I also made travels to other countries, such as three weeks Japan (in German) or Three Months Paris, or 1.5 weeks in New York.
|Preparations How to start 1 month travelling in China|
|5月13日-14日(三): 24h-Flight to China|
|15日: First day in 上海(Shanghai),中国|
|16日: 3times 南京路|
|17日(六): Arrival in 南京 (Nanjing)|
|18日： Rainy day at 紫金山 (Zijin mountain)|
|20日(二)： Travel to 杭州 (Hangzhou)|
|21日： An almost perfect day|
|23日(五)： 苏州 (Suzhou, Venice of China)|
|24日(六)： Another weekend in 南京|
|26日(一)： Train to 广州|
|29日： 三元官&Martyr's Memorial Park|
|30日： 广州美术馆 (Museum of art)|
|6月1日(天)： First day in 桂林|
|2日： Second day in 桂林|
|3日(二)： travel to 西安|
|4日： 兵马俑 - Terra cotta Army|
|5日(四)： Arrival in 洛阳/少林 (Shaolin)|
|7日(六)： Late arrival in 北京(Beijing)|
|9日： Temple & Olympic stadium|
|10日(二)： Last day in China, Shanghai again|
I know I wrote too much and honestly I don't expect anybody to read the whole diary. Instead have a look at the pictures and read the text beside them whereever you think the picture looks interesting.
In November 2007 I decided that beside learning some Chinese I also want to visit the country of the dragon (中国). Therefore my wish for Christmas was Lonely Planet, China. On Dec 24th I finally had the first travel clue in my hands. I knew it was still a long way until arriving in China, but now the decision was fixed. I started having a deeper look into the index and introducing chapters and dreaming of places like Beijing (Tian'anmen, Fobidden City, Beihai Park), Xi'an (Terra Cotta Army), Guilin (famous Double Peak Mountain), Shaolin (Origin of Kung Fu/武术), or maybe Guangzhou. So I started writing down these names and some of the sights there. From my earlier travel to Japan I knew that you need at least 3weeks to get a reasonable impression of the country and since on the other hand China is not too expensive (a reasonable breakfast around 20元, 2Eur or $3) maybe upto 1 month is affordable. Together with the Lonely Planet and wiki travel I worked out the following travel plan. Of course the earlier versions did not have so many details and not yet fixed dates, but you should write down something and give an idea of when you want to travel, before you can ask people to join you. As suggested by friends I also posted the sketch of the travel plan on some foreign Chinese mailing lists (such as PSU's CFA) and asked for furhter suggestions and possible travel companions. Some people looked sceptically whether I can/ should really travel to so many places in such a short time, but I told them that I have roughly 1 month and want to see as much as possible of China. I got a couple of good tips and suggestions what else to visit and what to be careful with. Unfortunately nobody else decided to join me.
The 2 most important steps are to get a (cheap) flight and a visa to China. You need at least to have a fixed reservation (for a round trip) to apply for visa. Keeping in mind that visa application, handing in additional paperwork, processing and fetching can take upto 1month, you should apply quite early. Also cheap flights in May are only available in the begin of the year. Also for a 1 month stay you cannot predict costs exactly, so make sure you have enough money in reserve.
The last days before the travel I spent writing down some phrases I could use in China and telling my friends in China when I plan to arrive in their cities. The night before the travel I was too excited to get much sleep.
The plane leaves 6:05am from the State College Airport. So my cab leaves at 4:45. Still somewhat tired, but quite excited I arrive at the ariport and already a couple of people is waiting in line for check-in. It seems Northwest has set up some new terminals for automatized check-in, but my German passport cannot be read. Making sure that you put all critical things (such as a pocket knife or liquids) into the check-in luggage I check in my big backpack. I keep 1 small bag with necessities (such as something to read, passport, something to write, medicine against head-ache, ...) with me and wait for the plane. After 15min waiting in line I also pass the personal security check and 20min later sit in the small plane to Detroit.
7:30am I arrive in Detroit, since State College has of course no direct flight to China. Flights from Detroit to China (stopping in Tokyo, Japan) leave usually in the afternoon, so I have to wait 8h until 15:30 when the big plane leaves Detroit. I use the time for a nap, a double check with my personal customer service from Bank of America (the $3,500 I transferred 5 days before the travel via cashier's check have arrived but still need to be confirmed to be of legal origin). I hope I'll have access to the money when I arrive in China, but to make sure I don't have to beg or starve, I also took $500 in traveler's checks as well as a second ATM card with me. Since I can't sleep comfortably in the airport, I start reading the LP introducing pages about 上海(Shanghai), my first stop in China. 15:10 I can finally enter the big plane to China, and 15:30 we leave the US.
This travelling distance is one of the longest, it takes 13h! Fortunately they have some video and music to distract people. Also I have another nap in the plane and 2 meals are served. When I can no longer sit in this plane we finally arrive in 成田,東京,日本. Exiting the plane we are definitely no longer in the US, all labels are written in 3 languages (and no Spanish is none of them). Asian-looking terminal personal shows us the direction to the changing planes and also ask where we want to go. I say 上海に行きたいん です [想去上海], since I still remember some words Japanese. After a second security check I enter the plane to Shanghai.
