A Travellerspoint blog

Starring in a flashmob

Hong-Kong, flashmobs and a sneaking hand


And so it was that we reached our final destination of our time on the tour in China and indeed our last destination before heading off to South East Asia. The night was a fairly typical sleeper train journey with everyone a little too tired to be staying up too late. Joy, our tour leader, had however prepared a little surprise for everyone; a small card with a lovely personal message in each one. She really has been an amazing guide and we owe so much to her.

The arrival in Hong-Kong was a little strange; first we had to go through the usual tight Chinese security but you had to go through it to leave the country?! After this we then had the Hong-Kong immigration to get through but on the British passports this was a breeze and soon we were South of the divide. We could see the difference straight away. Everything seemed just a little cleaner and as a massive bonus nobody was spitting on the floor! It wasn’t until we noticed a sign warning all those coming over the Chinese border that this offence carried a $5000 penalty that we realised this was probably why.


The city itself generally felt a lot nicer and it was nice to see some familiar sights as well. As everyone said it was just the right balance of Chinese and British. It was a lovely setting for our final farewell to the rest of the group and we had a sad last meal together before going off to see the light show and the Avenue of Stars. The light show was a bit disappointing in all honesty, not enough light really. Still the Avenue of Stars was fun. It’s a bit like the stars on Hollywood Boulevard except it’s all the Chinese film stars. Alex ran off like an excited little child and found Jackie Chan and Jet Li before trying to pick a fight with a statue of Bruce Lee. Not long after that we were once again impressing the locals with our Gangnam style dancing except this time we did it as a flashmob adding the element of surprise to the mix.


Sadly it was to be the last time that we would perform and after a sad goodbye in one of the hotel rooms we departed from our group for what we thought would be the last time. During the day we did all sorts ranging from applying and getting our Vietnamese visas, being molested, visiting the Hong-Kong History Museum, being molested, moving hotels, being molested and oh yeah did I mention being molested. Alex went to get the visas and whilst he was gone Rach decided to run out and post some cards. It was as she was waiting at some traffic lights that she could feel the stare of the slime ball next to her. She looked over and if you can imagine a Gollum like creature with scabs covering his arms you have him in one. He leered at her and being a sensible girl she faced away and waited for the green man. It was then that she felt something touching her leg. She jumped back and realised that he had his clammy claw out and was pawing at her leg. She started out across the road and he started following her so she ran off successfully losing him in the crowd.

As you can imagine it was a pretty stressful day so we were looking forward to a nice evening out with a couple of our group. Turned out that there were more people than we thought were going to be there and we went out again with almost the entire group there. It was really nice and we had some Vietnamese food (ironically) and then went down the night markets before sipping on some cold beers.


Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • The members of any group can make or break a trip. We’ve met plenty of people who have had crap tours because of a crap group.
  • Be careful who you stand next to at traffic crossings. You never know who might be going to touch you next...

Posted by rexontheroad 23:42 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

The death of a comrade

Tai Chi, Calligraphy and footwear disaster


After an overnight train-ride, a bus and some tuk-tuks we arrived at our destination in Yángshuò. It was peeing it down but we still went out for a stroll. Yángshuò is completely different to anywhere we’ve been in China as, although it had a touristy feel with a large number of Westerners strolling around, it was a stunning place surrounded by huge limestone mountains. Sadly because of the tourists there were a massive number of vendors all out to try and snag an unsuspecting Westerner so we felt a little heckled as we walked down the main strip. However we managed to escape and found our way down to the river. It was a beautiful spot and we stayed there for a while, just soaking in the scenery until it was time for bed.


The next day we discovered a downside to Yángshuò - no supermarkets!!! As we shop buy all of our food, as opposed to eating out for each meal, we were at a loss of what to do. We found one that sold our precious pot-noodles so tea was sorted but for breakfast and lunch there was nothing. Wandering in despair it was with luck that we stumbled across a bakery. This is quite a rarity in China as they don’t really eat bread so have no need of them. We ended up buying a huge sandwich that had been soaked in egg and cheese with ham in the middle. It’s indescribable just how good it tasted and they had some gorgeous buns for our lunch too. Sorted!

