China - Yangshuo And It's Magic Surroundings
If you would like to have a stop in a locality, where the time is passing in another rate of speed, where everyday hunt for activity and stress do not have any chance, so, you arrived to the right spot. It is Yangshuo, small Chinese town, situated in nature karst along Li and Yulong rivers.
Nevertheless, the inhabitants´ number in Yangshuo is changing all the time. It is mostly ranging to 300 000 of persons. The place became famous tourists´ destination, where the English language is being tought, even during hot summer months. The people, coming from the other Chinese towns, are gladly willing to participate on special teaching courses. So, local teachers come from different countries, and, except native persons on lecturers´ posts, you can meet the Belgians, Dutchmen or Swedes or other Scandinavians.
These persons are not obliged to teach, but many of them are working as bar managers, living there for longer time period. So, as a wonderful example, it could serve picturesque Truppers Carpe Diem or Trippers Guest House, distant two kilometres from city centre only. Mr.Tripper, a Belgian, is an owner there, together with his Chinese wife. They are able to offer you, except friendly acceptance, advice and meals of Chinese or European origin, even an accommodation in one room, which is available. From there, you can enjoy marvellous view to a nature, absolutely untouched by civilization. When returning to the town, you have the possibility to visit „Secret Beach“ on Li-river.
Nevertheless, let´s have a look at peaceful town of Yangshuo. The city is consisted of two main streets, which are connected each other with many side-streets. Here, you can find small shops, internet caffees, hotels and hostels, and market place, of course. Except various sorts of spices, twigs from rare trees or from its roots, you have the chance to buy there fruit and vegetables, in fresh or dry form. The same situation is, as far as the meats are concerned. Except fish, snails or crayfish, you can get there chicken, pork, beef, or even dog sorts of meat. And just the dogs became local delicacy (which is much more expensive).
The animals are kept in small aviaries and are killed in accordance with wishes and choice of customers. Speaking about market place, we cannot miss various souvenirs, such as little sticks made from various materials or horns from water buffalos. Even cheap jewels from Tibet silver do not miss there. The subjects resemble the tin (anyway, it is not original Tibet silver but an iron covered with silver). The town of Yangshuo, influenced with western civilization, does not forget its roots (origin), so, you can easily find here many counterfeits, starting from watches of very bad quality, via handbags up to cloths and dresses. An undivisible part of shopping is formed with price bargain. You have the chance to obtain the goods at 20% level from originally stated price! Anyway, you can reach half-price level from originally offered price.
To another products and services belong, no doubt, the chance to go along with bamboo raft on stream of Li-river, or you can rent a bicycle. And really, you have a big choice, from so called folding bikes up to mountain bikes or even tandem bicycles. Nevertheless, you are advised to pay attention at traffic jam! It is true that the streets are full of signs and traffic lights do not mean that all these would be respected carefully. In narrow streets as well as wide mains streets, personal vehicles, buses or motor-cycles are passing quickly. However, red light does not mean: “Stop!“, full line is no wall and ordered way direction does not order something at all. It could happen that you meet vehicles surpassing from left or right side or even driven in opposite direction! Motor-horns make terrible noise and crowds of two-cycle engines, cooled by air, border the streets. Nevertheless, let´s forget romantic brands, such as Italian Vespa or Lambretta: On local motor-cycles the brands of Ianshe, Luyuan or Guana prevail.
You cannot meet pretty girl from 1950 or enamoured couple, but you see (to your big surprise!) four-member family, including dog and shopping subjects on board! Another necessary supplements, such as helmets, are missing completely. On the other hand, you can note that an umbrella or parasol do not miss there, as the ladies try to be sheltered in front of sun-rays even during a drive. White hue of the skin, reminding the alabaster, is the most attractive one. If local shops and markets will be tired for you, so, it could be the best time period (after good lunch or relax) you can continue ahead with your next activities. Except tourist walking or cycling, you can lease a raft for wild parts of the river, or canoe for calm river-sections. On the other hand, more courageous persons could study fighting sports or investigate local limestone rocks. You can find there more than 300 marked and secured paths, and local guides are always at your disposal. So, the mounteneering found there its respectable place in 1992, when Todd Skinner, an American climber, arrived to Yangshuo. So, the American paths´ classification is being used there (5.0-5,15b).
