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China 2015

A roundtrip to China was a long time wish of us. In fact we booked long ago a trial trip when China opened for tourism, but that trip was cancelled for us. China is a mysterious country that has developed in a short time from a backward overpopulated rural country to the industrial giant with many megacities, which exports to all over the world. It is an opportunity for investment and why not check this out ourselves? Apart from that the country is so much different from the Western Countries that it must be very interesting, despite it is no typical tourist destination.

After scanning the internet for a travel agency we ended up at Riksja travel again, that has a special branch called Chinaonline.nl that is specialized in China travel. We first booked at KLM the trip to China and then decided for a three and a halve week trip through China, starting in Chengdu and ending in Guangzhou.

Just after Mariska's school finished in June we left for our 2015 holiday trip. The plan was to fly from Budapest to Amsterdam,from there to Chengdu. There we would see the town, including the old part, the Panda Research Center. From there we will fly to Lijiang, it is within the Chinese border but is factual Tibet. Then by bus to Zhongdian. Further by bus to Dali followed by a flight to Kunming. In this area we spend 5 days and fly further from Kunming to Guilin, as well a flight of one and a half hour. Next is the Yangshuo area where we will spend a day or four. Then with the high-speed train to Guangzhou.

The taxi brought us convenient to Budapest, a two and a half hour trip. We had to wait 2 hour s before boarding for an uneventful flight with KLM to Amsterdam. The flight to China departed on time, an almost full Boeing 747-400 Combi from KLM. On the flight to China they served delicious Chinese food. We tried to sleep on the night flight, but it was not very successful.

From the China Travel guide:

Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province, which is known as the "Heavenly State" (Tian Fu Zhi Guo). Being the natural habitat of cute giant pandas, it is located in the west of Sichuan Basin and in the center of Chengdu Plain. It covers a total area of 12.3 thousand square kilometers (4,749 square miles) with a population of over 11 million.

Benefiting from Dujiangyan Irrigation Project which was constructed in 256 B.C., Sichuan Province is reputed as "Tian Fu Zhi Guo", literally a place richly endowed with natural resources. Chengdu, as the capital, is extremely productive. The Min and Tuo Rivers, two branches of the Yangtze River, connected to forty other rivers, supply an irrigation area of more than 700 square kilometers (270.27 square miles) with 150-180 million kilowatts of water. Consisting of abundant mineral resources, the land is extremely fertile.

We arrived on time in Chengdu and were greeted by Rachel from the travel agency. The airport of Chengdu has a giant passenger hall, and looks new.

The trip to the hotel was a surprise. Never heard of Chengdu before, it still is a giant town with, according to our guide Rachel, 14 million people living there, almost as much one and a half time the total population of Hungary. And they live a good life, if you see the streets full of big shiny cars, many of them the latest premium models of BMW, Mercedes and Audi. Everybody seem to have the latest model big screen smartphone. Only foreign tourists like us used that obsolete camera's as the Chinese people use only used their sophisticated smartphones, very often with a selfie stick. Some people think China is a giant, awakening. Wrong. China is full awake and kicking. And is looking in the rear mirror to see Europe struggling with the economy and the euro, and the way money is taken from hard working people to hand over to people who prefer to find it easier to collect money from the State than working hard. A visit to Chengdu will convince anyone that China has made incredible advances in the recent years and has without any doubt a bright future.

The weather was hot and moist, and a little hazy. Smog is a major problem in Chinese towns. The weather had that tropical feeling.

We Arrived at the Jingli hotel, hard to find in the centre of a pedestrian area in a touristic part of the old city center. It was an authentic Chinese hotel with all the comfort and we were lucky to have a roomy apartment with all the luxury. "

After checking in we went out to checkout the town. Traffic is very dense and not very pedestrian friendly. It did cost quite a lot of time just to cross the street at a zebra, and then there was a danger to be hit by such a shiny big Mercedes. The shops were well stocked with all kind of strange food and of course we were eager to try them.

The town looked well organized and clean.

After that we visited the old town touristic area and there were hundreds of souvenir shops and hundreds of eating stands. Everything looked different. Especially attractive looked baked duck-heads and duck paws. For Chinese people at least. Or black, stinking Tofu, as was listed on the pricelist. After some tries, not all of them successful, we ended up with soft ice from Dairy Queen.

