27 Jan Wéi to China
- Border crossing – Took a taxi to the border from Macau into China and waited in the long queues to get across into China. Arriving at the other side, everything was just written in symbols and I had no idea where to go or how to buy a train ticket. Eventually after roaming around for about an hour trying to find an ATM Machine, I found the train counter and got myself onto a train to Guangzhou. On the train I was trying to work out which subways to take and it’s not so easy when everything’s in Symbols. This Chinese guy and his 5 year old daughter kindly saw I was lost and spoke English so they took me to the right station and walked me to the hostel.
- Language barrier – Everything in China is symbols with a few places that have English written. In all the local restaurant you haven’t got a chance of knowing how or what to order by looking at the menu, only on the odd occasion you have someone who speaks a little English to help you order food.
- Ken and Vivian Sightseeing day – The guy who I met on the train wanted to take me around sightseeing for a day, Ken kindly insisted that as I have come to his hometown it is his duty to show me around which I gladly accepted his kind offer. His 5 year old daughter Vivian seemed to like me to on the first meeting and really wanted show me around to. We saw some cool sights and Ken paid for everything, breakfast, lunch and dinner local style. This is definitely the best way to experience a place, a local taking you around. We had such a fantastic day together.
- Local as it gets Dinner – Ken took me out for dinner and wanted me to try the totally localest thing you could have. Now in China, they seem to eat the different body parts of the animal compared to westerners. So when Ken ordered chicken for me… I was expecting a nice chicken breast or thigh.. but what came instead was a curry filled with chicken FEET!! .. Yes FEET!! I was a bit sceptical about it, but as he had kindly bought this for me I gave it a try. To be fair, it actually tasted pretty good but just holding the claw and knowing that it’s a chickens foot kind of puts you off. He then said he’s ordered some pork, so I was thinking great, something normal for mains. How wrong I was.. I then got a Pigs foot cut up into slices.. Now just the sound of it made me a bit disgusted, let alone the entire plate for me. I had to give it a try, I can’t say it was that great at all but hay still polished off half the plate out of politeness. Then for mains was a fish curry.. Uh oh.. What happened again.. This time the curry arrives but what’s missing..? The body? The only thing served is the head and the tail.. completely the opposite to western style where we eat the body and throw away the rest. I think I experienced china’s usual dinner offerings all in one night, Ken definitely showed me local style which being my first full day, pretty good accomplishment.
- YHA Riverside hostel – This was such a fun cool hostel to stay at, allot of the people were actually young businessmen who were there for the Canton Fair (Import/Export Trade fair). There were a few guys from India who we sat and had a beer with, it was quite interesting finding out about their life stories, business and how they get married. The Indian guy said he was taken to this girl’s house by his parents one day, and the girl was hiding behind door and he just got a few peeks of her. But after an hour of being at the house, he was practically engaged and the wedding date was set. Now I’ve heard this used to happen in the olden days, but this is my first real life story of talking to someone where it only happened 2 years ago. Pretty crazy I’d say, so arranged marriages do still happen.
- Planning day – Originally we planned to be in China for 4 weeks, but as we decided to go Myanmar then had some China visa issues and partied it up in Macau, we ended up only having about 12 days there. We wanted to see soo much as China is such a big country, how were we going to do it all. We didn’t want to miss anything, so after about 3 to 4 hours of planning we came up with an awesome plan to see basically one city a day then move on with a few internal flights booked and praying that the rest will just work out when we get there.
- Cucumber Crisps – I’ve never seen these in my life before, they actually taste like Cucumber.
- Beef Balls Soup – Ken said he knew the best place for Cow Balls.. Now I was a bit confused when he kept saying cow balls that was it actually going to be cow balls. Even when the dish arrived, in my mind I was squeamishly taking a bite thinking is this actually a cow’s ball…? Few more bytes in I still wasn’t sure so I asked Ken again what it is.. Thankfully it was a like a meatball rather than a cow ball, so I continued to eat it.
