Roundtrip China 17 Septerber tot 15 October 2011   Dutch

day 1 Schiphol-Beijing
At five o'clock pm we leave Schiphol airport heading for Beijing. We fly eleven hours and have to deal with a time difference of six hours. We make the trip with travel agency Shoestring. They provide a basic package. Flight, local transport, hotel accommodation and a Chinese / English speaking guide are included. You are free to spend the days as you like or make a tour with the guide. You may also do some self organization.

We are ready to leave home. With the City of Calgary we fly to Beijing. Leon, our Chinese guide. Leon has written our names in Chinese characters.
day 2 Beijing
In the morning we arrive in Beijing. Just buy water and visit the market next door. Then a few hours sleep.
During the afternoon we walk to the Temple of Heaven. Situated in the park of the Temple of Heaven is. It is very crowded. Chinese live in small appartments and often spend their free time in a park. There are people playing cards or Chinese chess. Others are singing, playing music or doing gymnastic exercises. Called Thai chi.

Chinese vehicle. Playing cards in the Park of the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven. Crowds in the park. Police officers are there to chase souvenir sellers. Singing in the park. Decoration of the Temple of Heaven.

Click here for a video
day 3 Beijing
At the hotel we rent two bicycles. The counter agent inflates the tires. We head for the Square of Heavenly Peace. (Tiananmen Square)
What is striking, is that right-turning traffic has priority over cyclists and pedestrians. They drive just about zebras. Even though the pedestrian light has green, you have to be carefull crossing the street. We can not get used to it. Zebras have no purpose at all. Every moment a vehicle may come around the corner. Later I found on Internet, that right-turning traffic in China indeed has priority. They even may ignore a red light.
The Square of Heavenly Peace has enormous dimensions. The mausoleum of Mao is well guarded by soldiers. On the square police officers are provided with Segways.

The receptionist of the hotel is inflates the tires of the rental bike. The Square of Heavenly Peace. (Tiananmen Plein) Guard at the mausoleum of Mao. Guard at the Square of Heavenly Peace. Police officers with Segways keep an eye on the square.

North of the celestial square is the Forbidden City. An impressive collection of buildings, building startet in the year 1422. From here hundreds of years China was ruled by many emperors. Some were rarely outside the Forbidden City. In 1912, the last emperor has been dismissed. The city has survived the cultural revolution and is now a museum. Since 1987, the city belongs to the Worlds Heretage.

The Gate of Heavenly Peace. Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City. In several places are pots filled with water to extinguise fire. In winter there is a fire burning under the pot. Heleen in the Forbidden City. Animals and mythological figures on the roofs are there to chase evil spirits. Intricate roof construction in the Forbidden City.
day 4 Beijing
Visit to the Great Wall. The Great Wall was built as a fortification against wandering armies invading from the north. The first part of this building dates from around 200 BC. Between 1350 and 1650 AD (Ming Dynasty), the wall gor its current shape. The artwork is one hours drive outside Beijing. We are lucky with the weather. The brick barrier bathed in sunshine. We walk a few miles over the wall. Well, walking? It is mostly stairs going up and down.

We ignore the cable car and take the footpath to the Great Wall. A steep climb. René on the Great Wall. Great Wall. Great Wall.

In the afternoon we visit the summer palace. Large crowds of mostly Chinese tourists visiting this place. The summer palace is decorated with beautiful roofs. Cruise boats with Chinese roofs and dragon heads are sailing on the lake. The western tourist is an attraction. We are regularly photographed or filmed.
Beautiful roof in the summer palace. Painting from a gallery. A marble boat was used to receive guests. Cruise boat with Chinese characteristics. Dragonhead on a cruise boat. We are filmed by a smiling Chinese.
day 5 Beijing-Pingyao
Bike ride with a guide through the Hutong. The Hutong is a traditional district of Beijing. People live there with whole families in homes with a courtyard. Sometimes these courtyards packed with living quarters for the children. Many of these courtyards were replaced by gray skyscrapers. We visit a big market. Wee see strange vegetables and eggs. Meat is always fresh, because the animals are slaughtered before your eyes. Fish are sold alive. We visit the Drum Tower. Previously, during the day using a large drum beaten all hours. At night it happened in another tower with a large bell. Named the bell tower.
In the afternoon we relax in a park. In the evening the night train leaves for Pingyau.

