Start a new Travel Blog! Blogabond Home Maps People Photos My Stuff

And now for something different...

a travel blog by JillR

Jill packs her bags for Asia and embarks on a voyage of Discovery with a capital D and adventure with added extra hell yeah!
view all 209 photos for this trip

Show Oldest First
Show Newest First

Bought a giant backpack...sewn a flag on the back...

Gloucester, United Kingdom

T minus 16 hours and finally after 9 months of planning I'm ready to go! It's been pretty stressful getting everything sorted over the last couple of weeks: flu; wrong ticket numbers; BA strikes; Surgery: we've sent your anti-malarial prescription to the pharmacy/ Pharmacy: no, we don't have your prescription/ Me: Holy crap I fly tomorrow!!/ Surgery: oh, it's here after all.
Everything on my mega long list has been crossed off and now all I can do is wait! I'm thinking I won't get any sleep tonight!!

Things I am going to miss: my family and friends, my flat, bread, milk (although everytime I've drunk any in the last few days I've felt really sick afterwards- maybe separation anxiety setting in prematurely!), cheese, my pillow and a decent cup of tea!

I can't believe I go tomorrow, it's come around so quickly!! I'm so excited to be doing something that is going to challenge me in so many ways and teach me so much about the world and how I fit in to it, gush gush gush!

1st stop: Guilin, Guangxi Province.

Bye for now, zaijian!!

permalink written by  JillR on March 26, 2010 from Gloucester, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

Oh the green green hills....of Guilin

Lianhua, China

Hello, just wrote a very long entry but lost the internet and now it's gone. I'll try again soon but I thought I'd try to write something so you know I'm still alive! I'm having lots of fun, surrounded by the most amazing mountains, staying in a beautiful traditional village and we've had a few hours of sunshine so far. I'll write again as soon as I can!!!

permalink written by  JillR on April 1, 2010 from Lianhua, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

Ni hao! Wo jiao Yan Yi Li!

