A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Day 7 - Travel to Baoji

semi-overcast 29 °C

Wednesday, August 1

In the morning, Nicole bought a train ticket back to Beijing and an airplane ticket back to Xi'an on Friday.

In the afternoon, we went to the Hanyang Museum (188 BC until 141 BC). This museum was as interesting as the Terra Cotta warrior museum and very similar in nature, although the artifacts were not as impressive as the Terra Cotta warriors. The documentation was very good and it wasn't as congested. The exhibition contained archeological digs which depicted the different ministries of Emperor Liu Qi. The exhibition was large, although only a small portion of the tombs have been unearthed.

After leaving the museum, we went to the Suzuki dealer to have them check out the car because the " check engine " light had come on during the climb up the mountain the previous day. The first dealer we drove to didn't exist anymore and we had to go further into town to another dealer. It turned out to be a temporary electrical problem and they cleared the alarm history for us.

We had a quick meal of beef and noodles and then stopped at a Starbucks for a coffee near the train station, where we left Nicole so that she could return to Beijing for her cousin's wedding reception.

Jeremy and I drove to Baoji and arrived at the JinJiang hotel at 8:30 pm. There are a one or two attractions that we will be visiting before returning to pick up Nicole at the airport in Xi'an on Friday morning.

Driving throughout China I have noticed that there is a lot of construction going on. They are continually building high-rise apartments in all of the cities and when they are almost finished some of the buildings, they are already building new ones. Baoji, is a small city in China, only having a population of 3.5 million as compared to 8.5 million in Xi'an or the 20 million in Beijing. All of the cities appear to be growing rapidly.

Posted by hammr 08:11 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 8 - Baoji ( Mount Tiantai )

semi-overcast 25 °C

Thursday, August 2

Baoji is a beautiful city with manicured streets, clean buildings and nice parks. Even the uniquely designed bridges were aesthetically pleasing. They have renovated most of the old buildings and have built a lot of new ones.

After our ' normal ' breakfast, Jeremy and I headed to Tiantai Shan (mountain). We picked up our tickets ( 30 RMB or $5 each ) at the base of the mountain and started our hike. The saleslady warned us that there were a lot of bugs and she wasn't kidding! Numerous large predatory bugs latched on to our shirts and went along for a ride as long as we let them. The bug spray and the constant slapping were only mild deterrents to these pesky critters and hopefully the few that were able to successfully extract pieces of flesh from our body have died from their meals.

Tiantai Shan is a lush mountain area. The trail grew narrow and slippery and the forest became more dense as we approached the top of the mountain. I took many pictures, but when we got near the top we were shrouded in mist from the clouds and could not see very far. It was good exercise and we did not meet many people along the trail but I think that will change as the hike becomes more popular.

There were signs at the start of the climb depicting oxen, wolves, owls, snakes, birds and butterflies. We saw thousands of bugs, lots of butterflies, a bird and one lizard! Jeremy wanted to see a snake, but I am sad to say we never had the fortune of meeting one.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped to look at some construction a few miles below the entrance gates. Signs were posted on a fence depicting villages, lakes and parks that were going to be built in the area. It looked like they were building a theme park and a village that looked like it belonged to ' smurfs' had already been completed. From everything I have seen so far, I am sure that the construction will be completed by the end of the year and there will be thousands of visitors to the area next year.

We checked out of our hotel and decided to cruise around Baoji for a few hours. We stopped on a side street and looked for a local restaurant to eat. We bought a slice of the home-made spicy Chinese pizza and a pastry from a vendor, picked up a few drinks at a little store on the same street and then we went into the restaurant next door for lunch. We ordered a couple of bowls of home-made spicy noodles and ate it with our pizza, pastry and drinks. The restaurant was run down and it wasn't very clean, but I thought that the food was good. I have had the opportunity to eat everything from fancy meals to " street food " during this trip and I have enjoyed it all.

After lunch we set our chinese GPS for our trip back to Xi'an and were about to enter the highway, but the toll gates had been blocked off. We asked the police what was going on but he just told us that we could not enter the highway. Guns and knives are illegal in China and the police do not carry guns, so when we saw carloads of police around town and armed soldiers stationed at several locations, we assumed that something was going on but we never did find out what it was. We headed east and finally were able to get back on the highway to Xi'an. We arrived at our hotel by 6 pm.

Tomorrow we will pick up Nicole from the airport and head southwest.

