Shanghai and Beijing

At Captain’s Bar in Shanghai

Shanghai

We took the bullet train from Huangshan to Shanghai without much issue. We stayed in a hostel that was by a metro station making it easy to get to. The first night on arriving we had some beers and shisha at the hostel bar then heading into the city to see the bund.

Shanghai (上海) , with a population of more than 23 million (with over 9 million migrants), is the largest and traditionally the most developed metropolis in Mainland China.

We went and had dinner at Captain’s bar overlooking the bund- it was a wet night but we had a really good time. Unfortunately later that night we couldn’t find the kobo’s (our ereaders we had been using during the trip), we must have left them on the train. This was a real life disaster.

The next day, Issy felt a bit ill (read hungover again), we needed to get some food into her. We had heard of a Shanghai food specialty sesame, chili noodles, and found a cheap restaurant with a Michelin recommendation (not a star but still). It was delicious, but the restaurant was quite interesting.

It was a very popular local restaurant were you paid for what you wanted on entering and got given the receipt with your order, you then had to stand beside tables of people eating there food waiting for somewhere to sit- like waiting for a go on the swings at the playground. Only once you had your seat would the waitress come and take your receipt and bring you noodles. As soon as you had finished eating, you had to give up your seat to someone else vying for a table to be able try these rich, creamy, spicy sesame noodles.

A lot of the rest of the day was spent trying to locate our kobos, we were very intent on getting them back as in less than a week we would be getting on the trans-Siberian railway and we saw having a book/ereader essential for this travel so we don’t go insane/get annoyed at each other sitting for so long on trains. I won’t bore you with the details but long story short we didn’t get them back. We were very sad.

We tried to save the day with a nice evening- and save the day we did! We went on a river cruise through Shanghai and it was amazing. See the photos below:

The next day we went to the Yu Garden (great!), and tried to go up the shanghai observatory but it was too foggy so we couldn’t, but on a positive side we did get to see the Shanghai Ball tower upclose.

We left on the overnight train to Beijing at 7:30pm that night. 

Beijing

In Beijing we stayed at a hostel called Sunrise hostel- the price of accommodation in Beijing was more than other cities we stayed in and our $50 a night room was actually pretty average (small and a bit smelly). We went to Mao’s mausoleum in Tiananmen square the next day- boy it was BUUSSSY. Domestic tourism is popular in China and it seemed everyone wanted to be in Tiananmen square to see Mao and the forbidden city. Mao mausoleum was interesting- no bags or cameras allowed, you had to shuffle through in a silent, orderly line to see Mao. I did a bit of reading before we went and found out that Mao himself had apparently wanted to be cremated however the man that succeeded him in power decided a mausoleum where he could be put on show indefinitely was in order. Mao was apparently embalmed by his personal doctor who had little experience in it- rumor has it he didn’t do a very good job and that it is in fact a wax statue of Mao in the glass coffin rather than Mao himself. The Chinese man in charge of construction of the mausoleum etc wrote a book about it which was promptly banned in China.

That evening we went out to a popular hutong (a neighborhood in Beijing made of one story buildings with small avenues). It was busy with tourist shops, bars, street snacks, and restaurants set along a river. We found ourselves in an amazing hot pot restaurant and proceeded to eat until we thought we might explode. P

We were lucky enough to find kindles that we could buy in Beijing for our train trip, which made us very happy.

We started our trip on the trans-mongolian train early the next day, loaded with instant noodles, chips, and chocolate…

Huangshan

Red as the strawberries we picked in Yangshou. They should call these the red mountains, not the yellow mountains!

Huangshan

We travelled from Yangshou to Guilin to Shanghai to Huangshan (more than 36 hours of travelling to get to our destination via taxi then bus then another bus then overnight train then subway train then bullet train then bus). We stayed in the Koala Youth Hostel in Huangshan town- it was a cool little hostel with a pool table and dart board in the lobby and helpful staff. The reason we travelled here was to see Huangshan.

To directly quote the wikipedia page: “Huangshan (Chinese: 黄山, literal meaning: Yellow Mountain) is a mountain range in southern Anhui province in eastern China. “The area is well known for its scenery, sunsets, peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, Huangshan pine trees, hot springs, winter snow, and views of the clouds from above. Huangshan is a frequent subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, as well as modern photography. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of China’s major tourist destinations.” TLDR: it’s beautiful.

