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China!

May 21st, 2009 tj 1 comment

I’ve found myself with a spare evening so I thought I’d finally get around to updating you all about my travels, even though I’m sure most of you have already seen the photos on Facebook.

First up was Beijing.  I stayed there for 3 nights and if I could only use one word to describe it that word would have to be ‘massive’.  Honestly, the scale of the place is absolutely mind-boggling.  Everything is huge.  The buildings, the sprawl.. everything!  After visiting a little restaurant down a back alley on the first night we went the train station the day after to get some tickets and then had a wander around a tiny part of the city and ended up in the national art gallery, where there was a Turner exhibition on with loads of paintings on loan from the Tate!

The next day was the Great Wall of China.  We ended up going to Badaling, which is the most reconstructed and touristy bit of the wall, but it still didn’t dissapoint.  Again, the scale of the thing is amazing.  You can see it snaking on along ridges for as far as the eye can see.  Also, if you ever go yourself be prepared to be asked countless times to pose for photos with Chinese folk.  They love taking photos of Westerners!  AAnd that goes for everywhere, not just at the Great Wall.  I lost count of how many times I posed for photos.

Next up after that was the Forbidden City, which is the old Imperial Palace.  I know I keep saying this, but again, it’s massive!  Close to 10,000 rooms, loads of huge open courtyards.  Very ornate as well.

Then after a 15 hour train journey we reached Xi’an, the ancient capital, surrounded by big walls.  There we saw some gorgeous temples and pagodas and spent a nice relaxing afternoon in the gardens of a Buddhist temple (before trekking round in the boiling heat trying to find somewhere to eat, ending up in a place where the waiter could barely understand what we wanted.  Very frustrating!).  It’s from Xi’an that we went to visit the Terracotta Army, which was an awesome sight.  Line upon line of life sized terracotta figures, all stood to attention.  Words can’t do it justice really, especially not in a brief summary like this!  Xi’an also brought what was possibly the silliest moment of the trip, but still brilliant.  Due to a mix up and a bit of bad planning we each ended up lugging our entire possessions (getting on for 20kg) half way up a mountain and back down again in the pissing rain.  Well worth it for the spectacular views though.  I also met a Chinese guy half way up who started talking about United!

Then a 22 hour train journey to Hangzhou.  That was a killer!  Hangzhou itself is a lovely place though.  Really relaxed vibe in parts of it, and there’s a massive, and beautiful, lake right next to the city.  We didn’t do as much here as we did in Beijing and Xi’an, which was a welcome break really.  We visited Longjing to see the tea village there and ended up having a cup of tea and something to eat in what was basically some old woman’s front yard.  And then we went for a wander around what appeared to be a Chinese national park.  Not quite like one of our own though.  All rebuilt houses and roads through the scenery.  Still, it was nice enough!  We also ended up in a jazz bar one night, which was expensive compared to the rest of the places we’d been to, but it was a tad more civilised I must say!

And then back to Beijing for one last day, when I finally got to enter Tiananmen Square, which, surprisingly enough, is massive!  I could have gone to see Mao’s body as well, but the queue was huge and I’d been told it’s not really worth the wait, so I didn’t bother.

And then home again!

And for any of you who are interested, here are the links to some photos…

Beijing and the art gallery
The Great Wall
Beijing and the Forbidden City
Xi’an
The Terracotta Army
Hua Shan
Tea village and countryside outside Hangzhou
West Lake, Hangzhou
Beijing again

And there you have it!

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May 2nd, 2009 tj No comments

Gone to China.

Back in two weeks.

x

Categories: China Tags: