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Published: October 16th 2008
Claudio during the whole trip was the one worried about buying guide books, checking information and planing the next part of the trip. Fernando was always more relaxed :"I don't think we have to buy them! We can change our guide books with other travelers once in China". Convinced by Fernando we entered China without guide book. It would made a difference afterwards.
Our trip to China "started" in Vietnam. We needed the new visa and during the Olympics instead of easier it was much harder to get it. We tried in Laos and Cambodia without success, Vietnam was our last chance.
Early morning we inquired at the Chinese embassy in Saigon for the list of documents necessary. The list was long but good news that foreigners could make their visa here. We went one day, two days and everyday they asked more and more papers. In the end we would have a interview too.
Waiting on the line to the interview with piles of papers in our hands, we witnessed the struggle from the couple in front of us.
"Do you have the original copy of the reservation with the stamp from the hotel? Were is your train ticket
from this city to that one? Do you have the reentry visa for Vietnam? Sorry we don't accept e-tickets, you must have the printed one!" The clerk kept asking more and more documents and the couple just writing down a list. We almost gave up before the interview. "We don't have half of the papers they are asking" said Fernando. Claudio argued "We cannot go without trying! It took us 5 days for us to get to this interview!"
In our turn the clerk asked:
"Have you been to China before?"
"Yes." We answered.
"You are from Brazil?"
"Are going to watch Brazil play football?"
"I would like to see China and Brazil in the finals!" Said the clerk giggling.
We nodded and tried a little smile to hide our nervous .
"Ok! I will give your visa, come back in 4 days!" The clerk finished. We couldn't believe, we got the Chinese visa!!!!
The trip to the Chinese border was easier than expected. The van we took to get to the biggest town near the border was the same one that went to the border town and the same one that went from there to the
They even had horses
border post. For some unknown reason we discovered that in steps, only when we arrived in each place we were told we could stay an pay for the next part. At the border Claudio had problems with his new Brazilian passport, the third one this trip. Likewise the previous one, it was hand-written and this time to make things worse had a spelling mistake (Claudio complained and got a message on another page telling his Mother name was misspelled) and the plastic wasn't well stick on his Polaroid picture. This meant 2 hours in the little room in the Chinese immigration - Are you sure this passport is original? We have to check it you know? - Told Claudio the immigration official.
After the border, paradise. How happy we were of being back to China. The road was perfect, the bus super comfortable and fast. The price was fixed, didn't require bargain and we received a real ticket. After a comfortable overnight bus we arrived in Guangzhou, near Hong Kong where we arranged to meet Tim (Don't remember him? Check the PEOPLE WE MET)
As we couldn't go to Hong Kong (the visa we got to China was a single entry
black and white
only, if we left a new visa was necessary to return) so we arranged to meet in Shengzen. He came for the weekend, was great to meet him after so long. He was back home for more than one year now from the last time we met.
Our next destination was Shanghai, to meet Way, Claudio's friend from university. Since the beginning of Claudio's university (7 years ago.. ooops) Way promised a trip to the Olympic games in Beijing. Coincidence enough, a friend of Fernando contact him to meet in China too, because he would be in China as well to visit a friend of his. This friend, we found out latter, was the same person, Way. So to commemorate this we had a few beers together... hehehe.
We didn't know what to visit in between Guangzhou and Shanghai (Our friend Way had given us some recommendation but we were lazy to search for it) so we decided to go straight.
From Shanghai we followed Way to his house in Nanton. China is developing incredible fast, that's no secret, but we didn't imagine it was so focused on growing. It goes more or less like that. They get
to one empty area. Build apartment blocks, hundreds of them, than public transport, some commercial centers, schools, medical centers and all the infra-structure necessary. When it's all ready, they contact companies and offer them to settle there with some incentives. As soon the company start hiring personal, people start moving into this brand new town.
Together with Way, we discussed a lot about the situation in China. He knows a lot about it and helped us to understand the reality behind the communist propaganda. There are lots of unfair acts from the government towards their people but in the other hand the quality of life in the lower layer of the population is far better than in any other developing country like our own home country Brazil for example.
Although the nice hospitality we had to keep going. Next stop was Suzhou. This city is famous for the ancient gardens but it was a bit too touristic. The entrance fees were very high and the gardens a bit disappointing. So we moved on to Nanjing. Keeping a fast itinerary we visited the Nanjing city gate to discover that the restoration wasn't made with stones but polystyrene. Just to look
good for the olympic tourists. Another night train we arrived in Xi'an.
The home of the Terracotta Soldiers has much more to offer than the soldiers. Of course we did visit the famous army, and we agree it's really wonderful. The number of restored pieces are smaller than we imagined, but the number of images still there is huge!! The first hall is the most famous one, you probably have seem pictures of it, but the second one has the most impressive pieces.
Back to the town, we climbed the city wall which was restored and surround the town. We rent a tandem bike and had lot's of fun cycling on top of the wall the 16km around the city.
Fernando since we have been in China last time wanted to visit one town that wouldn't be full of neons and shopping centers. Something more like what he imagined for a traditional Chinese city: Old buildings, red lanterns, fruit sellers, traditional costumes. Nowadays it is hard to find, but it still exist. Pingyao. This old town now is a UNESCO world heritage, and keep the feeling of the old China. The houses have good luck inscriptions over the doors,
Looking hurt after the battle
curved roof and streets lit by red lanterns. Inside the centenary town, the citizens still ride their bicycles. The hostel we stayed was situated inside one of the historic houses and was beautiful decorated.
After so many stops it was time to go to Beijing. We had to dedicate a good time there because of the Mongolian visa and to arrange everything for the beginning of our return home. No, we are not taking a flight home, we came all the way here by land, we will go back by land too. From Beijing we will take the Transsiberian train to Moscow.
The first thing we visited in Beijing was the Olympic stadium. The paralympics just started and we manage to get some tickets for the athletics. It is impressive what the Chinese build for the games. Right in the center of the town a huge sports complex. Connected by a metro line and all, everything brand new.
The next days we spend sightseeing. There are lots of interesting sites to see, but our train is weekly and would leave soon.
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