Thursday, May 27, 2010

A (big) Cave

What's a 4 letter word starting with a 'C'?? ...cove....coat.....cups....cats....cone...comb....


Good guess everyone! Clap your big hands.

We went to a cave. It was big. It was dark. It was surprisingly warm. It was raining outside. We couldn't camp so we stayed in a cabin. It was in Yamaguchi prefecture. It is called Akiyoshido. It is the biggest cave in Japan. It was cool.

The end.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The last of the sightseeing....

The Temple of Heaven park was the kind of place where people watchers are in heaven (hehehehe). Picture a very large park covered in trees, concrete paths, open terraces and several temples. Now think of 100's people going about their normal daily lives Chinese style.
Sitting on a park bench we could see groups of people dancing, playing diablo, singing, playing music, Chinese hacky sack, Chinese chess, checkers, tai chi, acrobatics and heaps of other games.

It was a true feast for the eyes and a great insight into how locals relax and unwind. The atmosphere was electric and made you want to stick around all day just people watching! The temple itself was incredible and the whole experience easily outdid the Forbidden city and Tianamen square.

Here's a sample of some of the cool stuff going on

The Summer Palace was also super cool, even on a super hot day. This was the place the emperor used to go to have a 'holiday'. It's actually more of a lake than palace or park as three quarters of it is covered in water. The palace section itself was way better than the Forbidden City and again it just had that atmosphere that adds to an occasion.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square

A trip to Beijing would not be complete without a visit to some of it's world famous temples and parks.

Unfortunately our time in the capital coincided with the 'golden week' holiday period, the 2nd biggest holiday in China behind their New Years. This meant crowds, queuing and the inevitable wait to take a step forward. Not to be put off by this we embraced our Chinese side and ventured out with the crowds.

Top on our list was the Forbidden City and Tiananmen square. The Forbidden City was the home to China's emperors and their families for thousands of years. It got its name because it was off limits to commoners for over 500years and was literally a city inside a city.
Today it is probably one of china's top 3 attractions and EVERYONE on holiday went there at the exact time we did. We thought Hong Kong and Tokyo were crowded but they were nothing compared to this!

It was probably a combination of the huge crowds, intense heat, slow moving mobs of people and the gross amount of rubbish that left us feeling a little bit disappointed. Overall it was an impressive place but it certainly didn't live up to our expectations.

Chairman Mao would be proud of this mean looking security guard. I think it was illegal to take his pic but I was pretty sneaky about it.

Inside the Forbidden City

We got lost in these alleyway/mazes

Take my hat off to the people who designed it and built it..impressive!

Swim? The whole City actually has a HUGE moat around the outside of it. This is just a stagnant stream.

Where's Megan? (Note; she is not wearing red and white stripes). Japanese people would have 2 neat and respectable lines with people controlling the flow. Chinese just push like a rugby scrum and hope for the best.

Roof tops. Can you spot the Ninja Assassin?

Posing it up. And no we are not wearing matching clothes!

Spectacular view from the top of a hill in the park across the road. Actually the best part of the whole experience. The place is just to big to take it in. This spot does the trick though!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Crazy Beijing...

The very first thing that struck us when we arrived in Beijing was the noise! In Japan it is a very rare occurrence to hear someone using their car horn so when confronted with hundreds of cars all using them at once... it was more than a little deafening to the ears!

The second thing that stuck us was how crazy the driving was! I have seriously never seen such blatant disregard of the traffic rules! The center line means nothing, pedestrians are free game and red light-green-light-red man-green man = who cares just go, shut your eyes and hope for the best!!

In Beijing I'm pretty sure there are just as many, if not more, bikes than there are cars. I'm talking everywhere you look there is something whizzing along, ducking and diving in between cars all the while trying to dodge people trying to cross the busy roads. When we weren't preoccupied with being scared for our lives it was great fun seeing just how much one person could carry on only two wheels!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

They really will eat anything!

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit excited about all the Chinese food we were going to eat on our trip. If I had to rank the foods we've missed while living in Japan, Chinese would be somewhere on that list. The guide book certainly talked a lot about how amazing it is and I was more than excited to try out some real 'street food'.

One of the best things about traveling in China was how cheap it was, even in a major city like Beijing most things were ridiculously cheap and coming from Japan (possibly the most expensive place in the world to live/travel) it was a real luxury. Here is a example of what things cost:

600ml Chinese beer or 600ml sprite for 3-5RMB = 40-60 Yen / NZ$1

Ice block for 1RMB = 13 yen / like NZ10c

1RMB bus fare or 2RMB subway anywhere in the city = 13-26 yen / NZ10-20c

And the list just keeps going.....

Onto the food, no one really wants to read about everything we ate (or didn't) are much more fun!

This market had everything and anything you could imagine including hundreds of people (not for sale though)

These dumplings truly were morsels of love

Apparently this is gecko but we think it's rat!

You could pick any raw seafood and have it cooked...or not

These guys were still wriggling on the stick...but yummy! Trust me I know

Seahorse anyone?

How you eat these without taking out an eye is anyone's guess!

You name it, they eat it

Toffee god...normal food!

Baby birds...enough said (look at the eyes, CREEPY!!!)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Olympics Beijing style...

If we'd gone off the advice given in the Lonely Planet Guide we would have totally bypassed the Beijing Olympic stadiums in fear of being knocked over by tumbleweed - luckily for us we tend not to use those guides as Bibles!

We stood for like 5mins waiting for a gap in the!

Watch out Michael Phelps (you can't see all the people that were staring at us and taking pics...hilarious)

Usain Bolt would only manage a silver against this speedster!

Another queue for a pic, but who can resist these adorable fellas!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Great Wall of China...

We have the perfect excuse for the lack of blog entries lately... we've been in China - Beijing to be exact!

I don't think either of us expected to love Beijing as much as we did... it far exceeded all expectations and left us wanting to explore more! We decided to spend all 10 days in the one spot rather than braving the overnight trains to places far and wide - a decision we didn't regret for a second given the sheer enormity of what Beijing has to offer.

We took over 1000 photos, went to some incredible places, met some amazing people, came home with some bargains and have many stories to share!

Like always we'll break our trip down into several different blog entries - the first one being the Great Wall of China! Click on any of the photos to make them larger!!

Rather than opt for one of the many touristy sports along the Wall we decided instead to don or walking shoes and do a 12 km trek from Jinshanling to Simatai. When put in perspective 12kms of the 9,000km total is barely even a drop in the bucket but boy did we have to work hard for every one of the steps it took us (did I mention we only had 4 hours to do it in???).

Along the way we passed through 30 different watch towers

It's incredible to think they built the Wall along the ridge line

Nevertheless it was by far the most amazing experience either one of us has ever had! To say it was incredible doesn't even begin to describe how truly mind blowing it was! The walk itself was far more challenging than I was expecting... think steps built for giants, 70 degree uphill climbs and unstable footing. Not to mention the 30 degree plus temperature with no wind and no shade!

The unrelenting climb!

But what goes up must come down... then up... then down... then up...

However, despite the thumping heart rate, shaking legs and suffocating heat i'm pretty sure we both walked the entire way with smiles plastered on our faces!

Us with our tag-along guides who walk the entire way with you in the hope you'll buy something off them at the end (we bought a book about the Wall)

We were lucky enough to meet an awesome couple from Australia on the 3 hour van ride to the wall who we ended up spending several days with... it was neat to share the experience with other people who were just as excited about actually being on the Great Wall as we were!

Practicing our Kung Fu panda pose with Nathan and Sofia