Entrance of a home in the Hutong. High buildings to live in. Market in Beijing. Strange colored eggs. Unknown vegetables. Demonstration in the Drum Tower.
day 6 Pingyao
In the morning we arrive in Pingyao. We are picked up at the station by an electric trolley. The hotel has a beautiful courtyard. The room features a huge stone bed. Previously it was heated up by a flue. The forerunner of the electric blanket.
Pingyao is a great walled city. We walk the city walls. They have a special motorbike to fight fires in the narrow streets. Chinese are playing card on the street.

Hotel in Pingyao. Very large bed. Street in Pingyao. Wall around Pingyao. Motorbike to fight fires in the narrow streets. Chinese playing loudly on the street.

Click here for a video
day 7 Pingyao-Xian
Another day in Pingyao. It is very quiet in the city. Well, there are a lot of people, but most vehicles are electric driven.
At night we leave with a night train to the next destination.

Gate in Pingyao. The coal for the winter will be delivered. Electric moped. A blessing for your ears. Chinese children pose for a photograph. Thee. Pingyao at dark.
day 8 Xian
Our journey actually started in the Asser museum in 2008. The museum has borrowed a few Terracotta soldiers from Xian to Assen. Helen liked toe see more of those warriors. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. They are relics from the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (221-214 BC). The army had to protect his tomb.

There is a building built over the armies. Terracotta warrior. Terracotta army. Terracotta warriors. Terracotta horses. Heleen and René.

We have lunch with the group. Usually the dishes are put on a turntable. So you get different dishes in front of you. In general the food is delicious. Occasionally it is too spicy.
In the afternoon we visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

Chinese women take us in the picture and I do the same to them. Lunch dishes on a turntable. The Wild Goose Pagode. Buddha. Monk. Children wear pants with an open crotch. Saves a lot of nappies and they are potty trained quickly.
day 9 Xian-Chengdu
A lazy morning with some shopping. In the afternoon we depart by train to Chengdu. We are happy with the nighttrains. On other roundtrips we spent ten to twelve hours a day on a bumpy road by bus. We travel in so-called hard sleepers. Three bunk beds. The hardness is not too bad. We sleep well on trains. In advance we buy dried noodle meals and beer. The railway company provides hot water to prepare the meals. Hot water over the noodles, join the vegetables and spices and it's ready to eat. Often it is tough stuff and half of the spices is enough for us.

Indication on the platform. The destination is not entirely clear. Boarding the train. Three bunk beds. Wide aisle. Washing facilities in the train. Eating noodles on the train. The Chinese Railways provide hot water.
day 10 Chengdu
We walk to the Temple Wenshu. The route runs through a park along a river. Chinese people enjoy themselves in the park singing and doing gymnastics. There is given a music class in the open air. In China there are a lot op public toilets. Not all that neat but you can at least get rid of your message. Sometimes there are no separate partitions. So you're just sitting together. Men and women are separated.

Helen is training in the park. Music class in the open air. Public toilets are everywhere. Toilets without doors. Sometimes there are even no dividers.

After an hour we reach the Wenshu Temple. It's very smokey caused by the large incense poles. You may not take pictures inside. A monk has find a practical solution. Just take pictures being outsite.

Buying entrance tickets for the Wenshu Temple. Wenshu Temple. Fire to light the incense. Heleen is burning insense. Just take pictures being outsite.

Have lunch with dumplings. Vegetables and meat wrapped in dough and steamed. Coincidentally we pass a subway station. That saves a long walk to the People's Park. The metro costs 24 euro cents, or 2 or Juan. The bus is usually twelve cents, or 1 juan.
In the People's Park it's very noisy. Electronically amplified musicians play as hard as possible. In a quiet place, people are writing Chinese characters with water. It dries quickly. Has this a therapeutic effect or has this a religious purpose? We don't know.

