Friday, 13 February 2015

A month travelling in central and southern China

Teaching at a university in China means a long winter holiday allowing for extensive travel.

Here's a summary of where I've recently been and selected occurences of interest. I'll apologise in advance for the reduced photo quality - China's tightening firewall ("golden shield") means I can now only upload photos via the Blogger iPad app which seems to blur images excessively.

Following a high-speed morning train journey and after finding my hostel I went on a walk and found an interesting railway sidings for old trains then headed back, awkwardly managing to get hold of a meat roll en route (the language skills are wanting). Had booked four nights and wasn't expecting much more excitement, but back at the hostel restaurant/bar there was another foreigner, a Quebecois named Kevin taking time out in China to write a screenplay, a fascinating chap.

The next day we went to Hankou together to view the architecture and later met an Aussie at the hostel. The next day went to the lake, went out in the evening, met another Brit in a foreign bar, played darts, danced, drank.

In a couple of days I'd rediscovered the fun, freedom and opportunities of travel and was looking forward to the next escapade.

Guilin, the Longji rice terraces and Yangshuo
A major tourist destination this time and in the hostel met a Brit travelling the world on his redundancy and an Aussie English teacher also on her holidays and we went to the rice terraces.

They'd look even better after rain but it was a decent walk.

Yangshuo is said to be one of the most beautiful places in China and I was keen to see the landscape, climb the hills and explore on bike. It was on bike when a Chinese girl stopped me to point out "your friends" (foreigners) climbing a seemingly impossible peak.

I invited her to climb an easier one, and as we were both travelling alone we made friends and continued to travel together from there.

Went on a bike ride the next day to a place called Xingping and climbed another peak. Met an interesting guy from Cambridge named John who is fluent in Mandarin - his blog is worth a visit!

Dehang & Aizhai
Aizhai bridge is the world's 7th highest and a few hours from Changsha, so I was keen to see it, especially as I'd read the next door village of Dehang was a beauty spot with some great walks and places to stay. 

Getting close to the bridge was tricky - there was a £10 fee for entry to the viewing area still under construction, but fortunately the security guards told us about an alternative path there, which we took.

There was another gate barring the way but locals told us we could go through the building site, which we did, and then found an old path which took us down and close to the bridge, which is only crossable by motorway traffic. The pedestrian walkway may open later but for now it was just out of reach.

Onwards back to Dehang to see the gorges and waterfalls, and I was not disappointed. The falls were huge, water babbled around your feet and the surroundings were lush green.

The route took us back to Dehang village, then we continued up a climb through the 9 Dragons Waterfall path, which included a scary climb up a ladder and steep steps.

Made sure we got back down before nightfall, but this was a perfect day of exploring, sightseeing and climbing.

Described as China's most beautiful town, diggers made a racket from morning to late at night.

I came down with food poisoning, the landlady of the guest house told us she wished we'd never came as we wanted to go out to get some food at 11pm which would mean her waiting up, then I was involved with a fracas with a security guard who wouldn't let us into the old town to get back to our hotel without an expensive ticket (the landlady took us through the first time without telling us this requirement).

Some reasonably interesting things to do in this big city, the most memorable being my first bungee jump.

Took a trip down to Zhuhai, outside Macau and made a day trip into the former Portuguese colony.

The older parts were quite interesting but wouldn't fancy more than a day there.

Shantou, Chenghai & Nan'ao Island
Wasn't sure where to go next but Shantou was a decent sized city further west in Guangzhou with some history so headed there.

Read about a censored museum in nearby Chenghai and couldn't find details of exactly where it was or how to get there so naturally had to make a point of going. It was an interesting place to visit.

Shantou's old town is fascinating - crumbling old Chinese-European architecture from the concession period.

Got called an 'American ghost' then at the station on the way back got goaded by two jealous thugs which is the only time I've felt unsafe in China. 

Had read that nearby Nan'ao Island was described as China's most beautiful island by National Geographic.

Maybe we saw the wrong (west) side as it was covered in litter, dirty quarries everywhere. Getting a cheap room and renting a wasn't easy. Also the route through the forest park didn't permit us on bikes (only motor vehicles were allowed) on safety grounds. Try the east side if you visit.

That's all, thanks for your interest!

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