Page 2 of piranha27 Travel Blog Posts

Asia » South Korea » Gyeongsangbuk-do » Gyeongju July 24th 2015

After Andong, it was a quick 1.5h bus ride southwards again to the former capital of the ancient Silla kingdom, now known as Gyeongju, a popular weekend getaway and holiday spot for locals, and known as a sort of museum without walls. Gyeongju boasts a rich history as the former capital of one of the three ancient kingdoms of the Korean peninsular, and today boasts a couple of Unesco Heritage sites in the form of tombs of its ancient royals, temples, as well as the Anapji pond, a beautifully landscaped garden with a pond whose shape is said to resemble the East Asian coastline. Distinctive mound-shape tombs (reminiscent of the Chocolate Hills in the Visayas in Central Philippines) continue to dot the city even today, as Gyeongju continues to pull in the crowds, especially domestic weekenders, ... read more
Bulgoksa Temple
Cheomseongdae Observatory
Erm is that enough kimchi for one person?

Asia » South Korea » Gyeongsangbuk-do » Andong July 20th 2015

After one week, it was time to leave the capital to check out the other parts of the country, and I took the 2.5h bus ride south to the smallish city of Andong in the Gyeongsangbuk province. Andong boasts in its vicinity the Unesco site of Hahoe Village, with its two thousand year history of traditional Korean culture and village life, and I would spend a couple of days here en route to my other intended destinations further south. Arriving at Andong was a bit of a surprise, and I was immediately struck by how quiet the place seemed, despite it being a well-known stop on the tourist trail, and a population size of several hundred thousand. It was also a stark contrast to the hyper modern and busy capital, with sleepy shops with nary a ... read more
Traditional Masks of Hahoe
Digital Contents Museum

Asia » South Korea » Seoul » Insadong July 17th 2015

And so after a month in the awe-inspiring Middle Kingdom, it was time to say goodbye, but there was yet one more mini-adventure to come. The day before my departure, Shanghai airport was hit by a wave of flight postponements due to a typhoon, and that meant an inordinate number of flights scheduled for the day of my departure, and an even more inordinate number of irritated passengers at the airport. It was a scene I'd never seen before, two-hour long lines to check-in, which I finally managed to do AFTER the original scheduled departure time of my flight! The airlines had sensibly taken into account the circumstances, and delayed the flights accordingly. I have to say despite the clear unpreparedness of the airport and airline staff for such situations, they remained relatively calm and polite, ... read more
Dorasan Observatory

Asia » China » Shanghai » Huangpu July 10th 2015

And with a quick hop and a step (on the high speed rail again) and less than an hour later, I had arrived at my intended final destination of the China leg of my trip - at the iconic eastern coastal port city of Shanghai. Given it's impossibly high skyscrapers these days jostling for real estate with colonial era-like buildings along the Bund, thinking of Shanghai as being just like any other port city would be quite inaccurate. Shanghai today is the commercial heart of the world's second largest economy, and the eyes of its populace have been flashing renminbi signs ever since it was first forced open to foreign commercial trade at the end of the first Opium Wars. Despite the implicated national shame of being subjugated to hostile foreign will, these events could conceivably ... read more
Shanghai Tower
French Concession
The Bund

Asia » China » Jiangsu » Suzhou July 5th 2015

After Nanjing, it was a quick 1h high speed rail ride eastwards for what should be my penultimate stop in my stay here in China - Suzhou. My plan of course is to eventually end up in Shanghai, but this historical city was en route, and I felt it warranted at least a bit of a look. Apparently there's an old Chinese saying, "In Heaven, there's Paradise; on Earth, there's Suzhou and Hangzhou". Held in such high regard is the beauty of this historic city, whose importance in the Jiangsu provincial region far predates even that of mighty Shanghai. I have to say though, that my first knowledge of the city is really from its industrial park lying in the outskirts, because it originated from a joint venture with the government of my home country Singapore, ... read more
Pingjiang Road
Suzhou Museum
Suzhou Museum