- Panda World – In our minds, we just couldn’t go to China without going to see the famous Chinese Panda’s. Chengdu is in the centre of china and this is where Panda Research Centre is. There were hundreds of Panda’s, ranging from baby sized to full grown adults. They just play around all day and I’m sure one Panda we saw was soo photogenic, that it would climb onto this half cut tree when there was an audience and turning around to face the camera, just incredible. These Panda’s are soo awesome and totally worth the long journey to see them. I also decided to fit in with the Panda’s and bought myself one of those kids Panda hats.
- Dumplings and Meat – The Chinese dumplings are just unbelievably delicious, not that we had any idea what meat was inside them but hay sometimes if something tasted good, it’s better not knowing what it is.
- Local lowest class train as foreigner – As mentioned before, we kind of planned the route but how we was going to get to some of these places, we was just winging it. We turned up to buy a train ticket and the only thing we could get was the lowest of the lowest class ticket. There was no other option, so we just had to buy it. So we walk along the platform past the 1st class, past sleeper class, past a/c class into the back of the train. Walking down the aisle all full of local Chinese people only (mainly local poorer farmers) and look for our seats. Squashed in-between 5 people, being eyeballed hard by the entire train who thought we were basically aliens from mars, we take our seats with our Burger in our hand. There’s me sitting down next to this farmer with my stupid looking Panda hat on saying hello, in which they guy has no idea what I’m saying. We actually felt like we were in danger and that we were going to get robbed throughout the journey or even beaten up. After an hour of sitting in silence, the train stops at the next station and around 16 men just gather around our seats. One guy who looked like a hardcore nutter was just talking in Chinese to me for like 5 minutes with me just staring at him with a clueless look. Luckily this guy next to me spoke a tiny but of English and started to translate a bit for me, and he said all of these guys are curious about who we are, where we are going and what we are doing in china. So with a friendly smile I was using my interpreter to talk to this gangster looking fellow. We still felt a bit threatened actually. I had a deck of cards on the table and offered to play a game with the guy, and he said ok, but we had difficulty communicating how to play. I then told him to pick a card so I could do a trick on him. I continued my trick and it worked! I picked out his card and this completely broke the ice between the 16 guys still surrounding us and they gave me a little clap. The guy was impressed and then wanted me to do it again. So I gratefully done it again, however this time the card came out differently, but I know that the guy told me some wrong piles as the other guy said he played me as he wanted to show that I couldn’t do it again. But all in that entire card trick broke the ice with them; the guy even bought us both a beer afterwards. Although at first we felt frightened by them, all it was is that they were very curious about us and why we are in china, maybe excited to a degree to see foreigners.
- Terracotta warriors – The Terracotta warriors was built by the first emperor of China to protect the afterlife. There are hundreds of Warriors, horses and chariots reconstructed in the pits in Xi’an. They are pretty amazing, with each type of warrior holding different weapons and armour. Such an awesome historical sight to see in China.
- Local food – As Xi’an is in Shaanxi Province which we were told has amazing food, our local tour guide chose some spicy noodles for us.
- Western food – A Cheeky McDonalds was needed after having allot of random food. The golden arches are always a safety stop, albeit not being in English you can just point, order and pray.
- Crazy Taxi with balls – Our Taxi driver was a nutcase. There was an accident and a big traffic jam on this highway, he got fed up so decided to go through the middle barriers onto the other side of the road and put his foot down, flashing his lights away. All the other cars heading straight towards us are beeping and flashing back at him but he just continues to go, then after the accident where all the police are, he just cuts in and drives straight through. We were holding on for our lives, crazy taxi!
- Teenage mutant ninja Turtles Lunch – Veron’s Supplier took us out for a lunch and ordered lots of local food for us. Now the few days before we heard you can eat Turtle, but then on the streets everyone just said no no, no eating turtle. But at this restaurant, in the back they had a fish pool and some tanks. I noticed they had Turtles in the tank so I asked if we can eat it. Veron’s supplier said if we’re sure we’ll eat it, he’ll get it. So we said of course! A Turtle Curry we went for. The dish arrives and you can actually see the turtle cut up into pieces, including its shell and arms and legs. It was a bit strange picking it up and eating it, especially the leg. Veron’s supplier said the leg’s the tastiest bit, so we ripped into it and ate the meat from there. He was spot on though, the tastiest meat is right in the leg.
