A Travellerspoint blog

Next stop: Barcelona

Long weekend in Catalonia

sunny 15 °C
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That's it!

Some friends invited me and my girl to Barcelona, so our bags are packed (well, not quite, but they will be tonight) and tomorrow we're heading to Barcelona.
Having been in Barcelona a few years ago, this time, I think I'll try to check out some things that I couldn't see before, like Montjuic.
For making things more interesting, Spanish Authorities decided to close the borders (a temporary suspension of the Schengen Agreement) so there might be some interesting story.

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Barcelona is also like a city-museum of Gaudi's work, so we might visit the famous landmarks created by this artist.

Well, I just hope that I can rest and have fun.

See you in a few days...

Posted by danics 07:03 Archived in Portugal Tagged barcelona spain montjuic schengen Comments (0)

Last days in China - Beijing (part 2)

Finally, the Great Wall

sunny 22 °C
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Beijing has statistically less people that Shanghai. But somehow, for the time I was in China, I thought that Beijing looks more crowded than Beijing. This may have happened because of the rush hour at the subway. Just like the stories we hear here in Portugal, the subway is as crowded as it gets. Also, to help the fact that there lots of people riding the subway, the older (and central) stations are really really small.

Well, this was the day that we would finally get to the most awaited "attraction" in our trip to China. We managed to buy the tickets for the Train and boarded the train. This one was the "old kind" of trains, but still looked better than some trains I rode in Europe.

The train was moving slowly and the the scenery was uninteresting until we started exiting the city and the mountain took its place in the landscape. Then, we finally could see it. The Wall. Great, majestic and curvy.

Arriving at Badaling, we followed the herd to the entrance for the great wall. I've managed to buy the ticket using my old student card. And, the climb began. The wall is very very steep and not helping our task was the heavy sun (and also, strong wind). But we managed to get to the "end" of the path, took lots of pictures and sweated ourselves. The wall, of course, continues, but it is closed to tourists.

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We bought some souvenirs and returned to Beijing. Next day was planned for a visit to the Forbidden City, but we came to the conclusion that we didn't really wanted to visit it. So, we went to the markets (yet again). We bought some (more or less) useful stuff and ate lunch at a nice and calm mall (and the meal was really cheap too).

It was our last day in China and the sadness of having to leave this interesting country with so much places remaining to be seen. The feeling was a mixture of wanting to return home and wanting the get lost in China.

On Saturday and our departure day, we checked out of our hotel and headed to Beijing Airport. Really, really amazing one. And gigantic. I was curious to know what the Airbus A380 looked like. It really is big! But didn't felt so big inside, although it was a bit more comfortable than the A340. So, there we go, back to Europe, back to Portugal, back to our homes.

Posted by danics 06:00 Archived in China Tagged airport china great beijing wall badaling a380 airbus Comments (0)

Last days in China - Beijing (part 1)

On how we got to China's capital

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Well, the last part of this trip was perhaps the most expected one for us.

We anticipated Beijing as the most culturally interesting part of our journey. And that was exactly what we found. We also found a very big and confusing city. But getting there was also an interesting story. We took the train from Beijing Railway Station (that, in opposition to Hongqiao in Shanghai, is a really messy and dirty station).
The train was really comfortable and clean, and our almost 700 yuan got us the "soft-sleeper" beds. And I can say I was quite comfy in my bed. My 4 people cabin was empty for the first segmented (my partners were in the adjacent cabin), but soon the other 3 persons arrived. Soon, the ticket controller lady came to check my ticket and started saying something in Chinese and pointing to the lower bed. I told her that my ticket was more expensive and that they had sold me telling that it was for the upper bed. But, guess what. The most expensive ticket is actually for the lower bed. I told her (through the help of a translator traveler) that if the other person didn't mind, I would prefer the upper bed. So, I managed to stay there and slept almost the entire journey (knowing that I could read a book or watch a movie in my personal screen).

We arrived to Beijing before 8 am and headed to our hotel, hoping that we could check-in early. At the desk, they asked us for another hour to get the room ready, so we walked a bit around the hotel area. It seemed like a corporate district, with few things to see.

I had planned to go to see the Great Wall that afternoon, but I mistakenly got to another metro station, that was instead, near the Summer Palace. So, we spent the afternoon at this nice place. The summer palace is huge, so you can easily spend a whole day there, just to walk around the lake and visit the temple. We rented a nice paddle boat and decided to paddle around the lake. The heat demanded an Ice Cream, so that's what I did.

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After our visit to the palace, we went back to the city center and headed to the market, because we needed t-shirts. So, I bought a few.

Back to the hotel, I just went to bed and slept calmly till next day.

Another day, another attempt to go to the Great Wall. We went to the train station, only to learn that most of the trains to Badaling had been taken of the schedule. So, we said "well, still not today, tomorrow will be" and we went to the Lama Temple. Unfortunately, the luck was not on our side, so we got there 4 minutes after closing time. Then, it was plan C, Tiananmen Square. So that's where we went. It is bigger than I thought. It has a imposing atmosphere and the metal detectors give it an even more serious feel. We are stupid enough to fall into a scam by these guys that invited us to take a drink in a bar. At the end, the huge bill was divided by the four of us. Well, next time we'll definitely be aware of such stuff.

