Travel Blog for Fredrik and Gunnhild

2009 China in October

China Planning

China Planning

The first big step is done, we have bought the tickets to China.

Our current plan is to fly into Shanghai from Europe, from there we will fly to Datong (Hanging monastry), take a night train to Beijing, fly to Xining, take a 24 hour train to Lasha (Tibet), fly to Chengdu (Giant Panda), fly to Xi’an (Terra-cotta Warriors), fly to Guilin (cruise on Li river), fly to Huangshan (Great mountain view) and then fly back to Shanghai before we go back to Europe.

We have not ordered anything of the trip in China so this plan can be changed. But we are 99% sure about the places we would like to visit.

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On our way

In a few hours we’re on our way to China!! The first few days we will stay with Monica and Stian in Shanghai. We have booked a flight to Datong on Tuesday and plan to stay there for 2 nights. That should be enough to see the main sights (Yungang caves, The hanging monastery, Drum tower, Nine dragon screen etc.).

We will try to catch a train from Datong to Beijing on Thursday and will spend at least 4 nights there. There’s a lot of things to see in and around Beijing, and we’re also concidering a 1 day hike on The Great Wall.

Our plan after Beijing was to take the train to Lhasa, Tibet. But at the moment Tibet is closed (http://new.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=16384) so we will have to wait until we’re in China to plan/order the rest of the trip, and might have to change the itinerary a bit. No problem at all!

Shanghai

Arrived in Shanghai today after a 10 hour flight from Frankfurt. The airport here in Shanghai must be the smoothest airport in the world, we hardly had to wait for anything.

The taxi to Stian and Monica was fast, cheap and a bit scary, but the welcome was warm and the beer was cold!

After enjoying the view from the 25th floor we went for a walk in the neighborhood, The French Concession. We had lunch in a modern chinese restaurant and Monica picked her favorite dishes for us all to share.

Lunch Shanghai

After some electronics shopping in a huge and slightly confusing shopping mall we picked up a few different world beers and headed back to the apartment, since Monica and Stian were leaving for the Philippines in a few hours.
So now we are all alone in a modest apartment (3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms) in a small, charming city (approx. 13 millon people) and look forward to a good night’s sleep since none of us slept much on the flight.

Sightseeing Shanghai

Shangahi Panorama

We started the day with breakfast at a local sandwich place, and then took a taxi to The Bund – Shanghai’s Champs-Elysées. This was somehow a disappointment, because the whole area was under renovation for the upcoming Expo, but still the colonial buildings were nice and we managed to get some views to the new business area Pudong.

The Bund

We tried to to follow Lonely planet’s walk in the old town, but after too many markets we took some shortcuts and spent some relaxing time in some of the parks in the area instead.

One of the more exiting shortcuts was our walk through some of the old town alleys where all activities like haircuts, cooking and bicycle repairs happened in the street.

Old Town

Shanghai – Datong

We didn’t get the best start to the day since Fredrik woke up with a flu. In the pharmacy a point to the nose started an impressive mime show behind the counter and we could pick the exact medicine we needed. We took it slow with a nice breakfast at Monica’s second home – Costa. We went to the airport early, but everything went smooth. We were the only “white people” at the flight and got used to being stared at before take off. After a 3 hour flight we arrived at the very small airport in Datong, and took a taxi to the hotel. We felt a bit crazy when booking, and paid 11 NOK extra to get a deluxe room. Luxury!

When we arrived we booked a taxi for the whole day tomorrow to take us to Yungang Caves and the Hanging Monastery (250 NOK. Nice!). We’re being picked up at 8 am, so we decided to take a slow evening and had dinner in the fancy, Chinese restaurant in the hotel. When the food was served the entire table next to us turned around to watch us eat. 🙂

Diner on Garden hotel

Datong sightseeing

After a small taste of the huge breakfast buffet we were picked up by our taxi for the day at 8 am. For the first time so far in China the taxi driver actually spoke some English and tried to tell us a bit about the things we saw on the way to the Hanging Monastery. We also stopped to visit an old man living in an even older cave. Last year he even got electricity and a TV.

