Sunday, December 31, 2006
Hangzhou - 杭州

December 30.
Almost done the updates but only five months late...haha.
Ok...short and sweet (because I want to finish this off and I forgot a lot of stuff.)
Hangzhou (杭州). "上有天堂,下有苏杭" --> Above there is heaven, below there are Suzhou and Hangzhou. A beautiful city, personally I think more pretty than Suzhou. Only one hour away from Shanghai, this city is a must visit for those who are in the area. This is one city that I would not mind visiting again.
Above: West Lake (西湖), the main tourist area.

More pictures of West Lake.

Yeah, as you can see we spent most of our time around West Lake. Such beautiful scenery calls for great companions--Song Ai and Jin Du made the trip all the better. Thank guys...I really miss you guys and the times we were bumming around Suzhou.

The hostel we stayed in was very accommodating and friendly--they let us stay without presenting our travel permits while the our original hostel refused us. In China, you must present your ID and visa to stay at hotels and such--well, I had mine which should be enough but sometimes they don't like bending the rules. Anyhoo, lucky the original place kicked us out because this hostel was so much nicer and it came with a cute kitty cat.

Nice to see some Yunnan trinkets so far East...

The area around Hefang Jie (河坊街.) Lot of stores and food. The food here was quite interesting and good. Oh, Hangzhou is very famous for their food--we did not have stomachs big enough for the variety of foods that this area had to offer.


posted by Y> @ 11:00 p.m.   0 comments
MTB race@Suzhou, Qionglong mtn (穹隆山)
December 17. First race in over a year but it really wasn't much of a mountain bike race. It was a 4.5km climb up one of the few "mountains" in Suzhou on paved roads. Boy am I out of shape! I came in 23 out of 30 something which is a total disappointment for me considering I've done much better in the past.
The race was separated between road bike and MTB with a total of about 100 riders. One thing that surprised me was the number of female riders present--I never would have imagined that this kind of sport would be popular among Asian females--rarely do I see Asian females in MTB races back home. The weather couldn't have been more perfect (Suzhou tend to rain a lot in the winter)--clear skies but just a little on the nippy side at -4C.

Although there are a billion bikes in China, the actual biking scene is still fairly young. Road and MTB bikers are rare but the numbers are increasing rapidly. As well, those who are real bikers, are quite hardcore and actually ride their bikes (unlike back home where many purchase fancy bikes for show.) Brand names like Trek, Cervelo, Specialized, and Giant (very popular in China) are quite expensive compared to Canada so this sport will be depressed until the country gets wealthier.

Big thanks goes to my class rep, Li Zheng Tai, who loves bicycles more than I do and who got me into this race. He also convinced the Trek store by Ganjiang lu to lend me a Giant bicycle for the race. Thank you Trek dian! If you ever need bicycle equipment, they have a good selection of Trek stuff. As well, Silverbikes on Shizi jie has a very good selection of many brands of bikes and parts. They are both very helpful and very friendly.



posted by Y> @ 9:45 a.m.   2 comments
Xian: More of

Unlike many cities who decided to tear down their walls for progress, Xi'an decided to restore their wall to its past glory. The 14km long wall complete with a moat circles around the city. A leisure stroll will take approximately 3 hours to complete or it will take one hour to bike around it (bike rentals are available on the wall.) The view from the wall ain't the best due to the constant construction and the perpetual fog/smog/dust/* in the air.
Top Left: North Gate.
Top Right: Southeast tower.

Left: Train station by the North wall
Right: The foggy wall.

View of Chang'an Lu (长安路) by the South Gate.
Right: A big ass drum at the Drum Tower (鼓楼). Every hour there is a smallish performance on the drums.

Huaqing Hot Springs (华清池). Huaqing has been enjoyed by a large succession of emperors and other important figures. It was made famous when Yang Guifei, one of the four legendary beauties of China and Emperor Xuanzong's concubine, was allowed to bathe here.

Left: Lotus Flower Pool, aka Imperial Nine-dragon Bathing Palace built for Emperor Xuanzong.
Right: For 5mao (7cents), you too can wash your hands or drink from the same water Yang Guifei bathe in.

Left: In 1936, Chiang Kaishek as well, bathe here and in the process set up his headquaters at huaqing against the CCP; however, he was captured in a coup known as the renown Xi'an Incident (Yang xiaojie wasn't overly fond of him.)
Right: The royal (public) bathroom. One of the prettiest washrooms I ever saw, not to mention one of the cleanest in China.

Mt Lishan (骊山). Nothing much of a climb (1-2 hours) and nothing much of a scenery due to the thick blanket of fog/smog; however, since there were nobody, it was a peaceful climb.

Xi'an was a wonderful trip, made better with some good company. Too bad we didn't have time for Huashan (华山). Next time I will organize a Chinese Mountain tour and visit the great Huashan.

Thank you Amy, Vivian and Nana. 多谢.


posted by Y> @ 9:09 a.m.   0 comments
Xi'an: The West

Western Xi'an consists of less famous attractions but nevertheless interesting. The Famen Temple not only houses dead bodies, but also an extensive collection of relics reputed to hold more historical value than all of Hong Kong. The pagoda holds in its vaults, four of Buddha's finger bones (sarira) and the crypt possess over 1000 sacrificial objects preserved for over 1000 years. The downstairs vault lined with white stones and gold decorations is quite beautiful.

The Tomb of Princess Yongtai. A rather simple tomb for the young princess who was reportedly beaten to death on the order of her grandmother Wu Zetian because she was gossiping about the empress's indulgent lifestyle. Wu Zetian was the only female emperor and her bloody ascend to the throne was filled with controversy and heads.

Qian Tomb (乾陵). The burial ground of the third Tang emperor and more famous, for his wife Empress Wu Zetian. The long but pleasant walkway is lined with sculptures of lions, animals and people. From afar the mountainside mausoleum resembles the shape of a sleeping beauty, of Wu herself. The Tomb lies in the interior of the mountain and is yet to be excavated. A Wordless tablet placed before her tomb is so later generations could be her judges.


posted by Y> @ 9:00 a.m.   0 comments
Xi'an: Terracotta Warriors - 兵马俑

We only wanted some drinking water said the farmer as he continued to poke at a clay statue of what would be one of the largest archaeological finds in human history. Constructed in 221BC by the Emperor Qin Shihuang, the vault contains over 7000 life-size warriors and horses in battle formation. The underground empire guarded by his terracotta army crumbled with age and pilfering--the weapons are all mostly stolen and each warrior is a big huge jigsaw puzzle. Each warrior is unique up to the face and takes approximately one year to reconstruct. Most of the site is still being excavated while the emperor's tomb has yet to be opened. There is a total of three vaults of which the first one is the most widely seen on postcards/TV/newspapers.

The first vault and the largest.
Right: why are those guys facing the wall? hmm...

Third vault. Nothing much except for a pile of rubble; it will take them years to crazy glue those guys together. However, on display are a few well preserved specimens, including Qin-era weaponry.

Right: Second vault. Small vault but houses a well preserved chariot.
Left: Replica displays of a typical chariot during the Qin Dynasty.

Terracotta Warriors are everywhere. Terracotta cigarettes and a Terracotta statue standing guard at the McD's. I should have bought one to guard my house.


posted by Y> @ 8:49 a.m.   0 comments
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