The Moon Hill in Yangshuo

Another morning dawned (and with dawned I mean the literal sense because I seem to wake up on this trip always around 6am) and I started to update the blog. Some of you might have noticed that I am 2 weeks behind on the blog. Since China I am just struggling to update. Anyway the wi-fi was working well with the VPN in the Westland Hostel and I updated a bit again.

But around noon and two cups of coffee I felt ready to get moving again and for today I had planned to see the Moon Hill. So again I went to the hostel next door, paid my 10 Yuan (a little more than a one Euro) and cycled out of the city in the same direction as yesterday. This time though I went over the Yulong River bridge and went further. I noticed that the heat really got to me and I need to take more breaks in-between. Also I felt the day of cycling from yesterday. Apparently I was not in such a good shape after all.

When I found the Moon Hill I got stopped by a woman next to the entrance who wanted to show me the farmer’s way to it by paying her a small fee and no entrance fee. I decided to trust her and declare it as local development aid. So I parked my bike and hiked up with her a small trail about 150 meters from the actual entrance. The heat and the humidity in the jungle just about did me in. Eventually we arrived a stone way and she told me to just walk about there, I will get to the hill and use the regular exit upon leaving. What she didn’t tell and might not have done the Moon Hill after all that the hike would be cruel.

So I trudged up some stairs (always stairs and more stairs) and arrived after maybe 20 minutes at this point of view.IMG_3283IMG_3284IMG_3286

It looked spectacular and I felt like the king of the world, but since it was only a view point and you could get up to the real “Moon”, I wanted to go there too. It took maybe another 40 minutes to get up there but the stairs in this heat and with a lot mosquitoes and the humidity it felt like hours. While walking up there were always people coming down and they motivated me to get on going. There was an end in sight and since they had made it, I could too. Plus they told me that there would be cold water on top. And I bought an overpriced cold water bottle because I felt I deserved it and so did the really old woman who had brought it up. she even fanned me while I drank it an gave me something for the mosquito bites. So it was money well invested.IMG_3289IMG_3290IMG_3291IMG_3292IMG_3295IMG_3297IMG_3298

On that the I never stopped sweating by the way. I think the hike increased my core temperature so much, that I couldn’t stop until I was back at the hostel. I have never experienced anything like it that water just ran down my body while I sitting in front of a fan and was not moving at all. A very weird experience. So after I had a little break on top, I walked down again which I enjoyed a lot more than going up although now I noticed the mosquitoes. Before I had just noticed the bites.IMG_3299IMG_3300IMG_3301

I had parked my bicycle next to a shed which was actually a little restaurant. Si I went to this place and ordered mixed vegetables with rice and it was just perfect. Maybe because I was starved for some vegetables after the dinner yesterday or maybe I was exhausted from the hike. Anyway, it was the perfect lunch with a cold beer to get some energy.IMG_3304

But every break needs to end and after an hour or so I was back on the road to roam the countryside some more. I passed what I thought was a cemetery, but I cannot be sure about. It looked definitely cared for and quite lovely.IMG_3305IMG_3306IMG_3308
While some others looked overgrown and abandoned.

Since sweat was dripping constantly my grip on the bike was not the best and anyway I had enough of bicycling already, I decided to make another stop. I found this quaint roadside place and had a coffee and some lychee juice here. And even in this no-name place they had wi-fi. The world is really shrinking.IMG_3310

Two hours and 10 postcards later I thought I had exhausted the hospitality of the little café and rode back to the city. I stopped for another hour at the bridge, watching the water pass by.IMG_3312IMG_3313IMG_3314

dinner that evening was Chinese fast food and I loved the way how it was presented. It was only a noodle soup with some meat, a salad and a tea egg but so good! Yours, PollybertIMG_3316

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Bicycling around the Yulong River

The next morning I was ready again to conquer the world. Until I left my room and felt the heat suffocating me. I was exhausted the moment I closed the door behind me. Nonetheless I had a coffee in my hostelIMG_3227 and then walked to the hostel next door to rent a bike for the day.

