China Discovery Expedition to Beijing
Hong Kong Travel Blog› entry 3 of 10 › view all entries
Monday 20th March
Today I escaped Colditz/Beirut/Garden of Hell minus one watch (what can you expect?) and skipped merrily to my new hotel. The hotel was great; not a madman or locust in sight. After celebrating escaping the Garden of Hell by doing a victory lap around my bedroom, I went downstairs and met my group who were on the China Discovery trip. The group consisted of eight humans, seven from the UK and one Canadian. It was a pretty young group, which was good, so after the introductions and all-too-familiar travel chat, we went out for a meal and watched the lights from Hong Kong island. I returned and had a bucket of Heinekens with Chris (roommate) and Bob (Canadian).
Tuesday 21st March
Today we got a taxi to Hung Hom station and then a train to Guangzhou ('The Goat City' for all those interested).
Wednesday 22nd March
This morning, we arrived in Guilin with the enthusiasm of a death-row inmate. We were shattered and left the train at 6.30am! We got on a coach and arrived in a delightful village called Yangshuo on a street called West Street! (My home for 14 years) We dumped our stuff and set out on a bike ride through the Chinese countryside, which was... surreal. The scenery was superb and we rode through the rice paddies and limestone rocks. After a leisurely ride we stopped and climbed a Moon Hill mountain (as you do) which had an interesting descent. We then had a delicious lunch and cycled back to West Street for our Chinese lesson, which was very intensive, but I managed to master the language within the hour. In the evening, we went to a restaurant and ordered snake, as a few of us had decided earlier in a macho-conversation that it had to be done (when in Rome.
Thursday 23rd March
This morning I woke up with a colossal hangover to the sound of someone knocking on the door for my Chinese cookery lesson I foolishly booked the day before. I fell out of bed, found some clothes and stumbled downstairs a fashionable 20 minutes late. We set off to the market and looked at all the lovely food. After seeing about 100 chickens and a few rabbits packed into one cage, my stomach started to turn. We then went around the corner and found a dog, skinned yet whole, hanging from a meat hook.
Friday 24th March
Woke up in the freezing cold - last night was a pain to get to sleep as the high altitude meant sleeping in a freezer. The walls were paper thin in the place, which didn't help and I had finally drifted off after a harmony of snorers throughout the guesthouse sent me to sleep. In order to make up for yesterday I was the first one downstairs and had two breakfasts and loads of coffee. The plan for the day was a four-hour trek through the rice paddies, which meant wrapping up big time (five layers and I still felt it). The scenery was spectacular after the mist cleared and we covered a fair distance through difficult terrain. We then returned and had a great meal from thje guesthouse - all you can eat for under two quid! We then had a coach to Guilin and then had another overnight train to Wuhan.
Saturday 25th March
Arrived in Wuhan with the usual high spirits after the sleeper train(!) and some of the others had breakfast. I declined on the basis that it looked awful. One of the guys ordered vegetable noodles and got beef. It turned out that they didn't do one's without meat!! We continued the coach journey to Yichang and checked into another great hotel. We were going to visit the Three Gorges Dam site, but Chris left his camera in one of the taxis and it proved a nightmare to try and get it back. We phoned the taxi company to see if they could send a message on the intercom, but they insisted that we would have to go to the office and pay the grand some of two pounds for this to be done (which involved a 30-minute journey)! We left it in the completely incapable hands of the taxi official and never saw the camera again.
Sunday 26th March
Another early morning and we headed off to see the Three Gorges Dam (the largest in the world at 2km long). The Yangste river will be partially flooded in 2009 and the power generated from the Dam will supply something like 18%, which is incredible. I could go on a reel off other facts about this, but it's a bit boring to be honest! The Dam is almost finished and there's a lot of construction work going on at the moment. We then boarded our 5-star cruiseship destined for three days on the Yangste, but soon realised it wasn't quite 5-star, but more like a sleeper train standard (we guessed that it was 5 star out of 10).
