A Travellerspoint blog

October 2013

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)

On To Yangshuo!

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21EE4B2F2219AC68177152F16F40C260.jpg The last couple of days we have been based in Yangshuo - the first of our stops in mainland China! It is such a beautiful place with meandering rivers and beautiful karst peaks. The town is so pretty and quaint, but complete with a McDonalds and KFC it feels quite westernised too! We've done plenty of cycling, which in the main town area is a bit like taking your life in your own hands (definitely no cycle lanes in China!) but well worth it when you reach the countryide as the landscape is amazing!!

On our first full day in Yangshuo on Tuesday, we took a bamboo raft up the Lijiang River - it was so relaxing, and the scenery was breathtaking. The little Chinese man steering the raft even let Ben and I both have a go - much more difficult than they make it look!
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Wednesday we cycled to these cool caves which house natural mud baths and hot springs - I wasn't such a fan of the mud baths, but loved relaxing in the hot springs! Wednesday we also went for the best Chinese dinner I've ever had at a restaurant called Cloud 9 - the Chinese takeout round the corner at home doesn't come close!!
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Thursday was our last full day in Yangshuo and we spent it kayaking up the Li River - again the most amazing scenery!! The river's current did most of the work so I got a chance to catch a bit of a tan! In the afternoon we took a Chinese cookery class - health and safety was a bit questionable but it was so much fun, definitely going to have a go at making the food when I'm back home!!
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Thursday also entailed our first experience of a Chinese supermarket - which led to lots of potnoodle type purchases and Ben behind the shop counter using their internet to look up the Mandarin translation for 'rum' and 'brandy' as the poor shopkeeper didn't have a clue what we wanted! Needless to say we made a few choice alcohol purchases!
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I'm currently writing this on the way to our next destination - Cheng Du. We started our journey yesterday and 24 hours later we're still travelling! My first experience of a sleeper train! It's a bit cramped but lots more roomy than the 11 hour sleeper bus journey to Yangshuo from Hong Kong so I can't complain!
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I left Yangshuo excited to be moving on to our next stop, but equally as disappointed to be leaving. Yangshuo felt authentically Chinese with it's beautiful latern-clad buildings and stone cobbled streets and is definitely somewhere I would consider re-visiting as even with all we did I felt there's more we could have done!

Posted by AmyRossiter26 17:52 Archived in China Comments (0)

...And So The Journey Begins!

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IMG_3899.jpg IMG_3902.jpg Hong Kong - familiar yet unrecognisable, so much like any other big city but yet so unlike anywhere else at the same time. With it's towering scrapers and busy shop fronts it could be any city in the world, but what separates Hong Kong is its juxtaposition of beautiful mountain peaks that form the backdrop to this 24 hour city. Infact, more than 70% of Hong Kong is made up of hills, mountains and tropical forestry! On Monday we'll be hiking up Victoria Peak - we could take the historic Peak Tram to the top, but I need to burn off all this delicious food somehow!
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Today we took the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island to mainland Hong Kong and Kowloon - a MUST do if you're situated on Hong Kong Island, if only for the spectacular view it gives. We took time to walk the harbour concourse and took some photographs of the view of HK Island. We then walked the 'Avenue of the Stars' - Hong Kong's version of The Hollywood Boulevard! A great opportunity to appreciate everyone from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li to other world famous superstars including the legendary Yu So Chow, Fung Bo Bo and William Chang Suk Ping... Hmm, maybe not.

We then vanished into the city's neon-clad streets, bustling with shops selling everything from tailored suits to traditional herbal medicines. If you've got money to blow, there's Chopard jewels and Rolex watches aplenty! (Slightly out of our price range unfortunately!) There's also lots of restaurants catering for varying tastes and budgets! After a bit of a wander we found a restaurant within one of the many shopping centres, and what a find it was! A dinner of beef steak and udon noodles cost the bargain price of $HK45 - which is about £4!! It was a delicious wagamama-esque meal, only slightly dampened by a gradual losing battle with our chopsticks! What's wrong with a knife and fork?!
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Tomorrow we're heading again to the harbour, but in the evening, so as to witness the Symphony of Lights display - a laser-light show projected from atop the skyscrapers across the harbour - apparently not something to miss!

Although first impressions of Hong Kong are just that of a city filled with shops and skyscrapers, there's so much more to it!! Hong Kong is dripping with history, so tomorrow we're also making a visit to some of it's many historic museums. Kowloon is also home to a picturesque park with a Chinese garden, which we're told is worth a visit - we may go along there tomorrow with a picnic!

Hong Kong is the first stop on our RTW trip and I am so glad it is! It's nice (if a bit strange) to be in a place so far away, but which has so much to remind us of home - we've already made two visits to McDonalds!!

Posted by AmyRossiter26 10:01 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (4)

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