This time all displays are in Chinese and Japanese, but the stewardess still speaks some English. Also now 97% of the passengers are East-Asian looking. It turns out that the elder lady sitting to my left lives in Shanghai and the US. So she can tell me which bus to take from the Shanghai airport to Fudan university. The guy sitting to my right is from Japan and so I ask him 日本人ですから、日本語を話しますか？[因为你是日本人,你会不会说日语?] I have to ask twice but finally he answers, そうです。I tell him 独逸人です。 [我是德国人] and we have a small chat in Japanese and English. This time we are also served a small dinner, but with well cooked (soft) rice. Fortunately the elder lady decides to wait for me and takes the same bus towards 杨浦区(Yangpu district), so I don't get lost right on the first day. The ATM in the airport does not accept my BoA card, but the other ATM card from my local bank, so I do get some money.
After 20min bus ride I exit the bus as described by my friend and walk along 邯郸路 towards 复旦大学. The way gets longer and my backpack havier, so I ask the few remaining people 请问,复旦大学在哪儿 (Where is Fudan university)? The first two quite young women hesitate and don't know what to say, but the next 2 people I ask show me just to go on in the previous direction. After passing the New Yournalist School I arrive at the gate of Fudan. I ask the gate keeper where is 正大发展中信, and after some hesitation he points me to the right hand side. Finally arriving at the hotel I notice that half of my characters (which I also wrote down for people to understand easier) are wrong, it should be 正大_展中心, but I did find the way. Showing my passport they also have the room reservation for me. It is a small but comfortable 1bed-room with a desk and even a water cooker. I sit down for a moment and then take a shower and go to bed. Even though it is now 11:00am in the US where I started, I am quite tired after 24h of travel.
I first wake up at 5:30am, because it is getting light outside and I still feel the jetlack. I turn around a second time and finally stand up at 7:00am. Being a bit hungry I walk down to the basement and also find the breakfast room. They see me enter and don't stop me, so I just start looking at the buffet and after few minutes decide for some delicious Chinese breakfast/lunch items. Suddenly a waitress comes to me and asks half Chinese/ half English whether I have a certain card. I can show her only my room card and then she asks me to follow her. So we return to the reception desk where the lady explains to me that there is no breakfast included in my room reservation. So i ask her if I can buy breakfast for this morning and for only 10元, they let me go back to the delicious buffet. After breakfast I decide to buy breakfast also for the remaining 2 days and go to the office of my friend. They can easily show me the 2 towers on campus and I walk there straightforward. At 7:45 my friend is not yet in his office. The strange thing is that he has neither his name on the door nor does he arrive until 8:30, when we agreed to meet. After a while I decide to go down again and maybe to wait for him downstairs. After sitting a while in the sunlight in front of the towers, I decide to go back in again. Since I notice that there are actually 2 towers, I decide to go up the other tower this time. Arriving again on the 20F I find another room 2004, but this time with 2 people inside. One is my friend Lei Zhen and the other one a nice Japanese guy. He was already looking for me in the hotel and wondering why he could not find me. But finally we met in the office. I use the remaining morning to check the internet and to buy a Chinese cell-phone, for the remaining travel. After showing me the latest models for only 1300元 I tell them that I need a cheap one and my friend said I can get one for 300元. They hesitate a moment and then take a small box out of the cupboard and show me a quite good, but 3 year old cell-phone type. I also tell them that I need a phone-card, actually they do speak some English. And for 400元 in total I get a useful cell-phone and they even switch the menue to English (which I would probably have needed 3h of trying to find out how to do this).
I have lunch with my friend and his wife in the university restaurant, cheap but very good food. In the afternoon I decide to start the sight-seeing in 上海. In the hotel I first find a travel-agency who can sell me a ticket to 南京, and in English and Chinese we can figure out which ticket I want. At the reception desk they tell me that bus55 goes to 外滩. The only thing I don't understand is where the bus leaves. I walk outside the campus where they told me the bus should leave, but there is no bus stop and arriving at the next stop I can't find any bus 55. After a while random walk I decide to walk back to the bus stop where I left the bus last night and have a look there. It turns out that at 五角场 are many bus stops and also one for bus 55, so I enter the bus there. After 20min going with the bus and I'm not exactly sure whether we will ever arrive at 外滩, I finally see the TV tower and the river. So I decide to get off at the next stop and have a look there. It is still in the later afternoon so I see the river and the TV tower in the sunlight. I take some pictures there, but as you will read later I don't have these pictures anymore. Also the salesmen and women are getting quite agressive here and permanently want to sell me some fake watches, mini roller-blades or funny sculptures. In the end I agree to buy some mini flying dragons for 5元, but right after I bought the 1st item the run on me even stronger, trying to sell me more of the same stuff. After a while I decide to walk on a bit and maybe have a short look into 南京路. In the mean time it is getting dark. When it is almost dark I decide to return to 外滩 and take some more pictures of the TV tower as it is illuminated in the darkness.