Since 2001, the Australian company Chinaclimb is active in this town. Anyway, walking through city centre, you can meet X-Climber or Spiderman Climbing Companies. Moon Hill (Yueliang Shan) became a famous place, not only for mountaineers but for all lovers of hikes and circular views. And just there, Mr. Todd Skinner marked his most known climbing paths. This rocky bridge is situated in distance of 8 kms from city centre. This steep hike up to its top takes 30 minutes approx, but the view is worth to be done. Nevertheless, in Yangshuo surroundings, you can find another local attractive places, such as the caves (Assembly Dragon Cave, Green-Lotus Cave), the bridges or night fishing. The Ancient Guilin Show or the excursion towards Long-Ji rice-terraces, situated in distance of 200 kms from the town, could be recommended, too. But, keep in mind that local maps do not maintain any scales!
And what about the boarding and night life in this busy town of Yangshuo? As mentioned above, the town became a famous destination for travellers, known as „ruck-sacks passengers“ or travellers from West. So, except traditional local restaurants, you can meet pizzerias or places where you can receive steaks or classical West kitchen (meals). To most known restaurants belong, for sure, popular Rock´n Grill or 7th Heaven Cafe. As far as night bars are concerned, you can choose in accordance to your music wish, from reggae, via dance or techno style, or life performances, where you can be shocked with local pop scene.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that whatever you eat or drink, your stomach could not be perfectly adapted to such local meal composition. So, you are recommended to take some packets of prophylactics and another packs of suitable medicins. You have to take into consideration that a certain time you will spend in WC (in better case, you meet so called Turkish WC, in 90% of cases!). Another advice is quite simple: do not wash away your toilet paper! This paper belongs to rubbish basket! Do believe, that toilet could be completely blocked. And afterthat, the help, assistance and service of Chinese plumber is not a pleasant matter, you can spend with such activity, loosing the whole day in suchg way!
Text and Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský
Translation: ing. Jan Jonáš
This is how my first three meals that I missed in China the most. Of course, one find out that IKEA is about an hour of bus ride off the campus (in China my perception of what is “near” really changed) and that you can buy there some cheese and chocolate, to feel better there.
When we purchased the tickets that we guarantee that we will be able to leave the Zhangjiajie National Park, we did not protest when we found a complete state of affairs: a printed inscription in characters wu-cuo quite clearly said that most likely during the way we sit.
We decided to give the park another chance and start from the other end - from the south. We also fulfilled our commitment to avoid the stairs, so we walked along the river.
Our first impressions of the Zhangjiajie National Park were not positive from the first moments we were there. Positive impressions, however, were not following. At the entrance we met a woman who insisted on offering us an amazing hotel accommodation in the park at a price that we even had to haggle areas not favored by tourists.
After a nine hour train ride we got to the station in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province. What was our surprise when we tried to beat a hot gust of fresh air as Chungking! You can not say, although it would not be hot, but there was a gentle breeze, and overall was a lot more comfortable.
We just reinforced our opinion that it is difficult to find how you can get where you need to go. The IN thing right now is the mien-c' face concept. We have something similar in the Czech Republic as well. Long story short – you don’t want to loose your face in front of others.
K625 train from Chengdu to Chongqing was relatively ... interesting means of transport. But since it was turned on only every other light, and because we were tired to death, we just passed the seat (unusually empty, endured a few most determined). Nerozhlíželi we left nor right, because ignorance is sometimes the key to success, and we slept fitfully.
We both knew Chengdu quite well, so after a thorough sleep we went to a bamboo park at the university where I studied. Refreshed by a sweet watermelon we set ourselves another goal: the mosque to the west of Tiananmen Square.
The path to Sung-Pan lasted about three hours. As soon as we got off the bus, we realized that we were in a an area superpacked with tourists. While the night was still far, we were worrying about overpriced accommodaiton.