Next morning early we went out to visit the Panda Research Centre. panda's are the symbol of China and 2000 are left in the nature while 500 are in zoo's all over the world. The first thing interesting is that all mammals living 8 million years are extinct, except the Panda. They have adapted all over that long period. They are special for humans as they are so cute, playful. However they are strong animals and watch out, they can hurt you badly. The panda's look like bears but are not bears at all, a complete, different family. The Research centre is as well a public venue, where thousands of tourists enjoy the scenery and the animals. We learned a lot about these interesting animals.As there are almost 100 Pandas's, we could see a lot, most of them eating bamboo or, the young ones, playing. They eat almost exclusively bamboo. The nutrients are absorbed and the bamboo is not digested, so they have to eat something like up to 40 kg bamboo per day and produce enormous amounts of poo of course.

There were red panda 's as well. Eating bamboo too but looking more like a raccoon, with the size of a dog. The tail is striped and the back is brown. We saw a few of them in the trees and two who were acting as actors for a photo shoot. It was a very interesting visit as we could learn more about these interesting mysterious creatures.

For the afternoon we decided to follow a cooking course in Sichuan specialities, to learn the secrets behind these tricky dishes. When we arrived, the program was 4 dishes:sweet and sour pork, Gong Bao chicken, fish-flavor eggplants and dumplings.

One that like to have the recipes can ask for it. The result was stunning: absolutely delicious with flavors unknown by us. One of the secrets was the use of Sichuan peppers. Has nothing to do with peppers or pepper, And has a taste and flavor comparable to nothing else. It even has anesthetic effect, it makes the tongue dumb. With spices like this the mysteries of the Chinese kitchen were resolved. It was relatively easy to create the best dishes you can imagine. Some vegetables were completely unknown for us, not comparable to anything we have ever seen or tasted. We had a wonderful experience and on the way back to the hotel we bought a packet of red and a packet of black pepper corns. Now looking for a shop where they sell seeds.

Next was the flight to the south, to Lijiang, high om the north side of the Himalaya's. It is technically China, but in many aspects it is more Tibet.

The taxi to the airport was in time and we had ample time for the trip. It's already hot, 28 degrees celsius and already hazy. The roads in Chengdu are wide and many of them 3 lane, but the amount of cars just clogs the streets. So for a good reason our guide took an hour extra for the trip to the airport. The driving style in Chendung was aggressive and continuously drivers were honking. And just crossing the street is a risky business. We could discover many Chinese design cars, that looked as modern and nice as BMW's or Mercedesses. Its just a matter of time when we will see these models on roads in Europe. One of them was the BYD, other could not be identified by name, as the brand name was in Chinese characters. The Chinese design cars are fully up to date. In Chengdu is the Volvo factory. Volvo looks very Swedish, but In fact Volvo is now a Chinese company, owned by Geelong. They even make here Volvo cars that are only sold in China, like the long version of the S60. Interesting that the premium version of this car is only sold here. It is a tell tale that the expensive version is reserved for the Chinese.

Capital Airlines used a comfortable new Airbus 319 for the trip and all seats were occupied. Airbus has a factory in China and maybe this aircraft was produced in China. The one and a half hour trip was as planned and the driver was waiting for us to bring us to the hotel in Lijiang. It is a Tibetan style building, on a hill outside the centre of the town. We went out to see the town and the old part was flooded with tourists and almost all buildings were converted to tourist souvenir shops or restaurants.

From the Travel China Guide:

Lijiang, an attractive tourist destination in Yunnan Province, is considered a fairyland blessed with fresh air, clear streams, breathtaking snowy mountains and an undisturbed landscape inhabited by friendly people. It exercises jurisdiction over four counties and an Old Town District. This is the main region inhabited by the Naxi People, one of China's 55 minority ethnic groups.

While the geographical position of the city is remote, it has the advantage of ensuring a pleasant year-round climate and a wide variety of tourist resources in the 7,954 square miles (20,600 square kilometers) area. The earliest recorded history of the city can be traced back to the Warring States Period (476 BC-221 BC). With the advent of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the local economy reached a peak with the development of the Ancient Tea-Horse Road which made a great contribution to both commercial and cultural communication between Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces.

