On the great wall of China
The Forbidden City was gigantic. However the three of us were somewhat unimpressed with its size. We zipped around and entertained ourselves by making videos of ourselves hiding behind dustbins and climbing down stairs..as you do! We then visited the Summer Palace which really was something to write home about. Stunning architecture, gardens, temples, and views of the city and lake. It was a serene setting and possibly another moment of awe (which I talk of often). Besides the Summer palace we frequented the Silk market too many times- returning to the hostel with only the essential- such as the Scrubs box series! We also visited the Chinese Opera- let me save you all.. don't go.. it was terrible!!
Overnight train to Pingyao
Once we had sorted our flight we booked our train for Pingyao. The whole train experience was another cultural adventure. 6 people crammed onto hard sleepers, with no space above your head to sit up and a most unpleasant hole in the ground for a toilet! It was also the place where GI Joe lost her wallet and had a very brief break down (we saw the tears)! It ended up being quite the adventure as the friendly railway officers found the wallet and welcomed us to fetch it amidst much aplomb. I feel our photos will hang on their official visitors wall alongside Chairman Mao for a very long time!
Pingyao was possibly one of the best cities Ive visited and definitely the best hostel Ive stayed at. The rustic guesthouse suited us perfectly, with a traditional Chinese bed and warm fluffy towels. The food was just the most delicious and the staff too helpful for words. We saw the Wang courtyard which is more of a castle/Chinese house, than just a courtyard. (A must see if you are head to those parts).
Xian (home of the terracotta warriors)
And also where we ran into 'The Boys'; Stephen, David, and Jules. We were just settling down to a few rounds of beer when they invited us to watch the water show.. seeing as our lonely planet barely had a broken spine..we were happy that there were people whom knew what was going on. The water/ light show was brilliant..again..a must see if you manage to get there. These boys have just embarked on their travels and they are full of youthful exuberance!
Being organised to a new level- which if I was honest was a true blessing to us! We forged our friendship around the pool table and drinking table where a spirited game of 'Ive never' brought with it some surprises, but also the realisation that these boys were great! We ruined their plans of seeing the warriors the next day- however we huddled together and nursed our hangovers on a cycle trip along the xian city wall. That night I witnessed the longest game of scrabble ever!Who knew people could sit for so long staring at a bunch of words! Terracotta warriors: brilliant.. and very exciting that we got to see it all. cant really describe it- you guys know what they look like.. however it is something special to be standing in front of them all. After the warriors we ..and by we.. I mean Steph.. coz at this point we had wisely decided to follow the boys everywhere they went.. booked our tickets to Chengdu- home of the Giant Panda's. That night we all got smashed again.. played a fantastic round of chicken game..a disastrous round of pool..and then a sing along in our room whilst I played
After a lovely night in the train (Jules kept everyone awake with his snoring).. we arrived in Chengdu. Again Steph and David organised things for us- and the next day we saw not only the cutest animals in the world.. the panda's but the Leshan giant Buddha. Both sights memorable and a must do. Again it was time to organise ourselves- so Dave and Steph got on the case. There was much talk of climbing up a mountain and staying in hostels. If it had been left up to the girls..we would've stayed in foetal position cradling beers for the entire time. Before we could blink we were traipsing the streets in search of trampling shoes and we had all the plans laid down for our trek! It was not an auspicious start as it pissed it down on the first day. Not only did it piss it down but Jess and I came to the realisation that 3500m above sea level was mighty high and that we were going to have to haul our lard inactive arses all that way! (You could smell the fear). As we navigated the first flight of stairs..we thought..sweet.. half way there.. but as the hours dragged on.. so did the never ending stairs (we were half expecting St. Peter himself to greet us at the top)! Everyone entertained themselves in their own way.. Jo said 'for fecks sake' quite a lot.. Jess sang to herself and said 'Are you shitting me' a lot.. and I.. well.. I made everyone call me 'Mountain Goat'..which took quite a lot of persuasion..and distracted the troops! Speaking of troops.. Jess got attacked by a vicious giant gorilla.. luckily Jo was at hand to prevent her from flying off the edge.. and I beat the animal to near death with my bamboo stick! (If you wish to hear the truth... don't ask me)!! The first night we stayed at a dank and moldy monastery.. which was actually quite an experience. There was no hot showers.. so Jess and I got crazy and had a cold one with snow sitting outside. The toilets were even worse.. more like communal holes in the ground.. 'RELAX'!.. Jess and I couldn't be any closer!
The next day included more stairs..more moaning..but lots of laughs..and a little snow ball fight. Eventually after 16hrs of climbing stairs we reached the golden summit amongst a blanket of clouds and mist. We checked ourselves into the most expensive hotel and prepared ourselves for the sunrise the following day. Captain Steph roused the troops at the forbidden hour (before sunrise) and we marched to the top with great anticipation. It was a great end to a truly great three days. I have never seen a sunrise like it, and I'm not sure if I will ever again. We were sitting high above the clouds with the golden ball rising from below. We were all suitably in awe.The photos are in no way a true reflection of how good it was. That night we all made our travel arrangements to go our separate ways. It was going to be our last night together so we all showered, dressed up.. and put our drinking hats on for a big send off. A game of 'black or red' saw Jess consume her amber liquid like a pro.. saw Dave and I dance with Steph accompanying us with his musical prowess.. Jo go to bed early.. and Jules..well we're not too sure if he was awake or not (his eyes have difficulty staying open when he's had a drink or two)! It was a great night..and we were all pretty miserable to wake up at 5am and leave our boys behind. (May the spirit of the blue pillow live on)!
The last 4 days were spent in Hong Kong under the watchful eye of Bella whom spoiled us rotten. Showed us the local culture.. paid for all our food.. and managed to get my hair cut after a years growth. The three of us couldn't express enough our gratitude to her!(My hair thanks you as well)! It was obviously a sad moment for us as the travels were over and reality was waiting for us.
Jess and I got drunk on the plane (with great difficulty as the poms were having none of it)..and Mum welcomed me into her arms with an 'Oh dear she's drunk'!
So- here I am.. sitting in my PJ's.. hoping that a brilliant job will fall into my lap.. reflecting on 10 months of travel...
what have I learnt: (YOU CAN SKIP THIS IF YOU'R SHORT OF TIME)
1. Always keep a local between yourself and the traffic
2. Mates rates is one way of ensuring your mate gets some hot ass
3. Ecuador people will rip you off
4. Your travel partner may try to divorce you, but the love is too strong
5. We will always have Wanaka
7. One Moment please.. is extremely funny on a hangover with some HASHISH
8. Jess will always be 'The Cleaner'!
9. It was the summer of Us
10. Goon is cheap but will make you crazy!
11. Short Shorts will buy itself drinks
12. Jess is a dork, and she can't talk to me when I am being 'like this'!
13. Irish boys are always cute
14. Jo knows a lot about music
15. I can win musical chairs
16. McDonald's runs at 3am ends in trouble
18. Don't make people a priority in your life if you are an option in theirs
19. I will always have snake dreams when Jess is ripped from my life. (BANANA)!
Author: Henry Date: July 16, 2008