A Travellerspoint blog

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

Day 27 - Drive from Nanning to Changsha

rain 24 °C

Tuesday, August 21

We drove from Nanning to Guilin, where we stopped to see the Guanyan Caves, a historical place that is in the the Guiness book of world records for having the most ways of viewing a cave...walking, riding a rail car or travelling by boat. I am sorry to say that it was a bit of a disappointment.

We had to make a 1 hour side trip on country roads ( some under construction ) before we arrived at the ticket office to the caves. After figuring out how to get to the cave entrance ( and Nicole sneezing into Jeremy's shirt...which is another story unto itself ) we were escorted into the cave and started to walk through the tunnels by ourselves because our guide abandoned us in order to do something else.

The caves were impressive, however, we were disappointed with the commercialization and the lack of organization. Inside the caves they had set up booths in several locations in order to sell all sorts of jewelry and knick-knacks which, in my opinion, detracted from the beauty of the caves. On the plus side, we did enjoy the boat ride on the river inside these large caves. We were not sure what we had purchased when we bought the tickets and when we were inside, we found out from an attendant that they did not permit us to see the waterfall...oh well!

We exited the elevator for the caves, re-traced our steps back to the car and we were back on the road again. It started to rain shortly afterwards, slow at first followed by the occasional thunderstorm, which lengthened our 7 hour trip to Changsha and we arrived just before midnight. After a quick supper ( yes, more frog ) we called it a night.

Our journey north will continue in the morning, after a good night's sleep.

Posted by hammr 05:21 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 28 - Changsha to Zhangjiajie

semi-overcast 25 °C

Wednesday, August 22

The morning was cool and I went on a walk, to see if there was some coffee to be had in one of the numerous coffee shops we had spotted the night before, but alas, they were all closed... how depressing! I continued my quest around the block, while observing the activities and sights of the area...locals on the backstreets of Changsha buying breakfast on their way to their morning activities, grandparents feeding their grand-children on the sidewalks sporting huge smiles on their faces, parents walking their children to a variety of activities, wiring strung all over the place to power the permanent and the temporary shops, etc... The activities would resemble most any city around the world with the exception of the cultural differences.

I finally found a bakery and after selecting some food from the bins, I proceeded to the counter and stumbled my way through the purchase of coffee. I told the cashier I wanted " coffee", which she understood, but then she wanted to know what type. I proceeded to repeat the word coffee and point at the top of the list but I could tell that my ' chinglish ' wasn't working. Fortunately the owner was sitting at a nearby table and he must have told her to give me a plain cup of coffee because that is what I got.

As I sat in the Western-style bakery, eating a bacon-wrapped croissant and a long, twisted, donut, while drinking a fresh cup of coffee and watching people go through their daily activities, I considered some of their stories...ladies in stilettos and fancy dresses, most likely going to work...girls wearing tee-shirts with misspelled english captions on them...a little boy eating a pretzel looking at the strange looking foreigner in the bakery. Each had their own story and they weren't so different from any one else's...people just taking life one day at a time...some might even be reading a blog of other peoples activities! There is so much to see in this world and we can't possibly see or experience it all on our own and yet with the marvels of technology we can share our experiences!

As I was sitting, watching the bustle of people going past the bakery window, Jeremy came in. He had followed a similar route to mine in an effort to find me when he saw the shop and knowing that it was one that I might go into, he looked into the window only to see me drinking my coffee. He ordered a capuccino and joined me.

We left at noon since we only had a four hour drive to our next destination. The drive was uneventful and only marked by a phone call from Nicole's mother asking us if we were ' OK '. Apparently, the storm from the previous evening had been quite severe in Nanning and the subsequent flooding had caused traffic jams.

After checking into the hotel in Zhangjiajie we went to a foot massage parlour and had our feet, arms, legs and back massaged for 90 minutes costing $100 RMB (~ $17 ). I typically do not get massages but it was cheap, interesting and very relaxing.

For supper, Jeremy had pork and Nicole and I shared a meal of fresh fish, selected from a tank in the restaurant. I don't know what kind of fish it was, a local fish of some sort, but it was very spicy and tasty.

Tomorrow we have tickets for the Glass Skywalk on Tianmen mountain. I am looking forward to it.

P.S. Tomorrow is Nicole's birthday. She requested 1 minute of "resistance free" tickling of Jeremy for her birthday. He said " no deal "!

Posted by hammr 05:27 Archived in China Comments (1)

Day 29 - Zhangjiajie Tianmen Mountain

semi-overcast 22 °C

Thursday, August 23

We got up this morning and wished Nicole a Happy Birthday. I cannot devulge her age. I will let someone else do that.

After a quick breakfast at the JinJiang Inn, we were off to Tianmen mountain to experience the Skywalk, Glass Skywalk and Heaven's Gate. This is an all day attraction and it is well worth the money; as long as you are not afraid of heights.

