Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Chiang Mai continued

We then went for another bare back ride up the hillside and back again. We took different elephants this time and ours chose to follow her own directions which was very funny but we got there in the end. 
We then walked down part of the hill where we meet another group of elephants by the river. Bath time! But first we had to travel across the river in a home made cable car which was an experience on its own. Once we got to the other side, we walked the elephants into the water and threw buckets of water all over them and rubbed their rough skin. Our elephant loved filling his trunk full of water and spraying it over his head. Afterward we fed the elephants more bananas and sugarcane.

It was then time to say goodbye to the elephants and make our way to our means of transport to get down the hill. We took a car to the water rafting point. Now when I say took a car, I don't mean sat nicely in a seat in the back. We were put in a pick up truck which had 3 rubber dinghies stacked on the back. Our seats: the top of the rubber dinghies! I have to admit though, it gave a beautiful view of the surroundings.

We then had to water raft down the river. Unfortunately my competitive streak came out and we were grouped with a couple who couldn't grasp the concept of how to use the paddle. I have lots of patience for child, but as I have discovered I have little patience for adults. Oops! So it took us a while to get started but eventually we got into a rhythm and enjoyed the ride down. Once we got near the bottom we had to change to a wooden raft because the water was too shallow for the inflateable dinghy. Now there was seriously no point to these rafts as when you sat on them you completely sunk to the bottom (luckily it was so shallow). The only reason we stayed on them was because our instructor and told us about the water snakes (which had scared the life out of us), so decided it would be best to just sit on a sinking raft. 

Overall, it has been an amazing day and this organisation is working hard to look after the elephants in the best possible way and have dreams of eventually being able to re-home elephants back to the natural habitat in the future. They are desperate for volunteers to help them complete there goals. So if you are ever in Chiang Mai, let me know and I will give you their details.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Chiang Mai and wish we could have spent more time here as there is so much to do. But for now it is time to make our way to Kho Tao (2 sleeper trains and a ferry) where we can finally find a beach.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

What I have learnt in China

Thought I'd let you know my top 5 pointers which I have learnt during my visit to China:

1. As a friend says 'what goes up must come down'. This was our common motto when climbing the hundreds of stairs to different monuments and climbing the side of the mountains (and was very true).

2. Nothing beats an English breakfast (this was also learnt in India too)! Eating curry or rice or noodles or soup for breakfast just doesn't feel right in any situation.

3. Chopsticks are a pain to eat with. I have to admit my skills in using chopsticks have grown increasingly, however I have still not mastered the slippery dumplings which are full of soup (so I gave up and used my fingers). So practise, practise, practise!!!

4. Find the right squatting position. After much discussion with the girls on the tour, we created our own theory on how to position yourself (especially on a moving train) to reduce the amount of splash back created whilst squatting. Sounds stupid but essentially throughout both India and China.

5. You need to be respective of other tour members who are also weeing into your trough. It is always said that girls always go to the toilet together, in China this is more than true on many levels. Not only do lots of toilets not have walls or doors( you position yourself over the same trough. You soon learn to be at the high end of the trough so you don't have to view the running excrement below you. Delightful! 

Hong Kong

Warm weather, yay! Finally I can bust out the flip flops and remove some of the layers. Arrived in Hong Kong, the last of our stops on our China tour. We decided to go out for a late lunch altogether before people started to depart on their next adventure the following the day. We went for our final dim sum and I have fallen in love with pork buns. We then took a walk along Victoria Harbour where we had a clear view of Hong Kong Island (more sky scrapers)!

We then took the ferry across to Hong Kong Island and took the tram to the top of Victoria Peak to see what Hong Kong at night looked like from a height. Hong Kong is truly a magical place and somewhere that I would happily live in the future (if I had the money). 

After we visited the Peak, we took a bus back down and then took a walk through the night market. On the way we walked through part of the protests (which have died down dramatically in this part of Hong Kong as they have moved on else where), it was interesting to see the different displays created and the few that still remained camped out on the street (but also quite glad we weren't there for the full protest!).

Brief visit to Bangkok

We arrived at our third stage of our trip after a rubbish nights sleep on the airport floor and two plane journeys, where we got served omelettes on both! 
This is the first part of our trip where we have had to organise ourselves instead of being lead by a CEO. So we began by giving ourselves our own orientation walk around Bangkok. We managed to find the river ferry and took a trip to Wat Pho to see the reclining Budda. 

