Last known location: London, England

Archive of posts about China


Shanghai Skyscrapers

We arrived in Shanghai on Saturday afternoon and decided that the best way to get our bearings would be to take in the view from one of the city’s many skyscrapers. After checking into our hostel, which was again more like a hotel but at hostel prices, we headed off on the metro to the Jin Mao Tower, which has an observation deck on

the 88th floor. There were amazing views of rest of the city across the river and of the neighbouring skyscrapers in the Pudong district. The one slightly alarming thing up there, which made even Gem feel slightly queasy, was the view down inside the tower itself; a hotel occupies from the 54th floor upwards, and you can see 34 floors down all the way to the lobby from the observation floor!

We headed back across the river through the bund sightseeing tunnel, which was odd experience to say the least. You went through in little pods with a light and sound show which was supposed to make you feel as if you were going to the centre of the earth. The translation for the voiceover wasn’t that great though so it didn’t make that much sense, but was quite fun anyway! Click here to read more…


Canals, Crabs and Cakes in Suzhou

We arrived in Suzhou fairly late on Thursday night after a 5 hour train journey from Wuhan.  Our hostel was called the Waterfront Inn, a bit misleading considering it wasn’t that close to any of Suzhou’s canals! But it was great, and we had a fancy mezzanine room which we promptly fell asleep in!  On Friday we explored Suzhou.  Weather was fantastic, and we were happily strolling around in t-shirts again.  Got a few funny looks from the Chinese who were wrapped up in coats, but it must have been mid 20’s so we were perfectly happy!  So much so that when we arrived at one of the many parks we had a snooze on the grass by the river!

Next we headed to Pan Men, described in our guidebook as one of the most pleasant areas of the city.  It was an area within the old city walls, surrounded by two canals and a park.  After competing with other tourists for the obligatory photo opportunities we went over to Wangshi Yuan, an old temple and Chinese garden, stopping off for coffee and cake  en route.  There are loads of bakeries in Eastern China, so we’re upping out caffeine and calorie intake!  We browsed some of the local shops on the way to Suzhou Park, a really lovely green area in the middle of the city.  There was a big square playing traditional Chinese music and we sat for a while to watch local couples dancing.  There was also some sort of karaoke machine at the other end of the park which was overrun with people singing very badly! Click here to read more…


The Three Gorges

We crawled out of bed at 6am to catch minibus to Chongqing for our river cruise, which was a bit of a struggle after 4 hours sleep and a few too many beers the night before! We’d arranged it through our hostel, who’d booked everything with a local travel agent. The details were all a bit vague, but the plan was that we’d be taken to Chongqing, where we’d meet up with the cruise company who would then transport us to Wanzhou to board a boat which would take us through the Three Gorges to Yichang.

We got on the minibus in a bit of daze, to find it full of luggage and locals – there were no seats so we plonked ourselves on the floor, which didn’t seem too promising for a four hour journey! Five minutes later however, we stopped at the side of the road and our driver pointed us towards a coach that was parked there. We hopped on to find it again full of locals. They seemed to be made up of two tour groups, and as Gem went straight back to sleep I had to answer all their questions; whether they understood the answers or not I have no idea. Click here to read more…


Chilled out Chengdu

Arrived in Chengdu early on Sunday morning and got met by Lori of Lazy Bones hostel – our home for the next 2 nights.  She took us to the hostel on the brand new Chengdu metro.  It’s only been open for a month and was a quite pleasant experience; air con, no crowding and English signage!  Our hostel was only 3 stops from Chengdu North station and also centrally located for the Chengdu sites.  It was one of the nicest places we’ve stayed – big lounge/bar area with pool and ping pong table and a nice little outside courtyard.  Most importantly, it had a washing machine which meant we could finally wash some clothes.  There was even a roof terrace to dry them on so our bedroom didn’t turn into a makeshift laundry room!

After successfully getting ourselves and our clothes clean we walked down to Tianfu Square which marks the centre of Chengdu.  There’s a big white statue of Mao looking out onto the square and lots of very impressive fountain displays.  The square itself is enormous and looked particularly so because it had been cordoned off by the police for some reason and was completely empty.  We grabbed some lunch, our first at a Chinese fast food joint, and then headed over to Renmin Park, one of Chengdu’s bigger public parks.  There was a flower festival taking place in the park so we had to pay a minimal entrance fee.  Worth every penny, though, because there was lots going on.  We saw everything from Chinese opera and story of Communism dances to traditional music and some gorgeous flower displays. Click here to read more…


Xi’an Warriors and Mutton Soup

After a chilly morning trying to leave Pingyao, our second bus did finally arrive, and we had a pretty easy journey through the snow to Xi’an accompanied by a never ending DVD of a terrible Chinese variety show!

We got dropped off in an unexpected part of town and had to haggle with a taxi driver to get us to our hostel.  Cue more manic driving, weaving in and out of traffic and a few emergency stops!  He’s definitely the worst we’ve had so far!

Had quite a chilled out day on the Wednesday; explored the Bell and Drum towers and wandered around the Muslim Quarter of the city, which was packed with stalls selling food, fruit, cakes, sweets and the usual tourist trinkets. After a lot of haggling we left with a huge bag of chilli peanuts (which we’re still eating now) and a pair of Ray-Bans for Gem (real obviously!). Headed to ‘Bar Street’ by the South Gate afterwards which was touted as having western-style pubs. They turned out to be more like cafes but we had a couple of beers all the same, albeit some of the most expensive we’ve had in China so far! Click here to read more…


Sunshine (and some snow!) in Pingyao

After a hectic but great few days in Beijing we were excited to be leaving the city and heading inland to a more rural setting.  We left early on Sunday morning and caught the Metro to Beijing West station – the biggest railway station in Asia.  Potentially disastrous but we managed to find it without too many problems (pointing at words in a guide book can get you a surprisingly long way!) despite my constant moaning about the weight of my backpack and the miserable weather.  God knows what I’d do without Dan because he has somehow managed to navigate us everywhere without ever getting us too lost!  My sense of direction and ability to map read is shocking.  But I’m always happy to ask for help, unlike some!!

The station was enormous but thankfully had plenty of English signs and translations so we quickly made our way to the waiting area for our train, which was similar to an airport waiting lounge; it was really big with shops and cafes and nowhere near enough chairs for the hundreds of people packed into it.  The Chinese queuing technique is great – it all seems very civilised at first but once the doors open it’s every man for himself as the crowd surges forward in a mad rush to get to the front.  There was no need for us to join in with this; we had our seats booked on the train.  But somehow we got caught up in it all and were pushing and shoving our way through with the rest of them.  Our big backpacks definitely worked in our favour on this occasion! Click here to read more…