That night we went to try the world famous Peking Roast Duck. I must say that it was the most delicious meal I tasted in China and for sure one of the best that I ate in a restaurant. Of course, the wisely chosen (by my :) ) restaurant was a awarded and high-end place, near our hotel. But, after checking the prices, we went for it and the bill was not that high (in western standards). The service was great and they even offered us a few Kumquat so we could try (and we took home a few, too).

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(Continues...)

Posted by danics 08:41 Archived in China Tagged palace china summer beijing duck tiananmen qianmen Comments (0)

Back from the East (part 4)

Hangzhou!

sunny 24 °C
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I must say that not going to Huangshan was a bit sad for me, but all this went away when we arrived to Hangzhou (well, maybe not immediately). The simple task of catching a taxi from the railway station to our hostel seemed herculean. So we decided to go on foot. Some guy with an old bike decided to walk us there. (He knew the path as well as I did with the help of google maps, but at least he spoke chinese and was kind enough to carry the big suitcase).

If I thought that the traffic in Shanghai was a mess, I must say that Hangzhou seemed a lot worse in that aspect. The lack of a subway may explain this. I was thirsty and hungry so I decided to by pineapple that a lady was selling on the street (in Hangzhou there are lots of people selling fruit instead of meat as in Shanghai). I must say that one of the best pineapples I ate in my whole life. So fresh and sweet!

Our hostel was located inside some sort of "touristic area", which had a big gate. The area seemed very nice, and so it turned out to be.

After leaving our bags in the hostel, we decided to go and walk in order to see something of this nice city. Near our hostel, there was a market, and lots of tea stores (Hangzhou, for those who don't know, is the place from where comes one of chinese most famous teas - Longjing tea). So, all the stores selling that tea. Of course, I bought like 500g of tea and tasted a free cup almost in every store. (For the tea lovers, you will like to know that are places where you can drink tea from the tap!!!!)

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We went (backwards, for me) up the hill to the temple, but it was closing time, so we decided to return to our hostel and have dinner. The hostel's restaurant had western dishes and to change the routine a bit, I ate a delicious Spaghetti Bolognese :) To make the dinner more pleasant, we met a nice girl who had recently moved to China and was half Portuguese, so we chatted for a few hours with her.

Next day was "trekking" day. Visit Hangzhou without seeing the lake was like going to Rome and miss the Colosseum, so that's where we went. And it is indeed a nice place. It was early morning, but people where already there, running, practicing Tai Chi, just sightseeing or taking pictures.

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We walked in the Lake's park and afterwards, on our way back, we saw a bike rental stand. "Why not rent a bike? - But there's 3 of us! - Ok, so let's rent this one, it has 3 places". Imagine, a 3 seat bike, the chaotic road traffic in Hanghzou and a crazy guy driving. I must say it went rather well and it was much fun. After riding for about 20 minutes, we got the hang of it and became almost experts in driving in China!

Unfortunately, it was also the last the day in this nice place and we had to leave to catch the train to Shanghai and then to Beijing...

(next: Beijing)

Posted by danics 02:19 Archived in China Tagged china hangzhou westlake longjing Comments (0)

Back from the East (part 3)

Still in Shanghai

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What's fascinating about Shanghai, in my opinion, is that it is a mirror of what China has been in the last years. The fast expansion and growth of Chinese economy can be seen in many places.

Yet another day in Shanghai. The day was sunny, so we went to the riverside. The Bund is just like in the books, and we took the typical "stay there, I'll take you a picture with the Pearl Tower on the background" photos. We were trying to find the place where we could cross the river by boat, and after half an hour, we were on the middle of the river, with hundreds of people, making our way to Pudong. Best of all, the ride was only 2 Yuan.

We took the bus back to the hotel (which itself was a bit of an adventure) and rested before heading to the Railway station. Our simple task was to buy tickets for a night train leaving from Hangzhou (where we were heading next day) to Beijing. Well, think again. Buying a train ticket for a train station different from the one you're at, from a different day and, most difficult, to a night train with very few tickets available came out as very difficult for us. First, we had to go to the train station 3 times (first, to a normal counter, where the man pointed at the ticket issuing machine and started saying something that I could not understand, then trying the english counter, to find out the tickets were sold out). We finally gave up and started planning for an extra night in Hangzhou.

Later that night, I searched some options, and found out that we could catch a night train from Shanghai to Beijing. It was a bit more expensive, but that would keep our plans more or less as before. (The only difference was that we would have to catch two trains instead of one)

So, next day was the last day in Shanghai. We chilled at the hotel, before taking a taxi to the metro station. Taxi is really cheap in comparison to everywhere else I rode a taxi, so it was a nice experience. With the arrival of high speed trains to China, the Shanghai-Hangzhou route became something very straightforward. I think that it took us more time from the hotel to Hongqiao Railway Station (Shanghai's main High Speed station) than the train ride to Hangzhou. Again, the weather was hot, almost like Summer had arrived.

(end of part 3 - Next stop: Hangzhou)

Posted by danics 02:51 Archived in China Tagged china shanghai pudong bund Comments (0)

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