Kitchen to old man in cave

We arrived at the Buddhist Hanging Monastery at 0930, before the big crowds. The Monastery is more than 1400 years old and is built hanging off the cliffs about 50 meters above ground supported by long stilts. It was very impressive from below, but walking on the catwalks was a bit sceary since they were narrow and the fences were built for small Chinese and not tall Norwegians.

Hanging Monastery (Xuankong Si)

Our next stop was the 5th century Yungang Caves containing 51000 ancient statues. The carving of the caves has combined the Indian Buddhism and the Chinese traditional art. The statues are from a few centimeters high to 17 meters and they are all very impressive! They were renovating the area around the caves and building a huge park, so this will probably be an even better tourist destination in the future.

Yungang Grottoes

Back in Datong our taxi driver dropped us off at his favorite noodle restaurant, and we managed to order even if the menu was in Chinese and the staff hardly knew an English word. Great lunch! In the afternoon we stopped by some of the downtown sights like the Drum Tower and the Nine Dragon Wall – a 45 meter long glazed tile wall built in 1392.

Nine-dragon Screen

Tomorrow we had planned to go to Beijing by train, but we decided that it was a lot easier to book a flight online than to try to get train tickets. Also we pretty much get an extra day in Beijing since we’re taking a morning flight.

Beijing

This short post is to get you out there who are reading this to comment on our trip and update us on what’s going on back home :). We understand both Norwegian and English (no Chinese please).

For you that do not know, facebook is unavailable here in China (we are breaking the law when using it).
Our cellphones are very unstable here (Gunnhild received one SMS 11 times and others may have been lost).

We arrived in Beijing this morning and will add more information and pictures later.

Beijing – Day one

After a very short flight from Datong we arrived in the hotel 1130. We decided to explore Beijing on foot and a natural place to start was Tiananmen Square since it is just a couple of blocks from our hotel. But most of the area was closed off because of a parade or something, and it was total chaos with people everywhere. After walking around for a while we decided to take a taxi to a different part of town instead. We had a beer on the roof terrace of the Drum & Bell Bar, but we were not able to visit either the Drum tower or the Bell Tower since they were both closed for renovation until tomorrow.

We walked around in the narrow alleyways of Beijing called hutongs. Some of them were mainly residential and easy to get lost in. Others were filled with small shops, charming restaurants and even a couple of hotels. One of the hutong bars had Irish coffee on the menu, and we could not resist to try it. Surprise! It was good!

Hutongs

In the evening we confirmed that the Tiananmen Square was still a complete chaos and walked down Qianmen Dajie instead. This is the main street south of the gates to Tiananmen Square and when the forbidden city belonged to the Qing emperors this was the area for the Chinese people. There’s a lot of old stores in the area, specializing in things like herbal medicine, tea, silk and pickles. The local “pharmacy” has been in business since 1669. We ended up in one of the hutongs to the west of the street and had dinner in a very local, Chinese restaurant where the other guests had a cigarette in one hand, chop sticks in the other, used the floor as an ashtray and left the table as a huge mess. Bizarre but charming!

Zhengyan Gate

Beijing – Day two

This morning we found out that the Autumn Festival was in the first week of October this year and because of that the October vacation was extended with one day (yesterday). In addition we learned that this years most popular destination was Beijing and the Tiananmen Square. No wonder it was chaotic!

Tiananmen Square

Beijing is a bit bigger than expected and it takes time to travel around, so we decided to stay one more day (until Tuesday). Today we took it slow and started with a visit to the Olympic area and especially the birds nest. The views were great, the architecture was impressive and the area was huge. Not as much staring anymore, but several Chinese people asked if they could have their picture taken with us. 🙂

National Stadium (Bird's Nest)

After a Chinese lunch (we’re getting good at both ordering and using the chop sticks) we spent some time in the Lama temple, most of the buildings are from the 15th century. Relaxing, quiet and very beautiful. The most impressive part was the 18 meter high Buddha statue sculptured from one single block of sandalwood.

