Thursday, August 30, 2007

Business to Dubai

On the plane heading to Dubai there was a mix up in seats, with both our seats being assigned to another couple. Since we were the first to be assigned the seats we thought the other two would just simply be upgraded. However, we were quickly told to get up from our seats... it was us that was to be upgraded!! 8 hours in Business on an Emirates flight is very hard work. Particularly when the Australian hostess takes a real shine to you and decides to write up a dodgy receipt and send you off with a bottle of wine and chocolates! The whole experience was superb and really kicked our trip off in Dubai.

We arrived at 12pm, which is really 2pm China time - after being up since 3am. So we decided to crash for an hour once we got to the hotel apartment we had rented. Probably not the best idea as we both felt worse for it. Afterwards we went grocery shopping, much to the delight of Bec. And we had a home cooked dinner for the first time in two months. For those of you familiar with Jarratt it wouldn't be too hard to guess what it was.... haha.

On the following day we went on a city tour where we visited a gold souk, the dubai museum, dubai creek, the worlds tallest building and the Burj Al Arab (the only 7 star hotel in the world). Unfortunately we couldnt get into the hotel, which was a shame as it is the only place (other than in a helicopter) that you can see the palm islands projects from and the world. In the evening we went on the highly recommended Desert Safari. We were picked up at roughly 5pm and driven out into the desert for some sand dune bashing, camel riding, belly dancing and an arabian feast.

Today we wandered the electronics street and Jarratt invested in a pretty flash laptop that we are now writting this blog on. The next plan is to post some much requested pictures. So stay tuned as we have much more coming right up :)

Love us.

PS- Happy Birthday to big Deano!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Have you been drinking?

We still cant get our brains around the fact that in less than a year it is THIS city that will be hosting the Olympics! The organisation and craziness is mind boggling! Dont get us wrong we've had an amazing time exploring the sights and making many a sales girl angry with fierce bargaining but the Olympics....seriously?

Day one: we arrived at the airport and smoothly found our way to the city shuttle bus but for the life of us once in downtown Beijing could not get a cab to our hostel. We tired everything... evenutally J found one lingering in a side street and in broken chinese and exchanges of notes we finally managed to get to our hostel. At our hostel we booked in for a night at the Kung Fu Mastery Show. Which was in a word, amazing! The things some of the men could do ... crazy! The height they can jump and spin to in the air would make you think they were on strings!!! Plus the weapons used during the second half of the show... wow! They were smashing their heads against what you would swear was lead! AND in one act one gentleman laid down on sharp blades and had a bed of nails placed on his stomach which another man laid on and then with a plank of wood across his stomach another man smashed it with a sledge hammer! But perhaps the funniest thing of the evening was racing the little chinese women for good seats! you see in China you are not assigned a seat number for shows you just buy your ticket as early as possible and then its every man for himself as the doors open! ..... we got great seats! hahahaha

Day two: The Great Wall!!!! WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!!! Waking up at the ridiculous hour of 5:30am and boarding a bus we drove 2 hours out to Mutianyu. An amazingly section of the wall comprising of both restored and unrestored sections, numerous watchtowers and steep climbs! When we arrived we took the chair lift to the wall and were the only people on the wall for MILES! The benefits of getting up early are two-fold, no one is on the wall at that time AND the hot chinese sun is not out yet! We had three hours on the wall and climbed roughly 7kms. Very exhausting!!! That evening we headed to the Acrobats, which was quite disappointing - it really was nothing like we had seen earlier in Guilin!

Day three: we walked rounghly 30kms covering the forbidden city, tiananmen square, mao's resting place, the bell tower, drum tower and the famous hutong area of Beijing! The forbidden city was amazing, despite the fact that large sections where engulfed by scaffolding! In the evening we had a great street meal. A hotpot of chicken, vegetables and rice - which fast became the best meal we'd had the entire trip!

Day four we visited the Lama Temple, which for all the hype was really just another temple, with another oversized buddha! We also spent a very painful hour on a boat trying to get to the summer palace!!!! Which had come so highly recommended. Disappointed with the Summer palace and the sworms of Chinese tour groups we decided to head home via bus... which was twice as long and just as painful as the boat! Crowded, smelly and blantant being stared at which we paid 2.5 yuan each for the pleasure! And yes, the Olympics are being held here in LESS THAN A YEAR! Should be interesting....

