Page 7 of AfricaBound Travel Blog Posts

Asia » China » Beijing November 10th 2010

We spent 6 nights in the Chinese capital. Most people we talked to agreed that was enough time. We saw most of the major tourist attractions and spent a lot of time on our feet. We are definitely looking forward to some quiet time at our next stop in Qingdao. The highlight of our time in Beijing was (not surprisingly) the Great Wall. We wanted to go to the wall mid-week so that we could hopefully avoid the big crowds of tourists, though we almost left it too late as we were suffering from a bit of Beijing burn-out by the time we made it. We took the public bus to Badaling and arrived just before 4pm. It was a mad dash from there as we scrambled up the wall trying to get photos while the ... read more
Great Wall 1
Forbidden City 1
Great Wall 9

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong November 3rd 2010

The train from Pingyao to Datong was an interesting experience. The train arrived at the station in Pingyao and only stopped for 3 minutes so everyone (us included) rushed onto the train at once. The compartment was completely full, standing room only. Carrying our heavy packs, it was a bit of a challenge to get to the other end of the compartment which is where our seats were. Finding a space on the overhead racks for our bags was another challenge. But finally we settled in and after a few stops the train actually cleared out a little and things were relatively comfortable for the 7 hour journey. We didn't have any accomodation booked when we arrived in Datong and the information we had was unfortunately out of date. Someone eventually informed us that the place ... read more
Yungang caves 4
Yungang caves 1
Hanging monestary 5

Asia » China » Shanxi » Pingyao October 31st 2010

Well, we survived our first overnight train in China. We managed to squeeze ourselves and our gear into a shaky 2-seater rickshaw that took us from our hotel to the train station in Xian. The train station was packed with people, but it was relatively easy to find the waiting area for our train since the numbers are all in english. We had two middle bunks in a 6-bed "hard-sleeper" berth. It was actually pretty comfortable and we managed to get a few hours of sleep along the way. Pingyao is a Unesco World Heritage Site and its well preserved city walls date back to 1370. That's about all we can offer for a history lesson. We stayed at a nice hostel in the centre of the old city and spent our days walking the streets, ... read more
Chinese chess
Pingyao 4
Pingyao 3

Asia » China » Shaanxi » Xi'an October 28th 2010

Xi'an meant a lot of things for us. First, the obvious was visiting the Terracotta Warriors. It is an amazing archaeological find and huge tourist site. We arrived on a Sunday and it was beyond busy as usual. We couldn't really get too close to the statues (a privilidge reserved for the VIPs only) but it was still fun as long as we didn't take things too seriously. Also there was a KFC at the site which was our first taste of western fast food in 3 months (a preview of things to come in Xi'an). Second, it meant a really nice hotel to finish our group travel portion of our trip. The trip finished with three nights at the Bell Tower Hotel which is the nicest place we've stayed at and it had the most ... read more
Fallen soldiers
Mmmmm dumplings
Bell tower at night

Asia » China » Shaanxi » Hua Shan October 23rd 2010

On our way to Xian we spent 2 nights at Hua Shan. Hua Shan is a sacred Taoist mountain which is very popular with the local tourists. We happened to be there on a Saturday which also may have coincided with a national holliday. If we ever complain about crowds in Banff or Kananaskis at home, remind us about our experience in China. Also, if we thought that Kongtong Shan was expensive (see our previous blog which was quietly published), we were in for a shocker at Hua Shan. Between the entrance to see the mountain, the cable car, and the shuttle to get between the ticket office and the cable car it cost us about $100 for the two of us. Food and general cost of living in China is quite cheap, but tourism has ... read more
Green Dragon Ridge 1
Hua Shan 1
No Jumping

Asia » China » Gansu » Lanzhou October 21st 2010

This was really our first taste of how expensive tourism in China is. This was an activity that wasn't included in the 'kitty' portion of our Dragoman trip. Previous excursions had always been included in the 'kitty' and so the cost was always somewhat hidden from us. Not this time. To just get to visit the mountain, it cost us each 120 yuan (approx. $18), then if we wanted to take the van up and down from the top (which we did), was another 40 yuan each. Although had we been a little bit more on the ball back at home, we should've got our student ID cards from SAIT since we were techinically students at the time, this would have given us a 50% discount. Sadly though once we got to the top it was ... read more
Kongtong Shan 1
Kongtong Shan 7
Us on Kongtong Shan 2

Asia » China » Gansu » Xiahe October 19th 2010

While here in Xiahe (altitude of 2920m) we decided that to get some good photos (hopefully) we'd have to get up early and watch the sunrise over the Labrang Monastery. So we woke up at 6am, which was probably about 90 minutes too early and headed over to the view point to wait for the sun to rise. The sun evenutally rose at about 7:30am and then the sun didn't shine where we hoped it would until close to 9am. But we met some nice Chinese guys with fancy cameras that were also waiting for the sun to rise, so we weren't alone. Once the sun had risen and we took the photos we wanted we completed walking the Kora (pilgrim path) that encircles the monastery then headed for breakfast. After freezing our butts off waiting ... read more
Xiahe 4
Xiahe 9
Xiahe 10

Asia » China » Gansu » Jiayuguan October 14th 2010

Jiayuguan Fort was originally built in 1372 and was considered the last major stronghold of imperial China and was very important for the silk road. It's also the western end of the Great Wall (pretty amazing that it goes from here all the way to Beijing and beyond to the east coast). This was the first place where we saw the Great Wall. To be honest, it wasn't quite what we expected, the parts we saw of it were fairly recently restored, so they didn't seem all that authentic. The fort was interesting, but we almost had more fun watching all the domestic tourists on their guided tours with matching hats, etc. We camped at a small picnic area for tourists at the base of a restored section of the wall. It was a short hike ... read more
Fort 2
Great Wall 2
Fort 9

Asia » China » Gansu » Dunhuang October 12th 2010

After several long driving days it was nice to have a couple of nights in Dunhang to relax (actually one more night would have been even better). We crossed from Xinjiang province into Gansu province and the difference is noticable in the food and the amount of development. Xinjiang is mostly Uighur and Islamic influence (lamb kebabs, pulled noodles, very little pork, etc). The food now is much more "authentic" Chinese where the default meat is normally pork and the dumplings are different. Also the city of Dunhuang is much larger and more modern than we expected. We went to the Mogao Caves in the morning which were spectacular. The carved statues and paintings on the walls are really something to be seen, and they are very well preserved. No photos are allowed inside the caves ... read more
Night market 3
Mogao caves

Asia » China » Xinjiang » Turpan October 10th 2010

From Kashgar to Dunhuang we spent 4 nights bush camping in the desert followed by 2 nights in Turpan and another night camping before reaching Dunhuang. There wasn't too much to see along the way, but parts of the Taklamakan desert were pretty spectacular. The Taklamakan desert is one of the largest sandy deserts in the World. We spent 2 full days driving with nothing but sand dunes on either side of the highway. We visited some interesting ruins near Turpan, though not much is left of them. The highlight was taking a donkey cart ride at the Gaochang ruins.... read more
Bushcamp sunrise
Dune jumping
Sand as far as the eye can see

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