Yonghe Lamasery (Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery)

Beijing – Day three

Today we got up at 7 am to beat the queues at the Forbidden City. There were still a lot of people, but we got in without much waiting and walked around for a few hours. The renovated buildings in the outer yard were the most impressive, while the narrow and worn-down areas on the sides were the most charming. Beautiful details were found everywhere like the statues, the decorated roofs, the stairs and bridges, the huge doors and the 250 ton carved carriageway. On the way out we tried to get up in one of the towers to get a good view over Tiananmen square, but the lines were insane and we were not allowed to bring any bags, so we skipped it and made an old Chinese man very happy by giving him our tickets.

Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian)

The Tiananmen Square was still chaotic since it was filled with floats from the parade in addition to several enormous flower decorations and screens showing highlights from the Olympic Games in Beijing. We soon got tired of the chaos and went for a quiet lunch before going to CITS (China International Ticket Service) to try to arrange our trip to Tibet. They could not help us at all and had no idea who could. We contacted a different travel agency wo gave us the email address to a Mr. Liu that might be able to help us with our permits. Still waiting for a response.

Taihe (Suprime Harmony Hall)

We spent the afternoon in The Temple of Heaven Park. It was very peaceful and quiet compared to where we spent the first part of the day, but there were still a lot to see and do. The park was used for flying kites, playing badminton etc. The main sight within the park was the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, built without using nails. The Imperial Vault of Heaven was placed inside a round wall named the echo wall, where you should be able to hear whispering from one side to another. The Round Alter was also impressive, and a bit different from all the Chinese architecture we have seen the last few days.

Temple of Heaven

In the evening we tried to take a taxi to Nan Luogu Xiang where there are plenty of small bars and restaurants, but all taxis were busy. After a long time and a long walk we finally saw someone getting out of a taxi and we were on our way. But the whole city was one big traffic jam, so we spent 30 minutes on queues and detours. It was quite an interesting experience though, with people leaving their cars on red lights to ask for directions and driving on the wrong side of the road or in the bisycle lane. We had dinner at a small pizzeria and stopped at a bar for an Irish Coffee on our way home.

Beijing – Day four

Based on the experiences from yesterday, we decided to try the same approach for the Summer Palace, and got up early to take a taxi from the hotel. There were no queues and hardly any tour groups when we got there, but they poured in throughout the day. We started in the area around the East Palace Gate with the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, The Great Stage and The Heralding Spring Pavilion. We had a coffee and some cookies on the shore of the lake before walking over the top of the hill to the Hall of the Buddha Confirming his Doctrine, and down to Suzhou Street, a charming area around the Back Lake.

Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)

We went back up to the top of the hill to see the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha and several pavilions, halls and gates on the way down to The Long Corridor (728 meters). From the end of the corridor we took a boat to the South Lake Island and walked the Seventeen-Arch Bridge back to where we started.

Details Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)

Some of the buildings were impressive, but most of them were very similar to what we saw yesterday. But the lake were beautiful and on the hill there were plenty of caves and interesting stone structures. We even did some geocaching in the woods.

When we got back to the hotel we had an email from Mr. Liu waiting, and getting into Tibet is not easy. So we need some more time to get everything in order and have booked flights to Xi’an and Chengdu for now, and will probably go to Guilin as well before Tibet.

In the evening we went to a restaurant not too far from the hotel to taste the famous Peking Duck. After trying to figure out the details of the menu, we ended up with ordering a “package meal” which included 1 duck, special pancakes, sauce and different vegetables. Very good!

Peking Duck

Tomorrow we will spend the whole day on The Great Wall!!

