A Travellerspoint blog

Chengdu

Pandas and Emei Shan Mountain

sunny 24 °C
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Well there it was another night train to Chengdu much to Ruths Joy.....she couldnt wait for some more wobbly squat toilets , instant beef noodles and men and woman hocking it back.....:o).

We arrived early in Chengdu and as we only had a few days and we wanted to climb Emei Shan mountain aswell which would take a few days.....it was straight to the Panda Research centre.Which was a far cry from Beijing Zoo, Pandas had planty of space , food and they got to make love.....! It was a breeding reserch centre which was founded to help the Giant Panda in the wild. After our tour around the Panda centre we watched a film about Panda Sex and we all acted very maturely throughout the documentary.......;o). We went off to do our first proper internet photo upload banaza than for the afternoon.

It was up early the next morning for Emei Shan mtn (3000m). We planned on hiking straight up and than taking the long scenic route down. For convenience and being Chinese they built steps to the top and there was food all the way to the top, every few 100metres so Aoife and Kate were delighted. It was very hot and we were sweating like stack pigs, we didnt meet many people on the way up...WELL that is until we hit the 2800 metre mark and we steeped out onto a road and there was more busses than imaginable and there was a cable car up the last 200m. We trudged on through crowds of people to the top, girls in highheels dressed up to the hilt. We stuck out like sore thumps and we smelt as bad. We had spent a night at monastry half way up, in very damp beds....!!! On our way up to the monastry as we hadnt met many people we had though met Monkeys, Aoife was literally Mugged by a GIANT monkey (well to us it felt like a giant). The greedy GIANT monkey than went for Ruth who wasnt quite so willing to part with her supplies so he got a firm kick (dont mess with vets). The next monkey went for Kate but pulled her pants down in front of a giant group of chinese toursits...the whitest bum they have ever seen!!! Than on the way down the bus was too tempting for Aoife and Ruth so they hopped on thinking hot showers, dry beds and a good nights sleep.

Meanwhile.... Anna and Kate decided to take the scenic route back down we were told it was pretty spectacular. But it was two o' clock and it was definatley at least seven hours of running down. We made a dash for it, we were sweaty messes. It was absolutly breath taking though. Our major worry wasnt being caught out at the night though it was more being attacked by more monkeys (if we took the long way down we would have to take in monkey joking zone and the gaurds(little old ninja ladies with sticks that help keep the monkeys off you) would definately be gone at that stage. But we knew we could stay in any of the monastries on the way down if we were really stuck. When we were just past long life monastry we met two guys from Israel that we had met earlier that day so we continued on down with them as they were hoping to make it to the bottom aswell. Four of us fighting off the monkeys seemed more appealing and they were fresh out of the army too. It was about half eight by the time we made it back to the hostel. We had some hot showers, good food and a few beers with our new found friends.

While we were sweating our way down the mountain the Die Hards(Aoife and Ruth) were soaking up the atmosphere in Chengdu Irish Pub drinking beer watching hot irish rugby players..........tough job they said but someone had to do it.

We were up early the next morning to head back to Chengdu. Kate and Anna decided it was time for a hair cut 2.50 euro each, and you could bloody well tell afterwards (not the best).
Kate and Anna were unable to walk properly for four days afterwards, running down 3000m of steps in one day is not the brightest idea!!! (It was bloody agony).
The following day it was off to Lijiang to a few days hiking through Tiger Leaping Gorge........report to follow shortly.(Not the most pleasant flight fro poor Ruth I think quote "Im never getting on another F#$%^$%K flight without Valium again" Im sure she will fill you in.

