Trip Start Sep 21, 2007
Trip End Apr 10, 2009

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hey everybody!

It's time again for an update from me from China, so here it is. We have seen a lot of beautiful things and had great experiences since Yangshuo, so here I will share a few of them with you. You might already have seen some of the pictures I uploaded before on a regular basis.

Well, I left Yangshuo for the third time this trip and now of course with Peony. Via Guilin and Longsheng we arrived in the mountain village of Ping'an. Besides some minority people this village is famous for its beautiful terraced rice fields, called the Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces. The next day we had a nice walk around Ping'an and the steep rice fields.

From Ping'an we continued to Sanjiang, where we met Frenchman David. Together we took the bus to Chengyang, a Dong minority village famous for its Wind & Rain Bridge: a wooden bridge built without using nails. The village itself and the countryside were really pretty as well, with rice fields and small rivers with waterwheels. We also enjoyed a Dong dance show. We spent that night in Sanjiang.

From Sanjiang the three of us took a bus to Luoxiang. The route went across mountains on small roads. The middle part of the journey went along a river on a dirt and muddy road, because it was raining at that time. One moment I had a bit of a scare, because the backside of the bus wanted to overtake the front side meaning the backside went on a course of its own. Luckily enough the bus driver was able to take control of the bus again. I was definitely not looking forward to slide down the hill in the river some 40 meter below. After almost six hours we arrived in Luoxiang, where we waited more than two hours for a bus to take us the last few kilometers to Zhaoxing. Zhaoxing is also a Dong minority village and a very pretty one as well. There are many beautiful bridges across the small river running through the village. Peony and I decided to stay another day and said goodbye to David.

After Zhaoxing we took a bus to Liping, to change for a bus to Jingzhou. The road to Jingzhou was probably in a worse state than the road to Luoxiang. The bus was also heavily overloaded with minority people. After a few hours on this road we arrived in Jingzhou and had a very warm welcome here... not! Almost the moment I got off the bus an undercover policeman showed me his badge and told me that this town was off limits to foreigners. Peony thought he was full of bullshit, but I didn't think so. Anyway, after half an hour we were on the bus to Hongjiang, where we spent the night.

In Hongjiang we visited the old town in the morning and then continued to Huaihua. Here we changed buses to Jishou. This bus ride took longer than expected and we arrived just before 8 o'clock in the evening in Jishou. My guidebook said that there were no buses anymore to Dehang after 7 o'clock, but we decided to ignore the guidebook and check anyway and we were lucky to catch the last bus to Dehang. Here we arrived just under an hour later where it was already dark. We checked in into a small hotel, where they made dinner especially for us.
Dehang is a Miao minority village situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by surreal rocky peaks. We did quite some walking around through side valleys and rice fields and saw some nice waterfalls. The whole area was very photogenic and we made a lot of pictures. We also enjoyed a great Miao dance show. Dehang and its surroundings turned out to be one of the most beautiful spots in China I have seen so far.

From Dehang we continued to Fenghuang (which means Phoenix). Fenghuang is a small town built alongside both hilly sides of a small river in a wonderful setting. This town is heavily overrun by Chinese tourists, but can still be enjoyed away from the main tourist spots. We enjoyed this place, had some laundry done and stayed three nights.

After Fenghuang we took the bus to Tongren, where we changed for a bus to Guiyang. In Guiyang we enquired about the possibility for me to have my China visa extended. We went to the PSB (Public Security Bureau) and there we applied for the extension. One drawback of this is that we now had to wait for 6 working days in Guiyang and I was not allowed to leave Guizhou province. And on top of that, Guiyang is not really a very exciting city. So we spent nine nights in Guiyang and surprisingly time passed by pretty quickly. We only visited a nearby small town dating back to the Ming dynasty, called Qingyan.

Finally I got my visa extension (I can now stay until June the 27th) and we could go on the move again. We headed north, to the metropolis of Chongqing. Chongqing is a very grey and air polluted city at the confluence of the Yangzi and the Jialing rivers. We tried to book a hard sleeper train ticket to Xi'an, but this turned out to be quite difficult because they would not let me - being a foreigner - on a train to Xi'an, because this train was eventually going to Lhasa in Tibet (Xi'an is not even close to Tibet) and the Chinese are so sensitive about this, it's ridiculous. Later we tried again and we tried a counter and here a lady was able to finally sell us tickets for a sleeper train to Xi'an.

The train route went through very mountainous terrain with loads of tunnels and bridges. Part of the route went through Sichuan province but here we didn't see any evidence of the devastating earthquake which hit Sichuan province a few weeks earlier. The train arrived after 16.5 hours late in Xi'an due to the fact that all trains heading for Sichuan get priority right now. It took us a while to find an affordable hotel near the train station in Xi'an, but after we found one, we soon found ourselves on the bus to the Terracotta Army, where of course I had already been with Inger so many months ago. I dropped Peony off at the Terracotta Army gate and took a bus a few kilometers back to the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang. This tomb looks like a big earthen hill ? which it actually is ?and therefore not so interesting. The story behind it is very interesting though, because it took 700,000 men 38 years to build this enormous mound and the tomb inside is still unexcavated. Back in Xi'an we went out that evening and went to the hostel where Inger and I stayed last time. We played table football (I lost), table tennis (I lost) and pool (we drew). We returned to our hotel quite late.

Yesterday we took a bus to Luoyang which took about six hours. Luoyang is one of the friendliest cities so far in China and known as Peony City, for the peony flower. Today we went to the famous Longmen Caves, a series of manmade caves carved with an enormous amount of small and big Buddhas. After a few hours walking around here we returned to Luoyang, where I wrote this entry.

So, quite a story again; the next entry will probably be around the 27th of June, when I have to leave China.....

So long for now, everybody take care and until next time!

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