A Travellerspoint blog

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Into The Unknown (for us anyway)

June 29th

sunny 38 °C

Flight to Guangzhou (9 hrs) all good, landed 6.30 pm local time and everything went smoothly at the airport. IMG_20180629_093924.jpg
First sign of concern was when we booked a taxi to take us to our hotel. We showed the booking to the driver and he looked perplexed (no English) and when he showed it to security they had no idea either. A young Chinese traveler offered to read and translate and then spoke for a while with our driver, who was not showing any clearer look on his face. Not feeling optimistic we dived in anyway!!!

He headed off and was driving past all the busyness of a large city, changing lanes - 4 at a time- with great efficiency. We were driving...driving... the sun set, the lights came on, still more driving peppered with more deep sighs from the driver. After about 2 hours he makes a sound of triumph and points enthusiastically at a point in the distance, we dare to celebrate as he ducks through lines of traffic, dropping us off, he then makes a very speedy exit whilst negotiating a large tip.
Yes the name is similar to the one on our booking confirmation but still different enough to leave us feeling concerned.

We had good reason to be concerned, the charming concierge had never heard of it, its address was a mystery and they weren't answering the phone no. we had!
Toby Law, you can wipe that smirk off your face, I can see it from here!
The dilemma was further complicated by the fact that our train tickets for Guangzhou to Xian and then from Xian to Beijing had been "delivered" to this hotel ?!

Not looking good, getting very late, after midnight by our body clocks and a humidity of 100% trying to stay calm as our options seemed to dwindle, our friendly concierge proposed calling 911! Well at least we'd have our accommodation covered for the night.

Eventually the police arrived and were no where as scary as I had envisaged - didn't even carry a gun- and they, along with our amazing concierge made increasingly emphatic phone calls on our behalf as we tried to communicate using a translating app which was about as reliable as asking Siri a question.

Finally what we discovered was that our original booking was "sold on" by our original hotel to yet another hotel and they were now sending a taxi over to collect us and take us to the correct place. So we were eventually collected and left with effusive thanks to our generous advocate.

Arriving at the new hotel (about 1 am body clock time) we inquired about our train tickets to Xian and Beijing which we were informed would be waiting for us at our accommodation. As we asked the receptionist about our tickets a blank look came over his face. "What tickets?'

By about 2am we had our tickets and John set the alarm to get up but it was still on Oz time which we didn't realise until after we had both showered!!!!!!!
Can only get better from here !!!!! IMG_20180629_092309.jpg

Posted by Seniorcitizens 06:09 Archived in China Comments (2)

Guang Zhau to Xian

June 30th

37 °C

Somewhat refreshed our plan was to get to Guangzhou South Railway Station and on board a Bullet train to Xian, experienced similar language problems as we decoded all the steps to get to the correct platform and find our seats, though a smile is the universal language and everyone works together to ensure that everyone is on board. IMG_20180630_084533.jpgIMG_20180630_084650.jpg

The train is very smooth with an average speed of 300km. We travelled through pretty countryside with carefully tended agriculture with small very neat plots used for cultivation alongside a range of equally neat but different crops, no vast fields of wheat. In amongst these fields were small clusters of houses which looked very similar to ones we saw in Vietnam, and cities of towering, tightly packed apartments, many under construction, some looking quite smart and others very run down.

Arriving in Xian our hearts were in our mouths as we anticipated a repeat of the day before. coming through the station we made a rash decision to try to navigate the metro rather than risking all with a taxi ride. The maps on the underground were all very straight forward yet despite all the writing in Chinese characters we were able to make sense of it and feel a little more in control than in a taxi. Lovely people on the train some who seemed keen to practice their English. Very confusing when we got off at the station near the centre of Xian and after several futile attempts to to hail a cab we went looking and came to a police station, (they will have a big file on us by the time we depart), he looked up the address, brought it up on his phone and drew us a very rough map, so off we set walking with high humidity and very heavy luggage. John discovered that his pack carrying strength from Kokoda was somewhat diminished while I found the lovely wheels on my case which ran smoothly on our floors struggled with the challenging surface of Xian, none of these cities are wheelchair friendly.

Very happily and thankfully arrived at our hotel in the Muslim quarter and near the ancient bell tower, a dumpling meal in the street and sleep.
IMG_20180630_082732.jpg Proof that China is civilized.
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Posted by Seniorcitizens 02:24 Archived in China Comments (0)

Terracotta Warriors

July 1

sunny 35 °C

Traveled to see the Terracotta Warriors today an amazing cultural artifact discovered by 4 farmers in 1974 while digging a well. The farm lands have been turned into a major tourist icon with its own supporting town and the three remaining farmers who first discovered the the terracotta fragments are set up as showpieces in shops, signing copies of their books about the initial discovery.
There are approx 8000 life size warriors standing armed and ready for battle across an area approx the size of 2 soccer pitches, each one is unique and can be identified clearly as to the role he played and the rank he held and although you cant get too close I could get a close look at their faces through my zoom lens they are like real people. These were believed to have been buried by emperor Chin in order to serve him in his next life. The craftsmanship is amazing given the tools and techniques available at the time, also the technology used in the crossbows and the construction of the chariots axles and mechanism for driving the horses which raced 4 abreast.
Lunch (traditional Chinese, lovely) was followed by a tea tasting and demonstration, a real art form much the way many Melbournians view their coffee.
In the afternoon we visited the ancient city walls built around 14th century, much wider ramparts than a traditional style wall from western Europe they would be wide enough to drive chariots in two directions with room to spare and the slots that would allow archers to fire their arrows were large enough to fit 3 or 4 defenders.
We finished up the day with a walk through the Muslim quarter, filled with so much color, noise, energy and character. the soundtrack was wonderful, all sorts of different foods being made up on the spot

