Go GB Go
09.08.2008 - 17.08.2008 26 °C
Email hasn't been great for the last week so there is a lot to write this time and a whole lot of pictures.
I left off in Wuhan so thats where I'll start:
After watching the opening to the games on tv and Brenda had watched hours of build up, which means she can sing along with the songs and tell me who all the helpers are, Brenda was felling much better and we headed out to see the now named (by me) oven city. We decided to go and see the Yellow Crane tower which was on the otherside of the river to our hotel, but armed with the lonely planet which told us bus number 1 would get us there we melted our way to the bus stop. What luck bus number one stopped there and within seconds one came along. Off we went only instead of turning to cross the river we headed in land, and the map on the wall didn't look like it went any where near where we wanted to go. So swearing about the LP we managed to get a taxi to stop for us (elsewhere when we tried they just shake their heads and drive off) and we made it there. It turned out to be a park full of towers and temples and stupas so we walked round it and even stumbled on a display of bell ringing in the falling plum blossom temple. I forgot to shrink down photos of here so you'll just have to imagine what it looks like.
We braved hard sleeper to Xi'an and we melted for it. No AC. We had the window open which cooled it a bit, but when I woke up in the morning was slightly covered in coal dust. The morning brought slightly cooler temperatures and a tout from the Ludao Binguan guest house. We followed him and dumped our stuff before heading out to explore the city.
It was a busy day. We started off by getting the correct bus to the south gate of the walls and walking up. We decided to hire bikes and couple cycle round the entire old city walls in about an hour.
Cycling the walls
The streets were as manic as everywhere else in China and the polic really didn't seem to be doing much.
We then went up the bell tower before getting a bus out of town to attempt to see the city museum. It was a very busy bus and worringly we were stood next to the driver initially who seemed to spend more time looking at us than the road. But as time went on we worked our way down the bus when two old ladies decided Brenda needed to sit so squashed together to give her room and looked so happy about it. I was gradually pushed down the bus and thankfully was still taller than most of the Chinese on the bus so could signal when to get off. By the time we made it to the museum (I took a rather long cut) it was closed so we walked to the Big wild goose pagoda instead.
There was a massive park in front and there was a fountain display and music which was pretty good. Also a million people so we didn't get close to the Pagoda, which looked a little wonky to me.
We then had an awesome dinner, picture pointing and I recognised some symbols so we knew what meat to expect
The second day in Xi'an we had booked a tour to see the warriors, where we were joined by Henrick (really sorry if thats not how its spelt). The tour didn't start in our hostel so we got to watch China Germany in the hockey while the people from the other hostel had their breakfast (why we had to be there before they were up I'll never know). Anyway we then hit the road and stopped at a 6000 year old village called Banpo where we saw the foundations of the old town and some pots they buried children in. It was discovered by a farmer digging the fields
Then on to a factory where they make warriors before we got to see the real things. There are 3 pits. Pit 1 being the biggest. There the infantry were discovered. I don't know why but I thought they had been unearthed as whole soldiers but it turns out thats not the case and they have been put back together. I guess I had expected the entire pit to be full of warriors but it wasn't so I was a little disappointed but it was still an amazing site:
And that oh so rare warrior
Pit 1 had the officers in and pit 2 hadn't been opened. It is feared that removing the dirt from on top will damage the warriors underneath. Small areas have been excavated so they know what is there such as horses, archers or generals etc
In the evening we went to dinner with Henrick and his new friend Craig (a Local guy he met while buying a train ticket). So we headed to a restaurant of Craigs choice which was great fun. You get to cook your own food it pots of boiling water on the table. We did however leave the choice of food to Craig too. Now I am the fussiest eater (bar Carolyn maybe) and looked somewhat horrified when Cows gut and bone marrow turned up. And we did take lots of pictures much to Craigs embarassment. The gut was ok. And i put off the bone marrow for quite a long time but they made me eat it. It was horrible, slimy and got in your teeth. Henrick has a photo of me eating it and I am sure I am really red and look ill, so here are the foods in question and them being eaten:
We had meant to buy a train ticket to Pingyao for the 13th but bought one for the 12th instead. So rather than spend the night in the mountains we had to do it as a day trip which as it turns out was a good thing (for Brenda).
Early in the morning we got the bus to Huashan a holy mountain which you could either walk up or take the cable car. We decided to take the cable car up and walk down. It wasn't warm and was a bit cloudy when we set off (Brenda panicing because the cable car was a long way above the ground and although Austrian built was maintained by the chinese) but we made it to the top in one piece.
It was packed and after having my picture taken with several guys we headed to North Peak. The steps were small and a little uneven and to get right to the top involved a bit of a climb so I went alone, befriended another guy which meant I had to have my picture taken with him and all his mates (I feel so sorry for them they will be showing their friends photos of some crazy haired girl how looked slightly scared in all the photos!!). But at least he took a picture of me for me so here is north peak:
The views were pretty good
After A while we decided to find the steps to go down. They were pretty steep and Brenda panicked and decided there was no way she was walking down and would rather take the cable car. So leaving her in the restaurant I headed off to explore. By this point the rain had started falling and you couldn't really see alot
Me about to go
I walked through the rain uphill for about and hour and a half and found centre peak, walking with old guys carrying crates of water for the stalls at the top, a gas cylinder and two old ladies with crutches, but I didn't see the point in going any further, cuase I couldn't see, so headed back. The clouds did part a little bit though and it was like being on top of the world
On the way up I had seen a really steep set of stairs with a steep drop on either side
So I had been waiting to find these steps on the way down. It was only when I got to the bottom I realised that I had walked them because the cloud was so thick I couldn't really see anything.
