hard to believe standing there with the crowds of happy tourists, less than 25 years previous it was the site of so much bloodshed.
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The flag at Tiananmen Square.

Whilst in Beijing we also visited The 2008 Olympic Park, home to the birds nest stadium. It was really impressive, especially when it got dark and was lit up. I am glad I went, even though I was dragged along there by Ben!
Beijing was really nice, but it's a very smoggy city and lots of us developed sore throats and colds because of it (me included) so although I enjoyed it, I was happy to move on to our next stop - a beautiful lodge in the bamboo forest of Moganshan.
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The view from our balcony in the bamboo lodge!

It was so lovely to spend the night relaxing in the lodge, before starting the journey to our next stop - Shanghai!!

Posted by AmyRossiter26 19:54 Archived in China Comments (1)

Shaolin - The Home of Kung Fu!

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We spent one night in Shaolin, which is a small town with lots of Chinese culture! When we arrived we visited an orphanage a short walk from the hotel. The children are all either orphaned or have families too poor to care for them, and so have been taken in by a monk who has taught them all kung fu. They're taught from morning until night every day with only Sundays off! The kids put on a kung fu show for us which was AMAZING! Some of their tricks included breaking metal blocks with their heads and throwing a pin through a piece of glass to pop a balloon on the other side!! IMG_4017.jpg

Yesterday on our second day in Shaolin we visited the temple, which is home to 8000 kung fu students!! Some of which put on another cool show for us. We then climbed a mountain within the temple grounds, on the top of which a nun has been meditating for 4 years!! Don't worry though, she does have a mobile phone and apparently just makes a call if she needs food!! The views at the top of the mountain were spectacular and made it worth the hour hike.
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A prayer tree at the top of the mountain. People write messages or prayers on the red material and tie it to the tree.

Last night we left Shaolin by night train, travelling for 10 hours to our next destination - Beijing! We arrived early this morning, and am very excited for all we have planned here!

Posted by AmyRossiter26 19:54 Archived in China Comments (0)

Chengdu & Xian!

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Leaving Yangshuo we moved on to Chengdu - the home of the Panda Sanctuary!! Ben and I had really been looking forward to this and it didn't disappoint! The Pandas were amazing, I could have sat and watched them all day! There had recently been some babies born too, which we got to see - the cutest things ever!!
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We were only in Chengdu overnight but managed to fit in quite a bit. Aswell as the Panda Sanctuary, we visited a Monastery which was really interesting, the building and sculptures were very impressive and we timed it just right so that we were able to see the monks performing a ceremony. IMG_4039.jpg
We also experienced an authentic Sechuan hot pot which is basically a very spicy soup boiling in the middle of a table, which you add various meats, fish and vegetables to - it was okay, but think I'll stick with the English version!! We also had a massage by a blind masseur - the Chinese believe that if you are lacking in one sense your others are heightened which makes blind masseurs more skilled. I'm not sure about more skilled, but my back did feel bruised for a few days afterwards!!

After Chengdu we moved on to Xian - a massive city! It has retained some Chinese character though, with lots of pretty buildings. Xian also has a high wall which keeps contained the inner city from the outer city. Ben and I cycled the 7 miles of the city wall on a tandem bike and saw some lovely views! Ben was a bit sceptical about the tandem but it was really funny!!
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In Xian we also did some volunteer work at a homeless soup kitchen, which had been set up by an English bloke Tony about 8 years previously. He does no fundraising or advertising to keep the charity going, it's all down to volunteers so was quite cool to be a part of it. In Xian we also had our first experience of KTV (Chinese karaoke). The Chinese go mad for karaoke - it was so much fun and a very messy night!! Ben even managed to interrupt a guy proposing to his girlfriend! He'd walked in to the wrong karaoke room accidently, which was complete with hundreds of lit candles and red roses! Oops! They weren't too upset though, and even asked for a photo with him!
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Xian is also home to the Terracotta Warriors, which are deemed the eighth wonder of the world! The story behind them is really interesting and was cool to see them, but it's a very touristy place and was packed with people.
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After a few days in Xian city we spent a night on a rustic farm in the mountains - amazing scenery and very relaxing! But very very cold!! We ate homecooked organic food from the farm and when it got dark lit a fire and played games! IMG_4037.jpg

All in all, had a very busy few days and lots more to come!

Posted by AmyRossiter26 19:15 Archived in China Comments (0)

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