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Hetty & Jim's trip to China

Welcome to Hetty & Jim's Travel Page. Here is where I will be keeping a record of my travels for all of you to read. Please feel free to leave a comment for me. If I have time in between discovering new places and meeting new people I will reply to them!

Diary Entries

Monday, 18 September 2006

Location: Shanghai, China

Hello all, actually have a decent internet connection, what a bonus!
Landed in Shanghai on Tuesday 12th Sept at about 5pm. Shanghai is an enormous city with 17 million people. Jim described it as a supercity, the scale of it almost beyond comprehension.

The minute we left the airport we were in peak hour traffic which seems to go on well into the night. The only time to travel without traffic is the early hours of the morning till 7.00am. They seem to get going a bit later than we do in Melbourne. What struck us again were the unbelievable amount of highrises kilometre upon kilometre and the number of business skyscrapers each with a different roofline and each reaching a bit higher than the next. They were all well lit up with neon lights giving a fairyland impression. I did wonder where on earth all the cars go once they get off the road!
The next morning Melanie & Michael and ourselves plucked up the courage to try the metroto the people's square. Once you use your ticket for the last time the machine swallows it perhaps to be used again! Once we understood how the ticket system worked we found it to be fast and efficient.

The people's square and park surrounding it, provided a tranquil place in such a busy city. It reminded me of central park in New York. To build the park the government relocated 170,000 people showing that Democracy is not always the most efficient way of getting things done even when it would appear to be in the public interest. Imagine trying to achieve this in Melbourne! It convinced us that if Aust had a one party gov. Toowoomba would be well on its way to drinking recycled water.

We walked on to the Grand Theatre where we met Brigid from Endeavour Hills. Breigid's son is Simba in The Lion king presently playing in Shanghai with an all Australian cast and crew.

From here we walked down a side lane only to discover people selling pet crickets in the cutest little bamboo cages.There was also an assortment of all sizes of tortoises terrapins fish and underwater plants.
The highlight of the afternoon was a trip on the very fast train(magnetic levitation) to the airport. The trip lasted 7 minutes and the train got up to a speed of 431 KPH. Unbelievable feeling to see everything. From there toThe Jim Mao tower which took us up 369 metres for a bird's eye view of Shaghai. It is a beautiful building which also allows you to look down from the top to the bottom floor. It gave an interesting view of the heights of the different skyscrapers and their varied roofs.
Our last port of call was the Children's palace - an old house given over to Children's arts. Here we watched childrenaged 5-9 playing traditional musical instruments and a ballet class. It was funny to see children not concentrating and the teacher trying to politely get them back on track. Some things do not change wherever you are! The balmy evening provided us with a trip up the Hangpu river giving us a fabulous view of the city lit up. It was a great experience. The BUND - equivalent to Southbank was teaming with people involved with all kinds of activities. Many families strolling along enjoying the cities lights.

Our last day inShanghai was spent in a silk factory then the Yu gardens central to THE BUND.It had many pagoda type buildings with courtyards and water features.We then walked through the main shopping mall but could not find a camera or Internet place to offload photos. Jim & Melanie our travelling companion did go to an optompetry shop and ordered glasses and contacts. - much much cheaper than Melbourne.We also looked inside some of the buildings the architecture of which was beautiful. Unfortunately while we were out Michael's back pack disappeared off our bus. Luckily for him there was nothing of great value in it. That evening we were treated to an unbelievable acrobatic show. We marvelled at the strength and athleticism, as they jumped three to four people high on one another's shoulders holding twirling plates, ribbons and hats in their hands. The motor cycle stunt had us holding our breath. 6 motorcyles all driving around inside a not so large cylindrical cage at a tremendous speed. The excitement must have been too much for Jim as he fell out of bed for the second time that evening.

We really enjoyed Shanghai .
Check out the Yangtze photos

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Location: kunming, China

Hello friends and family.
China has everything but it's internet services leave a bit to be desired. Mind you not being able to decipher chinese letters doesn't help!Spent Sunday night on the Internet writing for 2 hours only to find that it did not send. We have found that there are not nearly as many internet services in each city and of course life gets busy travelling so the moments are few and far between.

We are presently in Kunming, only about 100 klms from the Vietnam border close to where we did a home stay with hill tribes last year. It is about 2000 metres above sea level and is surrounded by mountains. It is a small town by Chinese standards - about 3 million. Every town we go through or fly over is inundated with high rise units even if there is nothing outside the immediate locality. We have not seen a suburb as we know it.