There are still the salesmen and women left on the street, but between all of them I manage to take pictures. After a while and while I'm currently looking at some pictures that could either be drawn with chalk or are just some photo copies of such, a guy (maybe 21-25 years) talks to me in English and explains that these pictures are drawn by the guy who offers them himself. He also asks me where I'm from and after I tell him that I'm German he talks about BMW, Siemens, and Bayern München. After a while he asks me if I'm interested in seeing some art, in a special exhibition right in a hotel nearby. After some first sceptical questions of mine, we finally go there and in one of the rooms of the hotel he and his friends have set up a small art exhibition. They are from some university in China and study art there. Some of the pictures are drawn by themselves, some from their teacher and others just copies of classical Chinese art. He can also explain me the most famous themes of ancient Chinese art, such as the 4 seasons (春夏秋冬), representing the 4 stages of life: childhood, youth (17-29), middle-old years and the old age. At some point he also suggests me that I should buy some of the paintings, since it would support them personally in their studies and also be a nice memory for me of China. In the end I decide for 1 piece, but also make sure to leave soon, before he manages to sell me more art. Fortunately he can also show me a youth hostel nearby, maybe that is helpful for the last day, when I have to return to 上海 to take the plane back to US. Then I return to the hotel and have some dinner on the way from the bus stop to the hotel. (It actually turns out that the bus stop I walked to is the nearest bus stop for bus 55.)
This morning I visit Lei Zhen in his office only shortly to check e-mail again, give him the small present (Californian whine) I brought from the US and say fare well. Then I head again towards 外滩 and 南京路. After last night I also want to have a look during the day and go to the 上海 museum of art (南京东路325号). In the middle of 西路 I get intercepted by 2 girls asking if I want to see some private art exhibition. Since I want to see art anyway I decide to follow them and have another look. We also go to a private room in a hotel and with more or less the same setting as the guy last night. Beside the 4 seasons they also show me the river side of 苏州, some plum blossoms and an angry warrior. They study at 西安大学, also art and also in this exhibition I see pieces from their teacher, copies of professional pieces and some pieces made by themselves. Of course the latter don't look as perfect as the professional pieces, but still quite good. I tell them that and the answer is of course, that they want to sell them in order to get some recognition and personal support for their studies. I tell them that the pieces look really beautiful and the prospective arts men have my full respect, but I cannot buy another one, since I don't know how to transport it to the US in once piece (in my backpack) …. In the end we agree that I give a small donation of 50元. They still want to convince me to buy just 2 of the pictures, I can say whatever price I want. I say that I don't want to spend more than 100元 in total, but have to refuse to buy 2 such nice pieces of art for only 40元, since also as a German I have a reputation to lose. OK, I continue and just when I thought that the way is quite long I finally reach 人民广场.
I'm just looking for the exit towards 南京东路 when 2 girls approach me saying hallo and asking where I'm from. Their English is really good, but I also want to say a few words in Chinese, at least my name. After a while they ask me if I have many plans for today and whether I want to join them visiting a tea-house. Since I want to get to know Chinese culture anyway and most likely have a hard time asking for a tea ceremony in Chinese I agree and join them. But I also ask them, please to make it not too expensive. They march determined towards the tea-rooms in a passage on the 2nd floor and after a short request we are directly lead into a small room containing a table with tea utensils and 5 chairs. The 2 girls ask me to have a seat in the middle and the ceremony is almost ready to begin, only I ask for the prices. The tea maid shows a bilingual table with the prices, mostly at 35 元/person and tea, but also additional 30元/person for the ceremony. Also the tea boxes on the table have prices printed on them around 65元, and the 2 girls explain to me that this is if we want to buy tea afterwards. Moreover we can always ask for ``new leaves'' of the same tea without additional payment. I tell them that it will probably be a bit expensive (3 differnet teas with presentation is 130元/person) but they tell me not to worry, we agree to stop after 3 teas and decide again how to proceed.
First comes the cleaning ceremony where some 绿茶 is brewed (with water from a 4 gallon water-dispenser, rather than the line), shortly rinsed through the tea kettle, 4 finger-tip sized cups and a small replic of a tea goddess, that looks like a frog, only has 3 legs and some imitated coins attached to its back. The tea-maid is very routinized in her art, every motion looks perfect, only the ceremony is a bit very fast and compared to descriptions of Japanese tea ceremony I cannot get completely into the feeling of a tea ceremony, and that's not because of a lack of the intimate components compared to 日本茶道 (s.a. Memories of a Gheisha). The 2 girls tell me many details (in English, translated from the quick explanations of the tea-maid) about the ceremony. The first 3 teas are a green tea (from a famous mountain), a black tea (红茶) and Jasmin tea. After that we stop for a moment and the 2 girls ask me if I don't just want to continue. I tell them that it is already a bit expensive, roughly 130元/person (13Eur, $17), but they only reply that I know this, because I'm a mathematician. They urge me to continue and since it is interesting and I personally decide not to do this every day, I agree to continue. The next tea is a reddish-looking fruit tea, but they claim that it is a special recipies from the house. Well you can really get that for 4Eur/kg all over Europe and in half of the US (except for the case if this one contains some aphrodisiac, but I don't want this in my tea anyway). The second to the last one is probably dragon-well tea (龙井茶) and the last one not a drinkable tea at all, but a blossom capsule that inflates when put in a big glass with hot water. The 2 girls were really astonished.
