A Travellerspoint blog

Xian

Home of the Terracotta Warriors, and not much else.

Tuesday 1st SeptemberHeading to the train station for an overnight train to Xian, it was time to bid farewell to Beijing.
I won't miss the CCTV cameras everywhere - makes you feel like you ARE doing something wrong, just because of the overt surveillance - or the smog, but I will miss Beijings wide streets and not-so-manic traffic.
Time for a train trip with a bed. Even being the well-travelled little backpacker that I am, I think China is my 54th country, I've never had an overnight train bed. Sure, I've done some long train journeys, such as 48 hours from Vancouver to LA down America's west coast, but I just had a seat. When I travel, I'm not into saving money on accommodation by travelling at night. I usually prefer to travel by day and look out the window and have a proper bed at night. Being on an organised 'tour' takes these choices away from you and you just go with it, but it does have it's benefits too, as we discovered. Firstly, while we'd had the day at the Forbidden City, our guide Ling had been fighting Chinese train ticket booths where no one queues and the bargers win, to get our tickets. Secondly, as we arrived at the 'correct' train station, I was confused by the iridescent wall of changing Chinese characters that listed arriving and departing trains with not a word in English. Like disciples, we dutifully followed her to the correct platform, carriage and cabin for our overnight journey. Who said a guide was a waste of time?
Eating before we left and boarding at 9:00pm, we sat around on the bottom bunks chatting and drinking BYO (cold)beer until 'lights out' at 10:30.
With bunks stacked triple high, my bed on the top required the skills of a Chinese contortionist to enter it. With no room to sit up, reading in bed was not really an option, despite the personal light. Clean linen, a warm doona and the rhythmic clickety clack of the train soon had me to sleep. The hard bed and occassional lurches and bangs that only a train can make, meant that it was an interrupted sleep.
Note to self - if on top bunk, avoid beer before bedtime. Getting up in the night was an acrobatic adventure of twisted limbs, compounded by the darkness.
On waking and surveying the passing scenery, it seemed that the smog in China is all-pervasive. Even out of the city, the pall of polution just blankets the country, reducing the sun and hiding the clouds.
The other thing that is ubiquitous in China seems to be construction. Concrete and cranes are everywhere. Cities, countryside, China looks like it's trying to pull the world out of recession single-handedly. Forget the phrase, "All the tea in China." What about, "All the cranes in China."

We hadn't been up too long in the morning and we were in Xian, our destination and the home of the Terracotta Warriors.
Backpacks on, front and back, we pushed through the throng of waiting crowds that seem to be a feature of train stations the world over, and walked about 10 minutes away to a waiting bus.
It was mid-morning by now and we were fortunate in being able to check straight into our hotel rooms. Quick showers all round and the group met at 11:30 for an orientation walk of the city before a group lunch.
Apart from a fantastic big old city wall that surrounds the city, and us, Xian doesn't have a lot to offer it seems. That is unless you count food. Lunch today continued the run of fantastic food in China. Ling just ordered a bunch of stuff for us and it arrived bit by bit and each dish started spinning it's way around the lazy susan. Spicy sichuan beans, a delicious eggplant dish and 4 different types of steamed dumplings. The cucumber dumplings, with a lovely broth were one of my favourite foods so far.

This afternoon, we left town to go and see the Terracotta Warriors. A grand scheme by Emperor Qin he took an army of workers to build over 600 underground bunkers and filled them with over 7000 clay soldiers, each unique in dress and facial features, in addition to other things he would need in the afterlife. This all took place over 2000 years ago by the same mad emperor who built the first 'great wall', out of dirt. (The classic one you see now is the stone one from the much more recent (1368-1644 AD) Ming Dynasty.
"Mad" a bit harsh? As per his wishes, his 3000 concubines were buried alive in his tomb with him in addition to killing one million people, about a fifth of China's population through sheer hard work in achieving his mad schemes. He did unify China and introduce a common language, measurement system and currency, but on the whole, he was not a man of the people. Proof of this was manifest when just a year after his death, the peasants revolted, (Conversation in Imperial court - "Emperor! The peasants are revolting." "Yes, I know.") and pillaged the tombs he had constructed for his afterlife, smashing all but one of the terracotta warriors and burning the tombs.
This makes the terracotta warriors on display even more impressive. They are a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle of broken pottery set in semistone. Archeaolgist's nightmare or career-spanning challenge? Take your pick.
There are 3 sheds that house the warriors you can look at, but most are still underground because although they were painted, it fades on excavation and exposure.
Compared with the Great Wall of China from earlier in the week that blew me away more than I expected, I will admit to being a little underwhelmed by the terracotta warriors. I'd seen them when some came to Perth a few years ago and didn't really gain much more looking at them in a shed on site.
We caught a local bus back to Xian station and from there we jumped on a public double decker bus for the ride back to our hotel. I grabbed the front top seat for an elevated view of the carnaged on the road that is Chinese driving.
(Our guide Ling does not have her licence, to which Brett quipped, "You're Chinese and female, so that's probably a good thing.")
As the bus ploughed through throngs of traffic and pedestrians, they magically separated at just the last minute, but not so soon that we didn't think we might have scored a hit. Twas a hoot of a view.

Tonight we wandered the night markets in the Muslim Quarter, intending to have a dinner of street stall snacks. We hit the taste jackpot at the start with a sweet steamed rice snack on a skewer. Appetiser? After walking the usual gauntlet of repetitious traders selling trinkets and other things we didn't need or want, we decided instead to eat in a restaurant. I LOVE street food, but you need to be choosy about who you buy from. Some are fresh and fantastic, however the ones on this street were not. I won't disgust you with details, suffice to say we chose to eat elsewhere.

Wandering back, I left Amanda at the hotel room and tried to find the internet cafe our guide had told us about. It wasn't there any more and no one knew where it had gone. Here in China you need a special licence to run an internet cafe, making for fewer, but larger ones. Back at the hotel again, the receptionist came to the rescue, I hoped, with a scribbled map of directions and instructions that began with "Go left out the front door and through the iron gate, up the dark alley...."
After that, and more dodgy little back streets of Xian, I found it where she said. No signs out the front and it was hidden on the 3rd floor behind not one, but two thick curtained doorways. I felt like I was meeting a triad leader or involved in some clandestine drug deal, but no, all this intrepid traveller was trying to do was keep my avid blog readers up to date with my travels. An hour later it was after midnight and I retraced my steps all the way back along dark alleys, only to find the 3 metre high wrought iron gate now chained and locked. I could see the entrace to my hotel, just 50 metres up a lit street. Faced with the option of continuing to walk the city streets without a map, I scaled the wall and pretended nothing had happened. All this just to do internet for you.