Some facts: China has 1.3 billion people and looks to be the same land mass as ours.
Our trip down the Yangze from Chongquing to Yichang was a relaxing wonderful experience. Before we boarded the cruise boat we went to the zoo to see a baby Orangatang and several pandas. We also walked around Eling park which gave us great views of the Yangtze and surrounding area. Once again the number of people out in the park dancing, singing, playing cards etc made me think that their community life is probably better than ours., though I wouldn't cope in the cramped conditions so many people live in.
We boarded the boat at about 7.00pm. We were greeted along the way by at least one steward every 3 metres - about 15 in all. There was one worker to 3 passengers so we were well serviced. The cabin was beautifully and comfortably decked out with a small balcony enabling us to enjoy the passing scenery. The fridge was tiny and portable. As it was very pleasant balmy weather we tried the swimming pool which was very refreshing then sat and watched barges loaded with mainly coal and beautifully lit up restaurant boats going up and down the river. The meals were of course Chinese - about 15 dishes at each sitting , more than we could ever hope to eat. Each night the staff who were stewards during the day provided fun enterainment.On the way the scenery changed from big cities with clinging highrises to the sides of steep embankments to beautiful mountains which got continually higher with the occasional small dwelling tucked tightly in to a cliff.S signs of agriculture. Saw little animal life though a swallow flew along side the boat for some of the time. We passed through three gorges which were just so beautiful. As we entered the first gorge early in the morning it was a treat to watch the sun peep over the horizon of the tall mountains and reflect back on the water.There was 175 metre mark on the embakment from time to time to show where the water level will reach when the 3 gorges dam is completed. It will displace some 1.3 million people who will be compensated by the government. We saw some instances of old cities being demolished and new cities built on the other side of the river.
One of the side trips off the boat was a ride in a row boat up one of the Yangtze's tributaries to a minority people village. The men rowing the boats were all in jocks as the weather was warm with the sun beating down. As the boat got intop shallow waters they heaved it up the river with ropes around their bodies, a bit like the old volga boatmen. They were certainly fit!

The trip finished at the three gorges dam in Yichang.The suitcases were unloaded two to three at a time by men with a piece of carved wood across their backs with suitcases held by string at each end of the wood. Very clever I thought.

Once we embarked we inspected the 3 Gorges dam project - a massive construction which will change the face of the Yangtze and this area forever.
Yichang itself is a very liveable city. The department store was particularly clean and well laid out. We have noticed this about other department stores we have seen.
Our next stop - Shanghai.



Since I last wrote we have been

Saturday, 09 September 2006

Location: Xian, China

Dear family & friends,Hello one and all. It is Saturday 9th Sept today. 8.00am local time 10.00am Melbourne time. My legs are still recovering from the Great wall climb. Having been so suprised that we met Deb our tour leader from Laos last year I ended up walking 1klm further down the wall than I should have and had to run up about a thousand stairs to find the way back to our mini bus. Jim thought I was lost forever but no such luck! . It is unbelievable how it sits on such high mountainous terrain and built 200 BC.
Another beautiful attraction was the Summer Palace the gardens so spacious and serene with many intimate courtyards overhung with flowering pink blossoms. the ride on the Dragon boat on the extensive lake around the palace was most enjoyable.

Beijing lights up at night making it a very bright scene. Kites fly high and felect in the light in Tianenman square. Highrise buildings are illuminated with incessantly flashing neon lights advertising everything from the most elegant products to the construction of new secure high rise housing developments.There are crowds of people everywhere out for a night's stroll or shopping as shops are open till 10.00pm

As in Vietnam street hawkers bug you to buy their wares and you need to be very assertive to shrug them off ot a great bargainer to get a good price. Thank goodness we had plenty of practise in Vietnam.

It is interesting to note that children under two do not wear nappies. They wear pants with a convenient backside cut out of them. Parents suddenly squat the children if they think they are ready to do evacuate their bowls heading to the nearest drain!!!!

We have been suprised about the newness and good condition of cars on the road despite the belligerent style of driving. It is a matter of squeeze in where you can and hope for the best. Pedestrian crossings here in Xian seem to be for show only.

China has Mc Donald's & KFC. Price $2.50 for a Big Mac meal. Tastes just like home.
The parks around Beijing are full of older people doing all sorts of exercises. The Temple of Heaven a big temple with a large surrounding public park with beautiful trees and large areas of grass had many older people engaged in all sorts of activities. Obviously these parks provide an escape from the 3x3metre squarehouses people live in. so everything is done outside. People were Taichiing with balls, fans ribbons, swords sticks etc. Others were singing in choirs. There were music groups playing what looked like a version of flutes. Men playing cards, dominoes, chequers. People line dancing & ballroom dancing. Very interesting as there seemed to be no inhibitions anywhere.