Thanks for reading...
loads of love
Anna Aoife Kate and Ruth xxx

Posted by annacronin 00:34 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

my first days...Beijing-Xi'an...

but I survived!!!

sunny 20 °C

Left chilly Dublin airport at 9am on Ethiad (super airline, deserve the mention) to Beijing..viz AbuDabby...wherever that is? Two 7.5 hr flights later and I touched down in Beijing super clean efficient airport, at 9am the next day, 8 hours ahead of when I'd left, dazed, disorientated, confused..you get the picture...3 girls waiting with a sign (really not big enough seeing as they'd 2 weeks on a train to prepare for this event..ahem...) but very relieved to see familiar faces!! Most people go to Beijing to see Mao memorabilia, big squares, something about a wall...what did I encounter...a computer shop and communication issues. Yes we tried to haggle a computer purchase for 2 hours but we got free HOT water, so it was all worth it when we ran away empty handed. Then we got the Peking Duck experience (official, authentic...and i was terrified after the girls recounted food horrors of exploding intestines, eyeballs...) but the duck was great, even the inferior one! (somethings get very lost in translation between english to Chinese!!)
So after travelling lots of miles and covering a few timezones you'd expect that I was allowed to shower, change into compfy pjs and settle into a big comfy bed and recover...hmm...I was herded onto a 12 hour night train with 50,000 chinese mad people to city No. 2 Xi'an!! 8 hours in Beijing must be a record?? I did see Tianeman sqaure from the taxi (apparently..)

The train...hmm..Well i had lots of fantastic 1st experiences in one go..
1) squat toilets...
2) squat toliets trying to balance as train wobbles along
3) squat toliets after said 50,000 chinese have used them
4) sleeper trains
5) Chinse favourite pasttime of throatily houghing up as much phlegm then dispensing of it in a spitting manner in any direction....and our bags were on the floor...where were those 'discharges' landing eh??
6) chinese noodles, instant..and yes, they ARE GOOD FOR YOU...mmm...
I'm sure there were more but I think I was a bit over-exposed for one day and I can't remember the other lovely experiences!!!

Early morning Sunday, or Monday..I really wasn't sure which way was up or down at this stage...we arrived in smoggy (no, that is not mist) Xi'an. We wouldn't be the type to spend a day adjusting so immediately booked into the 9.30am trip to Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an's no. 1 destionation. yeah....em....4 hours when 1 would probably have sufficed, but we created our own fun, and our own terracotta warrior impressions...far better than those originals! Got our first sighting of Dog fur rugs, St. Bernard in your sitting room, why not! or maybe alsation, nose still attatched for increased authenticity!!! Yes you're all getting a flat puppy for christmas..

Day 2 in Xi'an, again not really sure which day we were on, it was time for exercise and Mt. Hua Shan. 1600m.... pavement for 5km, then steps, steps, steps...all the way to the top. Crazy, bizarre place; huge archway entrance where we'd to PAY 12euro to walk onto the mountain. Definitely an idea for home, a fiver to go round the cliff walk?? Every 5 minutes there were food stalls or tea houses and guys struggling up with sticks carrying 20litres of water on each end! Sweaty and hot we finally reached the "party", aka the summit, only to be met by 1000's of Chinese tourists in high heels and yellow hats getting their photos taken on a rocky ledge with the safety rails airbrushed out and snow airbrushed in...crazy lack of grasp on reality. They were fascinated by us 4 smelly, red westerners and had at least 10 photo sessions with random chinese. Happy with their photo they hop back on the cable car back to the bottom..we were left wondering wether it was them that was crazy or us......

Day 3 and a day for rest, relaxation and naturally that means renting tandem bikes and cycling the 13.5km city walls of Xi'an!! We did stop for a ice pop..i learnt that you can't steer a tandem bike from the back seat but that doesn't stop u trying! Anna and Kate buckled their wheel hitting a speed bump at...well...speed!! It wasn't a race (yeah sure...) we still got our deposit back and ran away before the wheel fell off completely! Day 3 was also Paddy's day china style...guiness that tasted like sewer water, baileys mixed with something strong, green beer and our table of chinese friends that adopted us for the evening. We tried drawing shamrocks on their cheeks but they didn't really get it and instead drew turtles, flowers, monocles etc on each other...hmm..at least they were in the spirit of it! An impromptu ceili where again, despite aoifes best organisation attempts, became a mass of people spinning and hopping. But great fun...crashed into our beds in the wee hours (erm...12.30..) dreaming of green beer.

Day 4 and off to Cheng-poo...sorry Chengdu..another 16 hour trai, and yes more houghing, spitting, mystery food and of course ISTANT NOODLES (did I mention that they're god for you??!!) The epic adventure that was chengdu to follow.....

Posted by annacronin 03:41 Archived in China Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

Beijing

1 week in Chinas capital..