Guilin, China

It's the end of week one and I've so much to write about I don't know where to begin!
I arrived in Guilin after a long flight and a very long wait at Shanghai airport. I was met at Guilin airport by Ting, who is one of the co-ordinators of my program, and she took me to the hostel in the city centre where we'd stay that night. The 3 others on my program (1 English, 1 Dutch and 1 Belgian) had already arrived so Ting took us straight out to eat (it was about 6.30pm by then). Guilin is a pretty big city, very touristy with lots of neon and fast food restaurants. We took a quick walk along the main street but really all we wanted to do was sleep so we went back to the hostel pretty quickly.
The next morning we were driven 3 hours south of Guilin to Fengyan Village which has been our home this week. Fengyan is a tiny, very traditional village surrounded by karsts (the big pointy hills you see in any pictures of China back home that aren't of the Great Wall) and fields. The karsts go on and on for miles and miles and are stunningly beautiful. The farmers are able to grown crops a long way up them which is pretty amazing! The village is full of crumbling old houses, you can't tell which ones are just riuns and which are still people's homes. And there are stray chickens, puppies and children running all over the village. The older people of the villlage generally ignore us but parents with young children always bring them out to say hello when we pass. Quite often we'll have 3 or 4 kids following us when we walk around the village.
We are staying with the family that runs our program - Isabella who is the head co-ordinator, her sister and brother-in-law who drives us about in his minibus, Ting, who is their daughter, and another in-law who cooks for us. This week we have also had 2 Chinese girls with us to help us out. Isabella has a 2 year old son who is doted on by everyone and as a result thinks he owns the place. He's quite badly behaved, but it must be very hard for the family to disclipline him when every 2 weeks a new bunch of foreigners arrive to spoil him rotten and laugh when he does something naughty. There is also an Irish guy with us who will stay here for the next 6 weeks teaching at the village primary school.
The house is gorgeous - they bought a very old but very grand house and did it up really nicely. Our neighbours have 2 rooms with dirt floors and no electricity.
This week has been very busy, we've had Chinese language and culture lessons, visited the nearest big town, Gongchen, which has a temples to Confucious and to the master of Kongfu. We've also been to a village that was built recently by the government as a example of what a perfect Chinese village should be. The houses were very big and it was very clean, but a little soulless. We were taken to a popular tourist spot for the Chinese, another modern village in front of a kasrt with steps to the top. The view from the top was incredible!! So much green!! We took a boat on the river that runs through the village, during which the Chinese air force turned up on a day trip, all in immaculate blue uniforms. The boats were like great big punts with a table and chairs amd a canopy. Most of the air force took a boat ride as well, and as they were all getting on their boats, one of the houses next to the dock caught fire. All the villagers came running with fire extinguishers - the men from the air force just sat and watched!
We went to the market in a nearby small town (a big village really) called Lianhua and were given some money to haggle for food for dinner. We had been taught the phrases to use, but every time I tried to speak to a stall holder they had to explain to our Chinese guides that they only spoke the local dialect, so even though they could understand me I wouldn't have been able to understand them. And the one time I was getting on fine with a stall holder the potatoes I was trying to buy were so cheap I didn't need to haggle!. The market was full of crazy vegetables and lots of chuncks of meat, including pigs' feet, ears and faces! Not very nice.
During one of our culture lesson we were given a list of hundreds of typical Chinese names so we could choose one for ourselves. Mine is Yan Yi Li - Yan is the family name and means a swallow and Yi Li is the given name and means moral and beautiful. I wanted to add modest as well but there wasn't a character for that!
This weekend and the next few days is the Qing Ming festival during which families will clean up their ancestors' graves and eat lots of dumplings, so last night we were taught how to make dumplings and had a bit of a dumpling party! We made hundreds of them!
Next week we were supposed to be teaching a lesson or two a day at a school in Lianhua but because of the Qing Ming festival there are no classes on monday or tuesday. So earlier today myself and the other visitors took the bus back to Guilin where we will stay til tuesday seeing the sights here. Then it's back to Fengyan to teach the english alphabet and nursery rhymes to Chinese kids! The week after we will go to Yangshou (another very very touristy place) for the week, and the final week of the program will be a week of trekking and visiting minority villages.
The weather has been pretty bad - apart from a few hours of sunshine earlier in the week it's been cloudy and quite rainy. On the bus to Guilin I was talking to a Chinese lady who said this weather is pretty bad for this time of year which is a little disappointing. Our house in Fengyan is very cold - usually colder inside than out during the day. They have a bar which has been the warmest place to be in the evenings so we've spent a lot of time playing cards and Majiang down there. The food we are getting is OK, usually the same things each meal which is getting a little dull! Yesterday morning we had noodles and pancakes rather than noodles and rice which we all gobbled down. Guilin has a few western restaurants so we've just been for pizza and cake and coffee. It was so good! As we were drooling over the menu displayed outside an Australian said "been living off rice for 4 months too?" and we had to admit it had actually only been a week which was a little embarrassing!
The internet at the house is extremely slow and unreliable so I probably won't be able to write again next week. I have taken loads of pictures but no-one speaks English in the internet cafe I'm in at the moment so I don't think I'll even try to ask how to upload pictures! Hopefully in Yangshou I''ll be able to. "Cafe" isn't quite the right word for where I am at the moment - it's more of an internet warehouse! There must be about 200+ computers here, most of them occupied by people doing internet gaming.
Well that's about it for now, fingers crossed this computer won't loose this entry before I can display it!!
Happy Easter!!! xx

permalink written by  JillR on April 4, 2010 from Guilin, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

Oodels of noodles!