With the clever plan from the city (and it is a city with 2 million people) and the information I had gathered last night I set out to find the Yulong River. Along of it I wanted to ride up to the Dragon Bridge. Once I passed the big street next to my hostel I was out of the city bustle and on the road to the scenic sights. Since I usually don’t really bike I felt totally adventurous.

I did my fist stop after 2km at an “ancient” tribal village. Yeah, definitely not ancient and not worth it. The only ancient stuff were some pottery shards and the rest was newly built huts, made to look old with lots of Chinese people dressed like the Flintstones.IMG_3228IMG_3229

From here on I decided to stick to the natural scenic sights, I would probably enjoy these more. Just a couple of kilometers more I cam across the bridge over the Yulong River and watched the bamboo rafters getting their boats ready for customers.IMG_3238

The scenery was really stunning no matter in what direction you looked. I stayed on the right side of the river going up, the road looked a bit better. I knew it would be about 10-12 km to ride up to the bridge.IMG_3232 IMG_3241 IMG_3243 IMG_3245 IMG_3248 IMG_3249As it turned out it was going to be a lot longer for me. I rode up al the way to until I came a motorway. I didn’t really want to bicycle between trucks so I turned around and tried to find a different route to the Dragon Bridge. On the map it looked as if a small dirt road would go all the way up to the bridge. But then the dirt road turned into a track and then the track turned into a mud trail and eventually it vanished. So not for me, after about one km I turned around again and looked for lunch.IMG_3250 IMG_3253 IMG_3254

I stopped at a very nice looking hotel and was the only guest there. The owners had just opened 2 months before and had a friend from the US staying with them. Which was good because this guy entertained me during my lunch of wild greens and rice (was still trying to avoid dog meat and it was so hot that it was almost impossible to eat anything at all). Then later he took a picture of me and my bicycle and they showed me which way to go to the bridge. Also, when I was about to leave it just started to rain, so the waiter gave me his rain coat. You must love the Chinese, they were really nice people.IMG_3259

With their directions it was easy to find my way. I had to cross a foot bridge again to the left side of the river and from there on it was easy-peasy to find my way. Also after about 10 minutes it stopped raining and I could remove the rain coat again. Shortly before the Dragon Bridge I met a German couple that was with me on the bus yesterday. We stopped for chat next to the river and they told me about their trials with China. They got scammed twice already, once on the Beijing Wall and once with the “Tea Ceremony”. I was really lucky because nothing like this had happened to me. While we talked it started to rain in earnest again and we sought shelter under a large tree where we talked for at least another hour. Eventually I said my goodbyes because still wanted to see the Dragon Bridge.IMG_3280IMG_3261 IMG_3263 IMG_3266 IMG_3270 IMG_3271 IMG_3274 IMG_3279

Was the bridge worth riding for kilometers on end? Probably not but the scenery all around was just stunning, so this waste amazing ride. Plus when I turned around I met Lisa and Paul again and we made our way into the city together where we went for an early dinner after this long day in about 35 degrees with 80% humidity or so. It actually felt more like a 100% but have learned better since then.

The place for dinner that we chose was small but had a couple of pictures on the wall and from there I chose one recommended by Paul some meat dish which was one of the worst things I had in China.IMG_3282
The dish consisted only of bone and from which animal they came I didn’t know and actually don’t want to. For the Chinese this would have been super delicious because they like to suck all the marrow out of the bones, but I rather I would have liked to have more vegetables with it. Nevermind though, it was an experience and the right ending for the day. I headed back to my room at the Westland Hostel, cooled down and later headed out to get some fruits and something cold to drink. But I went to bed early after all, I was sure I had done at least 20 km with all the turning around and I felt it. Yours, Pollybert

Summer Palace

On Monday morning we woke up to Momo gone. The storm during the night had opened the outer door and Momo of course used his chance to investigate the neighborhood. Babsi clearly was not so happy, tried to find him already in the morning, saw him again up on the wall but the little devil was in no mood to come with her.

