Archive: China

Visiting Shanghai

We spent 5 days in Shanghai City. We were staying in the Green Tree Inn. This was a nice hotel-very clean and a good size room with really nice bathroom. We were also fairly central which was good.

Arriving in Shanghai was fairly straight forward. We found a left luggage place in the train station, to leave our bags whilst we looked for a hotel. This cost us £2 each for the whole day. This was a really good idea, as sometimes we have ended up walking around the city for over 2 hours searching for a place, with our bags on our backs. This is not a good idea, and always makes arriving a lot more stressful than it needs to be!

We found a hotel within 20 minutes, the Green Tree Inn. We settled in, then went back to get our bags. The station was just a 15 minute walk away.

We really liked Shanghai City from the moment we arrived. It is a very clean city with lot’s of high rise buildings,  Modern shopping centers ,markets andbeautiful small Alley ways with old traditional Chinese houses on. It is such a contrasting city, whilst parts of the city reminded us of the modern feel of Singapore other parts of the city reminded us of some of the streets in India (small alley ways, with locals chopping fruit or walking around in their pijamas, and people sorting through rubbish)

A local lady preparing her vegetables outside

A local lady preparing her vegetables outside

It has a very exciting feel to the city, with so much going on both day and night. It was very busy whilst we were there because of the 2010 Expo (world fair) being held there this year. The hotel prices were a lot higher than usual because of this.

On our first day in Shanghai we went to Wujiang Road (Nanging West rd Station). This is known for it’s snacks, and shops. It is just a small street, but packed with lot’s of traditional chinese/western restaurants, snack bars and small shops. If you are lucky you will be walking down the street just when they are handing out all the free samples of foods, like we we were. Although this wasn’t Chinese food, it was krispy kreme donuts:)

Wujiang Road

Wujiang Road

We also went to see a free Art Exhibition, not far from Wujiang road. It was an exhibition of traditional Chinese Art. A lot of the museums and Art galleries cost money to get into, so we were lucky to come across this exhibtion and it was well worth seeing.

This is an example of some of the art we saw.

Chinese Art

Chinese Art

On our 2nd day in Shanghai we decided to walk down to the Huangpu river (the largest river in Shanghai). It divides the city into two regions:Pudong(east) and Puxi (west). We were on the Puxi side, looking across the river to Pudong. The river front is both stunning in the day and night. As you are walking along the river, you can see the high rise buildings across the river on one side, then on your other side you have the Bund, which houses 52 buildings of various architectural styles such as Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco. These buildings are mostly banks and custom houses.

The Bund at night time (Along Shanghai Huangpu River)

The Bund at night time (Along Shanghai Huangpu River)

It was fairly quite during the day when we walked to the river front, but in the evening it was packed. Maybe because everyone was at the visiting the Expo during the day? It was still worth the visit even though we could hardly move walking!

Paul at Huangpu River Front

Paul at Huangpu River Front

We wanted to go and visit Yuyuan Garden, so we took the subway to Yuyuan Garden station. When we exited the subway station it was packed with locals and tourists. This is a huge shopping area, packed with markets andshops. We never did find the garden, all though we know it does exist. After reading on the internet, we see that other people also struggled to find the garden. This is a great place to see, all though it was a little over packed with tourists for my liking! Also people hassle you a lot here, trying to get you to buy things. It is not easy to relax andstroll aroundthe shops, like we wanted to. People stand on the streets asking you do you want a watch or a bag. I guess they must get commission or something for taking you to shops.

We also visited Peoples Square, which is where you will find many department stores, restaurants, museums and modern shopping centers.

After researching on the internet we decided to go to Taikang  Road. If you’re in the mood for some shopping but are tired of touts shoving fake watches in your face, head to Taikang Road. This is a great place to stroll and relax, whilst you observe Shanghai life at it’s best! You will be able to see locals just going about their everyday life: chopping up fruit, washing clothes, hanging clothes on the line andselling food on street vendors. Then find alley 210 and wander down the lane. It’s full of shops and cafes, where you can just look and relax, with no pressure! This place is not to be missed! One of my favourite spots in the city!

