Thursday, August 10, 2006

China 2006

The Silk Road Direction Map
Terra Cotta Museum, Xian
Kanas National Geopark, Xinjiang
Erdaowan, Kanas Lake, Xinxiang
Kanas National Geopark
Kanas Lake, Xinjiang
The Heaven Lake, Urumuqi
Ming Sha Shan, Dun Huang
The Monkey God, Turpan

The Big Goose Pagoda , Xian
Urumqi, Xinjiang
Hua Shan, Xian

" My 16 days in Northern Xinjiang, China - Xian, Turpan, Dun Huang, Urumqi & Kanas ( 9 - 26/5/2006 ) - following the Silk Road trail & taking a peep at the Kanas Lake "

Total expenses incurred (16 days) : RM2,926

Malaysian Airline Flight Itinerary ( 9-26 May 2006 )
Booking Date: 5 April 2006
Depart KLIA: 11.00am 9 May 2006
Arrive Xian: 3.00pm 9 May 2006
Depart Xian: 3.00pm 26 May 2006
Arrive KLIA:9.00pm 26 May 2006
MAS Flight: FOC (MAS Frequent flyer points)
Fuel Tax: RM236
Travel Insurance: RM122
Visa Fee: RM40
Airport taxi: RM100
Train Tickets: Rmb766
Hostels: Rmb685
Airport bus: Rmb85
Food: Rmb935
Tour Packages + entrance fees: Rmb2,380

Currency Exchange: RM1.0=Rmb 2.0(Chinese Yuan)

This was my first overseas free and easy (backpacking) trip after my retirement in May 2006. I picked China as I had previously visited this country to places like the bigger cities of Beijing, Kunming, Shanghai & Guangzhou, mainly by package tours. My travel buddy for this trip was my first younger brother and as both of us are conversant in Mandarin so there was no communication issue especially in dealing with the general public.

Why Northern Xinjiang ? As I was looking for something different and exotic in China , I thought it would be exciting to follow the Silk Road trail which allowed me to get a feel of the old ancient trade route dating back to the Tang dynasty. This route starting from Xian to Kanas also took us to visit seven wonderful places which come under the "Wonders of the World" category:

Civilised Wonders of the World

1) Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Terra Cotta Warriors & Horses (Binmayong)
2) Mogao Grottoes
3) Big Goose Pagoda ( DaYan Ta)

Natural Wonders of the World

4) Kanas Lake Nature Reserve
5) Karamay Dessert
6) Flamimg Mountains (HuoYan Shan)
7) Heaven Lake ( Tian Shan Tian Chi)

The entire journey covered three northern provinces of China ( Shaanxi, Gansu & Xinjiang ) over a distance of 6,700km ( to and return ) from Xian to Kanas.

" Travel along the silk route by train in China is an adventure , long distance , arduous , vast climatic change etc - so be prepared for it but the return on investment for your travel is a delicious one"

Day-1 Xian, Shaanxi China (2006)

Our MAS flight departed KLIA at 9.00am and after 4 hours of flying, we arrived in Xian (7 million people) at 2.00pm. After collecting our backpacks, we walked to a airport shuttle bus (Rmb25) parked on the left hand side of the Xian airport exit. The bus ride to Xian city took around 50 mins (40km) and stopped in front of the Melody Hotel. We took a taxi (Rmb4) and checked into the Shuyuan Youth Hostel (Rmb72 per room for two), located on the west of the South Gate.

After the hostel check in, we spent our time exploring this ancient city, which was called Chang An, during the Sui and Tang dynasty.

As it was spring time, the day was short and by 5.00pm, the sky started to turn grey and dark.

1) For our first orientation, we passed and saw the Old City Wall, a pagoda, Drum Tower. Bell Tower, Forest of Steles Museum ( exhibits of books, labels & tablets ) , The Great Mosque, Muslim Quarter.

For dinner, we ate yangrou paomo. a soup dish with shredded lamb stock with a piece of flat bread breaking into small chunks to absorb the broth. The restaurant is called Lao Sun Jia, with more than 100 years of history and served the best lamb dishes in town.

After the dinner, we took an evening stroll and took some night pictures of a brighly lit old building tower and a Malaysian departmental store , Parkson .

" Xian or Chang An ( ancient city name ), the starting point of the Silk Road to India by a Chinese monk and today I am revisiting some of these places going back to the Tang Dynasty - lucky me travelling in modern transport and not on camels, horses or bare foot ! "

D-2 Xian, Shaanxi China (2006)

Today we spent our time exploring Xian city in greater depth.

1) City Wall, Xian - We started our morning visit to the old city wall of Xian . We paid Rmb40 per person and entered the City Wall via the South Gate. Some stretches of city walls are no longer passable, others were restored or rebuilt. The walls have solid foundation and each gate has a watch tower.

2) Shanxi History Museum (Rmb35) - This museum has some 400,000 pieces of artefacts from the Shang, Western Zhou, Qin, Han, Western Wei, Northern Zhou, Sui Tang, Ming & Qing dynasties. We spent 3 hours and took our time to look at the various objects on display.

3) The big and little Wild Goose Pagoda - Entry to the little goose pagoda costs Rmb30. Originally built in AD707, this pagoda housed the old Buddhist scriptures brought back from India by a devoted pilgrim.

The big wild goose pagoda was built by Emperor Gaozong (Tang Dynasty) in AD648. This pagoda housed the Buddhist scriptures brough back by the famous travelling monk, Xuan Zang ( following the Silk Road trail ) and did all the translations into Chinese scripts in this pagoda until his death. You paid Rmb20 to enter.

Yesterday, we paid a small service fee to our hostel reception to help purchased two train tickets for our trip to Turpan ( Rmb255 for a sleeper bed ). We arrived at the Xian train station at around 4.00pm and found the departure hall very congested and packed with people, luggages and hand carried goods were lying everywhere at the seating area. Our train departed Xian at around 6.10pm.

To avoid the large crowd, we bought an early entry train ticket voucher ( Rmb5) which entitled us to enter the train a few minutes earlier to find our seats. We slept in the train for two nights for this journey to Turpan, Xinjiang ( 2 1/2 hr by bus from Urumqi )

" Xian - many places of historical interest spanning over 13 dynasties for more than 1,062 years. The Chinese has this saying if you do not visit the Emperor Qin Si Huang's Terra Cotta Warriors & Horses when in China, you can not say you have been to China ! "

D-3 Xian, Shaanxi China (2006)

Today, we signed up a one day Xian East Route tour (Rmb20)  organized by a local state tourism office operating from a kisok by the side of a main road in downtown Xian. The tour was to start at 8.00am and take us to 6 touristy places 1) Lintong Museum 2) Lishan 3) Qing Ling 4) Qing Shi Huang Ling 5) Bingmayong 6) Huaqing Pool

1) Lintong Museum (30Rmb) - A relic exhibition from Zhou & Qin Dynasty. The most interesting display was the gold and silver inner and outer coffins made in the Zhou dynasty.

2) Li Shan (Rmb30) - The mountain of Li Shan is a popular forest reserve area in Shaanxi and also famous for it's hot spring, It is located about 30km from Xian. There are some 20 historical sites in this area eg Bingmayong, Huaqing Pools, Tomb of Qing Shi Huang, The site of a Xian Incident involving a military coup by nationalist generals during the communist Mao and Chou Eng Lai's era in the 1930's. The site covers various sections ie Remonstration Pavilion, meeting, resting & security rooms, a garden, and a spot near a cliff side where General Chiang Kai Sek used as an escape route.

3) Qing Ling (Rmb30) - A replica of the Qing Palace based on historical facts unearthed. The re-constructed model gives visitors an imagination on the emperor's dwelling in ancient times.

4) Qin Shi Huang Ling (Rmb40) - This is the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. We took a rail car to tour the place and and saw some ancient drainage system and ruins on display by the side of the concrete path. There was also a thirty minute of live performance of artists dressed in traditional Qin costumes to thrill the visitors & tourists.

5) Bingmayong , The Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shihuang (Rmb90) - Excavated and discovered in 1974, this 2,000 year old terra cotta warriors , horses, chariots unearthed found in various pits were offically opened to the public in Oct 1979. No wonder this place has been claimed as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The museum continued to attract a lot of local and foreign tourists and it's a must see tourist site in Xian. The farmer who discovered the site was at the Museum office to sign autographs for a book on sale to visitors.

6) Huaqing pool & Lady Yang Gui Fei (Rmb30) - At the foot of Li Shan mountain we visited the site of the Huaqing pool where the Tang Emperor and Lady Yang took their baths in the hot springs. Lady Yang is known as one of the four great beauties in Chinese history. Huaqing pool is also the site where General Chiang Kai Sek took refuge during the Xian miliatry coup started by General Zhang Xue Liang.

" If you love Chinese history , follow the Silk Road trail ! "