A Travellerspoint blog

Shanghai

What is there to do in Shanghai besides get drunk??

Despite being an impressive place in architecture and modernity, there appeared to be little to do in Shanghai apart from party. And being the Christmas season this is exactly what I had planned to do there.

After meeting several people who shared my feeling we soon decided we should start celebrating the impending Christmas day. On 22nd December, me and Niamh engaged in some pre-drinking at the hostel and had our first (and last) taste of cheap Baijui (Chinese liqour)...
"It burns, it burns!" Never again! The only other drink at the shop, apart from beer, was Bacardi Breezers- which bought back some memories of teenage drinking!!

A Chinese guy who lived at the hostel (who we later called 'mystery man' as despite how many times he told us his name we couldn't remember it) took us to a bar/club called NYX, which was to become our 'local' for the next three nights.

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The next night we dragged out more people with us and owned the place with our signature moves and epic dance offs (meaning we got significantly drunk, stumbled around on the podium and made complete idiots of ourselves. Mega night!).

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On Christmas Eve a few of us went out for a 'posh' meal on Nanjing Road. The restuarant we chose was popular, especially as it was open 25 hours a day (or so the sign said outside of the restaurant). Then we headed back to our 'local' to see in Christmas day!

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Fake snow!!

Fake snow!!


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Saying goodbye to my 'Breezer' partner, Niamh, as she left on Christmas morning was a little sad. Still in last night's make up and wearing her sunglasses as a disguise, we waved her off as she headed to the metro station and we went to get Chinese pancakes for breakfast.

Christmas day itself was a bit of a let down. I had a great day visiting People's park, Yu Yuan garden and an art gallery on the other side of the city.

Endless advertisements created by parents

Endless advertisements created by parents

Ads in People's Park

Ads in People's Park


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Ramy taking a relaxing break

Ramy taking a relaxing break


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A calm spot

A calm spot


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But the hostel had failed to provided any kind of Christmas spirit- no crackers, no Christmas hats, not even a cheesy Christmas movie! It was the first time I had actually felt properly home-sick. Although back home the day itself consists of not much more than eating & drinking excessively, opening presents, slobbing on the sofa and afternoon naps- I realised how much Christmas Day actually meant to me. Just the familiarity of my parent's house, the usual Christmas routine and spending time with my family. I tried to skype home but the wifi signal in the hostel was really bad, and talking to mum on a crackily phone line ended up making me feel worse.

After my failed attempt at skyping home I pulled myself together, and Joe, Ramy and I walked along the Bund to view the splendour of Shanghai all lit up at night. In the roof-top garden of Bar Rouge, a place too expensive for us poor travelers, we set up some fake pictures of us lounging in luxury and sipping fancy cocktails...until a bouncer came out and caught us in the act...

BBQ near our hostel

BBQ near our hostel


View from The Bund

View from The Bund


The view from The Bund

The view from The Bund


Bar with a view

Bar with a view


Ramy the bar tender

Ramy the bar tender


Down in one!

Down in one!


View from the bar

View from the bar


Perched at the bar

Perched at the bar

The thing I found most impressive about the place was the older generation's persistence to continue their traditional ways of life under the developmental shadow of modern Shanghai. In the morning they would line the street of Nanjing road, sharing and selling their skills of fixing umbrellas, polishing shoes, cutting hair and giving massages- a hair cut in exchange for a fixed umbrella!

When the time came to leave I could safely say I was relieved. I met some amazing people, and had a MEGA time drinking and dancing...but six days in Shanghai is definitely enough. It's time for a little bit of calm...and a view of the sea!

Posted by Melanie Kidd 01:34 Archived in China Comments (0)

Cheng Du

Spicy food & pandas

After a tedious train journey to Cheng Du, I arrived tired and grumpy. This was thanks to with the snoring quintet of Chinese men sleeping around me. There orchestral snoring serenaded me on and off for at least four hours, making it rather difficult to sleep. Feeling a cold coming on I decided to use my time in Cheng Du as a resting point, to recharge my batteries (meaning a lazy few days were ahead). Staying at Nova Guest House turned out to be the perfect place to relax and catch up on some reading.

