Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Summer Palace

Today we went to the summer palace. It was made by an emperor who
wanted somewhere nice to go when it was hot in the forbidden city. He
made people dig him a massive 2.2 Square kilometre lake. And then
built a park around it. It is truly astonishing and amazing. The
grounds are so pretty and personally I found the most peaceful place
to be the garden of Harmonies Interest which had a beautiful small
lake stocked with thousands of gold fish. Very pretty.

Around the park we saw some ladies dancing which made Michelle giggle
as it reminded her of her Mum dancing around the house.

To get the main photo of the entire lake we had to climb up another
big tall hill with a temple on top. We attempted this after walking
around the entire lake and we where exhausted we kept being passed by
young children running past as whilst we felt out of breathe. We sat
down for a quick rest half way up this impossibly steep hill and where
surprised when a couple approached us with a camera. We at first
thought they wanted us to move to get a photo because we where in way.
We where wrong. She wanted to have a photo taken with us as we are
westerners. We had been warned about this before we came but people
suggested it would happen in more rural areas. It took us by surprise
to have it happen in Beijing. But it was fine by us.

Please note we are having to compress the images to load them up so
their quality is reduced

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Relaxing Day

After three days of trekking around beijing and two early mornings starting at 6am we choose to have a relaxing day. With a good lay in and late breakfast/lunch and an afternoon massage. We feel ready for the Summer Palace tomorrow.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Fwd: Climbing the Great Wall of China

Today we went to The Great Wall of China and it was brilliant.

We left early in the morning after a Chinese attempt at an American
style British fry up. It was ok but obviously not the real thing. The
Great Wall of China is about 50 Miles away from Beijing and with
getting out of the city traffic it was nearly a 3 hour trip. We got
there in the end and had the choice to either walk up to the wall
(which would have taken hours and basically meant scaling a mountain)
or take a chair lift direct to the top. We choose the chair lift.
Michelle was not a fan of the height or China's lack of health and
safety!!!!!! As Michelle stated - all that was stopping us from
falling out of our two seater glorified bench and a long way down was
us holding onto a handrail and pushing our feet against a footrest the
size of a lion bar!!!! Hence Michelle's eyes being shut tight and
praying the whole time :D the lift went up over the hills and across
valleys which provided some nice views.

The Wall itself was amazing. It was originally built over 2000 years
ago and has been improved and rebuilt many times. When it was first
built the emperor order 1/5 of the countries population to help build
it. It is truly massive. Lots of people died when it was made and when
it was rebuilt. They now estimate that 1 million bodies are buried
inside the wall. So not only is it the biggest wall in the world it is
also the biggest graveyard (creepy).

We knew that the wall followed the line of the top of the mountains
but we were not prepared for just how step it was at some points! It
felt more like climbing than walking at some parts. With very few
handrails you always had this vague fear that if you tripped at the
top of a long steep climb you would bounce all the way down hundreds
of meters. But it was worth it for some spectacular views of the wall
and surrounding mountains

At the highest point we climbed to, we found the views breath taking,
I wish we could share more pictures but our internet connection is not
amazing and we have to limit how many we upload. At the high tower we
found the wall carried on but we weren't allowed to continue along as
it was crumbling away. The part of the wall we walked on had been
repaired but sadly large sections of the wall are falling to bits with
trees growing around it, on it and through it! Fortunately they have
miles and miles of restored walls to explore.

After we had finished on the walls we had an excellent Chinese meal
and Michelle got her first real Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken since
coming here. She was very happy!

All in all today was another great day however our legs are aching
from two days of long walking in a row. Taking a more gentle approach
tomorrow.

P.S.
If you want to see a video of us coming down from the Great Wall by
toboggan click the link below. We wanted to put it on YouTube but its
blocked in China. So we have tried to use microsoft but you may need
to download something called silverlight to view it. Silverlight is a
little programme thing from microsoft and is completely safe.
https://skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?cid=80fff25f046c9f44&resid=80FFF25F046C9F44!517&parid=80FFF25F046C9F44!124&authkey=!AD2ZqtRvsqC7gbo

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Forbidden City

Today was a fantastic day exploring the heart of Beijing; The
Forbidden City. I could explain the whole history of the place but
lets be honest i would have stolen it from Wikipedia
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbidden_City). Basically it is a
MASSIVE royal palace complex that served as the home of emperors and
their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of
Chinese government. It is over 500 years old and we walked all around
it today.

First we had the odd experience of meeting up for a drink in Starbucks
with a friend from the UK who was just leaving Beijing after doing a
Mission tour of all the different work "The Amity Foundation" is doing
(http://www.amityfoundation.org/). This meant an early start and the
morning rush hour on the Beijing subway. It was great to meet up with
Christy-Anna and look forward to swapping China stories with her when
we get back. She gave us some good advice and some lovely spare toilet
roll (must public toilet in China are lacking).

