The city of Guilin

The next morning I woke up early. I needed to head out and start sightseeing since on the way back from Yangshuo there wouldn’t be much time.

I had heard from Jonathan the day before that the palace was worth seeing. So after a quick coffee I headed to the bus station (loved it that the station names were also in English) and got off at Xicheng Crossing next to the two Pagodas.IMG_3107But I was not interested in them at the moment since I wanted to go to the Solitary Beauty Peak (the Prince City Scenic Area) first.

As usual my map reading skills were not on their best behavior and I had to turn around once. Which in the heat and humidity was not really great (I would say it had around 32 degrees). Eventually I found the surrounding wall of the palace and after a bit of looking I also found the entrance. Next to the ticket counter was a sign in English that an audio guide was available. Since I was touring alone I wanted to get one (even though the one in the Forbidden City was such a disappointment). They wouldn’t let me pay for it though and mimicked that I could pick one up at the entrance.

As it turned out the audio guide was only available in Chinese although the sign for it was in both languages. This is China for you. Always great on service!

It didn’t matter so much since with the ticket I got a map of the scenic area. As the name already said it was a peak, one which needed to be climbed.IMG_3113Another one with endless steps but now in awful heat.

But first it was a walk through the park and right at the entrance some students were celebrating their exams with lots of pictures. I asked one of them later to take mine.IMG_3115More impressions from the park, here the “Couples Tree” information (the well of fortune was probably the reason for the students visit) and the tree itself. I still like seeing the audio guide sign in English.  IMG_3118 IMG_3119 The peak was getting closer but so were other things like a little lake and a cave.IMG_3121 IMG_3124 IMG_3126 IMG_3128
Right next to the staircase of the peak climb was a sign for the Chinese on how to behave in the park. I really love how the Chinese Government tries its best to educate its people.IMG_3131
One more deep breath and off I went to the top of another peak/hill/building. After the first two levels there were small temples so I had a reason to stop and look. By then I was drenched in sweat, the heat was killing me. IMG_3132 IMG_3138IMG_3136 IMG_3140On top I noticed that someone was taking my picture so I asked where I should put myself for them to get the best angle. Of course then I asked them to take mine as well but with one of them. This girl was more than happy to oblige.IMG_3144 IMG_3147Down I went again and it was a lot faster than up and after a quick bathroom stop with hilarious impressions I left towards the Sun and Moon Twin Pagodas.IMG_3153 IMG_3156 IMG_3158 IMG_3159 IMG_3161 IMG_3162 IMG_3163 After a juice stop (I love that you can get a glass of freshly made juice on every corner) I was ready to walk some more in this heat but then didn’t make it further as to the Liberation Bridge and shortly afterwards to a restaurant in the pedestrian zone. I had some great food again but as usual it was too much.IMG_3166 IMG_3168 IMG_3172 IMG_3171You might not see that but it was strictly vegetarian. I had heard the night before at the hostel that they were eating dog in the area and I didn’t want to risk that.

After the meal I went in search of the pagodas and found them just around the corner. These were the sun and the moon pagoda. I am sure there is a lot of information about them out there, so I provided the link for you here,  please just read about it yourself.IMG_3173I searched a bit longer for the entrance to the Elephant Trunk Hill. Once found, the trunk was right there upon entering.IMG_3177 IMG_3178And again there was something to climb on top of and since I was already soaked, a bit more didn’t matter. Up I went to have another gorgeous view over the city and the karst hills far away shrouded in a hazy mist.IMG_3180IMG_3184 IMG_3185 IMG_3188 IMG_3191After catching my breath on top I went down again to inspect the actual trunk hole at the bottom. And here I found another example of how the Chinese follow orders.IMG_3192 IMG_3193 IMG_3194 IMG_3195 IMG_3197 IMG_3200 IMG_3201With everything seen (or almost) I was ready to leave Guilin and go to Yangshuo. While walking to the bus station back to the hostel I saw some restaurants which advertised their menu a little differently.IMG_3202 IMG_3203 IMG_3205But before getting on the bus to Yangshuo I still had to get back to the hostel, pick up my backpack and then get back on the bus no. 10 to the big bus station. The bus to Yangshuo then was leaving every 15 minutes and it was no problem to get a ticket.