The Old Town District has the well preserved Lijiang Old Town, listed a World Cultural Heritages site by UNESCO in 1997. The Old Town was once the center of the city and continues to maintain the original flavor of the local lifestyle, the typical local architecture and the profound cultural heritage of the region. It is graced by well preserved ancient buildings and the Naxi Culture.

Next day was the birthday of Mariska: 10 years old! Today we have a guide who shows us around. First he tells that Lijiang is at 2600m altitude. Indeed all pack of chips in the shops are blown up, about to explode. And Birgitt has a headache, associated with high altitude. As usual after a long trip we have a jetlag and sleep only a short part of the night. We started the tour early so before the tourists come. The guide shows us interesting details and tells about the Naxa people, he is one of them. They have nothing to to with Chinese and feel more connected to Tibet. Soon we leave the tourist trap to the area where the Naxa's live and work. We see an old spring with a notation that Kublai Kahn used the well in 1253. That was 10 years after the Tartars under Oegodei Khan stood with his conquering army for the gates of Vienna, after murdering a third of the Hungarian population, but turned around without a battle due to a succession problem back home. Indeed about Kublai Khan: a Small world! We spend quite a lot if time on the market, were incredible amounts fresh produce are sold. Few vegetables are known in Europe and all looks delicious. The fruit looked all very fresh and of a supreme quality. Even the grapes looked like top quality. Interesting is the incredible variety in dried food. Many mushrooms, including psychedelic ones were on sale. The expression "the Chinese eat all that flies, swims and moves (except airplanes, trains and submarines) lookes not far from the truth! We saw a Naxa temple, a performance of Naxa traditional dance and song. They keep their traditions alive.

Next destination was the Shuhe old town, it is half an hour drive, hill up. It offered a splendid opportunity to see the area at ease from a bike. It is again a Naxa tradtional town with a busy tourist life. Interesting that the water that flows through the channels is crystal clear. We strolled at our ease through the area, saw a temple and a chrystal clear lake. The vegetable production was in the village and looked very good. Each plant was fertilised with a horse dropping.

Again on our bycicle for a 20 minutes drive to Bai Sha Old Town, basically more of the same. Here we had our lunch and as speciality yak meat was advised. It was indeed delicious. Birgitt had noodles and Mariska frites. Further exploring Mariska saw a copper dragon and that was a good souvenir for her birthday.

Naxa's keep their culture alive and one aspect of it is silk embroidering. There is an institute where Young Naxa's can learn this art. We saw stunning examples and could not resist to buy 3 pieces of art, each took a month to produce. The bigger pieces of art cost a year to complete. The way back was easy, down to the town. From here we could see the Jade Dragon Snow mountain, towering above the valley. Today was a wonderful day. Excellent weather, and everything left a good feeling.

From China travel guide: Shangri-La is the "Eden in dream". Since it first appeared in British novelist James Hilton's Lost Horizon in the 1939, it has been associated with the mystique of a place which could not possibly exist here on Earth. In Tibetan,Shangri-La means the "sun and moon in heart", an ideal home only found in heaven.There the lofty and continuous snowy mountains, endless grasslands, steep and grand gorges, azure lakes and the bucolic villages always leave a deep impression on visitors.

Located at point where Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan all meet, Shangri-La County is administered by Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province. In the past, it was called Zhongdian or "Jiantang" in Tibetan. In ancient times, it together with Batang (in Tibet) and Litang (in Sichuan) was the fiefdom of the three sons of a Tibetan King. In 2002, Zhongdian changed its name to Shangri-La.

Bitahai Lake

At an average altitude of more than 3,000 meters (about 9,843 feet), the county is very difficult to be reached. Without railways leading there, the chief means of transportation is motor vehicles. To get there, visitors will typically begin their journey in Kunming, traveling first to Lijiang and then taking the long-distance bus in Lijiang to get there. It's about 175 kilometers (108.74 miles) from Lijiang to Shangri-La. On this way, the Tiger Leaping Gorge can be seen.