Thursday
- Wall top bike riding. We proved that it's not just stunt bikers that can ride along walls.
Some of us got up early and went for a bike ride around the city wall. Xian has a lovely high wall around the 'old city', built in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty. (They must have liked building walls, not just 'Great' ones.) There's bikes to rent on top and seizing the chance to do something new, Amanda and I hired a tandem bike. It's 12 kms around the city wall. It's about 20 metres wide on top and the views should be good, only the all pervasive smog puts paid to that. We didn't crash, or get into fisticuffs and we pretty much had the wall to ourselves until returning an hour later at 10 after one lazy lap of the wall, at which point there were many more tourists renting bikes. The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, a quiet time without crowds.
We were meeting in reception at 11:30 to catch our train to Chengdu, so I grabbed breakfast from the street vendor near the hotel. A freshly fried egg came in a bun of lovely flakey dough, like a flat croissant. Packing done, one good bun deserved another! I told you I like GOOD street vendor food.

We caught a bus to the train station to catch the overnight train to Chengdu, home of pandas. My next blog will be about that, and some nights in mountain monasteries.

I'll leave you with some of my thoughts on Chinese beer.
The brands may change, but it's always the same tasteless low alcohol watery beer really. They seem happy to drink it warm too and sometimes they ask you, "Cold?" Stupid question to ask an Aussie hey!
They have a popular one in China called Snow Beer, I think it's because they taste the same. I'd rather have NO beer than Snow Beer.
In a flurry of inspiration, or would that be frustration, I penned 11 slogans that I think Chinese brewers could use to promote their products.
11 SLOGANS FOR CHINESE BEER
1) The beer you have when you're not having a beer.
2) Any closer to water, there'd be fish in it.
3) Now you can drink water, but still look like a beer-drinking man.
4) There's more hops in a dead frog.
5) Like lemonade, but with less bubbles.
6) The same poor quality you've come to expect from China.\
7) The beer you CAN drink and still drive.
8) Just because we can make cheap platic shit, doe not mean we can make good beer.
9) Beer - It's Mandarin for 'water'.
10) Guaranteed NOT to give you beer goggles.
11) Made with clean spring water, and not much else.

Posted by TheWandera 03:42 Archived in China Comments (1)

Beijing

What a contrast to Shanghai!!

Well! Well! Well! If you though Beijing and Shanghai were JUST two BIG cities in China, think again.

Our taxi to the Shanghai airport confirmed that ALL drivers in Shanghai are idiots. He too treated the motorway like a Formula One race track and once again, Amanda and I admired passing buildings rather than look at his stupidity on the road ahead. Much more relaxing we thought.

Saturday 29th August
We had originally planned to catch a train from Shanghai to Beijing, but it the 10 hour journey was overnight, which defeated the purpose of a 'scenic' China rail journey, so we flew instead. Our flight from Shanghai to Beijing was only 2 hours. On arriving at Terminal 2 we took what turned out to be a 'scenic bus' it took so long, to Terminal 3 and from there we caught a local bus #3 ("Just catch #3" sounds easy, until everything is written in spaghetti, sorry Mandarin and even the #3 doesn't appear on the front of a bus.) to the city and our hotel. Time to drop to a 3 star hotel in preparation for roughing it in monastries later in our trip. Up until now, we've been more like Flashpackers than backpackers. Sure, we have a backpack instead of a suitcase, but swish hotels and up-market bars and restaurants? Why not? We've had fun so far, and I've shared it with you in previous blogs. Time to knuckle down for the "intrepid" part of our trip.

Tonight we went wandering and before we knew it, we were at Tianamin Sq with the Forbidden City behind us.
Only thing wrong was that Tiananmen Sq was off limits, filled instead by, I kid you not, tens of thousands of soldiers. Another uprising and call for democracy? Yeah right! This generation of young Chinese think they have got it so good, that there's no call for change. China - where Communism meets capitalism. Strange but true.
Why then was the square full of soldiers? Tonight was going to be a dress rehearsal for the 60th celebrations of Chinese Communism on October 1st. 200 000 people are participating in the show forcing large parts of the city to be closed off.
It was a nice evening and we did see the 'lowering of the flag' and the photogenic entrance to the Forbidden City looked good with warm evening light on a (relatively smog-free) clear night.
We walked back to our centrally-located hotel, and then to a restaurant around the corner.
If you know me by now, you will know that I'm a big believer in "When in Rome..." It adds a nice dimension to how I like to travel. So, in this case, when in Beijing (Peking), let's have Peking duck. The waiter carved the duck at the table and left me with a pile of pancakes, spring onions, cucumber batons and sauce to make my own little spring rolls. I say MY little rolls, because Amanda's vegetarian, so I got the whole bloody duck to myself.

Sunday - Time to explore Beijing some more.
We wanted to rent bikes from the hotel, but "Bike broke." You only have one? Got shown where to hire them, but in trying to find it, we spent the rest of the morning exploring (wandering) some of Beijing's hutongs. A hutong is a narrow alleyway or side street of single story dwellings. Just local people doing what they do. Get down dirty and get off the beaten track and it's amazing what you find. Fruit vendors and just a whole bunch of interesting things and people. I got some lovely photos and a couple of sweet fresh nashis.
Hutonged out for now, we caught the underground to the Temple of Heaven. What a surprise. In addition to the 'tourist' sites I expected and got, you can pay to enter only the large temple grounds for just $3. The result? Beijing locals enjoying a Sunday out and about. We saw people playing 'hackysack' with a bright-feathered shuttlecock, musicians getting together for a jam, people dancing and other wanna-be Peking opera stars sounding like a strangled chicken as you hurried past, lest your eardrums bust from badness.
The temples and other historic stuff was interesting, very old and photogenic too.
Walking back it was time for late lunch and no sooner had we mentioned this, than we passed a big busy place and stopped to eat. What a smorgesbord of flavours. We ordered too much, but it's so cheap it didnt' matter. How much more authentic can you get than Chinese food in China? We ordered just vego so we could both share and loved it all. There's nothing like travelling through China to get your chopstick using skills up to scratch. Ever tried eating lima beans, picking them up one at a time. That'll test ya. Whilst the food was good, by memory of todays lunch will be the level of noise that the Chinese live by. No, not rowdy customers, this was the staff shouting across the restaurant. It's just the way it is here. If the customers didn't like it, they'd eat elsewhere and that's not the case because this place was full. So too were we, as we continued wandering.
We found some more random hutongs and continued exploring, and taking many photos, whilst looking for the entrance to Beijing's underground city, a Cold War legacy. We found it, but it's closed?
Before we knew it, we were in Tiananmen Square, which at 4.4 kilometre sq is the world's largest city centre square.
It's huge and full of people, mostly tourists like us. I'm told it can hold half a million people. There's Mao's musoleum right in the middle and soldiers police and security guards everywhere you look. In addition, there are CCTV cameras everywhere, even more than the rest of Beijing.
As I sit and type this for you in an internet bureau, I've had to have my passport scanned, my photo taken and I'm being watched by a dozen cameras as 'monitors' wander around. People either side of me have as good a view of my screen as I their's. (They're playing games.) Welcome to BIG brother.
Walking back to our hotel from Tiananmen Sq, we realised we'd walked for 8.5 hours.
Quick freshen up and chill out before we caught a taxi to the night food markets. One long row of food stalls selling everything from fruit kebabs to scorpion skewers. I just had to try scorpions and the video Amanda took of me doing it is a classic. (I will put it on You Tube on my return and advise link then.) I expected to eat some unusual food in China, and have already, but I didn't see scorpions on my radar. Tasty? Not really. Just crispy.