We had planned to book somewhere to stay on the mountain with the help of our hostel, however without realizing we had ended up at this popular tourist sight in tourist high season on a weekend i.e. everywhere was booked up! Our hostel offered us an alternative-  camping on the mountain. Our hostel rented us a tent, two sleeping bags, and two floor mats for our trip (for the equivalent of $26 NZD). Phew. Now with our alternative accommodation sorted we were ready to go.

On arriving to the base of the mountain we showed our drivers licenses hoping they might be misidentified as student cards, and happily we got our discounted tickets saving ourselves $20 each! We chose to walk up the mountain with our gear rather than take the cable car, it was all stairs for about 2.5 hours uphill. We were sweating like a cold bottle of Tsingtao beer straight out of the fridge on a hot day.

We must have walked up thousands of steps in the park. Chris was not bananas above the incline here.
I’m sweaty and tired. I need a snickers bar.

Exhausted, at the summit of the mountain, we headed to the area that the hostel staff had suggested we set up our camp. We were surprised to find the hard ground that the hostel staff had described was actually concrete, and the number of tents! By the end of the night there must have been 40 tents out on the concrete around us!

Setting up our own Hungshan Hilton
Eating chips in the tent.

The next day we woke up at 4:30am- you read that right Chris and Issy woke up at 4:30am- along with the rest of our camp to go and see the sunrise at the top of a nearby summit. We quickly packed up our tent etc and set out. Clearly not an original thought as there would have been about 200-300 people there trying to catch first light. It was a cloudy morning so sadly the sunrise was probably not worth the very early morning. We set off from the summit to walk through a nearby canyon- touted as being the most photogenic part of the park- this was true!

Unfortunately we had not eaten and had no food that morning so we slowly became hangry walking through the canyon.

Steps down into the canyon
The look of hunger and exhaustion , someone feed this man ASAP!

Blessed be, we found at the bottom of the canyon about 2 hours after we started our walk from the sunrise we found a cable car which would take us back to the top of the mountain- to food. 

We ate a muffin and had a sugary coffee each. And now we were ok again, but tired. A big walk the day before, a poor sleep on concrete, a very early start, another big walk after that, plus hangriness = Chris and Issy ready to head out of the park. It still took another 3 or so hours to walk out of the park which was mainly down stairs, we have a new appreciation for how hard it is to walk downstairs.

We realised on arriving back to the hostel that it was Easter Sunday, which means easter eggs back home. In China we couldnt find any chocolate eggs so we got alternatives- snickers for Issy, jelly lollies for chris (we figured after the last two days we could take the calorie hit easily). We made each other an easter egg hunt around our hostel room, see below for pictures:

The next day (after some relaxation and games of pool), we bought train tickets back to Shanghai and headed into the big city…

Yangshuo

Guilin

We flew from Lijiang to Guilin- on arriving to our hostel in Guilin we were blown away by the place. Our hostel had a beautiful floor top garden bar giving a 360 degree view of the city- intermixed between the buildings were large karst type mountains. We were exhausted arriving to Guilin but ended up having a great night as the hostel put on an outdoor movie- Boheminan Rhapsody- for us. It was awesome- CAN ANYBODY FIND MMEEEEEEEEE, SOMEBODY TOOOOOO… LOOOOOVVVVVEEEE! 

A picture I took in a state of pure happiness as Bohemian Rhapsody was starting on the big screen

Yangshuo

We booked a bamboo river boat tour through our hostel which would take us from Guilin and end in Yangshuo. The river trip was lovely, the bamboo boats have all been made of PVC-pipes (with a failed bamboo resemblance, ?painted blue for some reason) with little outboard motors on the back to withstand the strong currents on the river and I guess to make it more likely everyone gets there in one piece. It was good fun!

Yangshuo is a town with awesome karst scenery, beautiful mountains, rivers, caves, and temples as well as its laid back cafes and bars.

We stayed in a great hostel out of the main part of the city called Stone Bridge hostel.

The first evening there it rained like crazy, luckily for us it let up and we were able to bike into the town. Man we were shocked with what we found in town! When we arrived into Yangshou it seemed like quite a sleepy little town, but we found a very busy, loud, and bustling tourist centre of town. We tried lots of delicious foods here- spicy fried potatoes, spicy fried tofu, dumplings, extra large fries (imagine chips the size of a subway footlong sandwich, Chris couldn’t resist), Liquan beer (the local brew) enjoyed with some live music.

We spent the next day biking (on a push bike) around Yangshuo greater area- along the river, seeing the sights, going to the local park arcade and going on the bumper cars, and we went strawberry picking!