The region is inhabited by many different ethnic groups, with the Tibetans comprising the majority of the population. There you will have an opportunity to experience Tibetan life and learn about their lifestyle, religion and cuisine. The unique scenery, highlighted by plateaus, together with the fascinating ethnic culture makes the land very attractive and charming to visit.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangri-La is rich in natural resources from valuable herbs to rich mineral deposits (including gold, silver, copper, manganese and many other rare metals) to abundant animal resources (such as golden monkeys, leopards and musk deer). This is a land full of natural wonders. As a Chinese saying goes, "The earliest sunrise is seen in Shangri-La; and the most unique place is also there". Once you visit, you will fully appreciate the meaning of this saying. In addition, the warm welcome of the residents of this land will make you feel at home.

We are now at 3345 m altitude and the weather is bright. We arrive at our hotel, convenient situated near the old town. We make a trip to town and enjoy the reconstruction of the buildings destroyed by fire in 2014. The construction is mostly completed but the buildings have to be occupied.

Next day is the trip to Zhongdian. We got our tickets and as they are all Chinese characters, we cannot read this. We have met very few people speaking English and then only very little. If we pronounce a Chinese word of e.g. A town as written in English, nobody understands. The only solution is present a paper with Chinese characters. We want to be sure we are on the right bus, so we ask at the reception of the hotel to write Zhongdian on a paper in Chinese characters. The girl did not understand so assistance was called and 4 people could not make anything of my request, even with the help of translaters on their smartphone. The closest I got was an advice to go to Shangrila and further per taxi. Then I presented the phonenumber of the agency and they informed me that Zhongdian IS Shangri La. To the bus station we at last had the opportunity to checkout a Chinese brand car. No idea what it was but an excellent car, well build, comfortable with luxery like a rear video camera. Nice car. We have travelled often by bus on remote places on earth and we usually travel from shabby busstations on run down busses, not now. The busstation looked like a state of the art airport including security checks and the bus was a comfortable German Neoplan, of course fully airconditioned, with entertainment and booked seats. The trip showed that Lijiang was a big modern city with wide roads leading out. The first part was a well designed autobahn with advanced features as LED lighting in tunnels. The road was steady climbing, and we departed from 2300m altitude. The trip to the north was very interesting as slowly more and more buildings with Tibetan features apeared. Nature was very interesting and we were surounded by mountains. At last, after a 4 hour trip we reached a plateau with many yaks. They looked like a mixture of cattle and buffalo's, usually black but sometimes white or with white spots. We arrived at Shangri-La, a modern town where the modern buildings have some Tibetan style features. It is in the very south-west, close to the Burmese and Tibet border. We were very curious as Shangri-La is a mystique place , many premium hotels are named so and even songs are about Shangri-La. And so high above the 3000m that there is a minor risk for high altitude sicknes. If that occurs you must leave to a lower altitude.

From China travel guide: Shangri-La is the "Eden in dream". Since it first appeared in British novelist James Hilton's Lost Horizon in the 1939, it has been associated with the mystique of a place which could not possibly exist here on Earth. In Tibetan, Shangri-La means the "sun and moon in heart", an ideal home only found in heaven.There the lofty and continuous snowy mountains, endless grasslands, steep and grand gorges, azure lakes and the bucolic villages always leave a deep impression on visitors.

Located at point where Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan all meet, Shangri-La County is administered by Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province. In the past, it was called Zhongdian or "Jiantang" in Tibetan. In ancient times, it together with Batang (in Tibet) and Litang (in Sichuan) was the fiefdom of the three sons of a Tibetan King. In 2002, Zhongdian changed its name to Shangri-La.

Bitahai Lake At an average altitude of more than 3,000 meters (about 9,843 feet), the county is very difficult to be reached. Without railways leading there, the chief means of transportation is motor vehicles. To get there, visitors will typically begin their journey in Kunming, traveling first to Lijiang and then taking the long-distance bus in Lijiang to get there. It's about 175 kilometers (108.74 miles) from Lijiang to Shangri-La. On this way, the Tiger Leaping Gorge can be seen.

The region is inhabited by many different ethnic groups, with the Tibetans comprising the majority of the population. There you will have an opportunity to experience Tibetan life and learn about their lifestyle, religion and cuisine. The unique scenery, highlighted by plateaus, together with the fascinating ethnic culture makes the land very attractive and charming to visit.