We had been given a list of activities we could do in Yángshuò and had selected two of them; tai chi and calligraphy. First up was the tai chi; our instructor took us along to the river that we had discovered the first day. There, overlooking the beautiful scenery, he took us through the first ten steps of tai chi. It was quite easy to learn and we both had a good time exercising, however a large group of Chinese people had gathered around us and most of them were taking photos which was very distracting. They finally took heed of Rach’s mind control and left us alone in peace to enjoy the remainder of the lesson. We had a few hours left of the day and as Yángshuò is the perfect place for a wander, we just walked around all the shops once more before it was time for our glorious pot-noodle.


The following morning being as how we were in an area of some formidable limestone peaks with several of the other members of our group we set off on a rock climbing expedition. We pulled up and after climbing into our gear got started off. Rach had volunteered to be the official photographer and so spent her time with her neck craned towards the heavens. Alex had an amazing time scaling the walls and managed to get a few difficult climbs under his belt. Seeing this, the instructor decided to really test him and set him to work on a vicious overhang. He gave it a couple of goes and very nearly made it over but was defeated in the end and retired with a bruised and battered arm. The instructor then gave us all a lesson in how to climb like a spider and practically leaped over the entire thing wearing just his trainers!


After we’d had our fill we headed back for the hotel to wait for our afternoon activity, a slightly more relaxing one of calligraphy. When the time finally came to leave we set out with our leader Joy and it was as we were walking down the street that the truly devastating incident happened. As we were minding our own business a flagstone of the pavement maliciously rose up into the path of Alex’s oncoming havaiana and, bam, it was the tragic death of a faithful comrade. The toe strap had snapped and it was all over, no amount of resuscitation could bring it back and so hopping Alex had to make his way onto the calligraphy session.

It was a really good session and it wasn’t long before Rach started to get the hang of it. Alex’s technique was a little more subtle and as a result his characters became more abstract works of art than anything else. We learnt to write our names, (always useful) and then Rach persuaded the teacher to show her how to write love and she wrote out Rach loves Alex (awww!). Soppiness over and done with we rolled up our efforts and headed back for a quick snack on a delicious Chinese burger before setting off for our longest overnight train yet!


Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Don’t feel pressured by the vendors in the streets trying to sell you activities. Just say a solid no and if they persist just ignore them.
  • Always carry superglue to fix any broken flip-flops. It can also be useful in other circumstances but this is definitely the main use.
  • Rock climbing can be really fun but if you do go make sure that everything is included and check all the safety gear over once before using it. China isn’t exactly renowned for its health and safety after all.

Posted by rexontheroad 18:23 Archived in China Comments (0)


Threeman, singing and drinking the cruise ship dry

So after a long day of touristy things it was time to unwind. The girls got ready and then we headed up to the lounge/bar on the top of the boat. We were excited as we'd seen the signs plastered everywhere advertising free KARA OK from 8-9pm. Joy and Soniya were straight up there with a brilliant rendition of Wannabe and gradually most of the tour got up to perform, even Alex a few times with his covers of Blue turning out to be his favourite. The Chinese audience had at this point only clapped their own singers and looked a little puzzled by our attempts but we knew what would impress them, our performance of the Gangnam style dance. We all got into our positions, the tune started and away we went. We were brilliant, everyone got their steps perfect, Erik even went for a little solo at the end and started stripping. We turned to the audience our faces bright with hope that they would clap and cheer for us. Did they? No. Ah well we clapped ourselves silly anyways.


Up until now, apart from our lovely blog readers, we hadn’t had an opportunity to share Threeman (Awkward Auckland) with other backpackers. We were somewhat nervous to suggest it, what if they didn’t enjoy it as much as we did, what if there are too many players? We had absolutely no reason to fear. It was a huge success. We started off with a small group of about seven who quickly picked up the rules and as our cheers caught their attention, more and more people wanted to join in until we had about twelve in the end. The Threeman hat (Rach’s woolly purple one) became infamous and we were soon listening to the profanities of those unlucky enough to be Threeman. It started off quite tame until people started running out of beer, so we started handed our Rice Wine out. Then we ran out of that and moved on to Vodka. The game only ended when we had drank every drop of alcohol we had brought on board the ship. There were quite a number of the group very drunk by this point, but as experienced disciples of the game we were only slightly drunk so could merrily watch the carnage we had created.


The next morning woken once again by the warbling woman on the loudspeaker system we managed to snatch a few more precious moments of sleep before we had to get up and pack. As we came out to the lobby we were greeted by a gauntlet of hard stares and shouts of “That damn three man game!”. It seemed that more than a couple of the other members of our group had some gargantuan headaches and for some reason seemed to blame us. We did warn them as to the effects of playing Three man though and they have only themselves to blame.


