Monday, April 27, 2009

Army of Terracotta Warriors (27.04.09)

From Beijing I took an express train to Xian. I had a soft-sleeper ticket, it was comfortable but expensive. As soon as I arrived in Xian I booked the onward ticket, because this time of year tickets are not that easy to get (there is a big holiday around the corer - the first of May - and a lot of people take their vacation now). After I checked in a hostel I went to see the famous Army of Terracotta Warriors. I followed my guide book recommendation and visited the sites in the descending order (pit 3, 2, 1 - from smaller to the bigger). It is an interesting place. I knew about this place for quite a while - I've seen it on TV, along with the history. I was expecting to be a bit more colourful. The entrance fee is a big too expensive, if I compare this site with the Great Wall. I guess I was lucky to see tens of warriors that have been excavated and being displayed a bit closer - I understood that in a month or so there will be put in their original position, down in the pit. So far there are about 2000 warriors excavated from an estimated number of 6000. Therefore, it will only get better as the time will go on.

Expenses (Yuan)
water 4
breakfast 5
bed in dorm 50
bus 2x7
entrance museum terracotta 90
lunch 13
dinner 6

Forbidden City (26.04.09)

It happens that it was Sunday when I went to the Forbidden city. There were tens of thousands of tourists. The city is pretty big, with few large squares, a big garden, and plenty of ancient buildings, that looked to me almost the same (well, I mean the same style, some are bigger, same are smaller). There are many gates, and also many buildings full of history of emperors and concubines. In most of the buildings there were exposed different objects from different times. I went and visited also a clock exhibition. Overall, I wasn't too excited about this place; it was way too much history to understand (2 dynasties of Emperors (24), Ming and Qing. On the other hand, this place is unique. It took me few good hours to see most of the places.

Expenses (Yuan)
breakfast 5
water 3
Entrance forbidden City 60
audio guide 40
entrance exhibition clock 10
entrance thesaurus 10
lunch 15
ticket train Xian 417

Temple of Heaven park, the Summe Palace and Olympic Stadium (25.04.09)

The first place I went this morning was the Temple of Heaven park. There are 3 building that are point of interest. The first is the Hal of Prayer for Good harvest. It is a tall wooden building. The second one is the Imperial vault of Heaven, surrounded by an round wall - the Echo wall. The third one is the Round Altair, a 5 meter tall sort of platform. I was actually more impressed with the people in the park. They were singing in many places, playing or dancing. Maybe because it was Saturday they were so many people in the park.
The second place I went it is the Summer palace. This is a very big park, with an even bigger lake. There are few temples and the hill (Longevity Hill). It was nice to stroll around the shoreline, even though it was so crowded.
The last place I went it was to the site of the 2008 Olympics. I finally got to see the National Stadium and the swimming pool. I have seen them on Discovery Channel before. They lived up to the expectation. between them there is a very wide and long boulevard - I have never ever seen such a huge paved open space like that.

Expenses (yuan)
room 45
temple of heaven entrance 35Check Spelling
summer palace entrance 30
taxi 6
bus 2
subway 8
lunch 9
icecream 4
dinner 10

The Great Wall (24.04.09)

I returned to Guilin, and from there I took a train to Beijing. It took 23 hours to get there, and my ticket was standing,meaning I didn't even have a seat. After many hours of standing I did get a seat, but I couldn't sleep. I arrived at Beijing pretty tired.
In the morning I went to The Great Wall, about an hour bus ride outside from the city. I chose to go to the most popular site, Badaling. It looks just like a wall, but very big and long. I have seen it before on TV and in reality it looks even better. I have walked a couple of hours on it. There were thousand of tourist, even the weather wasn't good - it was very windy and cloudy.
In the evening I went to Tiananmen Square. They say this is the world's largest public square, but to me it didn't look that big. I was a bit disappointed.