We then decided to walk to Tiananmen Square and then on to the
Forbidden City. It was strange to visit Tiananmen Square as it is a
place loaded with social meaning and that famous footage of the man
alone who stood up. But none of this is represented in Tiananmen. The
square celebrates many deeds and accomplishments of the Chinese people
but it felt strange to be some where which (in my eyes) held such an
important event but makes no public reference to it.

We moved on to our main goal, the Forbidden city. Firstly let me tell
you that the Forbidden City is even bigger then you think, it truly is
huge. It is made up of a complicated number of wide open courtyards
and halls on raised stone arcades. To walk around here is to be
overwhelmed by the size of things. Everything is massive and hugely
impressive. We spent over half a day walking around the main big
courtyards and halls and then exploring the maze of smaller courtyards
around the central row of them. It is stone work everywhere and
fantastically painted woodwork. No real green from grass but plenty of
trees in the courtyards.

Close to the North end of the city is the imperial gardens full of
strangely weathered stone and ancient trees with branches so heavy
they have to be propped up with poles. On leaving the north gate you
cross the moat (which is over 60 meters wide) and can enter Jingshan
park. This park has a huge hill in the centre which was made from the
dug out earth from digging the moat. The mound raises 100meters up and
at the top you get a spectacular view over the Forbidden city. Only
then can you start to grasp the size of the thing. The gardens where
beautiful and a great end to the day.

All in all we walked for 9 miles today (michelle was not prepared for
this!) but we enjoyed every second of it :D

Tomorrow "The Great Wall of China"

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Beijing Zoo (Our first real adventure)

We are still suffering with a bit of jet lag (I didn't get to sleep
until 4am Michelle was still awake at 6am) so we have had a gentle
tourist day visiting Beijing Zoo and Aquarium. It was our first time
on the Beijing subway system and it wasn't that bad as all signs where
in English as well as Chinese. Although coming back in rush hour was a
bit of an experience. But for 20p for any trip to any station in the
city we cant complain. We are already sorting out further days making
good use of this incredibly cheap and pretty simple transport.

The Zoo was amazing very spacious with lots of gardens between
exhibits (although some cages could have been a bit bigger) but over
all a very nice zoo with animals that are rare in the UK. We saw our
first Giant Panda's here. They also had some fantastic lions and a
white Bengal tiger. The aquarium was a more modern development of the
zoo and it was much bigger then the Cheshire Blue Planet (although
Beijing didn't have any sharks so Chester wins on that score). The
aquarium had some fantastic displays including more jelly fish then I
have ever seen and some lovely big tanks with Lion Fish (see picture)
and every coral fish you could imagine.

The aquarium also boasts some huge tanks with mammals including a pair
of Belugas, sea lions and dolphins. To keep these mammals from getting
bored they use them in public performances where they get to show off
for fish. We saw some spectacular jumps from dolphins and a very
relaxed sea lion. Michelle even got the chance to touch one of the
dolphins (see picture) over all it was a fantastic day and a great
gentle start to our adventure.

Tomorrow we should be visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
and also meeting up with our friend Christy-Anna who surprisingly also
happens to be in Beijing tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Our first mini adventure

Due to the pouring rain (made us fell like home) we limited our first adventure to a short exploration of the local area. Finding things such as a local subway station, mc donalds (made Michelle smile) and wu mart our local supermarket. Where we found lots of interesting things such as cheese and lobster flavour crisps and fresh chicken feet. Michelle was particulary impressed with her potatoe chips named toss and her pink strawberry prince Biscuits. We got all of this food for £10. tommorrow we hope to go somewhere pretty as the weather should be better. One thing is certain we wont go hungry.

(P.S. We cant get on facebook to see any comments but we can read our comments on here)

Rainstorms in Beijing

Not the nicest weather to wake up to. Hopefully it will clear up a bit this afternoon. On the plus side this is the only rain we have forcasted for the week.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Making Dumplings

After collapsing on our bed for a couple of hours and falling asleep we then went down to the hostel bar to rustle up some food. We had some delicious Chicken and Rice dishes and then found they where hosting a dumpling making event for everyone. So we learnt to make dumplings. It's great fun to be taught about local cooking on the first evening. Looking forward to tomorrow

(P.S, none of my cunning plans has yet worked to get me on facebook in China.but I will keep trying)

Booked into our hostel

Hello

Just booked into our hostel after a long drive through rush hour. We are
loving the crazy Disney wallpaper. Michelle watched the aristocats on the
flight its got great tunes.

Michelle is very sleepy and as its just getting dark we will put off
exploring untill tommorrow limiting our exploration to the hostel
bar/cafe/backpackers meeting room. Good to get into a room and for the
first time in 24 hours lay flat.

Lots of pictures are being taken and will post more later.

Update safe to Dubai

Just landed at Dubai and found some free wifi. 4 hour wait. Feeling tired. Only 12 more hours untill we reach our bed.