Ruth on one of the Alley's off Taikang Road

Ruth on one of the Alley's off Taikang Road

We both had a great time in Shanghai. It’s hard saying which place we liked most in China, as everywhere is so different, but we’d definatley put Shanghai at the top.

We have now landed in Tokyo. We got a flight from Shanghai Pudong airport to Narita Tokyo airport this morning at 11.50am. We landed at 15:45pm Japanese local time. (Japan is 8 hours ahead of GMT) We flew with JAL. It was nice flying with one of the one world airlines, rather than just Air Asia budget flights. We were fasinated with the screens on the plane that showed live video footage from the front of the plane. We were also served a meal on the flight, although I asked them for vegetarian, as I have booked on as vegetarian on all the flights, but they said the option today was meat only? So I ate the salad.

We had a really smooth arrival in Tokyo, which I was surprisedby. I thought we would find it really difficult, but everything was really straight forward. We had already booked a hotel (Kangaroo Hotel), which was a great decision! We got the train from the airport, on the Keisei line to Nippori station, then we had to change at Nippori for the JR line to Minami Senju. The tickets costs us 1300 Yen (£9.70) each from the airport to our hotel (60 Minute journey) Our hotel was a 10 minute walk from the Minami Senjustation, which we found no problem.

We have now settled into our hotel. It is a really nice small hotel. All the rooms are Japanese style, with just a matress on the floor. The bathrooms are shared. There is a microwave, kettle and small kitchen area on each floor. There is internet in all the rooms and also 2 Apple Mac’s downstairs which we are free to use. There are also washing machines and dryers on the bottom floor. The hotel is very minimalistic, like a lot of Japanese traditional homes. The member of staff who greeted us at the reception is very helpful and extremley friendly. We have certainly been welcomed into Japan with smiles so far. People seem very helpful and when we have been looking at our map, locals have helped us and pointed us in the right direction. 

Well we best get to sleep, we want to get up early tomorrow. We are really excited about exploring the city. We will have to cram so much  in to the short time we have here, just 4 days.

We will add pictures from Shanghai as soon as possible

Ruth and Paul

Terracotta Army

We went to visit the Terracotta Army Museum on Monday 28th June 2010. We took the local bus (No.915) to the museum. This cost us just 7 Yuan (70p), once again much cheaper than the tours where they charge over £15-£20 each! Getting the local bus was very straight forward; we got it from the the Xi’an Railway station (East of Railway station). It is in front of the East ticket office, there are a large number of buses waiting here. The bus is green and has Terracotta Army written on the front. Other people will try and get you to go with them in smaller mini buses, just keep walking towards the big buses and you will find it. Just ask the lady or man on the bus to tell you when to get off, as the bus goes to several destinations. The journey takes about 45 minutes.

Bus 915 to  Terracotta Army

Bus 915 to Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 in the eastern suburbs of Xi’an, Shaanxi Province by local farmers drilling a water well 1.5 miles east of Mount Li. This discovery prompted archaeologists to investigate. The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art buried with the First Emperor of Qin Shi Huang, “shi huang” means the first emperor in 210-209 BC.

Their purpose was to help rule another empire with Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as “Qin’s Armies.”

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army

The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. The figures are various heights from 6ft-6ft 5 inches.

4 different types of soldiers

4 different types of soldiers

The Entrance ticket to the Museum costs 90 Yuan (£9). This get’s you in to all the pits and all the other buildings.

Ruth in front of the Entrance to Pit 1

Ruth in front of the Entrance to Pit 1

We really enjoyed our visit to the Terracotta Army. We had seen images of the Terracotta Army on TV before, but didn’t really know much else about it, so it was really interesting to see it and learn more. Many people come to visit this site, Xi’an is made popular by the Terracotta Army.

