November 7 – Train to Hong Kong

I’m travelling from Yangshuo to Hong Kong right now. There will be a delay in the middle while we do a bunch of border stuff. I think all that’s planned when we arrive in Hong Kong is to have our last dunner together as a tour group. The tour ends tomorrow and people will start flying home. I leave on Saturday.

I am keen to get home. I am not so keep for an 11 hour plane ride.

Side note: I got some more dried peas to try. These are garlic flavoured. They’re fine but are not as fun as the crab flavoured ones I had before.

Backtrack to a couple days ago

I forgot to write about Tuesday, or Out in Nature in Yangshuo Day. The day started with a bike ride around the countryside. I haven’t ridden a bike in close to 20 years, so I was a bit shaky at first, but I remembered how pretty quick.

We made many stops to look at fruit trees and farms and nice views. The ride ended at a place for lunch with lots of vegetables.

After lunch we had a boat ride along the Li River, which was good for taking photos, bit also a nice cool rest.

After dinner that evening we watched the Impressions River Light musical show, and I was very impressed. It was an amazing spectacle. There are 600 in the cast. The stage is the river and is 1.6 square kilometres. The backdrop is mountains, which are lit up suddenly and everyone said “ooooh” when they realized what they were. I said Oh my god! And basically started gurgling. One of my favourite parts was that everyone went “ooooooooooh” whenever a new scene was presented. I spent most of the time pointing at bits I found fantastic and making various ooh and ahh sounds. I didn’t see a gift shop, but that’s for the best since I probably would have bought one of whatever they were selling. I love a theatrical spectacle.

Yesterday I attended a cooking class to learn how to make some regional dishes of Yangshuo. Most importantly, I made some dumplings, which I ate and enjoyed.

November 3, 2019 – Sleeper Train

I’ve just boarded the train with my group, travelling from one place in China to another. I can’t remember and I’ll look it up later. My mum knew last night when I chatted with her so perhaps I’ll reference that transcript.

Boarding the train was a titch stressful. It is a busy train so it looked like us solo travellers (myself and my roommate) might have had to share a compartment with strangers instead of other members of our group. It’s just the way the tickets were bought – wherever space is available. But there was luck, as when we boarded the train, there was a whole compartment that was empty so four of us from the group occupied it very thoroughly with our massive suitcases and ourselves. Two other solo travellers from the group would have shared it otherwise with out group leader. A nice gentleman (stranger) also would have shared with them, but our group leader helped to explain the switch, and he didn’t mind.

Now we are four cozy ladies in a “soft sleeper” compartment on the way to Yangshuo (I looked it up). There is a western toilet at one end of the carriage, and the carriage next to us is the dining car. I might go look at the dining car, but I brought a stash of McDonalds and some other snacks that should suffice. We are on the train for 15 hours: 1pm Sunday to 6am Monday. I don’t mind a sleepover train, once the rush to attain and then organize compartments is complete. The rocking and swaying is soothing. And I remember sleeping well on those I rode in Vietnam (as well as might be expected when having to get off at 5 or 6 in the morning).

Backtrack to earlier today

Our cruise along the Yangzi River ended this morning at Yichang. From there we got on a bust that took us to the Three Gorges Dam security centre, and then on to take a look at the Three Gorges Dam. It’s very big and they have sightseeing platforms set up to take photos, but not a very comprehensive lesson in dam construction or operation, which is good because I’m not interested in that. We watched a documentary the other day on the cruise that touched on the million or so people who were displaced when the dam opened and created a reservoir that submerged whole communities upstream. These people were relocated to “immigrant towns” above the new water line, some of which I saw during the cruise. That’s interesting.

(Brief pause in writing to let phone charge, do some colouring, and have a snooze)

Backtrack to Yesterday, November 2

Yesterday we took an excursion from the cruise ship to visit the Lesser Three Gorges and then the Mini Three Gorges. These are all separate and distinct from the Three Gorges, although I could have listened better to the excursion guide to determine how and why. I’m sure it’s easily Google-able. The trip consisted of getting on to a tour boat full of Chinese tourists and travelling along the Lesser Three gorges. Everyone spent the way up the gorges in a big crowd at the front of the boat, taking photos. I chose to stay seated in the vast seating area because the crowd seemed daunting and pushy, and there were only cliffs and trees to see at about the same distance I’d been looking at the scenery from the cruise ship. (And actually, we’d had the chance to observe the first of the Three Gorges that morning from the front deck of the cruise ship, with narration by our cruise director – and it looked a lot the same.)

At about the half-way point of the Lesser Gorges tour, we got on a smaller boat to explore the Mini Gorges. This was much fewer people and closer to the water and scenery, as it was a much smaller gorge (a mini gorge is you will). I liked this part of the tour because it could see the trees and nature in more detail. Also, there were some women singing folk songs in another boat along the way, as well as a couple doing a fishing demonstration. Monkeys were briefly seen on the shore as well.

We then turned around and met up with the bigger boat again, where a fee of us tried to sit and nap while a lady yelled over a loud speaker in Chinese. Probably details about our surroundings on the tour but I didn’t find out. I managed to nap but I have a special skill.

