Zhaoqing 肇庆: The City with Everything

Zhaoqing 肇庆

The City with Everything

Seven Stars Crag Park Zhaoqing

Seven Stars Crag Park Zhaoqing

Within an hour from Guangzhou, Zhaoqing is a fantastic place to spend a few days exploring. It’s a lively city with its own miniature version of Guilin’s famous karst scenery smack- bang in the centre in the form of the Seven Star Crags Scenic Zone; a massive park and lake area.

Not bad for the city centre

Not bad for the city centre

Moreover, Zhaoqing still preserves some interesting, old downtown areas to wander around and explore the traditional shop-houses, the tiny dwellings built onto the city walls and the occasional riverside pagoda.

Zhaoqing River Scene

Zhaoqing River Scene

Nearby, China’s first Biosphere Reserve, Dinghushan 鼎湖山, lies on the outskirts of the city. Just an hour away by local bus are the time-forgotten, completely un-spoilt ancient Bagua Villages of Licha Cun and Xianggang Cun. Add to all this a great night market with restaurants spilling out into the street, serving excellent Cantonese food and you couldn’t really ask for more. Incidentally, though the city is popular with Chinese visitors, you are unlikely to see another foreigner during your stay.

Zhaoqing Street Scene

Zhaoqing Street Scene

Seven Star Crags Scenic Zone

In Zhaoqing city, the undisputed main attraction is the [Read more →]

Dinghushan 鼎湖山; a Tropical Paradise on the Edge of Urbanization

Dinghushan 鼎湖山

Zhaoqing / Guangdong Province

Dinghu Shan

Dinghushan 鼎湖山

Dinghushan 鼎湖山, just an hour away from the centre of Zhaoqing, was China’s first National Park, established in 1956. Nowadays it’s also a UNESCO “Man and Natural Biosphere Reserve” for the research of ecosystems in tropical and subtropical forests.

Another Waterfall in Dinghu Shan

鼎湖山

It’s a beautiful place of towering green hills, gushing waterfalls and clear streams, laced with a sprinkling of peaceful Buddhist temples and home to numerous plant and animal species. However, apart from the awe-inspiring, lush, tropical scenery, one memory will always stick in our minds: that of pigging out on tasty, deep- purple potatoes…

The Purple Potato

The Purple Potato

We got to the park by local bus, leaving from downtown Zhaoqing. Though the park’s only 18 km away, the ride took quite a while, as the bus meandered from one densely populated suburb to the next. Even when it finally dropped us off in a quiet, dead-end street, lined with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, we still found it hard to believe there could be an important natural reserve near here.

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Map of Dinghushan

Our first impressions of China’s “green gem on the Tropic of Cancer” weren’t [Read more →]

Luocheng 罗城镇 Teahouse Town and Boathouse Architecture: Travel Update

Luocheng 罗城镇

Teahouse Town and Boathouse Architecture

罗城镇 Luocheng

罗城镇 Luocheng

We’ve just received a travel update on the amazing teahouse village Luocheng 罗城镇  in Sichuan province. Many years ago we had a long and bumpy ride to Luocheng from Leshan. It now seems the trip can be done in around 3 ½ hours by bus directly from Chengdu along a good road. We’ve had a detailed comment from Wayne on our previous post.  The bus timetables are below but click here to read the rest of the comment and more about Luocheng.

Buses to Luocheng leave from Chengdu’s Shiyangchang Bus Station 石羊场汽车客运站 at 8.20 / 9.20 and 12.20 and return to Chengdu at 12.30/ 13.30 and 14.30. Tickets cost 67 Yuan. Bus number 28 goes to Shiyangchang Bus Station from downtown Chengdu.

Margie having tea in Luocheng 罗城镇

Margie having tea in Luocheng 罗城镇

Country Driving; A Chinese Road Trip, by Peter Hessler

Country Driving;

A Chinese Road Trip,

by Peter Hessler

(Published by Canongate)

Due to a number of family matters we had to cancel our trip to China this summer. Instead, we’ve had to content ourselves with reading books about travelling in China. Country Driving; A Chinese Road trip, was one of the best. Hopefully we’ll be able to head to the Harbin Ice Festival this winter as compensation for missing out this summer. We still have loads of travel material to upload.

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What’s it like to drive a car around China? As neither Margie nor I drive, we’ll probably never know. However, Peter Hessler’s fascinating, and often hilarious book, gives you a wonderful insight into what it might be like. Hessler’s observations on the quirkiness of driving in China, which include the amazing opportunity he had of taking part in the test driving of the Chinese Chery, are unlike anything you may have read before.