Expenses (Yuan)
breakfast 4
bed in a dorm 45
bus badaling 2x12
subway 2x2
water 2.5
great wall entrance 45
lunch 10
dinner 8
beer 3

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yangshuo country side (20.04.09)

Today I renter a bicycle and went around pedalling for hours. I also went hiking to the Moon hill, from where I had a fantastic view on 2 valleys below. I found the chinese countryside unique and beautiful.

Expenses (Yuan)
room 50
bicycle rental 20
breakfast 6
water 3
lunch 10
beer 5
dinner 7

Yangshuo (19.04.09)

Yangshuo is a very small city but it gets a lot of tourists. The West street is full of the stores, also the area around. There are so many hotels and restaurants around. I will spend a couple of days here.

Expenses (yuan)
room 50
food 10

Li River cruise (19.04.09)

The cruise on the Li River is one of the top attraction in China. The scenery is so beautiful so they decided to put it on the 20 yuan banknote. I booked the western group tour (with english guide), and at the pier I was so surprised there were 15 boats going one after another. I guess it is a pretty popular trip. It lasts 3 and half hours and runs downriver to Yangshuo for about 55 km. There are hundred of peaks along the river and all I have to say is that is truly beautiful. I was lucky to get good weather, I wasn't really expecting this after yesterday's rain. There was some food and beer on the boat, not enough though. I have found the price very high for a (jobless) backpacker, but I went for it since it's a one time in life event.

Expenses (Yuan)
cruise 360

Guilin (18.04.09)

From Hong Kong I took the subway all the way to the border with China. I crossed into Shenzen and from there I took a high-speed train to Guangzhou (1 hr). I was impressed with the train (155km/hr, very smooth), high-rise buildings and wide roads. On my way I found out that this week is a very big trade fair, and all the rooms are double to four times more expensive, so I decided to pass this city. The first challenge was when I had to find the long distance bus station in Guangzhou, as very few people speak english and all signs are in chinese. I took the night bus to Guilin - 9hrs., and while the bus had all the confort, I didn't sleep very well in the reclining seat. I arrived just before 6am in the city, it felt strange at beginning but I found my way and got a room in the hostel I was looking for. I slept a couple of hours and then went exploring the city. Unfortunately, it was foggy and sometimes was even light rain. I lked fow few good hours on the streets and in the Qixing Gongyuan (Seven Star park). I was just amazed - the city is small by chinese standards (just 1.3 million people), but is very animated. The park was very nice, and there were peaks (small mountains), a river, a zoo (I did see a panda but it wasn't that cute - it was big and was sleeping worry free), some hot springs, and in some places the tree were smelling so nice. I managed to get a haircut, do some shopping and eat. It wasn't that cheap I was expecting, and prices are so relative.
My first impression on China is so positive. I will predict I will like it a lot.

Expenses (Yuan)
train Szenchen->Guanzhou 75
bus Guanzhou->Guilin 160
room Guilin 55
food 33
map guilin 6
snacks 7
entrance park 35
haircut 20

Friday, April 17, 2009

A week in Hong Kong (17.04.09)

