Sunday, 27 May 2012

Traveling to Hunan - Part 2

Hi everyone!

So, the promised part 2 of my trip to the province of Hunan. There will a lot of pictures again, so enjoy!

Last post left us late in the evening on the 28/3 after hiking through the mountains at Zhangjiajie. The next day we jumped on the bus to Fenghuang. Fenghuang is an old village that is populated with two of the minority groups of China, the Miao and the Tuija chinese people. 
The bus ride took as about 5,5 hours, and was one of the scariest bus rides I have ever been on. The road was very narrow, and our bus driver had an obvious distaste for lorries. He seemed to nurse an overwhelming desire to overtake every lorry in sight, not to forget the other busses, and he drove the bus like it was a rally car. Not very pleasant on a narrow road with nothing but deep valleys on one or the other side...
But we made it, and then we had the task of finding a hostel to overnight in. After quite a walk from the bus station to the old part of the town on very soar legs, we found a room in one of the beautiful little guesthouses that were to be found all along the river.
We spent two days in Fenghuang. In the afternoon at 31/3 we took the bus (5h) back to Changsha were we slept one night again, only to take the early morning flight back to Qingdao the next day.

The pictures that follows will tell the story of what we saw in the beautiful old town of Fenghuang;

The city of Fenghuang is a fast growing city, and unfortunately they are destroying a lot of the old in the process of 'development'. It is quite a big city today, but we spent our time there only in the old part of the town. This was a few streets on both side of the river, and we criss-crossed them all a few times during our stay. Not many people are living here anymore, but everything has turned into a tourist place with hundreds of small shops, guesthouses, restaurants, cafe's, boat hiring, etc. You get the picture. Our first evening and second day it was raining, but in the morning of our last day the sun was shining again. So you will see a mixture of both foggy and sunny photos.

You could go on a boat ride on the river if you wanted to, even with a singing guide if you paid a little extra. We just watch the spectacle from the shore, enjoying walking along the riverside.

We chose to travel in March because of the season. It is not too cold nor too hot, and it is before the high tourist season, so it was nice and not too crowded.

The old streets were narrow, and people still used hand pulled carriages and traditional back packs for everything. 

Our balcony at the guest house with river side view.

During the day, the old part of town seemed quite picturesque, but my god did that change in the evening... It become disco-hell... Lights came on, and not only to lit up the houses, but they were blinking, flashing and very bright. Not to mention the music. Every second bar at the riverside turned into a pub or disco in the evening, and they were all competing in having the loudest music. You know how sound carries quite well over water? Well, yeah! Luckily they had a rule that everything needed to be quiet at 23.30. Otherwise it would had been impossible to sleep.

Breakfast in the street. Noodle and wonton soup from a nice small lady.

Chinese tourists hiring local minority clothes and getting photographed. These were cheap costumes, but the real things are made out of sturdy woolen beautifully decorated by hand, and the head dresses are then of real silver. The headdresses were always the woman's only own wealth as a married woman, and her family had to provide for this 'dowry' for when she got married. 

One of the local women in her traditional everyday wear. The silver headdresses were/are for celebrations. The older generation in the town were still dressed in this traditional way. The tunic was always of dark blue woolen with embroidery on the front (bright red and yellow flowers), it was black at the hem, and underneath black trousers. I have no idea if this woman is Miao or Tuija. The styrofoam this woman is carrying is maybe not so traditional, but she made such a bizarre sight that I had to capture it.

The local 'tractor's'. The horses was carrying heavy weights up and down those stairs and across the small bridge, but it was the only way of transportation in the old town if you had renovations going on... I felt sorry for the horses though, because they were treated like vehicles and not as animals.

It was obviously laundry day here, and everything from the sheets to kitchen ware and food was all washed at the same place. 

You almost never see any baby carriages here in China, but in Fenghuang they still used the same way of transporting children as they have done for several thousands of years now...

Clothes shop.

Sausage shop. Or dried pigheads, dried ducks, or...

Mijo shop. A local spirit made of honey. We bought some for our goodnight cap!

We could have bought some snake vodka, but we passed. Next time maybe...

And in the evenings it was of course dinner time. They had a lovely BBQ street close to our guest house, and we tried out different things both nights. 