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

As the morning people we are we got up at 6 am, put on our hiking gear and left in our prebooked taxi with destination Jinshanling, a 2,5 hour drive. We were a bit worried for the views since it was very foggy in the morning, but when we arrived in Jinshanling the sun came through. We had to argue a bit with both the driver and all the “local experts” regarding our route, because we wanted to take the long hike and they tried to convince us to take the shortest route using the cable car. We did it our way and walked the westernmost path to the wall, and even walked further east from there to see the view from The West Tower with Five Holes. On a clear day you should be able to see the Simatai range from here, but we had some haze and couldn’t see quite that far.

Jinshanling

We walked back east to the Zhuandou pass where we started and continued east from there towards Simatai. A few other tourists had entered the wall by now, but most of them went back down to Jinshanling using the cable car. The wall close to Jinshanling was restored in the 80’s but after an hour of hiking most of the wall was in it’s original condition. Still we only had to leave the wall shortly on two occasions to get around areas/towers that were not secured.

Jinshanling

One of the reasons we started early was to beat the crowds everyone was telling us about. We knew that this part of the wall was probably not as busy, but having the wall pretty much to ourselves was not expected. We met a couple of other groups doing the hike, talked a bit to some people from New Zealand and also shared experiences with a dutch couple walking in the opposite direction.

Jinshanling

The haze disappeared slowly during the day, the sun got warmer and warmer, the wall got steeper and steeper and the views were absolutely amazing the whole way. By the time we reached the highest point we were sweating in shorts and t-shirts, our legs were a bit sore, our cameras were running warm but we were still smiling from ear to ear. We enjoyed our lunchbox from the hotel and started our climb down to Simatai. This part of the wall was not as hard as the first part but it was still some steep climbs both up and down. Just before arriving in Simatai we heard some thunder, but we had time for both t-shirt shopping and a beer before the rain came.

Simatai

By the time we arrived at the hotel we were too tired to go out for dinner, so we went to the Italian restaurant at the 20th floor of our hotel. We were quite hungry after a long day and enjoyed a three course dinner with the views of Tiananmen Square.

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Beijing – Xi’an

After an early evening and a late morning we checked out of the hotel in Beijing and headed for the airport. After a 2 hour flight we arrived in Xi’an and took a taxi to our downtown hotel. On the way we organized a tour for tomorrow which was a bit challenging since the taxi driver only spoke Chinese. But with a phonecall we were able to confirm that we had agreed on what we thought we had agreed on.

The hotel in Xi’an was very cheap so we had booked an excecutive room. This was a bit more fancy than expected, and it took us nearly 10 minutes to turn on the bathroom lights… 😉 The best part was access to the executive lounge where we spent quite a bit of time drinking beer and making travel arrangements.

We found a very nice Chinese restaurant just down the street and had a great, spicy, vegetarian dinner. We had a table close to the kitchen area and were quite facinated by watching the five chefs prepare the food.

We did not take a single photo today (!!) but the rest of our photos should be available under “More photos” (to the right).

Xi’an

Xi’an

We were picked up by the brother of our taxi driver from yesterday at 9 am. He took us to The Army of Terracotta Warriors – known as the 8th wonder of the world. This is a huge archeological site still being excavated, and they have found more than 7000 full sized terracotta warriors and horses. Each soldier is very detailed and they all have individual features, hair and facial expressions.

Terracotta Army

On the way back to the city center we stopped at two other archeological sites. The Tomb of Qin Shi Huang is believed to be one of the grandest mausoleums ever. The tomb reputedly took 38 years to complete and required a workforce of 700000 people! But it is considered too dangerous to excavate, so there wasn’t really much to see. The Banpo Neolithic Village feature the 6000-year-old ruins of a village, the earliest example of the Neolithic Yangshao culture.

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Back in Xi’an we booked a meeting with a travel agent and went for a bike ride on the city walls. They are around 12 meters high, wide and 14 kilometers long. Half way around the wall, we saw very dark smoke coming up from just inside the wall 3 kilometers away, it was a big fire!