Then comes the business part. We should first pick the tea we liked the most and then the lady shows us a bunch of pretty-looking tea boxes, roughtly 150g-size, the girls tell me that the boxes are even for free. I tell them the tea is quite expensive 65元/50g (i.e. 160元/125g, see also the tea-shop in 南京), also I can't compare 绿茶 with 红茶. In the end I tell them that I want 绿茶, but 150g is too expensive. I like the box with an interesting motive, but only want 100g tea. The tea-maid leaves the room and brings some smaller boxes. I finally decide for one and 100g 绿茶. The girls buy at least 2 different teas each and of course some of the blossom capsules. We split strictily fair, i.e. 1/3 of the ceremony and each one exactly his/her tea. I have to pay 400元 (40Eur, $60)! The girls probably a bit more. I tell them that it is really expensive, but they pay without hesitation and say that good things have to be expensive. Well let me add the following western saying:
Of course it is not easy to find, especially since I turn left much too early. After a while I reach a really small and dirty road and have no precise idea where to go. So I ask the nearest shop-owner 人民路在哪儿? But he just points into the small dirty road which definitely has a different name (even though I can't read its particular characters). Since I don't see any other choice and don't want to stay close to the traffic loaded main road I follow his suggestion. I turn two more times and then some antique shops occur. Soon after a middle-old man talks to me "Hello! Antique. looki, looki!" But I tell him 没有意思 (not interested). But he follows me closely, like a hungry dog. I stop at one of the shops and take a picture and soon he says again "Antique. Looki, looki!" I turn into a bigger road and now I recognize that I have reached the old town of 上海. Here also an elder lady joins us and goes on with "Antique!" It is not the garden I was looking for, but also quite beautiful, so I take some pictures. I continue walking, because I still want to find 人 民路 (and also need to get a bit more distance to the 2 now following me). I only reach more dusty streets and in the end almost 外滩, so I decide to give up the plan of reaching 豫园 and turn towards the direction of the museum, as it was my original plan. In between I also find a bank (金行) and go to the ATM to get some more money. After 20min walking I reach 人民广场 again and now walk into the exit to 南京东路. Walking a bit further I also see the road-name and now just have to find 325号. After 10 more minutes walking I also find this one, only the exhibition seems already closed. Walking around the building I find the theater hall with a smaller exhibition (modern art). At the reception desk they tell me that the main nexhibition is just round the corner, but after a second question they tell me that the last ticket is sold at 4:00pm, and now it is 5:15. Having seen the pictures I decide to go back to the nearest 公园 (park) just to have some rest. I find some people playing Mahjongg, watch them a while but then just sit down at the nearest bench.
As soon as I sit down 2 other girls come around the corner and ask if I want to speak some English. Since I have time anyway, we just have some conversation. After a while they notice that I have a little gimmick attached to my bag, a memorial from the tea house. Now they get more and more interested and ask whether I know where it is. I tell them somewhere on 南京西路, but I don't remember exactly which street number. They ask whether I want to go there again and I say maybe. So we head back to 南京路, but of course I cannot find the tea house. Instead I suggest just to sit down in any tea-selling diner, drink some tea and have a chat. We choose a very cheap place, unfortunately people at the neighbor table even start smoking (and the air gets quite sticky). I ask for some 绿茶 and after some discussion they serve that, but it is really bad qualtiy (with lots of sugar and little taste). The girls don't know what to choose and ask me to pick for them, but I don't know what they want either and just suggest one tries the one kind of tea the other one the other tea. We leave quite soon (I paid for all of us) and the girls ask me wether I want something to eat. I say that I'm not very hungry, but maybe a bit. We stop at an snack-stand and they buy me some pan-cake which actually tastes quite good. Then we go on and stop at a noodle-shop. They are not hungry, but suggest me to try some noodle-soup. I decide for beef and the beef-noodle soup turns out to be quite good. A moment later an older western couple enters the restaurant and wants to order something. My 2 new friends decide to help them, since the couple speaks almost no 汉语. In between they ask me how to translate 米饭 - rice.
While I'm eating one of them calls some friends and finds out where a tea "house" is. Afterwards they also ask the couple wether they want to join us going to the tea "house", so they also join us. We walk all together toward it and as soon as we turn into the gallery I recognize that it is the same I visited before. It seems there is only one very famous tea "house" on 南京路. So we all enter and are this time directed into another a bit bigger room. I ask again for the prices and tell the western couple, which turned out to be from Australia, that it might end up with 200元 /person. As soon as they hear that they flee from the room. I tell the girls that everything is OK, they are just shocked by the price. Fortunately I convince the girl to try only 2 teas and in addition I was told that we can easily have a second infusion on the same leaves. The ceremony around is the same (even the tea-maid). In between one of the girls asks me casually whether I have a girl-friend and I say no, but maybe I'm looking for one. … Later she suggests me to have a careful look at the tea-maid and tell what I think of her. I had a short look at her, but of course was not staring at her. I told the girl that she is very elegant and knows a lot about tea, but she does not speak any English. I don't know what exactly they told the tea maid, but at least she does not look embarassed. After a while we finish the tea presentation (with only 2 different teas, 红茶 and 绿茶) and this time don't buy any expensive bad quality tea. So we end up paying 110元/person. That is a price I'm willing to pay for a short tea-ceremony. Since the girls tell me that the tea maid is somewhat disappointed and ask me whether we can give some tip, I give her additional 10元.
