Monday 7th December
We had a pretty slow day. We were catching the night train that evening to Chengdu so we had a chilled one. We had a lie in and some breakkie and then stayed in the warmth of the Cafe on the roof of our hostel eating popcorn. Ha. The time came to get the bus to the station. We were told to catch the bus at the end of the road which would take us straight there. The bus came but there was no where to sit and the driver was a bit manic. We just had to stand and hold on to the poles for dear life and hope we didn’t topple over with our big back packs on. We got a few funny looks from some of the other passengers. The train station was the last stop and it was across the road from the bus station. Everything is in Chinese and so we didn’t know any better but accidentally went to the bus station first. Luckily some nice local pointed us in the right direction. Xi’an train station wasn’t as big as Beijing but it was still pretty hard to navigate. We went with a trial and error action plan. Queue up where you think and see if that works. Luckily it did and we managed to get our tickets and make it to our platform. We bought some noodles and an apple for the train. We sat in the platform on our bags and everyone around was staring at us. Its very strange. Makes you feel like a celeb. The apples we bought were massive and juicy so I ate mine. There was a man sitting near me and Erin told me that he was watching me with such great interest. We tried to talk to them a bit. Our train started boarding and I showed them my ticket just to check we were in the right place. All his mates came over and they were all looking at my ticket. Ha. I asked for it back sharpish. Didn’t want to wake up to loads of men intently watching me sleep!! We made it on the train and I swapped tickets with Erin so that she could go on the bottom bunk this time and I would be up on the top top bunk. It was going to be a 16 hour train ride so we settled in to read our books and eat our noodles. I climbed the dizzy heights to my bed at about half 9. Its not too bad once you lie down and close your eyes up there, but you can’t sit up and it isn’t the widest bed in the world. Not ideal for claustrophobics. So I put my sleep mask on to block out the ceiling light next to my head that resembled the sun and snuggled down for some shut eye.
Tuesday 8th December
I actually slept alright. Woke up a few times but it wasn’t too bad!! We were meant to be arriving at Chengdu at mid day so we spent the morning just listening to music and eating little cakes that I had bought the previous night. We arrived at Chengdu and poked our noses out in to the slightly warmer air. Travelling North to South was a great idea. I would hate it to get colder at each stop!! We were quite forceful with the taxi drivers this time and managed to get one to take us to our hostel. We checked in, dropped our bags and had showers to wash the train off. Our hostel didn’t really cater for westerners and all the tours were in Chinese.The WiFi in the hostel was a bit rubbish so we ventured out to find a cafe to do some research of what to do in Chengdu. There were loads of shopping malls and cafes near us. We stayed for a few hours, had a delicious ice cream and chocolate sauce covered waffle. Later that evening we went out to find some pot noodles. Actually addicted!
Wednesday 9th December.
The main thing to do in Chengdu (and the reason that we went) was to go to the Panda breeding base. We got up early, had some breakfast and caught the bus outside our hostel. We were told we needed to get 2 busses. We stayed on the first one until we got to the bus station and then got off and tried to find our second bus. It was the most confusing place in the world. We couldn’t find our number bus anywhere. This man tried to help us. We showed him the number bus we needed and he just pointed down the road so we walked down a bit and waited but still no bus. The best time to get to the panda place was between 9 and 11 because that is when they are eating and are more lively. With this in mind we decided to sack off the bus and we got a taxi. More expensive but stress free! We arrived, bought our tickets and went inside
It was like a zoo but much better. The are a few different enclosures but they really big and open. The paths between the enclosures are really nice too. Surrounded by masses of bamboo.
We went to see the adult pandas first. They are so big and lovely and clumsy. The first one we saw was munching away on bamboo.
Occasionally he would stop, rest his head on his paw and sigh. They are so lovely and calming to watch. We moved on to see some others. They were all enjoying their breakfast, they chomp really loudly on the leaves, one of them toppled on to his back while he was eating, he didn’t seem to notice.
We spent a good few hours walking round and visiting all the pandas, they had red pandas too!
Obviously we bought some appropriate head gear.
They had a movie room where you could go and learn about the research breeding base and how it has helped the pandas. We walked on, afterwards, and we found the really young ones. They were so adorable!!
The even smaller baby ones in the nursery were too cute for words. I welled up because they were so cute. Sleeping balls of panda fluff!!
