August, 2012, Jenny – Nicola

on tour around the world

After a last thirteen-hour train ride in a hard-sleeper compartment full of curious (but surprisingly very well-educated) Chinese boarding students from Guilin to Shenzhen, we left China after seven weeks via a pedestrian crossing (.) (Well, at least officially From the Chinese perspective, we have only left "mainland China"; however, if you ask a "Hong Kong" whether he feels Chinese, the answer is a clear, almost indignant "no", and the customs officials should also explain to us what control them exactly, if we only enter another part of the country …).

And we arrived in the shopping paradise of the world, where there is nothing that you could not buy – provided, of course, that you carry the necessary change with you (probably nowhere in the world is the density of shops selling Swiss watches sell higher than in Hong Kong). What immediately stands out: the individual islands that make up the state are all very hilly and overgrown with dense greenery. As in the case of Switzerland with its mountainous regions, this means that a considerable part of the country’s area for settlement is eliminated, which is why the residential density of the remaining area is extremely high (much higher than in Switzerland, since Hong Kong has XXX inhabitants, but a country area of only XXX square kilometers). Result: In Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island, buildings with less than 20 floors are considered an unimaginable waste of space. Le />On the other hand, Hong Kong’s world-famous skyline would not exist without the skyscrapers; and that would be a shame, as it is well worth seeing and thanks to the daily Symphony of Lights (a light and laser show in which the tallest buildings on both sides of the bay are illuminated to the rhythm of the musical background) is the most popular attraction in the city.

Of course, we didn’t just stay for ten days because of the impressive buildings. For the first time we had not yet organized a visa for the country that we would next visit (India). However, the procurement proved to be thanks to the "queuing madness" of the residents of Hong Kong (even in the – often completely overcrowded – restaurants, a number is drawn, like in Switzerland at the post office and also at the bus station, you stand in the corresponding queue ) as very unproblematic and easy on the nerves. I couldn’t imagine how it would have worked if we had applied for a visa in Beijing.

Since our hair hadn’t seen scissors since we left three months ago, going to the hairdresser was more than overdue. After extensive internet research (once you have seen the freaky hairstyles of the people here, you can no longer assume that every hairdresser has a "decent" cut in the repertoire), a Figaro was found, of which we find a vivid, practical and long-lasting Hoped for haircut. The thing was not very cheap (for Hong Kong standards) (about the same price as in Switzerland), but we are very satisfied with the result so far …

With such a chic hairstyle, we of course immediately had to dive into local nightlife. In a nutshell, this was special, but also expensive: as a European you have to one yourself Although not queuing up, the bouncers guide them past the crowd and transport them to the VIP area, but they pay an exorbitant HK $ 400 entrance fee (around CHF 50) and have to struggle to get to the dance floor (4 floors below) and curse (statement by a security who wanted to block our way and then received some not very squeamish comments from us: "Please don’t be angry with me!").

Of course we also wanted to get to know the typical Sunday of the local population. Since we already met two siblings from Hong Kong in Moscow, we decided to ask them for an introduction (thanks again to Crystal and Hercules; hope to see you someday in Switzerland). As a result, a day off in Hong Kong looks like this: you go out to eat, take a walk, eat something, go to another part of the city, draw a number in a restaurant, spend the time waiting for shopping and … well, you can do it yourself think? … of course, have a nice meal at the end of the day

We already found out on our first evening that catering in this country is of great importance and that you can get practically any culinary delicacies from all over the world: we left China with a certain degree of satiety with regard to Asian cuisine and have already done so Dreamed of a juicy Cordon Bleu for weeks … and as luck would have it, there is a Swiss restaurant in the immediate vicinity of our hostel. It was not cheap (almost as expensive as at home), but it was good. And there was even fresh spring. By the way, we also tasted some typical Hong Kong specialties: frozen yogurt with fruit, "mooncake" (traditional pastries) and soup with pork or beef (and not just the meat, but the whole animal: skin, offal and even clotted blood).