Guilin, China

We go back to Fengyan in a few hours so I thought I should take this opportunity at the
hostel to write again while I can。Yesterday we went to Seven Star Park which is a huge park in Guilin with 7 karsts that form the shape of the big dipper (although you can only see that if you are in a plane。 There are some caves you can visit with interesting stalectites and stalecmites that they have lit up in crazy phsycadellic colours which is pretty cool but I thought they would have looked nicer with much plainer lighting!It was a little bit too Disney-like。 Some of the rock formations looked a little man-made as well! But the park was very well looked after and there were lots of cute pavillions and waterfalls and some monkeys!Much better than the monkey walk at Trentham,sorry Robyn!
Then back in the city centre we were constantly hassled by people wanting to take us for trips on their bamboo rafts or visit their teahouses, and we ate at a fastfood noodle-rice bar which unfortunately was way too spicey and what we thought was Chicken was tofu, so we were all a little disappointed with dinner。
We are about to go for breakfast - noodles with pork, peanuts and seasoning - a typical Guilin dish。 We had it yesterday morning and this time we know it's delicious!!It's our favorite food of the whole trip so far and all agree we could eat it all day!

permalink written by  JillR on April 5, 2010 from Guilin, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

Gongcheng - the real O.C.

Gongcheng, China

We have left our beautiful little Fengyan for the small but busy Yangshuo, a very touisty town on the Li River. Here you will find more Western people than anywhere else except Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an or Hong Kong. On the down side it means we don't feel much like the first intrepid explorers to step foot in this area anymore; on the plus side you can get pizza, burgers and chips in every restaurant!
On wednesday, thursday and friday we each had one 45 min lesson at the primary school in the next village along. Each morning we spent hours thinking of what we could teach them and songs we could sing for them, but when we took our first lesson we found the students already knew everything we had planned on teaching them! My first class was 3rd grade, which is our year 3 and they were very naughty! Their teacher didn't stay for the lesson so I was completely on my own trying to get them to listen and not sway seats when I wasn't looking! On thursday I had the 4th grade, who were very well behaved and enthusiastic so I really enjoyed that lesson. On friday I had the 5th grade and they were just as naughty as my first class and even less interested in learning english! But I enjoyed the three days and gave me a little headstart on what I need to prepare for next month in Cambodia where I'll be working at an orphanage for 4 weeks.
On thursday evening we took a walk around the village and found courtyard where a group of teenagers were playing ping pong, and who invited us to join in. After a few hours we tried to leave but they insisted we came inside where they had loaded their kitchen table with biscuits and nuts and other snacks for us! We couldn't refuse so spent another couple of hours having half conversations with the families who lived in the houses around the courtyard and drinking tea and beer with them. They were so friendly that when it came to about 10pm and we really didn't want to leave we proimised we'd come again the next night. The following morning, Leah and I went back to the market in Lianhua and bought a great big bag of biscuits for them. That evening we went back to their house but there was no one in the kitchen except two old ladies who hadn't been there the previous night! We felt a little bit awkward handing over these biscuits to two strange ladies, but they had obviously heard about us and called the boys who we had been playing with and they came home pretty quickly! We played more ping pong and then again were invited in for snacks and oil tea, which is pretty much the most disgusting thing I've ever drunk - oil, tea, ginger and garlic, all squished up and boiled. Yuk! But very good for you aparently. We drank what we were given, but the grandmother kept pouring everyone else more of the stuff, and they obviously didn't like it much either because anytime the person sitting next to someone's back was turned, the first person would pour their tea into their neighbours bowl! We felt really lucky to have spent the two evenings with our new friends, every once in a while I'd look around and think wow, I'm on the other side of the world from home, sitting in a stranger's kitchen being given food like they'd known me for years! When else would I get this kind of experience again! And they were so nice, the ring leader, Gu Shi was telling us about his job making mobile phones in Shenzhen near Hong Kong, and his brother was proudly showing us pictures of his new baby son. They had a chinese/english phrase book and we were teaching each other how to say random phrases and laughing at our respective terrible pronountiations!
It was sad to leave Fengyan, it had started to feel like home. I should probably explain about the title of this entry - there are oranges everywhere! They grow them all around the village and all across Gongcheng county so you see them on the trees, in every shop and on every stall, in trucks, great piles of them stacked up in garages, and littered all over the floor! They get wrapped in little plastic bags, and whenever they are thrown away because t\hey are too old, the bags get tossed too! There are great big rubbish heaps covered in oranges and if they get into streams or rivers you see them bobbing along in their little bags.
Yesterday we were driven to Yangshuo, were we are staying in rooms in an enormous boarding school. The bathrooms are pretty nasty but on the whole it's OK, and only a short walk to the centre of town. Last night we went out for dinner and then on to a couple of bars. The last one we went to was playing very strange dance music - 'I am the music man' set to a really fast beat for example. There was a little dance floor and I'm very happy to say we did England proud! There were quite a few chinese people in the bar (mostly tourists rather than locals I think) and eventually everyone was on the dance floor having a really good time. At one point we all formed a circle and one by one we all took a turn in the middle, everyone cheering everyone else on, and then we all did the conga together. It was a fantastic night of mixing with non-europeans, plus the head barman Wan Wei gave us free drinks all night!
And hooray! The weather is hot here! It's still pretty cloudy and humid, but we're wearing tee-shirts not 6 jumpers! Tonight I'm even going to crack out the skirt!
This afternoon we have 3 new people arriving from england to spend the week with us, so I'd better head back to the school to meet them. Again, no pictures, sorry! I showed the man in the internet cafe my camera's memory card but the computer won't read it. I'll try somewhere else later in the week, this is getting really frustrating!!!!