Since both of them had not returned until noon, I left the house with the outer door open to visit the (new) Summer Palace. With the metro (and a metro card lent by Babsi; really the fastest way to get around) this was easily done and in no time I was there.

The Summer Palace turned out to be not just one building but a huge park like area with a lake, halls, a harbor and galleries.IMG_2587 IMG_2588 IMG_2589

I was astonished when I realized how big it was. Also the restaurants were located in only one area almost at the entrance, so one has to take its nourishment when it’s available. I tried some cold noodles with a sauce and different vegetables. As usual it was very good. The tea I ordered with it was less to my liking, something restorative and invigorating and almost as expensive as the food. I decided I will stick to water or beer from now on.IMG_2591

 

The restaurants were all around a lake area, so I finished my round there first.IMG_2590 IMG_2592 IMG_2593IMG_2594IMG_2599

Then I started my ‘Palace’ tour and it was lovely. The gardens were so inviting (and the area was very hilly) that every half an hour I set down to rest a bit.IMG_2600 IMG_2601

Here you can see the Marble Boat that Empress Cixi had herself built. Apparently the money was more needed for the army during the Second Opium War but she got her way. Not a wise decision in the end.IMG_2604

The long and shady gallery invited not just me to sit down.IMG_2609 IMG_2610 IMG_2612 IMG_2614

More halls and steps waited for me and they all had similar names. Also in the way they were built I could notice no difference. What I missed were some living quarters. None of the buildings I saw gave me the impression that someone had actually lived in there. Or maybe all that was gone and they had just lived in large halls.IMG_2616 IMG_2618 IMG_2620 IMG_2621 IMG_2623 IMG_2624 IMG_2627 IMG_2628 IMG_2630 IMG_2631

 

More walking around looking for the right exit ergo the entrance (because that’s where the metro station was), another stop at an artificial lake, some relaxing rest in the shade and then it was time to go home and look for Momo.

When I came home neither was there but then Babsi came with Momo in his carry-on bag. He had still been up on the wall and with the help of the compound janitor and the permission of the head janitor to use the compound ladder (No problem! In China, no problem!) they got Momo down and in the bag. Babsi looked exhausted since Momo hadn’t been a willing participant in this whole adventure.

To make matters easy for the evening she called her colleague Lucy and we met her and her dog Didi half an hour later on the bike. Babsi is the proud owner of an e-bike which has second seat. And on this (I honestly think it is for a child) I sat while she biked to our meeting place and then to the noodle restaurant.IMG_2650

 

With Lucy as a local and able to really speak Chinese (I was impressed by whatever Babsi said in that language and even more that she seemed to understand what the people said back to her, but I think she is far from fluent) she ordered for us and this is what we got.IMG_2651 IMG_2652 IMG_2653

 

This here is the noodle water that they also serve for you to drink. It is very healthy and tasty.IMG_2649

It was so good and the price for the three of us was less than what I had paid a lunch for myself.

We had left the e-bikes outside, Lucy had a bike in the form of a little pick-up truck, and from the vendors outside who watched them we bought melons for home. Don’t they look yummy? Yours, Pollybert IMG_2655

Terracotta Army

My first night on my own passed without incident. I was ready to face the world and after a coffee I was also awake enough for it. The tour to the Terracotta Army started at 9am. We were quite an assembly from all over the world. Half of Europe and America were on that bus. I shared my row with Jeff, an American “green” environment consultant from Portland. He came only for the tour to Xi’an down from Beijing. While sitting next to him he proved to be a fountain of travel information since he had been to China already a couple of times.

We arrived after a two hour drive at the excavation site and started our tour. First we went to the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. From it you can only see the man-made hill. Since he took mercury in minimal dosage to reach longevity, he kept at it in his death. He had a river of mercury laid around his grave. So although they know where the grave is, they cannot excavate it due to the high mercury level. We were told only 20 more years and then we could come visit.IMG_1979
If you are wondering it’s the little hill in the back, I just wanted to show that it is a World Heritage Site.