Sunday, 22 April 2012

Waiting at Gatwick gate

Hey everyone,

We got to gatwick in plenty of time and got to say goodbye to our parents before heading through security and into the terminal. Both me and Michelle got the lovely priviledge of a personal "random" security pat down.

Now we are waiting for our transport with hundreds of other people. Something I am sure we will do plenty of times over the next 12 weeks.

We will update when we get somewhere.


Our rough travel plans

Rough Travel Plans 22nd April fly out from London Gatwick 23rd April land Beijing China 23rd April - May stay in Happy Dragon Hostel Beijing (booked) http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Happy-Dragon-Hostel/Beijing/31433#availability Activities: - Great Wall Summer Palace Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square Aquarium Zoo Gardens 2nd May train from Beijing to Xian (12 hours overnight sleeper) – (booked) 3rd May – 6th May stay at Sage Hostel in Xi’an (booked) http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/7-Sages-QixianYouth-Hostel/Xi-an/14477 Activities:- Terracotta warriors Walled City 6th May train from Xian to Chengdu (15-21 hours sleeper) 7th May- 9th May Chengdu Activities:- Panda sanctuary - http://www.panda.org.cn/english/ 9th May train from Chengdu to Chongqing (5-12 hours – poss. sleeper) 9th May – 10th May - Chongqing 10th May - 13th May: - River cruise on Yangzi River seeing 3 gorges, route: - Chongqing to Yichang (3days) 13th / 14th May train from Yichang to Changsha (8/9 hours) 14th/15th May train from Changsha to Guilin (8/9 hours) 15th May – 17th May Guilin Activities:- Dragon Backbone Rice Fields 17th May Train from Guilin to Nanning (6hours) 18th May – 20st May Nanning? Activities:- Gareth work with Acet? - http://www.acet-international.org/ 20th /21st May Train from Nanning to Hanoi (Vietnam) Vietnam 22nd May – 25th May Hanoi Train from Hanoi to Hue May Hue Train from Hue to Danang May Danang Train from Danang to Nha Trang May Nha Trang Train from Nha Trang to Saigon (Ho chi men City) May Saigon 6th June Saigon to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) Cambodia 6th June – 16th June Phnom Penh With Bob and Pam doing work and go to see the killing fields - http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/01/0110_030110_tvcambodia.html Bus from Phnom to Penh to Siam Reap 16th June – 22nd June Siam Reap 5days Activities:- Angkor Watt - http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/668 Ta Prohm temple – where tomb raider was filmed J 22nd June Bus from Siam Reap to Thailand Thailand Going to Chantaburi to visit a group run by acet (who Gareth works for ) http://www.houseofgracethailand.com/index.htm we are with them for about 5-6 days Chang Mai – again visiting a project run by people Gareth knows also hoping to ride some elephants and see some waterfalls J then to Bangkok for few days – lots of nice food and massages here J then to Pattaya to see my old manager who is on secondment for 6 months working at this project - http://www.ywamthai.org/tamar/ Ferry from Pattaya to ..... Train to Phuket Then onto Phuket HOPEFULLY to learn to dive J Train/ferry to Ko Samui - to snorkel/dive/lay on the beach for two weeks J 13th July Ferry/Train back to Bangkok 13th / 14th July Bangkok 15th July fly out from Bangkok 16th July land London Gatwick 16th – 20th July between Kent and London 20th July back home to Chester

Saturday, 21 April 2012

London Update

We are so close to leaving. Two more sleeps. One more day and then we start. Now that I am out of Chester away from work it has started to feel real. Scarily real. 48 hours and we will be flying over the Med heading down to Dubai. My bags all packed and after the thunder, rain and hail in England today I'm looking forward to the 30 degree heat in Bejing.

Also this is a picture of a cat. A beautiful cat that lives with Michelles Nan.


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Great FireWall of China

In a weeks time we will be in China starting our great adventure. We
are very excited about this and are busy putting the final bits
together. Including a travel blog. But in China they have something
nicknamed the great FireWall of China, that blocks lots of social
websites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. So keeping in contact may
be difficult on those social networks (although I have a few sneaky
plans). Sadly China also isn't a great fan of blogger and blocks
viewing blogs aswel. Which could make it harder to update apart from
the fact that Blogger has a fantastic and rarely used feature. Where
you can update a blog by email. (Which I am testing now) this feature
combined with ifttt.com service will hopefully allow all my Facebook
and Twitter friends see all our travel posts. Soon we will be posting a
rough itinerary of our trip as a few people have been asking us.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Packing is fun

Me and Michelle have most of our stuff bought for travelling. So today we both had a small trial pack of our stuff. I still need to get a few more bits and substitutied with similiar sized objects to check it all fitted. The last big job we have to do is get our anti malaria tablets. I think we have settled on Malarone. It is a bit more expensive but has a lot less side effects.