permalink written by  JillR on April 11, 2010 from Gongcheng, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

Photos Photos!!!

Yangshuo, China

Hey, hope you like all the photos! Only a small selection but they took so long to upload! Also the rotate tab wouldn't work so you're just going to have to look sideways!

permalink written by  JillR on April 12, 2010 from Yangshuo, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

I heard you got some rain... looks like we're in for the same.

Yangshuo, China

We've had a fantastic time this week! We had a tour around an ancient village, had some taiji, calligraphy and chinese knitting lessons and roamed about the countryside. The weather has been pretty awful, wet and rainy and cold, but we've managed to enjoy ourselves. We climbed Moon Hill, which is a tall karst with a natural hole in the middle at the top. There are 800 steep steps to the top but the view at the top was fantastic - the best so far of the trip. We were supposed to be cycling out to the hill but the weather was so terrible we took our minibus. The rain was good enough to hold out until we were halfway back down! Later in the afternoon the clouds lifted a little so we took the bikes out for an hour or so and cycled to the villages behind the school and along the river.
Yesterday morning we were taken to a village belonging to a group of minority Chinese. It had been made into a tourist attraction - the story was that a tribe of around 3000 of them lived in the forested mountains of south-west China and 3 years ago the Chinese government relocated 300 of them to Yangshuo. We were told by our Chinese guide that the tour would take us round the village where we would meet some of the villagers and see their way of life. Well....it was like Chinese Disneyland. Lots of "villagers" wandering about in "real" animal skins (more like printed pyjamas) who were aparently too scared to leave their village but were perfectly happy for us to tramp around their village. We were even greeted by the queen, sitting in a courtyard with a 2nd Chinese guide ready to take photos - obviously no queenly duties to attend to! It was really awful, there was clearly no tribe living in the area - these were all locals employed to dress up and dance around all day. We were pretty disgusted actually - the tribe of 3000 does actually exist in the south west and we felt that this village really made a mockery out of them, especially as the owners of the park claimed it was all genuine. The price of the entry ticket was very high, and at every corner there was someone waiting to take your picture and charge you 10 yaun for it, and you can bet hardly any of it gets back to the real tribe. The day improved dramatically after lunch - the weather was much warmer and drier so we cycled about an hour out of Yangshuo to a village along the Li River where it's popular to jump off a very high bridge into very cold water. I had to really psyche myself up to jump but I did it! It was great fun, the water was a lot warmer than I thought it would be, and getting warm and dry afterwards was OK as well. Instead of cycling back the same way, 4 of us hired 2 bamboo rafts to take us back down the river towards Yangshuo and then we would cycle the 2km back into town. Earlier in the week we had taken a boat trip on a different part of the river through an area famous for being depicted on the 20 Yuan notes. It was pretty, but with so many other tourists on the water (plus it was pouring with rain) we didn't enjoy it so much. This 2nd time on the water however, was absolutley gorgeous! For the whole hour and a half of slow punting we didn't pass another raft, and the scenery was maybe not so dramatic, but much nicer and so peaceful! We were right in the middle of the countryside, slowly drifting past tiny hamlets and along rice paddies. When the rafts dropped us off we had to cycle down tiny, very muddy paths winding through the farms and villages and past hundreds of graves and burial grounds. Eventually we got back onto a bigger road which then stopped back at the river and there was no bridge!! On the other bank there were loads of rafts, it was obviously another popular place for tourists to get on the water. We were charged an obscene amount to have some-one take us across, but we had no other choice - we were already so late for dinner and we had no idea how far away the nearest bridge would be! From the other side it still took us about and hour to get back to the school, we were so exhausted! It was quite an adventure! After consulting a map we were angry because when we had been dropped off from the raft they had put us down on the wrong side of the river - obviously in cahoots with the people further down who could then charge as much as they wanted to get us back across! And it was far more than 2km into town! But we really enjoyed the scenery and the exercise so all in all we were happy to have had that experience. Today however, I am aching!!!
We now have the weekend free and then on monday we start trekking! I really hope the weather gets better!!!!