Xi'an City Wall

Xi'an City Wall

At 6 pm we met with the travel agent in the executive lounge and finally managed to arrange our trip to Tibet. It wasn’t cheap but we got it exactly as we wanted. Soft sleeper (which is very difficult to get) on the train from Xining to Lhasa on Sunday, 2 full days for sightseeing in Lhasa and a flight from Lhasa to Chengdu.

We have updated our travel map!

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Xi’an – Chengdu

Xi’an – Chengdu

Most of this day was spent waiting and traveling, but we had time for some city sightseeing in the morning. We walked by the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower before going into the Muslim quarter. The first part was mostly souvenir shops, but we managed to find a more genuine part as well where all kinds of food where cooked in the streets.

Moslem Street

We also stopped at the Great Mosque, founded in the 8th century. Very peaceful and an interesting blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. The minaret was disguised as a pagoda.

After a lunch buffet (35 NOK) and a beer at the hotel we took a taxi to the airport. Our flight was quite late by the time we reached Chengdu. We also had a little trouble finding our hotel since it was located on the 27th floor in the back of a shopping mall. But both the room and the view was nice.

Chengdu

Chengdu

We started the day with a huge, western breakfast at a cozy place called Grandma’s Kitchen. We took a taxi to the Giant Panda Breading Research Base, home to nearly 50 giant and red pandas. We only got to see some of them though, because parts of the park were closed off most of the day. Frustrating!

Red Panda

But we got to watch several pandas up close and it was fascinating to see them eat and climb around. One even got stuck hanging upside down a couple of times. At the end of the day we were finally allowed to go to the nursery as well, but it was no longer possible to hold a panda as we had planned. The new born pandas were cute, the smallest one was only a couple of weeks old and had a birth weight below 0,1 kilo.

Giant Panda

In the eventing we went for pizza and got to taste our first dark, Chinese beer (Jintebeer). Not bad! We continued to an Irish Pub to give Guinness a try in China as well. Based on the taste we’re pretty sure it’s shipped from Dublin. We met a nice American who was in Chengdu on business, and had a great evening chatting over a few pints.

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Leshan

Leshan

After a 2 hour bus-ride from Chengdu we arrived in Leshan and took a tour boat to get a panoramic view of the Giant Buddha (Dafo) from the river. The 71 m tall Buddha is carved into a cliff overlooking the river, and with a shoulder span of 28 m and 7 m long ears it was quite impressive.

Giant Buddha

After getting back to the docks we entered the Giant Buddha park containing several temples, tombs and museums. We walked up the hill to the Buddha”s head and lined up for the steep stairway down the cliff to his feet (each big toe is 8,5 m long!). When leaving the park we found a local bus back to the bus station and were back in Chengdu around 7.30 pm. We walked from the bus station to the hotel and stopped for dinner on the way.

Giant Buddha Foot

Tomorrow morning we are traveling to Xining, and will catch the train to Lhasa in the afternoon.

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Xining

We got up at 6 am (again!) to take the 8:05am flight to Xining. All we had was an address in Chinese to where we should pick up the tickets. We were dropped off outside an office building but did not know the name or the floor of the company. With some help from the locals and some qualified guessing we found the office, but it was closed. Using “sign language” we were able to borrow a cell phone on the street and call our travel agent in Xi’an. After a while someone showed up and we got our train tickets and Tibet permits.

Xining

The reason we took the first flight was to have enough time to arrange everything before the 4 pm train. But the tickets were for the 7:33pm train, so suddenly we had a lot of time in Xining. We had lunch at a local restaurant close to the night market and walked around in the area trying to find somewhere we could connect to the internet. This was a bit difficult since most streets were under renovation, we had our suitcases with us and the taxi drivers refused to take us where we wanted to go. So we went to the train station and stored our bags while shopping supplies for the train journey. We sat down in the soft sofas in the soft sleeper waiting room, and after a while we heard someone speaking Norwegian and went over to say hi. It was a nice couple from Trondheim and we sat down with them and their guide. The train was delayed and it was close to 9 pm before we could board. Luckily the guide’s girlfriend helped us out, because boarding was a complete chaos with people running around and yelling. Our beds were already taken, so in the end we ended up sharing a cabin with our Norwegian friends Tore & Elisabeth. By the time the train left Xining it was already dark, so after a quick dinner (beef & vegetables) in the dining car we went to bed.

