Monday, July 11, 2011

Last Days in China

Last days in China !!

Travelled to Beijing via night train from Wuhan, updated cost is actually 274rmb or $41cathat gets you a bunk on the train. There are 6 bunks to each compartment, no door and sleeping room only.
3 high each side - the couple on the middle and bottom bunk decided to have some nookie during the night, so between 2am and 4am listened to quiet whispers and her trying to keep her voice down haha.

Was not made for guys my size - so cant imagine a 6fter fitting in here, woudl be a tough night for most.

That smile was obviously before I woke up in the morning feeling like a pretzel - these are hard sleepers , meaning hard bunk with thin pad, though duvet and pillow were very comfortable and the place had lots of air conditioning. Lights out at 10pm for the train. Was a quiet night. 
I decided that getting an organized tour was worth the money, someone who does this all the time and can give the highlights and of course speak good English.
I found Beijing Xinhua Tours online and sent them an email, to arrange tour for two people.
So the arrangements were as follows:
-          Wed July 6th arrive in Beijing and be picked up by tour guide and private car
-          Thu July 7th visit Tieniman Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace
-          Fri July 8th visit section of the Great Wall
-          Sat July 9th visit old style Beijing Hutong , fly to Shanghai
-          Meals in Beijing, Tickets to attractions.
-          Spend night in Shanghai
So total cost including, private Tour Guide, Private Car, 3 nights in Beijing with meals, Flight to Shanghai and hotel in Shanghai (Holiday Inn Vista – very nice) all in for $1402 for two people. Quite  a good price considering hotel alone in Canada would have run $600 for 4 nights (of similar quality) and throw in two plane tickets and the Canadian price would have been well around $2000 and I didn’t add up the Tour Guide and Driver to this.

When we arrivd Guide and Driver picked us up at the train station and dropped us at hotel to unwind and do as we please. Wandered around and window shopped, went through a small street for food and souvenir stuff.

And if your feeling brave and want to try something different, check out this video of some bbq !!

So got to see Tiananmen Square, big 90th year anniversary of Communism in China happened July 1st so very busy time, also its summer vacation for Chinese students. Means you see more Chinese tourists than Western faces.  

Beijing seems pretty easy to get around, lots of English signs, really geared towards tourists.
First day we were picked up at the Train Station and brought to our hotel, Sunworld – nice place, good service and good breakfast buffet.

Miss Aibing was traveling with me and guided me towards a well known place for an Authentic Beijing Duck diner (formerly Peking Duck). Have to say it was freaking awesome. Total was around 400rmb so not so cheap for the average Chinese person. This was on our coin and not part of the tour.
The cool thing is they carve up your duck in front of you, sharp knife and quick fingers.

Next day the tour started with T Square and Forbidden City

 Yes its big - check out Google Maps to get a real sense of its size

View Larger Map

Temple of Heaven

Summer Palace taken as we left the area, was too big to get a pic any other way.

With Dragon Boats to give you a short cut across the lake for exit.

After was Duck Diner (again !!) but not as good as the first night followed by a Kung Fu show. Well actually more of a play with some Kung Fu style stunts.

Was a story of a young apprentice who is unsure of himself and if he can find his way as a Shaolin Monk. So we follow the story of another young boy who takes the same path. Was very well done, with English, though pre-recorded. Back to hotel to pass out, after having blue sky sun all day, the right side of my head was cooked.

Next day the Great Wall.

To me the most important part of the tour. Hard to explain in words what it looks and feels like.

My thinking right now is I would like to come back and do an overnighter , camping on the Great Wall. If we had gone past the section we were on, you find old un-restored sections, for the real thing. So will definitely come back here next time in China for a closer more personal trip.

And of course someone having wedding pics done on The Great Wall !!

We did one more stop for the day and that was at the Biejing Olympic Park to get a view of the Birds Nest Stadium., This is where the big opening and closing ceremonies were held for the Beijing Olympics.

Our tour guide was a volunteer during the games, one of over 100,000 people that did volunteer services.

Ok now I am cooked, I have had blue sky sun for two days on the right side of my head, am sunburned and cooked.
Saturday is a quick day , only a few hours to visit before flying to Shanghai.

Drum Tower
 This building has a row of drums at the top of the tower, during one world war all of them were destroyed by invading armies. So these are all recreations.

This is the only remaining ancient drum, that was ripped apart by knives, sitting in the back collecting dust and probaly decaying as we speak.

The tour guide, Linda (FanLing) was great, very personable, well spoken, and she interacted , asking questions about life in Canada, talking about herself and life in Beijing.

She is origionally from Tibet. This is her job, being tour guide for us Westerners, providing service to two different agencies. I got her email address so will be contacting her when I am that way to get a private tour and pay her directly, am sure she can sue tha cash as life is not so easy in China for those working in this field. As we talked about our experiences I learned that Fan Ling is an avid hiker and likes overnight camping, if you know me, this is my fun. Camping in China now there’s something to do next time in China. Damm will be up to two big suitcases, traveling, business and leisure camping !!

Cool bike i spotted on the side of the rode in Beijing.

Ok Saturday afternoon, flew out to Shanghai for the night. One last real authentic Chinese style diner. Place of choice was Wuhan style cooking, spicy, flavour, a few beers, Snow and Kiran brands and then back to the hotel.
The rooms at Shanghai Holiday Inn Vista are great, 550rmb or $80 per night. Very nice and great way to end the travel time in China.
Sunday headed to Pudong airport for flight back to reality (dang!)
After sitting on the tarmac for an hour arrived in Hong Kong at 5pm, to find out, flight to Canada was cancelled. Most likely because not enough people traveling.
Spent the night at the Regal Airport Hotel at the airport. Sorry no pic am slacking.
Took shuttle bus to local mall and had Japanese style food. $248hk or roughly $26 had some sushi, soup, hot plate with beef, seaweed cone with rice and stuff. Very affordable. The mall I was in was all outlet stores and prices were pretty good.

Hong Kong airport seating Gate #2

Ok so am not one to buy souvenirs or buy trinkets or things as I travel. But have to admit that sometimes Honk Kong prices can be pretty good. Have to plan a trip to Hong Kong an spend a few days here to get a real feel for it, though life in HK is expensive.
Found a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX DG lens on sale, reduced from 7800hk ($1040ca) to 5313hk ($682ca). I was able to check online to find that I was saving close to $600ca on this lens (taxes etc). Now to sneak it into Canada.
This lens will find a future home on a full frame Canon 5D Mark II in the future or possibly some used Full Frame Canon.

Have to say had another great time in China. The more am here the more I enjoy it. Something about life here. Need to learn some Chinese to make life easier. If I was able to0, would easily live in China for 6 months and 6 months in Canada. Not sure why China has struck such a cord with me.
As I write this am on the plane from Hong Kong to Toronto. A few glasses of red wine and lunch will be served shortly.

Am watching the movie Sucker Punch , I recommend it. One line in the movie that made me think ; ‘Life has a flavour,  that the sheltered will never know”

I like flavour

Oh ya Sunset from the top of the world, at about 8hrs from Toronto, 570 Mile/hr no idea how high we are

As I send this am now back in Canada, got home just around 5pm, no sleep since yesterday at 7pm ( Canada Time)