A Travellerspoint blog

Three Gorges Dam

When the guide says it it sounds like Three Gorgeous Dam

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For those who know me well – sleep is an important part of my life and a sure way to guarantee that I am functioning properly. The last few days have been really hectic, with lots of early mornings, travelling and disrupted sleep. Today I rejoiced in the fact that I could sleep in for as long as I wanted (I just had to skip breakfast but that was an easy sacrifice.) The bed in the boat is really comfortable and I was so tired that I did not stir until 9am – wondrous! After lunch we had the main side trip of the ‘cruise’ – a visit to the massive Three Gorges Dam. The dam is the most powerful dam that is creating the most energy in the world. It has a very impressive lock system and an equally impressive ship lift that will be finished in 2015. Personally the wow factor for me was the massive escalator system you went on to get to the viewing area! Definitely no stair climbing today – my style of hill climb! We were given a tour guide who could speak both Chinese and English – his name is Jimmy!!! I think he actually put on a ‘stage’ voice that was a bit of a mixture of Elvis Presley and the Count off Sesame Street. Michelle and I could not stop laughing every time he spoke. I really wish this blog had an audio section or that I had filmed him because he has definitely been a highlight for me!

Being the first ‘proper’ night on board there was a planned welcome party! Scheduled for 7.30pm I arrive 5 mins late and it was over! The speech had been made, the beer in champagne glasses handed out and the 4 plates of food (biscuits, sweet rolls and prawn crackers) were nearly empty!!! By 7.45pm ¾ of the guests had left and there was just a few of us lingering around. It would have to be the shortest party in history! The Chinese like to do everything quick – speak, eat and party! My little friend and I had a bit of a dance until he dropped his biscuit on the floor and his grandfather wouldn’t let him eat it – then it was Little Emperor time – tantrum! The result of China’s one child policy – where boys especially are treated like little emperors! The dancing was over but the card games began.

Tao taught us a Chinese card game called The Landlord. In basic terms it is 2 people against 1 (the renters against the landlord) and it is the first to get all their cards out. The games started with 3 of us but soon turned to 5. A girl in her 20s – Tiffany (her English name!!!) joined us and it was a lot of fun. The game went on for ages and when I went to bed I had to laugh as I thought it would be the Chinese guests who would keep me awake (not only do they talk fast but they talk LOUD) but it was our group playing cards!

Posted by Arkgecko 01:43 Archived in China Comments (0)

Taking the word training too far on a train!

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Another early morning and an 8 hour train trip on the dodgy K train awaited us. Leaving Fenghdu at 4.45am it was a struggle to be in a chirpy mood! Tao warned us that even though we had the hard sleeper booked that there was a very strong chance that somebody would have already slept in it as the train had been going all night! Joy! Not only that but we were separated into different carriages so we had to make sure that we got off at the right stop – Chinese only signs and announcements!!! Yay! On the train we get – carriage 1 bed 17. In the dorm were 2 ladies (I am thinking sisters) and a little one. The floor of the dorm was covered in rubbish and the bed had already been slept in but I was so tired that I didn’t care. Thankfully it wasn’t too hot.

The little boy was very cute. Once he got comfortable with me he was playing with the bells on my pants, hi fiving me and laughing. He had discovered that if he gathered up enough saliva in his mouth he could blow bubbles out of it and then pop them!!

Here is the interesting part of the trip. Babies and toddlers are often seen wearing an outfit that has a split at the front and a split at the back – ensuring that no nappy is required! You can just hold them over a toilet or wherever you fancy and they go to the toilet. It is a method of toilet training in China and many babies are toilet trained to some extent by 18 months. So the little boy had on such a pair of pants. Shock number one – I wake up to see the little boy being held over a plastic bag, with mum whistling (I was soon to learn that the whistling was some sort of recognition) and sooner rather than later he poos into the plastic bag. Ok that was a bit of a cultural shock but hey go with the flow! Shock number 2 – when the little boy decided he needed to so a wee he just squatted there and then in our dorm and proceeded to wee on the floor. Again mum begins to whistle and then just wipes up the wee with tissues and throws the tissues under the bed – oh but not her bed; my bed! Four times I had to see this happen. I get the whole toilet training thing but why she could not take him to the toilet or just for the train ride use a nappy (because she did have nappies with her) is beyond me. Even though he was cute and they were lovely I was glad to be off that train!

  • I have just found out that these trains will no longer be in use as of next month - so not only were they dodgy to begin with but they probably haven't had any decent cleaning/maintenance in the last few months!!!

Posted by Arkgecko 01:36 Archived in China Comments (0)

Traditions

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Up early and off to a local minority village. A two hour bus ride through some beautiful countryside was wonderful. The trip basically followed the river all the way and river life is always interesting to watch. There were children playing, laundry being done, cows having a dip and much much more. Along the banks of the river the locals have grown mainly rice with a few patches of corn here and there. Like most places in Asia the driving leaves you with your heart in your mouth on more than one occasion.

