A Travellerspoint blog

Starbucks, Maccas and Shanghai

sunny

Ahh Shanghai – how I love thee! Unfortunately I became a bit of a Starbucks addict whilst in Shanghai. Not having proper coffee for 2 weeks I thought I would be over having it but my first glimpse of Starbucks and I was in there like Flynn! The thing is I normally boycott Starbucks as it sits alongside Maccas as one of the global domineering companies in the world and the reason why we are losing so many independent coffee shops BUUUUTTTT after 2 weeks with no coffee I was like “Bugger that” and in I gleefully went and ordered a coffee – mmmmmm!!!!

Also after 2 weeks of no western food I was having a bit of a craving. Michelle and I soon justified having Maccas for lunch when Tao, our group leader, said we MUST try the Spicy Chicken burger at Maccas. So of course we had to as it would be rude to ignore the advice of our group leader!!

So I apologise to all independent coffee shops and burger joints - I entered the world of global domination and it was good!!!!

Posted by Arkgecko 20:04 Archived in China Comments (1)

Hangzhou - 10/8/12

No pics - forgot to take the camera!!

all seasons in one day

Hangzhou is by far my favourite city so far and I can see why many Chinese people want to come and live here and why many of the wealthy do. We flew from Chengdu to Hangzhou and the flight has been one of the best I have ever taken. We were all a bit worried as Shanghai had just had a typhoon hit it and it was making its way down to Hangzhou – with less intensity but there was still a chance that our flight would be delayed or cancelled. Thankfully it wasn’t because I would have hated to have missed this city. The pollution is less, as there is little industry here. There are lots of parks and a beautiful, very big lake called West Lake, which you can walk/ride around. Many many people ride bikes here and you can hire them everywhere. We left our hotel early to try and miss the het of the day. The ride was beautiful. I am so glad that I have been riding in Siem Reap these past months as I found the riding easy and the traffic did not scare the pants off me, as it is busy but organised at the same time – definitely not like Cambodia. Luckily there was lots of shade and a cool breeze so the ride was very pleasant. I named my bike Josie and she was very good. Unfortunately Josie did not have a working bell though most of the Chinese seem to ignore the sound of a bell anyway! I solved that problem by singing out loud “DING DING DING DONG DING DONG” and Ni Hao (hello) in big crowds and when people were in the way – that definitely worked. It seems Hangzhou is a bit like London – no one really says hello to each other so I got many smiles, especially from the older ones who greeted me too!

After the ride I went for a walk as I had seen some coffee shops (coffee is rare here) and a Zara shop on our ride. I walked back and found them (also a H&M). I sat and had a yummy coffee and then went into H&M and bought 3 new tops (nothing fancy) as wearing the same 3 singlets for 7 months tends to get boring and they have holes in them – I think I deserved to spend a little on some new clothes!!!

Posted by Arkgecko 19:03 Archived in China Comments (2)

Pandas and cooking

Not at the same time!

sunny

It was time to say goodbye to Princess Jeannie (the boat) and the friends we had made on the journey. I found my little dancing friend and we had one last sing along and dance. We also had to say good bye to Tiffany, which was very sad, as she had become one of us! No more mahjong games with her.

We disembarked in Chongqing – city of 30 million people!! The thought astounded me as that is more than the whole population of Australia. The city was huge, traffic busy and pollution shocking. I just can’t conceive living in a place with that many people. The train station was massive!!! We had to catch a train to Chengdu. Thankfully we have no more crappy ‘K’ trains to catch and we are only using the nice fast speed trains. It was like being on an aeroplane. The train had ‘attendants’, you could ask for a blanket, there was tea and coffee and meals to buy. There were even TVs!!!

The main reason for stopping at Chengdu is to visit the Panda Breeding Centre. Up early we arrived at the centre with hoards of other tourists. Thankfully we are a small group so we managed to miss most of the hoards. The pandas are just gorgeous but it is no wonder that they are facing extinction – they are dumb!!! They only mate once per year and are fussy with who they want to be with. When they do fall pregnant and have the baby they actually do not know what to do with it (especially if it is their first). A panda is anywhere between 50 – 75kg and the baby is only (on ave.) 100g so it is tiny. It also comes out pink – with no fur. They show video footage of some mother pandas swatting the baby around thinking it is food (as they eat rats!). The panda keepers have to rattle the cage to distract the mother and so someone can run in to get the baby!
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We also got to see red pandas – which look nothing like a panda or a bear. They are like a mixture of a raccoon, cat, dog and fox but very very cute. When they are born they look like one of those creatures before it turns into a gremlin!
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Some of us also chose to take a cooking class today. I was definitely up for it, as I basically have not cooked for 7 months. We learnt how to make sweet and sour pork, which is NOTHING like what we get back at home. Then it was schezuan chicken, spicy eggplant and dumplings. After each dish we got to eat it and I must say my Chinese cooking aint half bad. Everything was so easy and quick to make with core ingredients of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, cornflour, salt, pepper, sugar and chilies. The lady was very good and thoiugyt we were very funny especially when we were making the dumplings. She showed over and over again the 2 different styles of folding the dumpling but most of us, especially me, were crap at it and our end product was a motley mix. I decided that since I could not do it I would just create my own designs such as a handbag and Australia - the lady loved my Australia.