Day five and six we possibly spent more money than on our entire trip! But we did shop up a storm!!! Jarratt is one fierce bargaining and Bec plays a good second (support) fiddle. That is when she isnt giggling at the whole situation! But picture this..... One rip off designer bag starts at 1250 yuan, so J in a countering move throws out a ridiculous 20 yuan.... when you have seen the expression on the sale girls face first hand and are able to not laugh I'll be impressed. The BEST bit is that without blinking J manages to get the bag for 80!!! WHY OH WHY DO THEY START SO HIGH!!!!!! Over the days of shopping we became a very good team and left many a miserable sales girl in our wake!!! While weaving through the markets we became all to familiar with the following choice phrases when throwing out our 'best price' for things such as: "You're Killing Me!"; "In which money? Euro?"; "No joking price, Serious now!" and Bec's personal favourite for when J counter with 20 yuan for a polo when the "special price" was 240 yuan the girl shouted "Have you been drinking?" At the end of day five J was told by one VERY impressed Sales girl that he is a 'better bargainer than most asians!'

Tomorrow we are getting up at 3am to leave our hostel at 3:30am to arrive at the airport at 4:30am to check in at 5am for our 7am flight to Dubai... and boy!!!! are we thrilled at the idea!!!
Talk soon,
Bec and J.

PS - apologise to all, stamps are a bit of a novelty here in China and incredibly hard to find - unless you want the collectable kind. So while we have the postcards (in our VERY packed backpacks now) they will most likely be sent from London!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Your teeth are lovely!

Xi'an has proved to be a real highlight in the crown that is China.

We arrived here late on day one and had a rather uneventful night in which we headed straight to bed and slept! On day two we got on a day tour out to the WWF Rescue Centre, where we saw PANDAS!!!! After being heartbroken at the fact that we had to miss Chengdu breeding centre due to lack of time, Bec was extremely excited! Apart from the Pandas the rescue centre is also home to golden monkeys, black bears, takins (like Yaks), deers and one angry leopard! The centre is a conservation effort (of sorts), where animals that are sick or injured are brought to be given treatment before moving onto the breeding program. Some Panda's looked quite sick and unhappy in their dingy cages when we first arrived, but after seeing their feeding session and the fact that they had better air-conditioning than most places in China we didn't feel so bad anymore.

In the evening we went to a dumpling banquet where we ate more food than we have on the entire trip!!! We also took in the world famous Tang Dynasty Show, which has acts of traditional Chinese Music and Dancing. We had been promised 'good seats' only to be behind the man with the BIGGEST head we have ever seen... we promptly moved to a side area and sat on bench where the view was MUCH better! After the show we headed out to 'club salsa' where not only was J denied entry for wearing thongs (even though everyone else got in with them on) and was forced to return to the hostel and change shoes, once inside we were disgusted to find that as foreigners it cost 400 Yuan (roughly 60Bucks) to just sit down and 580 Yuan for a pot of beer!!!! Appalled, we left!

Day three we decided to have a bit of a sleep in (8am) and explore the city, before lunch we visited the Drum Tower, Bell Tower, Great Mosque and the Muslim Quarter Markets - where we met a woman whose (yellow, rotten) teeth were lovely and another who was not sure what to do with her chess set in the winter time. After lunch we rode around the 14kms of cobble stoned city walls on bicycles in a record time of 1 hour and 20 minutes! Needless to say our bottoms were quite numb at the end of it all. In the evening we went to the Big wild goose pagoda to watch the light and water show (for free!) A large scale fountain display done to music with different coloured lights. Perhaps the most amusing thing was the number of young Chinese children running in and out as the water shot up into the sky. We also had the pleasure of teaching English to a father and son (as well as some eavesdropping students); in return the son gave Bec his jade necklace and the father bought us both glow sticks! It truly restored Bec's waning faith in the Chinese after the previous night of being asked for 400yuan to sit down in a nightclub!

Day four, very tired we woke up early and headed via local bus to the Terracotta Warriors! The experience of finding the first of two buses was incredibly successful, the second however was a little more tedious. Being the very well prepared tourists we are, we had a plethora of Chinese words written down to help us in asking for directions. This was of little value when each time we asked a friendly local they pointed in a different direction to the last. With fingers flying in all directions we finally found the transit officers the most reliable and within 20 minutes of wandering around we found our second bus at pretty much the location we started at! ARGH! An hour and a half bus ride later we were at the Terracotta Warriors and it was all worth it as we watched groups upon groups of people being rushed through their 'tour' like cattle. Many pictures were taken and the ritually magnet was bought. All in all it was a great day!!!

Tomorrow we are heading to Beijing by plane (how posh are we!) We'll let you know how the adventures go.
Xiexie for reading, Bec and J.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

and I thought I had this chopstick thing mastered....

Welcome to Shanghai, the Paris of the east. Or it wants to be. Hong Kong's little bro. We arrived from our 3 day cruise quite late at night, and settled into our 10 room dorm. We meet up with a nice English chap and planned our time in Shanghai with his advice.