On the overland bus I looked out the window and the scenery started to change very soon.IMG_3208 IMG_3210 IMG_3212Once in Yangshuo I had no idea on how to get to my hostel. I only knew that it was 15 minutes away from the center but of course the bus station was also away from the center and exactly in the other direction.
Since misery likes company I was glad that there were some others Western travelers on the bus. One of them even had a map on which I could clearly see that I would and could not walk in this heat with the backpack to the hostel. It was just too far.

At the North Bus station (where we arrived) should have been a green bus no. 5 but suddenly all public transportation vanished and only taxis were left. A really weird coincidence but with an asking price of less than an Euro per person I was happy to oblige.

I checked into the Westend hostel and had a room on the 4th floor all to myself. I loved it right away up there with the big bed and the air condition. So far Yangshuo felt as if it had a least 5 degrees more than in Guilin. How that was even possible I did not know.IMG_3214
When I had cooled down sufficiently and gotten some information on what to do in the area I decided to explore the city. The center of Yangshuo was West Street which is very similar to Khaosan Road in Bangkok on a slightly smaller scale.IMG_3215 IMG_3216 IMG_3217 IMG_3218
Looks crazy, doesn’t it? But it’s exhilarating to walk through it and watch everyone and everything.IMG_3220 IMG_3221 IMG_3222 IMG_3223 IMG_3224 IMG_3225When I finally had enough I walked back to my hostel, had dinner across the street from it and turned in for the night. Yours, Pollybert

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Forbidden City

Momo had stayed home that night, maybe because we put a huge terra cotta pot in front of the garden door. Since there was no rush I had breakfast at home, eating the two tea eggs from Lucy and one of the melons from yesterday. The tea eggs are actually not cooked in tea but first 5 minutes in a soya sauce and water mix, then cracked and then cooked again for 5 minutes. You can according to Lucy add some salt, ginger, chilli or Szechuan pepper. Whatever is your fancy. IMG_2659

In between I updated the blog a bit, using the time to have internet available that was strong enough to upload pictures. All done while using VPN of course. China is definitely not easy for blogging.

Around noon I was ready to go. Since I met Babsi at 6pm for Peking duck there was no need to go home before. I took the metro again and arrived just at the beginning of Tiananmen Square. And right away at the exit of the metro there was a checkpoint. By now I knew that I can’t just politely line up and get run over by the Chinese. I used my elbows to stay in line!IMG_2663

Then it was a very long walk over the square. It was really impressive even with all the checkpoints, it’s just one huge empty square even though it was full of people. It looked still kind of empty. I can’t even imagine how it was on the 4th of June in ’89.IMG_2665 IMG_2666 IMG_2668

Babsi told me not to enter via the main gate since there were a lot more checkpoints but through the garden on the left side. The fee of 3 Yuan was worth it to leave most of the checkpoints behind me. Also it was an oasis of peace compared to the hustle and bustle at the main gate. Walking through the garden I arrived just at the lower end of the ticket office. I think there were at least 30 of them but with queues everywhere.IMG_2669

 

After I had my ticket I stopped for a quick bite to eat. The restaurant looked a bit depressing but the vegetables were good. Thus fortified I was ready for the Forbidden City.IMG_2673

 

One more check and then finally I was inside along with hundreds of other people. The Forbidden City turned out to be one hall after another, all called very similar names and none of the halls were for entering. The first one was the most important. This was noticeable by the little guardians on the roof end. The more little protectors were up there the more important the building.IMG_2671 IMG_2675 IMG_2678 IMG_2680 IMG_2682 IMG_2683 IMG_2684 IMG_2686 IMG_2689 IMG_2691 IMG_2695