And what are the attractions of the city (besides food, skyline and shopping)? Well, a night tour of the harbor is certainly a must when you’re in Hong Kong. Visiting the "Victoria Peak" (viewing platform on a hill above the bay of Hong Kong Island) is also a main attraction, at least according to the travel guide, but from our point of view it is the best way to avoid your own aversions towards Chinese (mainland) group tourists to fuel a new high and to drain your wallet properly.

However, we would like to mention three things that are not very popular, but we liked it enormously: Firstly, there is the trip with the ancient, two-story trams on Hong Kong Island. In our view, the most beautiful way of exploring the financial district with its modern skyscrapers without catching a heat stroke with a cold at the same time (Hong Kong is hot and humid in summer, the shopping centers and buildings, on the other hand, have cooled down to about 20 degrees).

The other two points concern Hong Kong (the country) but not necessarily Hong Kong (the city). There are still a few other places on the islands, but these are far from reaching the size of the center itself and in some cases can almost be described as isolated. One of them is Sai Kung: this fishing village is a very popular destination for city dwellers and offers some excellent seafood restaurants, whereby the ordering process is extremely unusual, as you can choose your later meal in a lively form from one of the numerous aquariums. If you want to eat exotic fish, but not in the restaurant, the best thing to do is to “order” the animal freshly caught at dusk from one of the returned fishermen.

From Sai Kung, you can take a mini bus to Sai Wan. We then stop and get out in the middle of a national park. After a walk of almost 40 minutes you will reach the first of four wonderful beaches. White sand, turquoise blue sea, no more than 30 people within a radius of 200 meters … and all this in close proximity to one of the most vibrant cities in Asia … really beautiful.

Entry by train and a horde of Chinese to Shenzhen / Hong Kong (HK)

View of HK Island (financial district)

Ferry between the 2 islands (HK Island and Kowloon)

By Nigth with laser show

Game oasis in HK at home

Our 10 m 2 room The dreaded gnome from HK

Equipped with skirt and new hairstyle for India

HK from another page in Sai Wan

Impressive specimen of fish sales

At the port of Sai Kung

Reunion with 2 Hong Kongnesen (originally met in Moscow)

Eat, eat and eat again with the 2 paparazzos (the two from HK)

With the cog railway to Victoria Peak

Top security for my constant companion

The long wait has finally come to an end and we are pleased to be able to present another episode of our culinary series.

What? North Korean beer
Where? South Korea
Conclusion: a fine beer

What? pooch & kitten
Where? Shanghai and Kunming
Conclusion: We are not that nasty

What? Korean noodles
Where? South Korea
Conclusion: good, but hot as hell

What? "Rice beer"
Where? South Korea
Conclusion: tastes like milk with beer …

What? Korean table grill
Where? South Korea
Conclusion: Many ingredients and great meat

What? Devilish apple
Where? Sanya
Conclusion: Muhahahahahahaha

What? sushi
Where? South Korea
Conclusion: Mmmmhhh …

What? Seafood platter
Where? Sanya
Conclusion: Lobster can be good (Nicola quote)

What? "Cow" -Biscuits
Where? All of China
Conclusion: Mmmuuuuuuhhh

What? Instant noodles
Where? All over
Conclusion: The backpacker’s best friends

What? Pitaya
Where? Sanya
Conclusion: is much better than it looks

What? “Swiss breakfast” (really called that)
Where? Pingyao
Conclusion: Not really Swiss, but good

Of course, our (almost) knowledgeable tour guide Joggeli traveled with us through China and gave us that wonder brought closer to this country.

Beijing – Guilin

Sanya
Looking towards the beach
Shanghai
The famous skyline
Cheng you
The big Buddha of Leshan
Yuanyang
In front of the rice terraces
Tiger Leaping Gorge
At the waterfall
Aim high

… then you are either ready for the slap or you are in southwest China.

