22.01.2013 - 06.02.2013 -1 °C
So far, China has been really coming up trumps and we have to pinch ourselves to believe we're really here. Every day we're learning about the history and culture, being delighted with the beauty of the landscapes and architecture, and dealing with the merging of old traditional styles of living with the brash modern skylines of the future. We bloody love it. I mean, it's hard work sometimes, don't get me wrong, it's just not as hard as I thought it would be. So the biggest hurdles we've had to deal with is transport - specifically the necessity of booking train tickets as soon as they become available 20 days in advance during the Chinese New Year period. Oh my god, we've still got 4 days before the event, but we've had to book hotels and train tickets and spent a lot more than we should have to secure transport around this time. We are the most organised we've ever been with transport and accomodation booked from now until near the end of the month. as we've had to be be. We're also not big fan of the hacking and spitting the locals seem to find necessary, or the smog or the smokers, but finding veggie dumplings has more than made up for it.
Ok, so after nearly 10 months on the road, we are also tired of being hard on ourselves, eating local, not splurging on food so much, keeping to a budget. We've actually gone down the slippery slope of eating at Pizza Hut. Then McDonalds followed, with a craving for a Fillet o Fish. Then Subway for a breakfast cheese and egg baguette. It's cheap, easy, wecan read the menu and we just want normal food for a while, especially when it's so bloody cold. We have also found some great dumpling places that have veggie options, and also treated ourselves to a vegetarian meal in Beijing where they had a mock meat Peking Duck option. All I can say is Nom.
Suzhou was gorgeous with the style of traditional Chinese gardens that you see in photos and wish yourselves being in. Tranquil, serene, gorgeous. Beautiful historic areas by the canalside, with lovely bridges and so on. Shanghai was brilliant, a taste of the Jetsons - this is the future of China. You don't get a sense of feeling like an amoeba until you're at the foot of an insanely huge skyscraper on the Pudong skyline, and your neck can't quite crane enough to get all of it in one gulp. I wasn't a huge fan of Qufu, home of Confucius, but Dave loved it. Beijing, was an odd place. With only 4 days in the place, we managed to be enthralled with the Forbidden City, with echoes of The Last Emperor coming to us in every corner, the Summer Palace, the hutong areas but the highlight was undoubtedly the Great Wall.
We visited the Mutianyu section, which was about 18K out of Beijing, with some great advice from Kacy who had been there 6 months previously in much sunnier conditions. With our visit, there was snow. A lot of snow, but that made it feel so magical, especially as the weather had put off visitors so a lot of the time, we had it all to ourselves. It is as Great as it sounds or looks on photos, it deserves a capital G. Winding like a dragon over the undulating hills, it's truly an insane proposition that this wall built centuries ago is still standing and goes on for so long. We kept looking at each other going 'we're really here!'. So much fun.
Anyway, currently in Luoyang, having visited the Shaolin Temple of martial arts fame. Off to the Longmen Grottoes tomorrow, and then to spend the Chinese New Year in Pingyao. Being here in the run up is pretty exciting, seeing as we missed having the anticipation of Christmas like back home, we're feeling like we're getting a piece of it back by seeing the bursts of activity going on here. I'll keep you posted next time.