permalink written by  JillR on April 17, 2010 from Yangshuo, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

What a let down...until our last day of course!

Longsheng, China

Well it rained on monday, so we didn't leave for trekking. We stayed in Yangshuo an extra day and went climbing in the afternoon. On real rocks!! It was brilliant - still a little damp but quite warm, and so much fun! Because of all the wet weather the mountainside was very slippy which made it tougher, but we all made it to the top! I was glad to have had another night for my legs to recover from the cycling and the jumping from friday! The following morning was stilll wet but we had to leave Yangshuo. We took a bus back to Guilin, and another cramped, busy, noisy bus for 2 hours to Longshen. Because the weather was so awful we could hardly see anything out of the windows, but when we were about half an hour away from Longshen the fog lifted a little (or rather, we drove above the fog) and we were in another world! We were really high up in the mountains with another new type of lanscape. We took another minibus for half an hour or so, on twisty windy roads making their way up the mountains, skirting round landslides and trying not to fall off the road towards the traditional Yao minority village of Dazhai. It was about 4.30 pm by the time we arrived so we had a quick walk around the village then had dinner. After dinner we played cards by candlelight as the village's power supply had been cut off by the storms. We weren't too hopeful about walking the next day, and surprise surprise, we woke up to the sound of rain! We braved it anyway and spent the day walking in the mountains and around the rice terraces so several viewpoints (Thousands Layers to the Heaven, Music from Paradise and Golden Budda Peak - none of which resembled anything like what they were supposed to!). The rain was OK for most of the day, only drizzling now and again, which was pretty nice because it was pretty hot! At lunchtime the clouds cleared a little, maybe for about half an hour, which lifted our spirits. After lunch the paths got smaller and smaller and more overgrown and the recent rain had turned a lot of them into streams so we were slipping and sliding all over the place and getting pretty fed up! I fell down and got completely covered in mud and then it started raining really heavily so we were all really glad when we got back to our hotel! The following morning we got a bus to Huangluo Village, whose women have the longest hair in the world. We saw their show that they put on for tourists (a little interesting, but they looked kind of embarrassed to be up there performing), then had lunch and went on to Ping'an Village. The village was pretty touristy, but nice, clinging to the mountain-side with teeny tiny alleyways and secret corners. We climbed up to see the Seven Stars with Moon terrace and the 9 Dragons and 5 Tigers, but again the fog was rather in the way! It was also freezing cold so in the evening we huddled up in our room with hot chocolate and Chinese soap operas. Which are hialrious by the way. Well, they were to us because we made up the storylines and dialogues for ourselves. We were all feeling pretty down because of all the rain we'd had over the 4 weeks, and pretty gutted that before we arrived in China they had had beautiful weather!
The next morning -- a miracle!! Not a cloud in the sky and boiling hot!! We raced up to see the moon and stars terraces before breakfast, which looked so different (mainly because we could actually see them!) from the day before! We ate breakfast outside and got sunburnt in 20 minutes, then bused it back to Guilin. We said goodbye to Ellen that evening, then Leah first thing in the morning, then Tina took Abe back to Fengyan and the China Experience was over!