After departing the boat we headed for a town called Yichang stopping off at the Three Gorges Dam along the way. The dam was not as impressive as we’d hoped and a little shrouded in mist. It is still however very daunting to hear of the figures involved and it still remains one of the largest in the world to this day. At Yichang we stopped off at a shopping mall where a group of us headed straight for some hangover remedy otherwise known as a BigMac and Chicken Nuggets. It tasted soooo good and Alex had to go up to get a second cheeseburger.

After a little wait we boarded another bus that took us to a station for the bullet train. The bullet train was incredibly fast but was not of the same level as found in Japan and it wasn’t long before we were turning to other sources of entertainment such as making our tour leader, Joy, sing Call Me Maybe in front of the entire carriage. We then had another brief wait in another train station before boarding another sleeper train. Woooo! The station in all fairness was probably the best we’ve seen so far, there were no children weeing on the floor, no-one spat, the toilets were actually not a biological hazard and there was only one person smoking at the entrance to the loos. Quite pleasant actually. And so we are now on our way to what our tour leader says is her favourite part of the trip, a small town called Yangshuo.

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Disclaimer: - Three man will give you headaches the following morning unless you take adequate precautions.
  • Eating Western food is missing the point a bit when trying to experience new cultures. However every once in a while it is nice to know what you are going to eat before it gets to your plate.
  • The dam is a large block of concrete and unless you are impressed by large scale civil engineering you might not be that impressed by the sight, however the figures involved are simply mid-numbing.

Posted by rexontheroad 15:47 Archived in China Comments (0)

Gorgeous Gorges

Three gorges, spicy potatoes and friendly gawkers

After our mad dash to get to the Three Gorges cruise ship it is safe to say that we were pretty tired. So we were a little startled when at 6.30am on the first day the ship wide radio alarm went off and we were shocked awake by a Chinese woman singing. As our walls are so thin we could hear the cursing of our surrounding neighbours and Sam’s reaction in particular was hilarious, “What the f*** is that???” In spite of her warbling in our ears we determinedly went back to sleep for a few more hours. We had a group meeting at 10 so that Joy could explain the sights we would be seeing on our cruise.


First stop was the Qútáng gorge, the smallest of the three. If you can get your hands on a ¥10 note, it’s the picture on the back of it. We oooed and ahhhed and took some pictures like the good tourists that we are but whilst it was stunning and magnificent to behold, we’d already been spoilt by the beautiful, and if we were going to judge, slightly more impressive formations all over New Zealand. So after a bit of gawping we headed back inside for a spot of Mahjong.


Before we knew it it was past lunchtime and we’d docked in a place called Wúshàn so the Chinese on the ship could go off for an excursion down the Three Little Gorges. Joy recommended we get off and have a look around the town. It was brilliant. This was the first time we felt like we had seen ‘real China’. There were no other tourists, there was no signs of Westernisation, it was just a normal Chinese town going about its business. We saw a guy getting his hair cut in the middle of the street, a group of people surrounding two men playing Chinese chess and shops selling the most random things. However because it was so untouched by the West we did cause quite a stir. People stopped in the street, cars doubled back for a second view of us. In other places this has felt aggressive and a little intimidating, with cameras shoved in our faces and people trying to crowd us. Here though it felt friendly, people were smiling, they were just watching us from a distance and the brave few would say hello to us. It was lovely.


We wandered round for a good few hours before heading back to the boat. There was a woman selling potatoes on the street just outside the dock and as none of us had had potatoes in a long time (not really used in the Chinese diet) we all decided to get them. They were incredible as she’d added a bit of chilli and cumin and we could, quite literally, have eaten the entire pan. Our quick stop didn’t go unnoticed though and before we knew it, there was a crowd of at least fifteen Chinese men watching us, thrilled to see us and many attempted to chat to us in English. One particularly friendly guy wanted his pic with Ben and Soniya, and they obliged. We said a sad farewell and boarded our boat again and got ready for a party!


Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Make sure you have a ¥10 note ready so that you can see the pic and the Qutang Gorge together! Read Rach's review here.
  • Be prepared for early morning starts, there is no snooze button for the ship wide morning radio alarm.
  • Enjoy every moment you can when you are walking down the street without people shoving a camera in your face.

Posted by rexontheroad 20:20 Archived in China Comments (0)

Room by the hour, sir?