Lao-pan of our hotel (if you dare to call it hotel) promised that the bus heading to our following destination, Zhuo-er-kai (a town known as Zoige), departs at 7 o’clock in the morning
It seemed that weather wanted to reward us for what we bore on the other day. So we woke up in beautiful morning. Also, we found out that somebody dig up the main street in the village. So we had to jump over many of the new holes on the road.
A bus trip went relatively fast, sky became clear and we had a view of vast land before us. More and more we submerged between high mountains covered with grass and nimble goats.
After our visit of Labrang monastery we were falling asleep, in rain, and in rain we were waking up. We were also quite glad that we had abandoned our initial goal to sleep on steppe under sky.
It is hot. We sit in a bus crammed by a window and we are trying to breath fresh air. The freeway changes to a dusty road with many bumps. Bumped we got off the bus for a short visit in Linxia town.
Another road was ahead of us, it was from Ping-liang in Gansu Province to Tianshui. The name of the latter means literally “sky – water “(天水). This was the very first thought we had when we jumped to a puddle right when we got off the bus.
As we decided upon a plate of la-mien soup. So we did. Right in the morning we got on a city bus going to the Xiang River. As soon as we got off the bus, we saw our destination - Tung-Chou. Because it is a real island, the only access road goes along the river.
On the following day, around seven o’clock in the morning we got to Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi. It has very rich history.
The train, although it made us very, very tired. It took us safe right into Hefei, the capital and largest city in Anhui province.
Despite the title looks promising there wont be a long description of my acting career. As we promised to the elderly, we came on the following day to another “rehearsal”.
After registration troubles in the office, I managed to go through the rest of the week pretty well. I did not have to worry about the housing. Gradually, I was getting to know my new roommate and our new pets – cockroaches.
At the airport, I get in the bus heading to my university. There are always traffic jam in Beijing. I have a lot of time to think. How it was back then. I had already settled, bought several necessities to get by… and then I just had been waiting for my roommates to show up.
I am waiting for tickets to get from the Beijing Airport. I have to just sit in a right bus. An hour later I am on place. I am really curious about my new place, campus and its surroundings. I have to remember my first campus in Chengdu two years earlier.
A queue to get a round stamp seems infinite. Next I have to just pick up my baggage, get on a bus that would take me from the airport and get at the campus. Everything according to the plan. Only with some extra time in queues or in Beijing traffic jams. Two years ago in Chengdu, if my memory is right, it was not that easy...
Previous day in Chu-fu, sadly, in comparison to places that we've visited was not that interesting. Maybe if around the tomb of the great Confucius did not stand crowds of Chinese eager to make photos and if for passing the cemetery of the Kchung family was not required admission 40 yuans, the overall impression would be a little bit better.
While browsing in the diary, I found this note: "Qufu, arrival around 00:00." I remember that moment too well. It was quite cold, pitch black, and right at the exit of the station greedy taxi drivers came to us. Matter of principle had to be rejected. Then, however, had no choice but to hope that they were wrong and that you can get accommodation in and around the station ...
Although, I was about to tell you how we lost accommodation in Heze, I should mention our train trip as well. We sat in a slightly crowded carriage and talked in Czech, which of course attracted the attention of our fellow travelers. In contrast, a bunch of us sat constantly laughing gentlemen who were watching us a lot, and finally dared to ask where it actually are.
Another day spent in Kaifeng was very spirituality. At first, we visited five mosques, because in Kaifeng there is a large community of Chinese Muslims. We were surprised also neglected half-ruined church, where making of wedding photography took place. We finished the entire circuit in a Buddhist temple.
We loved Kaifeng from the very beginning. Well, not actually, no. Because I was snorted over the fact that they even hadn’t swept up the room when the previous guests left.
Bozhou said good bye in style. We went to temple Mu-lan cch'. It is a temple dedicated to the memory of famous Chinese heroin, Mulan. Perhaps some of you have heard her name in the Ballad of Mulan. Until the present, Mulan is an example of traditional Chinese son/daughter devotion (siao in Chinese).
Our sleep that night, although intermittent, but still quite refreshing, so we did not hesitate and early morning set off to explore other monuments in Bozhou. Silently we hoped that the sooner we get up, the less heat will accompany us.
