miércoles, 2 de octubre de 2013

Out of China

And the day we had to leave China arrived… But the good news is that there was still more China to visit, out of China though. Hong Kong, that was under the British regime for more than 100 years, is now part of the country and Macau, which was under the Portuguese regime from the mid-16th century until late 1999, as well! And there was exactly where we spent our last days before heading back home. Discovering a third (and forth, and fifth) side of China. 

The fact that these two territories were under someone else’s regime, someone that came from other corner of the world, really shaped these two countries and gave a different flavor to the people and places. Here you have some pictures that illustrate exactly that diversity. From the traditional Giant Buddha of Leshan and the nearby fishing town of Tai O to the modern buildings and skyline, Hong Kong as a lot to offer. And so does Macau. They even have Pastéis de Belém in there! And, although, Chinese people are known by their falsification qualities, those pastries were very good at their own way. Or did they taste better just because we were so pleasantly surprised and happy to have those "bites" from home miles away from Portugal?!

Another "yummy" experience were the Dim Sums we had in Tim Ho Wan (Shop 12A, Podium Level 1, IFC Mall), one of the best restaurants from the spécialité in town. But the award for the “best moment in Hong Kong” goes to the night we went to the Ozone, the highest bar in the world, that you can (hardly) find on the 118th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. I say “hardly” because it took us a long time trying to find it (to save you from the same odyssey I send you the link to their official webpage),but despite the time we lost trying to reach and to get in the Ritz-Carlton, what made us arrive quite close from the closure moment, and despite our looks (by then we were bag packing around Japan and China for 3 weeks) the staff from the hotel and from the bar was super nice. And I mean suuuuuuuuper nice, the nicest I’ve seen someone being in a hotel of the Ritz-Carlton category. That, together with the breath taking view over the lightened city, contributed to make our time there even more special and was the perfect end to our Asian trip.

And also to see more pictures (taken from me, but without the LOMO fish eye), please check here

domingo, 29 de septiembre de 2013

Journey into the East

Ohhhh, now I regret having called the former post “The Real China”! Isn’t this the true China?! This deep, rural, traditional China, isn’t it the real deal?! Well, this is definitely the country side of China, the other face of one of the world’s most developed and powerful countries, but it isn’t an accurate portrait. This lacks all kind of modernity. Actually the night we spent in Xingping, a tiny little village on the bank of the Li River, was the first night I spent in a long time without access to electricity. No electricity in the restaurants for cooking, no air-con in our hostel room, no wi-fi connection, no nothing that resembled even a bit the innovative and huge Chinese cities that we left behind. Can you imagine going back to live without that kind of commodities?! Well, in the deep China, with any occidental around, that is still possible. I guess that it doesn’t happen every day (or at least so we were told by the girls of This Old Place International Hostel in Xingping while they put their best smiles – which we could barely see - trying to excuse this lack of electricity), but it turned our experience even more pure.

Actually Zhangjiajie, Feng Huang, Guilin and Xingping were pretty awesome. By then we were already completely used to the eastern toilets, to the dangerous driving and to the food, so it was all about relaxing. In Zhangjiajie we hiked around the Tianmen Mountain and the floating mountains of the Tianzi Natural Reserve (the one and only that inspired James Cameron for the creation of his Avatar mountains) for 3 days. In the beautiful and almost Venetian Feng Huang we spent a warm night and the following day, enjoying the relative peacefulness of this village that is considered one of the oldest in the world. This characteristic makes Feng Huang one of the top tourist destinations in China, but not for western people. While in Zhangjiajie we still bumped into a couple of fellow Europeans and some Americans, in here we were the only non-slit-eyed people. It was indeed full of Chinese tourist but there was not even one occidental to be seen. So, as well as the village itself, that day, we were the other major attraction. So funny!

We left Feng Huang with an afternoon/night bus (in which we travelled for 10 hours laid on a kind of bunker bed made in Chinese people sizes – dear readers, I’m sure that anything you might be picturing in your heads right now doesn’t make justice to that bus) to Guilin, where we spent the next 3 days visiting the area. First the rice terraces of Longji, then we did the Li River circuit (not until the end though, we left much earlier than our fellow international tourist and walked along the slippery river bank until Xingping, where we saw the most gorgeous sunset and spent a lightless night) on the fake bamboo canoes and, in the last day, we rest… Well, not quite, but it wasn’t as intense as the previous days/weeks. The “high” (adrenaline wise) moments of this last day in the Guilin province were those when our (this time around) true bamboo canoe, wisely conducted by our conductor/guide/funny Chinese man, crossed the water draftings in the Yulong River near Yangshuo. These were the perfect last couple of days in the "real" China before we head to Honk Kong!

And also to see more pictures (taken from me, but without the LOMO fish eye), please check here.

jueves, 19 de septiembre de 2013

The real China

After the huge impact that the first days (not to say hours) in China can cause, comes the calm. And this is the honest truth! Especially if you’re coming, like we were, from Japan (where everything is so clean, organized and zen), China might come as a shock. But by the time we arrived to Beijing we were already used to the toilets (or lack of toilets), to the motorbikes and cars not stopping in the zebras to let you cross when the walking light is green, to the food, to the unbearable heat (an average of 38 degrees and 80% of humidity), etc. Well, you know what I always say, in Rome I like to do as Romans do and that’s exactly what we all did! So this is probably why Beijing felt like heaven on earth. 
Much better prepared to receive tourists (a result of their experience organizing the 2008 Olympic Games), Beijing totally met our expectations. Mine at least! I personally I’ve been dreaming about traveling to China for the last 10 years, since the day I saw in a TV program from a British girl that travels the world with only her backpack the giant Leshan Buddha. And every time I dreamt about this trip was exactly the kind of experiences I had in Beijing what I imagined. The Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and, one of the best shows I have ever seen (a show that must make the Cirque du Soleil performers blush), a real Chinese acrobatics spectacle. 

Beijing is intense and doesn’t stop. In every hutong there is always someone playing chess or preparing food for sale, illuminated by hundreds of humble light bulbs. And the most amazing aspect is how this simplicity contrasts with the modernity of this capital city with places as innovative and up-to-date as The Place. Actually, I will take a risk and say that Beijing is a true portrait of this country. Both Shanghai and Hong Kong are too modern, and the rest of cities we’ve visited (as you will see by the following posts) are deeply traditional, but Beijing is perfectly balanced. The real China!

And also to see more pictures (taken from me, but without the LOMO fish eye), please check here