As if we hadn't walked enough today, we walked all the way back to our hotel. Beijing might be spacious, but it does make things spread out.

Monday - Going the wrong way up a street had us barging through buses whilst bicycling in Beijing.
After a morning's wandering on foot in the hunt for rental bike we found them at 1 pm and grabbed one each for 4 hours.
We immediately headed north to the Drum Tower and explored hutongs from there.
Beijing's main roads are cycle friendly as they have a full lane marked off for bikes. Unfortunately it seems to be increasingly used for cars to park, so I wonder what will happen in years to come as more and more people in China buy a car.
We stashed the bikes and wandered the length of a 'tourist hutong' on foot. It's the one in all the guide books and the tourist shops are a giveaway. A tasty lunch in a Tibetan cafe gave us a taste of what's to come for us when we get to Tibet.
We cycled back past restaurant-lined lakes of relaxing Chinese on mini motorboats. Next thing we were faced with a moat and a high wall - the edge of the Forbidden City. We found an entrance and cycled in.
(When I'm feeling REALLY naughty, I go to the Forbidden City.)
On exiting we were back at Tiananmen Square, again. To get back to the rental place we were on the wrong side of the road with a fence in the middle. We thought we'd copy the locals and ride contra-flow in the cycle lane, which was fine until 5 buses came head on at us and we weaved our way through, glad we'd survived. It had felt too safe in Beijing anyway.
Tonight was the official start of our Intrepid tour - Mountains and Monasteries and the first time we met up as a group. intorductions, paperwork and other formalities aside, we all went out for dinner together.
We've all been given our own set of chopsticks to keep and carry with us. Seems that Intrepid want to save the world, one pair of disposable bamboo chopsticks at a time.
There's 12 of us and a guide, so we had a big table with a giant lazy susan in the middle. A tasty variety of dishes followed and we all indulged. The food in China is fantastic.
We have great mix of people and we'll have a good time over together over the next 4 weeks.

Tuesday 1st September - The Great Wall
We had breakfast again from a stall in the alley next to the hotel. Egg & lettuce roll for 50 cents. Food in China is so cheap, and tasty too.
It was a two hour drive to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, but it was worth the wait. I felt bad about taking the cable car up the mountain to the wall, rather than use the steps, but knew we'd be hiking along the wall.
What a feat of engineering! The wall follows the ridges of the mountains. Up down and around. They had to carry all these rocks to the top of the mountain to do it. Walking east for many kilometres, the crowds dwindled and I've got people free photos of the wall. The final guard tower we hiked to was preceded by a massive set of steps of almost 45 degrees. Add in 1000m ASL and it was a killer. What a view from the tower. Not sure when the postcard photos got taken, because even out here there's smog.
We hiked back, past our start point and then continued to the top of the toboggan. What a way to go back down. Sit on the cart and there's a handle to push forward to go faster down a stainless steel track. Judging by the animated Chinese men yelling at me on every corner with a megaphone, I think I now what "slow down" sounds like in Mandarin. What are they going to do? They've gotta catch me first. Awesome fun.
I took many photos at the Great Wall, but it is one of those things that for me, until I was there and stood on it, I didn't really appreciate how GREAT it really is.
With our free afternoon Amanda and I went hutong hunting. We'd criss-crossed the ones near our hotel, so we went wandering behind the train station looking for 'new' ones instead. What we found first was a lovely park, with a big list of things you couldn't do in it and patrolled by guards to enforce the rules. Twelve different symbols with a red circle around them and a red line through it. People were out with their little dogs, complete with doggie dresses on them. (If only dogs could talk.) The park was flanked on one side by an 'old' city wall. Ming Dynasty if you read the sign. On reading closer, you found that actually it is a reconstruction because the original was destroyed by Mao in the Cultural Revolution. I've noticed that the Chinese are very good at building new stuff to look old. "Historic recreations?" We did find ourselves some nice little hutongs, alleyways lined with shops and houses that are the 'life' of central Beijing. No surprises that I got some great portraits.
Amanda and I had a hotpot dinner. Hotpot is like a steamboat, but it was individual rather than communal, so you had your own pot and threw ingredients in as you wanted, fishing them out with a ladle. I've been loving what they call 'black fungus'. It looks a bit like kelp and I've had it often. Sounds bad - tastes good.

Wednesday - Tour of the Forbidden City.
Same brekkie again. When you're onto a good thing, stick to it.
Meeting as a group, with a local guide Vivien, we caught the underground to Tiananmen Square and walked the length of it from south to north before entering the Forbidden City under Mao's portrait. Today was really smoggy and I'm glad I got some better photos on my earlier visit to Tiananmen Sq.
The Forbidden City is huge and full of centuries-old palaces. Architecturally interesting and photographically inspiring, it was only the smog that stopped me taking even more photos than I did. Our guide for today, Vivien walked us through it all, explaining the history as we went. It was home to China's emperors, so there were many stories. Could you keep up with 3000 concubines?
Back at the hotel and with the rest of the afternoon free, Amanda, Ian & Helen and I walked up our local hutong and sat and had a big green bottle of beer. As we sat on a little table right there on the narrow street, only just wide enough for the occassional car, as people wandered by, it was great to just watch life and death in a hutong. Death? The bloke in the food store opposite killed and plucked a chicken for dinner as we watched.
because tonight we're catching an overnight train to Xian. We had our room until 6pm, so I showered and packed my backpack, ready to hit the road, or in this case, tracks.
We had dinner as a group before going to the station for our 9:30pm train. Boy was I glad for a guide. Everything in the station was in Mandarin. I'd have had fun trying to find the right train on my own before it left without me.
Details of the journey and more in my next blog.
Next stop is Xian, home of the famous Terracotta Warriors.