Way to Bozhou appeared to be pretty funny thing. Unlike trains, bus transporatation does not have schedules on the Internet. Perhaps because, as I was told, buses are private.
Even local policeman knew of our arrival. So we could safely roam the city. A relatively small community of Hui live in the city. We like them not only for their culture but also for their kind attitude. So we went to the streets to see their mosques.
It was already evening and when we left our accommodation and set out to the Labrang monastery. It is one of the six main monasteries of the Gelugpa sect, a Tibet Buddhist sect, known also as “the yellow caps sect.”
„Waky, waky! We are in Pingliang!“ It takes a while for one to realize that this is not just a dream but that a Chinese conductor tries to tell you that it is about time to leave your warm bed in the carriage for you arrived in your destination.
Beijing – Datong– Hohhot... and Yinchuan was supposed to follow. As we were amazed that we managed to get some tickets, we didn’t examine it.
Our bus finally stops at the end of a long, dirt track, in which about an hour ago has changed as if by magic a modern six-lane highway. My worries we will finish up on the roof, fortunately not materialized, we drove past woods and gouged out before us, football pitch right and green has left. Everything was dominated by ground shabby, battered gray building - school.
After four days in Beijing we packed suitcases and with our guide got on the plane. Before us is a big unknown - we are moving into one of the poorest provinces of China to west to the Tibetan border. It won´t be surprise just for us, but also our girls will visit Beijing - Ai Qing the first time in their life.
China's hard work and discipline accompanied us at every step and a visit of Beijing Foreign Studies University just confirmed it. Here we had a chance to appreciate even more characteristic of Chinese - adaptability.
The first dining experience in China didn’t impress me too much. Five stars beautiful hotel, a lot of fuss on arrival our journalistic delegation - a bow and waving fans welcomed us beauties in traditional dress, from the table.
From the bus window, we could see Beijing crisscross, authentic atmosphere of the streets and alleys and hundreds of thousands of people in them, but we sucked up in the role of hikers and then of course after "bedtime" is ended with an official dinner with selected potent and our tired guide disappeared behind hotel room door.
We "elect" could see the Chinese megalopolis through largely a luxury air-conditioned bus with a smiling dude behind the wheel. It is also part of local standard, certainly not just for a small group of natives and of course for wealthy tourists.
World media today proclaims that the Chinese state television CCTV triumphantly finished its job and officially opened a new headquarters in Beijing. The futuristic-looking building that should symbolizes the emergence of China on the world stage, journalists dubbed it - thanks to the remarkable shape for her grace in the world called the Chinese "Great boxers."
Being in China and not visit the Great Wall is equal to savagery. The official program that the Chinese government has prepared us is this trip only alternative and we have to earn deserve it. From early morning we sit in the Red Hall headquarters of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China and pretend to listen to propaganda papers enthusiastic speakers.
Finally Beijing. Our journalistic team has battled a series of security checks and we find ourselves in an endless airport lounge. The feeling that the local crowd have to absorb us was not correct. Then we see a smiling Chinese lady and in minutes everyone sit in a luxury air-conditioned bus.
Ancient city of Xian, or Si-an is about 3000 years old. It is one of the most important places throughout Chinese history, since it is here that housed 11 Chinese imperial dynasties. At the time when Beijing was a mere village, golden Si - an shone by bright colours of temples, wide boulevards and architectural excesses.
Huge China is a country of contrasts. It consists of several climatic zones, there you can find a noisy city full of glass skyscrapers and smog, but also the traditional mountain village with mud houses and rice plantations.
Macao, Nauru and Tuvalu - these are the smallest exotic states of the world and a target of our next travel excursions. A view at the way of life, history and tourist places of interest of these mini-states could be approached with today's first chapter, dedicated to Macao, situated in South Asia.
Our regular article-serial about interesting matters, curiosities and remarkable places of Czech Republic and Slovakia will accompany you also in 2011. Nevertheless, our interest will be, starting from today, surpass the borders of our Republic, trying to present you interesting information about places which could be, with its exceptionality, worth to be mentioned in the articles.