Then we decided to stop for lunch. I love Thai food so the choice of food was unbearable and I've realised I need to work my way through an extensive menu in order to be able to try everything. The food was definitely as good as I had hoped it would be.
We then ventured to the train station to book a sleeper train to Chang Mai (as sad as it may seem, we were very impressed we were able to conquer this quest by ourselves).
In the afternoon we were lazy and did catch up on some sleep before heading out in the evening to Khao San road to demolish some more Thai food and explore the markets. Whilst sitting at a bar a person who I recognised from Ipswich walked by, what a small world we live in!
The following day we took a long tail boat down to the floating market. After reading lonely planet it said you need to go before 9am to see the market at its best. As we didn't arrive at the river until 10am we thought we would risk it anyway. We should have listened to lonely planet! There was a maximum of 6 boats selling souviner tat which was a bit of a disappointment; however it was good to see the city by boat and we were able to feed the catfish along the way.

We then stopped of a drink by the river and I was able to grab my visit coconut water served in a coconut. Yum!

Still looking forward to find a beach soon, need some chill out time (and a tan). But for now it is time to take the ferry and find the train station. Next stop Chang Mai.

End of trip no. 2

Yet again another tour has come to an end. We spent our final day in Hong Kong exploring the Big Budda at Ngong Ping and taking a trip to Tai O to see the fishing village at its finest. 
We have had an amazing time in China and have created lots more memories to add to our collection. We've made lots of new friends who we have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with and hope to catch up with again at different destinations along our travelling path. China you have been phenomenal and I am so glad I got the chance to experience the different culture and your exceptional scenery and monuments.
Next stop Thailand where our next adventure begins!

Last stop in China

I hadn't even heard of Yangshuo before we visited here and we were pleasantly surprised by the peaceful atmosphere. This area used to be the hotspot for tourists and we bumped into many during our visit (especially in the bars and favourite cafe which we seemed to visit on a daily basis).
We hired bikes out for a day and decided to take a tour around the area. We began by cycling to the river where we took a raft boat down the river. Leigh had a go at trying to manoeuvre the boat but to be honest he was completely useless and steered use right into the reeds!

Our bikes were then waiting for us at the end and we then cycled to the Moon Hill scenic area; where we climbed to the top to admire the view below. 

We then took the bikes again to a cave which contained a mud bath and hot springs. Now the mud bath wasn't as exotic as it sounds; it was freezing cold and, to be honest, felt like you were walking through a field of animal fieces. The hot springs on the other hand were amazing and for the first time on this trip we were able to completely relax. Cycling the 14km back was definitely a struggle at first but was a brilliant way to see the area properly.

We spent the next day exploring the local market; hunting for bargains (plus we did find a converse shop which I couldn't resist). Yangshuo is definitely a very relaxed part of China and was a nice change from the big cities (especially as our next stop is Hong Kong). Time to endure our last night train in China and hopefully my last noodle pot too!

Shanghai at it's finest!

The next day was jammed packed full of activities. We begun the day by visiting Yu Gardens. The gardens were beautiful and spread over 2 hectares of land. There were lots of little alleyways leading to different hidden areas. It was very picturesque and at one point it felt like I was in the middle of a Monet painting. There were millions of koi carp and also a vast quantity of terrapins. A place to recommend.

Now if you want to get away from the gigantic skyscrapers, I really recommend to visit the French Concession. 
The French Concession is built down little alleys which lead off in all directions. There are lots of different shops, cool bars and restaurants. We stopped here for lunch and had the best sandwiches and wraps we have tasted over our whole trip (who would have thought that finding a sandwich would be so hard to do!). There were also little sweet shops selling delicious flavoured popcorn (which was still warm from the chocolate covered coating) and a stand which showed you how they made rock pieces. I really loved it here and could have easily spent the whole day here with my English tea (Yes I finally found a place which sold proper breakfast tea not some powder concoction).

The next stop was the Maglev train and yes we did look like idiots boarding a train to the airport just to experience e the speed. The Maglev travels up to 420km per hour, lasting only 7 minutes. I did expect it to feel faster than it was, however the train does tip from side to side like a roller coaster which took a while to get used to at first. Another thing we can say we have done!

Then it was the evening and we all braved a nightout in Shanghai. It was... Eventful! It was a really good night and we realised that a lot of Chinese people can't handle their drink (nor can a lot of western people either) but the amount of money they spend on alcohol is ridiculous. We were placed near a group of Chinese people who kept providing us with champagne and shots. You have to buy a table for 3000 yen (about £300) and then you get that much worth of alcohol and food. Which seemed stupid when you could buy a wrist band and drink as much as you like for 100 yen (about £10) and obviously you were gettig the cheapest alcohol and you had to stand! So being near the Chinese group did come in handy. I have to admit the music wasn't really my scene, however it was a laugh and overall a fab night!