Close to the hostel was Wen Shu temple, surrounded by a touristy area of food stalls, cafes and shops selling the usual rubbish for ridiculously high prices. Cheng Du, and Sichuan province, is known for it's spicy food. I tasted my first bowl of spicy noodles at a small stall near the temple. Despite nearly blowing my brains out (even though I only asked for a little bit of spice), I decided to have another bowl hoping it would help annihilate my cold.

Wen Shu was the first temple I had seen to feature information about Buddha, and it taught me a few things about the ways of life in Buddhism- including a couple of quotes which stuck in my mind...

"Our needs are few our wants are many."

"Nowhere is the world is any real place to be found. That's the nature of the world. Look within yourself and find it there instead."

On Friday I took a trip to see the pandas at Cheng Du Panda Research Park. Unfortunately I picked the worst day to do so, as it rained most of the morning dampening my enthusiasm for the pandas. Due to my restricted funds I was only able to view the animals from behind the fence, as to be able to hold a baby panda would cost CNY 1000 (100 pounds) and even to 'volunteer' for the day in the park would cost CNY 600 (60 pounds)! It was wonderful to see the animals in a well-looked after environment, much like their surroundings in the wild.

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In the evening, Lu a Chinese girl in my room took me to get my first foot soak and massage. Note to self, never get a massage from a man...a little too firm, and a bit painful, but my feet definitely needed it.

On my last night I went back to a vegetarian restaurant ('A Lotus on the Water') I had visited a couple of days before, which served an amazing tofu and vegetable gravy dish. A nun and a monk seated near me gave me a gift. It was a small figure of Sakyamuni on a red string. The monk urged me to sniff it- and it smelt of oranges! Like a Buddhist car air freshener!!

Posted by Melanie Kidd 01:32 Comments (0)

Xi'An

Mum comes to visit

After already being in Xi'An for a few days, I had a good grasp of the area so could easily show mum around. The scary part was that I now had to put the little Chinese I had learnt so far to the test!

The first time I had a go at ordering food, didn't go as well as I hoped. Instead of a vegetable dish with no meat, I end up with one with chicken and a dish I did not order! I quietly took it up with the waitress, hoping to solve the situation without too much commotion. The next thing I know three other members of staff are involved, all braking at me in Chinese! Failing to solve the situation they then target some poor English guy who is fluent in Chinese, drag him away from his dinner and use him to act as a translator! Evetually I get my point across, but am still left dishes I didn't order! It was so disheartening. The only 2 things I ordered correctly was the fish (which conveniently had a picture in the menu I could point to) and the beer!

The restaurant ordeal is soon forgotten the next day with a trip to Daxingshan Temple. Clearly a great deal of money is invested in this temple, and it is perhaps the most impressive one I have seen so far. Although I was a little worried by the messages the temple was conveying as we peered into the first hall of the temple. This first hall featured a huge model scene from a kind of underworld, with demon-like-creatures tortiring, crushing and dissecting people. Grotesque but fascinating!

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You can always guarantee with most temples there will be a vegetarian restaurant in the temple, or very close by. When we enter we are greeted by several surprised faces- perhaps because we are Western- or perhaps because they did not expect any customers on such a rainy day. We eat like Gods for CNY 120 (about 12 pounds)!

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In the evening we book tickets for the Tang Dynasty Show, for a little bit of sophistication- well worth a watch.

Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show


Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show

Our hostel (Hanwood Youth Hostel) is located in an incredibly touristy part of Xi'An, surrounded by huge complexes of coffee shops, Western restaurants and shopping centres. However, directly behind the hostel is a whole different world. Little backstreets with small cafes and street sellers nestling under grubby towers of flats. The perfect place to find cheap, tasty food! The first day we find a little place with for breakfast, and I introduce mum to bean porridge and dumplings...

Mmm bean porridge!

Mmm bean porridge!