Reflectons on two cities - Shanghai and Beijing.
They're both big and smoggy, but I think the similarities stop there. What a contrast.
Shanghai, as I described in detail in my last blog, is under contruction - everywhere. It's like Shanghai has to 'prove' itself to China and the world. Claustrophobic traffic and a really sense of rush, exacerbated by bad drivers make it a stressful city.
Beijing on the other hand, with its decadently wide streets (10 lanes) and drivers that behave has that self-assured feel that you get when you know you are the best. It's been the capital for almost all of China's history and it's had the Olympics. There's nothing to prove. In Shanghai, cycling would be suicidal and even being a pedestrian isn't far behind. In Beijing, cycling was fun and we felt safe. Walking is also pleasant.

Posted by TheWandera 08:34 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai

A chaos of construction and a deluge of demolition dust.

Could The Wandera find something good in amongst the chaos of construction that is Shanghai at the moment?
Why so much contruction at once? I hear you ask.
Shanghai had just 249 days to go until World Expo 2010 and it's down to 245 days by the time we left, so they are literally working around the clock to make it a city on show to the world.
Shanghai is, and will be until Expo, a sea of scaffolding, and a nightmare of noise.
There is so much building going on it beggars belief.
Underground railway lines, bridges, buildings, repaving and renovation. It's all happening in Shanghai, and all at once. They're out to prove that it's not only Beijing that can host a world event.
The biggest bummer of all this was not bamboo scaffolding on 3 out of every 4 corners of each intersection, it was that the pedestrian waterfront of THE BUND is closed off with hoardings the whole length. That's right. They are redeveloping the WHOLE waterfront. The Bund is to Shanghai, what Times Square is to New York and the Eifel Tower is to Paris. Can you imagine visiting those two cities and finding it fenced off with hoardings. That, dear readers, is what faced these two intrepid travellers, but we continued our explorations undeterred and still found our bit of magic amongst the mayhem. This is my Shanghai.

Tuesday 25th August -
We flew from Lijiang to Kunming and then from Kunming to Shanghai. The Shanghai Daily newspaper on the plane had the story at the back saying, "Ashes loss calls for Aussie cull." Yikes! Better be careful. Interesting note - the East German passenger beside me kept his copy of the paper to share with friends back home because it reminded him of the propaganda style of writing that old East Germans are familiar with. Hey! It's China. How else can you 'control' one BILLION people if you don't control the media and use it for propaganda. Note to Facebook users - China is off limits. That website is blocked,so if you have sent me messages, I can't see them. Please use my 'regular' email

After travelling from Lijiang by plane, we arrived in Shanghai at about 7pm and got a lift into town. Here was our introduction to Shanghai driving. It felt like the driver had learnt to drive on "Ridge Racer" TV game or maybe he was a Formula One fan? Whatever the reason, he drove like a lunatic on the highway into town, changing lanes and using his car as a battering ram. We didn't know it then, but this was our introduction to how they drive in Shanghai.
Architecturally interesting tall buildings with clever lighting gave us something to look at on our way to our hotel.
Our hotel? We are staying at Broadway Mansions on the Bund. Very luxurious hotel and what a view from our room! This place is somewhere I will stay when I next come back to Shanghai. (I will need to come back, because I'd like to see it 'finished'.) Dumping our bags, we popped to the roof-top bar of our hotel for a quick photo of Shanghai panorama before heading out for walkies.
To give you an idea, being on The Bund, means you look across the Huangpu river to the 'iconic' Shanghai skyscraper skyline of Pudong.

What's with room service people always folding the end of the toilet roll into a little origami point? It's a world-wide thing and I don't get it. You can see they've cleaned the room as the made beds and fresh towels are a give-away. Why the origami dunny roll?
Whatever is the opposite of a 'patron saint' is? A demon perhaps? I think that room service the staff the world over have one for the person who first thought it up, because now, every day in hotels all over the world, someone right now is having their toilet paper folded, and all because some bastard somewhere thought that dunny roll origami was a good thing.

Wednesday
My first impression on opening the curtains to take in the daytime view was - What a lot of smog.
I read that of the 30 most poluted cities in the world, China has 20. Shanghai is one of them. There are no stars at night or clouds of note during the day, just a monochromatic brown smog.
We needed to wash clothes and with the hotel linen service wanting to charge more per item than they were worth($5 for a pair of socks!), we filled the bath with water and suds and did a bunch of handwashing. Oh the joys of travel.
This morning we walked along Nanjing Road, the main pedestrian shopping mall of Shanghai. This was another lesson in Shanghai traffic. Imagine a pedestian mall, that isn't. So what is it then? Well, it's offically a pedestrian only mall, but you forget to factor in the lazy Chinese. Not able to walk the length of a short shopping street, they need a ride, so you have to dodge out the way of, not only the official 'train' (not on tracks) that runs up and down, but there are motor trikes (Like Bangkok's tuk tuks) running up and down trying to go as fast as they can down a pedestrian mall. Madness I tell you.
Now we wanted to cross the Huangpu River to Pudong home to the Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai's other tallest buildings. If you've seen a picture of Shanghai, you've probably seen what I call The Ball Tower. It's an ugly glittering tripod of concrete and is the ubiquitous icon of Shanghai.
Note for architects reading this - if you're going to make it ugly, at least make it iconic.
With Shanghai's Bund (Riverside Drive) closed, so too were the ferries to get you across. Help came in the form of a "Sightseeing Tunnel" What the? A sightseeing tunnel? I know. Only in Asia. The Shanghai sightseeing tunnel is what I call 'practical cheese'. Not just a kitsch ride, it actually gets you somewhere. The ride? You climb into a perspex pod and as the doors close, it follows the rails taking it under the river. As the soundtrack suggests things like "Magma", everything flashes red on the tunnel walls around you. Lasers dance around and chaser lights complete the kitsch. So bad that it's funny and if you come to Shanghai, do go on the sightseeing tunnel. It will not only make you laugh with it's badness, you will get across the river. "Practical cheese".
Pudong is the business side of the river and a quick look is more than enough as Pudong doesn't have the 'life' of the Bund side. Today was stinking hot and humid and the soaring and airconditioned Jinmao Tower was a welcome respite. Travelling 88 floors upwards so quickly my ears popped, the viewing platform at 340m above Shanghai gave me 360 degree 'views' of Shanghai. I use the word 'view' loosely, because with the smog, I couldn't actually see very far into the distance, but I could see the ground clearly and get a bird's eye view of all the contruction going on.
Another journey through the sightseeing tunnel has us back to the Bund side and we continued walking on foot.