There were some useful signs though
Anyway we survived the cable car back down, got the bus back to Xi'an and cought the overnight train to Pingyao.
Its a really old walled city. While Xi'an has lots many of its traditional buildings and built sky scrapers Pingyao is much the same as its always been. And is the cause of my obsession with roofs. We stayed at the Harmony Guesthouse where we had a traditional room with a matress on a stone floor which could be heated in winter. It was super comfy (but Brenda who is slowly falling apart struggled to sleep the first night).
The courtyard by our room
We headed out to explore on bikes. Unlike Xi'an you can't cycle on the walls so we cycled round them, stumbled on another fountain display (no wonder china needs so much energy) and stopped for lunch at a small fan dian and had the traditional pingyao noodles - big hoops you dunk in some kinda spicy sauce.
It was a lovely city, as I had imagined China, slightly dusty and grey (or brown) and unchanged throughout history
The second day Mr Deng owner of the guesthouse took us on a tour of the city, he explained a lot to us which helped us understand the history better.
For example in the city god temple students lock little red disks to chains to make sure the Gods look favourably on them during exam time (but no Pingyao student has ever finished as Number 1)
The city God temple
The roofs of the temples are coloured so the Gods know which buildings are for them and which are owned by people (plain roofs). Either way the decoration underneath is beautiful. Brenda quite liked the statues representing hell and what happens to you if you are bad:
His tour was great and as well as a couple of temples we went to the courthouse where I finally found a prison:
Other pictures from around the city:
I can't rate his tour highly enough it was fantastic. Afterwards I even braved a foot massage. Was scared they would dislocate my toes but it was very relaxing. We even got to watch china win some more gold medals - is there anything other than weighlifting going on??
We then decided to risk the mountains again and got the bus to Taiyuan then to Wutai Shan. A buddist area with 5 peaks and a whole heamp of temples. It was a long day on the bus and we didn't feel like trudging round town so stopped at the hotel the bus dropped us at (the first grumpy chinese we have encountered). It wasn't great but was cheap enough. We found a small restaurant and worked our magic, within seconds of us sitting down it was full of chinese drawn in by two strange people in the window. No english and I suspect we are outnumbered 10000:1 (chinese to non chinese) no in the restaurant but in the town, which means we have had our pictures taken with loads of people (wish we had charged we'd be rich) andsaid hello hundreds of times.
We spent the day looking at temples, which were pretty and colourful, but in the end we grew to resent paying to enter them as you had to pay to enter the area too. It was also cold, so much so that I had to dig out my jumper which I had been wondering whether it had been worth bringing it.
On of the temples was 1150 steps up (yes I am that sad and counted), but the views we good.
At one temple though we met a monk with tooth ache who showed us his room, small place at the back of the temple. He wanted to talk english and made us coffee - according to Brenda it was really sweet, but I still didn't like it. He had been there 22 years and was a Tibetian Monk, and he decided to teach us some chanting, and gave us some beads and a photo of his teacher. He was pretty interesting. But we got templeout shortly afterwards and headed to Datong on the early morning bus.
Datong (bigsame) apparently won't win any beauty prizes and there isn't much reason to come here (LP). But I wanted to see the wall and there are some caves and a hanging monastry, so we have a day and a half. The bus from Wutai Shan went through some stunning scenery, but was a tad bumpy and windy. But I must add that China is a lot cleaner than I thought it was going to be and considering the crap (literally) thrown out the window on the bus journey there must be some hard working road cleaners out there keeping things looking nice.
We arrived and armed with a bus number decided to find the oldest section of the great wall. We found 3 buses with the right number but none had a driver. At this point we met simon who offered to take us in a taxi. Ok we thought and off we went. He spoke really good english and was telling us stories on the way.
This bit of the wall was built in 450BC and parts have been destroyed by the locals who wated the clay for their houss, but you can still see the control towers and parts of the wall:
From the wall (which we would never have found had we found a bus with a driver) we were taken to a fort built in 800s, and most recently used by the Japanese in WW2. Again it has been used to build the houses in the town (where we talked to some of the kids who were as shy as ever)
On the way back to Datong simon won us over by saying my chinese was good, so we agreed to pay a bit more and go and see the wall around Datong (we've now seen more walls that I can remember). This one wasn't in great shape although the government are planning to rebuild it starting this year (to attract tourists)
To get to it we had to jump over a bit of wall to avoid the locked gate
But at the top was a swan tower and we could walk along the wall to see the roof of the city.
So if anyone stumbles on this and is planning on coming to Datong use simon as a tour guide he was great and charged us 150 yuan for the trip which lasted all afternoon. If you want I have his phone number and will email it to you.
Ok think thats it. There are probably photos I have uploaded but not mentioned but this seems to have gone on a bit.
We are of to the caves tomorrow and then on to Beijing to go wave a few flags andsee the hockey. Its been a little tricky to follow anyone other than China but the brief summary showed we now have 11 gold medals
Ok off now so will be in touch in Beijing