Tag Archives: travelling in China

Experiencing China

It has been now over six months since our last holiday in China. It was a great trip and we are already planning for next years holiday session in the Middle Empire. I have mentioned it countless of times that for so many years we never really managed it to go anywhere besides Xi’an. This year was different as we had that wonderful week in Japan (Tokyo, Thomas Land and Osaka) and we are kind of planning on having next year a week-long trip in Thailand. This is not set in stone especially when taking into consideration that we should have been already to Korea, Taiwan, Bali, the Maldives and so forth. Main problem was always that my wife turns into a complete couch potato once we arrive at her home in China.

Some temple somwhere in Sichuan

Anyhow even in case we won’t manage it to Thailand I am still looking forward to visiting China again. For one it is of course the food and I think I don’t need to touch that subject again as writing about it and sharing pictures makes too many people hungry. It is for me more like the whole experience in China. Even though I have seen so little so far it has been always such an interesting experience especially as each region or even parts of the city are so different. I have been mostly only to Xi’an but already there each section of the city has its own vibe. It goes as far as each “block” can be so different compared to the next one. For example the area where my in-laws are living looks to many people (like my parents) like a city shortly after an air raid while as the next block is a complete different matter as everything is relative clean and nice looking. However between those blocks the feeling is already different as in the older parts everywhere you have those wonderful street kitchens which are more rare or even non-existent in richer areas.

Music in the streets

It feels sometimes to surreal to drive on some roads passing by mountains which look like just from paintings. To have old temples and other historical buildings right next to some huge shopping centres. Just going a bit outside the cities you even encounter traditional clay brick buildings and even cave houses. Of course there are always downsides to the whole experience especially due to pollution or overcrowded tourist spots but it does not really bother me that much. For me each holiday in China is unique as even in Xi’an I find new interesting thing which each visit. For next year we have another novelty as we kind of have to decide where we want to stay: Either in MIL’s new apartment in the middle of nowhere or in the old one where FIL is staying right in the city center with all the best food around. Guess this decision is a no-brainer.

Do you have already plans for holidays in 2019?

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Getting Lost in Langzhong

Remember my blog post “The Time we actually travelled somewhere”? Back then I only mentioned the Jianmenguan Pass however we still had another destination afterwards. I guess I tried to forget about it as the bus trip (which already took 6 hours to the Jianmenguan Pass) did not improve while driving to our final destination. In fact it got worse as the driver got lost several times so the whole trip took instead of another 2 1/2 hours again around 6 hours.

One of the countless of Buildings we visited in Langzhong

At late night we arrived in  Langzhong and were hushed by the tour guide into the old town to our Traditional Inn. As we arrived so late they did not have any dinner left and nearly all restaurants had closed already as the Old Town is a tourist attraction and thus only opened during daytime. After searching for what felt an eternity we found one restaurant we could eat something. On the down side it was filled with drunken patrons, on the bright side they had food for us. The only memories I have from the first night in the room was that those old buildings certainly do not give you any rest as you hear everyone in the whole inn talking or walking around.

From the towers in the Ancient Town you have a wonderful view around

Because we were part of a tourist group it meant also a very strict timetable. Wake up was at 5:30 AM and by 6 AM we had to be done with breakfast and run around the ancient town of Langzhong. The place looks really amazing and it is full of history but running from one temple to the next ancient school to the next ancient tomb was very exhausting. Besides exhausting it was also very repetitive as after a while all those buildings were looking the same. Because of the strict timetable we had to rush to every location and we got lost several times as we could not keep up the speed together with Nathan. One good thing though was that the food was pretty decent unlike at the horrifying experience from the City Tour Extreme a year later.

Eating bubbles because why not

Langzhong is a very interesting city as the ancient town is well-preserved and has an over 2.300 years of history. One of the main points I still remember is the ZhangFei Temple which is also where his tomb is located. On a funny side note I have to mention that MIL did not dare to enter the temple as she thinks that God will punish her for that. No idea where she got that from but in all our travels she never entered a temple due to her fear. Nathan became quickly an attraction on his own when we walked around wearing his monk costume. At one point there were several dozen people following him and taking pictures with him. Needless to say that MIL tried to be in each picture as well…

See, take picture of me and also the little guy in my arms

Our tour group allowed to have some little “freedom” by being able to select certain extras to visit. One of those extras was a performance on the other side of the river. It was a really wonderful perfomance and the only negative thing was the ridiculous amount of selfie-sticks being used to take pictures and videos. Due to that I had too often a huge tablet right in front of me. I tried my best but somehow I could not find the name of the performance online nor does my wife remembers the name any longer. All I know is that it is located right next to the Jinping Hill which is on its own already a great location to visit. We had a strict timetable when visiting the Jinping Hill and kind of got lost half way through. Especially carrying Nathan’s small pram up and down countless of stairs was a bit hard.

