I’ve done some pretty cool things this year. Some of my favourites are:
Standing looking out at Namtso Lake
Namtso Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. It was so lovely and clean there – in contrast to the busy, crowded cities of China that I had been frequenting. The mountains were beautiful as well – many were completely covered in snow down to ground level. I also loved the prayer flags that were dotted around the rocks like little reminders of the human history of the place.
It was possibly made sweeter by the fact that I’d won an argument with my guide to actually get there. There is nothing like winning.
The Hanging Monastery
That a building was successfully built on a cliff face is impressive. That it was built without modern machinery – doubly so. That it is also 75 meters above the ground. Astounding. That it was built in 491, and has lasted well over 1500 years is mind-blowing.
Standing looking up at such an amazing building that I had heard about for so long, was a real ‘Ha I actually here!’ happy dance inside moment.
Chilling with Locals in Mohe
Sometimes the simplest things can be among the best. Exploring the little town of Mohe and talking to the locals in broken Chinese and hand gestures was great.
I’m still not sure what the small brown elongated round things they gave me are, but they are a great original souvenir.
I finally saw one of the things I had most wanted to see in China. They were fantastic! All the faces, weights and body shapes of the Terracotta warriors and different. They are all entirely individual.
Overnight Cruise in Doubtful Sound
Home in New Zealand for Christmas, my family and I took a trip down to Fiordland, to Doubtful Sound. I’ve always said New Zealand lacked history. The oldest building is about 200 years old – which is laughable almost everywhere else in the world. What it may lack in history though, it makes up for in spades with untouched beauty. Doubtful Sound can’t even be reached by car.
The Old Town of Pinyao
Supposedly the only fully intact walled town in China – Pinyao is brilliant! Everywhere you walk you are surrounded with traditional architecture.
The World’s Biggest Buddha Statue
Like with the Hanging Temple – how did they build this 1000 years ago??? The toes are bigger than people!
Iconic and beautiful, this was another place that I had wanted to see for a long time. I went inside, which was really interesting, but this photo is from a park across the road that is really great for photos.
Of course life wouldn’t be complete without the not so great things as well.
No Ice Trees in Jilin
I was annoyed at myself at this. It was too warm for the trees to become Ice-Rimmed (So obviously this isn’t my photo). If I had gone a couple of weeks earlier, then it would probably have worked, but I’d had something weird wrong with my eyes and delayed my trip.
Jilin itself was a pretty cool overnight trip away from work, but because I was a little late to visit in February and because it was the warmest winter in ages both for Harbin and the surrounding area – no Ice-Rimmed Trees.
Missing the train to Datong
It wasn’t actually that huge in the grand scheme of things, but at the time I was about ready to kill. I was running late for my train from Beijing to Datong and decided to grab a taxi to get there more quickly than running to the subway, taking the subway, and then running to the station.
So I showed the taxi driver my ticket and off we went. He, for some reason – I have no idea, took me to the Beijing West Train Station instead of the standard Beijing one. It did not say Beijing West on the ticket – as it would have if it had actually been the correct station. He had no reason to go off in the complete wrong direction.
So after yelling at the taxi driver, refusing to pay and storming off. I booked a new train (there went my budget for the day, sob), subwayed over to the correct train station and got into Datong really late.
Not huge overall, but goodness at the time I was furious.
Sick in Chengdu
This was the most frustrating part I think. I got unbelievably tired in Chengdu. I had been losing energy for a while. I had been tired in Chongquing, so the Yangzte River Cruise from there was supposed to have been restful and relaxing to help me get back on track. Ha ha. The alarm to wake everybody up at 5am and noisy roommates getting up at 4am despite having gone to bed at 11 or 12 dispelled any restful effects the cruise may have had.
So by the time I was in Chengdu, everything was too much effort. I saw the Giant Panda Breeding Base and the world’s largest Buddha statue with a tour from my hostel (the overly expensive type that removes interactions with locals that I usually avoid) – I was too exhausted to do anything else, and slept on the way to the Pandas, from the Pandas to the Giant Buddha and on the way back again.
The next place I wanted to see was totally off the beaten track. It was two six hour bus rides away, and another one hour bus ride after that, into the countryside. Mandarin would be a second language, if one at all; and no one would understand my garbled version of it.
I had no energy to do it. None. Even after I stayed 4 extra rest days in Chengdu eating the bad western food in my hostel. So when my mother offered to pay for my air ticket back to NZ for Christmas. I gratefully took it. (Aren’t mother’s the best?) I will go back and explore rural Sichuan and Yunnan when I can do them justice.
It has been a great year overall. I’m feeling lots better now, so I hope to start writing more regularly again. I have so much to write about China – and I’m planning a trip to India and Nepal soon. So exciting!! So lots of things to look forward to. Happy New Year everybody.