Asia » China » Jiangsu » Nanjing July 3rd 2015

Moving on from Yichang, it was another high speed rail ride eastwards towards the coast, this time 6h from Yichang to Nanjing, the capital of the province of Jiangsu. Nanjing is also known as Nanking, and is probably most well known amongst foreigners as the city that was subjected to some horrendous rape and pillaging by Japanese soldiers just prior to WWII. The Rape of Nanking, which saw hundreds of thousands of civilians brutally murdered, continues to deeply rankle Chinese sentiments, and is a highly sensitive topic, especially in view of Japan's sometimes indignant revisionist-leaning tendencies. Distrust, indeed even hatred, of the Japanese runs deeper in no other country, especially amongst the older generation, and continues to be a very prickly thorn in the relations between both countries. Alas, fortunately the history of Nanjing is more ... read more
Presidential Palace Grounds
Confucius Temple

Asia » China » Hubei » Yichang June 30th 2015

After I decided against a multi-day tourist cruise along the Yangtze, I took the 4h high speed rail ride to the mid-sized (by Chinese standards) city of Yichang, which is the gateway to a visit to the controversial Three Gorges Dam. This was something that I'd read and heard about before, and piqued by the massive engineering feat, I told myself it was something I wanted to see as I made my way from central China towards the coast. Located in the province of Hubei, and perhaps in the shadow of its nearby provincial capital Wuhan, Yichang seemed to me as average as a typical heartland Chinese city could be. With a population of several million (yes, that's average in ginormous China), and signs of both modernity (gleaming new malls, ongoing construction) as well as age ... read more
Niu Rou Mian (aka Beef noodles)
Town Square
Roundabout in City Centre

Asia » China » Chongqing » Chongqing June 27th 2015

It seemed pretty close on the map, and was supposed to be just a quick 2h high speed train ride away, but Chengdu to Chongqing took a whole lot longer than I'd anticipated. Pretty much my own fault though. First, thanks to these confusing large Chinese cities, I'd gone to the wrong train station, then when I finally got to the correct one, the tickets were sold out, so I had to opt for the slower bus ride instead. But the bus wasn't going directly to Chongqing, but rather one of the smaller towns on the outskirts. Somehow though, there was an opportunity to transfer midway through the journey to a Chongqing bound bus. And so what was supposed to be a pretty straightforward and short journey ended up taking almost the entire day. And what ... read more
A river runs through it
Old Chongqing
Chongqing aunties dyeing their hair in front of the mall

Asia » China » Sichuan » Jiuzhaigou June 24th 2015

Moving on from Chengdu, I made the northwesterly detour to Jiuzhaigou (Nine Villages Valley), a Chinese National Park Reserve and Unesco World Heritage site. It was yet another long bus ride, almost 11h, but thankfully in a surprisingly comfortable bus. What I had to contend with though was the unexpected increase in altitude en route (apparently we almost hit 3000m above sea level at one point) and the onset of some minor symptoms of sickness, though eventually it was a slight descent back to the more manageable 2000m+ that Jiuzhaigou resides on. So what exactly is Jiuzhaigou? I have to say it wasn't a place I'd heard of until I did more research prior to this trip, and then I realised it was where they take some of those incredible pictures of multi-coloured lakes, frozen waterfalls, ... read more
As are waterfalls that supposedly freeze over during winter
Fighting the hoardes to buy my ticket
Kitschy Theme Park of sorts just before the Nature Reserve

Asia » China » Sichuan » Chengdu June 21st 2015

Moving on from Xi-an, it was a 16h train ride southwest to Sichuan province, which I'd come tantalisingly close to the last time I visited China, when I spent some time in the neighbouring province of Yunnan. This time, I made it to the provincial capital of Chengdu, a city known for its spicy hotpot, pandas, and pretty, fair-skinned girls. As mentioned, the big attraction of the city is the nearby Panda Park, which houses the largest collection of pandas in captivity in the world, and where the cutting edge research and conservation efforts are being undertaken. Sichuan is one of just three provinces in China where pandas can still be found in the wild (the others being Shaanxi and Gansu), and souvenir shops all around town sell panda-related trinkets to obliging domestic tourists. Chengdu will ... read more
Jinli Street
Xi'an-Chengdu Train

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