However, the next day we discover our favourite place for breakfast, and when we return the next morning the friendly, round-faced Chinese lady already remembers our order- porridge, soya milk and 2 fried dough sticks. A woman sitting at our table shows us the best way to eat the dough sticks, by dipping them in the hot soya milk.

On the Friday we get up early, go to our 'local' for breakfast and then catch a bus to Mount. Hua Shan, perhaps my second best experience in China so far after the Great Wall. Due to the weather the first section (and most dangerous), Soldier's Path, was closed so we took the cable car up to the first peak. I had already been advised that 'soldier's path' was a killer, so would have taken the cable car anyway!

Cable car

Cable car

Workers continually chipped away at the ice with shovels on the paths as hikers journeyed up the mountain, some of them wearing the most ridiculous footwear and clothing!

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More wise words from the Chinese

More wise words from the Chinese


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After Dragon's Peak I left mum and continued to ascend to the other peaks further up the mountain, as quick as I could- partly because I did not want mum to be left for long, and also beacuse the quicker I less I thought about how cold it was. Along the way I was mobbed by many Chinese tourists, desparate to capture a novelty picture..."and this is me with an English girl up a mountain!".

Reaching the tallest part, South Peak, was a relief. I peered over the edge to see snow-covered trees lining the slopes to the East and West and a never-ending landscape of mountains to the South. Breathtaking. I sat for a moment to absorb the calm and silence. A young boy soon joined me at the top, which was the perfect opportunity to get a picture...

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The peaks

The peaks

Saturday night was Dumpling-making night at the hostel. Despite already having experienced , there certainly was a knack to making dumplings and I did not have it! This night we also witnessed a lunar eclipse.

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Sunday was our last day In Xi'an. I discovered the wonders of a Chinese arcade, full of noise, flashing lights and addictive game machines.

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That evening we watched the music water fountain show, not far from our hostel. It was definitely the best way to end our trip in Xi'an.

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Posted by Melanie Kidd 01:22 Archived in China Comments (0)

Dragon Bus Tour: Shaolin Temple & Luoyang

Kung Fu fighting!

Despite having a to leave my comfortable hotel bed at 5:30am, and being bundled into a cold van with no heating, I was extemely excited about the prospect of being taught Kung Fu for 2 hours by a Shaolin Monk!

The Shaolin temple grounds also house a school for young boys, usually from families who can not afford to send their children to normal school. Apparently the boys start each day off early (6am) by running around the grounds, followed by intensive lessons in Kung Fu, usually 5-6 hours a day! There doesn't seem to be many career options ahead of these boys...if they are good enough, perhaps they will go on to teach Kung Fu...a few commit completely to becoming a Buddhist Monk...many of them end up in joining the army.

Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Temple

Walk along the lotus flower...

Walk along the lotus flower...

The Kung Fu lesson took place in a very drafty training hall, with a young, frank but patient monk who had been training in Kung Fu for 13 years (since he was 10 years old). As the monk spoke very little English, Tim acted as translator, however as most of the lesson involved physical activity it was fairly easy to understand what he expected of us. The lesson began with running. We could only stop when the monk decided we were sweating enough. This was followed by jumps, skips, lunges...and more running. Once our thighs felt like jelly, we then began practicing the 2 main stances in Kung Fu. We were taught how to punch, and the transition between stances when punching.

Following this the monk taught us a Kung Fu routine, which severly tested our mental abilities as well as our balance!

Our Shaolin Kung Fu master!

Our Shaolin Kung Fu master!

During the lesson I inherited the name 'Praying Mantis', which in turn meant that when we went to watch the Kung Fu show in the school Tim forced me volunteer for the audience participation part. This resulted in me, and two other Chinese volunteers, making fools of ourselves in front of the audience...and (even more demeaning) in front of the young, agile and talented boys who perform in the show!

However my extremely ungraceful and embarrassing display of 'Kung Fu' did win me the first prize of a DVD!

Mini Kung Fu master

Mini Kung Fu master

Bending spears with neck!

Bending spears with neck!

This guy will throw a pin at such force that it will go through the glass and pop the balloon...