Therefore the pushing in front of the door with the throne was unbelievable. I thought I would suffocate there. But I did it by pushing as bad as the Chinese I fought for a place in the front row and shot my picture. You judge for yourself if it was worth it. IMG_2700IMG_2699

As it turned out the halls behind the first one looked the same and had also (in my eyes) the same throne. I didn’t notice a difference.IMG_2704

What astonished me was that the place looked dirty and quite deteriorated. The audio guide said that the Chinese government is providing large funds every year for the upkeep plus with all the entrance fees, I was not sure what the were doing with the money. Seemed such a shame to let this all go to shambles.IMG_2712 IMG_2713 IMG_2714 IMG_2716 IMG_2720 IMG_2721Once at the end I turned around and walked back through one of the side alleys and started again with the right wing. Here the treasury was housed. With a little extra entrance fee I was away from the masses and here the Forbidden City was already a lot more interesting.IMG_2725 IMG_2732 IMG_2733 IMG_2744 IMG_2736 IMG_2740 IMG_2741 IMG_2745When I was finally at the end of the city again I climbed up the last hall and had an ok view of the roofs of the city. I saw a tower across the street that seemed to be a lot higher and thought about going there.IMG_2758 IMG_2759

Once out and in front of the park I decided against it. I was tired and needed to walk a lot more to get to the right metro for the meeting with Babsi. This was a very unwise decision since I arrived 30 minutes earlier at the meeting point and from up there I would have had the best view over the Forbidden City especially on a clear day such as it was.

Never mind there was still another full day ahead of me and at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I walked for about 30 minutes back to the metro, found my meeting point and was happy to see a Baskin Robbins at the corner. That’s where I stopped and waited for Babsi and while doing so I had a small portion of ice cream.IMG_2764

Also very unwise (maybe it was the day for unwise decisions) since the Peking duck was still waiting for me.

But on vacation I am allowed to make mistakes, if not now then when?

So right after I finished my ice cream Babsi was already waiting for me. We walked for a bit to get to the Kerry Hotel in which complex we would have the duck. Actually only me since Babsi is vegan.

In good restaurants the duck has to be pre-ordered and The Horizon is supposed to be one of the best.

Since it was only me for the duck we cut the order in half and I only ate a half. We had a table from where I could see right into the grilling kitchen. I’m not really sure if you call it so since it is done in a wood oven.IMG_2779 IMG_2780 IMG_2781

Since the duck was pre-ordered it was at the table in minutes with the chef carving it in front of me. It is served with buns, pancakes and a ‘set’ which includes spring onions, cucumber, some sauce and sugar. The Chinese like to dip the crackling skin into it.IMG_2765 IMG_2766 IMG_2767 IMG_2774

I then asked the waiter to show me how to prepare it. Always best to ask before making a fool out of me. Really loved the taste and was especially happy that I ordered when I looked at what Babsi was eating. She didn’t look happy at all with her tofu.IMG_2771

After dinner and since we were already around the corner we went to Atmosphere a bar on the 80th floor of the building next door.

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From up there you have a great view all over town, plus they make lovely G&T.IMG_2792 IMG_2795

After two of them we were ready to call it a night. We eventually even found a taxi and were home in no time. 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

Goodbye Tibet

Our last day in Lhasa started without breakfast. Due to the lack of guests there was no Chinese buffet waiting for but actually only an empty dining room. But somebody must have noticed because after a while we got some tea, coffee and Western breakfast (fried egg, bacon and grilled tomato). Not the start I would have wished for, but what can I say.

At 11:30 our guide and driver arrived to bring us to the airport and after a relatively easy security check we were waiting for our plane. This was delayed as every other flight that day, but eventually we boarded and left Lhasa.

Three hours later we arrived in Xi’an where I got off and Sylvia changed plane to Urumqi.

I helped her to check-in since she was taking my warm clothes back home and then she came with me to the airport shuttle. It was time to say goodbye, we hugged (actually quite often) and then I was on my own.