- Veron’s Quad/Trike Supplier – We went to see Veron’s suppliers, which were a lovely family owned business. We got to ride the Trikes and Quads which were actually awesome and can go up to 150 kph. The supplier had two small kids and he had made some custom made small F1 cars for them which they were driving around showing us.
- West Lake – A beautiful place where there is a huge lake with places to eat and a nice sunset over the bridge.
- Venice of the East – We took a train to Suzhou, which is known as the Venice of the East. We hired a small Venice style boat with a guy singing some love songs in Chinese. Okay, not the best place for two guys.. A bit too romantic for us, but still had an enjoyable day.
- Shanghai Tower and skyline – WOW!! Incredible buildings across the river, wonderfully lit up at night. I think this tops one of the best skylines I’ve seen to date, it’s also the fact of the buzz of the number of people enjoying themselves on the side of the river.
- Dinner with cousin – My cousin Kamil, who moved to Shanghai to teach English a few years ago took us out for dinner and drinks. It was great to see him after a number of years and he gave us some of the local spirits to try. Strong is not the word!!
- Funky Tunnel – A cool tunnel which goes to the other side of the river. It is a small glass train type thing which has a light show all the way through the tunnel, quite cool.
- Dinner with friend – On my last trip in Vietnam/Cambodia tour I met Natalie. She was a teacher back in UK but decided to pack it in and head to China to Teach. Finding out she was in in Shanghai we met up for an evening dinner which was a pretty fun catch up.
- Great Wall of China – A group of us, including two Mexicans, took a day trip to Great Wall of China. This place is spectacular and you could walk along the steps for hours upon end. We opted to walk for about 3-4 hours and the views were just amazing. The great wall really is a Great Wall, its incredible how they have built this along the mountain edge.
- Luge down the Great Wall – Instead of walking down the wall, you can opt to Luge down it. You sit into these small luges and hold on tight to the brake and zoom down the track next to the wall. Actually is a pretty fun way to see the wall with the added bonus of not having to walk back down after the tiredness of the steps.
- Local delicious delicacies – A few more items of food to add to the shopping list… A Starfish which tasted crispy and fishy… A Sea Horse which was pretty interesting and very salty.. then in Beijing (known a Peking) on the market streets we had a crispy duck.. This duck is famous in Peking and tasted amazing.
- Copycat, fakes and scammed – Anything and Everything can be copied in China.. This includes Taxi’s. I took on the way back from a restaurant in the evening, the guy charged me a reasonable amount however, when we got to the hotel, he dropped me off just outside. Counting the money to give to him, I handed him the notes and he turned the light on, inspected them and said they are fake. So I said how can they be..? He gave them back and I handed him some more notes..? He said these ones are fake too..? I was thinking what the hell, not having a clue about the money.. then handed him a final lot and said this is the last of what I have and he took it. The next day I tried spending the money I had and every shop said I have fake money. What I didn’t realise or expect at all, is that the taxi driver tricked me. He changed my real notes for his fake notes. Imagine if I had allot more money, he would have swapped the lot. The only way I found out is I complained to the hotel about their ATM machine, and he said no no think back to where you spent your money, and he said I got caught by a so called fake taxi,. They look exactly like the real Taxi’s but are there to charge you more and try cheat you… Exactly what happened to me. I felt pretty gutted, but what can you do, it was in total only about 30quid. In hindsight, I thought what a clever Taxi driver, because it’s something you would never expect to happen, it was like a magic trick as I couldn’t see that he was changing my money for fake notes. Cheeky git!!
- Shopping for Everest – it was only a few days until we were going to Nepal, and the gear I had bought for Mt.Fuji just wasn’t going to cut it at Everest Base Camp, as at 3800m on Mt.Fuji I was freezing, so how would my gear keep me warm at 5364m..? Roaming around the shops, I spent a fortune on some new warm outdoor clothing that will hopefully keep me warm up the mountain. Just as an indication, I spent 50 quid on a pair of gloves… I know.. I didn’t ever think a pair of gloves could cost that much.. Let’s hope they do the job or I’m getting a refund for sure.