AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Jiuzhaigou Tour: Day 2


Posted on May 29, 2014

Breakfast was at 7:30am. It consisted of waterlogged cold rice, plain beansprouts and a strange bread (kind of like sourdough and very stodgy). We have got used to eating poor food but this was pushing our limits. The noise of the others eating was only just bearable. We were driven to the entrance to Jiuzhaigou National Park. The guide spoke for 20 minutes on the bus and this clearly wasn’t long enough as he then spoke for another 10 minutes at the entrance to the park. Our unofficial translator told us briefly (in about 1 minute) the gist of what he’d said. We had to be back at the bus for 4:30pm. The park was a Y shape, get the bus to the centre and then go up either side. There’s 60km of paths in total so he said where to skip. The only restaurant is in the middle of the Y shape, but it’s expensive (almost everyone else visiting the park had the instant noodles and snacks with them, very few would be buying food in the park). The guide had said to get the bus from the centre of the Y around 4pm to be back in time. The park was busy. Very busy. There was probably a couple of thousand people crowding near the entrance and this was a Thursday morning. We queued for the bus which would take us to the top of the left hand side of the park. There was a line of buses, as soon as one was full the next would pull up. A gap of about 20 seconds. So we were surprised at the child like behaviour. Everyone was pushing and shoving as hard as possible. Many were jumping the queues to get on the bus. As soon as the bus door opened everyone would run forwards to get in first. This was as bad as the school bus! It took us 30 minutes to get to the top of the park. This place was far bigger than expected and it became obvious we couldn’t walk the routes we’d planned. We were dropped off by Long Lake. We’d bought some small cakes as a snack and decided to eat most of them now because we hadn’t eaten much at breakfast. Afterwards we took two photos then headed down the path to the next lake. The sight wasn’t very impressive. The path was the same as yesterday. A raised wooden walkway. Flat, wide and with shallow steps. Suitable for anyone. It took a few minutes to get to the next lake known as Colourful Lake. It was quite nice with a...

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Jiuzhaigou Tour: Day 1

Jiuzhaigou Tour: Day 1


Posted on May 28, 2014

When we were in Nepal at Annapurna Base Camp we’d met a guy from Alaska and his Chinese wife. We’d been talking to him about the trip and that our next destination was China. He’d said we should visit this national park. He said it was beautiful and amazing and a must see. In Chengdu the hostel we were staying at had tours to the national park so we decided to visit it. The tour was a 3 day tour, although that was a day driving there and a day driving back. The tour was a Chinese tour, meaning no English was spoken, there’d be no English people and it was all Chinese basic meals. Still we were undaunted. We were picked up from the hostel at 4am by a crazy minivan driver. Ignoring all traffic lights and generally driving as if he was the only vehicle on the road (4am in China and there’s still plenty of cars on the road). We picked up two girls who were dressed for a party in the park! Summer hats with flowers and frilly bits, long flowing skirts, platform shoes or high heels and thin tops. We had walking shoes, walking trousers and proper wicking t-shirts. We looked rather over prepared next to them. With 4 of us in the van and a total of 7 seats we then picked up another 5 people. Luckily it wasn’t far to the bus. We sat on the roadside and waited until 5:15am for the bus to arrive. On the bus we were the only foreigners. The guide went round and checked everyone was there, he spoke to us saying his English was poor. That was the last time he spoke to us (except once when we asked him what time breakfast would be). He then used the microphone to speak to everyone at 5.30am. Unfortunately, it seems that Chinese people are deaf as the volume was on full and he was talking loud. The volume was ear burstingly loud! My ears hurt from it. Plus it was horrible. The volume was so loud we could hear him smacking his lips together, licking his teeth and swishing his tongue around his mouth. He spoke for over 20 minutes! We stopped for a toilet break around 8am. Chinese toilets are quite simply the worst I’ve experienced. They absolutely stink and usually have piss soaked floors and troughs filled with shit. Upon entering the toilets the urinal section was quite full so I headed for the troughs. The walls are waist high and looked empty. At the first one I found a guy crouched down taking...