Ruth in Pit 1 of the Terracotta Army

Ruth in Pit 1 of the Terracotta Army

Pit 1 is the largest and most restored of the 3 pits. However many of the army are still damaged and in the middle of being restored.

Paul decided to join the army

Paul decided to join the army

In the exibition hall you will find many ancient swords, different kinds of bronze weapons and two bronze chariots and horses . The sets of bronze chariots and horses are the most delicate bronze ware unearthed in China and are the biggest  and most valuable bronze works in the world.

They were found broken into more than 16,000 pieces in a collapsed coffin, but attain their original glamour after the restoration.

Bronze Horses with Chariots

Bronze Horses with Chariots

We spent about 3-4 hours looking around. There’s a lot to take in and a lot to see. You can hire a private tour guide once you get there for 50 Yuan (£5). This is a lot cheaper than going on a tour with your hotel. However if you want to make your trip even cheaper, get a book or just read the many signs that are placed around the pits.

We got the public bus back to the city. It was Number 914. This number bus starts from the museum. The 915 bus that we got to the museum doesn’t come into the museum itself, however you can get it from the road just outside.

We are now in Shanghai. We arrived Friday afternoon at 3pm. We got the k558 train from Xi’an to Shanghai. We had to pay for 1st class, as all the other seats and trains were fully booked. Our ticket cost us 490 Yuan each (£50) and the journey lasted 22 hours. This train was quite old and the 1st class was no where near as nice as the second class on our other trains. If you have a choice of trains try to book the modern z94 train (the z class are newer trains). The high demand for trains to Shanghai is probably due to the Expo 2010 (world fair) being held in Shanghai this year . Hotel prices are also higher because of the Expo, so be prepared to pay more whilst the Expo is on.

We will be spending another 3 days here in Shanghai, then we leave for Tokyo on Wednesday 7th July. Well we will write more about our time here later.

Ruth and Paul

Visiting Xi’an

Xi’an is the capital of the Shannxi province. The old city has an old defensive wall built around it. We were staying within the centre of the wall in a hotel called Shanxinanfang Hotel. We were the only tourists staying in the hotel. The staff spoke very little English, but we managed to get by fine. We had to move rooms the first day because the bathroom smelt really bad. I was trying to explain to the lady on reception that we wanted to move room and why, but she didn’t understand. So the only way I could get the point across was by using hand gestures. She finally got the point and I think all the other customers waiting at the reception also did! Other than that the hotel has been great. We are located 5 minutes walk from the Bell Tower, which is the central point of the city.

Walking up to the drum tower

Walking up to the drum tower

Xi’an is a beautiful city with lots of character. There is a bell tower and drum tower in the centre of the city, which we went to visit. The bells are rung at dawn and the drums are played at dusk every day. The entrance ticket for the bell tower and drum tower costs 40 yuan (£4) for both tickets. You can get them on the subway on your way over to the bell tower. We watched a performance in both the drum tower and the bell tower.

Drum Performance in the Drum Tower

Drum Performance in the Drum Tower

In the bell tower a group of Chinese Musicians played various traditional instruments, including the wooden flute, Erhu (2 stringed fiddle), Yangqin..

Paul outside the drum tower

Paul outside the drum tower

Getting around Xian is easy, most things are within walking distance so there’s very little need for public transport, apart from when you are visiting things outside of the city, like the Terrecotta Army. (we will write about our trip to the Terrecotta Army in our next blog)

With only having 5 days in Xi’an, we feel that it wasn’t quite enough time to see everything. We are heading to Shanghai today. We leave on the train at 5:45pm local time and will arrive in Shanghai at around 14:30pm tommorow.

Sorry this blog is very short and not very detailed but we are rushing to get out of the hotel for checkout time. We will write more when we arrive in Shanghai.

