Tag Archives: travelling in China

City Tour Extreme: Day Two, Yangzhou and Suzhou

From my last post you might remember that I wasn’t too fond of the city tour. You know being stucked in a small bus with an insane tour group, a tour guide with the voice of a howling monkey and last but not least my mother-in-law are not the best combination for an enjoyable holiday. But it all can get even worse…

 

The second day started early in the morning. We had to get up at 5am to get breakfast at 5:30. Too bad though that the hotel usually doesn’t provide breakfast till 7am so they only had a few things ready such as some cakes from the previous day and mantou, tons of mantou. Reason for this early time was that we had to go still to two other cities on that day. In our original plan we would have gone to Yangzhou already during the previous evening, making this second day much more relaxing but you know who cares about a tour group plan anyways as this one was changed all the time. At breakfast we realized that it wouldn’t be such a warm day so we put on some warmer clothes as the temperatures had dropped from 26 degrees celsius down to 18 degrees and the tour guide advised to take umbrellas with us. This all was not a problem, yet.

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Arrival at the Slender West Lake

The bus trip from Nanjing to Yangzhou was nothing special, just the usual trash flying around, the howling monkey tour guide screaming into the microphone for 1 1/2 hours and the terrific driving skills of the bus driver making sure that no one was able to sleep. In Yangzhou we went straight for the Slender West Lake which is a wonderful place despite the ocean of tourists marching around. It all started pretty well there as I could take some great pictures of the flowers and area but then it all went south when the clouds decided to create first some drizzle and then a downpour.  Now the umbrellas we packed extra for this trip became very handy except…except that MIL had put them all into the suitcase which was in the bus as she thought that we wouldn’t need them (because why would she listen to a lowly tour guide).

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They all have umbrellas and they all are rushing for safety

Somehow we manage to not flow away with the water during our 3h stay at the Slender West Lake and were allowed to enter the bus again. By now our clothes were soaking wet and it was cold, very cold while as all other people in the tour group were fine as they had the umbrellas as advised by the tour guide. From the Slender West Lake we drove to Suzhou, a very lovely 4h bus trip. During this bus trip the rain got less again and once we arrived in Suzhou at the Tiger Hill we were ready to go to Yunyan Pagoda which is also known as the “Leaning Tower of China”. But as soon as we had left the bus and walked 100m the next downpour started and we just went back to the bus. Sure we had this time umbrellas but we had just no energy to do this with such bad weather. Only half the tour group went to the Pagoda and they all didn’t look too happy once they were back with wet shoes.

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One of the main buildings

Next on our list was the Taihu Wetland Park in Suzhou. It was planned that we stay there for a few hours going around the area but due to the bad weather we only took a 20 min boat trip around the channels. By now we were just so exhausted and cold that I did not even bother taking pictures anymore. We only wanted to get to our hotel and rest. Thankfully our howling monkey tour guide showed some mercy and we went from the Wetland Park straight to the hotel which was surprisingly even very good. Right next to the hotel we found a shopping mall where we could eat some dinner after surviving hell during lunch time at one of those infamous tour group restaurants.

Did you had bad weather ruining an entire trip?

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City Tour Extreme: Day One, Nanjing

Our holidays in China are over but I still feel exhausted from the crazy city tour we had. As mentioned before I have a lot to write about this trip, in fact too much so I will have few posts about the different days. The first day of the tour was in Nanjing where we met the rest of the tour group. We had actually arrived in Nanjing the night before but we pretty much didn’t see anything except the airport and our luxury hotel.

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View from our luxury hotel

I know that Nanjing has so many things to visit and I was worried that we would only rush to the different locations as we had only one day there. Oh silly me, I shouldn’t have worried about rushing to all the different spots as we visited only two! Yes two locations we visited before going back to the hotel for the night. No we did not visit the old city fortifications, nor the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, nor Yuejiang Lou, nor any former Nationalist time governmental buildings and and and. I think you can see that we did not visit many places and that I was kind of disappointed. This was not only in Nanjing the case but any other place we visited during those five days.

In the beginning of the tour we basically went to our tour meeting spot by the lake and then drove by bus to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum 中山陵. The construction of the tomb started in 1926 and was finished in 1929. In case you don’t know about Dr. Sun, he was the first President, founding father of the Republic of China and posthumously named “Father of the Nation”. The mausoleum is located at the Purple Mountain and the area is just huge.  As it is located at the mountain slope there are more than just a few steps leading up. The vault is located more than 700m away from the entrance to the mausoleum and the main stairway has 392 steps leading up. During our visit it wasn’t too crowded so we didn’t have to line up anywhere. Once reaching the top of the view is just incredible.  In the vault you can not actually see the tomb as that room has been locked up due to vandalism few years back.

