Intrepid tour from Beijing to Shanghai
10.08.2011 - 20.08.2011 33 °C
Stayed at the harmony hotel Beijing which was about $50 a night. Was fine, decor a bit outdated but close enough to places of interest and had a grocery store across the street. China was huge, it seemed as though maps go out of date very quickly because of the change and growth. Also places look a lot closer on the maps, whole blocks and streets are often left out so getting around was difficult. Beijing was like america, 3 McDonald visible at all times, fast food everywhere and a real sprawled out feel. The subway was good though, cheap and easy to use.
Checked out the great wall in Beijing which was far more stair climbing than I anticipated, but well worth it and the scenery and sheer amount of work that went into making and maintaining the wall was breathtaking. Definitely a highlight of the trip and not too crowded. We were lucky enough to have a misty day where the clouds hung over the valley and it wasn't too hot while climbing up. There are also multiple huge shopping malls throughout Beijing. The food is probably the oiliest I have ever tasted. Full of msg and everything just soaked in oil!
Next stop was xi an via 12 hour bus ride. Was lucky enough to get a soft sleeper during peak season which meant 4 'soft' beds to a room. Bought a few bottles of the local spirit agwatol $4 a sml bottle for the ride and a mystery spirit which is will go into later. Agwatol (spelling?) is about 55% alcohol and is drunk straight, tastes pretty awful and causes extreme thirst in the night. As mentioned earlier I bought a mystery spirit for the supermarket which was brown, just in case the agwatol tasted bad - which it did. I showed the bottle to the group leadr and asked what it was, she started giggling and went red. Apparently I had selected a spirit that was for men (the Chinese believe that if you consume something eg the eye of an animal you will get better eyesight). This spirit was made of herbs and the penises of turtle and deer. Supposed to be like an aphrodisiac of sorts. Tasted like brandy, didn't have much effect on me, perhaps because I'm a woman? also there's a popular place by the river hohai? Or similar worth taking a look at, live music every night and a variety of food, a bit over priced but that's what you get for prime people watching seats and live music. One thing to brace yourself for is the spitting, anywhere and everywhere after a gut drag of phlegm. Also babies don't wear nappies, but instead have slits in the back of their pants, we saw a toddler doing his business (2's not 1's) inside in the train station on the floor - his mother saw and ran off.
Arrived at xi an safely and went straight to the terra cotta warriors which were built 2000 years ago by an emporer who decked when he took the throne at age 14 he would order 100's of slaves to build him an army of terra cotta warriors to protect his tomb. Once he died all the slaves were buried alive because they knew the secret entrace to his tomb. Following this is towns people destroyed the warriors that had taken years to build. Many warriors have been dug up but they have left hundreds in he ground because apparently when they are dug up they have bright colours all over them but are 1-2 days the colour disappears, so until technology can prevent that they will leave the rest underground. I wish I'd spent more time looking at the warriors, they were fascinatingthey all had different facial features and were made so precisely. Some were archers, others had horses and chariots and the whole museum which consists of 3 buildings is under cover. Well worth a visit.
Next stop Suzhou by 12 hour train, this time got a hard sleeper carriage which I think was cheaper, 6 to a room this time. Suzhou is a cute town, pretty lanterns, a little village and master of nets garden. Nice little stop on the way to shanghai and apparently they have the most beautiful women in all of china.
Shanghai was my favourite city out of the places we visited in china. It was nothing like I'd imagined. Not as sprawing as a Beijing, there were a couple of main streets that were close to the bund which had restaurants and bars across the river and beautiful buildings on both sides. Great views, awesome for photos. Shanghai had a great feel to it, it was lively but had a great mix of old and new buildings that are lit up at night and the town planners had put slot of thought into the skyline which is amaing by night no matter what side of the bund you're on. Easy to get around too, get for drinks by the river, watching the boats go by and a good variety of food.