We leave the tea "house" and since it is already dark decide to walk
on 南京西路 and take some pictures. At the end we exchange e-mail
addresses and also phone-numbers. Then we say good-bye and I head back
towards 外滩, where my bus leaves to 复旦大学. This was really an interesting
day, I met a couple of nice women, had a lot of smalltalk and despite being
in 上海 it was interesting for me.
The train to 南京 leaves at 8:00am, but Lei Zhen suggested to be at the station latest at 7, so I have to stand up at 5:45 to get a cab at 6:15. (At this time I don't expect to find the right bus going to the station.) The cab turns out not to be too expensive (23元) and also the hotel called it right to the door. The station is well organized, so I reach the waiting hall after all luggage is scanned. I even have to walk through a personal scanner, but they seem not too strict, since I can pass even with the small knive in my pocket. The seats are still empty since I arrive much too early. I have a (soft) seat and the train leaves and arrives in time. At the 南京火车站 I have trouble to find my friend, so I decide to call him. First I don't understan where he is, but he tells me to exit the station completely. So I leave it and indeed there is one more barrier where they check again your ticket. Before I leave the last roof of the station I try to call him again, since I still don't see him. It turns out that he is just on the way to the station, so I wait a moment for him and finally he finds me. First we buy my next 2 tickets (1 to 杭州 on Tuesday morning and 1 to 广州 the next Sunday (not tomorrow)). He is quite fast asking for the ticket and the lady at the counter also seems to have only little time. I'm wondering how to buy tickets on my own at the next cities, but that's for later. After the station I need another bank, because the ticket to 广州 (a 24h train with bed) is quite expensive - 480元. The third automaton finally works. It turns out that noname ATMs (especially not having any VISA or EuroCard symbol on them) are not useful for foreign ATM/ debit cards, but most automatons within a real bank (except Chinese Post Bank) support ATM cashing (also with American debit cards).
We arrive a bit early for the lunch-party of his class-mate, so we just
have a rest and watch people at the entrance of the restaurant. In a
side-room all servers for this noon are gathered, stand tight in double row
and repeat loudly the words shouted by the person standing in front of them.
Between them walks a better-dressed man and straightens uniforms here and
there. My friend tells me that they are preparing for their service today
and practice loyalty to the restaurant, also the better-dressed guy is
probably the restaurant owner. Especially they are told to be always polite
to the guests and not to accept any tip.
After a while more and more guests arrive and finally we are also asked into the lunch-room. There are 3 big tables, 1 for closer family members, 1 for the former class-mates and 1 for additional guests. They have already put an expensive looking red wine on the table and soon bring cigarettes. I refuse politely (since I don't smoke) and soon more frieds arrive. Most of them (of ages 27-35) are already married and arrive with their wives. So I ask my friend (who is still single) whether there is some pressure for him to get married soon. And he admits that serveral people have already told him to find a girl-friend. I have a small chat with 1 or 2 people at the table and after a while my friend tells me that the arriving baby is the reason for the party, the 100 day old daughter of his class-mate. After a while I get my present out of my backpack (unfortunately the wrapping looks a bit damaged) and hand it to the father. He thanks me politely and first puts the present on a side table. Usually a present is not opened in front of the spender in order to avoid offense by a possible disappointment about the present. But of course I tell my friend what is inside the present (something useful for a young child, clothes).
Now the lunch begins. It starts with serving some beverages and then many small dishes are brought in on plates and put in the middle of the table. The middle part of the table can also be turned and my friend suggests me to try some of the dishes and also makes sure I take enough not to remain hungry. They have really delicious food. I have problems eating the fish with bones (they get always stuck in my mouth), but beside this it is very good. I had a really good lunch and afterwards one of his friends can give my friend and me a lift to the Nanjing museum we want to visit this afternoon.
We stop at the museum and the air is quite hot and sticky. Fortunately the museum has air-conditioning. We watch many pieces, old bronze, jade, some clothes and also porcelain. After a while my friend tells me that he will just have a rest on the chairs outside, but I can continue the museum tour. I decide for one more room and then return to him. We decide now to go to my hostel and put my luggage there. We can find the 夫子庙-district quite easily, only after 2 phone-calls we find the youth hostel. The price is really cheap (35元/night plus 100元 security deposit which you get of course back when you check out) and the dormitory (4 2-level beds in one big room) looks OK. They also provide internet 5元/h. For dinner we decide for the small Chinese diner next door. They are open 24x7 and have quite good food at low prices (a bowl of noodle soup approx 15元). I also decide to go there for breakfast. Next we decide to have a walk in the 夫子庙-shopping area. It also has some beautiful sight-points, where we take some pictures and in the end we enter a tea-house, which usually offer some small trials for free and also has a broad variety of tea qualities. My friend suggests just to take the cheapest version (50元/125g), which we already tried upon entering and I also do that. I can see that they also have better quality levels for 100元/125g or even 500元/125g, but I'm sure I cannot taste the difference given the normal water and my limited knowledge about tea. I also buy 花茶 (flower cented green, not pure flower) tea, it is Jasmine tea and costs even 10元/100g.