Qinghai Province fascinates me at every step, or rather at every kilometre. A mixture of Buddhism and Muslim world humbly exist together is incredibly interesting phenomenon, especially for journalists from far, accelerated, often impersonal and intolerant Europe. This time we are heading into the valley that lies in Rebkong area, the centre of Tibetan art in the province.
Again our bus is going on the new highway, which I'd read that it was probably built for only one reason - to make available the Tibetan Buddhist monastery Ta'er. And really, this time not waiting for us any boneshaker dirt road and conveniently parked outside the gates of a large complex at the foot of greenish mountains.
Classical Chinese carpets have described Marco Polo in his travelogues, but till today in the world are still not too much to seen and know little about them. I look forward to our visit carpet factories in the province of Qinghai, Xining on the outskirts of the city, to widen my horizons. The lives of local workers I try to plug deeply into the subconscious and try to see the beauty around.
Profane language and pornography shouldn’t be on the Internet. We would certainly agree with that if only this wasn’t just a cover for endless clutch of the Chinese Internet censorship. Under the cover of a protection of national cultural heritage, and public interest and prosperity the Chinese government tries to hide its rough cleansing.
If we set off to China it is almost imposible to miss out its capital - Beijing. Beijing is full of traces of history but Beijing also lives in the present and future in every of its wide avenues and narrow streets. Beijing is full of fabulous food, noisy traffic... And so on and on. Where would you look for peaceful moments in busy metropolis?
We all got used to all these superlatives surrounding China. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that she achieved some primacy every week.
We had many formal meetings during our journey in China with government officials or top managements of some companies that tried to make themselves more visible through us, European journalists. In a hurry after these precisely scheduled meetings I always gathered prepared business cards and carefully placed them to my notes.
We have all this Christmas martyrdom behind us, more or less. New Year’s eve after-effects are the past now and everyday life came back again. Far in the east of our planet the holiday season is getting to its peak.
Walks and rides in Shanghai are an infinite fount of learning unknown and different no matter where it is. I manage to sit down and observe rush around me for half an hour on one very busy avenue.
To move on the other side of Euroasia is nothing easy for those who don’t know how. Especially when they are going to have a personal contact with a Chinese family, business partners, or politicians and officials. For such a stay it is good to make some little preparations, otherwise you will experience more than one faux pas.
In China, people drink really everything you can think of. Everyday drink is inherent tea, whether green or black, fermented or semi-fermented. Water and hundreds of species of non-alcoholic beverages are part of food as well as beer or very popular traditional rice wine. On the tables of local "higher" classes but there are also wine from grapes, until recently marginalized drink.
The first ever Chinese word that I learned, and it still did not forget, is the "pi-jo". If you seem familiar, you are right - though vastly different languages, for favourite golden-coloured brew has phonetically very similar name as Czech and many other Slavic languages. Drinking beer is a hobby that is definitely common with the Chinese.
The Great Wall of China. The Long Wall. The Endless Wall. There are many names for the same wall, the wall that everybody knows wherever he/she lives. If you are Chinese, it is THE wall. You are proud of it because it is a national symbol. As Mao Zedong once said: “Who never got on the Great Wall of China is no man.” Or Chinese.
Till the start of the World's Expo remains less than 11 months. Here in Shanghai the word Expo is inflected to suffer. Sky blue mascot of Hainan - pao exhibition more than a year before the outbreak this exhibition´s madhouse smiles from windows, posters, winks from light boards, and I decided to bring one teddy home.
The second day in Shanghai. I slept great, the apartment from Chinese Ministry in one of the most modern hotels in Pchu - tung district, hardly compares to the most luxury holiday model.
When I looked at the city in evening from promenade of colonial Bund, Oriental Pearl enchanted me with its graceful shapes, and I watched long how at it clothed in new and new colours in regular intervals. I do not know, which one suits her most...
We are in Shanghai, in a metropolis shrouded by hundreds of "firsts" that is, in the largest Chinese city. One "the best" there certainly lacks – the historic one. Shanghai, unlike many other Chinese cities has relatively short history, after the Middle Ages, you won´t find any foot mark.
Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský
China' s largest city has increasingly attracted attention. You may even get a non-visa permissio...