Day Two saw us head to the Shanghai's history museum were we spent 3 hours trying to gain some knowledge. We then headed to Renmin People's Square and Park. After Lunch we walked down Nanjing street, Where "local students" tried to "practice" their English with us. After being approached by numerous students, the scam became quite obvious and very annoying. So much so Jarratt pretended he couldn't speak English, but got caught out when they could speak French as well. At the end of Nanjing road we hit the Bund. The main part of Shanghai on the Huangpu river. We walked down the Bund and into Yuyuan Night Bazaar in the old town. There we sampled some local food (supicious looking meat on a stick) and were accosted by local salesmen. Offering bags, shoes, watches... everything and anything just to get you into their shops! They even admitted to having boomerangs, after being prompted by Bec!! I'm sure if you asked them if they had chicken pox, they'd have that too!

Day Three we visited Pudong, the business side of Shanghai. We went up Jinmao Tower, the tallest building in china and 5th in the world. At the 88th level you get a great view of Shanghai and an inside view of the Grand Hyatt. We strolled around Pudong finding most things overpriced, especially the Bund sight-seeing tunnel. We just couldn't justify spending 35yuan for a train ride with flashing lights, when we could spend 3yuan sans the lights. For the rest of the afternoon/evening we chilled out in our room watching tv and eating chinese lollies. Venturing out once for dinner, during which Bec managed to spill a slippery piece of meat from the serving plate, to her dinner plate to her lap, in one fluid motion - A very impressive feat! To which she cried "And I thought I had this chopstick thing mastered...."

Our final day we road the Maglev train (the bullet train) to the airport. The train reaches a crazy 430 km an hour, 30km in 8 minutes. The scenary is but a blur in the window. After a delay of AN HOUR at the Airport we have arrived at Xi'an.

Will write again soon, Us.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dam mozzies!!!!

Its been too long between drinks and we are sorry. We've been far too busy living it up on a 4 star cruise down the Yangzi River. Now before you all loose your minds at the idea of how much a 4 star cruise would cost in Australia, just remember we are in China!

The cruise was amazing, we spent about 3 days cruising down the river from Chongqing to Yichang. For those unfamiliar this is a projecxt spanning 17years and has caused much upcry from environmentalists and locals alike. Many people have needed to be relocated and mother nature isnt getting the best treatment. However the pros (from what we understood) heavily outweight the cons. Once completed central China will be completely powered by the dam and the thousands of lives that are lost every few years will be prevented as the river flow becomes more controlled. It was fascinating, so much so Jarratt bought a book! Ha! We also visitied all three gorges, travelled upstream on a smaller boat, visted feng du (a ghost city) and the dam itself. The tour of the dam was very funny, as our local guide alice introduced herself. "Hello, My name is Alice and I'll be your Dam Guide". The trip all and all was wonderful, met some great people and the only downside was the attack on Bec from Mozzies. She was that itchy she was nearly hitting her head against the Dam wall!!!

Once we finished up on the cruise we boarded a plane and headed to lovely Shanghai. Although we have been here for 2 and a bit days we dont have the time to elaborate now. So stay tuned for more Bj adventures!!!!

All our love, Us.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

How hot are we! Boo Boo Boo (No No No)

So we arrived in GuiLin and the weather seams to be getting hotter!!!! We're also getting far more attention then ANYWHERE else we've been. Jarratt is getting giggling chinese girls taking pictures of him on their phone. And every man is stopping him to tell him how BEAUTIFUL his girlfriend is. Turns out white skin and small noses are huge hits in China so we're both gorgeous here! hahahaha!

GuiLin is a very picturesque town. We arrived by plane at about 7pm and made our way to our hostel via bus and taxi - very interesting! We had been told to expect NO English in China but thought people were exaggerating. But there is NO English in China! Menus, Signs, Tour Guides (although promised to be in English) are all in Chinese. But how awful does that sound we ARE in China after all, how ignorant are we! We've picked up the important words though: Hello - Knee how; Thank You - XieXie and NO! Boo Boo Boo Boo Boo!!

GuiLin has been amazing! So much so bec bought a book full of just pictures! The chick was asking for 100Yuan, Bec got it for 40Yuan.... turns out we're getting good at this negotiating price business. We have spent the past few days really exploring the city and surrounding areas. The first day we travelled out to Longfield to see another minoriy group known as the Long haired women. They keep all their hair, even the parts they comb out and all their haircuts, they then spin it into a long plait like style and twirl it into a bun on top of their head. The villages are also amazing where they live. Words do not describe so heres a picture:

The 'steps' are actually rice and corn crops staggered and create the effect of miles and miles of stairs. Its pretty impressive! We ended the day with a fantastic performace of acrobatics and ballet - even Jarratt enjoyed it!

