Page 5 of KitKats Travel Blog Posts

Asia » China » Beijing » Xuanwu District October 24th 2011

We spent our last full day in Beijing exploring the area near our hostel. This district, between Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven, seems to be one of the last parts of the city to retain the old development pattern wherein low houses with interior courtyards are grouped together into hutongs, forming what are effectively villages within the city. This development plan dates back to the Mongol days when the capital was moved here. In fact hutong is derived from a Mongolian word, and this term is not used for alleys or back streets any place but Beijing. In modern times, and especially since 1949, most of the city's hutongs have been torn down to make way for grand government buildings, tall apartment houses, and, more recently, modern retail development. In the core tourist area ... read more
Hutong haircut
Tea shop in hutong
Commercial hutong area

Asia » China » Beijing » Feng Tai District October 22nd 2011

Beijing Tea Market. After a month of searching for tea, it was only fitting that we found ourselves wandering the labyrinth of shops composing the Beijing Tea market. Over 1,000 tea shops. Which to choose? We have already explored so many shops in so many places that Kit has begun producing an imaginary movie called “Kunming”. The first line is: “Of all the tea shops on all the streets in all the towns in China, she walks into mine.” Now we just had to find the shopkeeper to utter these famous words. We decided that the main streets with the large glitzy shops were not for us. Kit remembered a small hutong (Beijing alleyway) in the Maliandao tea district from a previous visit. We knew what to look for: gunnysacks and boxes full of fragrant tea; ... read more
 ... on all the  streets ...
...she walks into mine.

Asia » China » Hebei October 21st 2011

The dust jacket for Invisible China says that Jacob and Colin, his coauthor, "threw away the guidebook" when they travelled around China to collect the material for the book. We have been fortunate, with Jacob as our guide and interpreter, to be able to leave the Lonely Planet trail a couple of times this trip. The first was the incredible tea town of Ninger. The second time was our current excursion to Zhangjiakou, a prefecture city in Hebei provice northwest of Beijing, outside of which we spent today looking for the remains of part of the Great Wall. The map shows the Wall crossing a river at the north end of this mainly linear city. There is no official Great Wall entrance here, with the accompanying shops, tour buses, and other hoopla. In fact, when we ... read more
The wild Great Wall
Threshers with wind generators in the background
Corn drying on the roofs of a small village

Asia » China » Chongqing October 17th 2011

The streets in China are strange and wonderful. We have walked everywhere we've been and we are always entertained by life on the street. Sometimes we blink as we see city commuters in their fancy clothes and we think they are just like us, but more often we are still surprised by a new sight that would never happen at home. We made a list over the last few days of things we all have seen and you know you are in China when you see them. Crazy traffic. People crossing wide city streets anywhere, lane by lane, with police lounging at nearby corners. The entire family on a motorcycle with the child in front and no helmets in sight. Nice, wide bike lanes with motorcycles and the occasional car coming the opposite direction right at ... read more
Newspaper readers
Balloon guy in traffic
Elephant sculpture

Asia » China » Yunnan » Kunming October 16th 2011

(written in Chongqing, 17 Oct 2011) We are on our way back northward and a few days behind in blog posts. All of a sudden the weather is truly October-like in contrast to the tropical heat that characterized our entire stay in Xishuangbanna. We stayed three days in Jinghong with an air conditioned room to deal with the continuing heat. On the last day, before boarding our evening sleeper bus of Kunming, Kathy, Jacob and I went back to one of our favorite tea shops to search for a special pu'er Jacob and Lynn. The shop was piled high with bags of leaves, newly-pressed cakes, and the stones used to press the cakes. The proprietor pressed those cakes with tea from areas we had visited in throughout the region. We tasted three different kinds of pu'er, ... read more
Jacob with newly pressed pu'er cakes
Yuantong temple
Demon statue in Bamboo temple

Asia » China » Yunnan » Jinghong October 14th 2011

I've heard it said that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. That being the case I can announce that I am totally in love with China. The food has been more than great. We have enjoyed the food immensely and haven't had to worry about our health. How often can you say that about traveling in the hinterlands? First, let me mention the fruit. I think it was Chongqing where Jacob, for the 25 hour train ride south, picked up a citron, a large yellow citrus fruit reminiscent of grapefruit but larger, almost as big as a bowling ball. The four of us dubiously watched him peal the citron. Indeed, it resembled a dry grapefruit and promised to be just about as good. But, lo and behold, we liked it. Not a ... read more
Jim enjoying sumptious dinner in Chongqing
Pickled veggies in Menghun market
Fruit stands piled high in Menglun

Asia » China » Yunnan » Jinghong October 13th 2011

We are back in Jinghong, the capital of Xishuangbanna prefecture, the three-county region at the very southern tip of Yunnan province that we have been exploring for the past week. While we are enjoying the ambiance of this small tropical city, we are also using it as a base for further excursions to the countryside: a pretty great bike ride along the river yesterday and an incredible visit to the Yiwu tea mountain today. Yesterday morning Kathy, Karen, Jim, and I rented bikes in town and followed the city bike paths and dodged traffic until we got to the outskirts on the east side of the Lancang (a.k.a. Mekong) River. There we found the river road, which, contrary to the report in Lonely Planet, is not built up and touristy. Heading south towards Menghan the road ... read more
Lancang River south of Jinghong
Jacob and drying tea
Tea and mountains

Asia » China » Yunnan October 11th 2011

(Damenglong, Yunnan province) They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day tropical sun. Except for Kit, none of us are mad dogs so it is just after sunrise when we head out down the country lane leading out of this small town. We are happy to be in the countryside as the town itself has been taken over by Han Chinese road workers who have ripped up all the streets, presumably to replace them with new ones. The morning is fresh with no hint of the head splitting heat that will beat down in a few hours. We are sharing the road with what appear to be morning commuters heading to Damenglong from a neighboring village on their motor scooters. Still, the walk is quiet and peaceful. We pass citron trees laden ... read more
Golden peacock
Sap collection in rubber tree forest
Spider on web in the woods

Asia » China » Yunnan October 10th 2011

(Damenglong, Yunnan province) The bus from Jinghong dropped us off at the edge of Damenglong which consists of a few dusty streets. The entire town seems to be a construction project. The road from Jinghong was new and in good condition. China seems to be pushing new roads towards Burma, which is only a few kilometers from here. The road workers are Han and the area is populated by many minorities. The Dai, similar to Thai linguistically, are one of the dominant groups. After a siesta and late lunch of Dai food, we head down the road and climb the steep path to the Black Pagoda, a Dai monastery. Terraces of rubber trees, over 30 feet tall, lined the walk. Buddhists always seem to locate their temples with superb views and this pagoda was no exception. ... read more
Dragons (or sea monsters?) decorating stairway at Black Pagoda
Looking south towards Burma from Black Pagoda
Buddah under construction at Black Pagoda

Asia » China » Yunnan October 9th 2011

The adventure started the day before. The five of us were in Menghun, a village near the Myanmar border in the hills of southern Yunnan province of China. We had decided to take an evening stroll in advance of the Sunday market. Here the air was fresh and the pace was slow, a stark contrast to the big cities of Beijing and Chongqing. Here all vehicles proceed leisurely. The town itself consisted of just two long wide intersecting streets. Our street was dusty and had broad sidewalks. Lots of motorcycles, bicycles, motorized carts and street vendors. Not only did we have to dodge the holes in the sidewalk but we had tto watch out for motorcycles that preferred the sidewalk to the street. Here the pickups and trucks were interesting. They had an exposed chassis and ... read more
Vehicle in Menghun
Menghun street scene
Jim bargaining through his interpreter, Jacob

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