You could stand there and watch them for ages! We started to walk back towards the exit but must have taken a wrong turning because we were walking up this road with trees either side for ages. It was all uphill. Eventually we came to a map an we saw where we were.
I have no idea how it happened or why there is even a road that goes to the middle of nowhere and then back again!! Haha. We had no choice but to keep going and we eventually made it to the exit. Blummin nightmare!! We did try and get some lunch at the breeding base but all the restaurants there were ridiculously expensive. There was a little stall selling noodles by the lake there but we didn’t fancy sitting in the cold eating noodles.
We left and went to get the bus back. We arrived at the bus station and after a bit of running around after busses we managed to get on the right one. We were both starving on the bus and saw a pizza hut sign down the road. We make a snap decision and both jumped off the bus in the middle of nowhere to get some pizza. Turns out it was a brand new pizza hut that wasn’t even open yet! Noooo!! We had to keep walking down the road for a bit and as luck would have it, we found another pizza place which turned out to be really good. We carried on walking back to our hostel. We were only a few stops away so it only took us about 20 minutes to walk back. For the rest of the afternoon we went to the cafe over the road from our hostel to abuse the WiFi and have a chat to a few people from home. That evening we stayed in, out of the cold.
Thursday 10th December
We had planned to go and see a mountain near by. We went to reception to ask about how to get there, the lady checked and unfortunately all the early train tickets were booked and we wouldn’t have enough time to get there and get the last bus back. Instead we booked tickets for that evening to go to an “opera” show. That afternoon we decided to go and see a temple and a folk street near by which was only a few stops on the bus. The temple was pretty easy to find and we went to have a look around. It was very similar to the Lama temple that we went to previously in Beijing. There were various different buildings full of different Buddha statues and big pot of incense burning. Next to the temple was a really pretty garden park thing. All the leaves in the trees were beautiful different colours and it was really nice to walk around and appreciate the nature and the Chinese architecture.
We found the folk street next. There were a few stalls selling bracelets and other bits of jewellery and food. All the places that we had been to so far in China were built up with shopping malls. We found a little road that was full of more local shops and local people. It was really cool to have a wander around and see the other side of China and how the locals live. We spent a few hours walking around and then went for a coffee before heading back to our hostel to collect our tickets for the show that evening. When we arrived at the hostel the lady on reception jumped up and ran over to us. It appears that they had thought we had forgotten to collect our tickets and thought we had gone straight to the theatre. Calm down guys. Its all under control. We weren’t even late. The lady told us that her manager had gone to the theatre with our tickets and that she would meet us there. How sweet! We had to get the bus to the theatre. It was only a few stops in the opposite direction to the one we caught earlier. We stood at the bus stop and watched as the bus we wanted sailed by. Oops. We then went to the correct bus stop and managed to make it to the theatre. It was a behind a few buildings so we had to keep showing people a piece of paper with the name of the theatre written in Chinese on, so they could point us. We met the manager and she gave us our tickets. Its turns out we were mega early and the whole place was pretty empty as we took our seats….and ate our popcorn 😄
The show was advertised as opera but the lady at the hostel said that it included loads of different performances so we were quite excited, we didn’t know what to expect. Turns out the show was absolutely fantastic!!!! It was a basic love story but there was singing and dancing and stick puppets and magic and trapeze artists and shadow puppets and fire breathers and rappers and gymnasts. The costumes they wore were incredible as well. There was narrator and she translated what she was saying to English and there was even little screens either side of the stage with very loose subtitles. I say loose… Apparently one of the song lyrics was “all the women are beautiful and 30% are dexterous.”
The final bit that they did was called changing faces or something. The actors came out in these extraordinary costumes with masks on (which I wasn’t keen, on, but got used to). I still don’t know how they did it but they would occasionally wave their hand across their face and the mask they were wearing would change. It blew my mind. It was amazing. I was so impressed. Even more so that the ticket only cost £8 each!! Marvellous night! After the show we walked back to the hostel. It was nice to see all the sky scrapers lit up.
They have these weird statues of people walking along on the pavement as well. They get in the way more than anything but they were quite cool
Friday 11th December
We had a train booked to Chongqing for midday. It was only a 2 hour train. Shortest journey ever! We spent the morning in the hostel and then got a taxi to the station. It was quite a snazzy station that resembled an airport. Much more organised than Beijing station! We did have to queue forever to collect our tickets though. The Chinese don’t seem to understand the concept of a queue either. They just kept pushing in at the front, much to our anger. We eventually got our tickets though and found our platform. We had paid an extra £2 each for first class as a treat. Such a treat. Big armchair style seat each, loads of room. It was great.
