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Xi’an

October 31st, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 08-China - (3 Comments)

This city was once the ancient capital of China known then as Changan. It was this place where the first emperor Qin built up his empire. It is amazing to see a city built within a city, 36 km² bound by high walls and gates which also separated the two sides of the cities.

Xi’an is a considerable step up from Cunming, rather reassuring that we will find some solace during our short visit.  It didn’t start well. Chinese people will never admit when they don’t know something and would prefer to give you a wrong answer than suffer the shame of not knowing the answer. For us this translated into 4 people giving us different directions to our hotel from the bus station. It took us over an hour to go what should have been less than a kilometre.

Xi’an is what we all imagine a Chinese city to be like – polluted, traffic jams, ugly concrete buildings, etc. The pollution here was not like anything we’d ever experienced before. Going outside made our eyes water, gave us a headache and made us short of breath, on top 20 fags each a day! They actually have black snow here in the winter.

We hadn’t come to Xi’an for the city, though. This was the base from which to visit the terracotta warriors, which we plan to visit tomorrow.

Probably the most interesting part of Xi’an city is the Muslin quarter. Xi’an has the largest Muslim population in China. We visited one of the mosques but found it hard to see the architectural differences between it and a Buddhist temple – except fore the Arabic writing.

Some photos of our walk about town including the famous Drum and Bell Towers.  We’ll starting with a pic of the polluted sky – this is not mist it’s smog!  One for the boys – pic 2 – the standard issue uniform for female police officers.

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Cunming to Xi’an

October 30th, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 08-China - (3 Comments)

Back online after a relaxing but disgusting 38hr train journey from Cunming to Xi’an.  Having initially cringed at the price of the ‘tourist soft sleeper seats’, by the end of our journey we were delighted we had forked out the extra cash. We had a very comfortable compartment comprising four beds and thankfully we had it all to ourselves throughout – that was the easy part!

When we we eventually ventured from our cocoon we were slightly taken aback by the inhabitants of this, soon to be, 21st century super-power – gobbing, spitting, and flemming are just the start.  Pushing and shoving and grunting can also be added to the list.  The one time we ate we watched as they spat everything that wasn’t welcome on their plate right to the floor – animals.  In their defence, we felt like spitting out the foot too, it was disgusting!

It is said that one in every three cigarettes consumed worldwide is smoked in China – this we can confirm without question.  We hid in our cabin throughout to avoid the smoke engulfed carriages.  It was almost a comedy sketch, a fag in one hand and chopsticks in the other – eating and smoking at once – something you certainly wouldn’t see back home.  Everything they did was started and finished with a fag.  They passed around a water pipe like it was a bag of sweets – everybody pulling and chuffing, comical really.

The majority of passengers seemed to be country bumkins, so hopefully this will not be the norm throughout China – we’ll see.  The carriage windows were so dirty we could not take any scenic photos – great start!

First photo: Sam explaining to the police officer (that took our order) that he forgot to return our ten Yuan change, no doubt he was hoping we hadn’t noticed – chuffing on a fag!

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Offline for a bit!

October 26th, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 08-China - (0 Comments)
只是讓你知道,我們將會離線幾天,沒有獲得電子郵件或網絡-我們在全球將模擬工作。我們還沒有長期抵達昆明,冷凍了一天,並重新起飛明天到西安的火車臥舖大約.

在來自東南亞,我們在感到震驚的費用都在中國。今天,我們不得不交岔路口出93萬英鎊為我們的臥舖列車-以前,我們本來可以住上一個星期。我猜想這是警醒我們需要之一,將使我們準備的綠野仙踪和新西.

你說話都很快.

For those unfamiliar with Mandarin, here is thorough translation:

Just to make you aware, we will be offline for a few days with no access to email or the web – our global sim will be working. We have not long arrived in Kunming, chilled out for the day and are off again tomorrow to Xi’an on a sleeper train for approximately 35hrs.

After coming from SE Asia, we are shocked at the cost of everything here in China.  Today we had to fork out £93 for our sleeper train – previously, we could have lived on that for a week.  I suppose it’s a wakeup call we need and one that will prepare us for Oz and NZ.

Speak to you all soon.

Kunming

October 26th, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 08-China - (0 Comments)

A 24hr bus ride from Luan Prabang to Kunming in China.  Our 6th border crossing and the best by far, in fact, it was a breeze.  We were a little hesitant getting a bus rather than a flight, but a cost of $54 versus $700 helped make up our mind. 

We slept comfortably throughout – at least 18 hours – Sam was in heaven.  Shortly after the crossing we stopped for a break.  We went to withdraw some hard currency but neither of the ATMs were forthcoming – shit – what do we do!  We had no choice but to travel the remainder of the journey without food or water and, thankfully, when we arrived at the main station we got some.  It didn’t do us any harm to starve for a few hours.

So funny, we had to endure karoke throughout, or at least while we were awake.  They had the equivalent of MTV blasting out on LCD screens and, if one could read Chinese, you could sing along – and many did!  The Chinese go mad for it.  I got excited when I seen the screens and hoped they would be playing a few movies, but after some thought knew, even if they did, they would be in Chinese.

Some photos of our cool karoke bus.

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Luang Prabang

October 25th, 2008 | Posted by Davey in 07-Laos | UNESCO World Heritage Sites - (2 Comments)

A few highlights from our trip this past few days to the northern Lao city of Luang Prabang, the ancient royal capital of Laos that was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995. Our last stop before we head north and cross the border into China.

A beautiful town perched between two rivers, one being the MeKong. The people are incredibly friendly and the temples and waterfalls are stunning.  Of note were the young monks walking about town.  Every morning at 6am they would parade around the streets where the locals (and now the tourists) would hand them food for the day.  We spent a good while talking to these guys while visiting the temples – most are orphans that join to avoid the streets and acquire some form of education – pretty sad really.

All in all, a very relaxing few days and we ate and drank plenty.

A selection of our favourite photos here.

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