Plenty of nice stuff to choose from. Seafood, meat and fresh vegetables.

Piglets, really tender and soft meat!

Whole grilled chickens, but we tasted the grilled rabbit instead.

And some nice crayfishes. 

That was pretty much our travel to Hunan. I am really glad I was able to do this trip, because you were able to see a whole different side of China. I can highly recommend these places to who ever wants to visit China!

Thank you Inga for suggesting this beautiful trip, and for inviting me along!!!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Traveling to Hunan - part 1

In the last week of March, Inga and me travelled to Hunan province in central China. Our destination was the beautiful eerie mountains of Wu lingyuan ( The hallelujah mountains) in Zhangjiajie and the old city of Fenghuang.

I hope you will bear with me now, because there are a lot of pictures coming in this post, as they can tell the tale much better than I can with words...

Our travel plan was as follows:

26/3  Qingdao - Changsha (capital city of the province Hunan) by plane
27/3  Changsha - Zhangjiajie  4 hours by bus
28/3  Zhangjiajie 
29/3  Zhangjiajie - Fenghuang  5.5 hours by bus
30/3  Fenghuang
31/3  Fenghuang - Changsha  5 hours by bus
01/4  Changsha - Qingdao  by plane

27/3: The city of Changsha held no interest for us, so we only slept there at a really nice hostel before setting of early the next day with the bus to the mountains at Zhangjiajie. It was a newly opened hostel, and we were their first 'alien' visitors.

The bus ride to Zhangjiajie and the mountains of Wu lingyuan took us 4 hours. It was a nice bus, and the roads were good. Plenty of interesting scenery to see from the windows. Unfortunately shots taken from a bus window is quite shaky, so I had to sketch down one of the valleys we were driving through to get down a picture of how it looked. The fields in this area was all bright yellow with what I think was ryps...

We arrived in Zhangjiajie city, and jumped straight on a small local bus to Zhangjiajie village, where the entrance was located for the mountains. We came too late in the afternoon to do any hiking in the mountains that evening, so we explored the small one street village instead. This picture below is of the local market...

And as you walked from one end of the village to the other in a couple of minutes, we decided to spend the evening at a nice restaurant trying out the local speciality. There were a quite a few restaurant to choose from, and all of them empty, as the season had not yet started. We chose the one that had the local dish of some chicken of some sort, famous for this area. It turned out to be a spicy dish, where you got the head and feet and everything, but not that much meat... If you look closely, it is the head of the chicken that I am holding to my mouth...

The menu was fun to read through, and many times their translation to english left you wondering what the dish was really like... With a bottle of wine it turned out to a nice evening! 

28/3: The next day we got up early in order to enter the mountain park before the chinese tourists came in their busses. We wanted to see as much as possible on this day so we decided not to climb the mountains, but to take the easy and fast way up. The scenery became fast spectacular, and the day had a really promising start!

These mountains are famous in China, and have been painted for many generations. They also say that these mountains was the foremost inspiration for Pandora and Pandoras floating mountains in James Cameron movie Avatar. They did a lot of advertisement for this 'fact' all around the place, and had even build some sculptures of the animals in that film to exhibit. 

The place was with one word fantastic! We first came to one of the bigger mountain tops, and the hike around the edge took us about 1.5 hours. Breathtaking views all around!

Then we decided not to take the same way down, but rather try the stairs. So down we went, all 3850 steps...

It took us quite some time reach the bottom, not only because of the distance, but mainly because we were entertained on out way down by the wildlife. There were monkeys in hundreds all over the place! And so used to humans, that you could come really close to them. This young fella was really cute. Probably hoping to get some goodies from our bags...

We went to have a look at this 'best scenic spot', but we never figured out what we are suppose to look at, any ideas someone???

We finally reached the bottom of the mountain, and started walking through the valley to the next place to get up to one of the mountain tops. The valley was nice and green even if most of the trees were still bare. Some trees was in blossom, so there were a few patches of white and pink here and there. It began raining, but we were dressed for bad weather so it didn't bother us much.

After a two hours hike through the valley we came to the other end, where we found an elevator that first  went up through the inside of the mountain, before continuing on the outside. The view from the elevator was again spectacular, and the 'spectacularness' continued!

Because of the rain, some very low clouds started to appear. The whole landscape became surreal, and we were happy for another long hike around this second mountain top.