Ruth and Paul

Visiting Beijing

We stayed in Beijing for a 2 weeks, from Friday 11th June till Thursday 24th June. We stayed in the Hai Inn, close by to the Lama Temple. This hotel was in a fantastic location, right beside the underground and in walking distance of most attractions. Also the staff spoke good English, which was really helpful as so many people don’t speak English in China. Most people who come to China seem to be on tours, this is probably because of the lack of spoken English. We managed to get on fine though, as the hotel staff were able to point us in the right direction. We mostly used the underground to get around the city, the stops are written in English and it is easy to follow. A journey on the underground to any destination, costs just 2 Yuan each (20p). We will get a shock when we return home and have to pay over £2 for a 15 minute journey on the bus!

We really enjoyed our time in Beijing. It is both a modern and cultural city. Parts of the city look similar to any other built up city, with lots of modern shopping centres and restaurants. Whereas other parts of the city have kept onto their Chinese routes, with traditional Chinese roof tops and traditional houses and buildings.

Must see streets in Beijing
There are a few streets in Beijing which you should definitely visit whilst you are there.

Wangfujing Dajie
We went to this street in the day and the evening. There are a few shopping centres here and also market stalls. In the evening there is a night market, which we went to one evening. You will be able to taste lots of traditional Chinese food here, that is if you are in to eating lots of different meats. Being a vegetarian I wasn’t too keen on seeing the many meat treats on offer! Whole ducks, with their heads left on, liver, …..and who knows what else they were selling!

There were lots of traditional Chinese gifts to buy, including paintings and many musical instruments. Be prepared to bargain as they will put the price right up at the start. You have to type the amount you want into their calculator, as most people will not understand the amount you are saying. I was buying a fridge magnet and I asked one stall how much and they said 30 Yuan (£3). I decided to go to another stall to see how much they would say, for the same magnet and they said 55 Yuan (£5.50). I knew then that they were just saying whatever price they wanted, so I walked away. She shouted back to me 30 Yuan, 20 Yuan. She could see that I was still walking away, so she shouted 5 Yuan (50p). So I went back to get the magnet. I probably could have got it cheaper, but I was happy with this price.

How to Get Here
Take a Subway to either Dongdan or Dengshikou (Line 5). The journey will cost you 2 Yuan.

Sanlitun Bar Street
This is where you will find most of the Bars in the city, hence the name ‘Bar Street’. There are also lots of shops here, including a new shopping centre which will be opening very soon.

How to get here
Take Subway line 2 to Dongsishitiao Qiao or Subway Line 10 to Changhong Qiao.

Xidan Beldajie
This is where you will find Modern shopping centres in Beijing, with lots of designer names like, Guess and Louis Vuitton.

How to get here
Take subway line 4 to Xidan.

Qiannien Dajie
This street was one of our favourite streets. Although it has been developed in recent years to be more modern, it still captures the look of traditional Chinese Street. There are both traditional Chinese shops and many high street stores also.

There were also some nice little side streets with stalls. I bought a new instrument. The lady had a stall full of lot’s of Chinese instruments. She didn’t speak English but someone she was able to communicate to me about how to play the different instruments. I wanted to buy them all, but I had to restrict myself to one. I’m not sure what the name of the instrument is exactly, I will find out. Here’s a picture of it

Chinese Instrument

Chinese Instrument

She tried charging me £25, but in the end I managed to get it for just £7. I want to buy one of the wooden flutes; I’m going to have a look out for one. There are lots of different sizes to choose from.

Parks in Beijing
We also visited many parks. You have to pay in to most things in Beijing, but most of the parks only cost about 2 Yuan (20p) so it’s not too much at all.