This guy will throw a pin at such force that it will go through the glass and pop the balloon...

...now that's strength!

...now that's strength!

As we leave it begins to snow, painting the Shaolin Temple white. Although beautiful, the snow makes it incredibly difficult to drive to our next destination, Luoyang. As we crawl along the motorway, the 2 hour drive becomes more like a 5 hour journey...

Snowy road on the way to Luoyang!

Snowy road on the way to Luoyang!

Luckily the snow clears up after an hour on the road, and we are soon greeted by the delights of a hot stove at the hostel in Luoyang with constant boiling water for tea! At dinner I am introduced to Goji Berry wine...a harsh liquor that stings your throat, but is a desired change from beer!

Back at the hostel I learn a gambling dice game (that I only really get the hang of 4 days later!) whilst drowning the not-so-pleasant taste of Goji Berry 'wine' with good ol' JD. The Chinese are known for many things, but alcohol is not one of them...they should leave that to the West!

The next morning in Luoyang we visit the Longmen Grottos, man-made caves in the hillside full of of carved spiritual figures...

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That evening Luoyang's night market lined the street outide of our hostel, making it the perfect place to get dinner. It is one the best night market's I have seen in China...so far...

Night time pancakes (Chinese style)!

Night time pancakes (Chinese style)!

Bop the wolf!

Bop the wolf!

Posted by Melanie Kidd 21:39 Archived in China Comments (0)

Dragon Bus Tour: Last stop Xi'an

Terracotta Warriors, Muslim Quarter and farewell Dragon Bus drinking...

We take a visit to the Muslim Quarter upon arriving in Xi'an. The bustling narrow streets are full of brash stall owners selling decorations, trinkets and plenty fake products, charging extortionate prices...however you must bargain hard with them, and eventually (through gritted teeth) they will agree to accept 1/3 (or less) of their original price. The streets are also brimming with food stalls, selling hot juice, Muslim-style breads and plenty of sweet biscuits!

On 2nd December we get up early to visit the Terracotta Warriors. 7000 statues have been unearthed so far, but only a single warrior was found intact! Most of them were destroyed in a peasant revolt not long after Qin Shi Huang (the emperor who sacrificed many lives to create the tomb) died. The warriors on display have been carefully reconstructed over the last 30 years. Each warrior has individual facial features, hair styles...and even finger prints! No 2 warriors are the same.

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Broken warriors and horses

Broken warriors and horses

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Qin Shi Huang's tomb is yet to be unearthed, but is thought to be an exact representation of the 'world' he lived in, only on a small scale- people, animals, buildings and all.

As it is our last evening we decided to have a couple of 'sociable beers' together. This results in purchasing a 'beer tube' and playing a couple of rounds of drinking games!

Beer tube!

Beer tube!

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We use the dice game we learnt in Luoyang. When someone loses they have to drink. The boys then add another dimension to the game, adding the rule that when you lose you also have to eat one of the crisps that have been deposited in the ash tray by the people before us!

Wise choice?

Wise choice?

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Mmm ash flavour!

Mmm ash flavour!

Wash it down with beer!

Wash it down with beer!

Once the crisps were gone, the rule changed to having to lick your finger, scoop up some ash and...you get the picture!!

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The next day Ashleigh and Kate leave at 7am to catch their flight to Hong Kong. I pull myself out of bed early to see them for the last time before they leave.

Tim decides as its the last day, that we should visit somewhere I would like to eat. He inquires about a good Vegetarian restaurant. After 2 hours of searching for it (a bus ride and 2 taxi rides) we eventually find the restaurant on the other side of Xi'an. I am pleased, but think everyone else is less pleased about the cost of the bill (Vegetarian restaurants are more expensive than normal places to eat).

Back at the hostel, we reminisce on our adventures over the last 2 weeks before saying our final farewells.

The Dragon Bus Tour has come to an end, but there are plenty more adventures instore!

Typical Chinese pose (apart from Ashleigh)

Typical Chinese pose (apart from Ashleigh)

Posted by Melanie Kidd 21:37 Archived in China Comments (0)

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