The latter applies to us, because our second (entry) trip to China took us via Shanghai (stopover) to Chongqing, the economically most important city in southwest China. This 29 million metropolis (yes, Shanghai and Beijing are not the largest cities in China …) at the end of the Yangtze Dam basin should serve as a starting point for a river cruise to the three gorges and as an entry point into southwest China. Well, things often come differently than you think …

In South Korea we had noticed that Beijing was flooded, but there was no sign of further flooding in the interior. And so it happened that we were in the center of a mega city that was half under water. And the "funniest" thing about it: nobody knew about it (at least apart from those directly affected). Censorship and the blocking of news in China’s media go so far that even natural disasters are hardly mentioned unless it is absolutely inevitable! In Beijing, where many foreigners live and work, such a catastrophe could hardly be kept secret. In the interior, however, the situation is different and we doubt that we would have noticed anything of the floods if all ship traffic on the Yangtze had not suddenly stopped (and our plans for a cruise literally "fell into the water" with it would)! At some point in time, we were seriously concerned about this kind of "state-ordered negligence" to end the "China 2" project and to leave the country immediately.

After several days of thinking, paired with intensive information gathering (partly only possible thanks to "illegal" means such as a VPN client), we decided to give our original plan a second chance and to travel by express train to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. When we got there, we were pleasantly surprised: Here in western China, life goes much more stress-free, the internet lines are faster (and thanks to the host’s own VPN client, not even “hostile to Facebook” anymore) and some Chinese are even very critical of their own government opposite (and even stand by. We will not name names here for reasons of discretion). In addition, Chengdu has a lot to see, especially the pandas. We too have taken the stubborn animals, who spend most of their day or their lives eating and sleeping, to heart (as we would like to live like that). And what surprised us even more: there are even red pandas (they don’t look – at least in terms of their stature – like "the right" pandas, but are supposed to belong to the same species). The second attraction in the vicinity of Chengdu is the big Buddha of Leshan: he is the world’s largest Buddha, who was cut directly from the stone. A visit here is definitely worth it, but it requires nerves of steel and the willingness to forget any western decency for half a day (which – mostly in groups – Chinese tourists have, at least apparently, never learned anything, what this label would deserve).

A 27-hour ride in the sleeping compartment then went from Chengdu to Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan province. Since the only attraction we wanted to visit there (the city park) was closed due to racing innovations (who the hell comes up with the stupid idea of ​​completely renovating a huge city park in one fell swoop?), We have our time above all (again once) with planning and buying train tickets. The only exception was Jenny’s visit to a modern, traditional singing and dancing show.

Our next stage took us by night bus to Yuanyang, a region with very well-known, terraced rice fields in the mountains around Kunming. A day hike through the villages and rice fields is sweaty (because of the steep ascents and descents as well as the summer heat) but beautiful and highly recommended. Only in the choice of accommodation should one proceed very carefully in these rural areas (for the first time since the start of our trip we were forced to change the hostel due to hygienic unacceptability).

We then continued via Kunming to Lijiang, the last major town before the foothills of the Himalayas. Since the old town of this place is well known due to its well-preserved buildings and the Chinese school holidays had reached its peak, the city center was completely overcrowded and the streets (despite driving ban) completely blocked. For us, however, this was no longer tragic, since we had to pursue our favorite pastime (= buy train tickets) and the upcoming journey to the Tiger Leaping Gorge was imminent. This two-day excursion was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to China, both in terms of the effort (a roughly 25-kilometer route; 900 vertical meters had to be conquered several times, as it kept going up and down; the whole thing is also on a height between 2’100 and 3’000 meters above sea level), as well as the stunning views, extreme experiences (the path is only half a meter wide in some places before going down several hundred meters vertically; three sections are also flooded with waterfalls that have to be crossed) and great travel acquaintances. A very special experience was the return trip, because after a few kilometers you were forced to change buses by "climbing" over a 100 meter wide scree track: a few weeks before our hike, part of the slope had slipped and just swept the street away …

