So it is a lie, we are actually not in China anymore. After 2 days and nights of travel we have arrived in Mongolia! But, I thought it would be a shame not to post a blog and photos about our last 2 weeks in China.....
After one final village stop, Qiao Likeng, we left the countryside and rural China s and moved on to big cities. We spent time in both Shanghai and Beijing. After all was said and done, I'd say we both prefer rural villages and natural scenery over big modern cities. So here are the details.
After a long day of travel to reach the village, we were greeted by a friendly local who through sign language tried to explain to us that we should follow him to his home where we could rent a room. We obliged, it was late and well we don't speak Mandarin. Great decision, for the next 2 nights we stayed in the home turned inn where we got to interact with our new friends family and neighbors. We selected our meals by going into the kitchen and pointing to and grouping ingredients. Great fun. We were literally
the only Western tourists in the village and that was pretty exciting too. The best times were the early mornings and evenings, when there were no tour buses arriving and the local people were engaging in typical village activities. All very beautiful and a great final village stop.
We spent 5 days and nights in this super modern, architecturally interesting place. We made some new friends and that definitely added to our experience in Shanghai. Shanghai had a nice blend of the old and new, the clean and dirty, new China and old town ... There were a lot of lovely parks to take afternoon strolls and watch as the older generations performed their tai chi and stretches, while the youngsters fully clad in joint supporting pads rollerbladed around them.
We spent a day walking along the river checking out the super modern architecture and marveling at the interesting form that is the Jinmao Tower and it's neighbor the Shanghai World Finance Center. Shanghai is a city filled with modern architecture and towering buildings and well dressed folks to go along with them. We felt a bit under dressed in our dirty clothes that we have been
rotating for the last 5 months. We explored the ancient alleys and the crowded streets. There was a bit of old Chinese character mixed in here and there among the modern city.
While we spent most of our days wandering until our feet could stand it no more, we spent our evenings eating a variety of delicious food. We had the opportunity to eat some delicious dumplings at a hole in the wall local place and we also had an opportunity to eat proper American bbq - made in the backyard of the place we were staying.
-dumplings (50% of meals eaten in Shanghai were dumplings)
-Andrew's flip flop breaking and watching him walk barefoot in a place where you simply do not walk barefoot for a lot of reasons - hilarious!
-French Concession neighborhood and the myriad of parks
-alley ways straight out of rural China tucked in between wide avenues and high rise buildings
Shanghai was not a bad place, not somewhere I would live but a lovely place to visit.
Oh capital city, why are you so filled with ugly boulevards, uninteresting concrete buildings and so
much smog? Did you forget about these little things called trees?
That being said, the tourist sites in and around Beijing were quite interesting to see. Also the new friends we made added a lot to the experience and we especially enjoyed our night out on the town with our new friend Su. Who would of thought hailing a cab in the biggest city in China on a Friday night could take 2 hours?
The Forbidden City was interesting and a bit overwhelming, but we saw all the main sites and walked a bit around the perimeter and the less populated parts. The park at the north end of the complex was nice. Probably my favorite stop was Jengshan park - a big hill that was built from the dirt excavated when digging out the moat that would surround the Forbidden City. In this park there were a lot of trees and a pagoda sitting on top of the hill where for a moment you could breath air that was not so heavily polluted with health damaging particles.
For me the best part of the first day was the Peking Opera in the evening. We were exhausted,
but stopped by one of the many cafes in a shopping mall basement and had a cup of joe prior to the performance. It was perfect! Everything I thought it would be and just so much more exciting to see in person. Elaborate makeup and costumes, bizarre sounding music to accompany the interesting form of dance and singing style that resembles a sort of screeching. I enjoyed all three hours of the performance.
We walked around and through Tian'anmen Square and Andrew even got to see the chairman Mao in his current plastinated form. I opted out of that one and instead enjoyed the broadcast government video in the square. Scenes of rural China and all of the ethnic minority groups - weird thing is I never knew people carried around their national flags with them while they did things like work in the rice fields, plow with a yak cart and so forth.
We also found a few small alleys, called hutong in Beijing and wandered around them when we could. Unfortunately there was not much living going on in the alleys, but a whole lot of renovating going on. Speaking of renovation, my favorite day during
our time in Beijing was when we visited the Great Wall at a section near Mutianyu village.
The section you pay to visit is of course renovated. While the renovated part is amazing, I mean come on it is the Great Wall of China, the unrestored sections were even more awesome. We were blown away when we stepped onto the wall, there were a lot of tourists, but it was such a cool experience none the less. We walked along as we were supposed to, but instead of turning back at the sign, we continued on and found the real wall. The real wall only slightly resembles the renovated version, but like I said both are fantastic. We walked until we came to a watchtower, crumbled and virtually unrecognizable. There was a Chinese flag hung on a couple of sticks wound together with wire and placed among a pile of rocks so that it would remain upright. Now that was neat. We spent about 5 hours walking along the wall and it was an epic experience.
-dinner near Dongzhimen with Su
-getting on a train headed in the direction of Mongolia
So that was it for China. After a night on a train, 7 hours on a bus, getting crammed in and pushed out of a jeep at the border and another night on a train we have arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The scenery on the train was amazing and I can not wait to get out and explore the countryside.
Happy Birthday to TDH.
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