After that, and having arrived back on the cruise ship, the tour director gave us another narration as we sailed through the Second Gorge. There are many significant peaks she told us about, and as she progressed it got dark out and the moon was there and it was nice.

Dinner was served late, at seven, so I got a bit whiney about that. It was the captain’s farewell dinner, and the vice-captain came and clinked glasses with everyone. Dinner was followed by the Crew Talent Show. I wasn’t going to to but I’m glad I did since it was mostly demonstrations of local ethnic dancing.

Flash Forward to Present.

Everyone in my compartment has settled into quiet time: journal writing, reading, games on phones, naps. I have a good compartment. It’s warm in here but there is air conditioning coming in from the ceiling trying to cool us down. I used my cashmere scarf as a blankie while I napped and was a bit too warm, but very cozy.

Edit: 6 hours into 15 hour train ride.

I have spent many hours sitting up on my bunk colouring and chatting and occasionally snacking. At one point I taught one of my tour mates some ballet and flamenco out in the very narrow corridor.

Fun fact: we’re only allowed to drink beer in our compartments as the tables in the dining car are for people eating meals. I think some of my compartment-roomies are off doing that in another compartment.

October 30 – Free Day at Emei Shan

Our free day started at the guesthouse about 1/2 hour bus ride up the mountain. It was cold and wet. There was some mildew up in corners of our room and so my nose was running the whole time we were there. It was only an overnight stay from late afternoon yesterday until early this morning, so I didn’t suffer too much.

We were all up early because some of the group wanted to attempt the summit again. I wasn’t one of these, and joined the group going for a shortish walk near the guesthouse to look at scenery.

After we got all the photos we needed, we walked to the bis station to return to our monastery at the bottom of the mountain. (It’s Our Monastery now since we have stayed here twice.)

The rest of the day was, in this order: nap, lunch, shopping, massage, hot shower, writing this. Next up is dinner.

Also, this morning’s bacon and eggs breakfast at the guesthouse included fried bread. So good! And also a big bowl of noodles and broth from which we could help ourselves. I described it as “mild” which everyone decided was just a nice way of saying “tasteless” bit I don’t want too much flavour in the morning anyway. I’m liking the asian-style breakfasts I’ve been able to try so far. I still haven’t attempted the rice porridge, though. Maybe soon.

October 28 – Monastery at Emei Shan, China

I’m at a monestary right now where there aren’t any western toilets and we can only take a hot shower between 5:30 and 9:30 PM. But there is the music of a Buddist prayer surrounding our dorms right now, and we are away from city noises and bustle.

Also the hot shower was really hot and everyone feels better for taking one in a place with no heating.

Also, very good wi-fi.

Today on the way here we visited the Giant Buddha at Leshan. It was another scary trip down and then up steep stairs to get a view of the whole Buddha. A beautiful sunny day, and not too crowded, relatively speaking.

Tonight we exit the monastery for an evening walk around Emei Shan town and to get some dinner. It’s cool at night and I have four layers of clothing so far. I didn’t bring a big jacket, but I have bought a fine cashmere scarf so this should help. We’ll go higher up the mountain tomorrow so I hope this is enough, though the daytime looks to be warm.

October 26 – Train from Xi’an to Chengdu and reflections on yesterday’s Terra Cotta Warriors experience.

The train isn’t too long today, just 4 hours to go to Chengdu. The train ride the other day was 5.5 hours, so a bit of a haul. There’s an overnight train coming up later in the trip, for which we get beds.

I’m snacking on crab-flavoured peas as I write, and am quite enjoying them. I thought is was a curious flavour combo when I saw them on the shelf in the store, but I like both peas and crab so nothing can go wrong. Also, the words “peas,” “crab,” and “flavor” are all in English so that is helpful.

The terra cotta warriors were amazing. There are several levels of history, with the original creation on behalf of the first emperor of China 2000 years ago, their subsequent destruction by an invading army not long after, and then the discovery of the remains in the 70’s. The recreation continues to the present day. It’s all presented in a huge and crowded museum complex with massive structures built up around the open archeological pits. Our tour concluded with a meal prepared by local farmers.

This afternoon is a walking tour of Chengdu. Tomorrow is pandas.

Right now I’m going to listen to a day-old CBC News at 6 I’ve downloaded. So excited.

**Side note: Xi’an – pronounced “shi-an” and the “n” at the end it so soft you don’t even close your mouth to pronounce it.

October 21- Jet Lag

I’ve arrived safely in Beijing.

My forever-hour plane ride wasn’t as painful as I expected. I just one short layover in Vancouver. Enough time for an egg salad Subway, a quick change into my airplane-ride lounge wear (aka pyjamas. It wasn’t an overnight flight but, well, f it) and then to realize they had started boarding ten minutes early and I still hadn’t done my 5-6 last minute emergency pees. Everything went fine anyway. I was texting with Mum this whole time too, in leiu of a calm phone call from the gate. I ofter have a three or four hour layover and this one was about 1.5 hours so there was no resting. One the bright side, there was also no excessive waiting around either.