Strawbs- we thought it was berry fun!
Right after I whopped Chris in bumper carts
Country road, take me home, to the place I BELOONNG!

The next day we went even further afield on an electric bike and were able to see more of the karst landscape that the area is famous for. We climbed to the top of one of the hills in town for a better look of the area:

please stop taking my photo now.

Of note- we also tried Jack Fruit for the first time here- it was tasty. Like the flavour of a banana with a much much better texture. Would recommend.

Image result for holy jackfruit
This is jackfruit, most of them are about as big as your head, or bigger. (note this picture is from a quick google search of Jackfruit, we don’t own any small knives or fancy orange bowls)

Next we travel Huangshan mountains…

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Tiger leaping gorge-ous!

Tiger Leaping gorge

Our flight from Hanoi to Kunming, China was uneventful, arriving in Kunming we were pretty confused when we couldn’t find our connecting flight number to take us to Lijiang. Yep, it was cancelled. Another flight was booked for the next day and we were put up in a hotel in Kunming city at 9.30pm- we had no Chinese money and no food so we went on a mission to sort this stuff out in the city. The next morning we woke at 4:30am to catch a bus back to the airport so we could catch our flight. On arrival to Lijiang via airport bus then taxi then 2 hour bus to a place called Qiaotau- we made it to the starting point of Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Tiger Leaping Gorge is touted as home to one of the finest treks through some of the most naturally beautiful and diverse landscapes China has to offer. The trail runs high on the northern side of the gorge passing through quiet villages, shady forest, blustery precipice and terraced farmland. According to legend- a hunter chased a (delicious-looking) tiger through the gorge until they reached the narrowest point. The tiger found itself trapped between the hunter and the rushing river at the base of the gorge. Left with no choice, the tiger leapt the 25m (82 ft) gap across the gorge, escaping the hunter. Hence the name- Tiger leaping gorge.

The bottom of the gorge.

Arriving to Qiaotou we stayed in Jane’s Guest House- where an exhausted Chris napped for the rest of the afternoon, and Issy- having found out the guest house had the world’s cutest 3 month old puppy- spent the afternoon chasing around said puppy.

The next day we set out on our trek at a lazy 10:30am- it was a uphill start with gorgeous views of the gorge and mountains, arriving at a Naxi (local people of the region) guest house for a lunch of fried rice and veges. The next part of the trek had an even greater incline, it was at times soul destroying thinking you might be near the top then you see more winding path going further up. The views again were amazing: 

What a beautiful view, and a mountain! (I am the beautiful view)
Chris can’t tell if he is in Tiger leaping gorge or the Southern Alps / Kā Tiritiri o te Moana (mountain range extending along much of the length of New Zealand’s South Island)
Pretty happy to be here, working out how to use the camera self timer for photos!
Still more up hill climbing to go, did any one order one soul destroyed Issy?

We arrived in the late afternoon at Tea Horse guesthouse where we had booked a room for the night. It was a lovely spot.

The next day the path was pretty flat so it was an easier walk but continued to have the wicked views basically the whole way. We stopped at halfway house for a drink.

Half Way baby!

We arrived into the gorge by the river by the end of the day, and stayed at a guest house run a Tibetan family. We tried some Tibetan food for dinner: Butter tea (did not love this- tasted quite a lot like liquid salted butter), Yak cheese hot pot (also not a massive fan, it seemed to grow on Chris), Tibetan meat ball (Chris was very happy with these).

The next day we did a big walk back up into the northern side of the gorge, needless to say we got very lost- twice- and I panicked that we would miss our bus at 3.30pm so we bush-bashed our way off the ridges back to the road. To celebrate our survival we had some beers and yak cheese dumplings before getting the bus back to Lijiang.

Footage from our trip through the gorge!

Lijiang

Took the bus in the afternoon from the Gorge back to Lijiang. Lijiang was actually very cool!

The city is built around a famous old town, which apparently is some of the best preserved Qing Dynsaty architecture. The earliest recorded history of the city can be traced back to the Warring States Period (476 BC-221 BC), so it had lot of beautiful buildings, parks, and delicious food!

We spent the morning walking around Black Dragon Pool which was built in 1737 during the Qing dynasty and offers a spectacular view of the region’s tallest mountain, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, over its white marble bridge. Unfortunately Chris had got himself a massive blister when we were hiking in the gorge so he was hobbling/limping around the park.

Next we fly to Guilin and float down a river to Yangshou!