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Top of the stairs of the Mausoleum

After the trip to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum we had another wonderful trip with the bus to our next location: Nanjing Fuzimiao 南京夫子廟.  Back in the years (many years back!) the Nanking Imperial University was placed there as well as a Temple of Confucius. Over the years the place has been destroyed multiple times and most of the current buildings are from the 19th century or even younger. In 1985 it has been restored and you can find now many cultural attraction there but also various places for shopping and last but not least there is a huge variety of different food. Now I was myself not too happy there as it dawned on me that the whole city tour would be like this leaving too many wonderful places out.

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Going around Nanjing Fuzimiao

I wish we could have visited all the other places as well but I know that is never really the purpose of those Chinese tour groups. Thing is we faced many problems with this tour group. For one it was not cheap at all but most annoying the whole schedule was changed. Okay not for all of us as only we had the wrong schedule and the entire rest of the group had the correct schedule. Our original schedule was more relaxing as times for driving between the different cities was better planned and we would have seen more in the cities than just one or two places. Needless to say we were not pleased at all with the whole situation and we wanted to quit the trip more than just once. To make matters worse is that it started to rain after the first day for the rest of the trip and temperatures plummeted down from 30 degrees Celsius to 15-18 degrees Celsius.

Have you ever travelled with a tour group?

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Going around Zhaohua Ancient Town

Remember when I wrote that I had totally forgotten that we actually did travel once a bit around in China? Back then I wrote about the trip to the Jianmenguan Pass which was actually in the end of a 3 day trip around the north of Sichuan.  Why Sichuan? Because it is the neighbouring province of Shaanxi and just a few hours by bus away. Our first stop was Zhaohua Ancient Town which is in the Yuanba District, Guangyuan, Sichuan. Okay, it was not the first “stop” as we did had a couple of stops during the bus ride at service areas. In one of those service areas I saw a public toilet nightmare but this is just too much for this blog and it shall forever haunt only my memories.

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Looks old but most of the structure is probably new

 

As I explained in the other post we were part of a tour group and hence the entire trip around was very carefully planned and left barely any time to go around on your own. At Zhaohua we went straight to eat at a little restaurant organized by the tour group. It was nothing special but good enough to have nothing to complain about. The tour around the ancient town was interesting but annoying at the same time. Interesting as the ancient town was really wonderful and offered tons of picture/ video material and annoying as the local tourist guide had a very fast pace going from building to building which forced me to run after the group more than just once as I was busy taking pictures or recording some videos.

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So much red

 

Zhaohua is a very old town with several temples, an old city wall with several gates, old governmental buildings, sculptures and also an ancient flag stone road. I read back then in some online source that some thirty years ago the town was much smaller, many temples were missing/ destroyed back in the day but that there were also many wooden structures left from the early Qing Dynasty. Though there were many old structures left it was a bit messed up because ugly new houses had been build all over the town. In that source the author explained also how different the town looked when he went there again several years ago as many wooden structures had been torn down and replaced by these new structures. Now these houses didn’t look like new houses anymore as they got fake wooden house fronts so they looked like the old houses again. So by the time we went there I really couldn’t tell which were the original old houses and which were the new “fake old” houses. Besides that the whole town was pretty much very touristy. Not that I am unhappy that they rebuilt so many of these ancient structures but I really don’t understand why they had to tear down actual ancient houses and replace them with new ones.

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Hello little snake

 

We were in the town for a few of hours before heading to the next destination. Nearly the entire time there was spent with eating and running behind the tour guide. Thankfully we had some 45 min times to go around on our own which allowed us to relax a bit after running for so long time and take a closer look at the buildings. The main street in that town was full of little shops selling souvenirs, local snacks and clothes. It was also there that I suddenly ended up with a little snake in my camera bag. No, it didn’t just appeared out of thin air but a man had it on his shoulder and offered me to hold it myself. It was then that the snake decided it had seen enough people for one day and quickly wriggled its way out of my hands and into the dark and cosy camera bag. The man even offered me to buy the snake but you know it would be a bit hard to get that animal through security and customs at the airport…

How do you feel about rebuilding ancient structures but tearing down existing old ones at the same time?

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

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