  • Jingshan Park- We visited this park on our second day in Beijing. It is found just North of the Palace Museum. It costs 2 yuan to get in. The gardens are really clean and peaceful. There were two ladies practicing a dance routine. Apparently it isn’t unusual to see locals in the park early in the morning, practicing routines and meditating. A great place to sit and have your lunch. Also in the park is a temple located on a hill top. From the top you will see over the whole city. The rooftops look amazing from here. We enjoyed just sitting up here for a while and watching the city from above.
View over Beijing City

View over Beijing City

  • Yuanmingyuan Park (Old Summer Palace)- To get here you should get the underground to Yuanmingyaun Station. This is the old summer palace. It cost 10 Yuan each (£1). There is a massive lake in the park with lots of lovely bridges. There are also many food stalls and souvenir stalls in the park. Lot’s of people come here for picnics.
  • Yuyuantan Park-To get here get the subway Line 1 to Military Museum station. The park entrance fee is 2 Yuan (20p). This is a very relaxed park with lot’s seated areas to sit and enjoy the peace. There is a large lake in this park. There were a few locals playing musical instruments in the park.
Yuyuantan Park

Yuyuantan Park

  • Beihai Park-This is a large park with a lake, located beside the Palace. We didn’t go to this park, although we did go to the lake just above (Qian Hai). This is just across the road from the park. This is a really nice free area, where you will find lots of restaurants located around the lake. You can also hire out boats and take them on the lake. There is a little alley way with really nice shops on. Also you will find lot’s of bars in this area.
Street near Qian Hai Lake

Street near Qian Hai Lake

Other things we did whilst in Beijing

  • Visited the Olympic Grounds from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
  • Visited the Great Wall of China at the Badaling Section of the wall
  • Visited the Beijing Zoo (This wasn’t really worth the visit-the cages are way too small for the animals-and it is very run down)

We got the train from Beijing to Xian on Thursday 24th June. The train set off at 4.30pm and arrived at 5am the next morning. The train cost us 250 Yuan (£25) each.

We will write more about our time here in Xian later.

Speak soon

Ruth and Paul

Great Wall of China at Badaling

On Tuesday 16th June we visited the Great Wall of China at Badaling. This is the most popular place to see the great wall today, as this section has been restored many times. We got a public bus from De Sheng Men bus station to Badaling. The bus you are looking for is the No. 919 bus and is green. There are a few buses along the way that say 919, but the one you are looking for will say to Badaling on the sign. The bus costs 12 yuan (£1.20) each way and the journey takes about 45 minutes. A few people may try and get you to go into smaller buses or a taxi and may even tell you that the 919 bus isn’t running today. This is a lie, they are just trying to get money out of you.

Bus 919

Bus 919

We got the bus around 11.30 am and got to the entrance of the great wall around 12.30pm. The bus drops you off near the ticket office. The entrance ticket to the great wall is 45 Yuan (£4.50) each. You then have the option to either walk to the entrance of the great wall, this will take no longer than 20 minutes, or you can take the pulley/cable car up. We decided to walk up.

We walked to the 8th watch tower, which is one of the highest points of the Badaling section of the wall. The paths get very steep at times, it was a struggle, but we got there. The wall seemed to go on forever, in many directions. We didn’t have enough time to walk the full part of the Badaling section, you would need a full day.

Great Wall of China-Badaling

Great Wall of China-Badaling

The wall is made of granite and stone slabs and is 6-7m high with a width of 4-5m at the top.

Here’s a map of the Badaling wall.

badaling-great-wall-map

badaling-great-wall-map

Our legs feel well worked out after walking up those steep slopes!

We got the bus back to the city around 4.30pm. The buses stop running around 5pm. When we got to the bus stop there was a huge queue, but no buses. The buses finally came, but even though people had been waiting, other people decided to run up and skip the queue. This caused quite a lot of fights, including one man punching another and several people shouting. This was an interesting end to the day!

Summary

  • Get bus from De Sheng Men Gate-Badaling
  • Price for bus=12 Yuan per way
  • Buses run from 6am-6pm
  • Entrance fee to the great wall=45 yuan (£4.50)
  • If anyone tells you the bus isn’t running today, don’t believe them.
  • Wear comfortable shoes

That’s all for now,

Ruth and Paul

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