A Travellerspoint blog

Shanghai

The end of the big trip...

sunny 18 °C

We settled in at the Hostel in the north-west part of town. It had a really friendly atmosfere, was clean and nice and the staff all spoke english (to some extent at least). For anyone on a budget coming to explore Shanghai, and who doesn't want to live "smack in the middle", we could definitely recommend this place. It's especially good if you plan to stay a bit longer. (http://www.letourshanghai.com) We had a good time and they even taught us to make dumplings. Yummy!

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As you know we allready had decided that Shanghai would most probably be the last stop of the big trip, and that we wanted to settle down here for at least some years. So, we started looking for work. Sabrina had allready scheduled meetings with a possible employer and that was actually the reason that we arrived in Shanghai when we did. The meetings went very well and eventually resulted in Sabrina starting to work for Bovis Lend Lease again. In the meantime we started to get familiarized with the town, how to get around, how to buy things etc. It was a strange feeling to not be on the road. We also started looking for an area that we would like to live in and we walked a lot around especially the french concession. We spent quite alot of time at the internet cafe across the road from the hostel. It was pretty big and, as in many places in China, people smoke. It's not to clean either, but pretty ok and definitely more affordable than the computers at the hostel.

We also did some sightseeing which we will tell you about in more detail later in our new blog.

We explored the city and started buying some clothes (remember we arrived with nothing more than a couple of backpacks). We also started to try some of the city's MANY restaurants with typical local food or international. You really can find almost anything here.

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After a couple of weeks we had a visit from Robert and Emma. You know, the swedish couple that we travelled together with on both the Transsiberian and in Mongolia. Since we had now been in Shanghai for a little while we felt a bit more at home allready. We did our best to show them around, went to an incredible acrobatics show (see the new blog) and had a very interesting meal at a vegetarian restaurant with many "mockmeat" items such as chicken and beef. Everything totally vegetarian though. Anyway, it was fantastic to see them again and to get our first visit!!

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With that we would like to close this chapter and move on to the next one. We now stop adding to this blog and start using a new one "Shanghai", for which we will sign you up as subscribers so that you will be notified when we write something new. If you don't want to be in the list you can just un-subscribe from travellerspoint directly or simply let us know and we will do it for you.

Our new blog:shanghai.travellerspoint.com

THANKS TO ALL OF YOU for having shared the "Big Trip" experience with us!!!

Love,

Fredrik and Sabrina

Posted by fredrik_p 23:21 Archived in China Comments (0)

Train from Beijing to Shanghai

Done travelling for a while

sunny 18 °C
View The Big Trip 2007 on sabrinakam's travel map.

We wanted to be in Shanghai by the 10th and since the "hard sleeper" for the overnight train on the 9th were booked out already we had to take the "soft sleeper". It was no problem taking the subway to the train station even though there were a lot of people. The difficult part was figuring out how the enormous train station worked and where we would have to wait for the train. Eventually we figured it out and got on the train all right. The train was really luxurious in comparison to the trans-siberian. It was impeccably clean, air-conditioned, we could order food directly to our compartment and our beds were very comfortable and clean. We even had a white table cloth and a fresh flower in a vase on our table! We had an improvised dinner consisting of coffee/tea, banana, rice crackers, some dried fruits and a muffin.

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We shared the compartment with only one person who was Chinese and the conversation was scarce. He had a really friendly face and we managed to understand that he was from Shanghai. He showed us on the map where we would have to go and explained how much the food would be if we would have wanted to order.

On the train were almost exclusively Chinese people except for a Danish family which we overheard boarding the train.

When we woke up we enjoyed the scenery for a while before we packed our stuff. We arrived on time to Shanghai Railway Station and went directly to the metro and bought our tickets. The Shanghai Railway Station was pretty impressive as well, with a lot of people everywhere. I find that, just like in Beijing, people here walk pretty slowly. I don't know if it is because I have longer legs or what but I would almost go as far as to say that people here walk as slowly as in Mexico!!

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We arrived at our hostel after having to look for it for about 20-30 minutes. We got a good room with our own bathroom and went down to have breakfast.

Lots of love,

Fredrik and Sabrina

Posted by sabrinakam 06:00 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Beijing (Peking)

all seasons in one day 14 °C
View The Big Trip 2007 on sabrinakam's travel map.

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A mix of grandeur from Imperial days, communist style architecture, modern sky scrapers, commercial centers and a maze of narrow alleys, Hutongs, with some delightful courtyard architecture, that is what you will find in today's Beijing. The 15.2 million inhabitants of Chinas capital (maybe not all of them) are frank, uncomplicated, helpful, friendly and every where to find.