Smelly cities, ticket troubles and vibrating cock rings

The last couple of days have been traumatising to say the least but as they say all’s well that ends well, as you shall see. It all started on the overnight train from Xi’an to Chongqing which is where we left off in our last blog (The Xi’muda triangle). The Chinese love their security and to get on any train you have to go through a metal detector, your bags through an x-ray machine and have your passports and tickets checked three times. After all this proving that you are who you say you are and that you have the right to be on the train you would assume that they would then leave you alone for the rest of the journey. This is not the case. Being the nice people we are we had switched our tickets for others of the group who wanted to be together. On this occasion Rach had swapped with one of the boys who then put the ticket on his bed. This meant when the ticket collector came around, at one in the bloody morning, our fellow traveller could not find it. This in turn seemed to trigger the conductor to into some kind of meltdown. So instead of thinking of the four different ticket checks you have to go through to even see the train and letting the matter lie, she decided to start a witch hunt waking up almost every single member of our group before the offending ticket was eventually found.

As if in revenge for the insult we had visited on all conductors we were visited by yet another who decided that bottom of Rach’s bed was the perfect place to perch whilst he cleared his throat in the most phlegmy, gurgly manner. After he had deemed that all of us had been tortured enough (it was loud enough that there was no question of anyone staying asleep) he left, his revenge for all ticket collectors complete.

And so completely wretched, almost crying from sleep deprivation, we arrived in Chongqing. It was raining, now this is not unexpected in China but it certainly didn’t help when we were kicked out of our taxi by the driver and managed to figure out from his broken English that he did not know where our hotel was. Lost we set off trying our best to find other members of our group or the hotel. Twenty uncomfortable, baggage lugging minutes later we arrived. Whether we had been distracted up until this point or had simply not noticed is not debatable as the latter would be impossible; the stench of the place suddenly hit us and as the insidious wafts assailed our nostrils and our stomachs turned over we all ran for the elevator to take us to our hotel rooms, the boys in one room, the girls in another.

After piling in it was then pointed out, by the girls (who else), that there vibrating ring condoms supplied. It was then that Alex put two and two together and got flashing red neon lights as he had seen that the rooms were available by the hour. Thankfully though Chongqing was not a place we were staying in for long but a mere stopping off point for several hours until we caught a bus to go on a cruise of the Three Gorges.


After having read all of this you would no doubt assume that our run of bad luck was up and our time from here on in would have been full of laughter and jollity. Wrong! As mentioned we had to get a bus to our next destination and so as everyone knows last wees are an important part of any pre-travel prep. Sadly the hotel had obviously already filled the rooms that we had vacated (no doubt testing out the robustness of the beds) and so we were directed to some public toilets just down the road. If we thought that it had smelled before then we were mistaken, our nostrils were taken to new depths of depravity and despair. The people of Chongqing had obviously seen public toilets as some kind of challenge and tried to get one of every kind of animal to use the loos and then trample the resulting mess around, as well as locating a large fish market right next door. Those who were lucky enough to have scarves had to loan them out so that no tour members suffocated on the stench. It was universally agreed that these were the worst toilets any of us had ever experienced.

Chongqing wasn’t through with us yet though and needed one last chew before it spat us out. The taxi driver the tour group used to drop us at the bus station wasn’t answering his phone. Our valiant tour guide then had to take the desperate measure of flagging down passing vans and seeing if they would take us but to no avail. We were stuck with no option but to pony up with our gear and lug it the two kilometres to the bus station. It hurt. A lot. Oh and did we mention before that it was raining?

For the first time however something did go our way and we managed to make it to the bus on time and so we bid adieu to the smells and went on our way. Things then got better the further from Chongqing we got and as we boarded the cruise ship our moods lightened. The rooms are great and they let you drink your own beer in the lounge room so we’ve been able to crack a few cold ones open with the rest of the group and finally relax, ready for our two day cruise of the Three Gorges.


Rex’s Rules of the Rules

  • If you can avoid Chongqing do.
  • Ticket inspectors on Chinese trains have no qualms about waking you up at silly o clock in the morning if you haven’t presented it to them so do so, at the earliest opportunity possible.
  • As we’ve mentioned toilets we should probably mention something we’ve been keeping from you all this time. China is big fans of the squatter loos. Not pretty, not nice to use and very smelly. Avoid long trousers, they trail in the excrement.

Posted by rexontheroad 23:45 Archived in China Comments (0)

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