12.01.2013 - 21.01.2013
It's now over a week since we left South East Asia, jetting off to Hong Kong from a short overnighter in Bangkok, and we really do feel like we're in somewhere completely different and special. The Hong Kong part of it was pretty functional, we couldn't afford to spend too much time (or money!) there, but it was the easiest way to get a Chinese visa in one day. That didn't mean we didn't enjoy it or weren't bowled over by the place. If we can, we're thinking we'll come back here for our flight to Sri Lanka and spend more than 2 days in the place. Otherwise, it's yet another place for the list for next time. It's a crazy place, incredibly efficient and high-tech, lots of rules and some very British nuances where the local people patiently queue for things - very different to the jostling in SE Asia!
We had a painful time getting train tickets for China, but we finally managed to get the last 2 bunks on an overnight train headed for our first destination in China - Huangshan. We bid a find farewell to HK and also to Facebook, Youtube and some elements of Google along the way. The highlight of this town is the hunking great mountain of the same name.
Knowing that this was the plan, we knew our first task was to get kitted out for the winter climes. Yet again, we're facing winter after leaving winter behind in Bolivia in July, and the Patagonian glaciers in September, but this time we had optimistically sent home our winter coats and alpaca woolies from Bangkok in October. So, we finally managed to get some lovely warm coats, hats and gloves at a bargain price for back home - $50 each to sort us out. There's a good reason for that,a s we found out a few days later when the zips starting misbehaving on our coats and refusing to zip up or down. Oh well, at least they're working at keeping the cold out.
So back to Huangshan at an average of -3 in the day and -11 at night, so we're definitely not getting better weather than the UK at the moment, but the scenery does make up for it. We spent the day going up impossibly high cable cars, taking in the ethereal and misty views and even getting acquainted with mountain monkeys and squirrels. Stunning isn't a strong enough word to describe it.
Next stop was Hangzhou, a huge city famous for its lakeside scenery. We've been here 3 days now and love the serenity of the landscapes. We even made a trip to the Tea Museum and plantations just outside the lake area which were beautiful and really interesting to see the importance of the tea trade historically and culturally here. Our plan is to head to Suzhou today, and spend a few days pottering around the traditional gardens there, before spending some time in Shanghai and Beijing. It's all going well so far, and despite my fears, we're muddling through with mimes and google translate when we can't communicate in English. It's definitely a breath of fresh (and icy) air being here and we don't regret our decision to come as we feel newly motivated about travelling again.