Songzanlin Monastery Shangri-La is rich in natural resources from valuable herbs to rich mineral deposits (including gold, silver, copper, manganese and many other rare metals) to abundant animal resources (such as golden monkeys, leopards and musk deer). This is a land full of natural wonders. As a Chinese saying goes, "The earliest sunrise is seen in Shangri-La; and the most unique place is also there". Once you visit, you will fully appreciate the meaning of this saying. In addition, the warm welcome of the residents of this land will make you feel at home.

We are now at 3345 m altitude and the weather is clear and bright.

We arrive at our hotel , convenient situated near the old town. We make a trip to town and see how a modern building can be build with rather primitive means: lots of wooden poles support the molds for reinforced concrete. We enjoy the reconstruction of the buildings of the Old City destroyed by fire in 2014. The construction is mostly completed but the buildings have to be occupied. It can be seen how the construction of the buildings is. The decoration is conform the old buildings and it must have cost a fortune to reconstruct the buildings in the traditional way. The air is cristal clear an crisp and the sun is burning dangerously. We climb the hill to the monastry and the high altitude counts against you. The sides of the stairs up are supplied wist resting benches and most people use it once in a while to relax a little. The temple is beautiful. Unfortunately pictures are not allowed but many people lit outside their incense sticks. Outside is a giant prayerdrum. Mariska likes it to help it turning but in due course Mariska thinks it's more or less a toy and cannot get enough of it. Interesting is that the lowest ring of symbols are swastika's, the hated symbol of NAZI Germany.

< Today we go to the Songzanlin Monastery, a giant complex just north of Shangri-La. We rent bicycles and it takes about half an hour to reach the complex. We enter the complex and see a steep stair. At this altitude you should climb very slowly. Some people have a bottle with oxygen in their hand. There are many buildings and in most temples are giant Buda statues, all in gold finish. In front of one a monks band as playing, or more accurate making noise with their instruments. Inside the temples it is not allowed to take pictures but if nobody looks.........

We see the construction of the building with bricks made of mud and straw. As long as they are protected against rainwater they are durable but as soon as the cover is gone the structure falls slowly apart. It is not resistant to earthquakes as wel. After the monastery we walk around a lake, the result of tectonic movements of the earth, 180 million years ago.

Next was a visit to the old town again and Mariska rushed again to the giant prayer drum. Dinner was in a authentic Tibetan restaurant. All the ingredients were on display in a cooler and looked delicious fresh. All was prepared in the wok and took minutes. We did not have any better meal until now.

We booked a trip for next day to a national park with beautiful nature, now we have seen enough of de town. The people were very helpful and the Smartphone translation programs are a good help to communicate. Very few people speak any English.

We have hardly any idea what the program is for today, the Balagezong Shangri La grand Canyon. We board the bus and leave over a clever designed and build new road over the mountains. Many bridges and tunnels are part of the road. It must have cost a fortune to build it but that maks the north of the Yunnan province accessible. We even see a ski resort 18 km north of Shangri La. Address: Hala Village, Nixi Township, 18km northwest of Shangri-La County Town. The trip continues along incredible nice landscape. The mountains are green. That is interesting as Yunnan is situated on a latitude of 27 degrees, around the same as the Sahara. It is June 23 now and the sun burns almost vertical. The blue sky at this altitude is dark blue. The trip is almost 100 km and just as we reach the Yangtze river, we turn right to the canyon. The road climbs further Long a fast streaming crystal clear river. We arrive at a group of building which is the entry point for the trip in the canyon. We board another bus and first destination is Bala Village, a breath taking climb of 1000m over a new build road. More about it on http://www.yunnanadventure.com/attraction-p444-bala-gezong-shangri-la-grand-canyon-diqing

It is located on a mese and only a few families live on this Fairy tale beautiful landscape. Next is a stop for a 5km walk over a boardwalk on the almost vertical sides of the canyon. It is hot and the water looks clear. After 2,5 km we see the possibility to return by raft. We buy the tickets and enjoy a smooth ride over the river back to the point where we left the bus. We leave again and after a short ride we get te opportunity to enjoy another boardwalk, this time in a steep canyon, the waterfalls are dry, unfortunately. All start in a good spirit, but it is hot in the bright sun and the boardwalk is long and steep, numerous stairs are exhausting and one by one turn back. Only a few made it to the end of the canyon (including me, of course). This completed the canyon adventure and we returned to the hotel, for dinner and packing for the trip tomorrow to Dali.