Posted by hammr 07:23 Archived in China Tagged attractions Comments (0)

Day 9 - Drive from Xi'an to Guangyuan

sunny 28 °C

Friday, August 3

Nicole's flight had been delayed, so Jeremy and I had a late breakfast before picking her up at the airport. We picked her up just before noon, returned to the hotel to pack our bags and then we left Xi'an shortly after noon and headed southwest for Guangyuan in the Sichuan province.  

It wasn't long before we were in the mountains and lots of tunnels. Lots and lots of tunnels. The Chinese like to go straight through the mountain instead of around it.  We had barely entered a 5 km ( 3 mile ) tunnel when we were confronted by a traffic jam.  After waiting for 15 minutes I decided that I would walk ahead to see what was going on and call back to let them know, but 15 minutes after I left,  the traffic started to  move and after another 15 minutes Jeremy and Nicole passed me ( because they couldn't stop in the tunnel ).   The air was filled with fumes and I quickly regretted my decision to walk.   When the traffic slowed down for a bit, one car stopped and a lady got out and started to walk in front of me.  After a few minutes she waited for me to catch up to her and she asked me ( in Mandarin ) some questions as she tried to keep up with me.   It sounded like she wanted to know how far it was to the end of the tunnel and I tried to tell her ( with gestures ) that I didn't know.  When I realized that she was distressed I walked a little slower so that she could keep up with me and after a little while, I saw Jeremy and Nicole parked in a pull-out section in the tunnel so we crossed the lanes when there was an opening in the traffic and got into the car.  We drove for another 10 minutes  before we cleared the tunnel  and stopped at a service area.   The lady told Nicole that she had started walking because she was scared when they were stopped in the tunnel.  When she found her husband, he thanked me and scolded her.

Almost all highways in China have tolls and when we exited Shaanxi province we had a 205 RMB ( $35 ) toll.  We stopped for a break just past the toll booth and a hitch hiker who was traveling to the same town as us, asked us for a ride.  We decided to take him along after Nicole and Jeremy talked to him for a little while and asked him to give us his ID card.   While we were driving, he gave us information about some of the places we were going to visit. We dropped him off at our hotel in Guangyuan just before sunset and took a picture with him before he left. After we checked into our hotel, we went to a little restaurant to have a Szechuan meal of Kung Pao chicken, patato julienne and fish scented julienne meat, before we settled in for the night.

Tomorrow is another driving day as we head farther west and a little north.

Posted by hammr 03:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 10 - Guangyuan to Jiuzhaigou

sunny 30 °C

Saturday, August 4

We had a quick breakfast in the hotel, most of which I didn't recognize. There were all sorts of vegetables and noodles, as well as hot soy milk to drink.

We left Guangyuan early so that we could make the 322 km ( 200 mile ), 8 hour drive through the country side. The drive was spectacular and Nicole and I spend much of our time taking pictures of the landscapes and some local plant life while we were driving and whenever we stopped for breaks. Most of the trip was along a scenic river through the mountains. The roads were in good shape, however, there were a lot of rock and mud slides that had piled on the road surface blocking off large sections of the road. The route wound through the mountains and most of the time we had to drive 60 kph (37 mph ) or less. There was one area where a flood had destroyed the highway and it was still under repair...mostly gravel and potholes.

We stopped in a small town for a Szechuan lunch. We were the only ones in the restaurant. They made us a whole chicken, chopped up (bones and all) with lots of spices and vegetables. Nicole let me eat the head and feet. I took pictures of the meal and the owners were trying to take some pictures of me, so Nicole offered to take pictures of them with me (not because of my looks....only because they don't see ' foreigners' in this area of the country very often).

We reached Jiuzhaigou by 5 pm, located our hotel and checked in.

Tomorrow we will be visiting a nature reserve.

Posted by hammr 03:56 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 11 - Juizhaigou National Park

overcast 24 °C

Sunday, August 5

It was a long day but it was a spectacular.

We got up early and left our hotel so that we could beat the crowds at the Juizhaigou National Park since this a popular attraction in China. Wrong again - strike 2 !!! China has a population of 1.35 billion and they were all there!

Nicole stood in line to get our tickets and then we joined the crowds trying to get on to the buses that would drop us off at the various sights. I think that I will have to give up fishing because now I know what it feels like to swim upstream. Even when we were all going in the same direction people would push and shove to get ahead. Getting on to the buses was a real treat and I usually went along with the flow because there was no other choice. As the day wore on, the crowds dissipated to a tolerable level. In the morning the 2 m ( 6 ft ) walkways were filled for miles with people edging their way forward to see the natural beauty of this park...once you started, there was no turning back. By the afternoon there was enough room too walk at a brisk pace.

Chinese children are taught english in school and Nicole told us that their parents in southern China usually encourage them to talk english to the ' foreigners '. When we got on one of the buses, a father encouraged his son to talk to me. He said hello and asked me what my name was. I told him my name and he told me his name. When the other children heard us talking they also said " hello " and tried some of the english phrases that they knew. When we arrived at the next stop, the boy and his father found me and asked if I would pose with him for a picture, which I obviously did. A little later on when I was taking some pictures of a waterfall, a group of parents asked if Jeremy and I would pose with their children. It was a strange feeling having all those cameras taking pictures of us. Somewhere in China there are several pictures of me...now that's a scarry thought!

Even with the crowds, this attraction is worth seeing. There is a 1500 meter (5000 ft) elevation difference from the entrance gate to the highest point in the park ( 3000 meters or 10000 feet), although the highest mountain is much higher. The park is known for its spectacular waterfalls and lakes which feed the river that we followed the previous day to get to the park. There is so much power available from the water flowing down from the mountains that it drives the turbines for several power generating stations in the valley. I believe I counted 5 of them, all on the same river.

I took hundreds of pictures of the majestic mountains, calm, turquoise-coloured lakes and spectacular waterfalls...and this is from someone who lives close to Niagara Falls. The park boasts 17 groups of waterfalls. Some flowed over rocks with great power while others flowed through wooded areas cutting paths around bushes or trees against a backdrop of lush mountains. I have posted a few of my pictures.

The temperature was in the low 20's C (70's C) most of the day. The top of the mountains were covered in clouds and it rained near the top which made it seem a little cooler.

For supper we went to a local ' hot pot ' restaurant and I tried the cow's stomach and throat, bamboo shoots, spinach, broccoli and meat steaks. It was all very good.

We will be staying in Juizhaigou another day because there is so much to see here and then we will be heading to Chengdu.

Posted by hammr 18:36 Archived in China Comments (1)

Day 12 - Juizhaigou ( hiking )

sunny 26 °C

Monday, August 6

We got a late start on Monday and our first stop was the Baihe Golden Monkey Natural Reserve. This is a hiking path into the mountains along the fast-flowing White River, which aptly gets its name from the froth that is created from all of the rocks in the river. There were no people on this trail, since they were all at the Juizhaigou National Park and because this was a free, hiking trail that is not maintained.

Compared to the wooden paths in the Juizhaigou National Park, these paths were very basic walking paths consisting of dirt, rocks and leaves. Due to a lot of rain and humidity in the forest the paths were very muddy in some sections, but they were manageable. We were hoping to see some wildlife, but we only saw a few bugs and birds. I think that all of the smart animals were hiding from us.

We hiked the paths for a few hours before getting some lunch and driving to another spot to do some more hiking. By the time we got there, it was closed, so we decided to drive around for the rest of the day. We had a wonderful time enjoying the scenery, taking pictures and talking to the locals.

At one point, we spotted some farmers picking Sichuan Numb Peppers on the side of a hill, so we stopped to take pictures of them.  When they saw us, they smiled and asked why we were taking pictures of them. They were very friendly and talkative so Nicole and I climbed up the hill to talk to them. I took some more pictures and we bought a bag of fresh peppers from them. The peppers are the size of a peppercorn and red in color. They need to be dried so that they won't spoil but Jeremy and I tried some and I quickly found out why they call them ' numb ' peppers. My lips and tongue became numb, as if a dentist had given me a needle but without the pain. The feeling lasted about 15 minutes. I might take some home with me to give to my dentist. It is not painful.

We drove back to town and had a Chinese BBQ for supper.

Tomorrow we will try to get an early start so that we can
make it to Chengdu.

Posted by hammr 18:16 Archived in China Tagged mountains Comments (0)

Day 13 - Drive from Juizhaigou to Chengdu

semi-overcast 20 °C

Tuesday, August 7

Today was a busy travel day.

The temperature was 18 C ( 65 F ) when we left Juizhaigou, it dropped down to 13 C ( 55 C ) at the highest point in the mountains ( 3300 m ; 11000 ft ) and it was 31 C ( 88 F ) by the time we reached Chengdu.

There are basically two routes for driving from Juizhaigou to Chengdu.   We could have re-traced part of our route into Juizhaigou, but we chose to take the route we hadn't travelled, even though it was slightly longer.  It is only a 450 km ( 270 miles ) but it takes about 7 - 10 hours of driving depending on the road conditions and the traffic.  We left at 6:30 so that we could beat the traffic going in to the Juizhaigou National Park but we mis-calculated again.  When we reached the entrance area, it was backed up and everyone was playing ' chicken ' with each other,  in order to get ahead.  People were blocking incoming traffic by passing cars that would not let them back into their lane.

We slowly made our way past the entrance but it took a long time to gain any speed weaving through the roads up  into the mountains behind numerous buses, trucks and maniac car drivers who would pass around corners while honking at every one to get them out of their way.    The chaos is hard to describe.  It was similar to driving in the cities.  You need to take several sedatives ( or beer ), get into a taxi in a large city and then watch the chaos unfold into a symphony of near-misses to truly experience Chinese traffic.  And yet, I have not seen an accident.

After a few hours we started to make good progress and then we were stopped at a strategically located traffic check by the police.  We were pulled over with a lot of other people who  apparently had gone faster than 60 kph ( 37 mph ).    In China, a policeman will not pull you over if he is in his car and you are speeding and therefore people will pass police cars regularly.  Instead, China has mounted cameras at various locations that take a picture of your license plate and then the speeding ticket is sent to the owner of the vehicle.   However,  sometimes, the police set up an office where they pull you over to give you a ticket and collect the money, as was the case this time.   It didn't take Jeremy long to talk himself out of a ticket by using his charm ( and by pretending to be a dumb foreigner ).  The police just told him to slow down.

We continued down the road, enjoying the scenery of the river and the mountains.   When we were almost in Wenchaun, a short section of the new road had been totally destroyed and we had to drive very slowly through the bumpy gravel until we reached the pavement.   

When we reached Wenchuan we could still see evidence of the destruction caused by the massive earthquate in May of 2008, however, much of the area had been rebuilt and it was very modern and beautiful.

Most of the road  passed alongside or through mountains and there were several locations were rock slides had blocked part of the road.  Steel fences with guy-wires have been set up at several locations to catch the rocks and keep them from falling on the road, however, it was evident that this was only partially successful.   Many fences were damaged from rock slides.  

At one point we spotted a section of the ' tea horse ' route on the side of the mountains so I took a picture.  This route was used 1300 years ago, during the Qing dynasty when the Chinese traded tea for horses.  Looking at the trail it is a wonder that the horses survived the trip along the narrow path, well above the river below.

When we reached the final tunnel that would bring us onto the expressway to Chengdu, it was closed for maintenance and we had to make a long trip around the city to get back to where we would meet the expressway.    Unfortunately, the road closure had stopped all traffic and we sat still for about 30 minutes before the we slowly crawled forward.  Driving around the winding roads along the mountains was further hampered by people scrambling all over the road, filling the passing lane in an attempt to pass everyone else and get ahead of them.  This caused further delays as they blocked oncoming traffic.    I drove for an hour during this stretch and it was an interesting experience to say the least.   I am not as good as Jeremy and Nicole at playing ' chicken ' with people who start forcing their way into my lane.   We lost a couple of hours due to the detour but we eventually reached our hotel in Chengdu at 7 pm.

We were tired and hungry so we checked into our hotel and went out for supper.  I am convinced that one of Nicole's objectives during this trip is to see if she can find a food that I will not eat.   So far she has not succeeded.   We supplemented our rice noodle soup in the back streets of Chengdu with some " street meat " purchased from a street vendor who cooked a spicy meal of beef and  ' today's challenge ' of pigs intestines which were quite tasty.

We haven't decided what we are going to see tomorrow yet.  Stay tuned!

Posted by hammr 03:52 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 14 - Chengdu

sunny 34 °C

Wednesday, August 8

We are back into the hot weather. The temperature in Chengdu was 34 C ( 93 F ).

We ran a number of errands, went to the zoo and planned our next week.

I am sad to say that I was a bit disappointed in the Chengdu Zoo. Many of the animals did not appear very healthy and their conditions were not very good. However, we saw a lot of different animals, most of which were indigenous to China and some of them were very unique. The pandas are one of the main attractions and I was glad that I was able to have an opportunity to see them, even if it is in a zoo setting.

We were disappointed to hear that we will not be able to visit Tibet. We found out from a travel agent that foreigners are not allowed into Tibet at this time because a visiting foreigner recently caused unrest in Tibet by demanding that China free them. With this in mind we will probably be spending more time in Yun Nan province which borders Tibet. Hopefully we will be able to get close enough to Tibet to experience what it is like there.

For lunch I had peanut milk which tasted like peanut flavoured milk. I also had cow's throat. Nicole told me that yesterday I ate duck intestine, not cow's intestine.

For supper Nicole and I ate BBQ'd carp, Sichuan style. I took a picture of it with my IPhone and added it to my gallery along with a picture of some street meat. Jeremy doesn't eat fish so he had a noodle dish.

Tomorrow we leave Chengdu.

Posted by hammr 08:05 Archived in China Comments (1)

Day 15 - Drive from Chengdu to Hai Luo Gou

sunny 34 °C

Thursday, August 9.

We had a late breakfast before we left Chengdu for Hai Luo Gou ( Conch Valley ).  The temperature was 34 C ( 93 F ) in Chengdu and it was 22 C ( 72 F ) when we reached our destination.

After driving a couple of hours we were confronted by extremely bad road conditions for several hours and we were struggling to go 40 kph ( 24 mph) a lot of the time.  The road had huge potholes and sinkholes ( sections of concrete, almost as wide as our car which had sunk up to a foot deep ), as well as road construction ( or more aptly ' road destruction ' and concrete removal ).  In some cases the road had gates to keep us from continuing but Jeremy always found a way through.  Passing cars while weaving around bad road  conditions and trying to enjoy the scenery on this 7 hr, 320 km ( 200 mile ) trip kept us all awake.

Most of our trip was through the mountains and the route was breath-taking.  Words and pictures cannot adequately describe the beauty of mountains and valleys.

We stopped in a beautiful little town called Er Lang Shan for lunch before continuing on our way.

We found a hotel ( Hot Spring Little Cabin ) for 100 RMB ($ 15 )/ room/ night, a short distance from the glacier we wanted to visit.   It is a quaint little hotel that was made to look like a cottage but it wasn't quite finished.   The owner wasn't there but his father and his mother were and they were trying to sell us a couple of rooms.    The stories kept changing. The mother said one thing, the father said the opposite.  We tried to give him money to secure the rooms but he couldn't write so he couldn't give us a receipt.   It was  quite a comedy.
The owner's father thought the door to Jeremy & Nicole's room was locked.   Nicole climbed in through the window only to find out that the door was unlocked.  When the owner arrived we finally secured our rooms.  The view from the hotel is fantastic.

Tomorrow we plan to visit a glacier and hot springs.

Posted by hammr 18:32 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 16 - Hailuoguo Glacier

sunny 30 °C

Friday, August 10

Typing these blog entries on an IPhone is starting to get easier, but sometimes my fat fingers miss the keys and the ' spell check ' does not choose the correct words.

We woke up this morning surrounded by mountains draped in a canopy of green foliage and capped with the misty white glow of clouds bathed in sunshine.

We boarded a bus to the Hailuoguo Glacier at 10 am and our driver sped up the hill, bouncing us through potholes and taking the 180 degree corners as if he was a race car driver.  A few times  I found myself leaning to the inside of the turns in order to keep all 4 wheels on the ground.   The mountain had not been carved back far enough in some areas to allow buses to drive next to it and so he had to drive in the passing lane to avoid scraping the overhanging rocks with the top of the bus.

We eventually reached the start of the hiking point. Jeremy & Nicole took the Gondola up to the Glacier and I hiked to the base of the Glacier.
The hike was not very long and the trail was in good condition.   I took a lot of pictures of the ice, which was grey in colour because it had been exposed to dirt and gravel.  The ice is slowly melting in the hot sun and there are streams of ice-cold water that have formed from the run-off.  It was similar to the Columbia Ice Fields in the Rockies.

We returned to the hotel in separate busses because we got back at different times. Jeremy & Nicole's bus broke down on the way back and they were quickly surrounded by a bunch of monkeys. They were able to get a lot of photos before they were on their way again. Nicole had gotten her wish of seeing monkeys in the wild, although it wasn't the way she had expected.

We found out that a car had hit a rock which fell down on a ' switch-back ' section of the road below and killed 2 local people on a motorcycle. The local residents set up a blockade on the road in protest of the road conditions. They want the government to fix the road and make it safer. We need to drive through the section of road that is being blocked, in order to continue our journey because there is no other road out of here.  All of the people on the mountain are stuck with us. A couple of cars blocked the road in front of our hotel shortly after we got back from the glacier, in an attempt to stop the buses and force the government to fix the road.  Several people got out of the bus, a scuffle broke out and eventually the cars moved and let the buses through only to be stopped by the blockade further down the road. It was all very entertaining.

We will try to leave tomorrow if the road is cleared, otherwise we will have to stay here a little longer.

Posted by hammr 05:07 Archived in China Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 20 of 37) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 »