Xining

The world’s highest railway

The world’s highest railway

We woke up around 8:30am and the views from the train were amazing. We could see snow capped mountains, large desert plateaus, small villages, beautiful lakes, nomad tents and wonderful colors everywhere. 80% of the Golmund to Lhasa stretch is over 4000 meters, and the highest point is the Tanggu-la pass (5072 m) There were oxygen available on the train, but after drinking liters of water we did not need it. The train track itself is quite impressive as well. It was opened in 2006, has 160 km of bridges and elevated track and is mostly built over perma frost where some places cooling pipes has been inserted to keep the ground frozen in summer.

Train to Tibet

The further we got into Tibet the more villages, Yak herds, antelopes and pilgrims could be seen. We spent most of the time sitting in our cabin looking out the window, reading guide books and discussing travels with Tore and Elisabeth. They had been to several places we had been, like Peru and Australia, and we had a lot to talk about.

Train to Tibet

Since the train was delayed from Xining and the guide told us it was usually an hour extra delayed into Lhasa we laid down to relax when the sun went down, expecting to be in Lhasa no earlier than 10 pm. But at 8:30 pm the train suddenly stopped and we could see people getting off. So we had to pack up in a hurry and get off the train.

Train to Tibet

Our guide met us at the train station, but Tore and Elisabeth were not as lucky. They came with us to our hotel while trying to figure out what happened. There had been some mix-up, but the guide were soon located and came to pick them up. We went to bed early and really enjoyed our “soft” beds. All beds in China are extremely hard, but these were quite ok.

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Lhasa – Day 1

Lhasa – Day 1

Our guide picked us up at 9.30 am and took us to the Drepung Monastery, the biggest monastery in Tibet. It was founded in 1416 by one of the disciples of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the yellow hat sect and the first Dalai Lama. We walked the pilgrim route (kora) around the monastery, always going clockwise. Lots of prayer flags could be seen in the nearby mountains.

Lhasa

Our next stop was Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama Summer Palace. This was a nice and quiet park containing several palaces and chapels. There were several large paintings on the walls showing the Tibetan history, from monkeys to farmers and building of bridges and palaces. The Dalai Lama bedroom and meditation room has been kept exactly as he left them when he fled to India in 1959.

Lhasa

We had a Yak-burger for lunch in the Barkhor area before heading to the 1300-year-old Jokhang Temple which is the spiritual center of Tibet. Jokhang means “chapel of the Jowo” and the golden Jowa Sakyamuru Buddha statue is the most revered in all of Tibet. The views from the roof was also very nice, both towards the roofs and halls of the temple but also to Barkhor and the Potala Palace.

Lhasa

We enjoyed coffee, tea, orange juice and great views from a terrace bar on the corner of the Barkhor square before heading back to the hotel for some travel arrangements and relaxation. There was a charming Tibetan restaurant in the hotel, so we decided to eat there. Most of the other guests were playing some sort of dice game (probably a drinking game, since the waiters were bringing loads of beer). We had two different Yak courses which were very good, and also tasted fried yogurt after recommendations from the waiter. Surprisingly good!

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Lhasa – Day 2

Lhasa – Day 2

We were picked up at 9 am and went straight to the Potala Palace, once the seat of the Tibetan government and the winter residence of the Dalai Lamas. The 13 storey palace is built on the highest point in Lhasa, the 130 meter high Red Hill and contains more than a thousand rooms. We were not allowed to take photos inside the palace, but got to see hundreds of impressive Buddha statues and mandalas, pilgrims offering yak butter and ceremonial scarves called khatak, the tombs of previous Dalai Lamas and the apartments of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lama. Thousands of kilos of gold were used for the tombs and some of them were over 13 meters high. The layout of the Potala Palace includes the White Palace used for living quarters for the Dalai Lama, and the Red Palace in the middle used for religious functions.