From travel China Guide:

Located northwest of Kunming, Dali City is the economic and cultural center of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture. The area is surrounded by mountains on the east, west, and south, and has the Erhai Lake in its center. Here you will find 25 ethnic minorities, which have created a unique cultural heritage amidst the area's picturesque surroundings.

Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake are praised as the city's leading scenic areas. Most attractions lie between these two landmarks, such as the Butterfly Spring, and the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple. Ethnic minorities have inhabited in this area for generations, with the Bai Minority making up the majority of its population (65%). The customs of the ethnic minorities bring charm to daily life. Each spring, celebrations and festivals bring the city to life. Celebrations such as the March Street Festival and Butterfly Fest provide excellent opportunities to learn about local folk customs.

As early as 4,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Bai people settled in this area. In the Second Century AD, it was brought into the territory of the central government of Han Dynasty (206 BC-220AD). Two ethnic states, the Nanzhao State (738-937) in Tang Dynasty (618-907), and the Dali State (937-1253) in Song Dynasty (960-1279), were once established here as well. Throughout ages, it remained an intermediary area linking economic and cultural communications between ancient China and other countries via India. The remains of the Tai He City and the Dali Ancient City bear witness to thousands of years of historic changes once happened here. Together with the Xizhou Town and the Zhoucheng Village, the ancient towns around show the best of historic customs of daily life within the Bai Minority.

Dali Ancient City

The Three Pagodas, Chongsheng Temple

Present Dali is a city that combines history with modern convenience. It is divided into two areas- the Ancient City and the New District (widely known as Xiaguan). The Ancient City is centered around the ancient city of Dali, first built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ancient buildings, city walls and the old city moat are the sites most frequented by visitors. The famous Foreigner Street in the Ancient City attracts visitors with its handicrafts, and local culinary delicacies. Xiaguan, located to the south of the Ancient City, home to the government of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture. Here hotels, public squares, and shopping centers add modernity to the otherwise historical city.

Throughout its years of development, local endeavors for advancement have been rewarded with a great rise in area living standards. Nowadays, this is a tourist destination replete with every convenience in transportation and public facilities, making it accessible for visitors from home and abroad.

As usual all the arrangements were as planned. The tickets for the bus, the transfer and so on.

The bus departed on time for a great, 5 hour trip to Dali. The scenery was very variable. Green agricultural area's, high mountains with glaciers, emerald green rice paddies. In the cool mountains of Shangri La the potatoes just came above the ground while 100 km to the south in the much warmer climate, the potato plants were blooming. Through the mountains the trucks were creeping up and many car drivers were overtaking like idiots. The bus had to stop twice to a standstill to just avoid an accident. Honking is a lifestyle in China and Mariska covers her ears while walking along the street.

Jim's Tibetan hotel is located just outside the Old town. We have dinner in a restaurant where the chief himself makes the noodles. We take the opportunity for a Chinese body- and feet massage and a pedicure. The massage is traditional Chinese and combines thousands years of medical knowledge. The lady managed to find all the spots that hurts in your body, so it is not a relaxing massage, but you feel better after.

We were warned for the stiff Chinese mattresses and indeed in every hotel we used our self-inflating mattresses. Here in Dali is the first beds we encounter where we can sleep without them.

The day in Dali are free days, nothing planned by the travel agency. So we make our own plans.

Next day we plan to go to the big Erhai lake to see if we can hire a boat. We have a tourist map of Dali and it looks like a stroll of half an hour. However, the map is not at scale and it turned out a walk of 3 hours. First through the old city, where noisy generators generated power as there was apparently a blackout. Making that long walk brought us to area's that never have seen tourist. We see bundles of cable that show why there might have been a power black-out.

After we left the town we entered a rural part on narrow paths, where we could see from close distance how the farmers got those nice products. They keep the area completely free of weeds and a complicated system of irrigation allowed every plant get water. The rice paddies were brilliant green. We passed through villages out of the tourist stream and eventually arrived at the harbor. On the road fishermen dried their catch of transparant little fish. At the harbor nobody understood English and we could not make clear our wish for a cruise on the lake. No problem, Mariska was eager to play in the water and she had a wonderful time. In stead of walking back another 3 hours we decided To take a taxi, so we could spend the afternoon in a less exhausting way and see more of the old town.