Entrance to the performance area

I can only recommend to visit Langzhong but without a tour group! Two to three days would be best as there is a lot to see already in the ancient town and in the surrounding area. The Jinping Hill alone can easily consume up to six hours when trying to really “see” everything there. What I can not recommend is the vinegar museum as it is just a tourist trap and of course everyone in my tour group bought plenty of vinegar in the store located at the exit of the museum.

Have you visited so-called Ancient Towns before?

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City Tour Extreme: Day Four & Five, Shanghai

Here they are, our last two days of the tour group madness. I honestly have no idea how we even managed it so far. The whole tour was exhausting, nerve-wracking and just bad due to so many reasons. Okay, not everything was bad as mentioned in the last post when we arrived in Wuzhen and could get some good food and rest there.

I did forget something in the last post. My dear crazy mother-in-law was absent as I had simply forgotten about her due to the mental pain I went through by just remembering that day. She certainly did something stupid again, I mean what else could she possibly do! At the Song Chen theme park we went to a haunted house. With “we” I mean my wife, my father and I. MIL stayed outside with Nathan and my wife told her to wait there as the haunted house would only take a bit over 5 min. Guess what, she wasn’t there when we got out. She wasn’t anywhere nearby and my wife had no phone to call her. No one else from the tour group had seen her or Nathan either. So we split up and searched for her in a hurry as the show “Romance in the Song Dynasty” was about to start. We found her eventually at some of the amusement rides and she defended herself “Nathan looked so bored”… thank you dear mother-in-law by giving us nearly a heart attack searching for you and Nathan.

Wuzhen during day time

Wuzhen is also the place where the fourth day started. For the first time we did not have to get up so early in the morning and could enjoy breakfast around 8 am. To make it even better we got real coffee, real coffee! At 9.30 am we had to be at the Wuzhen Tourist Office to check out so we took a walk around the town and a little boat ride before starting the next insane trip on the bus. Sadly everything was in the bus as before so the good mood was gone within seconds after seeing the howling monkey.

Lovely little shops in Wuzhen with actual clean windows!

Being in the bus was already depressing enough but imagine my joy when I heard that we were first going to a silk museum just 45 min away. A museum, wasn’t there a pearl museum just the previous day which ended up to be a giant tourist trap? Indeed the parking lot of that museum was already scary with approximately 50 busses in the waiting there. It all started once again not that bad as we got some information about how silk is produced, the history and the like but this experience ended even quicker than in the pearl museum. It took not even 10 min till we entered a room and the sales program started. It was something about silk bed sheets and all the people were going crazy to buy it, MIL included. Somehow we were able to stop her from buying anything at that sales station but we had to endure many more. I thought already that the pearl “museum” was huge but it paled in comparison to this behemoth of a tourist trap. I think we went 7 floors up and down till we got our again, taking us more than 1 1/2 hours. The whole building seemed to be meant as a shopping mall but failed for some reason and thus this tourist trap moved in to terrorize helpless people like us.

Welcome to the Shanghai Film Park, watch out for falling bricks

From the wonderful silk museum we drove then for another 1 1/2 hours to the Shanghai Film Park. My wife was really excited to go there as many movies and tv shows she had watched were filmed there since its opening in 1999. At first glance it really looked pretty good with all those old buildings standing there as it was back in the old Shanghai days but it was really only at first glance. All the buildings were kind of falling apart, one had the roof missing entirely, windows broken everywhere, wet walls due to poor construction work and last but not least MIL changing Nathan’s clothes in the bus from warm ones to very thin ones as she started to feel a bit warm in the bus. Okay not that bad except the weather was exactly the same as during all the other days meaning rain and cold wind. Ignorant us did not even realize her work until the bus left and a freezing Nathan was greeting us following MIL. The better part of the time we had at the Film Park we spent trying to find the bus just to find it without the driver. The entire time we just waited there for the bus driver and luckily I had a little sport jacket for Nathan in my backpack.  While waiting my father with Nathan in his arms became quickly the focus of several school groups taking pictures of them, well at least they are famous now.