Meals have a cetain sameness. bok choy almost always and a chicken dish that does not look anything like chicken! One chicken appeared out of a bamboo pipe.There are at least a dozen dishes. We have not seen one cat!!!! One night we had dumplings and more dumplings.
There is no shortage of workforce. At every meal we have at least 5-6 waiters ready to meet our every need. At the door there are at least 3 people to take you to your table.

Taxis are cheap and have protection cages. We have some difficulty making ourselves understood. Luckily our guide whom we sometimes understand has an electronic dictionary. they need more english teachers here to teach accent & pronunciation. I'm thinking of coming back to offer them my services however Jim is not so sure!!!
Street names are in English where the street is named but it cetainly provides a challenge when you want to ask someone something

We flew to Xian in a quite tubulent plane. Yesterday we went to see the Terracotta warriors. It is a very interesting archaelogical site. It is a massive tomb built for an emperor 20. There were rows upon seried rows of warriors guarding the tomb. Great to see such an interesting site.It is believed to be about 6000 all told. they are still restoring them. The ones we saw are life size figures. One wonders how people so long ago had such skill without modern day technology to produce something of this size.
Flying to chongquing today for our trip down the Yangtse River.
Hope all is well. Sorry to hear about Steve Urwin & Brocks
Hetty & Jim

Tuesday, 05 September 2006

Location: Beijing, China

Dear Friends and family,
We have arrived safely in Beijing and are enjoying the lovely warm weather. It isa good feeling to be back in shorts and T shirt.

The flight from Melbourne via Singapore was quite a long 14 hour stint but we were compensated by having the Exit seat and plenty of leg room with no one in front of us all the way. They fed us well and since the Baileys was on the house I took advantage and had several while watching the movies - Wah Wah and ON A CLEAR DAY - both quite good.
We arrived at Beijing airport at about 10.30pm only to find that the peak hour traffic was so bad it took an hour to get to the hotel.

The Hotel is very western and quite comfortable. Breakfast is included and the Buffet caters well for Westerners as well as Asians so anything from fried rice to cornflakes is the go.

Beijing is a difficult city to get around. Like LosAngeles it is very big. It is 175 klms long and 150 kls wide! There is not a real centre. There are hundreds of high rise apartments everywhere yet this is not reflected in the number of people on the streets. Only 10% of people own cars but the roads are blocked with cars and buses all the time. Many people ride bikes and each road has a special separate bike lane, though at intersections when bikes and carsand buses meet it is survival of the biggest.

We began the day yesterday at Tiananmen square, a grim reminder of that terrible day in 1989 when so many students were killed when protesting against the government. It is a big expanse of concrete ending in the entry to the very large forbidden city. This is a walled city where the emperor and his court lived - originally off limits to the general population . Lunch was abeautiful Chinese banquet in avery upmarket restaurant.From there we did a pedicycle tour taking us to the Hutongs . These are little alley ways and courtyards where several families live in tiny spaces around acourtyard all sharing the same toilet facilities. They arelikeliving in a maze. We continued on to the silk markets - a multi storey building with hundreds of stalls on each floor selling a particular merchandise e.g. first floor - shoes; 2nd floor women'sclothing etc. The isles are only about a metre wide and people accost you to buy constantly so you cannot wait to get out. It is like running a gauntlet - you buy from me, you buy from me. Isay back You buyfrom me????? You dare not buy anything as they then definitely don't leave you alone.

Today we got up early and after contending with peak hour traffic finally got to the Great wall 90klms from Beijing. It was a sight to behold. It felt just like the qantas add but certainly tested the knees as it is constantly walking up steep stairs. I enjoyed the spectacular views across the mountains and marvelled at how it could have been built so many hundreds of years ago. It is surely one of the great wonders of the world.Unbelievably as we were climbing down one of the many stairs someone came over and said "Hello I know you" Icouldn't believe my eyes as it was the guide we had on our tripinLoas last year. It is indeed a small world.
Must go for now
Hetty
&
Jim




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From Joan & Bob
Dear Hetty & Jim,
glad to hear you are enjoying your trip.
Looking forward to more of your newsy emails. All is fine in Harrietville. Love Joan & Bob