Finding the entrance was not very easy, because it had been changed and is now on the edge of town...which our GPS had not been made aware of. After picking up the tickets, we stood in line for the very long gondola ride up the mountain. Reaching the top, most everyone was going in the counter-clockwise direction, so being different, we started to walk clockwise along the edge of the mountain.

I found this quote in a google search and it is true " Tourists tread gingerly over this Indiana-Jones style walkway in China, lodged precariously almost a kilometre and a half up a sheer rock face on the Tianmen Mountain." We wore shorts and T-shirts but we soon found it to be a little cool at the top, especially in the windy areas.

It is a long way around the mountain and there are many beautiful views, however, it is hard not to consider that the work may have been done by the lowest bidder who might have paid off a governement official to cut corners in order to save money. However, the walkway is very solid and I never felt ill at ease with its construction. Take a look down and even if you are not afraid of heights, it gives you an eerie feeling...its a long way down. And as they say, " the fall won't kill you but the landing surely will ".

The highlight of the walkway is the glass skywalk section that isn't very long, but it is not for the ' faint of heart '. It has concrete supports with glass panels to walk on and the railing is made of stainless steel with glass panels. You have to rent " booties " to slip over your shoes in order to walk on the glass so that it will not be scratched. You can see down below your feet and through the railing with ease. While we were on the walkway, there was a group of people laughing hysterically at their friend who was so scared that he almost had his fingernails embedded in the stone face of the mountain. He would not look down or away from the rockface. I thought it was rather cruel of his friends to do that to him.

After completing the curcuit around the mountain and taking a lot of pictures, we took the gondola ride down to the halfway point and then we took the bus ride back up along the " 99 curves " of the road to " Heaven's Gate ". This natural gate is basically a large oblong hole through the top of one of the mountains which is wide enough for planes to fly through, but not by much!

At the end of the bus ride, there are almost 1000 steps to climb in order to reach the gate, so we stopped for a quick lunch at the bottom of the stairs and then proceded to climb to the top, a tiring climb, but well worth it! More pictures were taken and then we headed back to the bus, took the gondola back to our car and headed back to the hotel...a little less energetic than we were in the morning!

Tomorrow we have tickets for some white water rafting in the morning and then we will be heading north again. It is a 15 hour drive to Beijing and we would like to be back by Sunday.

Posted by hammr 16:08 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 30 - Drive from Zhangjiajie to Nanyang

semi-overcast 22 °C

Friday, August 24

We got up early in the morning and skipped breakfast to go white water rafting. The drive from Zhangjiajie to the entance for the rafting took 45 minutes down a long, winding, country road. We purchased our tickets only to find out that the price did not include a return fare, so we paid the extra 100 RMB ($15) to have them give us a ride back to the car.

We donned our flimsy life jackets ( although they didn't look like they would support me if I fell in the water ), bypassed the purchase of water guns or pots which were used to assist in getting other boaters wet, and boarded the rubber raft. We were soon joined by 8 local toursists, all armed with water guns and pots...I knew where this was heading!

We were the first boat to leave and we started off slow, a gentle float down the lazy river. As it turned out, the lack of rapids were over-shadowed by the beauty of the cliff walls, which stretched high above the river and were mostly covered by bushes and trees. The boat was motorized and it wasn't long before our guide directed our boat toward the another boat, in order to instigate a water fight. He was successful. We participated by getting wet.

After we were fully soaked we continued down the river to a waterfall that was flowing over a cliff-edge into the river and the guide decided to give us a shower, because we weren't wet enough. This was followed by a couple medium-sized rapids before we were put ashore on the river for pictures near another beautiful waterfall. After all of the other 8 boats had arrived and left the stop, another guide took us back to our car in his boat. Fortunately, by the time we got back to the entrance, we were almost dry again.

We headed back to the hotel, showered, checked out of the hotel, had a quick lunch and we were on the road again shortly after 1 pm.

By 10 pm we rolled into Nanyang, checked into the JinJiang Hotel and had a late supper.

Tomorrow we will be heading to Beijing to see the one attraction that most everyone comes to see in China.

Posted by hammr 17:37 Archived in China Comments (1)

Day 31 - Back to Beijing

semi-overcast 25 °C

Saturday, August 25

We had a leisurely breakfast and then we headed for Beijing. We eventually arrived there, after 9 hours of driving, mostly on highways.

We stayed in Nicole's uncle's summer home in Beijing, a beautiful condo in a gated community, northeast of the city. The accommodations were much more elaborate that what we had been accustomed to in the past 5 weeks.

We ate a wonderful meal prepared by Nicole's aunt before we went to bed and drifted off to sleep.

One more day left in China.

Posted by hammr 17:53 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 32 - The Great Wall

semi-overcast 28 °C

Sunday, August 26

I went for a walk around the complex, in the morning. I watched the fishermen along the shores of the waterway for a while but I am convinced that their efforts are only designed to give them solitude. I didn't see any one get a nibble, let alone catch anything. I also checked out the golf course around the outside of the complex. It's the first one I have seen in China and it looked like a typical course other than the high voltage transmission towers located on it. It reminded me of Beechwood Golf Course back home...other than the gated community surrounding it!

After a fancy " Hot Pot " lunch in Beijing with Nicole's uncle and aunt, Jeremy, Nicole and I went to see the "Great Wall". I couldn't go to Beijing and not go to see the wall.

I took the Gondola ride up to the " The Great Wall " and then walked in both directions for a couple of hours, taking pictures and enjoying the view.
It is something to behold. Its height and width vary along its path as it winds along the tops of the mountains. It ranges from 5 to 8 meters (16–26 ft) in height, and 6 meters (20 ft) across the bottom, narrowing up to 5 meters (16 ft) across the top. There is a 5- 6 foot wall above the walking area on each side ( the Chinese side and the invader's side) with openings along the walls that could be used to ward off attacks. There were stairs built on the Chinese side of the wall ( and sometimes in the middle of the walkway ) so that they could climb up an down while defending it. It is very solid and it was obvious that it would be difficult to breach, even if it wasn't located on the mountains.

I met a fellow from Germany while I was on the Wall. His name was Martin and he is a project leader for the seats in Audi cars. He was in China to go over the new seats that will be used in China on some of their models. The requirements for China are much different than in other countries. In most countries, people buy a car to drive it. In China, many of the rich ( and there are many! ) have a chauffeur and the owners sit in the back, so they want the fancier seats and the entertainment systems located in the back seat. Audi is almost at the point when they can introduce this new feature to the Chinese market. Martin also mentioned that the standard car horn only lasts a couple of years in China because it is quite dusty and the Chinese use their car horns a lot. The standard horns are only rated for 10,000 beeps which is good enough for the life of a car in other markets but not for China, so Audi has installed stronger horns for them.

After returning from the wall to the car, Jeremy and Nicole were nice enough to take Martin to the airport where he could catch the subway back to his hotel. With the slight detour to the airport, we were a little late getting back to the condo, however, Nicole's aunt cooked another wonderful meal for us.

Tomorrow Jeremy and Nicole will drop me off at the airport in the morning on their way back to Shenyang.

Posted by hammr 18:11 Archived in China Comments (0)

Back Home

sunny 24 °C

Monday, August 27

Jeremy and Nicole dropped me off at the airport in Beijing at 6 am. I read a book, I bought something to eat and and I listened to music, in the privacy of my ' Bose noise cancelling headphones ' while I waited for my 4 pm (4 am EST) flight to arrive. The wait was quite relaxing.

Then there was the security check in Beijing, a 12 hour flight to San Francisco, US customs clearance and security check, a 2 1/2 hour layover in San Francisco, a 5 hour flight back to Toronto, a 20 minute tarmac delay in Toronto because a plane was still at our gate, Canadian customs clearance, baggage retrieval and then the 1 1/2 hour ride back home ( thanks for the ride bro! ). I arrived back home at 1 am EST on Tuesday, slept for 4 hours, got up at 6 am and arrived at work before 8 am. I have successfully switched back to EST without the affects of jet lag!

As Jeremy told me, " We have gone where no Hamm has gone before ".

I want to thank Jeremy and Nicole for an awesome adventure. They were wonderful hosts.

We went over 10000 km ( ~ 6300 miles ) and saw a lot of sights. Jeremy did most of the driving and Nicole did the rest. They did an excellent job of driving in the disorganized symphony of driving chaos...no 2 situations are ever the same when you drive in China. If you think someone is going to do something, like pull out in front of you, he already has!

It should be noted that all of the major roads have tolls on them and these are one of the few things in China, that are expensive. I am sure that we spend over $500 in road tolls on our trip.

My trip to China was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it to others. If you are adventurous, there is a lot to be seen and done and you can work out your itinerary, preferably with someone who speaks the language. If not, take a tour. Its more expensive, but you will have most of the luxuries of home and you will have the benefits of having someone take care of the details. If you are thinking of doing a tour, I am sure that Jeremy and Nicole could help out.

So after all of the unusual foods, the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Great Wall, the Water Terraces, the beautiful mountains, the red rock canyon, the Tibetan villages, the skywalk, the tombs, the caves, the animals, the people, etc, my journey has come to an end.

BUT WHERE ONE JOURNEY ENDS, ANOTHER ONE BEGINS ! ...... in 2 weeks, Northern Saskatchewan

Posted by hammr 18:59 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

(Entries 31 - 37 of 37) « Page 1 2 3 [4]