A Travellerspoint blog

KARA OK!!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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)

The Xi’muda triangle

Eggs, bacon and terracotta warriors

So after a decent nights sleep (probably due to the fact that our legs had almost fallen off walking the Xi’an wall the day before) we got up and joined the group for our day out to see what everybody comes to see in Xi’an; the Terracotta Warriors.

We should probably mention that in Xi’an is something of a misnomer. Two hours after we had set off we were strolling up to the ticket office and after a quick scan of the price boards almost had a heart failure. Being such tight arses we’d already worked out, according to the Lonely Planet guide, how much money we would need to get in. Unfortunately in the time after the book had gone to print the asking price had almost doubled! The only way that we could get in would be to fake it as students. So our hearts in our mouths we queued up with our very out of date student IDs praying for the best.

It seemed that luck was with us that day as we managed to con our way in on our student IDs and so we started out on the warriors. Luckily Joy our tour guide is amazing and so we did everything in the right order. Instead of rushing off and seeing the most impressive thing first she made us leave the best till last and so we discovered more about the warriors that way and also it meant that the big wow was left until the end. Sadly for Alex though just before stepping into the final viewpoint of the warriors one of his contact lenses split in his eye. He then had to spend half the time that we had in there trying to fish it out. Just before the ambulances were called and after pinching the skin of his eyeball several times he finally managed to get it out and so we were able to make our way around and marvel at the sight of the silent and ever watchful ranks of warriors. It was amazing just how many warriors were lined up and of so many different ranks. There were horsemen, archers, generals and infantry just to name a few.

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After having taken our fill of the seemingly never ending hordes of soldiers all put there, as everyone knows, in place of the sacrifice of thousands of actual warriors to serve the Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first ruler to unite China, in the afterlife, we then set off for the long dusty trek back. We really enjoyed seeing them although the distance from Xi’an meant most of the day was taken up so we decided on an early night before a day set to be filled with museums.

Our sights were at first set on the Shaanxi History Museum. Sadly it was not shown on the maps in our Lonely Planet and so we asked at the hotel for directions. They very kindly gave us a sheet with the route we’d need to take to get there. So after a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, lettuce and sauce all wrapped up in bun we set off on our way. Sadly it was the wrong route. Wildly wrong. It was like the museum had vanished into thin air, or the Xi'muda triangle! After having stumbled about for most of the day trying to find the place we eventually gave up and after a quick bit of research found that it was actually about twenty kilometres in the opposite direction to the way that we had gone! Still it was an interesting day and we got to see a lot of the city that we would have otherwise missed. Crossing a six lane motorway was definitely one of the nerve wrecking highlights! Now we’re just waiting for the joy of our fourth overnight train. We cannot wait!

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Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • If you go to see the Terracotta Army in Xi’an make sure that you do the halls in reverse order. Start with the cinema then do hall three, then two and last but by no means least; one.
  • Beware of rising prices wherever you go and make sure to carry some extra cash to cover all eventualities.
  • If you are stuck for directions in China ask. And then check online just to make sure!
  • Check out Rach's review of the warriors.

Posted by rexontheroad 18:29 Archived in China Comments (0)

Don’t mess with the Xi’an

The Muslim quarter, the city walls and the Werewolf game

Our train journey from Shanghai to Xi’an was definitely a lot more exciting than our other train journeys. This train had open cabins so there was nothing separating the beds from the corridor, which meant that we were able to sit as a group with four on each of the two bottom bunks and others on the seats in the corridors. We’d all gotten some beers and were up for some fun so our guide, Joy, got out a game called the Werewolf game. Each person playing is a certain character, whether it’s a werewolf, village person, seer or witch and the werewolves aim is to kill off as many of the others as they can, whilst the others are trying to find and kill off the werewolves. It was such a fun game and one we’ll be looking for back in the UK. We still had a few beers left so next came Ring of Fire. The rules became a mish-mash of English, Dutch and Chinese rules and included a lot of dares. All of them seemed to be aimed at making fools of ourselves in front of the rest of the train as we had to perform dances for them, hop all the way down the carriage and Erik had to hug and tell a random Chinese woman that he loved her (in Chinese). Only when the lights went out did we finally stop.

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We got into Xi’an pretty early and had a couple of hours rest in our hotel before Joy took us out to show us the local area. One of the main attractions is the Muslim Quarter, where there is a huge market, one of the cheapest in China. We spent a while stalking the stalls, trying to persuade ourselves not to buy junk we don’t need. It was tough but each time our hands strayed to our wallet we’d remember our budget and pull ourselves away much to the dismay of the market workers. We were however both tempted by a bamboo wall hanging. It was really beautiful and something we would appreciate when we got back. Alex worked hard at the haggling but after a long period we got it down to ¥80 from ¥480 which we were reasonably happy with. Now just to squash it in the rucksack!

After lunch we met up with Joy and the group to go and see the City Walls. The walls are the most complete city walls to have survived in China as well as being one of the largest ancient military defences in the world. Joy gave us a brief talk about the use of the wall, when building started and when it was completed, before excitedly finding an appropriate spot to perform the Gangnam style dance once again, much to the amusement of the passing Chinese. After that almost everyone else elected to pay the ¥50 for bike hire, whilst a few of us chose to walk it. By a few we mean us and two other guys from the group. It didn’t seem that far to begin with, being only a measly 13.57km-and after all the travelling we were used to walking long distances. However with all the talking and sight-seeing it took us around three hours, finally getting back to our starting point just as they were shutting the gate. It was well worth the walk though, particularly as we’d started it during the day it meant that as the sky darkened we got the chance to watch as the wall and surrounding city gradually light up around us. With a brief stop at Walmart for our customary pot-noodle we headed on back to the hotel.

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Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • If you can get your hands on it, the Werewolf game is brilliant with to play with lots of people.
  • The Muslim quarter market is apparently one of the cheapest in China so when you get there haggle well- you’ll come away with a bargain.
  • If you plan on walking the whole of the City wall then make sure you leave yourself enough time and don’t get locked in.
  • If you don’t fancy the walk there are single and tandem bikes available for hourly hire.

Posted by rexontheroad 16:22 Archived in China Comments (0)

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