Shanghai has very annoying shoe shiners. They accost you at lights and even when you decline their offer of a shine, they squirt stuff on your shoe anyway and then start polishing it off, expecting to charge you then for something you didn't want. We've ended up having to be forcefull to the point of aggression to keep them at bay.

We were soaked after a hot day out in Shanghai, so a cold shower and some clean clothes were needed before heading out for the evening. Tonight we had sundowner cocktails at Bar Rouge, a rooftop bar on the Bund and watched night fall over the city and a glittering array of lights come on the buildings of Pudong.
Finding a place for dinner tonight was not as easy as we'd thought. We make a point of avoiding the likes of Pizza Slut, MuckDonalds and the usual repetitious franchises, but couldn't find any 'real' restaurants until we got well away from Nanjing Road. Finding a suitable place eventually, dinner with drinks again cost less than our elevated cocktails with a view that preceded it.
Tonight is Chinese Valentines Day and walking back, we watched as couples released flaming lanterns into the sky. They were mini hot air balloons made of paper and thin wire with a flaming fuel-soaked rag underneath. Bush fire material and you'd be up for arson if we made them in Australia.
Keen to see if any of you had sent us messages, we hunted for an internet cafe. Eventually we found what seems to be the only one in Shanghai and it was huge. Before we could log on, they wanted to not only to see our passports, they wanted to take a scan, at which point we told them politely where they could stick their internet access. I'm not having one of China's 30000 'internet monitors(police)' watching my every move on line. What if I accidentally tried to access Facebook?
Sometimes we take the freedoms we have in our own countries for granted. Consider this the next time you Facebook (or even Twitter if you're a twit).

Thursday
On looking out the window this morning the smog was still there, but we did have a view of different drama unfolding below. A man was perched on the railing of the bridge opposite our hotel, threatening to jump as more and more police arrived. Eventually, with 15 police around and a police boat underneath, he 'jumped' the 3 metres to the water. A short fall like that won't kill you, but the pollution in the river might.
Finding a local restaurant near the hotel, brunch today consisted of eel with noodles and some lovely spicy eggplant. The eggplant was supposed to be vegetarian for Amanda, but the bits of bacon she found in it gave it away.
I didn't order "3 kinds of meat with noodles" because I've seen some of the things they call meat around here, so who knows what mystery meats are in it. I love sausages of all types, but again, knowing the strange parts they consider 'normal' here, I'm avoiding sausages.

It cost us all of $2 for a taxi to the 'Old Town'. Nothing like Lijiang, I'm not sure what was old about it. Undeveloped, so far? Not really.
Wading through an alley of 2 yuan shops - just as crappy as our $2 shops, but one fifth the price. Mountains of colourful Chinese plastic wares and cheap toys vied for our attention. Nice to see they support local - everything's "Made in China". I did like their rip-off of Transformers - it was called Deformers. "Look mum, my robots gone spastic."
We continued on to the Yunyuen bazaar, but it was very touristy. A koi pond was nice, but after chucking the fish some food, we beat a quick retreat and left the tourists to it.
Time to wander.
We walked in the approximate direction of Xin Tian Di, but just took random quiet narrow streets to get there. This gave us a look at another side to Shanghai. Undeveloped alleyways with tiny shops selling local things to local people. People going about their lives; washing dishes in the street, playing (Chinese) checkers or just snoozing.
It was whilst wandering like this that I had a lovely moment I will remember. Two children of about 2 & 4 were playing together unaware of me as I took their photo. Then I showed it to them on the back of the digital camera and they laughed like it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen. This gave me the chance to take a single portrait of each and then one of them together. Each time I showed them the photo and each time they were in hysterics. Magic.
Out in these area, we saw a few different sides of Shanghai today. New highrise, where once old suburbs stood, flattened areas, about to be high rise, and the areas that we walked through that are still there now, but you know their days are numbered.
We caught a cab back to the hotel and made it back just as a thunderstorm dropped a deluge.
The storm passed quickly and we began another evening in Shanghai with another rooftop bar with a view. Tonight we'd booked dinner somewhere special, but before then we slipped in another rooftop sundowner cocktail. This time at New Heights Bar. Amanda was looking sexy on the Bund sipping a 'Fragrant Cloud', whilst Malcolm drank a 'Sex on the Bund'.
Dinner tonight was pretty special. We'd seen Jean Georges featured in the Singapore Airlines magazine on our flight to Hong Kong, and thought we'd give it a go. Exquisite food with impeccable service. That's what quality dining is about. We'd thought we'd share a nice bottle of red, but they don't sell it by the bottle - that's a first - and at $30 a glass, we had tasty ginger margheritas instead. I said the Ball Tower was ubiquitous, and true to form, I could see it from where I was sitting, even if it was a reflection.

Friday - Our last full day in Shanghai.
Whilst Amanda wandered the shops, I spent a couple of hours in the Shanghai cultural museum looking at coins, calligraphy and pottery, but you can only look at so many before it all ends up looking the same.
Lots of walking today, until eventually we got to the French Concession. The tree lined streets were pleasant and cool, but there wasn't much else to see of note, except a street lined with 'antiques'. Yeah right. I'd leart this morning at the musueum that the Chinese have been faking Ming Dynasty porcelain since the Qing Dynasty, so knocking up a few 'old' coins for dumb tourists is a breeze. This place is so dusty, everything looks old after a week outside anyway. Can't believe anyone would fall for orange resin with a scorpion in it to be real amber.
Getting back to the hotel was a chance to try catching the Shanghai underground. It was bilingual, so it turned out to be not as hard as we thought it would be.
For our last evening out, we went to Xin Tian Di, a purpose built bar/restaurant area. We had lovely Chinese steamed dinner - I had smoked duck - and we sat al fresco and people watched. Cocktails at a different venue followed. After last night's wine-by-the-glass only experience, tonight was the opposite - they had spirits on the menu by the shot or the bottle. Responsible Service of Alcohol? I think I've drunk more cocktails here in 4 days than I've drunk in the last 4 years. Why? Because at the places we've been to, my first preferences of beer and wine are more expensive than Perth, but cocktails are relatively cheap, and tasty too.
Beer from the store is another matter, just 50 cents for a 600ml bottle.

