Tag Archives: China

Journeying west…the train to Mongolia

The lights were off in our train carriage and as the door was pulled open the border control guard shined a bright torch in our faces. He was checking our appearance against the photos in our passports and his demeanour was serious. This part of border crossings is often a tense moment, mainly because Ryan looks distinctly different from his passport photo. Lets just say there has been a huge movement of hair from his head to his face which usually goes one of two ways: the guard laughs or he takes a long time examining his passport, presumably weighing up whether Ryan’s a threat to national security…well he does have a beard after all!

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Our Quick guide to Chinese Trains….

So I know with our last post we had technically left China and were on our way to Mongolia, but we couldn’t leave the Middle Kingdom without a post on their train system. For the two months we were in China we spent almost two weeks on a train…I know, China is big! That’s what you get for going overland, without taking any flights. Taking so many trains in China meant we got very used to sleepy as they bumped along, putting up with the lights and music going on as we approached a station in the middle of the night and ‘intimate’ with the squat toilets onboard. 36 hours on the train in one go was our record, which we ended up doing several times. Here’s a little guide for taking trains and sometimes how to survive them!

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Beijing…our Top 10 favourite bits

Over the course of our two months in China we ended up staying in its capital three times and it’s hard not to be won over by the city. The mixture of good food, historical sites, all in a modern city is there to enjoy…and for some reason the pollution while we were in town was not bad either. Win! To write about everything we got up to would be too difficult  (and boring!) so we’ll just give you a run down of our best bits..

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Theiving Pandas…Chengdu

Pandas… they look so innocent don’t they! Sitting there with there unrealistic black and white markings, chomping on Bamboo.. butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth. But this is all a front, for the minute you turn your back .. BAM! They are inside your bag, expertly stealing your camera without you even noticing, probably using it to take a picture of your face when you realise its missing… Ok, ok.. so maybe it wasn’t a thieving Panda, maybe it was just some sewer rat that was hanging out for relaxed looking tourists like us with our guard down… but we still cant be sure. Learn from our mistakes people… never trust Pandas’.

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Geology and Altitude…Lijiang and Tiger Leaping Gorge

Lijiang is possibly the most touristy site in the whole of China for domestic tourists. The new waterwheel spins in the square, as the refurbished old town attempts to tempt people into to its tacky tat shops, while Naxi women in traditional costume perform dances for the crowds. It was a strange atmosphere of holiday makers wanting to see a fake authentic old city. But luckily for us we had not come for the old town but for the famous trek a few hours drive outside…Tiger Leaping Gorge.

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We’d all look beautiful if we dressed more ‘Chinese’…Dali

From one extreme of Chinese New Year to another. Kunming had been dead…everyone at home with their families, shops and restaurants closed, the streets empty…. Dali was the complete opposite. A film had recently come out called ‘Beijing Love Story’ with a storyline revolving around some young people coming to Dali, absorbing the ‘hippie’ atmosphere of the beautiful town, having a fling and eventually falling in love… And guess what, every other Chinese person wanted in on the action and was in Dali attempting to find love, or at least a one night stand?! Let just say the bars were full!

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Cormorants and Karsts…Yangshuo

Tucked up in our too ‘small for westerners’ sleeper seats in the overnight bus from Guangzhou to Yangshuo, you get used to noise, stops through the night and the lights going on for no apparent reason. When Ryan shook me awake to say ‘I think we might be here’, the noise and commotion as everyone pushed to get off left us confused. This was meant to be an overnight bus…getting in at 6am and it was only 1:30am?! Attempting to ask other passengers we mainly got smiles and “stupid foreigners don’t  even know where they are” looks (we are used too those). But it was Yangshuo…by some presumably crazy driving we’d chopped a mere five hours of the journey. Now we had to negotiate our way through the dark and almost deserted streets, hoping our hostel’s reception was open and they had a bed for us!

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A little slice of Britain in the South China Sea…Hong Kong

Walking into a Marks and Spencer for the first time in literally years and over a year into our Asia trip, excitement doesn’t really cover it. Looking up and down the food aisle recognising brands, thinking of all the dairy we’ve been missing, suddenly we were in an alternative reality. We were in Asia but we could buy M&S teabags, flapjacks and tubs of hummus?! It was confusing and joyous all at the same time. That’s right we were in Hong Kong…possibly the nearest you could get to the UK while in China. Oh don’t worry we only went into M&S five times over our four-day stay…thats not excessive right?!

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Electric Turnstiles and Prada Handbags …Hangzhou

Imagine a Chinese painting, all rocky hills, pagodas and wibbly trees and there you have it…We could see why the city slickers wanted to escape here. It had a peaceful feeling which had alluded us in the big city; staring out over the misty water, just able to pick out the hills on the other side you could almost believe you were in one of those paintings…

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Where old meets new…Shanghai

Waiting for our overnight train in Xi’an train station we had become the centre of attention…well more accurately Ryan had…even more accurately his beard had. This had become a running theme over the course of our trip…Asian people love a beard on a westerner and China was no exception. In fact the covert and often blatant photo taking by locals had if anything got more intense. The bit which was new here was the huge number of times Ryan had been compared to either Karl Marx, Frederick Engels or even Lenin?! That’s right Communists…specifically dead communists. It was difficult to know whether Chinese people just hadn’t seen many bearded men since Lenin to compare Ryan’s to or that this was some kind of compliment…Either way at Xi’an station Ryan was a celebrity, with a group of men queuing up for there turn to pose for a photo with that beard!

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