Monday 27th March
One of the things with old people is that they get up before the sun does. Therefore at 7am, we awoke to the sound of 'butterfly music', which was abruptly turned off by the second note and permanently disconnected for the remainder of the cruise. Seriously, I would have preferred to have woke up to the Black Sabbath than that crap.
Tuesday 28th March
Another early morning, but one without 'soothing and calming wake-up music'. I gave Tai-Chi a miss, as I don't think I could have went through another session. Today's excursion was in Wanzhou, which entailed a very random trip to a museum and a market place (where we saw a cockerel executed and left to bleed to death - just thought you'd like to know). We then visited a nursery, with very friendly kids and then went around someone's house (told you it was random). We headed back to the retirement home, where the Americans had already dived into lunch head first.
Wednesday 29th March
We left HMS Ancient early in the morning and got a coach from Fengdu (ghost city) to Chongqing, which had been suffering from a gas leak for days! We went into town in the desperate search of Pizza Hut (without going into too much detail, some of us were having unproductive visits to the toilet with all of the rice we had been eating), but settled for KFC.
Thursday 30th March
Today was a free day, so we headed to the Shaanxi History museum, which was excellent. Some artefacts dated back 1.5million years ago, which reminded me of the cruise a bit. The museum went through all of the dynasties in China up to the present day. It was all really impressive. We then went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which was also very impressive. On the way back, we saw a Pizza Hut and stopped the taxi, before eating everything the menu had to offer! In the evening, we had another great meal in the Muslim quarter of the city and I did some shopping afterwards with Zab, who would giev David Dickinson a run for his money!
Friday 31st March
This morning we left the hotel at some obscene hour and saw the Terracotta Warriers in all of their glory.
Saturday 1st April
After arriving in Beijing and dumping our baggage, we headed out to see Tiananmen Square, which was huge (it can apparently fit one million people)! Afterwards, we saw Chairman Mao, whose body has been preserved for years, despite his wish to be cremated! Then we headed to the Forbidden City, which was huge. It was very well kept considering the age and the architecture was brilliant. Despite the its' name, its' history and its' prestige, inside the city itself was a Starbucks, which was couldn't believe! After such an action-packed day, we returned and some of us went to see the Chinese acrobats perform at one of the theatres.
Sunday 2nd April
Yet another early morning wake up, but for good reason - the time for the Great Wall had arrived! We got a coach to the Wall and began walking in the misty air. After a few minutes, the sun broke through and the weather was great all day afterwards. The walk itself was fairly strenuous and in places the wall was badly damaged, which made it time-consuming in areas, but it was undoubtedly worth it! The scenery was excellent and its' hard to believe how big it actually is. We had a picnic on the Wall itself and then got the coach back to Beijing, where we the trip ended and we had a farewell dinner at a fantastic restaurant, where we thanked out tour guide, Lisa for a brilliant time.
Monday 3rd April
This morning I left the hotel early and got a taxi to Beijing airport and caught a flight to Shenzhen. I then got on a local's bus to the city centre before boarding a train to Tsim Sha Tsui (Hong Kong). Due to the fact that the day was long and that I still had a budget to maintain, I reluctantly checked back into the Garden of Hell, where cockroaches don't go there because its too dirty for them! To my shock, but not surprise, everyone else was still there. I dumped my stuff and left to continue my tour of the great city before stopping by at the Irish bar, where I got chatting to some Americans who gave me sound advice regarding the forthcoming road trip in the USA.
Tuesday 4th April
Despite being shattered, I left the hostel again jsut to get out of the place and chilled out in Kowloon park, writing postcards and doing nothing much to note.
Wednesday 5th April
I had loads to do today, but in the morning found out that it was Poppy Day (bank holiday), which pretty much wrecked any chance of a productive day as everything was closed! I went to Hong Kong island and mooched around and came across KPMG. I popped in and checked out the view, which was very nice indeed. I walked for miles and done some shopping before heading back to Tsim Sha Tsui where I ate at 'Curry-in-a-hurry' (gotta love it!) and watched the illuminations again, before heading back for an emotional final night at the asylum.