Let me share some thoughts on the traffic of Shanghai and what it's like to be a pedestrian here.
I would have thought that in a country that controls the media and all manner of your life including even the websites you look at, people would be very obedient in all areas. This is NOT the case with Shanghai traffic. It seems that what Shanghai has is a mass case of civil disobedience and that ignoring the road rules by running red lights, going the wrong way up one-way streets, and running up pedestrian footpaths on your motorbike is their way of saying FU to the government that controls everything else.
Walking around in Shanghai is an extreme sport. Even if you get and follow a green man to cross, cars running the red light will come ploughing through. We learned 'safety in numbers' and when enough people gathered, everyone would cross together and cars would have to stop. Even when taxis we were in were going through a green light, they'd have to slow down and honk their horn to warn motorists coming the other way through the red light.
Madness! All this under the watchful eyes of 'traffic wardens'. Armed only with a whistle, they were just for show because they were mostly ignored.
With all the construction going on, hoardings often cover the footpath, forcing pedestrians onto the road into the traffic. At one giant roundabout there was no provision for pedestrians at all and we just had to fight our way around. How about an underpass? Now that would be pedestrian friendly, but then it wouldn't be Shanghai.

That was Shanghai for us. We've had fun and we've survived.
Tomorrow we fly to Beijing.

(I hope to post some photos when I next have access to a USB port. Check back soon.)
Foot note.
To those of you keen enough to come back and check what photos I have added, I'm sorry. Chinese internet cafes, despite all the CCTV monitoring of everything you do, don't run up to date software for even basic uploading of photos. Sorry. Believe me, I've tried. China might be able to send a rocket to Mars, but internet stuff we all take for granted? Yeah Right. Sorry. Will try to find not only up-to-date computer, but one that doesn't have every dialogue box in spaghetti, sorry Mandarin.

Posted by TheWandera 03:38 Archived in China Comments (0)

Lijiang and surrounds

It's Tiger Leaping Gorge-ous.

20th August - Travel Day.
Taxi to port-ferry from Macau to Schenzen-car to Schenzen airport-fly to Kunming-fly to Lijiang-car into town to our hotel.
Approaching Schenzen port we were greeted with a sea of container cranes. What a port! And this is just one of many for China. It was an hour by car to the airport with high-rise all the way. I guess when you have a billion people to house, you can't all have a one-story house with a garage and garden.
Our first experience with a Chinese domestic airline for our flight to Lijiang was hassle-free.
A lovely piece of "Chinglish", of which we would see much more in Lijiang, greeted us on the plane. Our toothpick wrapper came with the message, "You are welcome to travel by our plane." How sweet.
On landing at our Kunming stop-over we were greeted on the tarmac by the old stairs on wheels. I thought how backward, then remembered that I've been greeted with same on arrival at Perth the last two times.
Lijiang is in the mountains at an altitude of 2400m in yunnan Province not far from Tibet and we could immediately feel that cool mountain air that was lacking in HK & Macau. Gone is the heat and humidity.
Our hotel here is the Wang Fu.
Confucius says, "Never stay in a hotel called Wang." (For the non-Aussies reading this, wang is slang for penis.) True to it's name, one of the things available in the room for guests was a "Yeyejing Man Special" towel. "This product specially designed for washing men's genitals. ....it can quickly kill any kinds of latent germs and pathogens." "Directions: use this product on and around the pudenda...." Wang Hotel indeed.
We arrived late evening, but early enough to have a quick wander of the nearby streets. We are staying right inside the UNESCO listed 'Ancient Town' of Lijiang. Traditional two story Naxi houses line cobbled streets. Near the square outside our hotel, vendors with BBQs offered all sorts of treats. Bullfrog anyone?

21st August - Thought we'd get up early and wander the old town before the tourist hoards. 10am is obviously not early enough and this place is busy. It is the MUST SEE destination in this part of China and the Chinese tourists arrive by the busload and dutifully follow their flag-carrying guide around like sheep. This place is nice and quaint, but knowing that much of it has actually been rebuilt since the big earthquake they had in 1996, it sometimes feels a bit like a movie set, but not in the false way that Macau did.
Exploring the maze of alleys and streets was fun and took most of our day. We appreciated that our hotel is in a quiet corner of the Old Town, away from the people jams near the main square. This place is a photographers delight and Amanda and I both got creative with our cameras. Hanging red lanterns adorn narrow cobbled alleys and stone bridges cross gurgling streams.
Malcolm_photos_030.jpgMalcolm_photos_032.jpg
We're off hiking tomorrow and bought some "Grow Numb Biscuits" for snacks. What the? They were a caramelised sesame snap that was beaten by two men with wooden sledge hammers and then cut whilst still soft.

A word on Chinglish. This is the funny translations we see around the place when a Chinese sign has an English translation below it but it sometimes makes no sense, like the biscuits, or other times is just really funny, such as the sign that said, "Out of my head, there is a path." I am collecting photos of Chinglish on my travels, but now that I've explained it, I won't include quotes in my blog, rather, on my return home, I will post a set of them all together on my Flickr page.

Dinner tonight for me was something new - YAK. It was a 'yak chilli hotpot' and the proximity of Yunnan to Sechuan Province was evidenced by the heat of the hotpot. The meat was tender and tasty, even if a little gristly. My drink with dinner was called WindFlowerSnow&Moon Beer in a 500ml bottle with a 50ml glass to drink it from. I felt like we should have been doing drinking games!
The Chinese are very noisy and this restaurant was no different. The diners babbled loudly around us whilst the waitresses spuiked so noisily they were like a flock of seagulls fighting over a chip every time a potential customer walked past.

