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my journey

Time spent in china:

This page was constructed while traveling around China in 2004

Having returned I will continue to fill in the gaps in this page and then keep it for your general amusement. If you planning a trip to China then the following synopsis of some of the cities I visited might be of some use.

Tyler Lopez traveled with me an some other friends for a time while I was in northern China. Tyler's website contains loads of pics of our journey that he has taken as well as contributions from fellow travelers.

Chin Hwa, another great friend (who I recently met up with in Kong Kong - thanks Chin :o) - was traveling with me up north and has pictures available online for you to peruse : Chin Hwa's Photos


City Synopsis

Beijing

First off it's big. In fact it's BIG. BIG even, to say the least. (massively whopping on a grand scale of one to a huge number bigger than the one you first thought of-BIG to say slightly more than the least)

I haven't really explored the city's sights yet as I'll do that when I return next week with my friends so all I've really discovered is a cheap internet cafe and some camera shops.

The underground system is worth a mention as it is very efficient and quick. A journey of any length is 3 yuen and you can transfer between lines one and two for no cost. Number one runs in a large ring around the main city and the second line runs east west across Tiananmen square. Though the busses will be cheaper if you can master the routes.

Xi'an

I liked this city very much, beautiful walls almost completely surround it (and there rebuilding the bits that are missing) and although I didn't I hear you can get on them and walk around a bit which is lovely. Unfortunately the bell tower was also under repair when I visited so didn't see more than the top of it, but the drum tower was neat and walking underneath it from the south you discover a wonderful exciting street full of 'antique' shops and street food sellers.

To the south of the city is a big pagoda which can be climbed for about 30 yuen total and a huge plaza in front with many restaurant type things. At night, around 8:30 there is a fountain light and music spectacular which is well worth staying out for.

Of course located close to Xi'an is the site of the Terracotta Warriors (306 bus from the train station) and is well worth a visit. It is expensive and will take about a half day but is a must see when visiting the city. There are now three pits excavated with quite a bit of information about each.

Kaifeng

Kaifeng is only small and not as far developed vertically as other cities however it makes up for it in the goods on sale that are which are high end and high street. It's worth just wondering round the city's back roads as there are plenty of traditional architectural buildings to find, much more so than in other cities. However the streets are expectedly not as vibrant as more major cities.

Sights include a wonderful Buddhist temple - Da Xiangguo Si - with colourful painted woodwork and amazing bonsai trees; the Iron Pagoda - Tie Ta - set in a rather lovely park and lake thing; and the oldest local pagoda - Fan Ta - hidden in the streets south of the railway line. Student rates seem to apply here!

Nanjing

Right I wasn't feeling that great when I visited Nanjing - I was under the influence of a rather dodgy hot pot I'd eaten in Xi'an and had just come off a 10 hour hard seat smoky, non air-con train ride which begun at 23:49 in Kaifeng. Then hoards of nasty hotel touts came to sell me accommodation (which I was later to take in desperation and regret) and I got on a bus and got completely lost getting dumped in some odd back street.

The city does not follow the regular street pattern with crisscross roads, due to the large purple cloud mountain in the way. This can be quite disorienting. There is also no obvious built up CBD, it's all built up so the hope of picking out land marks is lost. Accommodation is ludicrous, cheapest nast hell hole was still 50 kuai and the uni accommodation was 100. I never ventured to eat out choosing to live on supermarket food instead. The place is also populated with hoards of ex-pats which was a little disconcerting.

The Purple Cloud Mountain is definitely worth a visit, three mausoleums including that of the dude Dr Sun. However watch out for the time as busses cease at about 5pm (when it's still light!) and instead you'll be stuck with nasty taxi drivers - as I was :(. The Rape of Nanjing memorial garden and museum is also well worth a visit. Quite horrifying to go round but very well constructed and something that should not be wiped out of history (a cough in the general direction of Japan). Plus students get in free :)

Shanghai

It was ok but nothing that would really make me want to go back except to visit friends. I it one mammoth sprawling city built on the delta of the great Chang Jiang river which gives it a more than flat appearance adding to the impression of a never ending city. It is built up to quite a uniform extent so there are few views to be had except for on the river bank looking across to the TV tower.

Sights are reasonably sparse, the Yu Gardens are worth a look and there is good bartering to be had in the mass of 'traditional' shops outside. The Bund is rather strange and if your missing the wonderfully European architecture then it might help quench your thirst. Remaining is the shopping which seemed pretty intense but nothing to really write home about (you can get everything back in Beijing to save carrying it).

One big plus is the MagLev Train which currently connects the two airports and transfers passengers at something like 300 km/h. I never went on it but the return trip is in the order of 100 kuai, I believe it's well worth it. There are roomers that the intention is to connect Shanghai and Beijing via this maglev by 2008.

Tianjin

In Brief : Industrial urban world

Chengdu

In Brief : Quite a nice mix of old and new China, very wealthy and fast paced, though they have Pandas!

Kunming

In Brief : A strange western plan city with a wealth of little babies and a great cultural mix. Plus excellent street food.

Hong Kong

In Brief : Wonderful - a place like places should be. Vying with San Francisco for position of Top City.

Yuangshuo

In Brief : What a great place to visit and stay amongst some awesome scenery.