I almost wished the journey was longer than 2 hours! We zoomed off and had a lovely comfortable journey, eating pot noodles and admiring the Chinese countryside. The hostel that we were staying at had a collection service which was great. No taxi man arguments! Chongqing is absolutely massive! High rises and skyscrapers as far as you can see. You think you are in the main bit and then you go over a huge bridge and then you are in another main bit. Its insane. We were taken by a nice lady to our hostel and then climbed the million and one steps (yes, I counted) up to reception. We checked in and had some food. I was starting to be struck down by a cold at this point and the hostel common room was blummin freezing so I went to our dorm to get a bit of kip and ward off the germs. An hour or so later, Erin came to find me and we decided to go out for a walk and see what we could find. Again, we were in a built up area surrounded by shopping malls. Chongqing is an odd place though. There are what looks like slums right next to the poshest mall or building you have seen. We walked around and stumbled on a night market. It was mainly food but not very appetizing. Looked like vats of smelly, slimy rats tails. Ew. We went on and came out on to the main shopping bit. Prada, Chanel, Guess. Loads of really posh shops. I got a hot chocolate from Starbucks to make me feel better and we had a wander around some of the (less expensive) shops. When we got cold, we wandered back to the hostel to get some sleep.
Saturday 12th December.
After a cheeky lie in, we spent the morning being very entertained by a very drunk Australian guy in the hostel. I was feeling a bit better after a good nights sleep. We had booked to go on a city walking tour that afternoon and had to meet every one at 2pm, one metro stop away. We were chatting to a guy called Alvin from Malaysia as well. He was getting the metro to the train station at the same time as us. He actually came in handy because the ticket machine wasn’t working and he could speak Chinese so told the ticket guy where we wanted to go. Ha. We got off at the right stop, went out the wrong exit, went back in, went out the right exit and saw a girl surrounded by a group of people holding a “city walking tour sign”. She came over and introduced her self and asked if we spoke Chinese. Nope. She said she didn’t speak English that well. Haa. Oh well. We cracked on and walked to our first stop which was an old monument. She spoke a lot in Chinese to the rest of the group and then would try and quickly sum up what she had said to us. It was nice to have a walk around though and there were signs in English that we could read to get a better explanation. I don’t know why, but we seemed to be attracting the drunks that day. An old drunk man took a liking to us and insisting on following the group and speaking to us in Chinese. Ha. Bless him. The walk was actually really good and we went to loads of different places that we wouldn’t have thought or known to go to. We learnt about the history of the city, and went to the old walking streets to have a look. We even bought a little egg custard tart off a stall.
One of the coolest bits was when we went to see the ruins of an old French church. We had to clamber through a wall into what looked like a junk yard to see the back of it. We climbed up some steps from there and the view of the old and new bridges and the city were really good.!!
This is a door for a tiny restaurant that apparently serves the best hot pot. It only has two tables though so you have to reserve your place well in advance…
The tour lasted about three hours in total and we ended up right near our hostel which was super handy! That evening we ventured out and I managed to find a lasagne for dinner which was lovely! We had a wander around the area a bit more and then went to Starbucks to have a big mug of English breakfast tea. The staff were quite confused when we asked for a bit of milk to put in our tea.
Sunday 13th December.
We had one final day in China before flying back to Kuala Lumpur. We went to a bakery to get some breakfast and found this amazing half blueberry cake, half pie thing. We walked round the shops a bit more but we didn’t really have much to do as we had walked the length and breadth of the city the day before. Inevitably we made our way to Starbucks for more tea and a spot of reading. Late afternoon, we went back to the hostel to get our bags and then made our way on the subway to the airport. So many stops on the subway!!! The airport was a bit mental. You couldnt go through to check in until an allocated time so everyone just had to sit in the entrance of the airport. We had to wait for about an hour. Ugh. We made it through and checked in but then found out that our flight had been delayed an hour and so had to wait until 1am. We had a final Chinese meal while we waited. Dumplings for me and noodles for Erin. It was tasty.
Next stop… Back to Thailand… Via a very long airport stop in Kuala Lumpur.