permalink written by  JillR on April 24, 2010 from Longsheng, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

Hello City!

Beijing, China

Phase two of my big adventure - Beijing. I'm here for a week, and it's pretty starnge suddenly being in a city and not being surrounded by either pomello tree plantations, rice paddies or chickens! So many buildings! And it's so vast! The guide book suggests getting taxis everywhere! It's odd to think I can't just walk from the supermarket to the restaurant to the local attraction to the bar then back to the hostel! It might take me a while to adjust!
Today I visited Prince Gong's palace (he wasn't an actuall prince, just a favorite advisor of the Qianlong Emporer). The first part was a complex of buildings the 2nd part was gardens. It was pretty impressive but packed full of tourists! It was hard to get near some of the exhibitions in the gardens. Then I walked along the lakes near where my hostel is but then in started to rain heavily so I quickly went back to the hostel for instant noodles and hot drinks! Tomorrow I'll go to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square!

permalink written by  JillR on April 25, 2010 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

We built a wall!

Beijing, China

Climbed the Great Wall today! And it really was a climb - some sections were nicely paved with even slabs and level steps - other parts were literally like climbing a ladder. It was so hard going, I walked about a 12km section and took just under three hours. Bits of the wall were away beneath me, I really had to hold on! Except quite often there wasnèt anything to hold on to! (There is no apostrophe key on this keyboard, itès not my bad grammer!) It was great being up there, the view was amazing! All browns and greys, no greenery yet, but there were lots of almond trees in bloom. I was with a group of about 40 people, but as we were all walking at our own pace I soon lost them. It wasnèt very busy at all, which made a nice change! In fact, there were a few sections when I couldnèt see anyone up in front of me or anyone behind me - not a good time to fall and break my ankle! To get back down you could either walk or take the zip line..so of course I took the zip line! It went pretty slowly, but I hadnt seen anyone do it before me so I hadnt seen how fast it went, or more importantly I hadnt seen anyone NOT fall off on the way down! But it was brilliant, a great way to end my long hard walk!
Yesterday I went to the Capital Musuem which was a good way to spend a few hours out of the freezing wind. It was free, which was a nice surprise because my guide book said it would be 40 Yuan (only 4 quid, but still...when youre on a budget...). It only opened about 2 years ago, and the building is huge and very modern, with a great big cone going from the inside of the foyer out to the outside. It was also pretty quiet, even though they were holding the opening ceremony of one of their temporary exhibits. Even though itès been very cold here, its also been very sunny, and when the winds not blowing you over its quite pleasant, so Ive been spending a lot of time in parks. Some of them are free, and full of old ladies and gents walking their dogs and birds and grandchildren. The park I was in yesterday had people doing Taiji, Kongfu, having a trumpet lesson and playing badminton with no net. Theyre great to walk around and watch people in.
I fly to Cambodia on saturday afternoon, Ièll write again as soon as I can once Im there!
Next stop: Phnomn Penh!

permalink written by  JillR on April 29, 2010 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: And now for something different...
Send a Compliment

Viewing 1 - 10 of 30 Entries
first | previous | next | last

View as Map View as Satellite Imagery View as Map with Satellite Imagery Show/Hide Info Labels Zoom Out Zoom In Zoom Out Zoom In
find city:
trip feed
author feed
trip kml
author kml


Blogabond v2.40.58.80 © 2024 Expat Software Consulting Services about : press : rss : privacy