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Mt. Qingcheng & Dujiangyan

Mt. Qingcheng & Dujiangyan


Posted on May 27, 2014

For detailed information on how to do this trip see our tips section here. Months ago, back in the UK, I’d looked up places to visit in China by going through the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. One place listed was Dujiangyan Irrigation System. It looked quite out the way to visit, and it’s also something that’s not so impressive to look at. It is basically an engineering masterpiece which can only be understood by reading about it rather than looking at it. However, I wanted to go. So, imagine my delight when I found that a high-speed train exists, direct from Chengdu to Dujiangyan. Excellent I thought, we must go! A bit of reading told me that it was also near a popular mountain and the two are best combined into a day trip. So at 8:30am we were boarding the high-speed train to Qingcheng (in Chinese Q is pronounced like ch. So it’s pronounced like Ching Cheng). Almost the whole line was elevated above the trees and we glided in comfort at 200kph to our destination. A bargain at £1.50 each. We arrived an hour later at a glistening new station in Qingcheng. We caught the bus to the base of the mountain. A group of people who spoke no English did their best to make sure we knew where we were going. They pointed at their leaflets which had the name of the mountain written in English. The bus was a flat rate 20p and as we found out later only went to the mountain by request, usually it went the opposite direction into town. Very helpful of them to make sure we were going the right way. That morning it had been dark, cloudy and chilly in Chengdu so we’d taken our fleeces for warmth. We’d given no thought to the sun. That was a very stupid mistake for us to make. By the time we reached the mountain the sun was shining and the sky was blue. It’s the end of May and we are quite far south, the sun can do some serious damage here! We had the umbrella in the bag (which we bought on the Nepalese/Tibet border when we were unexpectedly caught in a downpour with no waterproofs) which Annemarie could use to keep the sun off her. I would have to buy a hat and let my arms take the punishment. My arms can take the sun without burning but obviously there’s other dangers than just burning, but that’s my fault. Suncream is impossible to buy. Many Chinese are now quite white (thanks to the whitening they have in every...

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From Chengdu it is possible to visit both Mount Qingcheng and Dujiangyan Irrigation System in a single day. Here’s how we did it: 1. At Chengdu North Station book a one-way ticket to Qingcheng (the end of the line). We went on the 8:30am train. Book a return train from Dujiangyan to Chengdu for around 6:30pm or later. We had time to eat a quick meal of noodles before leaving Dujiangyan. Book the train in advance! The train was full on a Monday morning. 2. Upon exiting the train station turn left. You’ll see the bus station very soon. Take bus 101 to the mountain. The fare is 2 RMB, no change given! Ask the driver for Qingcheng Shan. 3. The mountain is the end of the line. Get off and take a buggy (10 RMB) to the entrance. The walk is beside the road for about 2km. 4. It’s 90 RMB entrance fee. Chose whether to walk up or take the cable car. It’s 35 RMB each way, or 60 RMB return. We walked up in 1hr 10m and took the cable car down after eating in a restaurant near the top. Be warned drinks are expensive, 10 RMB for 500ml bottles, bring your own if you want to save some money. 5. Take the buggy back to the car park for 10 RMB. 6. Get on bus 101 again and ask for Dujiangyan. You’ll go to the train station but then continue into town. It’ll take about 40 minutes and the irrigation system is at the end of the route. Flat rate of 2 RMB with no change given! 7. Pay the 90 RMB entrance fee for the irrigation system. We spent quite a few hours wandering around here. Drinks were expensive here too! 8. Go back to where you got off the bus for the irrigation system and get on bus 4. This will take you to the train station – it is the last stop and takes 40 minutes. Flat rate 2 RMB with no change...

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China: The Inconsistent Police State


Posted on Nov 16, 2013

We always knew that China was strict with seeing ID and monitoring people, but the extent to which it does it has been a surprise. An even bigger surprise is which laws are strongly enforced and which seem to be openly flaunted. To enter the Forbidden City in Beijing Annemarie’s bag was searched (as was everyone else’s), but mainly for paperwork, anything that could spread ‘propaganda’. To enter Tiananmen square everyone had to undergo the same bag search, plus a full pat down, ID check and even bottles of Coke were opened and the contents sniffed. Except of course if you were a foreigner and they let you through with no checks whatsoever. To change my foreign currency I had to show ID. To buy train tickets I again had to show ID. Then to enter the railway station I had to show the ticket plus my ID. On the train security carried out random checks on passengers, he had an electronic device which contained images of the passengers’ ID cards (your ID card/passport are photographed when you buy the tickets) and checked to see if they match up with the passenger allocated to the seat/bed. I guess this is to control people’s movements and to make sure that certain people can’t enter sensitive areas or travel freely. I can’t access Facebook, which is not a huge loss but still shows the fear of people writing and communicating what they want. In Beijing the army is on the streets. In front of many buildings, at underground exits, around main tourist sites and even guarding a park. The army shouldn’t be on the streets in any free country, they are for fighting external enemies not internal enemies of the state. Also the police presence around sensitive sites was enormous. At every major road junction, underground station and basically anywhere that you would expect a crowd of people you will see a police presence (usually indicated by some tacky red and blue flashing lights, like in the USA but plastic looking cheap rubbish). On the other hand a number of ‘crimes’ seem to go unpunished. Ticket touts are everywhere and they have tickets for everything at a bargain price. From cheap underground tickets to half price tours. They stand in front of the entrance to the underground and sell tickets for half the official price. The tickets surely won’t work yet the police do nothing. In the hostels they have examples of illegal tour companies and their cards, these people are everywhere in Beijing selling tours (most are probably legal) and yet the police do nothing. The traffic laws are either...

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