We arrived early in the afternoon on the 5th of October. Apparently the Chinese had a week long holiday because of their National Day, 1 October, (in 1949 Mao proclaimed the People's Republic of China on this day) and according to our Lonely Planet "it is not a great idea to arrive in China or go traveling during these holidays as things tend to grind to a halt". Well, we hadn't much of a choice and just stuck to our original plan.

Our hostel "Red Lantern Hostel" turned out to be a pleasant place right in the Zhengjue Hutong, northwest of the city center. The hostel had a delightful inner courtyard, good service and a friendly welcoming atmosphere. We had really cozy beds (much better than the train bunk beds) and a nicely decorated room.

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We made ourselves at home and freshened up a bit, before we went off in search of food. Very quickly, we didn't have to have to walk long, we found a restaurant that appeared good to us and we walked inside. Fortunately, the menu had many photos and even some translation in English. We ordered a salad, vegetables, rice and squid. In the center of our table there was a hole with a grate or grill covering it where they put glowing coal and we could prepare our squid. Yummy!!! Apart from the food we ordered, we got tea, an appetizer, melon and ice cream. The food was delicious and of really good quality, and the prices were ridiculously low. We paid 30 Yuan (almost 4US$ or 2.90 Euros or 26 SKr) per person.

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After our delightful dinner experience, we walked around in the close by hutongs, the typical traditional Beijing neighborhoods with narrow alleys. There are lots of shops, like the hole in wall types, stalls, people passing by on bicycle, walking, chatting, buying and selling. In particular at nightfall the hutongs seemed to come to real life with a big huddle of people with noises and odors coming from all directions. It is exciting to walk through the hutongs, there is always something new to explore.

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The next day we had planed to get up early to see the Forbidden City but since it was pouring with rain we decided to take it easy. A bit later in the morning when the rain stopped we went off to visit the Temple of Heaven. A paragon of Ming Design, the Temple of Heaven, set in a 267 hectare park, originally served as a vast stage of solemn rites performed by the Son of Heaven, who prayed here for good harvest, and sought divine clearance and atonement for the sins of the people. We walked around the park and with us thousands of Chinese. We saw the Round Altar, Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the standout complex with a triple-eaved umbrella roof mounted on a three-tiered marble terrace. A neat place!!

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Afterwards we walked around a bit.................

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.....and we then headed for Tiananmen Square where there seemed to be even more Chinese. It's national holiday week, you remember? The world's largest public square, Tiananmen Square is a vast desert of paving stone at the heart of Beijing. In the square, you stand in the symbolic centre of the Chinese universe. The square employs a conventional plan that pays obeisance to traditional Chinese culture, while its ornaments and buildings are largely Soviet inspired. Mao’s Mausoleum (the Chinese Chairman died in 1976) can be seen here as well.

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At night we met with Emily, the Australian girl we did a climb excursion with in Peru and who now lives and works in Beijing. We also got to meet her flatmate who is of Chinese origin but grew up in Singapore and got her higher education in Australia. Thanks to her Mandarin knowledge, we could order the drinks and food we wanted to without using the otherwise so typical sign language. We paid 16 Yuan (US$2.10 or 1.50 Euros or almost 14 SKr) each. Can it get any cheaper?

The next day looked great, blue sky, few clouds and refreshing winds. The Forbidden City was on our agenda and we got up early to be there before the crowds. That was what we thought at least. We took a bus, got off at Front Gate, walked pass the Tiananmen Square and passed through the Gate of Heavenly Peace to eventually get to the Forbidden City. It is Beijing's top tourist site which for 500 years was off limits, thus the name. It was home to two dynasties of emperors, the Ming and the Qing, who didn't stray from this pleasure dome unless they absolutely had to. When we got there the site was full of Chinese and Western tourists alike. We strolled through the different gates, courtyards and buildings and saw the Three Great Halls, the heart of the Forbidden City, build in the 15 century and restored in the 17th century, and the Imperial Gardens, a classical Chinese garden of fine landscaping, with rockeries, walkways and pavilions. The whole complex is a true exhibit of the grandeur of Chinas Imperial days.