The shuttle came and I got my first idea how it will be with the Chinese. There was no lining up, there was just ‘who is first on the bus’. Clearly I had the wrong tactic but I managed to store my backpack and get a seat on the bus.

Although the hostel had a description on their website on how to get there, it was not as easy. I got off in the city with everybody else but then couldn’t find the 603 bus station to get to the hostel. At least I could see it driving by and I just followed in its wake. When I found a bus station that looked like the ones in Lhasa, I stopped and hoped for the best.

The best was then a young couple who asked me in English if I was waiting for the bus. I had been forewarned that all approaching Chinese are scammers and just want to steal something so I tried to keep my distance. But they insisted and also told me to take care of my belongings since their phone got stolen the day before, so I just followed since the stop I was waiting at was clearly not the right place.

And here I have to apologize to them because they brought me to the right stop and were really helpful! I got on the bus, and after two stations and some more running around in back alleys I found my hostel, the Han Tang House where a dorm bed waited for me.

I loved the good start to my traveling adventure. Let’s see what else it holds in store. Yours, Pollybert

More of Lhasa

The next day started a bit slower and we only met at 9:30. I enjoyed my Chinese breakfast with stuffed baozi and some spicy vegetables.IMG_1593Today we had more monasteries on our program and thus fortified we were on the way. The first one was the  Drepung Monastery.

After a short drive we saw first of all some dogs.IMG_1596 IMG_1602 IMG_1603 IMG_1700 IMG_1609 IMG_1612
Here the Buddhists paint the stones surrounding the monastery every September when there is a big religious festival.IMG_1614
There we also found the most astonishing toilets (and relatively clean compared to some others that we saw on this trip). IMG_1631

The monastery of course was beautiful too, more from the outside than the inside. Inside in the little side temples and nooks it felt more like a creepy place than a religious temple. The protectors next to the Buddha statues looked like demons (which they actually were before the got vanquished).IMG_1615 IMG_1617 IMG_1619 IMG_1623 IMG_1626 IMG_1627
As usual there were no pictures allowed inside but I sneaked one in of the stairs. They were always super steep and dangerous.
In front of the prayer halls there were always huge pillars with prayer flags. Visiting all these places I felt really calm and at peace while Sylvia disliked the disturbing images inside.IMG_1635 IMG_1637 IMG_1638 IMG_1639 IMG_1641IMG_1653IMG_1656

For lunch we went to a little tea house and had some simple Tibetan fare. Rice with vegetables and some yak meat for me and the same for Sylvia without the yak.

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After lunch the next monastery, now the Sera Monastery. After the third one it felt like more of the same. Still, we had to show a certain interest because our guide was so clearly into it. Sylvia bought herself a little prayer, you never know it might help.IMG_1664 IMG_1667 IMG_1668 IMG_1670

 

From there we were driven downtown again to go shopping but eventually just stopped by at our guide’s tea house, enjoyed some teaIMG_1673
and then ended up in a shopping mall in search of a washroom. My little dictionary from Vienna for Chinese came in very handy again.

At the mall we bought some ‘juice’ by tapping our finger at the right drink. Clearly there are not a lot of English speaking people in this country.IMG_1675

I also bought myself a pair of shoes and a long-sleeved shirt. The mall was definitely a success. To top it all we managed to get on the right bus and were back in our area no time.IMG_1683IMG_1684 IMG_1685
But on the short walk back to the hotel we were drawn into a Chinese restaurant with the words ‘Come in, come in’. But that was the extent of the English words of the owner. From then on it was looking at the pics in the menus and using the dictionary again.

We managed to order though we apparently made a mess of things because what we got was enough dinner for 10 people. Please note that the dishes were individually plastic wrapped for each customer.IMG_1689IMG_1695
Also they didn’t seem to understand that when Sylvia means no meat then there should be no meat. Meaning even though there was no meat in the soup, it counts as meat when it is a chicken soup base and a little worm on top of some green leave. So that was it for Sylvia with the Chinese food, we didn’t go again together.
Yours, Pollybert