The old town is nice and of course full of tourist shops. But not only, you have shops for the normal population as well. As we return to Jims Tibetan Hotel, Jim points to his daughter Zhuli and the two became instant friends. Zhuli differs only 10 days in age with Mariska and she is.......... Dutch! So the two can speak at last Dutch. The two become so good friends that we are invited at her place where she lives with her mother Henriette and her brother.

Early in the morning we get a taxi to the mountain the cable car starts at 2250 m and ends at 4000 m, a real alpine experience. In Europe is no cable car to this altitude. The cable car is of French Poma brand, infamous for the metal bar-and-spring ski-lifts in France. The cable car is perfect, goes smooth and comfortable. As the cable car climbs we get a nice view over the lake and Dali. The cable car has 2 sections and the second section brings us to 4000m. It should be there about 20 degrees cooler than in the valley and in deed, the top is surrounded in clouds and the temperature is a cool 5 degrees. Wind is blowing and it is nice there. Nature us stunning. Endemic plants that grow nowhere else and are trapped at the isolated high mountains. The trees have a special appearance and complete unknown flowers ar decorating the top. In Europe, over the 2000m, all the mountains are bare rock, here the mountains are at that altitude lush green and even at 4000m only greens slopes and trees can be observed. Even in tropical Africa on the Kilimanjaro at this altitude are bare rocks. It is an extraordinary experience and sure a lifetime experience. We can explore the area on a boardwalk, that goes steep down and up. At this level the lack of oxygen take its toll and you should move slower than at sea-level.

We try to take a taxi back to the hotel but a guy offer us to bring there. We pay the taxi fare and show the map, he nods, so we relax and enjoy the ride. I follow it on the iPhone navigation and note that he makes a detour. A smart move? When he asks someone directions. I make him clear that's enough and guide him with help of the iPhone directly to Jim's Tibetan Hotel. He is very grateful.

After retuning to the hotel we have the next event we have organized, a visit to a market in an other town near the south side of the lake to buy plant seeds. We take a rest of one minute and jump in the car that will bring us to the market. Lots of shops and stands there with agriculture tools, flowers, animals like birds, fish and reptiles, and one shop with seeds. In total we buy 100 packets of vegetable and flower seeds, so we can try them next season in the garden.

At the end of the afternoon we go to the house of Henriette in the Old Town, a walk of about half an hour. Mariska and Zhuli are very glad to meet again and play joyful. We invite Henriette and the kids for dinner and she proposes a Ugur restaurant. Ugurs are a moslim minority in the west of China and consider themselves as of Turkish decent. The dinner was lovely and the bill for 6 persons was only 80 yuan, roughly 12 euro. After that we we went to the park where the kids could play. On the way back we enjoyed the active life of the Old City. Thousands of shops an people who sell everything created a dynamic atmosphere. The streets were full of Chinese people enjoying shopping, the dance and sing performances, or were just enjoying a nice warm evening with a refreshing wind. A lovely atmosphere indeed. So while nothing was planned in Dali we had a full program, a rewarding time there with nice experiences.

Not difficult to see why Dali is a resort where thousands guests from Beijing or Kunming spend some time there when it is unbearable hot in their town.

Next day we wil leave at 7 in the morning for the 350 km trip by taxi to Kunming, for the flight to Guilin.

We leave at 7 as the driver has a vague story about delays and roadworks. The taxi was a brand-new Chinese car with all the luxurious options you can imagine.The trip is interesting as we see the landscape it all its aspects passing by. We end at Kunming, another mega city where a building frenzy can be seen. We are at noon at the airport as there were no roadworks with any delay. Most likely the driver had another business, so we had to wait some 5 hours before we could board the Boeing 737-800 van Southern China Airlines. Never heard of it? Still it dwarfs the KLM with 6 times as many aircraft, including the giant Airbus 380. The plane and service was OK and the driver was waiting in Guilin. In one and a half hour he brought us in a new and comfortable Buick MPV to Yangshuo. Soon after Guilin we saw the first Steep Karst Mountains, so characteristic for the area and is considered the most famous landscape in China. The trip was as usual. Chinese car drivers have the strange habit to keep driving left, even at low speed so overtaking right is quite normal. This mental disease we have seen everywhere in China.Remarkably you see seldom -if ever- accidents en very few cars have dents. So there must be a secret order in the chaos.