Lhasa

Lhasa

After eating Yak all day yesterday we went for a western breakfast with eggs, toast and hash browns. Yummy! We walked the pilgrim circuit (kora) clockwise around the Barkhor area and were quite fascinated by all the pilgrims in their colorful costumes from different parts of Tibet. Along the route there are hundreds of stalls selling prayer flags, block prints of scriptures, jewelery, yak butter, juniper incense, Tibetian art, clothes and souvenirs. Fascinating!

Lhasa

At 2.30 pm we were picked up to go to the Sera Monastery, the second largest Monastery in Tibet. This was, like the Drepung Monastery we visited yesterday, founded by a disciple of Tsongkhapa (in 1419). The sights were quite similar as well but the highlight of the visit was the monks debating in the garden next to the assembly hall. They debate in Tibetan, but their rituals, hand clapping and gestures makes it very interesting to watch.

Lhasa

In the evening we went back to the restaurant in the hotel to try some of the other local dishes (our guide actually recommended this restaurant). Again the food was excellent, and the locals were playing dice games and drinking loads of beer. The waitress obviously wanted us to drink more as well and lifted the glass which means bottoms up in Tibet. Luckily the glass was small! After dinner we were invited over to another table to drink with a group of Tibetans that only knew a few words in English (happy-happy, cheers and sorry). Of course they all wanted to do the bottoms-up with us (one by one), so we were quite “happy-happy” when going to bed. When their three english words was not enough they called a friend who spoke English and she translated over the phone. Quite an interesting and fun evening!

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Lhasa – Chengdu – Guilin

Lhasa – Chengdu – Guilin

Our guide took us to the airport and brought us to the first class check in. The flight was slightly delayed, but we still had several hours in Chengdu before our next flight to Guilin. We took a taxi to the Panda research base and made sure that nothing was closed before entering the park. We walked straight to the nursery and made a “donation” of 1000 yuan each. This earned us the right to hold, pet and feed a Giant Panda cub. We were dressed up in sterile clothes and waited on a bench while they prepared the panda. It was bigger than expected but not too heavy and very soft and cuddly. The staff took plenty of pictures with both our cameras. We continued to the mother and cub enclosure where three cubs were playing around. Very cute!

Chengdu

We had lunch in the park before heading back to the airport. When booking the ticket to Guilin most flights were full, so we ended up with a first class ticket (still cheap!). The first class lounge was not much to write home about, but we got to check our emails with a chocholate and a cup of coffee/tea on the side. When boarding the plane we got to skip the queues and got our own comfy bus to the plane which was quite nice. The Chinese really dont know how to behave in a queue. Large seats, great food and presonal service was not bad either. 🙂 On the way to the hotel we got our first glimse of the karst topography surrounding this small city (pop 740000).

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Guilin

Guilin

The must-do-thing in Guilin is the cruise on the Li River, so we booked this when arriving at the hotel yesterday. We went by bus to the dock and boarded a river boat together with some Germans and Americans, loads of Swedes and even a few Norwegians. We spent most of the 5 hour cruise on the very hot viewing deck and the scenery was beautiful. There was not much water in the river, and about half-way we got stuck but one of the other boats were able to pull us off.

Guilin

When reaching Yángshuò we were supposed to have some time for shopping in the touristy main street. Luckily we were delayed and went straight through to find the bus for our afternoon tour to the Yulong River. We stopped in a small village to see how the local farmers lived, and to see the 600-year-old Dragon Bridge. We used bamboo rafts to travel up the Yulong River and were entertained by a local folk song singer on the way to a small dam. We walked along rice paddies and got postcard views towards the Dragon Bridge. In the field we were allowed to pet and feed water buffaloes. On the way back we got to see how trained birds were used for fishing.

Guilin

Back in Guilin we went for a quick dinner in an Irish Bar, a short city sightseeing and then back to the hotel to pack and get some sleep.

Guilin

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