Two more train journeys (8 and 13 hours each) later we arrived in our last destination in China. Guilin, the capital of Guangxi Province, is known for the surrounding karst landscapes, which are crossed by the Li River. Since Jenny was suffering from a bladder infection these days (probably the result of unsanitary foods that led to diarrhea), Nicola did the river trip alone. His conclusion: nice, but compared to similar landscapes, such as those found in Thailand or Vietnam, rather unspectacular and with too many tourists

In the meantime we have traveled via Shenzhen to Hong Kong, leaving China and enjoying the vibrant life of this big city. (Almost) Without (mainland) Chinese

Of course, in this article we would also like to emphasize some remarkable points of everyday life in China (yes, even after about six weeks, a lot is still unusual … one of the reasons why we are not only sad that we can leave the country):

– If a Swiss banker turns in his grave …: … he was probably in China shortly before his death and his Visa card was blocked and withdrawn by an ATM for some unknown reason. If this has happened, the bank in question will inform you that you can collect your card again after five (.) Working days. Only a very bad mood comment, peppered with the note that the whole thing takes a lot shorter in your own country and you have to travel the next day, reduces the waiting time to 24 hours.

– Michael Schumacher’s new career as a taxi driver in Chongqing: Although mentioned several times, we want to go into traffic in China again here. Our focus today, however, is on taxi drivers: these horsemen of the Apocalypse are the long-term death of every tourist and we – against all odds – just narrowly escaped them! We met the worst representative of this genre in Chongqing or we got in his car. And we are certain: Mr. Schumacher has undergone a plastic facial surgery and now lives here! Why? He made it from the airport to the city center in 40 minutes. Usually this takes about 1.5 hours! Oh, one more thing: If a taxi driver does not feel like taking one for whatever reason, you are simply left standing. And there are many reasons: it is raining, he has a break, you are a tourist (and not a Chinese), etc..

– The solution to the "travel guide problem": Travel guides are difficult, take up a lot of space and you may have to have them sent expensive from your home country (for example, many are prohibited in China because they contain information about Tibet). The solution to all these problems is called tablet. We bought one in Chengdu and it is really worth the money. The procurement of electronic toys was based on the "South Korean principle", i.e. in the electronics store you have to negotiate prices.

– Spicy, spicy, Sichuan: The food in this province of southern China will probably be a good preparation for the Indian curry: for example, one of the typical dishes here contains meat and chili peppers in a ratio of 20:80 … and nothing else.

– Why should you carry out criminal activities if you can also sell train tickets? The Mafia may have asked itself this question before it took over the train … But have fun aside: Getting a train ticket for a sleeping compartment in China is an almost impossible and, above all, nerve-wracking task. There is indeed an online sale, but a) only in Chinese and b) only for holders of a Union Pay card (oh, you don’t know it? It is probably one of the most widely used credit cards … at least if you take it assumes that every second Chinese has one). And so it happens that you regularly go to the train station and queue for about 1-2 hours each time to get a ticket in a sleeping compartment. Because already two to three days after the start of sales (10 days before the train leaves; but be careful! It is 10 days if you include today’s one! And it depends on the hours!) All hard sleeper spaces are gone! There are usually no places for the soft sleeper even at the start of sales (Mafia just …).

– And how, if not by train, do you get from A to B? Of course by bus! It is logical that bus is not the same as bus. From the old rattling box with cracked windows to the futuristic spaceship on wheels, from the "normal" vehicle with seats to the "couchette"; when you buy a ticket, you never know what to expect. The sleeping buses in particular differ considerably in terms of equipment and comfort: there are those with air conditioning, those with windows and some with both; some have beds 170 cm long and non-ergonomic, others have longer and flat ones; in some buses there are three rows with bunk beds, others have a “double bed row” and a simple one; Toilets can be present, but do not have to (an empty bottle then serves as a chamber pot, or – in the case of women – an empty plastic sack, which is disposed of through the (hopefully existing) window after use), etc. Thanks to angelic people Patience and good luck with the purchase of train tickets, we only had to use buses twice.

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