Chongqing

After a good night on the train I arrived at my destination at 7:40 in the morning.IMG_2114 IMG_2116

It took me a while to find the baggage hold (called “left luggage”) and even longer to find the tourist information. Thank god they had one. Because the train station in Chongqing is huge compared to the one in Xi’an South.

I found the information after following the signs forever (and getting lost in the process) and asked there how to get to the zoo. I hadn’t read much before but I did look up what to do for the day in Chongqing. The zoo was number 6 on the top 10 list and also within the city limits. Perfect for a day trip.

As it turned out the zoo was only a 30 minutes metro ride away. But before going there it was time for breakfast. With no dinner the night before I was starving, so a noodle soup in a diner next to the train station was quite alright.IMG_2118 IMG_2117
Changing the metro line once, I was at the zoo in a flash.IMG_2119 IMG_2120 IMG_2121

The zoo appeared to me as the green lung of Chongqing. A large and lush areal within the city and full of doting grandparents. I fully enjoyed my day there just walking around, eating ice cream, watching animals and bonding with the locals.IMG_2124 IMG_2128 IMG_2131 IMG_2136 IMG_2137 IMG_2141 IMG_2142

 

The way back felt so much easier, like I have never done anything else.IMG_2143

I picked up my bag, got a taxi and with the help of another guy my driver also knew where to go.

Due to lack of water was the harbor in Chongqing closed and we had to get ferried upstream to Fengdu.IMG_2146

 

So the meeting point for the cruise guests was the national theater. 

After another half an hour and at a good rate (love the taxis here, taxometer is on and you have no problem. In China, no problem!), I was back in the organized world of tourist traveling.

I might have gotten a bit of a heart attack when for the first 20 minutes or so I only saw Chinese faces. But that changed when some western looking people arrived as well.

I took my seat and finally at 10pm I made it onto the ship, the Victoria Jenna.IMG_2148

 

I had booked a shared cabin which was empty on my entry (and stayed so for the trip). After a long shower I headed on the top deck for something to drink and some relaxation time. Yours, Pollybert

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Xi’an to Chongqing

After walking around the food market for ages We finally had dinner at the hot pot place next to the hostel. But after my experience with Sylvia in Lhasa I settled on the noodles and a beer. This day had been wonderful and exhausting and it was good for me to see how easy I can find company.

The next morning I stayed at the hostel until check-out time and then tried to find the Bell Tower again. I had seen it the night before and wanted another impression at daylight. Maybe even try for the mosque again.IMG_2045
But walking around with a map proved too difficult for me (I should have trusted my instincts) and I ended up somewhere completely foreign to me. Which should not have been a problem but it started to rain and I had left the umbrella at the hostel. So I turned around and ended up in a restaurant that had a picture menu. Something I loath in Vienna but in China I glad for it.
I tried some green soup and fried aubergine. Both were delicious as I find the food overall very good.IMG_2111 IMG_2112

If the soup bowl looks big to you, it was. More the size of a large salad bowl.

After I had finished my meal it had started to rain in earnest and I was not in the mood to get back in the rain. I had ample of time and just stayed at the restaurant, drank the included tea (there is free refill) and used my dictionary to find the bathroom. Two hours reading and preparing the blog posts were  a well spent afternoon for me.

When the rain finally let off I walked back to the hostel, got my stuff and waited for the ordered driver. I was told that I should be a minimum of an hour before the departure at the train station and since I assumed it was a huge one I wanted to leave myself ample time to find everything. So three hours before the train was due I left the hostel. It took one hour to get to the train station (thank God I knew that before otherwise I would have thought the driver wanted to abduct me). But once there it turned out that it was a super small provincial train station. And that should say something in China.

I got my ticket without a problem since it had been booked by the cruise agency and they charged an extra 17 U$ for it. So I got my ticket with minimal trouble since the girl at the register spoke English (and well to the boot at that) and I went through security.

The train station consisted of a waiting hall and a bathroom. The people were only let on the platforms once the train came in. I looked in vain for a seat and eventually asked a young man to move his bags for which he only had a blank look and eyes that said “I don’t give a damn”.

But it turned out I had been noticed by the only other westerner in this hall. I don’t know his name but he was from Denmark and seemed like a very seasoned traveler. One of his train mates (they met when comparing tickets) made room for me and I could put my backpack down. The Danish guy laughed when he heard I was in for a two hour wait but gave me an assortment of English tea to keep me company on the train. 10 minutes later he was on his train to the border of Kazakhstan.
More waiting resulted in eventually visiting the bathroom. The Chinese girls next to me signed me that they would look out for my bags (but in any case I don’t think anything could happen in there. The police is stationed right inside, only travelers are allowed into the waiting hall, so basically everyone is in the same boat).

And then another kindness in the bathroom. Of the two stalls one was unusable (I spare you again the details) and for the other was a line up. And the girl in front of me let me go ahead. No word was exchanged but I felt really taken care of.

Then finally the train had arrived and since I couldn’t read my ticket, I followed the masses. I knew at least that I had a bed waiting for me. I just didn’t know if I would have to fight for it. And then another angel, this time in the form of a young man helped me to find my wagon.

It took still a bit of looking to get to the right compartment which I shared with three guys. But now I know that on the ticket it only says the wagon and the bed number. I had an upper bunk, the guy from below helped me to heave the backpack up and I stored it over the door. Two of the three guys could even speak English and I was interviewed where I came from and where I was heading to.

When the conductor came to take my ticket, which was exchanged for a card with the wagon and bunk number I had a puzzled look on my face. But as I was told “No problem. In China, no problem” and they were right. Everything works just fine here. Yours, Pollybert

Food market in Xi’an

On the way to the hostel we decided spontaneously to look for the mosque. We had a map and a plan so nothing could go wrong. Instead of finding the mosque though we circled it and the market around three times and then gave up. Still it was definitely worth it walking around the Muslim quarter. Yours, PollybertIMG_2047 IMG_2050 IMG_2052 IMG_2053 IMG_2054IMG_2057 The nuts were also sold cracked and slightly caramelized.IMG_2055

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The dark eggs are tea eggs and they taste wonderful.IMG_2064

And these here were potato chips. IMG_2066

And fried crabs.IMG_2068

This we thought was liver.IMG_2071 IMG_2072 IMG_2073 IMG_2074 IMG_2075 IMG_2077
This seemed to be quail eggs sunny side up on a stick.IMG_2079 IMG_2080 IMG_2081
Savory rolls in the making:IMG_2087 IMG_2086 IMG_2090 IMG_2092 IMG_2094
Fresh berriesIMG_2096
And edible ‘flower pots’ made from some kind of chocolate cake.IMG_2098
Yoghurt with different toppingsIMG_2099

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

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