Monday 17 September 2012

Sightseeing in China

After finishing the Rally and spending sometime chilling out in Ulaanbaatar, it was time to head out to China to do a little sightseeing before heading back to Blighty.

In a first days we visited most of the major sights in and around Beijing, including Tianamen square, the forbidden city and of course the great wall. Now I’m back in England with sensiblily speedy internet (and allowed access to blogger) I can upload a selection of pictures!

 Memorial in Tianamen Sq.

 Rory at the national opera house
 Just a tiny part of the Forbidden City

Walking on the great wall!

After a few days seeing the sights of Beijing Rory and I (Ant and Zoe having flown home) set off on a crazy train journey encompassing some of China’s most polluted cities! First we headed out to Xi’an the ancient capital and home of the famous terracotta warriors. Getting the train out to Xi’an was an interesting experience. Once we’d managed to communicate that we wanted to go to Xi’an leaving today the operator told us the only tickets available were for third class seats on the slow train (which takes 20 hours). Without having any other options we bought the tickets and set out for the train station. Catching the train itself was quite straight forward, although the Chinese system of not allowing you onto the platform until the train arrives meant we had a mad dash with our heavy bags onto the train. Pretty much as soon as we’d sat down on the rather uncomfortable seats we set out to get ourselves upgraded, the prospect of sitting on uncomfortable chairs for 20 hours was not appealing...

From Xian we set out to see the terracotta warriors, I hadn’t realised this is still an active archaeological dig. The warriors themselves are really quite impressive although I wasn’t fond of the 2km hike though tourist-tat-sellers we had to pass by to get there.

After Xian we headed out to Chengdu, a mere 12 hours train journey, we toughed it out on cheap seats for this one! From Chengdu we set out to see Dafo the world’s largest carved Budda! Apparently the local people had decided to fill in the some treacherous section of nearby river with rock from this cliff face to even out some rapids. And at the same time why not carve a giant Budda into the rock...

Our next stop was Chongquing where we had berths on the public ferry for a 4 day ‘cruise’ on the Yangtze River. The public ferries on the Yangtze are more aimed at Chinese people than foreign tourists, and thus we weren’t always entirely sure what was going on. Every morning we were woken up by a creepily cheery announcement and music  over the tannoy system. Since it was all in mandarin we had no idea what was being said however we were both reminded of Battle Royal ...

Every day we pulled in for various excursions to temples, side gorges or markets, as the only white people on the boat we frequently got asked to have our picture taken with the other folks on the boat! The final stop was the three gorges dam near Yichang, as the largest hydro power station in the world it is quite an impressive sight. I remember learning about this project for geography GCSE and therefore was a little bit aware of some of the controversies that surround it. Of course none of this is displayed at the dam site itself which talks about the construction of the dam ‘increasing the magnificence of the gorge’ and dam completion achieving the ‘cultural and social aspirations of the Chinese peoples’.

After the cruise we headed back to Beijing on the overnight train to spend our final day looking around the Temple of Heaven before setting off to the airport to catch our flight. Too many hours later (including a 4 hour delay at Doha), we arrived tired and worn out in Heathrow, after a fantastic two months!


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