Road signs can be different

Road signs can be different

And yet, Country Driving is much more than just another travel book; Hessler’s fluency in Mandarin allows him to connect with the Chinese in a way few westerners are able to do. In fact, his encounters with the people he meets on the road, and the relationships he develops with them, are the real highlights of the book. I particularly enjoyed the incredibly relaxed and open relationship Hessler cultivates with some of the characters, such as the people from the car hire company, or the family in Sancha village.
Country Driving is divided into three parts.

Driving isn't always safe in China

Driving isn’t always safe in China

Part 1

This part focuses on his first trip into remote areas of the northern provinces of Shanxi and Inner Mongolia, where he traces the crumbling remains of the Great Wall. Along the way, he picks up hitch-hikers and passes through time- forgotten villages, whose names hark back to their glory days when they were at the fore-front of the defense of the Empire.

Names like Slaughter the Hu, or Smash the Hu (the Hu being the Barbarian tribes from the North) are not too dissimilar to the names of villages [Read more →]

Bagua Village 八卦村 of Licha Cun 黎槎村 Guangdong Province

Bagua Village of Licha Cun 黎槎村

Licha Cun Bagua Village

Licha Cun Bagua Village

One of Guangdong’s hidden gems is found only 200 meters from some of the drabbest scenery you are ever likely to see in China.

Licha Cun Bagua Village

The road between the attractive town of Zhaoqing and the fascinating Bagua village of Licha Cun 黎槎村 has got to be one of the ugliest in China. Dusty, dirty and lined, almost uninterruptedly, with small ceramic factories, many of them specialize in manufacturing toilet bowls of all shapes and sizes. These thrones, destined for backsides of China’s growing urbanized middle class, are haphazardly displayed along the side of the road making the traveler wonder if the world is just one big toilet.

Licha Cun Bagua Village

Licha Cun Bagua Village

Yet, the ugliness is deceptive. Turn 200 meters down any small road leading off the highway and you enter a rural world of bucolic charm that has hardly changed for centuries. The turn off to the Bagua Village of Licha Cun is just one such example.

Bagua 八卦 The Octagonal Shape of Licha Cun

File:Bagua-name-earlier.svg

“The bagua: 八卦; literally: “eight symbols”) are eight trigrams used in Taoist Cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts. Each consists of three lines, each line either “broken” or “unbroken,” representing Yin or Yang, respectively. Due to their tripartite structure, they are often referred to as “trigrams” in English.” WikiPedia

Entrance to Licha Cun Bagua Village

Entrance to Licha Cun Bagua Village

With a history tracing back more than 700 years, the Village of [Read more →]

Kashgar: What was and is No More

Sorry for not posting recently we`ve had a lot of work. There is plenty of new material in the pipeline.

Kashgar: What was and is No More

A Photo Video

The photos for this photo video were taken in the City of Kashgar in the Province of Xinjiang, Western China. They were taken during two visits; the first time in November 1990 (not 1999 as we mistakenly put on the video) and the second in August 2002.

Kashgar 1999

Kashgar 1990

In 1990 the center of Kashgar was dominated by the old mud brick Uyghur city with the large Id kah Mosque and the huge adjacent square at its center. Apart from the huge statue of Mao and a few empty department stores the Han Chinese presence was small. The only tourism was made up of travelers heading to and from Pakistan.

Kasghkar Livestock Market

Kashgar Livestock Market

By 2002 things had already changed a lot. A modern Chinese city had built up around the old historic city and cars had predominately replaced donkeys and horses. Chinese tourists and western tour groups were also arriving in large numbers especially for the Sunday Market. The fascinating animal market had been moved out to a tamer location on the outskirts of town.

Kasghkar Livestock Market

Kasghkar Livestock Market

Getting to and from Kashgar was now easy and comfortable by plane or train. The 3 day bus journeys to Urumqi or Turpan a thing of the past. Interestingly individual travelers were few and far between due to the political situation in Pakistan.

Kashgar 1990

Kashgar 1990

Since 2002, much of the old city has been demolished and been replaced by the sterile white tile buildings that can be found all over China and much of Asia for that matter. What remains has become a tourist zone with a ticket to enter.