Dumplings are freshly made. Lunch with dumplings and beer. Metro in Chengdu. Writing Characters with water in the Peoples Park.
day 11 Chengdu
A visit to the giant pandas in Chengdu you may not miss. There is a breeding center for this animals. After years of research and experience they succeed in keeping alive newborn pandas. Especially the young pandas have a big cuddly level. The animals feed on bamboo stalks. There are still a thousand animals living in the wild. Not enough to survive. They try to increase the number. A difficult task because they are not that easy to breed.

Baby pandas. Baby pandas. Giant panda is eating bamboo. Giant panda is eating bamboo. Young pandas get a bite on a fishing rod.
Click here for a video Nice to see how the panda peels
the bamboo stalk and eats the inner portion.
Click here for a video René feeding
fish in the
Panda Park

In the afternoon we go to a cooking class. We all passed the course.

The course leader. Stir-frying. Back to work. Pork slices in batter. Pork slices into batter with a sauce with ginger, pepper and garlic. The students. We all passed.
day 12 Chengdu-Panzihua
Another quiet day. In the morning we walk again to the Wenshu Temple. The Temple is situated in a nice neighborhood with shops, street vendors and restaurants. For lunch we choose for delicious dumplings. At the end of the day we leave with the night train to Lijiang. Fourteen hours by train over a distance of 750 km. To morrow we wake up in another city. Ready for new experiences.

Street close to the Wenshu Temple. Buying a souvenir. Beats with a lucky cat and a Chinese character. Dumpling restaurant. Steaming is done in a pile of pans. Dumpling lunch. Useually we do not eat this part of a chicken leg.
day 13 Panzihua-Lijiang
In Panzihua we hop of the train and climb into a bus for a ride of seven hours. (310 km) Due to an accident on the road the ride takes a little longer. Chinese drive like idiots. Even at blind corners they pass other cars. Nothing can stop them. Along the road farmers are harvesting rice.
The ride takes us through a mountainous area. Lijiang is flooded by mostly Chinese tourists. There is a large pedestrian area in the old town.

The road is blocked by a truck. The ride passes through a mountainous landscape. The rice fields look like patchwork. Rice harvest. Bridge in Lijiang. Waterwheel in Lijiang.
day 14 Lijiang
Walking around in Lijiang. We climb to the Wangu Tower and have a nice view over the city.

The center of Lijiang is car free. Street in Lijiang. The Wangu Drum tower. View over Lijiang. Street in Lijiang. Bridge in Lijiang.
day 15 Lijiang
We rent two mountain bikes. There is even an advertisement in Dutch. Outside the city there are few western people. Old men on a bench look at us like we come from another planet. By chance we get to Dr. Ho. A well-known herbalist. He claims that Maxima and JP Balkenende visited with him. On the internet is nothing to find about this visit.

Dutch advertisement at the bike rental. Elderly people like to watch tourists. Herbal docter Ho. The stock of herbs of Dr Ho. Chinese are proud of their children. Girl learns arithmetic.
day 16 Lijiang-Zhongdian (Shangri-la)
By bus we go to Zhongdian. We pass the Tiger Leaping Gorge. The Yangste Kiang (Yellow River) squeezes through a narrow gorge. By a footpath we reach the narrowest part of the gorge. At a few places the trail passes through a tunnel in the rocks. The water is not yellow, but gray. Well, we turn all gray when we get older.

On the way to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. The trail is carved from the rocks. At a few places the trail passes through a tunnel in the rocks. If you don't like to walk ....... Swirling waters of the Yangtze River squeezes through the narrow opening. The gorge is called after this tiger.
Click here for a video

At the end of the day we reach Zhongdian. (Shangri-la) Here is the largest prayer wheel in the world. The holy device weighs 60 tons. Unfortunately the monster gets serviced and we can not turn is around. Zhongdian is situated at a level of 3200 meters in the foothills of the Himalayas. The residents are Tibetans. At night it is cold here. At the hotel we have an electric blanket on the bed.