Next we go to the theater place, because my friend told me that it might be quite easy to watch Suzhou theater/opera tonight if I'm interested. Of course I am and so we buy 2 tickets, 35元/person. Since there are still 1.5h left until the performance we decide to have a rest in a cafe. I order just some 绿茶 and he orders some Honkong-style cafe. The waiter first looks astonished at me, but after my friend insists they accept me ordering green-tea. I also ask for something from the menu which contains the characters 鸭(duck) and 掌(which I thought should be written 足, but still means someting like foot). My friend tells me that this is indeed duck-feet and I say, so let's have a try. When they serve the tea and coffee they put presumingly the coffee on my side and the tea on my friend's side (since he just left for the rest-room). But I drag the tea to me and shuffle the coffee to my friend's side. The tea is really good and only costs 6元. A while later they also serve the duck-feet (with chopsticks). I have already tried chicken-feet once in LA, so I knew what I should expect. They taste really good, only you have a lot of bones on your plate afterwards. After 1h we leave the restaurant and just buy some items in a local supermarket. Since I have someone speaking Chinese and English at hand I ask my friend whether we can find 2 additional rechargeable batteries for my camera and the saleswoman points us to those. They have very cheap pairs 2100mAh for 20元, slightly mor expensive 2400mAh for 30元 and really expensive 2800mAh for 70元. So I decide for the middle class.
The performance in the evening is quite exquisite. The entrance fee is spent entirely as donation for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. Also the actors themselves are quite good ones. They perfom 3 pieces: … Best of all the text is shown on screens in Chinese and in English. As I can hear from their voices they speak Chinese in a very exaggerated way. Another Chinese friend told me once, if you speak like that (with the tones extremely exaggerated) on the street people will consider you crazy. Nevertheless it sounds really good and also the costumes look very beautiful. Unlike Japanese or traditional Chinese theater however, the female role is played by a woman.
In the mean time it already got dark outside and so we decide to return home and agree to meet the next morning at 8:30am for breakfast.
Today is another interesting day in China to explore new things. We meet as agreed at 8:30am and eat breakfast at the neighbor restaurant. My friend orders all kind of interesting stuff, like 2 kinds of pan-cake, scrambled egg, and soy-milk. I should ask him to write the names down, for me to order similar things tomorrow morning. Unfortunately there is a constant rain this morning. Nevertheless we head towards 紫金山.
The ticket for the entire park costs around 100元, but includes 5 sights.
Due to the rain we try to get into the first sight as soon as possible,
Sacrificial hall at the top of some stairs. As we enter the hall we see 孙逸仙
(Sun Yat-sen) in stone sitting on a high chair. In a building behind this one
is his tomb.
We continue our walk through the park and arrive at the tomb of an emperor of Ming dynasty.
OK, today I want to change the city again. The train leaves at 6:45am, therefore I stand up at 5:00, have a little breakfast, take a cab to the station and enter the train without any problems. Unfortunately it is a quite slow local train so that I arrive in 杭州 (Hangzhou) round noon. At the station I buy my first train ticket all alone and in Chinese. When the clerk hands me the ticket he also wants to point out something to me, but I don't understand immediately. When I have a look at the ticket and it shows the information I expect, from 杭州 to 苏州, only in the upper right corner says something like 杭州东火车站, probably because I bought the ticket here at east-station. I just say 谢谢 and decide to have my assumptions confirmed in the youth hostel. Outside the station I ask someone how to go to the youth hostel, since I only know south of the West-Lake near 雷峰塔. They consider it for a while and finally suggest me to enter bus Y2. A young man walks together with me over half of the bus-place before we can find a bus Y2, but nevertheless it is going to that place and also the bus-driver can tell me when we arrive. Now I see the big pagoda in front of me, but still have a somewhat heave backpack with me and would like to find the youth hostel first. Unfortunately it is not any near and I don't see any label or entrance either. At the tourist information point before the pagoda they tell me that it is at a different place and that I should take bus Y2 back to the east-side of the West-lake and look in front of 中国美。。。 and after a while I can also convince them to write down everything in Chinese, because English place names are much harder to understand when asking average people on the street. In the bus I also find someone who can tell me where to exit. Unfortunately I cannot see the hostel or this 中国美。。。 after exiting the bus, so a while later I decide to enter a small refreshments and tobacco shop and to ask there. Often it is much easier to convince show owners to help you after you buy something from them and also I need some water, so I just buy a big bottle of water for 5元, not too expensive, and ask for the way. He tells me that I just have to diagonal to the right and then turn a bit more left. He even draws such a line on a piece of paper, but forgets to to sketch the road I have to cross doing so. I more or less get the idea what he means and walk on. 100m further I meet again the guy who told me the stop to exit in the bus. It turns out the youth hostel is behind a restaurant and parking lot in a small side street. The lady at the reception desk speaks English and the price is 50元/night (for dormitory), quite good. After check-in I decide to go back to 雷峰塔 and pay it a visit in the afternoon. After an awesome look from the top I rest in the small garden behind it and drink some 俐茶 (not 绿茶, because people have a 杭州-accent here).
