We are now in Beijing – have been for the last few days.  We arrived by sleeper Train Friday morning from Xi’an.

We went to the Summer Palace Friday.  This place is 300 acres and was used as the summer residence for the emporers of China.  It is mostly covered by Kunming Lake and also has many buildings, temples, walkways, and gardens.  Very pretty area!

Saturday we went to the Great Wall!  Our hostel had an organized day trip to the wall that included transportation as well as breakfast and lunch!  We went to the Mutian Yu section of the wall which is less busy but has some very steep sections!!  There was the option of taking a chair lift up to the wall but we opted to climb the stairs.  Once on the wall, it is pretty much all stairs of different heights and lengths.  Some are very short and you can take them 2 at a time where other steps were the height of my shins!  It was a difficult climb indeed!  We were on the wall for about 3 hours and took a gondola back down.

Now comes the fun part.  May 1st in China (May Day) is a very big holiday here.  Our plans for May Day were Tian an Men Square and the Forbidden City (not the best idea in hind sight!)  If you like being so squished and pushed that you cant even move and it’s hard to breathe, then May Day is for you!  The subways in Beijing are already crowded as it is so on May Day, they just shoved even more people into that subway car!  If you cant hold onto any of the bars, that’s ok, you cant fall anyways since there are so many people squeezed around you.

Luckily Tian an Men Square and the Forbidden City are very large areas so everyone was able to spread out!  Lots of security in Tian an Men Square to prevent any sign of a protest.  Similar to saying “bomb” in an airport, if you decide to say “protest” in Tian an Men Square, you can forget it!  You will be kicked out of there so fast!

We also went to a Chinese acrobat show Sunday night that was pretty amazing!  I just sat in awe watching the positions some of these people can get into – it’s not right!!  At one point, they had 12 girls all on one bicycle riding around the stage.  There were also guys climbing and doing flips off vertical poles and jumping through hopes as well as some girls using those devils sticks and doing flips while throwing and catching them!

Today we are off to a 6 floor indoor market and then the Birds Nest and Water Cube this afternoon!!!!!!!!!!!  The Water Cube has now been transformed into Happy Magic Water Cube – a waterpark!!!!  It looks amazing.  There will be pictures of course!!

We’re off to Shanghai tuesday night on an overnight train where we’ll meet up with our friend Yang and then back to Canada Friday night!

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Top Gear China

I have been planning on writing this post for over a week now.  Ever since we got to China after having a nice transition period in Hong Kong, we’ve had to make some major adjustments to the way traffic works. I sat in the passenger as we hurtled through rush hour traffic in urban and rural conditions on the hour long drive between Yangshuo and Guilin.  I may have begun taking pictures to distract from my fear.  Emily took the brave option of sitting in the back.

Can someone in Canada please verify for me that the horn cannot be held down for minutes on end?  In both China and Hong Kong, you can and it’s torture to listen to.

For the drivers though this is how they warn you to get out of the way.  You see, in China, traffic lights mean nothing.  The pedestrian does not have the right of way.  You may see the walk signal, but a vehicle stopping for a red doesn’t really happen and police do not care.   In fact, it seems as though, scooters, vespas, mopeds, whatever you call them, have the right of way.

These little bikes are the preferred method of transportation for many of the people here. They have stretched them to the limits of their capabilities.  There is no way for me to describe them.  I hope these pictures will do them justice. There is no limit ot the number of people or the size of load that they can carry.

They are very innovative in how to use motorbikes. They have created bikes that are far beyond anything I could have imagned. If you know anyone who has taken a course on small engines, I recommend this post. You can in fact use a lawnmower engine to power a truck. In fact, you don’t even need to dismantle the mower. Of course see below. I feel Clarkson would disapprove, but Captain Slow would be all over it.

On a side note I have seen at least 5 Peugots.  Never thought I’d see this ridiculous car brand in my life, but I’ve seen some.  Not a fan. That’s all I can say.

As for the brands that are popular, seen lots of Audis and Hondas.  The rare Ford, Suzukis and Chevys.  Oh and Nissans are popular too!

I must emphasize that Hong Kong is stock full 0f fancy cars. Lambos, and Porsches. The picture below is of Hong Kong.  As you can tell from the fact the cars are on the opposite side of the road.

China too has its share of nice cars.  I don’t want to stereotype and give people the impression that it’s only modified scooters.  I got honked at by a big VW Suv today.  Oh, and VW is another popular brand too! The image below was taken in Xi’an, the city with the Terracota Warriors, a former capital of China and the start or end point (can’t remember which) of the Silk Road in Ancient times.

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Be prepared for a cute-overload!!!These pandas love to eat!  But out of the hundreds of species of bamboo, they actually only like 11 so they are very picky!

The way they eat just makes them look like they are loving life!  Bamboo in each hand and relaxing on their backs!As a part of our volunteer program, we got to get very close to the pandas (through the glass of course!!)  We wore blue clothes and shoe protectors.These 2 little guys were sleeping in the trees!

And while they aren’t eating, they sleep.   They can sleep in pretty much any position they are in – including being spread out on a table with their head hanging off!!

Another up close moment with a Panda!

And now the ‘piece de resistance’ of the day!  Emily sitting with a 7 month old panda cub!!

Thought I would throw in some pictures of the Terracotta warriors!  Sorry for not being able to rotate the picture.

These 2 pictures are from Pit 1 at the site.  There are 3 pits that you can go into with pit 1 being the largest.  There have been some warriors found up to 3km away!

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Today we are in Chengdu in Sixuan Province and we went to the Chengdu Panda Research and Breeding Centre – the only one in the world! The centre is about 100 hectares with several play enclosures for the pandas as well as a research laboratory.  All the pandas in the centre were bread there – there are about 60 pandas living there at the moment.

We signed up f0r a 1-day panda volunteer internship program at the centre.  This included a behind the scenes tour of the facilities, feeding the pandas, and cleaning their enclosures.  Luckily, there was nothing to clean up in the enclosure that we were in!  But we set up bamboo shoots around the area and then let the panda out to go play and eat.

Pandas spend most of their day eating and sleeping.  They can eat up to 40kg of bamboo/day!

We also got to feed apples and panda cake to the pandas.  They ate it right off the sticks we were holding out to them.

It was an amazing day and I would definitely reccommend it!

Pictures will follow!!

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This was meant to be a post full of not so great photos of dolphins, but the computer is acting up not letting me access my photos to upload them.  So let your imagination run wild. Picture an image which is 98% water, 1.6% sky and 0.4% a white splotch.  That white splotch is a dolphin.  In Hong Kong last week, we went on a boat for a morning to watch the pink dolphins. They are white in colour, but after exercise and activity, like us humans, they become pinkish in colour.

We got to see at least 5 dolphins.  Some were youths, which are grey in colour until they reach adulthood.  We might have seen some mating according to the guide because they do not usually stick close together.

I took several photos probably 200 and should only really keep 20 of them. They aren’t great photos, I was too slow for these fast-moving dolphins.  That said, the experience was great.   The wind on the water and the sun were fantastic.  We didn’t get the opportunity to swim in Hong Kong, which is actually clean enough to swim, but this was a great substitute.  I would definitely recommend it.  We were lucky enough that the boat was not full, so we were able to move around and take plenty of photos.

I’ll try to upload the images again, but for now at least finally there’s another post from this Emily!

Feast your eyes on these puppies, they’re all I could get to upload.

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Some more pictures!

Walking around Guilin

Camel hill at the Seven Stars Park.

Inside the “garish”Reed Flute Cave (but who could call it garish really!!)

A pond inside the cave – this is where they had the laser/light/bubble show

The Sun and Moon Pagodas.  One of them has an elevator making it the only pagoda in the world with an elevator!  Elephant Hill.  That’s the karst we climbed!The steep stairs we took to climb Elephant Hill.

So this park was beside Elephant Hill.  It had elipticals, treadmills and gazelles!  Maybe something we should adopt in Canada?Floating down the Li River on the way to Yangshuo.Lots of bamboo rafts and tourist boats going down the Li River.  There are lots of little villages along the river so these bamboo rafts bring things to and from the villages.

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We climbed a Karst!

What is a Karst you might ask?  It is the name used to describe the mountains found in Guilin – if you scroll up to the picture at the top of the blog, those are Karsts.  Also an interesting tidbit, it’s pronounced Gway-lean not Gwee-lin like I’ve been saying it.

Today we went to the Seven Stars park, the Reed flute Caves and Elephant hill and park.  It was raining for part of the morning while we were at the park but then it cleared up an was actually really warm!  Apparently it rains 5 out of the 7 days a week in Guilin.

The seven stars park had 7 main attractions (hence the name).  The attractions are mainly groups of the karsts that have some interesting characteristics.  For instance, one is called Camel hill and it is 4 karsts in a row with the first one that looks like the head and the last 3 look like it’s humps.

The Reed Flute Cave has been called “garish” by some guide books but it was absolutely amazing!!  It is a large cave full of huge stalactites and stalagmites and a few little ponds.  The “garish” part is the fact that they have bright coloured lights lighting up every corner!!!  It’s so pretty and amazing!  It’s like it was made just for people like me (Emily Dolhan:) )

Elephant hill and park is where we actually climbed one of the karsts!  Elephant hill is a karst with a section in the middle worn out so there is a hole right through it that makes it look like it has a trunk.  You are actually able to climb Elephant Hill so we took the long, steep stairway up to the top of the karst and walked around the top.  There were some pretty amazing views from the top!

Tomorrow we are taking a 4 hour river cruise along the Li River to Yangshuo!!

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