One of my favourite places so far is the ancient town of Fenghuang, away from anywhere else of tourist interest in China. Being small enough to not have a train station is quite an achievement in China to begin with resulting in an eventful journey however you travel. I chose to arrive via Huaihua which has hotels by the station or taxi drivers ever at the ready or a standard Chinese town which looks upon a white face with interest and friendliness.
When mentioning Fenghuang to any of the Chinese people we met they would always attempt to discourage our journey, saying it was extremely touristy and that we wouldn’t like it. It was indeed very touristy but mainly among Chinese students with not another white face in sight. I like to compare Fenghuang to somewhere like Newquay for English people. The old town area was sizeable and completely unique to anywhere else I had been. Street sellers all had different goods, there were people selling communist memorabilia and there wasn’t a sit toilet to be found. Read More »
In the ten months of travel I recently completed there was only one place which I would skip in hindsight. There are hundreds of extra places and different places I would go, including Myanmar, but Huangshan was the only place that was an ill informed choice for our budget and time constraint.
Our general time constraint was quite liberal but more specifically we needed to get to Hong Kong due to having a dual entry Chinese visa and the first half nearly being used up. We had intended to stay five days in Huangshan, or Tunxi as the actual area was called and in this time we ended up doing very little. One thing to be aware of is that the only train to Shenzen comes from Shanghai and so is a very busy route in which you are unlikely to be able to get a bed as they prioritise people doing the entire route and only open the leftover a couple of days before, if there are any. In a town with no English spoken we managed to get around the ‘No’ situation at the train station by getting a quieter train to Guangzhou which then has regular bullets to Shenzen. After doing a few hard seat journeys already I didn’t fancy one for 20 hours. Read More »
The best way I can see to describe the comparison is that China is the equivalent of America to Vietnams Western Europe. The scale of things in Vietnam seems tiny with small old streets, stylish architecture and small towns with a population of 100,000 being considered places of note. In China it is a tough challenge to find anywhere with a population of less than a million.
After two months in China Vietnam is a refreshing change, the streets are full of independently owned little stores and in my 10 days here so far I have only come across one American chain, that being a single KFC in the capital of Hanoi. Read More »
As a first time backpacker I found it hard to find much useful information online
about travelling in China and thought I would put a brief guide on here of the
things I hadn’t expected or been aware of before coming.
Hostels can vary between £3 and £8 a night depending on where you are and how touristy the area is. The most expensive place for me was Wuhan as there wasn’t much anticipation for non-Chinese tourist and what was on Hostelworld was very limited. Booking in advance wasn’t particularly necessary however I find it easier to know where I’m heading from the train station. Places such as Fenghuang were heavily geared towards tourism and the local rooms to pay for were a far better deal than the hostel so sometimes it’s worth only booking the hostel for one night then finding something local. I personally get quite moody when I’m carrying my backpack in the heat and so wouldn’t want to deal with looking around whilst carrying it. Read More »
Often referred to in semi irony as the bible, The Lonely Planet for any country can be seen grasped in backpackers hands as they make their way through the streets, looking for a second opinion on any shops and restaurants before taking the courage to step through the doors. 40 years ago I can understand how Lonely Planet would have been essential for finding places to go and the tourism highlights a country has to offer. The present day traveller has internet access in nearly every hostel allowing the usage of wikitravel and hundreds of travel blogs to gain a wider scope and a variety of opinions on what is and isn’t worth visiting or paying the entry fee. Read More »
Before setting off on my travels Shanghai seemed like an exciting hyper city whereas Hong Kong seemed nothing more than a dirty has been city. I have now learnt that my preconceptions were about as wrong as they could be.
Shanghai is very much standard mainland China, just it happens to have had a technological boom. There are numerous high end shopping streets and
touristy shiny areas but turn down the wrong side alley and the usual China toilet smell wafts into your nostrils. Because the business side of the city has risen so rapidly it is very segregated and perhaps false looking compared to the majority of the city. Although very tall and impressive, the skyline is but one small cluster of high rise buildings still fashioning their Disneyesque gleam as though they may not really be there at all.
Read More »
Here’s just a bit of a rant about the things that have been annoying me while travelling around China. When you’re away from all your home comforts some things can seem so foreign and also so annoying.
I miss internet that functions correctly and at a reasonable speed. So many things are blocked on Chinese internet that a simple search on Google for Chinese travel destinations, or as I tried earlier ‘Chinese lucky cat’ can lead to every page you try for the next five minutes coming up as ‘page cannot be found’. Of course this is also the case of searching anything to do with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or anything with the word ‘blog’ in it. This makes me glad I chose WordPress and not Blogspot. The idea that witholding information on the internet will make a better society is bizarre and I’m beginning to thhink its all because the government is so scared about what would happen if people managed to talk enough to form a rebellion party as even a queue in a train station is nigh on a riot. Everywhere I’ve been the internet has functioned at a speed similar to dial up, which is pretty frustrating when you’re used to fibre optic 25mb.
Read More »
Our intention with Wuhan was to go there for the soul purpose of getting a boat to Shanghai. By the time our train ticket was booked we had realised that it would be tricky, expensive and that the better Yangtze views were in the opposite direction. So by the time we arrived at our hostel, which was quite expensive, we were in a city which didn’t seem to have much going on, feeling under the weather and in a useless hostel which didn’t even provide an area map, ticket booking… or western toilets.
so the first day we had to go out and find a ticket booking agent and managed to sort the train tickets,with this off our mind and the knowledge that not even the hostel staff could understand Wuhan busses we had no option but to wander around. The street scene in Wuhan was the most vibrant I’ve seen so far (with the exception of there not really being much street food). We strolled along the side of a lake and found some windy bridge pathways over an expanse of lotus flowers and a large outdoor swimming pool. When back on land we came upon an open workshop creating large fantastical displays for carnivals and parades.
Read More »
Trains in China are a much more important operation than a small European country, they act as the main mode of transport between different cities and the quality of travel can vary immensely, on the whole as a westerner it’s a pretty awful experience and leaves you continually thinking inside your head ‘You could never do that in England’.
The first thing to note is that you can’t book train tickets online, you have to book them from the city you’re leaving and you have to do this as far in advance as you can otherwise there may only be seats available. Also if you do it too far in advance they may tell you there is nothing available at the station as the ticket agents pay them commission and so they would rather it be sold through them.
Our first train journey was Beijing to Xi’an. This takes 14 hours Read More »
After being in China little over a week I have already come to realise there are just so many people. In Forbidden City you feel like cattle being herded from one part to the next without much to see. After going through two large gateways you are faced with the third which requires a 60RMB (£6) ticket. When you’re through this bit there are a few plaques and snippets of information about different oblects along the way, such as the cauldrons which were full of water to put out fire, and various creature statues which represent a number of different elements and protection etc. On the whole the courtyard looks very similar before and after the paid gates with the same architecture and design throughout. None of the buildings are available to go inside but a few have their doors left open and barriered off so you can get a peek but this results in a near moshpit for the sake of a glimpse of the inside of an empty building. There was a small darkened museum area but this was full of children running around and bouncing balls… even against the glass display coverings. The garden area was really nice, but again would have been better without the constant shoving on your back in 30 degree heat. There was also much more litter inside Forbidden City than I’ve seen in any busy area in China so far I think this is because of their unique recycling system. Read More »