I arrived in Hong Kong at the beginning of the Easter holiday. On Friday and Monday offices were closed, so I had to spend a week to get China visa. Peninsula Malaysia is more expensive than Thailand; Borneo Malaysia is more expensive than peninsula Malaysia; Macau is more expensive than Borneo Malaysia; Hong Kong is more expensive than Macau.
If Macau is considered by some people as a big casino, Hong Kong can be also considered as a huge shopping mall. The city is dominated by sky-scrapers (mostly along the shore line) and high-rise apartment buildings. It is sort of New York of the Asia. It is very crowded and very busy. A mixed of asians, european tourists or expats, african and indian immigrants.
I stayed at the famous (among budget travellers) Chungking Mansions. This is a big building, not very pretty but well located on the Nathan road (a large shopping street). It is not on the Hong Kong island, but on the Kowloon peninsula. There are a couple of guesthouses on each floor. A guesthouse was originally a big apartment (something like 10 by 10 meters) that has been subdivided in very small rooms (the smallest I've been was about 1.4 by 3 meters - definitely not for claustrophobic).
From there there is subway to the island but I always preferred the ferry. It is cheaper and scenic, and runs every 6 minutes.
I went twice the the no. 1 attraction of the city, the Victoria Peak. This is a hill from where the bay area can been seen. The view is awesome and at night is even better. Unfortunately, I haven't had a single clear day, it was cloudy and sometimes rainy. There is also an awesome view (and in my opinion even better) of the bay and the city skyline from the Avenue of the Stars (this is a street along the waterfront on the Kowloon, sort of the Hollywod Blvd., having the stars of the famous chinese actors). Every night at 8 there is a show called the Symphony of Lights, when a lot of buildings projects lights and are themselves lighten in different colours and patterns, according to a music that can be listened along the Avenue of the stars and also on radio. It is the biggest permanent light show. It is just stunning! Also at the category biggest in the world there are mid-levels escalators, a long series of escalators that go about 800 meters. It wasn't that much of an experience. on Wednesday most of the museums have free admission, so I went and visited Museum of Space, Museum of Art, Museum of Science and Museum of History. Another attraction as Temple street night market, but I was more impressed with few other streets that are so animated at night, particularly the one that sell electronics goods. On the main street in Kowloon (Nathan Road) there are touts that are trying to get you to a tailor shop, or sell copy (fake) watches (Rolex and others), massages and other things. Everything is expensive here, so I had every day junk food which is the cheapest (McDonald, Burger King, KFC). A nice budget food chain is Yoshinova, which serves asian dishes.
Although at beginning I wasn't happy at all I have to spend so much time here, in the end I am glad - Hong Kong is a unique and must-see city. At some point I was thinking it wouldn't be bad to look for a job here :)). Did I mention how beautiful are asian women here ?

P.S. I would like to thank to my all steady readers and if is there any other info they might want to see in my blog, just let me know.

Expenses - total 2000 (HKD)
room 90
room 6x120
ferry 3x2.5, 2.3, 1.8
subway 4
bus peak 10
minibus peak 3x8
Tshirt 20
laundry 30
Big mac 7x26
BK Whoper 2x32
KFC 2x35
Yoshinova meal 3x34
visa China 450

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Macau (09.04.09)

I took a very early (7am) flight to Macau. I have found accommodation in the centre of the city and then strolled around the streets. I started at the Senate Square, went by Sao Domingo church to the most famous landmark, the ruins of Sao Paulo church. Very close to it was Fortalez do Monte. I went then to Guia Lighthouse and beautiful chinese garden Lou Lim Ieoc. In the evening I went to visit the casinos. The Lisboa casino is in the center of Macau. I was surprised to find out they only play with Hong Kong dollars, not with local currency MOP (patacas). There are many casinos around, the city wants to be the Las Vegas of the Asia, but is far away when it cames to the lively atmosphere. Thanks to the casinos free shuttles, I went on Taipa Island to the biggest casino, Venetian. It does resembles a lot the Venetian in Las Vegas, but it was half empty. I guess the financial crisis is felt here too. I was thinking that sometimes my life was like flipping channels on TV. One day I was deep in the jungle, the very next day I was in the most luxurious casino. The dramatic change made the visit to Macau even more enjoyable.
The next day I walked randomly on the streets. The european influence can be seen in so many places. In the evening I went again to the casinos. I was looking for the atmosphere, and there is some inside. Funny thing that other than roulette, all the games are entirely different that one I am used to. I guess I do miss Las Vegas.
There is a place, called fisherman Wharf, that has a long street with casinos and some different buildings; it even has a volcano, a chinese temple, Alladin fort, some european building. It is the vague resemblance of the strip in Vegas

Expenses (MOP)
room 100 bus jetfoil 4
bus center 4
breakfast 25
lunch 30
water 10
diner 40
gamble 20
room 200
breakfast 20
lunch 30
gamble 20
diner 35