The following day we explored the city and surrounding areas. Including the Solitary peak, Reed Flute Cave, Yao Mao Mountain and organised a cruise down the Li River for the following day. The Li River was a bit of a let down. It was great scenery but the cruise was poor. The only real highlight was that Jarratt managed to get two photos that he'd been chasing for a couple of weeks. One of a water buffalo (even though the ones bec took were MUCH better - haha), and the other of a fishing man and his birds! The cruise ended in Yangshu which is really just one big market surrounded by pretty mountains. We spend about two hours wandering around, drinking a coffee shake and watch a pretty impressive trademan balance on tippy toes as he removed tiles from a slanty roof without a harness. Another thing to go on our list of 'stuff that would NEVER happen in Australia!'. We then headed back to GuiLin.

Today we're spending the day doing absolutely nothing!!!! And Bec is loving it!!!! Tomorrow we head off to Chongqing to commence our 4star cruise down the Yangtzi River (3 gorge dam). Unfortunately we're fast running out of time and as a result Bec has to give up on her Pandas! She is heart broken!! Well till next time kids!

Take Care of yourselves! Love Us.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Oh Mickey!

Alright, obviously Bec wants to jump right in and tell you all about Disneyland!!! But lets start at the very beginning of our Hong Kong visit (Its a very good place to start! Hahaha)

We arrived from Vietnam at about 2pm and headed straight into downtown Hong Kong on the very affordable Bus from the Airport. We quickly learnt that Hong Kong is alot like Bec... extremely expensive and anally organised! We arrived at Chungking Mansions and swindled a very good deal for a room. Straight away we jumped on a ferry and headed over to central and up to The Peak. Caught the tram to the top of the Mountain racing up 550m at a 45 degree angle, took all of about 10minutes! The view from the top was amazing! We had planned to watch the Symphony of Lights from atop the Peak but quickly realised we were on the wrong side. We decided to bail early to 'avoid the rush' but ended up running into about a million people who had the exact same idea! So instead, we had a GENIUS idea of walking down the hill. An hour later we were back at the ferry port. Very funny stuff!

The next day we spent wandering the city, the Avenue of Stars, the Cultural Centre and Clock Tower, Kowloon Gardens and Temple Street Markets. Jarratt bought an extremely flash camera and bec bought her magnets! Ha! We also organised some transport things. Flights to China and Ferry to Macau. We also managed to catch the Symphony of Lights (from the correct viewing point this time) and on Saturday nights the show is accompanied by fireworks. Lucky us!

The following day we headed to Macau. We arrived on a ferry from Hong Kong at about 10:45 and jumped on a highlights tour of the island for which they paid us 300 Hong Kong dollars. We believe there was a mix up in cash and well who are we to complain! We visited Macau tower, The ruins of St Pauls Church, a few muesums (including the wine and grand prix muesum) and Taipa!

Yesterday we visited the Magical land of Disney! Where Bec lost her mind!!! We got the MTR there (Hong Kongs train system) and EVERYTHING was mickey! The handles were shaped like micky mouse, the windows shaped like mickey mouse... there was even statues in the train for each famous disney character! When we got to Disneyland, we enjoyed the rides and shows and topped it all off with fireworks over sleeping beauty's castle. The funniest part of the day was when we were having our photo taken with Mickey and Minnie, both respective mouses grabbed us and went for a massive pash!

Today we end our visit to Hong Kong and head to Guilin. We have had an amazing time here! Not looking forward to being misunderstood in China and struggling with that whole language thing. But, Guilin is suppose to be beautiful and should be a great introduction to the country!

Hope you are all well.
Lots of Love, Bec and Jarratt.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Same Same, But Better!

Good Morning (and Farewell) Vietnam!

After a rough start, Vietnam has turned it on in its final days! We have just spent the past 2 days floating around in beautiful Halong Bay aboard what the Vietnamese affectionately refer to as a 'Junk'. To modern day Australians this 'junk' would also be know as a cruise ship! For the bargain price of $35 we spent two amazing days and one night on board. We were also treated to kayaking, cave exploration and more food than we have eaten in the ENTIRE trip! The highlight of the voyage would have to be the night spent aboard; when after dinner our guides whipped out a karaoke machine! Together, we did a lovely take on Olivia Newton-John and John Travoltas 'You're the One that I want'. While Bec did a version of Piano Man (with a shout out to young A'sy) that would have bought tears to his eyes!

Tonight we wandered around the Old Quarter Area of Hanoi, treated ourselves to some pretty amazing fresh spring rolls and ended with a performance at the Water Puppetry Theatre! A VERY nice (cultural) way to cap off our rather rocky visit to Vietnam! Tomorrow we are on a flight over to very expensive Hong Kong. Excited to be starting in a new country but sad that now we are about half way through our trip!

Hope you are all well
Love Bec and J.

PS - Happy Birthdays need to go out to Carly (28th) and Keeylann (1st). Hope you both had wonderfully wonderful days! xoxo