Tuesday, 29 September 2009

My top 5 favourite destinations in the world

Top 1: Angkor Wat
Where? Cambodia
When? January 2006
With who? Lukas and Monika
Anecdote: Remember the lost temples in the movie Tomb Raider (Lara Croft)? This is it, Angkor Wat, the 1000 years old temples where trees are growing on it. The most beautiful place in the world on my list.

Top 2: Perhentian Island
Where? Malaysia
When? September 2009
With who? Sarah, my colleague
Anecdote: Translucid blue sea, turtles, sharks, sun, a paradise on earth. But be aware, on this island there are some innoffensive pretty huge varans (till 1,5 meters long!)
Top 3: Rotorua
Where? New Zealand
When? April 2005
With who? Solange
Anecdote: The whole city of Rotorua smells like rotten eggs :) It's a geothermic site with geysers, bubbling mud...Amazing to see

Top 4: Guilin, Yangshuo
Where? China
When? July 2009
With who? Stephen, my colleague
Anecdote: Great scenery, you can do a tour on a small wooden boat (5 people max), less tourists if you go at 12pm (everybody goes there at 9am).
Top 5:
Santorini Island
Where? Greece
When? May 2008
With who? Louise, my best friend
Anecdote: Santorini has a white, a red and a black beach.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Back to the origins

After one year spent in Asia, 2 internships, 1 in Malaysia, 1 in China, 6 countries travelled, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and China, I am now back home in France at my hometown La Rochelle. I will keep this blog updated for my next trips, as I can't live without travelling...

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Weizhou island

From Beihai, i decided to go to Weizhou island, as it was not touristic (only mentioned on Lonely Planet). There are 2 kinds of ferries to go there, the speed ones (1,5 hour, 120 to 240 yuan for a seat) and the slow one (2,5/3 hours, 80 yuan). I took the slow one, it departed at 5pm from the International Wharf. As expected, only Chinese on board, it was funny, the sea was a bit agitated, so big waves were hitting the ferry, so it was pitching all way long. 10 minutes after the departure, 1/3rd of the passengers were hitted by seasickness. I guess they didn't think about the problem before! That's why so many locals on the island try to sell you medicines.

I was disappointed to see that we had to pay an expensive entrance fee for the island (I mostly went there for the beach so...) which is 90 yuan for adults and 50 for students, quite a lot of money, mosty because government decided a few years ago to class this island as a volcanic reserve. Ok, this is the only volcanic island in China, but I went in Greece in Santorini Island, didn't pay any fee and it was much more beautiful. I was quite disppointed because I booked a hostel there Piggybar Youth Hostel with a very nice overview and photos, which didn't mention the island entrance price and which actually was not as nice as the pictures. A night in dorm was only 35 yuan but it was a 0,5 cm mattress!! and sleeping in a prefab. Most of the bicycles you can rent were broken.
Then, the beach, dot not worth Thailand or even Beihai, because the locals throw their waste in the ocean! Ok at least the sea temperature was hot, and I got tanned, what I wanted!

Riding around the island was not very convenient, there were big up and downs road as many hills.

Surprising Beihai

Still in the Guangxi province, I went on my own to Beihai and couchsurfed at Grant's place (Stephen left to Chengdu). As going on holidays to the beach is quite recent for Chinese, they are so excited about the sea! The first week of paid holidays date back from 1992, then the 2nd one from 1999, only 10 years ago.
Beihai used to be a start point for the Silk Road and also part of the colonial Indochina (1858-1954), so there I've seen the former French consulate, now a hotel, and also the former UK consulate (now a school).
On the road, I once saw a farmer walking his goats on the tarmac roads of Beihai, and cows eating the grass near from the beach! Unexpected things happen in Beihai!
Bus from Nanning lasts 3 hours (50 yuan).

Friday, 31 July 2009

Magnificent Guilin

I went with my colleague and friend Stephen to South China for 10 days. We took the 22 hour train on 'hard seat!', the worst class on train but I never experienced yet sleeping on a hard seat.
Train was leaving at 17.01 and arriving at Guilin at 14.25 the next day. Ticket was so cheap 194 yuan (20€) for 1 631 km!
Once in Guilin, there is not much to do, just a few spots to visit, wandering in the city is quite pleasant (a few free parks with pagodas) but people actually want to go to YANGSHUO (about 1 hour South-East from Guilin). There are buses every 10 minutes from Guilin train station, even if you don't speak Chinese, there are touts (rabatteurs) everywhere and same price everywhere (15 yuan). Actually this is the express bus (with air con), there are also 'normal' buses going to Yangshuo from the Bus Station, but not worthy (too many stops and not sure about air con).

Here is a good map of Yangshuo surrounding http://www.chinahighlights.com/image/guilin/map/yangshuo-scenic-map.jpg

Here it is the famous landscape from Guilin: the Li river cruise. That was as I expected, MAGNIFICENT, quiet, clean.
We took a bus to Yangdi from Yangshuo (8 yuan/1,5 hour) then found a boat (there are many waiting for customers) that we shared with 3 Cantonese students. We paid 30 yuan each for a 2 hour cruise, what a bargain when you imagine most people book the tour organised by their hotel for 350-400 yuan/person!! And frankly, this is much better to do the cruise on a small boat (max 5 people) than on the big touristic & expensive boat. At the end of the cruise, there was the scenery of the Chinese 20 yuan banknote.
For going back to Xingping, there were buses (5,5 yuan, 45 min).
Yangshuo city is welcoming. It became very touristic (many clothes and souvenirs shops as well as may pizzerias!) though it is still a charming city.

Then, we went to Longsheng, 2 hours drive from Guilin (17 yuan) on local bus that stopped nearly everywhere to try to have more people getting in. Once in Longsheng, we regretted not staying on a village like some locals offered us, Longsheng is so boring! Anyway, we've been to the LONGJI TERRACE RICEFIELDS and it was amazing. It took again a couple of hours driving on a minibus (minibuses leave every 1.30 hour from Longsheng, 8 yuan). As we arrive on the late afternoon, we were the only foreigners. Locals were offering us to stay the night at their home in one of the many villages settled in the middle of the ricefields. Too bad we already booked a hotel in Longsheng.

A map of Longji Terraces Ricefields on http://www.chinadiscover.net/china-tour/guilinguide/longsheng-map.htm

Friday, 17 July 2009

Bamboo Rafting

I went to a 2 day trip with Bamboo Rafting organised to Yuhang (near Hangzhou). The travel agency invited 40 foreigners living in Shanghai to join 40 Chinese to compete in bamboo rafting. And it was free of charge for foreigners, lucky us!

So we left Shanghai by bus for a 3 hour drive. Here we were, people (mostly students) from Sweden, Latvia, UK, Korea, Niger, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Brasil, Russia, France...

The competition started the second day, with teams of FIVE, doing a race, the first challenge was to be the fastest to the arrival on a bamboo raft. In 5 minutes, it was done. We won our serie but the Chinese were faster.
The second competition was a slalom one on an air-boat. 14 minutes to paddle, it was hard!
The day finished by a swim in the rivern this felt so good when you know it's 35° outside, then a barbecue and a bonfire.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Beach near Shanghai: Jinshanwei

One day in May, I went to a beach called Jinshanwei 金山卫 with Stephen and Morgane, located two-hours South of Shanghai.

We were so craving about the beach, because temperature was already very high in May. As you may wonder, Jinshanwei is not a natural beach but it's ok, at least we were on the sand. You can see on my pic that they separed the natural sea (look at this grey sea on the back of the beach!! yes this is normal color of the sea!) and the treated sea (much nicer color, isn't it?)
Although, the part of the beach we went to, couldn't swim, they've put some lines preventing, probably other parts of the beach you can swim. There are jet-ski, boats, bicycles with 3 seats...and most of the Chinese who came with their tent and kept their clothes on (because you know, they come to the beach but don't want to get tanned!). It was funny, because we were the only ones to wear a swim-suit (except another the only other couple of foreigners), so we spotted a dozen Chinese trying to take a picture of us, prentending they were photographing the sea. haha.

Direction: at Shanghai South West Bus station, near Shanghai South Railway Metro Station 上海南站, line 1, take the bus 上石线 , ticket costs 10RMB and lasts about 1h45-2hours. This bus leaves at sharp time, i.e. 12pm, 1pm...This bus is also stopping at the bus stop in front of Lianhua metro Station, line 1, maybe more convenient.
Jinshanwei is the last stop (everybody gets off there anyway) called 石化汽车站, then the beach is at walking distance 500 meters and free.
A bus map here -> http://www.ddmap.com/mstmap50007/g_sch_bus.jsp?buskeyname=%C9%CF%CA%AF%CF%DF&mapno=21&schtype=1

Friday, 10 July 2009

Back Back Back

Finally! I found a way to access my blog again: a good proxy and i'm back! FYI, it's been 4 days that facebook is censored and months for youtube, dailymotion, blogspot, wordpress...
Sometimes google and hotmail also. Well, this is China. That's why i had to stop writing.

So I am still in Shanghai and just finished my internship as an Industrial Relations Assistant.

I will go back to France on 1st August. In between, I have 3 weeks to spend, so here is my plan:
- Hangzhou: Bamboo rafting
- Guilin, Yangshuo
- Beihai, Weizhou island
- if have enough time, Guizhou province

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Suzhou, Venice of the East

Went to Suzhou, a 40-minutes train trip from Shanghai. Pleasant city, it was the second time i've been there (last time was 3 years ago). Often called Venice of the East thanks to its canals crossing by the city.
Even in hard seat (2nd class), the train was confortable (26 RMB), with hostesses giving free water from Tibet to passengers. You can find schedule of the trains in English here

We went to the Silk Museum (15 RMB), interesting, with English explanations, you can see the former routes of the silk road, silkworms and machines used to make silk.
Then, we went to the Humble Administrator Garden, in French 'Le Jardin de la Politique des Simples' (70 RMB). Though a bit pricey for China, it's worthy, the garden is really big, with some islands, a bonsai garden inside. As most of Suzhou's gardens (9 out of 10), this garden is ranked at Unesco's Heritage. On the 16th century, Suzhou used to have more than 100 gardens, it was a very popular city for artists, teachers, many liked to retire in there.
North Pagoda

Sunday, 3 May 2009

MIDI Festival

This week end in the city of Zhenjiang 镇江 takes place the biggest outdoor rock festival in China MIDI Festival. Many concerts of Chinese and foreign groups from 2pm to 11pm.

We (Morgane, Stephen, Emma and myself) went there on Friday 1st May, Labour Day, by train 1h50 from Shanghai. Usually the event is held in Beijing, but this year they decided to do it in Zhenjiang, not far from Wuxi, in Jiangsu province. Organisation was bad, after having bought the entrance tickets on-site, we had to wait something like one hour to get in, tickets checking took so long and with all the Chinese pushing to get in first...
We saw Sand (Chinese), Turdus Musicus (Norway), Twisted Machine (Chinese), Again (Chinese) and Mike TV (UK).Queue for entering the stageMike TV (YK)