Arriving at the village we had to make our way quickly to the performance area as a traditional dance was being performed BUT before you were allowed in you had to sing a song to the guardians – 3 traditionally dressed women who were holding up like a long blanket to prevent people from entering! As the group consists of 7 Aussies we voted for Waltzing Matilda and amazingly enough our singing passed the test. Some traditional performances can be a little boring but this one was great. The drum plays and major part in the culture so the music was strong. The dances were interesting and you could follow the story. Will was chosen to be a part of the performance and did a fantastic job getting right into it. As part of the performance they throw out silver bangles and lollies, which caused the children to go crazy. Silver is very important in this culture as it protects good from evil.

After the performance we walked through the village, which of course is very touristy now and through to a path along the river which led to a waterfall. It was a very hot day and when we got to one rest spot I decided to stay and not go to the waterfall. I am very glad I did. The rest of the group said the waterfall was not fantastic as there had not been enough rain so its force was almost nothing. Whereas I got to sit under a huge verandah at a local family’s little shop/restaurant. I watched them prepare the vegetables and skewers for lunch and go about their daily lives – one of the aspects I enjoy most about travelling. There were different skewers available for lunch – teeny tiny crabs (shell and all), teeny tiny prawns, water worms, little fish and Chinese sausage. Whilst I was waiting a grandmother and granddaughter decided to stop and also wait in the shade for their group to come back. We started up a conversation made up of entirely hand movements, gestures and pointing at things. She bought us all one of the skewers with tiny fish. They had just been freshly cooked and then they roll them in some chili flakes. It was delicious. I think they may be like a sardine – so it was hot, crunchy, salty and spicy- mmmmmm!!!! When the grandmother and young girl finished theirs they threw their stick into the river and gestured for me to do the same. I tried to mime throwing it in a bin but they just laughed and kept gesturing to throw it in the river. Though I felt terrible for littering I did what the locals do!!!

That night we decided to head out on our own for dinner. Michelle, Will, John, Matt and I went looking for a place to eat. There are so many to choose from and with everything written in Chinese characters it is hard to choose. Eventually we chose one restaurant based on the fact that they had some pictures. What a stir we caused walking in!!! Westerners!!! Oh no!!! How will we serve them!! They grabbed a lady off the table next to ours who could speak English and she translated some of the dishes for us. She was quite funny as she would say – “No not that one it is too expensive.” Finally we ended up with Spicy Beef, Duck Hot Pot, Greens, Rice and a yummy pork dish. Very successful! After Michelle and I went for a wander along the riverbank where ladies set up little market stalls selling anything from key rings to jewelry to fruit. The peaches in this area are beautiful so we stocked up for the train trip ahead of us. I had also bought some caramel, sesame seed; pumpkin seed slice the night before so we went off to find the same mam. He was very happy to see me back and that I had brought a friends. We watched him make his creation and also got chatting to some Chinese tourists who thought we were very beautiful – a bit different to the stares I get in Cambodia because of being a barang tom tom!!!!
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Posted by Arkgecko 01:33 Archived in China Comments (0)

Hong Kong - Fenghuang - what a train trip!

It was goodbye Hong Kong and hello China. What a world of difference. Our introduction probably was not the best – 18 hours on a train though it definitely was a great introduction to Chinese culture and her people. Most foreigners do not take the trains that we were taking so we were a very unique sight to many. The first train trip was just a mere 90mins in air-conditioned comfort. The rest of it was on one of China’s oldest trains. No air conditioning and it is bloody hot here at the moment. We were in a hard sleeper carriage, which is like on an open dorm with 6 bunks. The beds were actually ok for me as beds in Cambodia are rock hard too so I was quite comfortable in that sense. In each ‘dorm’ there is a big thermos that you can fill with hot water from the end of the carriage. This can be for tea, coffee but more importantly for the instant noodles in a bowl. These noodles seem to be an essential item in China – especially for train travel and you can buy them anywhere.

Settling down for a 16 hour train trip in a very hot carriage it was interesting to see how Chinese people travel. Taking very small sips of water was a priority as the toilets were not the best I had ever seen. Unfortunately our “room” was down wind from the toilets so every so often we would get the most beautiful aroma of urine – doesn’t matter where you are in the world it all smells the same. Rubbish is just thrown on the floor and every so often an attendant will come along and sweep it up. At one point I laid down to have a snooze (having the thought that the more I could sleep the quicker the trip would go) I felt something hit my face and arms. Someone had obviously scrapped the remains of their dinner out the window and with the force of the wind from the train bits of it came flying into our window and I was its target. Luckily (?) it was only rice that I had to pick out of my hair, and off my face, arms and bed! Finally at about 4am it felt cold and I actually had to pull my jacket out of my bag. Getting off the train at Jishou all we all wanted was a shower. It was like being in the London Underground in summer. Black snot came out of our noses and our fingernails were black so a shower was on the must do list!!!!

