Saturday, April 30, 2005

Well, this is my last entry from China. Yesterday I roused myself to go up the Oriental Pearl TV tower (the big needle thing in the first Flickr picture). The best thing about it was the Bund Tourist Tunnel which is pretty close to indescribable but here goes: You get into a little pod, which goes dark as you enter the tunnel. Circular lights wrapped around the tunnel flash manically and voices announce the zone you are in like "Fossil zone" and "Paradise and Hell) as you move through increasingly bizarre lightshows. Brilliant, basically.
In the evening had duck, three meat soup and chicken in sesame oil and it was all vegetarian. There are several famous veggie restaurants in Shanghai which specialise in imitation meats. Apparently vegetarianism has close links with buddhism, daoism and gangsters. Takes all sorts...
Don't know what it is about me and Shanghai but it rained again yesterday.
Today went to the old town which is also a big shopping area and wandered around looking at bronzes, paintings and mao memorabilia which I had no intention of buying. My bag is full enough.
Fly tomorrow. Back by tomorrow evening courtesy of time zones. It's been fun.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Arrived in Ningbo about lunch time but there weren't any boats that day so I got ticket for the day after. With half a day to kill I wandered around the city a bit, seems like a nice place but not a lot to do. I did have an Indian curry for my tea, though, which was very nice.
Got the bus/boat to putuoshan the next day and ended up actually leaving an hour earlier as I managed to switch my ticket. Met Ray, who spoke english and helped me find a hotel and guide me round the island, visited a lot of temples and we climbed the mountain together before I had to leave on the nightboat to Shanghai. It was a really nice place, although I expect it is heaving at the weekends it was pretty quiet while I was there. Would have liked to have longer, especially as I can't actually tihnk of much I want to do here in Shanghai... O well. Fly back on Sunday.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Now into the last week. Arrived in Shaoxing yesterday after a short bus ride. after checking in I headed down to the Lu Xun museum/former home. Lu Xun is a famous Chinese author from the first half of the twentiest century. He was one of the first, and best, writers to write stories in baihua, the common language instead of formal literary styles and addressed many of the socail issues of the time with a very critical eye.
After that got a pedicab who wanted to give me a short tour of some of the streets and canals and wnet back to rest in the hotel a bit.
Today went out to the massively underwhleming East Lake, basically it used to be a quarry until a lake was created next to it. It's an ok place to visit but wouldn't put it on anyone's must see list.
This afternoon will do a bit more wandering around. Tomorrow head to the island Putuoshan.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Today got the bus to Lingyin Si, a Buddhist temple on the other side of the lake with a big statue of Sakyamuni carved from camphor wood. Being a Saturday the place was jammed with people so it was all a bit of a hassle. Had noodles for lunch and then decided to try and walk to Longjing village from there but ended up not finding the way (my map of Hangzhou seems to have given up for that area) so I ended up getting the bus there. Bought some tea - I think half my rucksack is now tea - Longjing tea is considered the best green tea in China. After that walked through the village following a path through the tea growing area before heading towards a big pagoda called Liuhe Ta. Stopped there for half an hour before heading back to town and am now very tired.
Tomorrow I head for Shaoxing for a day or so before going to Putuoshan.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Got some photos onto Flickr. Not the best as picked a bit a random.
Left Huangshan/Tangkou early yesterday to come to Hangzhou, a city south of Shanghai famous for its West Lake and because it's twinned with Leeds. On my last night in Huangshan I had been wondering what to do about accomodation as I wanted somewhere nice after some pretty grotty rooms the past week. I'd been visiting the wonderful Mr Hu's restaurant for evening meals - he is someone who in a town dedicated to ripping off tourists of all nations has decided his best way of making money is to be honest and helpful. So when I get there that evening, ordered a mountain of food and swapped the Clive Cussler book Mike M gave me for a Sherlock Holmes he says that a friend of his (Mr Hu 2) can meet me from the bus and take me to a nice hotel. Mr hu 2 has a cheap hotel in Hangzhou but is apparently happy to sort me out with somewhere else. He does indeed meet me at the bus and helps me get a map ensuring I know where everything I need is.
So I'm now in a nice hotel at below list price with internet access in my room. The hotel is pretty close to the lake and the main tourist shopping area which is an old part of town nicely done up to resemble olde worlde China so in the afternoon I went for a walk around to explore and look at the West Lake. Today I went on a boat trip on the lake to a couple of the islands and generally not do very much at all except sit back and soak it all up. Hangzhou is a pretty laid back place, not too polluted (by China standards, anyway) and where I am is close to lots of green. Little bit of rain this evening while sampling the delights of a food street but generally the day hasn't been too bad.
Still no GPRS coverage so no photos for a while. Will post a couple from Shanghai in a week's time but otherwise it'll be a case of waiting till I can download them from my camera back in Leeds.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Well, got up at 5:40 this morning (about bedtime in the uk...) to go to Huangshan. After some breakfast of rice porridge, pickles and boiled egg got on the bus to go to Huangshan. After it had collected everyone we set off and, as the weather was beautiful and sunny, I set off walking rather than using the cable car (I know, I surprise myself sometimes.) It is very beautiful up there and I have lots of photos although you do have to angle them right so they don't show the hotels or crowds of people. Actually, while wandering around the various peaks it wasn't too bad. Kept running into old people on the tour whose bus I'd used and having quick chats and my photo taken but also found some quiet spots to sit and admire the views or eat some lunch.
Headed down to the western steps to start making my way down to find it extremely crowded. There's a bit where the path is very narrow and traffic just stops with jostling and shouting and general overheated mayhem. Hate to think what it's like at a weekend or public holiday. still, past that wasn't too bad until, trying to find the way down I couldn't find a path that was not locked. So I ended up getting the cable car down which is probably a good thing because my knees probably wouldn't have enjoyed it and I'd forgotten to put any suncream on. It was occasionally chilly with the wind so I was generally covered up and wore a hat but I do have a couple of patches of sunburn :(
After a long wait am now back in town and soon to go to eat. But not snails.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