Watching those buildings caused a bit of neck pain

After this wonderful Film Park we headed to the Shanghai City Center just 40km away. I was surprised that it took only one hour to get there even with all the traffic as I had seen my share of chaos like traffic in Xi’an. We left the bus at the 88 Century Avenue and the view was for a village kid as me jaw dropping. Around us were the three highest sky scrapers of Shanghai, the Jin Mao Tower with 420m (1,380 ft), the Shanghai World Financial Center with 492m (1,614.2 ft) and the Shanghai Tower with incredible 632m (2,073 ft). We went to the observation deck (The Skywalk) of the Jin Mao Tower and lets just say that those 45s to get up to the 88th floor are less than our elevator back home in Germany needs for closing its doors. The view from there is just amazing and we had luck that we had no clouds and barely and smog around  that time.

What a View!

Just as everyone was starting to feel hungry again the bus took us to the Yuyuan Tourist Mart which is full of restaurants. But most of the people, us included, didn’t go straight to that place but to a tiny restaurant just outside of it called 阿大碗麺 ADA wanmian. Now I tried to search for some info on it online but all I can find is in Japanese. Anyways all I can say is that it is at least locally famous and very good indeed (at least what I can say about the different jiaozi (dumplings) we ate there). In The Yuyuan Tourist Mart (which is by the way also a huge tourist trap) we spent only little time walking a bit around as we were waiting for a friend of one of the tour group members. This other tour group person was there with her little daughter and her parents, the little girl quickly became friends with Nathan on day one. The friend of her took us out of the Yuyuan Tourist Trap and guided us to the Bund which is only 15 min away by walking. You can see that we left out dear tourist group behind as they still had some other programs going on and we just wanted to do things on our own pace now.

Front of the Yuyuan Tourist Mart

From the Bund we had a spectacular view on the Shanghai Skyline. After taking more than enough pictures and videos we left the Bund behind and followed Nanjing Road to its pedestrian street part to find ourselves some more snacks. Nanjing road is just filled with shops, malls, restaurants and little snack stalls making the last evening of our city tour unforgettable. As mentioned before, both my father and I are from a small town so Shanghai was really amazing for us. After having a short stop at the M&M flagship store to get analyzed which colour our mood is and what M&M’s we should buy we took the Shanghai Metro Line 12 to its last eastern bound station and from there a Didi Chuxing 滴滴出行 taxi to our hotel. We wouldn’t realize until next morning just how far this hotel was away from the city center as the metro plus the taxi ride took about 30min.

Nanjing Road

Next morning we had to get up early as usual again and from the hotel we went with the tourist group to the city center which took nearly 2 hours! We left the group  to find ourselves some early lunch while as the rest of the group went to the Bund for some last sightseeing action. Finding some place to hide from the rain wasn’t easy as all the malls wouldn’t open till 10am but we managed somehow. Later at the meeting point we had to take another bus as we and the other woman with the child (+her parents) were the only ones from Xi’an and had to drive all the way back to Nanjing while all the others were taking their flight(s) from Shanghai Airport. The bus trip to Nanjing (3 hours) was a whole different experience once again. Not only because of MIL starting her little war in the bus with the other passengers but also due to the bus driver, the grumpiest man I have ever seen. He was in early 50’s, black teeth, thin, smoking cigarettes non-stop while driving, super long fingernails on both pinkies covered during the trip in some leather driving gloves and  he had one argument after the other with the tour guide from the other group in our new bus. Yes, it was another sleepless ride as we were sitting just a meter away from the driver who complained the entire trip to Nanjing about some stuff.

Nathan with a new friend at Nanjing Airport

With this the tour would be over except that we had to wait six hours at the airport for our flight, great planning! In the  end we arrived exhausted but safe in Xi’an at my in-laws apartment at 3 am. Overall it was a very disappointing trip but there were also some nice parts such as Wuzhen and Shanghai. In Shanghai I was amazed about the traffic, it was so…so normal. No insane driving, no cars coming directly at you, E-Scooter riders wearing helmets (even some cyclists with helmets!) and the police actually doing their job just like I experienced for example from Paris. I must say that I would be able to drive there a car, something I would never dare in Xi’an where it is only survival of the fittest/ biggest car.

 Have you been to Shanghai and what do you think about the traffic there compared to other Chinese cities?

Be sure to follow me also on Facebook and on Twitter as I will post there occasionally pictures which do not find their way into my blog posts. Furthermore I also have a YouTube Channel in which some videos might pop up from time to time