We arrived off the train from Ulan Bator and our first impression was people..so many people everywhere. Second impression was the weather-sunny and warm time to whip off a few layers!

On our first day we decided we would visit the Forbidden City, one of Beijings more visited attractions. When we arrived at the 'Forbidden City' paid in and wandered up to the building. It was only when inside that we realised that this wasnt the infamous Forbidden City it was in fact an art gallery!! Feeling pretty stupid and out of pocket we decided that since we were there we would pay our dues and wander around. Kate definitely appreciated it more whereas me and Anna just couldnt understand why the Chinese visitors were taking a picture of every single painting..surely they werent going to bore their friends with a power point presentation..

We eventually made our way to the actual Forbidden City and wandered around there for a few hours and paid our respects to Mr. Mao and Tianamen square.
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In the following days we also visited the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven park which is a gorgeous huge park full of locals dancing or singing or doing aerobics..such a nice place. Kate was even brought dancing by one of the local women who had a cheeky feel of her bum (common practice in China so Damo no need to worry that she was being hit on :-)! )

We went to the Pearl Market and also Silk Market to see what they were all about. CRAZY is not the word. As soon as you walk in the door you are accosted by shouts of 'you want pair of jeans' 'pretty lady good price for you' 'beautiful lady you want ipod'....if you do decide to buy something thats when the real fun starts..You say 'How much?' they say '500 yuan' you say 'no way am i paying that much and put the item down' they say 'ok ok how much you pay' you say '60 yuan' cue shocked expression on the seller and exclamations of 'you break my heart' and 'you joking this is good cotton/silk hand made' then they say 'ok how about 400yuan just for you, you my friend' then you say 'no way ill go somewhere else' then they say 'ok 300 yuan' and start to look annoyed, then you say 'no way' and start to leave the stall ' they start shouting lower and lower prices at you as you walk away and when you are approx 5 meters from the stall they say 'ok ok 60 yuan' and you return to seal the deal feeling very good about yourself even though the seller probably feels even better about themselves because they bought it in bulk for 5yuan..all in a days haggling :-) We did get some dodgy stuff though..Anna bought a watch that was 5mins behind time an hour later, I got a psp battery that didnt fit and Kate bought an ipod speaker that stopped working as soon as we got back to the hostel..just as well everything was cheap!

Chinese are mad for their karoke so we thought we would go see what what the fuss was all about. We gathered a few people that we had met in Ulan Bator and we headed to KTV which is pretty much like a multi story building full of rooms to sing your heart out. We were first escorted into a shop to buy our alcohol and snacks and then we paid for a few hours in the karoke cube..we had a bit of trouble finding english songs but once we did there was no stopping us! We sang everything from the Spice Girls (Tell me what you want what you really really want) and danced the Mackerana.
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On the Friday before we left we finally got to see the Great Wall. We caught a minivan from Tianmen Square with Norris our American friend, a guy from Singapore and three Canadian girls. We went to the Simatai section of the wall which is older and hasnt had as much of a facelift as other sections. We were delighted to get out of the city and to be able to stretch our legs. We walked along it as far as we could-it really is an unbelieveable structure, very very impressive. It was a gorgeous day and the views were amazing. We were escorted some of the way by 'Wall Guards' so we got them to pose in a photo with us as 007!
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The following day (Saturday) we headed to the airport to pick up the long lost Ruth (yeh!)we were delighted to see her and even moreso the Cosmo magazine and brown bread that she brought with her :-) Ruth is going to fill you in on what we made her endure her first few days of travelling so check back for that..

Lots of love and hugs

Aoife, Anna, Kate and Ruth.

Posted by annacronin 02:04 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Trans-Siberian finale

From Ulan Baatar to BEIJING!!!!

sunny 0 °C
View Where the hell are we..?? on annacronin's travel map.

On a very cold Thursday Morning we boarded the train for the last leg of our journey, 1.5days from Mongolia to China. The train was warm, smog free, spotlessly clean and most importantly had a food carriage that actually served hot food, if Carlsberg did trains it would probably be one from Mongolia. They could teach their Russian neighbours a thing or two about cleanliness.