After Nanjing I went to Jiuhuashan, one of the four holy buddhist mountains (although really a range of peaks). Arrived in the evening so the next day went out walking. To get near the top of one of the biggest ones I took the cable car (I had a painful blister from Nanjing, honest!) and met up with a couple of Chinese tourists. They didn't speak any english but took me under their wing and we chatted in my broken Chinese while walking and climbing around the top. They also bought me dinner and were overall top blokes.
This morning I came to Huang shan, a very famous mountain range which looks just like the China in the paintings (even more so than Jiuhuashan). Went out to visit some waterfalls and rivers this afternoon as I didn't have time today to go to the mountain. I climb that tomorrow!
Still no pictures, I'm afraid as the phone network seems not to like it. Heading to Hangzhou on thursday so I will try again there.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Looks like there's no more GPRS coverage for the moment so no photos for a while.
Yesterday I went to the Najing Massacre memorial and then to one of the main shopping districts called Fuzi Miao where I went on a pedalo on the river with some locals. Also went for a meal of dim sum (Chinese tapas) at a famous restaurant - Mao has eaten there. Reckon I know about half the ingredients including prawns, liver soup, some kind of bird leg, possibly snails and the beer, of course.
Off to Jiuhuashan tomorrow, which should hopefully be a bit more relaxing than the cities, but somehow I think it'll still be manic.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Well, hear nearly a week now. Flight was long and uncomfortable. Apparently KLM window seats are in the middle of the plane with a wall six inches in front of you... Very tired when I got to Shanghai so wandered around in a daze to try and keep awake in an effort to switch to China time. Shanghai is crazy, like someone picked up Hong Kong and dropped it over old China.
Second day went to the Jade Buddha (yufo) temple and then to the excellent Shanghai museum in the afternoon. The museum is big and has lots of ancient bronzes, paintings and more. I hadn't quite finished when it closed.
Wednesday got the comfortable train to Suzhou. Suzhou is famous for gardens and canals which I saw some of in the afternoon there. In the eveing went to have dumplings and ended up at an australian bar that had just opened for a beer before going home. The place was empty apart from the staff and some of their friends. Played table football with them (got beaten) and Chinese chess (got thoroughly beaten) and talked to one young journalism graduate for as bit until he had to go to his job as a waiter.
Next morning went to Hanshan temple, famous across Asia because of a poem and somewhere I wanted to visited as it's the place the crazy monks Han Shan and Shi De used to hang out.
Yesterday came to Nanjing and am staying in the massive Foreign Students dormitory in a very nice and cheap room. Going to be here for a couple of days before heading to the hills to do some walking.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

I fly to Shanghai tomorrow. My packing is all ready and almost done - although it doesn't feel like I'm taking enough I seem to have everything I need. Currently looking forwards to three weeks away from the UK with the plan currently being to head out to Suzhou then Nanjing, Huangshan and Jiuhuashan before heading down to Hangzhou and relaxing by the West Lake. Finally hope to spend a couple of days on Putuoshan, a small island off the coast, before back to Shanghai for a bit of shopping and then back home.
I've been reading two guidebooks mainly; the Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet. While the Rough Guide is newer and seems to have much to commend it in terms of layout I have found it difficult to get some of the basic information I need. It's also a better "read" than the LP but too often it seems to adopt a slightly weary or even downbeat tone that contrasts with the LP's enthusiasm. So I've decided to take the Lonely Planet and leave the Rough Guide at home.
As well as occasionally updating my blog I'm hoping to post pictures from my camera phone to flickr so that I don't spend too much time in internet cafes. I guess we'll see how successful all this technology is over the next few weeks...