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After Beijing’s top tourist site visit, we walked through Beihai Park, which lies northwest of the Forbidden City. It is a beautiful Chinese garden type of park with a huge lake in the centre and a perfect place to stroll around, enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and to watch calligraphers practicing characters on the pacing slabs with brush and water. The site is associated with Kublai Khan's palace, the navel of Beijing before the creation of the Forbidden City. Kublai Khan, who reigned over China as emperor of the Yuan dynasty, was grandson of Genghis Khan, the Mongol conqueror.

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There as in all the other tourist places, Chinese tourists/visitors are really busy taking photos of all the different tourist attractions with them posing before it. At one place some Chinese ladies even wanted to take a photo of me next to them. So I did some posing together with them. Funny thing!!! I guess they think we Westerners look quite exotic and it's a cool thing to have a photo side by side.

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After the park, we carried on to walk through the hutongs until we got back to our hostel. On our way back we had probably the best tasting dumplings ever at a tiny local restaurant. I guess I don't have to tell you how cheap it was.

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The day after we had organized to go on a trip to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Hugo and Beatrice, who we shared the compartment with on the train to Beijing, and a couple from Peru joined us. We left early at 6.00 am and got to Mutianyu before 8.00 am. We were lucky there were hardly any people that early and we climbed up our way along the wall to the different watch towers. The weather was perfect, the surrounding beautiful and the atmosphere breathtaking (not just because of the endless seeming number of stairs we walked up and down). We had four hours to walk around and were totally exhausted at 12.30 pm when we headed back to Beijing.

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At night we went to Liyuan Theatre to see a Beijing Opera performance. We had been trying to get tickets through our hostel for several days and were lucky to get some on our last night in Beijing. The place turned out to be really touristy but the performance was ok. We saw some nice acrobatics, beautiful costumes, fascinating face paintings and listened to the vigorous song.

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The last day in Beijing, we were busy with packing, surfing the internet, emailing, updating our travel page etc.

Then we left for Shanghai our next and maybe last destination on The Big Trip 2007.

Lots of hugs,

Sabrina and Fredrik

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PS: We have been really slow with updting our travel blog. Sorry!!! We will try to catch up.

Posted by sabrinakam 22:42 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Train from Ulan Bataar to Beijing

The Trans-Siberian Railway part 3 (the trans-mongolian)

sunny 15 °C

We were picked up from our "Guest house" early in the morning, but on the way to the station I realized that I was missing my book (Mei Wenti). We managed to get back, pick the book up and still we arrived at the station in exactly the same moment as the train rolled in. No problem, "Mei Wenti" in Chinese.

There were sooo many tourists and at least half of them seemed to be Swedish. We shared compartment with Hugo and Beatrice a Swedish couple who were on a trip with the transsiberian down through China and Vietnam until Christmas.

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The train ride went fine, as did the boarder crossing, and we arrived on schedule in Beijing. Exciting!! We took the subway to our hostel that we had booked from UB. Hugo and Beatrice hadn't booked anything and went with us to check the place out.

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The week is marked as a national holiday and one of the worst times to arrive in China (since all the Chinese people are traveling) but there was absolutely no problem at all. We took the subway to our hostel "Red Lantern House" which is pretty central for Beijing and which turned out very affordable and nice.

Lots of hugs,

Fredrik and Sabrina

Posted by fredrik_p 05:42 Archived in Mongolia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Ulan Bataar

Probably one of the coldest capitals in the world, in the least populated country on the planet

sunny 13 °C

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Our hostal in Ulan Bataar (UB) was more like an apartment converted into a guesthouse. We had a fairly large room but with a bed as hard as a rock. It was many times worse than the relatively comfortable bunks on the train. Luckily there was also a couch in the room and we could make ourselves comfortable there. We went out to change some money (Togrog) and found an exchange office just across the street.

UB has around 800,000 inhabitants and is pretty grey and shabby. Many still live in gers (tents) or shacks. The Mongolian law allows anyone to put up a fence and call the land his/her own (15 x 20 m per person) and you see fences everywhere. It's far from being a beautiful city and we didn't do much sightseeing as we spent almost all our time in the Gobi, but it definitely has it's own atmosphere. We managed to look around town a bit.

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We also went to see UB's temple. Gandantegchinlen (Gandan) Khiid is Mongolias largest and most important temple. It was built in the mid 19th century and survived the russian religious cleanout in the 1930's.

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We also ran into Walter and Walter again. The Austrian guys, father and son, from the train and Irkutsk. We met by chance at a small cafe and chatted a bit over a cup of coffee. It's a small world!

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Lots of Love,

Fredrik and Sabrina

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Posted by fredrik_p 05:41 Archived in Mongolia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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