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Showing posts from September, 2016

Chongqing to Yichang on the Yangtze River

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I arrived at Chongqing International Airport around noon on September 30, 2016 after spending the previous two days in Yangshuo. A waiting bus took me from the the airport on the 40-minute drive through traffic into the city to the Yangtze River where the river cruise ship Victoria 5 was docked below the Qiansimen Bridge. That evening I would depart Chongqing and spend the next few days, until midday on October 3, cruising down the Yangtze.


Official check in wasn't until 6:00 pm, but they let me aboard and into my room anyway. I dropped my bags off and then headed back ashore for lunch at a small restaurant a few blocks from the boat. I spent the afternoon exploring the city, which was remarkably difficult to navigate as the city center is situated on a relatively narrow strip of hilly land between two rivers.

The overall feel of Chongqing was drastically different than all the other megacities I've visited in China. Chongqing definitely isn't much of a tourist destinatio…

Yangshuo

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I arrived at Guilin International Airport on a flight from Hangzhou on the evening of September 27, 2016 and proceeded to board a bus for the 1.5-2 hour drive south to Yangshuo. Although it was dark, I was able to see the outlines of some of the hills as the bus approached Yangshuo. Much of the drive was on a highway, but the last quarter of the drive was on a road being that was reconstructed and therefore was extremely bumpy. By the time I arrived at the hotel it was nearly 11:00 pm.


I spent much of the following day exploring and walking around town, which is situated in a narrow valley among the karst hills. The karst topography (formed from limestone) is the region's main attraction, with tens of thousands of the small peaks filling the region to create one of the worlds' most unique landscapes.

I began with a walk from the hotel to the center of town and had an early lunch at Lucy's Cafe before continuing one through to the eastern end of town along the Li River. Af…

Hangzhou

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I arrived in at the Hangzhou East railway station on a high-speed train from Shanghai around 8:00 pm. It was about a 30-minute drive from the railway station to the hotel, but after I checked in, I made my way out into the city and walked towards West Lake. I stopped at a bar and got what was probably the second best Chinese beer I had during the trip (only to at Great Leap Brewing in Beijing). Once at the lake, there wasn't much to see since it was dark, other than distant lights across the lake, but there several other people walking the paths along the lake.



The next morning, I went to China's national tea museum on the opposite side of West Lake from the hotel. The museum is situated among tea plantations in the forested hills, which were a nice change from the flat terrain and sprawling urban landscapes of Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Suzhou. The museum itself was fairly small and almost empty, but afterwards I was able to try several different Chinese teas prepared by a tea …

Shanghai

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I arrived in Shanghai at Pudong International Airport and took the maglev into the city before taking the subway to reach my hotel for the next few days. I stayed at the New Harbour Service Apartment centrally located near the Shanghai Museum.



Over the course of the following days in Shanghai, I went to many of the city's typical tourist attractions. On my first full day in the city I visited the Bund (during the day), Jade Buddha Temple, Old City, Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai Museum, People's Square, French Concession, and Nanjing Road, among other places. The Old City was packed with people, and Nanjing Road and the Bund quite busy, but many of the other places were not that busy. The Shanghai Museum was quite underwhelming, and the French Concession really is really just a gentrified neighborhood.



For one afternoon, I made the trek across the Huangpu River to Pudong, where many of the city's tallest buildings are located. My first stop was the Shanghai Tower, the second tal…

Suzhou & Zhouzhuang

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A couple hour's drive west of Shanghai is the city of Suzhou, home to about 10 million people. As the first part of a day tour, I went to one of the city's many ancient gardens, the Master of the Nets Garden. This garden was originally constructed in 1140, and it was the first of three traditional Chinese gardens I visited on my trip to China (followed by Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai and the Imperial Garden in Beijing). There were many fewer people in Master of Nets Garden than either of the other two, which also made it much more enjoyable.


After the garden, we stopped at a silk factory, where we were able to experience every part of the silk-making process from the silkworms feeding on mulberry leaves to layering silk to form blankets. We were forced to spend time in the factory's store at then end of the tour, but once we were finally able to leave, we continued across the street to a restaurant for lunch. 

Following lunch, we took about an hour's drive west toward Sh…