(Anti Chinese text removed by goverment censors)

22nd August - Time to hike Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world and to hike it is known as one of the best treks in the whole of China.
I woke at 2am to the sound of pouring rain and thanks to a broken gutter outside our room, the continuing rain and resulting dripping, kept me awake the rest of the night. Think Chinese water torture with a gush instead of a drip.
We arrived at the bus station on time for the 7:50am bus to Quia Tou, the starting point for the 'gorge trail'. Toyato call these buses a 'Coaster' but here in China 'Sardine Tin' is more apt. After a 2.5 hour journey with my knees bumping my chin, I thought I'd never have straight legs again. As we got closer to Quia Tou the rain got less and by the time we were ready to start, it had stopped. YAY!
At 11am we set off to hike Tiger Leaping Gorge. We plan to stop overnight along the way and finish it tomorrow. We have everything we need in our backpacks except food.
With a few switchbacks amongst cornfields, (I was going to take a photo but I thought it would be cornographic. Was that a corny pun or what?) the trail quickly gained height and we soon had expansive views of the raging Yangtze below.
Surrounded by breathtaking views and the revving of 'motorbike insects' (Perth has the aptly named Motorbike Frog, which sounds like a reving motorbike.) This was an insect, maybe a cicada?, that sounded like a revving motorbike.
We had plenty of water, some nashi fruit and our grow numb biscuits with us, but my fear of not packing enough cucumbers for the journey was unfounded. Every little vendor that we passed on the way sold cucumbers in addition to drinks, chocolates and other snacks. It seems that here in China, cucumbers are a must have hiking food.
Despite the cool mountain air, the climb up in the infamous "24 bends" has us soaked. Not long after, it rained on us, just to make sure. The first time we get rained on on this trip so far and we've no where to shelter. Glad for GoreTex.
The trail was narrow, steep and rocky. The vegetation varied, including some bamboo groves, but I couldn't see any pandas in them.
Casting our view across the valley, mountains soared up into the clouds and disappeared into the distance towards Tibet. It's magic to be in the mountains again.
After 6.5 hours hiking giving us sun-rain-sun again - rain again, Halfway Guest House was a welcome respite. We hadn't stopped for lunch, and were the first guests to arrive. Consequently, we got the best room and what a view it had.
A hot shower, some clean dry clothes on and a cold beer in hand later, we were sitting on "Insperation (sic) Terrace enjoying the same view as our room only outdoors on a deck with chairs and tables. What a stunning view! Okay, 'stunning' doesn't give you much clue. How about - Around us, fruiting apple trees and cornfield terraces fell away below us. Across the valley, angular mountain peaks soared progressively higher into the distance with peaks over 5000m disappearing into the clouds. Multiple waterfalls cascaded down the steep gulleys all the way to the raging brown rapids of the Yangtze far below us.
Simply stunning. This was Tiger Leaping Gorge and we were glad we were here.

Sunday 23rd August - Day two of our trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Is this the world's best toilet view? Everything I just described above, only this was the loo view.
Time for another whinge. What's with having horses on a hiking trail? They aren't needed for carrying in supplies, as the guest houses have road access from below. The horses are brought along the trail for the sole purpose of making money for their owners by giving lifts to ill-prepared or lazy Chinese who can't be bothered walking. As a result, the genuine hikers get a trail that's a mixture of horse shit and mud from a chewed up track from horse's hooves. Most places in the world have separate 'bridle trails' for this reason.
Moans aside, the gorge-ous trail views continued on day two as waterfalls cascaded above and next to us as we scurried past so as not to get too wet.
We finished tired but elated that we'd done it. After lunch at Tina's House, we shared the cost of a van back to Quia Tou with two other travellers and then negotiated sharing a van back to Lijiang rather than the sardine can. More expensive? Yes. It cost us $4 each in the van instead of $3 on the bus.
On the 2.5 hour journey back we passed two road accidents that had just happened including a van in a gully beside the road. Nothing that manpower couldn't lift up and back onto the road. If there's something the Chinese do well, it's throwing manpower at a job to get it done. The drivers here are shocking, overtaking on the inside of a hairpin bend or withour a clear view ahead or just completely unaware of other road users. You've seen what Chinese drivers are like on Australian roads, just try to imagine a whole country of drivers blissfully unaware of anyone around them. It's not just drivers though; we had to got around a cyclist stopped in the middle of the road to talk on her mobile phone, oblivious to here own safety. The Chinese seem to have no sense of spacial awareness of who or what is around them, whether as people in a crowd or drivers on the road.
Back in Lijiang we have booked another two nights at Wang Fu Hotel. They have upgraded us to a 5 star suite and how nice is it? It's bigger than the whole house a local Chinese family lives in.
After a long hike, how good is a foot massage? Amanda and I both treated ourselves and my hairy legs amused the Asian masseur who was used to hairless clients. Whilst Lijiang is chokkas with tourists, they are almost exclusively Chinese.
We wandered the twisting streets of Lijiang tonight armed with our cameras before enjoying dinner on a second story terrace as lightning flashed in the distance.

Monday - Lost on bikes around Lijiang.
Today we hired bikes intending to cycle to a nearby village called Baisha. We headed north, stopping first at Black Dragon Pool. This is place to get the classic Lijiang photo, only clouds covered Snow Mountain in the background. The pagoda and stone bridge with pool reflections were still working though.
Pictures acquired, we continued northwards, not really sure where we were or even if we were heading north. By luck more than anything, we eventually found Baisha village. I purchased a couple of fossils to add to my collection, one that began with an ammonite in 1993. I bought a cockle shell and a fish in shale. We had a lunch of Baba bread and Chinese rice dumplings. Think sushi without the nori sheets. We wandered the back streets of this lovely little village, before putting our sore bums back on our bikes to return to Lijiang a different way. With no gears, crappy seat and a broken pedal, I wasn't full of praise for the quality of Chinese manufacturing.
I have observed though that all the locals do support locally made products. Every stall I look at seems to exclusively sell stuff that's "Made in China".
The cycle through vegetable fields with mountains on either side was peaceful and it was nice to experience rural China on a bike.
Getting back to the outskirts of Lijiang city gave us a chance to experience anything but 'peaceful cycling'. It's MAD I tell you. Chaotic as drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all meander, mostly, but not always, in the same direction. We got nicely lost before actually working out where we were - try doing this when your map and all the signs are in Chinese - and getting 'home' from there.
Tip for travellers. Don't take a Chinese person's directions to be correct. In a culture where 'saving face' is everything, they would rather send you off the wrong way than admit they don't know or can't understand you or read the Chinese map.
Our last evening in Lijiang was spent like the rest; wandering with cameras until we found a suitable place to eat. Another meal - another baba bread.
Malcolm_photos_034.jpgMalcolm_photos_035.jpg

A word on Baba. The local people here are the Naxi and Baba is their bread. We've ordered it many times and every time it has been different. The only thing consistent is that they have all been round and flat. Variations have included sweet, garlic, dry and tasteless, oily, raised with yeast like a focaccia or made with baking powder like a pancake. These differences all claiming to be "Traditional Naxi Baba" is one of the great mysteries of Lijiang.

