Sunday, September 30, 2012

China 2012

" Walking can add minutes to your LIFE ! " 

" LIFE is a choice. It is your LIFE. Choose consciously. Choose wisely. Choose honestly. Choose happiness " 

" LIFE is precious. Value it. " 

" My 22 days solo visit to China (Guilin, Chengdu, Beichuan, Xian, Xining, Golmud, Yushu, Garze, Kangding & Fenghuang; from 1-22/9/2012) - taking the treacherous mountain roads from Qinghai to Sichuan (stunning scenery) and visiting the earthquake stricken towns of Beichuan & Yushu (grief & a lifetime of sorrow for the affected families) " 

Total Expenses Incurred in China (22 days) : Y3,308 + Rm776 = Rm2,420 (Euro$605)

Travel itinerary:
- KL>Guilin>Chengdu & Beichuan >Xian> Xining >Golmud >Xining
- Xining>Yushu>Garze>Kangding>Chengdu
- chengdu>Huaihua>Fenghuang>Liuzhou>Guilin

- Air Asia promo ticket (booking date 17/10/2011): RM758 (incl airport tax, insurance, meals & luggage fee; KL>Guilin (06.25>10.25); Guilin>KL (11.10>15.20)
- Airport shuttle bus (LCCT): Rm18
- Hostels (14 nights) : Y690 (dorms)
- Airport shuttle bus (Guilin) : Y40
- Trains: Y805
- Long distance bus: Y799
- Taxi / pubic bus: Y122
- Metro: Y24
- Food: Y684
- Sundries: Y144
Exchange Rate: Rm$1 = Y0.497; US$1=Rm3.05; Euro$1=Rm4.0

This was my 5th free & easy trip to China. The first was in 2006. In the past few visits to China, I spent a total of 3-4 weeks for each trip. To date, I had visited all the provinces and municipal cities in China except the provinces of Hainan & Tibet. China has 27 provinces and 4 municipal cities (ie Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai & Chongqing). 

Due to the strict entry protocol, my attempts of visiting Tibet as a solo traveler had not been successful this time. So for this trip, I focused my visits exploring Qinghai (Xining, Golmud & Yushu) & south-west of Sichuan (Garze & Kangding) which have a strong Tibet culture. The Qinghai to Sichuan route is less traveled due to the treacherous mountain roads, deep valleys, vast grasslands, poor public amenities & infrastructure, high altitude ( 3,000-5,000m above sea level ), sub zero temperature at night even in Spring, basic accommodation etc. The scenery from Xining to Golmud is rather monotonous but from Xining to Yushu , Garze and Kangding, the scenery en route is magnificent. 

Buying a hard or soft sleeper bed train ticket in China is a major challenge in most of the train stations as these tickets are easily sold out unless you book them 5-6 days in advance. So quite often, we end up taking a hard seat (or even a standing ticket) for an arduous 20 hr train journey !

My fellow Qigong mate from USJ, Mr Choy joined me for the first 10 days of the trip and both of us had a jolly good time visiting some selected places of interest around Guilin, Chengdu & Xian.

For this trip, I had the opportunity of visiting two grief-stricken towns which were devastated by major earthquakes in 2008 & 2010 ie Beichuan (Sichuan) and Yushu (Qinghai).

Before ending my visit, I had a relaxing 3 day rest in Fenghuang (Phoenix City) in the Hunan province.

I shall return to China in 2013 and focused on those UNESCO heritage sites that I have yet to visit and not to forget the last two Chinese provinces I yearn to see ie Hainan & Tibet.

Travel Highlights: 

1) Guilin, Guanxi

2) Chengdu, Sichuan

3) Beichuan, Sichuan

4) Xian, Shaanxi

5) Golmud, Qinghai

6) Yushu, Qinghai

7) Garze, Sichuan

8) Kangding, Sichuan

9) Fenghuang, Hunan

The secret of life is not to do what you like, but to like what you do "

"The above sign was put up in a small village in Qinghai province . It simply said a fine of Y$100 is to be imposed on anyone for passing urine or motion freely in this designated place - One up for China in preserving the public health environment"

Guilin, Guangxi China (2012)

Hostel: How Flowers Hostel (3 nights) - Y45 (double bed) + Y35x2 (dorm) 
Train: Guilin>Chengdu East - Y104
Airport shuttle bus: Y20 x 2
Food: Y124
Sundry: Y84
Total cost incurred (3 days): Y467
Guilin was our first city of call in China. From Guilin, I then planned my trips (mainly by trains or long distance buses) to Chengdu, Xian, Xining, Golmud , Yushu , Garze, Kangding & Fenghuang. I stayed a total of 3 nights in Guilin and spent most of my time resting in the youth hostel and wandering around the city center and enjoying the local food.

In 2004, I had visited the Guanxi province on a 7 day package tour with my wife and other relatives so I skipped visiting the major touristy places in Guilin on this trip. 

Guilin, Guanxi

" President Bill Clinton's visit to Lijiang River & Yangshuo in 1998. The landscape in Guilin is not only belong to China but also belong to the whole world . East or West, Guilin scenery is the best "

Chengdu, Sichuan China (2012)

Hostel (3 nights): Chengdu Traffic Inn - Y55x2 (double bed) + Y45 (dorm)
Train: Chengdu>Xian - Y113 (hard seat)
Taxi: Y22 (cost sharing)
Metro: Y16
Food: Y72
Sundries: Y10
Total cost incurred (3 days): Y388

Chengdu, Sichuan

This was my second visit to Chengdu. In Sept 2010, I visited a number of UNESCO heritage sites in and around Chengdu ie Giant Buddha in Mt Leshan, Mt Qingcheng , Dujiangyan, Jiuzhaigou , Huanglong, Jinsha Ruins, Du Fu thatched cottage, Wenshu Monastery, Wuhou Shrine, Jinli Street etc. We planned to visit Emeishan but decided not to go due to time constraints. However, we visited the People's Park, Mao's statute and the area around Lin Jiang Zhong Lu.

Chengdu by night

" Chengdu, Sichuan is the home of the giant pandas; China has recently loaned two pandas (Kai Kai & Jia Jia) to Singapore for 10 years; Malaysia is in the waiting list and Malaysians are eagerly & excited awaiting the arrival of two baby pandas from China - how about naming them as Ji Ji and Ding Ding ? "

Beichuan. Sichuan China (2012)

Bus: Chengdu>Ann Chang - Y41; Ann Chang>Bei Chuan - Y10; 
Bei Chuan>Mian Yang - Y15; Bei Chuan tour bus- Y10.
Train:  Mian Yang>Chengdu hard seat) - Y19
Food: Y10
Total cost incurred (1 day): Y105

Beichuan Earthquake Memorial, Sichuan

When we were in Chengdu, our first thought was to visit the Wenchuan earthquake epicenter. However, there were public transport issues and after seeking advice from the locals, we opted for a visit by taking buses from Chengdu to Ann Chang and then to Beichuan earthquake memorial. Upon our return, we took a bus from Beichuan to Mian Yang and then a double decker train from Mian Yang to Chengdu, this was less stressful than the earlier bus trips we took from Chengdu

The ruins of the May 2008 earthquake in Beichuan have been preserved and opened to tourist's visits in recent months. Some 8,600 people, half of the population of this scenic town perished in this massive earthquake.

The aftermath of the 2008 earthquake in old Beichuan, now abandoned and preserved as a memorial museum for the public to view. A Chinese flag pole still standing tall in the background of a devastated primary school ! 

" LIFE is precious. Value it. LIFE is like a see-saw full of ups and downs. Nothing in LIFE is certain except death & taxes. Every day, every hour & every minute is special. And you don't know if it will be your last ! LIFE is a constant challenge ! Don't take LIFE for granted. Cherish every moment you have " 

Xian, Shaanxi China (2012)

Hostel: 7 Sages (Qixian) Youth Hostel - Y90 x 2 nights (double bed)
Train: Chengdu>Xian - Y113 (hard seat); Xian>Xining - Y120 (hard seat) 
Food: Y156
Bus: Y22
Sundries: Y10
Total cost incurred (3 days) : Y601

Xian, Shaanxi

My 2nd visit to Xian - In May 2006, I spent 4 days in Xian and visited Terracotta Warriors Museum, Hua Shan, Huaqing Hot Spring, Imperial Tomb of Tang, Famen Pagoda, Wild Goose Pagodas, Old City Wall, Muslim Quarter, Bell & Drum Tower, Shaanxi History Museum etc.

So it was another down the memory lane trip for me in Xian, sampling some of the best Xian food in the Muslim Quarter

We stayed for 2 nights at the 7 Sages (Qixian) Youth Hostel in Xian, an old historical court yard located within walking distance from the Xian train station. We really sleep very well in this old court yard youth hostel !
Bell & Drum Tower

City Walls of Xian

Xian Train Station

Muslim Quarter

The Great Mosque of Xian

The Museum of Terra Cotta of Warriors & Horses

Shaanxi History Museum

The 7 Sages Youth Hostel, Xian

" Xian or named as Chang An during the Tang dynasty; the 2,000 year old Army of Terracotta Warriors; Old Buddhist scriptures & finger bones of Buddha in Famem Temple, Imperial tombs; the steep 2160m high Hua Shan; Pagodas; Mutton Paomo - Old is gold in Xian, so plenty for you to explore and learn a history lesson starting from Qin dynasty "