Author Archives: Oliver

Yangshou – Part 1

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The journey to Yangshou was adventurous: First, we took the ferry from Macao directly to the airport of Shenzhen and boarded the Airbus to Guilin, where we stayed overnight in a decent hotel. In the morning, we were happy to find the public bus to Yangshou.

Already upon entering the People’s Republic of China, we realized that we’ve arrived in a completely different country. English is not of much help, neither in its spoken nor its written form, and the fact that we can’t read Chinese characters like we could read words in other languages written with the Latin alphabet complicates a lot. Used to western traffic regulations, we were surprised to find that obeying signal lights, “give way” signs or even the well-established convention to drive on the right side seems more like a suggestion. Also, we immediately missed the British willingness to form queues, which was a matter of course in Hong Kong.

Finally (and probably worst), there are many sometimes really annoying hawkers in public areas, trying to sell stuff or advertising their taxi company or travel agency. In Guilin, it was hard to find the bus station and the correct bus to Yangshou; in the end we required the help of one of those guys and paid a little bit more for the ticket than all the locals did. By the way, the term “express bus” doesn’t necessarily mean the bus won’t stop at literally each corner picking up passengers, thus taking about half an hour for a few kilometers.

Personally, I felt relieved when we left Guilin, but the breathtaking scenery around Yangshou was completely worth the detour. The landscape, which is also featured on the 20 Yuan note, looks like giant, rounded and beautifully bewildered stalagmites randomly dropped onto the plane, forming deep valleys and steep hills while still allowing shippable streams such as the Li Jiang, minor rivers and small lakes to emerge. Due to the great humidity, fog constantly veils the hills farther away than a few kilometers into misty shadow, suggesting the hilly landscape continues to infinity. Only far visible cell phone towers at neuralgic places once in a while irritate the impression of untouched nature.

Our hotel was on West street, directly in the middle of the small and very touristic city. After arrival, we decided to walk through the narrow streets full of shops down to the Li Jiang, which passes through both Guilin and Yangshou. In the evening, a splendid dinner and a drink in a nice bar completed the first day.

An extensive, five hour bicycle tour on the following day confirmed my impression of the marvelous scenery. Our hardly any English speaking guide showed us breathtaking places otherwise only known from postcard motifs: the omnipresent hills, rice and vegetable fields, rivers, an ancient tree (1000 years), small villages and isolated farms. Furthermore, although it’s only March, we bought self-picked strawberries and oranges. As dusk drew closer, we had a snack in a Chinese fast-food restaurant and played a few rounds of billiard.

Hong Kong & Macao

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The days in the special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macao were amazing. I’m currently onboard the ferry from Macao to Shenzhen airport, here’s a short summary of the last few days:

Due to the delay (3.5 h) of our flight from Beijing to Hong Kong and Jacqueline’s serious spine injury, which had to be treated in a hospital directly after arrival, it was impossible to meet at the airport. However, we were told to take the train and bus to one of her friends called Yan, were picked up by her father and were surprised of their great hospitality. Subsequently having spent a wonderful evening with Yan and her friends in Kowloon (including the Avenue of Stars and an awesome bar on 20th floor), we learned how to eat with chopsticks correctly and caught a glimpse of a city that never sleeps.

All three of us spent the night at Yan’s place in the living room, merely bigger than the hallway of my flat in Munich, but even though we enjoyed long and comfortable eight hours of sleep. On the second day, Yan was so kind to show us around in the Central neighborhood and lead us to the Peak, the highest point in town. Despite the fact it was really foggy, the view over the entire town was magnificent. The day ended once again in a superb traditional restaurant, where we finally met Jacqueline and found out that the Chinese form of soup fondue is not only much fun to eat but also tastes astonishingly good.

We used our last day in the city mainly for two things: First, it was necessary to plan, book and prepare parts of our remaining trip, including the purchase of Chinese SIM cards for our cell phones. And second, we went shopping in the Mong Kok area. Traditional markets, boutiques in pedestrian shopping streets and a really huge mall with more than 15 floors provided all kinds of shopping experience. Unlike Susi and Franz, I couldn’t find anything nice for me – a pity.

While Hong Kong seemed a lot like other western cities, Macao is unique in many different ways. The old town invites to a journey back into the last century: Classical western architecture is randomly combined with Chinese elements, there are many Catholic buildings, some of them only as ruins such as St. Pauls cathedral (only the half Chinese, half baroque front facade is left), and all the street signs are in Portuguese only.

However, the enormous contrast between the original buildings with only a few floors and the huge casino skyscrapers were definitely the most impressive part. We walked through the Venetian hotel, a place ruthlessly combining sterile copies of Venetian houses, canals and gondolas with shops and poker tables. Not even the gondoliers’ “buona sera” greetings can prevent that the place remains a disappointment to visitors who had been to the real Venice before.

We enjoyed a few drinks in the Lisboa casino, the biggest and oldest one, and before the departure to the ferry we extensively convinced ourselves of the Westin hotel’s spa πŸ˜‰

Especially Hong Kong was great, but also Macao was worth a day’s visit. Thanks again folks – Jacqueline, Yan & Co – for accommodation, showing us around and your patience! πŸ™‚

An Endless Flight

It’s around 02:30 a.m. Hong Kong time, some minutes after half past seven p.m. back home. Usually, I switch time zones on all of my clocks directly after take-off in order to start getting used to the new rhythm at the destination, hopefully avoiding jetlag as much as possible. And so did I a few hours ago. It’s the middle of the night and our next day is going to be exhausting. My only problem: even with earplugs (they’re Susi’s, I forgot mine, of course), I cannot sleep.

Thus, I’ve got plenty of time to think – to think about what we may be experiencing during the three weeks in the Far East, enough time to imagine how the numerous places we’re going to visit may look like. I’m really looking forward to getting an impression of Chinese culture, habits, cuisine, architecture, and maybe even a bit of the Mandarin language.

And yet, I haven’t completely realized I’m sitting in a plane that’s carrying me with 900 km/h towards a country I do not know apart from romantic documentaries, narrative fragments of fellow students, media reports on the current political situation and delicious dishes in local restaurants. I’m only beginning to leave Europe behind, embracing anticipation of awesome holidays to come. Let the adventure begin! πŸ™‚

T-1: Bye-bye Europe, Hello China!

Tomorrow at 9 a.m. we (Susi, Franz and I) will be already sitting in our train to Frankfurt – I can hardly await our three-week trip to China. Visas are issued, travel and language guides prepared, important addresses & stuff printed out, and my suitcase is (nearly) packed.. well, I still don’t have my rucksack and I’m quite sure I’ll forget something really important anyway.. πŸ˜‰

Globe with Coarse Schedule

China Trip - Coarse Schedule

Here’s our very coarse schedule: We’ll spend our first few days in Hong Kong & Macau, before we’ll be going up-country and heading to Guilin, Zhangjiajie, Huangshan, Hangzhou and finally Shanghai, where we’ll be happily awaited. Finally we’ll take the high speed train to Beijing and spend the last week there. Only the first days are already precisely planned in terms of accommodation and transfer, but we’re trusting in our friends’ help and guidance as we want to be flexible and spontaneous throughout the journey. Thanks in advance to our fellow students, especially Jacqueline, Aaron and Xuanli – this trip would be literally impossible without you!

I don’t know how often I’ll be able to share my impressions with you via this website, but I promise to provide some news at least once in a while. Have fun at home in Europe and enjoy your holidays πŸ˜›