I stood up around 850, not too early, and had Chinese
my youth hostel. Then I head towards today's aim: 灵隐寺 (Lingyin temple).
The lady at the reception desk told me, just to take bus Y2 50m from the hostel,
so I leave. The bus is 3元 and I just got on board. However it is not
sufficient to exit on 灵隐寺路 (~ road), so I got off 3 stops too early.
Fortunately there is an old lady who tells me that I need to go 3 more stops.
Waiting for the same bus I catch the attention of 3 old ladies wondering why I
have such a big belly (compared to the average quite slim Chinese). I didn't
completely understand what they said, but just replied 我很爱吃饭 - I love food.
They continue and ask 你是美国人吗？ (Are you American?) But I reply 不，我是
After 20min the bus arrives. The temple park is really easy to find, but they ask for money at every second corner: entrance fee 35元, small temple 10元, main temple 40元, cable car to the top of the mountain and back 40元. Inside the park I first take the path up the small hill along all the sculptures and a small cave. I even captured a picture of a lizzard (with the camera that gets lost in 广州) and finally get a rest at the top of the hill, where there is no further tourist, only their garbage.
Then I enter a smaller temple, take some pictures (without disturbing the
prayers) and also pray for some luck in my life. Some people really spend a
lot of money for incense sticks and even at the prayers' squad. I just bought
a few cheap incense sticks.
On the way back I am offered some 龙井茶 (Dragon-well-tea). I say that I first want 一杯 (one glass) and after saying it twice they understand. It is 1元 on most temple sites, but you can refill with water as many times as you want. After that they also offer me some tea to buy, 30元 for 125g. I say 不太贵 to emphasize that it might be a good deal, but they bring me another box with better looking leaves and say, usually 80元, but for you only 60元. I hesitate a moment and ask if 50元 is also OK, and after some hesitation she also says 行 (OK). So I got a 3rd tea, for less than 100元/125g.
Finally I also take the cable car up to the last pagoda. Since I don't know whether I can manage to find the whole descend I decide for the roundtrip-ticket (上下票). It turns out that the walking way down is really hard to find, if it exists at all. The best pictures can be taken from the cable car: tea plantage, monasteries between the woods, mountain scene in green, sky-scrapers of 杭州.
After this strong investment into the tourist industry I decide to look for a low-bduget but good quality dinner, the recommendation of LP is 奎远观 where main courses should be around 10元. I ask again the ladies at the reception desk and looking into the computer they tell me bus K12 until 半道红. After a while they also say bus 38 until 官_口, the bus stop is out of the hostel to the right and you have to walk less afterwards. So I decide for this version. However the suspicious thing is that there is already no 官_口 at the bus schedule and during the ride I cannot see any stop being called similar either. We reach the final stop and all passengers leave the bus. Fortuantely I remember having seen a couple of not too expensive looking restaurants close to the final stop. So I just walk back, skip the European-looking restaurant and enter the first half-crowded one. Of course the waitress speaks almost no English and my Chinese is still quite limited, so I tell them 我要吃鱼- I want to eat fish (a bit impolite/ children's language). They show me a page with fish and I'm a bit surprised, because it has prices 25-60元 per 300g. The waitress just shows me some living fish and I shall decide which one I want to eat. So I point to the smaller looking black ones on the bottom. I say 我要 这个鱼,菜和米饭 (This fish, vegetables and rice). Unfortunately she also asks me what way I want the fish to be prepared and served, but I only find out about that later. I can only say 对不起，我不懂. And after a second attempt she gives up. They first serve me some tea and after a while a guy brings a plate with fish filet and all kind of vegetables. A bit later he also brings the rice and I start eating with the chopsticks that are at the table. While they first just put a can with medium-hot tea at my table, they now pour me some really hot tea. After a while they even bring me a quite big bowl with some soup, looking like tofu soup but also has vegetables and fish bones. I start worrying a bit if they now bring 20 more dishes, but fortunately it stops here, only after a while (and I was already eating with the chopsticks) they also bring a spoon and a fork. In the end it turns out that the whole meal is just 30元, well not the original 10元 per main course, but still a fair price for a good dinner, which turned out to be 黑鱼 (black fish).
In the evening I talk to a Chinese guy in the youth hostel who claims to be
here on a business trip (with his girl-friend). Before I find out that he has a
girl-friend he also tries to tell me that he might be interested in western
girls, just it is quite hard to talk to them. When I tell him that I also
studied 日语 (Japanese) for a while he suggests me that I should find a Japanese
girl-friend. The other day he tries to convince me that a certain Chinese girl
at the neighbor table is actually Japanese, but I'm not interested in these made
In between we pass a place where some elder people perform a song from Yue-opera. It sounds very different from any classical western music at first, but also very beautiful. They are 2 people, a man and a woman. After a while we continue.