Tuesday 25th August - Our last morning in Lijiang.
Having missed beating the crowds before, today I got up at dawn and wandered Lijiang "Ancient Town" with my camera. Fantastic! Magic even light and I had the place to myself, save for the occassional man on a tricycle or an old woman with a wicker basket of greens on her back. Alleys and streets that are lined with stalls selling tourist trash were at this time all boarded up with lovely carved wooden panels. It was like a different place and I was glad I'd got up to do it. Even as I wandered back at around 8, the streets were changing as stalls opened and the first groups of flag-following tourists began to choke the streets.

We've enjoyed Lijiang. I hope to add some more photos soon.

This afternoon we fly to Shanghai and I'll send you my next blog from there.

Posted by TheWandera 19:56 Archived in China Tagged photography Comments (0)

Macau

Glitzy and glamourous, or gaudy and garish? We were about to find out

Tuesday 18th August - Our planned fast ferry from Hong Kong to Macau was, and before we knew it, we'd walked from the ferry terminal to our hotel, the Casa Real (Casino, like most in Macau) and checked in. If the room was anything to go by, this place knew how to impress. More on that later.

This is my second country on this trip, and my second bilingual one at that. Hong Kong was Cantonese/English but Macau is Cantonese/Portuguese.

For dinner tonight we went to the Fisherman's Wharf for a wander, expecting to get a feel for 'old Macau'. Fisherman's Wharf sounded historic, but what we experienced was like getting stuck on a movie set or the Trueman Show - everything around us was fake and recently built. It was a weird feeling. Not a thing out of place, fake palms and piped muzak made everything just too perfect such that it was weird.
Macau might not have soul, but Amanda had it for dinner. Her sole came with lemon sauce at the Portuguese restaurant we stopped at for dinner, complete with a jug of Sangria.

From Fisherman's Wharf, The Sands Casino dominated and so, 'when in Rome', or in this case Macau, we went to have a wander through the casino. Does this place have the "World' biggest chandelier"?
Malcolm_s_Macau_008.jpg
The majority of the tables were Baccarat, but I tracked down the only craps table and had a couple of bets before I was reminded why it's called craps. It's what you say when you lose.
I don't really 'get' gambling, but hoards of mainland Chinese obviously do, which has fuelled the masive growth of Macau in the last decade. It aims to rival Vegas, but doesn't have the 'feel' or authenticity that Vegas has. Vegas has a 'strip' of casinos and lots of shows, many of them free. Macau seems to have the glitz, but no real heart.
On arriving in Macau, you are greeted by a big ugly 'volcano' apparently. It is just a brown monstrosity and I was unable to ascertain if, like the Vegas volcano it copied, it is meant to errupt and is just broken, or if someone forgot the important bit that makes it a volcano and not just ugly.
A martini nightcap on the roof-top bar of the Rocks Hotel on the Macau waterfront rounded out a pleasant, even if Disney-like evening.

We're here for two nights, so today is our full day to explore.
Catching our first of many buses today, we went to the main square of the old Portuguese part of town. We wanted to get as far away from the "fake" and casinos as we could. Beginning with the centuries old ruins of St Paul's where only a facade remains,
Malcolm_photos_021.jpgMalcolm_photos_022.jpg
we toured the Macau museum, giving us a history of it as a Portuguese colony, not just a gambling grotto for Chinese.
Malcolm_photos_026.jpg
A surprise lunch of kaiten sushi, gave me the smallest baby octopus I have ever seen. Most fish have a minimum size limit, but not poor octopus.Malcolm_s_Macau_012.jpg
Time now to walk off our lunch and boy did we do that. Along the waterfront through the local's areas we passed tradespeople from rope sellers, mechanics and clusters of pungent prawn peelers.
Malcolm_s_Macau_013.jpgMalcolm_s_Macau_014.jpg
Eventually we arrived at the temple of A-Ma.Malcolm_s_Macau_015.jpg
Another local bus from here took us to the tip of Coloane. Macau is really 3 islands - Macau, Taipa and Colane, all joined by bridges or causeways.
The little town here was so removed from the bussle of Macau it was a respite. We purchased the obligatory local delicacy of egg custard tarts and sat by the waterfront to enjoy them. It seemed to be a storm water outlet, so it wasn't the most pleasant place to sit, but we could look across the water and see mainland China and ponder what adventures it might hold for us tomorrow.
We wandered along the waterfront and then explored some quiet backstreets and laneways, all the time with the place to ourselves. Sometimes it doesn't take too much to escape the madding crowd.

I didn't mention the weather in Hong Kong, but since arriving, it's been hot and humid, and Macau is no different.

We caught buses, (More than we should have, but that's a joy of travel.) to the ferry pier to book tomorrow's ferry to China, before walking back to our hotel. This walk was easy, because of an elevated walkway, but apart from that walkway from the ferry terminal, Macau is one of the most pedestrian un-friendly places I've seen. Great for cars with elevated ramps and minimal lights, but a nightmare for cyclists or pedestrians.
On the subject of quality of life, I'm not sure what people in Macau do when they want to throw a frisbee or kick a football. Even New York has Central Park, but Macau is devoid of parks, even in the non-casino areas. It must be a strange existence.

For dinner tonight we chose a restaurant in the hotel before heading out. WOW! What is it with investors that they can build a beautiful hotel, but forget to staff it with professionals? Our meals were cold and raw! No one offered us a drink other than the water glasses they kept topping up.
We walked to the Grand Lisboa Casino for a wander and a drink, but not a bet tonight. Malcolm_s_Macau_017.jpgMalcolm_s_Macau_018.jpgMalcolm_s_Macau_019.jpg
Our efforts at ordering a drink were met with blank looks from the muppets behind the bar, even though we were pointing to it on the cocktail list written in Chinese. They rang someone, who came and made it with lime cordial instead of juice. Eventually we got our Kamikaze with vodka, Cointreau and lime juice just like it should be. Why is it so hard? This is not rural Tibet, yet.
Tomorrow morning we waited over an hour for our room-service breakfast and when it did arrive it was cold.
Here's a shop I thought you'd like Malcolm_s_Macau_016.jpg
Thursday 20th August - Today we travel from Macau to Lijiang in Yunnan provence China.
Malcolm_photos_028.jpg

What adventures await? Will they even let us in?
All this and more in my next blog - Lijiang and a trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Posted by TheWandera 02:37 Archived in Macau Comments (1)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 18) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »