11 October 2010

China Part I

A glaring sun and air so thick and humid you could cut pieces out of it- when we stepped out of the bus, with heavy rucksacks on our shoulders, I felt miserable. My head was dizzy, it was the lack of sleep and the ridiculous heat that didn't make me feel glad I'm in China yet.

That bus was awesome.

A foodstreet in Luoyang

First and best Kebab I had in China

Stop #1 Luoyang 洛陽
Luoyang wasn't even the beginning. Our first obstacle was in Beijing, after we had landed. Our original plan was to go to Luoyang by train, directly after landing in Beijing. But when we entered Beijing West Railwaystation and saw that massive amount of people everywhere, we knew that it couldn't work out the way we wanted to. It was sometime after 8pm, of course they didn't have any train tickets for the same evening anymore. So we had to settle with hard seats on a 9 hours ride for the next evening. We searched for our hostel where we would stay later during the trip and luckily they still had two vacant beds for us.
So we had to spend a day in Beijing involuntarily, but OK.
On the train to Luoyang my friend had to experience the extremely wide culture gap between East and West. Firstly, she is white and blonde, that means, she sticks out immediately. Secondly, I look like a Chinese,
that means, people start to ask me questions about her. Thirdly, I don't speak Chinese very well, dialects are especially difficult for me to understand and voilà, there goes 9 hours on a train with at least 4 Chinese people asking and looking and laughing (I tried to understand and speak but it was really difficult). It was kind of amusing, but after some point we just wanted to sleep. If you ever go to Luoyang (or any smaller city in China) and intend to sleep on the train, never, never pick hard seats for such a long distance. You will regret it. It's not that people in general cannot sleep, it's only you (the foreigner) that will not. I've learnt that Chinese people can adapt to every situation, thus are able to sleep everywhere.

He slept like a baby.

We only stayed one day in Luoyang and went to see the quite famous Longmen Grottoes, which were pretty impressive.

In the evening we went to a restaurant near our hostel, which was even recommended by one of the staff. It served the famous Luoyang water banquet I've never heard of before, but it sounded good and we couldn't be bothered to search for a proper place to eat because we were still tired, it was still unbelievably hot and we where darn hungry.

Stop #2 Xi'an 西安

We stayed a total of three nights in Xi'an yet it seemed like much longer. Maybe, because we spent three nights sleeping in a room without aircon and windows (it was a freaking storeroom) there was much to see, we walked a lot and still had somewhat of a strict "touristic sights" checklist. And indeed, we saw a lot, including so-called 'scenic-spots' that you really ... don't expect.
For example this magnificent replica of the Sphinx plus incorporated pyramid.

Suddenly Egypt.

Story is, we got involved in some kind of scam. Plan of the day was to go to see the Terracotta Army. We were told to take bus #306 at the railwaystation. There was that woman, she looked quite shabby too, when I think about it now, and she got a paper sign saying bus#306. Our mistake was to look at her. Seriously, if you look at something (that people can make money with) in China for longer than three seconds, it's over. So that woman grabbed us, asked if we wanted to go to the Terracotta Army and we told her we do, in fact (everything still seemed legit, kind of), she called for a man which we reckoned was the bus driver, but he again then called another man who came to the railway station and picked us up by mini bus. The tour guide explained to us that before we would go to Bingmayong (兵马俑) we would see other "famous spots", she spoke Chinese so this was everything I understood, we didn't get where we would actually go to. It was quite the predicamment, we still had the chance to get off the bus but on the other hand ... we probably could visit sights no foreign tourist would see! So I convinced my friend to stay and let's see where our guide was taking us.
We should have gotten off. If you ever encounter something like that in China, get off, get off the bus, get off the train, get off the ship, they are going to show you things you will regret seeing, especially if you paid good money for it. We were lucky there were four Chinese students that got into this mess, too. They translated what the guide said and kind of looked after us.

I wonder ... does Kaká knows he's advertsing for some kind of sweets in China?

The other days we spent just walking around, we went to see the muslim quarters, a creepy street full of Western styled coffehouses, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (which I don't think is worth seeing) and we did a bike-tour on the city wall. If you want to have a nice view over the city, you should go up the Bell Tower (40RMB) at night.

I absolutely love how everyone ignores the warning sign

Also, I had the best bowl of noodles ever in Xi'an.

6RMB-You don't even get a freaking cheeseburger for so little money over here

Stop #3 Chongqing 重庆
So you might have never heard of Chongqing before, but it is in fact the biggest city in the world, size-wise. It's as big as Austria and so it's understandable that we didn't make an effort to go see every sight in Chongqing. Actually, Chongqing will be remembered by me as a city at the Changjiang (or Yangtze river), a relativley small and quiet town. Mainly because we rarely left our hostel, mainly because it was cool in there, there were tons of nice people to talk to and because Chongqing is as big as Austria. The hostel is located near Chaotianmen, a wharf where ferries and cruiseships dock, it's the north-
east tip of Chongqing where the two rivers Jialing and Changjiang meet. We went to the local centre Jiefangbei a couple of times and once had dinner in the revolving restaurant of a hotel of which I have forgotten the name.

I will also remember Chongqing for that personal experience, not every tourist can say he experienced the same way. One morning (it was actually around 1pm already), when we walked down the stairs of our room to the lobby, a chubby Chinese guy came to us and asked my friend -quite out of the blue- whether she wanted to help shooting a commercial (I could tag along, too). We agreed, partly because we hadn't had any other plans but also because it sounded like a lot of fun (and, we would get paid to, of course). So we hopped in the car with another guest, a Frenchman, and drove to that other centre on the other side of the river to do the commercial, a commercial I still don't know exactly what it advertises for. Anyways, upon arriving at the shooting location we got a semi-professional make-up, the girl doing the make up also gave me a weird Audrey Hepburn mega-bun-hairdo. We were ready to shoot!
There were three settings, the first one was in the Parkson Hotel, the second one in a park in front of a bizarre statue and the third one in a shopping mall, in front of Lacoste. We were supposed to play tourist, checking into the hotel, taking pictures of us and go shopping in Lacoste. Yeah, I guess it's some kind of a regional ad to promote Chongqing's exquisite facilities for rich Western tourist to go to. I've jotted down the e-mail address of that guy who hired us to ask him for videos and pictures but there is still no answer up to this day (add dramatic soundeffect) ...