My friend has different things
to do, so I'm on my own again. First I try to
find Gangzhou museum of art and even arrive at the right busstop. In one
direction I can see a tower at the river, but it seems the museum is
quite a bit more to walk. In between I find "Schumann Musik Schule &
Kindergarten". After a while I give up and return to the city center to find
Changing to the
subway and exiting at the right stop, I arrive almost in front of the entrance.
The temple is not too busy and the entrance fee is only 10元. When you enter
you see first the biggest temple house inside with an incense burner in front of
it. But it is also worth walking a bit around in the court, the numerous other
temple houses contain more statues and little treasures.
After the temple I want to see something typical of latter Guangzhou history, so
I go to the Martyr's Memorial Park. The biggest symbol in the Park is of course
a hand holding a weapon, because these martyrs fought for the freedom of China,
i.e. against the overcome feudalism-like society of Qing dynasty and to
establish a republic in China (under
Sun Yat-Sen/ 孫逸仙).
The local leader of the rebellion was Zhang Tailei, whose buste you can see in
the sculpture area behind the bushes on the right hand side. From so much
walking I'm a bit tired, so I have a nap on a bench in the park. In between I
hear people in boots marching almost lock-step and quite fast past me, when I
open my eyes a group of young cadets is exercising by running through the park.
They reoccur every 5min30s. The first 3 laps they are following each other
closely, but after some laps the field stretches. Some of them get really red
in the face and the first fall behind. After a while the cadets suddenly
disappear and also less and less people are to see. The sky is getting darker
and darker, soon it will be raining. Fortunately there are many stands in the
park where it is dry and you can wait for the end of the rain. Now the first
drops already fall and I hurry to open my umbrella, but also to get to a bigger
stand to wait for the end of the rain. I arrive at the big pavillion not a
minute too early. Once I'm under the pavillion I can put my umbrella aside, but
also see the heavy rain raging outside. Looking towards the city I can only
imagine the shades of the buildings, all is concealed behind a big wall of rain.
In the same pavillion also a group of pensioners and 2 mothers with children
stay. We have to wait more than 30min for the rain to be over. After a while
the pensioners start with a kind of rain-dance, they take position in a circle
and start pounding their chests and backs and shout along some motivating words.
Since the rain is almost gone and it is getting dark, I am leaving the park and
try to head towards the subway again. But this is not too easy, since the park
has several exits and I need to ask for the one with the subway (地铁). Of
course it is on the opposite end of the park, but finally I find it. Before
entering the subway I also have a look for a place for dinner and stop at a
small diner. For 23元 I have a good dinner and then return to my youth hostel.
Today my friend is free
again, so we can go together to the Guangzhou Museum
of Art. It turns out the museum is at the expected stop, but I should have
turned into another street. Unfortunately half of the museum is under
construction, but also the remaining exhibitions are really interesting. They
have pieces created during the recent 150 years. I can find some pieces I would
declare as typical communisic art work - a working fisherman, that can catch the
much bigger fish, because in communism he is working together with many
fisherman and fishing is done with plan. But of course there is also more
traditional art, like the picture of the pagoda at the river. When we
leave the museum there is another rain shower, so we have to wait 30min. Then
we head towards another museum.
We arrive 16:30, only half an
hour before the museum closes, but still can see some very exquisite pieces,
like 2 ducks on a lake or landscape with a river and a forest. At 16:58 we
leave the museum. We have a rest at the fountain. Unfrotunately tickets for
the Yue-opera tonight are already sold out. Well then maybe another time I
come to 广东. We have dinner in another small Chinese restaurant and then I
return to my youth hostel. Tomorrow is the last day in 广州.
When I arrive at the hostel one of my
room-mates asks me again whether I want
to join him for eating some fish. I first ask him, if we can keep it around
50元/person and he says yes, so I join him. We can also convince another
room-mate and head together towards a local fish market. The stands are quite
close to each other and it smells strongly for fish, but we can see all kinds of
fish and sea-fruits. My room-mate picks some cheap sea-shells and also some
other shells. Since so far we paid only 30元 he asks me wether I want something
else, so I tell him, maybe something that also looks like fish and we add some
flat really good-looking fish. Then we head towards a restaurant. Despite the
late time it is still quite bussy. We hand our fish to the waitress and she
first puts it on a scale and says 50元, my room-mate says OK and the we have a
seat at one of the tables toward the street. Fortunately at this hour there are
almost no cars on the smaller street, so it is OK. After a while another
waitress arrives and asks us whether we want some beer. The other 2 let me
decide and so I ask for some local but cold beer. For 6元/bottle we get 3 cold
bottles and start drinking some beer while we are waiting for our fish, 干杯.
After 10min they bring the first plate with the sea-shells, of course already
opened. We start eating and after a while they bring another big plate with the
fish and finally also some rice. Now we begin eating and enjoy our meal. My
room-mate tells me to lift the fish-pieces carefully from the top, in order not
to pick up too many bones and this way it is easy at least to eat the upper half.
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