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Posted by Seniorcitizens 02:29 Archived in China Tagged and of city a muslim ancient walls xi'an terracotta warriors section Comments (0)

Auspicious and Propitious

July 2nd

rain 26 °C

A day on our own to explore Xian in the pouring rain. As we were packing John said, "What do you want that for?" as I put in my umbrella, guess who now has one of his own!!!!
Xian was traditionally the place where the Emperors of the various dynasties ruled China, it has a long heritage of which the people are very proud. Yesterday we viewed the city walls while today we explored the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower which stand at the centre of the walls and which traditionally marked out the peoples' day. In the morning the bell from the Bell Tower would ring to instruct the men at the city gates it was time for the gates to be opened. The drum from the Drum Tower would signal various times throughout the day and would be beaten to tell the men at the gate it was time for them to be shut. Even with the mist from the rain you can just make out the four gates in the city wall. Depending on the season and weather a different drum was beaten, there were 24 in all plus the 4 big ones for the time of day. We conjectured that the seasonal drums would sound a different timbre, they had beautiful names like 'the grain is in the pod'.
The structures have been beautifully restored and the intricate designs and colorful paintwork all carry significant import. Some of the symbols and stories reminded me of indigenous art and symbols. The designs all had detailed explanations of their meaning all of which included the terms 'auspicious' and 'propitious'.
Whilst at the Drum Tower we managed to see a performance by six musicians in traditional dress playing Chinese instruments with the drum as the focus, very auspicious or was it propitious timing.
We wandered the streets dodging umbrellas, puddles and very slippery surfaces and saw some 'on trend' Chinese wearing these very cute little plastic boots which would be put on over the shoes, looked way better than our old galoshes but I doubt they would come in a size large enough for me.

The weather was a bit like Queensland "beautiful one day perfect????the next"
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Can you spot the difference?
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The Bell Tower
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The Drum Tower...john found this more interesting hence more photos.
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My secretary hard at work (a Chinese sweat shop).
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Posted by Seniorcitizens 06:05 Archived in China Comments (0)

A Great Wall!!!

July 3rd & 4th

sunny 37 °C

P1000431.JPGTravelled from Xian to Beijing by train a very pleasant experience except for John loosing his ticket and consequently loosing his equanimity!!!

On arriving at Beijing East Station (sort of like Southern Cross on steroids) we manoeuvred to the metro which has about 20 lines cris-crossing each other, found our line and followed the stations, got off at one point and changed to a different line which was to take us to our destination. There were no elevators at this platform so John had to carry both his and my hefty luggage up several steep flights of stairs. Emerging at street level we were almost adjacent to our Hotel, (but did not realise this until the next day!!!!!!) Instead we set off on foot in the opposite direction with repeated reassurance from people we asked that we were heading in the right direction. It was very humid and we were getting desperate when we spied a very classy looking building and figured we had made it. Once again Hotel staff informed us that this was not the Hotel we were booked in at!!! We're getting good a this!! With much fussing we got a taxi to take us to our Hotel. The staff of this hotel graciously wrote out in Chinese characters the name of our Hotel so that others could understand it i.e the taxi driver. We were then taken on a long circular drive through the centre of the city to our correct Hotel.

On the following day as the weather forecast was so hot so we left at 7.30 am to drive to the Great Wall, the section we visited is in mountainous terrain so it wasn't until we were almost on it that we could see it. The section we visited was about 600 years old whilst some is over 2,000 years old. The Chinese government has been repairing and rebuilding historic structures so it was quite well maintained. You take a cable car up to the wall and there is a good section that you can walk along. The wall itself follows the contours of the land so it is very undulating, walking along it I found was similar to the sensation of trying to walk on a pitching ship. It was very impressive and while it is all similar you would constantly get a fresh view and a different picture of it as you rounded yet another corner. We stood looking out toward the place where the enemy were expected to arrive from and I felt the the Chinese soldiers would feel quietly confident with the level of defence the wall afforded them. There were elements that reminded us of Hadrian's Wall which is also 2,000 years old but which has not been as well preserved.
Wearing his Kokoda t-shirt John raced off ahead to see how far he could get along the wall in the time we had and managed to cover quite a distance.
One of the options for getting down from the wall (not down the side of the wall but from the top of the wall back to the start at the base) was on a sled, felt like we were in training for the winter Olympics.
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From there we travelled to the tombs of the Ming Dynasty and the Underground Palace. Much of this had been destroyed during the cultural revolution (1965-1975) , local farmers did their best to protect it at the time and it wasn't until 1990 that it was refurbished.
On our way back to the Hotel we stopped to check out the Bird Cage and the Water Cube built for the 2008 Olympics.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 23:49 Archived in China Comments (0)

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