Then it started to get late, and we had to find our way down again. We found another step of stairs, and we started downhill again. These stairs were longer than the previous ones (must have been closer to 5000 steps) and by the time we were down (it seemed like they would never end...) we could really feel our feet and calves! Then we still had half of the valley left to hike back to the entrance gate. By this time we were the only ones left, and it was beginning to get quite dark. This beautiful magnolia tree with the now misty mountains as background was a nice end picture of our day in the mountains.

As you can imagine, after a 11 hours walk/hike in, on top, down from and in-between the mountains, we were tired. I could almost not feel my legs anymore (or feel them too much...) so we decided to treat ourselves with the best the village had to offer food-ways. This was a small food stall in the street just opposite our hotel. We bought a bottle of wine from the store, and then ordered some grilled chicken, vegetables and what nots from out street restaurant. A super ending to a super day!! Cheers!

Next stop on our trip was the old village of Fenghuang. That will be my next post, so much more pictures to come!!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Long time no see and new blog - again...

Hello everybody!

As you can see I have, again, moved my blog. Wordpress was unfortunately not very user-friendly here in China, but it could have been just our crap internet connection. Even with a VPN address it sometimes did not want to connect to site due to ' safari cannot connect to the page with a secure connection" or whatever it was. Anyhow, I got tired of not being able to write whenever it suited me and not if I had access to the blog, so here we are now at, WELCOME! ;-D

And, by the way - I have finally installed a VPN address on my own computer, so now I can access everything I want ( I hope) going around all the webpages the chinese have blocked...

So, it has been a while. First, after christmas I just forgot about my blogging, and then I suffered from the "I'll do it tomorrow"-disease. But now I am back, and I thought that I would start by sharing some fun photos from our doings here...

Fireworks at the Chinese new year. Happy New Dragon Year everybody!!! You can by firework everywhere on the street in the weeks up to the new year, and this was just half of everything we lit up during new year. Magnificent, isn't it?

Lantern festival. The end celebration of the chinese new year, sort of... Here we are outdoors in the park where they had build a whole carnival  with lights, signs, loud music, street food, live music, fireworks and what not. From left to right: Laura from Australia, Inga from Latvia, Tarvi from Estonia, me, Pia from Finland, Peter from Hungary, Ashley's little sister, and Ashley. Tarvi, Pia and Peter are Sam's colleagues, Inga is Tarvi's girlfriend who work as an english teacher here in Rizhao, Laura is Inga's colleague, and Ashley is a chinese girl who just have become a part of our group along the way.

More lights and signs...

In March we had a black tie party at our new pub in Rizhao: and we dressed accordingly! All girls went to a wedding shop and hired some dresses, had hair and makeup done, and then it was Party-Party!!! We started at Inga's place with some pizza and drinks, and then went to the Muse Pub, and danced all night long... Just for measurement: the hiring of dress + hair and makeup was only 100 RMB, which is about 12 euro... I think that we will be doing it again!

In April there was formula 1 in Shanghai. Sam's nephew Oliver was here visiting us, and they took the opportunity to go and have a look at the fast cars around the track. I spend the few days in Shanghai looking at galleries and other nice stuff...

And you can't have a drink in Shanghai on the formula weekend without some nice drinks from the formula lady...

...or have a nice big pizza in the old french quarters where you can find both great western and oriental food.

More parties, this time Elvis party. We started at a teppanyaki restaurant (japanese food), and ended up at the Muse bar again. This time though I have some nice pictures of our cook making our food straight in front of us. Here he was frying some rice...

...and here he was grilling some oysters. This was really a really nice restaurant, and I know that we will be visiting it again. Everything we order was just amazing, and it was really nice looking at how the cook handled his spatulas.

And finally a picture from our favorite Beijing Duck restaurant. This is the place we go to when we want some really nice chinese food, and they have the best Beijing duck in this town! We go there quite regularly, and very convenient for us since the restaurant is across the street from where we live. ;-)

So, this was it for this time. The party section... 

I have also been traveling with Inga to Hunan province where I have been looking at some awesome mountains and an old chinese town, and then I have to get you updated on my studio work... so there will be more posts really soon with a lot of photos!!!

Have a really nice time until then, see ya!