When I got to my hotel last night it was about 7:30 and it was definitely time for bed for me. I had an admittedly half- hearted plan to go exploring and find some food and water and such but I was too tired. Also, it was pretty dark. Also, I was (and still am) still on BC time so I was falling asleep. One thing: the beds are really hard here. I slept anyway.

Now it’s 4:06 am and I’m awake and ready to go. I slept pretty good from 9pm to 2:30. I tried going back to sleep, but couldn’t stop wondering if maybe I should organize my suitcase a little better? So I’ve organized I that into a more bearable state. Now all i want to do it sleep a little more.

Images of China so far: big busy highways! I didn’t study the lane changing and merging ettiequte to close because it was stressing me out, but I’ll be happy not to drive here. I had a car and driver team waiting for me a the airport so I didn’t have to stress about anything. They kept good care of me in the transition between airport and hotel and even spelled my name right on the sign they held up at arrivals. So extra points.

October 15 – Thanksgiving

I was very happy to spend Thanksgiving with my family this year. Two things:

  1. I wanted to see everyone before I head off to China on Saturday. I’ve tried to see all of my important people before I go. I was in Duncan from Saturday to Monday and got a good visit with Mum and Dad, and Bonnie and Jordan were there for dinner on Sunday. I also visited with Susan on Friday night, and I had a chat with Noralee at lunchtime today. (Important people that may want to wish me well on my trip, and pretend to be super interested as I detail my packing scheme, but also help to calm my worries about going.)
  2. For the past 2 years, I was travelling out of the country over Thanksgiving weekend. Last year I was on my way to Mexico. In 2017, Susan and I went to England. I like travelling in October.

Panajachel

This would be a really good time to update my blog. I don’t really want to.

Yesterday was a 11 hour bus trip from Mexico to Guatemala. That’s all there really is to say about that. Above is the bus for the Guatemala portion of the ride.

**post interrupted when I went to have the best soy latte I’ve ever had**

It’s a rest day today. There were a couple of optional tours to choose from, and a few of us opted to not go. We had a lovely sit down breakfast at an establishment that had soy lattes, so I am a happy traveller. Some activities:

1) visit to a church

2) some shopping

3) now playing with phone at hotel

4) possibly going for drinks/lunch. Still a bit full from breakfast.

Note: we’re in the mountains now so it’s a bit cooler. It’s warm now, but not humid like it’s been so far on the trip, and definitely cardigan cool at night. But, I was wrong to think I didn’t need sunscreen.

A Bus Ride

I am in San Cristobal de las Casas this afternoon. We had to get up at 5 this morning to leave by 6ish. This was to ensure we were on the road early to hopefully avoid any road blocks, and to make our total trip time 6 hours instead of 12. Thusly, we arrived around noon. We had a quick tour of the immediate area around our hotel, looks and some handicrafts, went for lunch, and then I had a long nap. I’m not quite awake from that just yet.

San Cristobal is full of cars and people. The streets are really tiny, but the city was founded in the 1500s so not surprising, or unfamiliar, as they are similar to those in Jerez. Where Jerez is a warren of tangled streets, however they seem to be in a grid here. There are some right angles for sure. I have only been out with a group, which means I haven’t had a chance to get lost yet.

The hotel is basic but lovely, and wifi is only available in the downstairs courtyards, which is where I sit now. The bathroom in my room is fully contained, with a full-sized door, which is a nice change from our last room: no more will be said on that subject, but I can go into that hotel in general.

Palenque, revisited

It was in the middle of the jungle. The rooms were set up like a resort, in rows spread out from the main building. There were lots of bugs in our room; the humidity made all of our fabric possessions damp all the time; towels never dried. Our room was about a two-minute walk away from the main building, along a cement walk way that passed bu a field with trees and plants, then around the pool. It seemed to be the farthest building from everyone on the property. There was mesh on the windows, no glass, so when the downpour started on the first night I was woken up by the roar. Very loud. The best part of the place was the main building, which contained the restaurant and bar. The bar served amazing strawberry margaritas. I sat at the bar and drank one on each of the two evenings we were there and played on my phone, as wifi was only available in the main building. The group would then order dinner and eat together at a big table.

I didn’t go into the pool while I was there, but I did walk down some nearby waterfalls. I shall explain. The group visited some waterfalls. About half went with a guide to do jumps off high places into. The rest of us slithered into the first pool to watch those jumping do their first jump. We then followed after them to see what was up. Another guide found us and gestured something that looks like we could walk around to the next pool without having to jump into it. I thought we’d be just slithering into another pool or two and swimming around, but this wasn’t the case. We ender up traversing through and down the falls, sometimes through strong, but shallow, rushing currents; sometimes having to crabwalk down a bit; once having to half-slither, half jump. It was a bit more of an adventure than I expected but it was fun. I got caught in the currents a couple of times but recovered and didn’t drown or anything, so don’t worry. Also, it was off/on raining through the afternoon, but still really warm, which has always been a favourite swimming condition of mine.

(Not proofread- sorry – tired)