Arriving in Fengdu we were greeted with the sounds of Chinese tourists, with their guide speaking into a megaphone/microphone and loads of buses. The actual old town is beautiful. Full of gorgeous architecture all along the banks of a flowing river. After settling in and SHOWERING!! Tao gave us a tour of the old town. As you can imagine there were lots of photo opportunities. We were shown a local delicacy of ‘long time’ bacon. I am not sure if the use the whole body of the pig but all that was on display was the head.

Going to sleep that night was not an easy task. The guesthouse was on the river bank which ensured beautiful views but also that you were right in the thick of it – with horns creating a melodious song, the toy wooden frogs that are sod everywhere being scraped by the market sellers and the constant chatter of the tourists. At one point I thought there was lightening but when I went out onto my balcony to watch I discovered that it was just the many camera flashes going off.
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Posted by Arkgecko 01:18 Comments (0)

A bit more of Hong Kong

Today was tram day. The trams on Hong Kong Island go up and down the main road. My plan was to just keep getting on and off. What I found really strange is that it doesn’t matter how far you go the price is still the same. It is cheap as chips but still strange that you can go one stop or all stops and pay the same. First I went to the Kennedy Town end. This is more of the burbs but right on the water and quite nice. Luckily a local told me to get off, as I had no idea it was at the end. After a wander around I hopped back on the tram to head in the opposite direction. Getting off at the Peak Tram station I walked up the hill (one of many today) to see a massive queue. It was a beautiful day so understandable that after the last week of rain etc many would be taking the opportunity to see a beautiful view of Hong Kong. The waiting time was at least 1hour and 15 mins – and I was not in the mood to be crammed in a line for that long. Will try another day – maybe at night to see all the lights. Back on the tram to Causeway Bay – shopping galore. OMG there were sooo many people. It is a weekend so I understand that there are more people out and about but there were so many people!!!!! Heading into one department store I soon had multiple perfume samples and a headache! There is really on one floor that I am interested in – shoes and bags of course. But today I discovered another accessory that could become an addiction – umbrellas!!! There were so many, in so many different colours, with so many different patterns. I couldn’t help myself I had to buy one (I hadn’t yet bought one and keep getting wet so really it was a necessity!) It is a grey/blue colour with coloured dots and flowers. It was so hard to choose! I am thinking on my return that maybe I could buy a few more!!! There were even sales assistants there to open them up for you (I know I was in horror as my nan always said that it was very unlucky to open an umbrella inside – as well as put new shoes on a table!). I was trying to close one up and one of the sales assistants took it off me saying I was not doing it right!! Who knew there was a method to closing an umbrella!! Deciding to walk back down the street for a while I was overwhelmed by sights, noises and smells. I found my new favourite food store – red mango. It sells frozen yoghurt with as many toppings as you want. My fav is strawberry yoghurt with New York cheesecake spread, blackberries and strawberries mmmmmmm!!!!

After spending the last couple of days exploring Hong Kong Island I decided it was time to head across the harbour and visit some other areas. Something I really miss in Cambodia is fresh flowers so I dot pointed a visit to Flower Market Rd as a priority. Modes of transport so far have been my feet, taxis and trams – today it was time to tackle the Metro. Like the trains in London and NY you do not have to tackle the system as it is so easy – how many people are on them is another thing altogether. Catching the train up to the top of Nathan Rd (one of the MAIN) streets I went to find the flower market. On my way there I came across a protest – a protest that including very peaceful people, a couple of dancing girls and a marching band! My nose found the flower market before my eyes. What gorgeous smells were wafting in my direction. There were so many flowers and so cheap. I just wanted to but up a whole lot but that would have been pretty pointless. At the end of the flower rd is a park that has lots of older men (mainly) and lots and lots of birds in teeny cages. The next morning I read in the local paper that the park had recently destroyed all the birds as they had found a case of bird flu!!!

After the flowers and the birds it was time to make my way down to the other end of Nathan Rd. There are lots and lots of shops – mainly jewelry. I managed to find Marks and Spencers and buy myself a pair of pants ‘barang tom tom’ style (white big big). Reaching the bottom of the very long Nathan Rd, you are at the harbour, which is a beautiful sight. So many lights and boats going back and forth. There was a big cruise ship docked in the port and I got to watch it leave – a pretty amazing sight. When in HK you must catch the Star Ferry, which goes between the two areas of HK. A very quick 15min trip for almost nothing and you are back on the other side. I have to say that I really do prefer Hong Kong Island. It is funkier, with unique shops and some great restaurants. It was another dinner of noodle soup and wontons and then of course Red Mango for dessert!!!

Oh …. and I bought a pair of shoes!
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Posted by Arkgecko 07:02 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (1)

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