We gave Ruth's train ticket to our English friend Ben who showed his appreciation by hanging his socks out on the rail between the two carraiges so as not to offend over very delicate noses. Thanks BEN!
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The scenery was spectacular (the pics speak for themselves) and after about an hour into the journey we were in the Gobi desert playing spot the camel! Which to be honest was not very difficult as they stood out like sore thumbs against the snow. Every so often you would see a man on a motorbike and wonder where the hell he was going because there really is nothing there... NOTHING!

We finally understood why the journey takes so long when that evening it took six hours to get through Mongolian and Chinese customs. Like good (not to mention slightly nervous) citizens we decided to declare all our cash to the Mongolian customs officer. Who, after looking at our meagre sums of Dollars and euros had a right giggle. He probably figured we weren't much of a threat to national secuity as the officials barely searched our cabin. The Chinese customs was the most exciting as it involved a bogie change (not sure how you spell that), so they drove the train into this huge warehouse, hoisted us up on giant jacks and gave us a brand new set of wheels. They then poped a new food carriage in the middle of the train and voila we were ready for China! It was such a strange feeling, almost like being a container on a cargo ship.
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At around 2am we were finally through customs heading straight for Beijing and the following morning we passed through the great wall of China. Now you think we would have seen this momentous occasion and marked it with a photo or two but oh no, inside our little cabin we were all fast alseep oblivious that the one of the wonders of the world had just passed us by! Woopsy...

After a breakfast of cheese and crisp sandwiches (which it so happens was what we had for breakfast, lunch and dinner the previous day) we packed up our bags eager for our China adventure to begin.

Love

Kate, Anna and Aoife xx

Posted by annacronin 23:31 Archived in Mongolia Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

The Food disaster


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Well we thought we would let you know a little bit about our food problemos so far cos its been quite funny. It all started when we got on the train in Moscow ever so slightly under prepared food wise for four days on a train. Than this was heightened by the food carriage on the train breaking down (this wasn't really a problem though as it smelt like a mixture of wet dog and really old peoples houses). So it didnt do anything for us. So we ate dried fish, a russian version of a pot noodle and stale bread for four days, we could buy these nourishing supplies on the platform. However there was good food to be found on platforms but we could just never find it.

We were really looking forward to getting a decent meal in Mongolia. But as our delicate irish taste buds were just not quite ready for Mogolian seriuosly meaty, salty cuisine we just never knew what we were getting. When we spent the night in the ger tent we kept finding hairs in our food. All we had to drink aswell was fermented mares milk (warm) we had completely forgot to bring any water with us.

Hope though for a decent meal was on the horizon as we would arrive in China soon and everyone was raving about the food there. So we had our fingers crossed for some vegatables and fruit and to try some famous Peking Duck. Well if we had no idea what we were eating in Mongolia we had less of a clue in China. Jesus Mary and Joseph......we didnt recognize anything. We did try though...... we ate where the chinese ate but we just didnt have a clue what anything was. Except we recognozed the following as scorpions and cockroaches:
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Our decisions were bad, everything we picked was seriously salty gloupy and a funny colour and looked something like this:
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So were back to a diet of bolied rice.

We were about 4days through china and we decided we would go try and find a restaurant that served duck and we would give it a go.....we got two trains to try and find this place but we coudlnt find it anywhere at the blood sugar levels were running low, so we ended up in Pizza Hut!!!! Anna went to bed that night and exclaimed "I dont even want to try Peking Duck anymore it is probably Peking bloody dog for all we know....".

Our look was turning though when we met up with our friends from Mongolia, they were loving the Chinese cuisisne and couldnt see our problem. So off we went to dinner with them, but low and behold we discovered our taste buds differed slightly, we just werent able for the exloded intestine YET!!.
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We were still waiting for our first decent meal and we did find it in a muslim resatuant. We went in and pointed at stuff other people had that looked nice and asked for it. It was really tasty......and for 7 of us including beers it cost us 1 euro so we were seriously happy canpers.....:o).

Please Note since writing this our food problems have improved and it may have been down to us ordering the wrong things....;o)

loads of love
Anna , Aoife, Kate , Ruth (She arrived safe and sound). xx

Posted by annacronin 03:04 Archived in China Tagged food Comments (0)

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