[Read more →]

Fei Lai 飞来 & Fei Xia 飞霞

Fei Lai 飞来 & Fei Xia 飞霞

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Fei Lai 飞来 & Fei Xia 飞霞

It just shows how much things have changed in China: according to our rather dated guidebook, the train from Guangzhou to Qingyuan 清远 should have taken around two hours to cover the 80 kilometers between the two cities. Not anymore! It now takes about twenty minutes to whizz you from one place to the other on one of China’s new high- speed trains. And they even feed you breakfast – of sorts – in that time!

Fei Xia

Fei Xia

It actually takes longer to do the 15- kilometer ride on the underground from Central Guangzhou to the new Guangzhou South station 广州南站, than it does to travel to Qingyuan.

Beijiang River

Beijiang River

Why does one go to Qingyuan?

The answer is [Read more →]

China Road: Route 312 The Chinese Route 66

China Road

Route 312 The Chinese Route 66

A Book Review

Bloomsburypbks

China Road By Rob Gifford

China Road By Rob Gifford

China Road

It’s getting to that time of year again when we start planning our next trip to China. What better way to get back into the swing of things than by reading a couple of great travel books?

And China Road by Rob Gifford definitely fits the bill. Gifford follows route 312 – the Chinese equivalent to America’s famous route 66 – as it crosses the country from East to West. All in all, he covers 4824 km from Shanghai to the border with Kazakhstan, passing through an amazing variety of landscapes, from the sub-tropical areas of the Yangtze Basin to the harsh deserts of Western China.

Western China Loess Plain

Western China Loess Plain

For most of his epic journey, Gifford travels as a hitchhiker, which brings him into contact with people from all walks of life: from rich urbanite Sunday drivers on a day’s outing from Shanghai, to rough truckers heading across Gansu Province and into Xinjiang, or even a mobile phone wielding hermit monk on Hua Shan.

Along the way he gets involved in some unusual situations. Some are tragic, like the time when he sneaks into the slowly dying aids villages in Henan Province to talk to the victims of the blood-selling scam. Others are just completely bizarre; at one time he has to officiate as a priest in a small Christian Church in a forgotten corner of Gansu because the waiting congregation’s real priest couldn’t make it.

Scenes From Gansu Western China

Scenes From Gansu Western China

I enjoyed the fact that the book follows a route from beginning to end; something that we like doing too (see our maps). Moreover, [Read more →]

Chinese New Year 春节: The Nightmare of Going Home

Chinese New Year

The Nightmare of Going Home

By Train

The New Year Rush

The New Year Rush

Getting train tickets in China has always been a hit and miss operation, especially if you want sleeper berths for long distance trains. At Chinese New Year, getting a ticket becomes something akin to winning the lottery.

Train Mayhem

Train Mayhem

This BBC clip sums the situation up quite well, and shows the growing divide between the haves and have nots in modern China, where just having access to a computer is an advantage。

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25911127

We've got a seat!

We’ve got a seat!

Glad to be home

Glad to be home

Chikan 赤坎 Home to the Grandmaster and Qilou Buildings

Chikan

Kaiping, Guangdong Province

 Home to the Grandmaster and Qilou Buildings

Rows of historic Qilou buildings and old world charm await the traveler in the Guangdong Village of Chikan

Chikan 赤坎 River Front  Qilou Buildings

Chikan 赤坎 River Front Qilou Buildings

Arrival in Chikan 赤坎 is quite spectacular. The town’s unique riverine setting, and it’s unbroken line of Qilou style buildings strung out along the entire Tanjiang River front, is one of Southern China’s most impressive sights.

Qilou Buildings Chikan

Qilou Buildings Chikan

The town invites exploration, but at the same time there are the small, appealing restaurants under the Qilou arcades. This poses a dilemma for the traveler; exploration first, or a cold beer; we chose the latter, but both options are great. Chikan is a place to linger.

Qilou Buildings Chikan

Qilou Buildings Chikan

Qilou buildings are a construction style that developed in the late 19th and early 20th Century in Guangdong Province. As city streets were widened, Qilou buildings began to spring up. They combined 18th Century Western architectural styles with traditional Cantonese styles.

Qilou Buildings with Wooden Shutters and Coloured Glass

Qilou Buildings with Wooden Shutters and Coloured Glass

The most prominent features are the pillared columns that provide shoppers and shopkeepers’ alike with shelter from the merciless sun and the torrential downpours. The upper floors, usually three or four, are characterized by their European influenced wooden shutters or stained glass windows.

Chikan Backstreets

Chikan Backstreets

While some of the river front houses have been turned into [Read more →]