From there we walked back to the actual pit sites and started with site number 2. Here the only intact archer was found. All other statues have been painstakingly put together again. This was necessary because the roof caved in due to earthquakes.IMG_1980 IMG_1982 IMG_1984 IMG_1989 Please read how moderate they are about the chrome plating technology.
There are five different kinds of soldiers they found but the kneeling archer was the only one which was found whole. Probably because he knelt and there was less breaking surface.IMG_1987 IMG_1988 IMG_1990 IMG_1992 IMG_1995 IMG_1996 IMG_1997
Please note the details on the shoes. The nail imprints mean that he was married and his shoes were made by his wife.

In pit number 3 we could see a chariot and horses. Mongolian, which are the smaller ones, and Chinese. All figures were hollow by the way and had a hole somewhere for the steam to go out while they were burnt in the kiln.IMG_2006 IMG_2010 IMG_2013
Finally we went to pit number 1 with the biggest and most important find. Here the soldiers were initially found while some farmers were digging for a well. The different faces were noticeably and while the body was done by a mold the head was done by an artist. Every worker on this project got eternalized in the face of a soldier. And afterwards they were all killed.IMG_2014 IMG_2015 IMG_2017 IMG_2018 IMG_2021 IMG_2023 IMG_2025 IMG_2027
We then watched a movie for 20 minutes about the history of the emperor and the unification of China and then went for lunch. I was starving by then since I had had only coffee for breakfast.

After lunch we slowly made our way back into the city. Apparently there was a lot of traffic since the autoroute was closed.

A plan was hacked on route to go bicycling up on the old city walls and our tour guide let us out at the gate. A short while later we started to cycle on top of the wall.IMG_2030 IMG_2033 IMG_2034 IMG_2037 IMG_2038 IMG_2041 IMG_2043
After the cultural impressions during the day the sporty part was just the perfect ending to this wonderful first day. But more was to come. We walked from the gate near the hostel to look for the mosque. Which we actually never found, but an amazing food market instead. Yours, Pollybert

A slow start, but a start nonetheless

Since coming back from Moscow I have started with the training for the sprint triathlon in earnest. The exhaustion I felt when we were fast-walking to catch the train really got me thinking. Now I am trying to do something three to four times a week.
I already posted my first two running experiences, in the meantime I went another three times. Last Saturday I passed the 5km mark and when I cam home I was so exhausted that I needed almost one litre of water to get going again. What was also interesting that my time got worse the longer the distance.

20130501-122434.jpgThis was last Tuesday

20130501-122628.jpgand this was Saturday.

As you can see my km time got worse. So today I tried again and wanted to do at least 5km again. Then when I passed the mark from Saturday decided I would go a bit further and make a round. On the way back I noticed that the balls of m feet felt almost swollen and I had to walk for one minute, started again and then walked one more minute. This is the result.

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Isn’t it amazing? Even though I walked for two minutes all in all, my time is way better and I also ran more than 5km. Plus I am only at my second glass of water and less exhausted than on Saturday although today was warmer. I don’t really understand how this working, but maybe my training starts to pay off a bit.
I went swimming yesterday with one of my friend’s. I was the one telling her that she should go, that it would be good for her and that I will join her since I need to swim at the sprint triathlon as well. But every time we go now, I am not in the mood at all and she is the one who is insisting that we go. Yesterday was the third time, I did 40 laps à 25m in 40 minutes without taking a break. This is not a great time but it is a start since I am still swimming breaststroke. I know that I have to do it in freestyle otherwise I will be the last out of the water. Anyway, I will get there. At the moment I am glad that there is a small light at the end of the tunnel.

Also went to the gym last week to go cycling. Of course I went on the bike with the back first since it is very comfortable to read on it. But after 30 minutes switched to the real deal and did another 15 minutes. I know it is not comparable with cycling outside, but as I said I am only starting. Still have 6 weeks to go!
Yours, Pollybert