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Posted by Arkgecko 01:54 Archived in China Comments (0)

Fengdu Ghosts

sunny

Our ‘off boat’ excursion today was a visit to Fengdu Ghost City and over 400 stairs!!! The whole concept of the Ghost City is about Chinese Heaven and Hell, the many challenges that you face whilst on your journey and the punishments and rewards you will be given. Our tour guide was very good and explained all the stories well. Some of the challenges were having to walk over a gate with your right foot first (for females) – if you used the wrong foot you would change gender!!! Another one was balancing on a rock for 3 seconds. I am glad to say that I passed all of the challenges and made the 400 stair hike in disgusting heat and humidity!! The poor tour guide does the trip 3 – 4 times a day and then has to walk to the 7th floor to get to her apartment!!! She must have some amazing calves and butt!!!! When we were at the top looking at the amazing view, she explained to us that before the dam her city was now where the river went. What an amazing thought to know that where you used to live is now completely under water and will never be seen again. The government built a whole new city and if you owned an apartment you were offered another one but if you rented – too bad. But they gave no money to decorate and fit out the apartment. Many people were displaced because of the building of the dam and as the tour guide said you can replace a building but you cannot replace memories.

My favourite part of the day – seeing the quote “Kindness presents peace”.
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Posted by Arkgecko 01:39 Archived in China Comments (0)

Boats, mahjong and singing.

sunny

Our side trip for today was a (smaller) boat trip down the Shen Nv stream. The boat was very touristy but cute at the same time. As a result of the Three Gorges Dam the waters are now higher and boats can go further down the stream. During these months the water is higher than usual and you could see the parts of the pathways that were built along the side of the gorge were now underwater. We were allowed to get off at one part and have a little look around. There really wasn’t far to go and trying to get a photo without one of our fellow Chinese tourists or a curl of smoke from one of the many many cigarettes being smoked was a huge accomplishment. However on the whole the stream and gorge was beautiful. The sides of the gorge were covered in many green trees and moss but our guide said that autumn was a better time, as the leaves of the trees turn red. That would be an amazing sight. The area does not have many communities as they were moved on when the dam was built. If you do choose to live there it would be an extremely quiet existence but definitely a beautiful one.

The guide we had for the tour was very good even though she spoke completely in Chinese. We do have an English-speaking guide with us too but it was entertaining watching the Chinese-speaking guide. She was very animated and got us involved in a few activities. One of them was a ‘romantic story’ song where the guys had to make one response and the girls another – very cute.

The afternoon was spent playing one of my favourite games – mahjong. The ship has these special mahjong tables that shuffle your tiles and build your walls for you (you would have to know mahjong to understand how exciting this is). The Chinese people play so fast but then I realised when we started playing that they only go for straight mahjong hands – not any special ones. We had many of the ladies around us advising what to do next with stern mutters or excited yelps. It is amazing that with the language barrier we have that we can learn off them and develop new strategies. I really was born to be a senior cit!!!!

After the success of the welcome party I was wondering what the ship’s Crew Performance was going to be like. I knew that it would be loud! Arriving at the Jade Room we were seated in our VIP seats (right at the back in the corner!) and Tao was soon asking us if we would like to perform anything. Will had been talking about this all day so jumped at the chance and the rest of us were dragged in for support. Will decided to sing Waltzing Matilda and it was us girls who had to sing the chorus. The crowd seemed to enjoy it – there was a lot of hand clapping and photo taking. Michelle had a great idea of doing a kid’s song so we could get all the kids involved so we decided on ‘Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes’. They loved it – especially when we went really quickly at the end. The parents thought it was hilarious too and we got lots of thank yous! The crew performed a modeling show, a few dances and a few songs – all in all it was a much better night then I thought it was going to be. One of the funniest parts was the beer sculling competition. The participants had to drink it through one of those twirly straws. What was funny but also so wrong at the same time was the fact that all the kids were standing on the chairs clapping and shouting out the Chinese version of ‘scull scull scull’ – hmmmm I wonder what Australia’s anti alcohol campaign would make of that!tIMG_9978.jpgIMG_9972.jpgIMG_9970.jpgIMG_9969.jpgIMG_9967.jpgIMG_9961.jpgIMG_9960.jpgIMG_9957.jpgIMG_9956.jpgIMG_9949.jpgIMG_9944.jpg

Posted by Arkgecko 01:54 Archived in China Comments (0)

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