Square in Zhongdian with the largest prayer wheel in the background. The largest prayer wheel in the world. Detail of the prayer wheel. Yak for making pictures. At night the people danced on the square. At night the people danced on the square.
day 17 Zhongdian
With a local bus we go to the Ganden Gompa Sumtseling. (Gompa = monastery) A wonderful complex. Almost we pass over the monastery , but a Chinese removed us from the bus. Apparently they know that tourists arrive by the bus The Chinese brings us to a counter where we can buy an entrance ticket.

Visit to a Tibetan monastery. Incense burning. Buddha statue in the temple of the monastery. Wall painting in the Temple. Gate to the monastery. Wall painting in the monastery.
day 18 Zhongdian-Dali
We have breakfast on the covered courtyard. The breakfast is not much, but the scene is beautiful. We go by bus to Dali. We see farmers working on the rice harvest. We have lunch with the group. Our guide knows wher to eat. He makes a phonecall when we are near a restaurant. Once there, in no time the table is full of dilicious dishes. Costs are 4.50 per person. + 1.10 for a pint of beer or 50 cents for a Coke. Coffee is expensive compared to other drinks. Two to three euros for a cup. A cup of coffee is more expensive then a pint of lager. So it's easy to choose.

Covered courtyard of the hotel in Zhongdian. We have breakfast there. Rice Harvest. Rice Harvest. Eating at a turntable. One of the many delicious dishes. One of the many delicious dishes.
day 19 Dali
A cable car takes us up. Here is the largest Chinese chess board. To replace the pieces you need two strong men. We walk in the mountains. In the afternoon we arrive at a market. We see unfamiliar vegetables. Further, there are crabs and other vermin strung on sticks.

Cable car. The largest Chinese chess board world. Joris and René have to move. Unknown vegetable. Another unknown vegetable. Things we do not eat.
day 20 Dali
Morning market in Xizhou. Twenty kilometers north of Dali. Chicken and fish are sold alive. So it's always fresh. The chickens are slaughtered before your eyes. Throats cut, a few minutes into boiling water and then a device removes the feathers. The fish are killed by a knock on the head with a piece of wood. We notice that this trip nobody has problems with his intestines. On other trips (Egypt, Morocco, Turkey) is not unusual that travellers are sick for a few days caused by the food.
Women are shopping with a cane "backpacks". Sometimes there is a baby or small child in the basket. You can also buy a new set of teeth on the market.

Another unknown vegetable. Chickens are sold alive. Cramped. Five minutes ago this animal still enjoyed his life. Women carry a cane backpack. On the market you may get new teeth.

In the afternoon we take a boat trip on the lake nearby Dali. We sail to a fishing village on the other side of the lake. Of course there is a fish market. On the boat there is a girl attracting our attention. Contact with Western tourists is a beloved entertainment.

Boat trip on the lake near Dali. Fish market on the other side of the lake. Fish market on the other side of the lake. Little girl trying to contact us. Fishermen at work. Night in Dali.
day 21 Dali-Guilin
By bus to the Stone Forest. A collection of strange rock formations. A wonderful world. Just as you can let your imagination on clouds, you may see everything in the stones. The rocks reflect in the water, which delivers beautiful pictures.
After the Stone Forest, we leave the overnight train to Guilin. We yield for it, because we haven't seen a train for a couple of days.

View of the Stone Forest. View of the Stone Forest.
Guide in the Stone Forest. . This picture is not upside down. It is the reflection in the water. The Stone Forest counts a lot of visitors. Stone Forest. Stone Forest.
day 22 Guilin-Ping'an
The hotel in Ping'an is only accessible by foot. Local women carry your luggage to the hotels for a small amount of money. Later I find out that the same women serves our meal in the hotel. From the room we have a wonderful view over the rice fields.

Our luggage has been carried to the hotel. View from our room. Panorama of the rice fields.
day 23 Ping'an
In the morning we make with our guide a walk through the rice fields. The lunch includes chicken steamed in a bamboo stalk. The bamboo stalk is hold in a fire. Regularly the bamboo is cooled in a bucket of water to prevent burning. The chicken tastes good, but it seems that only waste from the chicken is used. There's even a piece of leg. I mean the lower leg part where the nails are. (See photo at day 12) In the Netherlands you never get this part on your plate. Anyway, the chicken is fresh. There are still a few chickens in a basket grumbling at the small cage they are in. After lunch we set off by ourselves. We walk along the ricefields. It's a beautiful sight. There is a lot of people for day trips. But in the meanwhile we know that in China it is busy everywhere.

Gorgeos view of the rice fields. Gorgeos view of the rice fields. Gorgeos view of the rice fields. Chicken and rice steamed in a bamboo stalk. Gorgeos view of the rice fields. Some people are carried upstairs.
day 24 Ping'an-Yangshuo
Late afternoon we take a boat trip on the Li River. After dinner we return to the river with a fisherman. The man is fishing with cormorants. When the cormorant catches a fish, the fisherman pulls the cormorant inboard and removes the fish from it's throat. The fisherman takes a break, so we may take pictures. The cormorants spread their wings to dry.

Boattrip on the Li River. Boattrip on the Li River. Sunset. Fisherman with cormorants. Drying wings. Sharp beak.
day 25 Yangshuo
Rent a bicycle. We ride to the Yulong River. Bamboo rafts are waiting for us for a trip across the water. The bicycles are transported by the landlord to the landing of the boat trip. There are rafts on the river where vendors try to sell drinks and food. Our "gondolier" likes a beer. After the beer he starts to sing. After sailing the raft we make a short ride to the Moon Hill. We climbed up the hill and had a good view over the mountains.

Rafts are ready to go. Beer, soft drinks and fruit sellers are waiting on a raft. Helen with the boatsman. There are more people rafting today. . We climb up to Moon Hill.

In the evening we visit a sound and light show. A wonderful spectacle on the river. In the background are the karst mountains lit by floodlights. There are about 600 people performing the show. The design of the show is made by the same man who composed the opening of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Sound and light show in Yangshuo. Sound and light show in Yangshuo. Sound and light show in Yangshuo. Sound and light show in Yangshuo. Sound and light show in Yangshuo. Sound and light show in Yangshuo.
Click here for a video
day 26 Yangshuo
Our last day of cycling this holiday. An ordinary bike costs 2.20, a normal mountain 4.40 and a brand new mountain bike 6.60 per day. Deposit is 12 euros per bike. We see a fisherman fishing with a net. The cormorants are watching. Do they have a day off? We don't know. Coincidentally, we end up behind the podium of the sound and light show. We recognize the moon where the woman last night was dancing on. The show also play with two water buffaloes. The sound and light buffaloes are grazing calmly, without anything to fear the two paparazzi photographers from the Netherlands.

René and Helen on bikes. Fisherman on the Li River. Landscape with karstmountains. Backstage the sound and light show. On of the show buffaloes.
day 27 Yangshuo-Guangzhou
It's a rainy day today. Fortunately we have indoor activity on the program. In the morning we do a second cooking class. It is an international group of Belgians, Danes, Australians, Swiss, and some other world citizens. First the course leader takes us to the market for shopping. Actually a nice market, but we see some dogs and cats. Not for salw as a pet, but for consumption. Happely they are not on the menu at the cooking class.
Afternoon packing. To morrow we have little time in Guangzhou (old name is Canton) before we fly home.

Live frogs on de markt in Yangshuo. The vegetables look fine. Mushrooms. Helen and René in the cooking class. René is ready for cooking. Twenty students is to much. Own made dumplings.
Click here for a video
day 28 Guangzhou
We have a short stay in Gangzhou. In the morning we arrive on the night train. The driver, who retrieves the group by bus from the railway station, is the same one who has to drive us to the airport. We have a different flight than the rest of the group. Fortunately, we have everything prepared for flight yesterday. We leave the group behind drive directly to the airport. We fly to Shanghai where we have to wait seven hours on the flight to Schiphol. The last Chinese money we spend on two beers and some souvenirs. The rest of our money is given for charities.

day 29 Guangzhou-Assen
Comfortable flight home without delay. At five o'clock am we landed at Schiphol airport. Unfortunately our train home has a few hours delay. Quarter past eleven we are home. Mollie (our cat) is happy to see us again. The first days she keeps us in sight. Afraid of being abandonned again.