From the China travel Guide

Yangshuo lies to the southeast of Guilin and in the northeast of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Since introduced by ‘Lonely Planet’ in 1980, it greets an increasing number of visitors annually.

The rippling Li River traverses the county and brings it breath-taking natural beauty. The county is regarded as one of the most beautiful counties in China and the local scenery is the essence of Guilin. It is also the termination of a Li River cruise.

The special geography gives it amazing beauty while over 1,400 years of history and diverse ethnic minority groups bless it with deep traditional and splendid cultures. Keeping original styles, streets there present the simple and primitive atmosphere of the ancient town. Ethnic groups’ special folk customs represented by their various festivals, and exotic flavors added by foreigners make this town more colorful. The West Street in the downtown is the most popular site, gathering and dispatching a great number of tourists.

We arrive in the evening in the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, at the foot of a giant karst mountain and at the waterfront. The rooms are nice, with airco and with temperatures approaching the 40 degrees that's a life saver. The staff is smiling and friendly and the beds are soft enough for us. They promote eco tourism.

Next morning we were greeted at 8 o'clock by guide Moy who proposed a program. We had bikes and went along the field to a station where bamboo rafts are launched. Two on the raft, so we had 2 rafts. The rafts were guided by a helmsman over the tranquil Yulong river. The raft had to endure some shallow rapids. It was lovely relaxing. But if you think we were the only people, that's wrong. Hundreds of bamboo rafts were on the river. At the end of the ride the rafts are pulled out of the water, the seats are removed and the rafts are stacked up trucks and brought back to the point of departure. This way the rafts can be used 3 to 4 times a day. Though is was very busy, it was very quiet compared to the period after July 1 when enormous quantities af tourist flood the Area as any Chinese wishes to see this interesting area. If you see any advertisement on China, it is a good chance that the Karst area of Guilin-Yangshuo is shown.

After the wonderful bamboo raft ride we decide to go to the Moon Hill, where a giant natural bridge in the form of the crescent of te moon can be seen. We have to climb 900 steps in the scorching heat and when we are at the top we were exhausted and sweating so much that it looked like we came just from under the shower. It was rewarding, however with a stunning view over the karst mountain area. Next was a visit to Yangshuo town, about 8 kms on the bike. It looked like a modern town, but it has an old part as well, the West street. We keep this for the next time. As we stay here some 4 days. After returning to the hotel we spend quite some time in the Yulong river. A cool river is an excellent place in this hot weather. Tomorrow is Monday and a scheduled free day. We will seek a relaxed day and we will use no alarm clock.

29jun Today was a relax day, only a visit to the Gold Water Cave. If you have ever visited the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, the most beautiful caverns in the world, you know that every subsequent cave visit is somewhat disappointing. But this cavern has its own attractions, like the exuberant colored lighting, a mud bath and a hot-spring.

The colors of the lighting made the formations stalactites and stalagmites look like fantasies. It was nice cool in the caverns and moist. Outside temperature was around 37 centigrade, so the cool mountain cavern was a welcome cooling off. We saw numerous formations, many of them complex. At the end of the tour there was the possibility of a mud bath. The bath should be very healthy against diseases like itching, sunburn and brain tumors. The mud was rather cool. Over the mud was a layer water, rather heavy and loaded with minerals, so you could easily float on the water. After the cold mud bath, the hot spring looked very tempting, and it was nice indeed, some 40 degrees. At the end there was a possibility for skincare of feet by those little fishes, so why not a try? It felt like the fishes have beaks with sandpaper. Outside the cavern a strange product was on sale. It claimed to be honey, but tasted more like sugar

Tomorrow a trip to the country side is booked.

Early morning we meet Nancy who kindly invites us to her parents house. It is situated half an hour from the hotel on the lovely country side along the Li river. Her mother was a vital 76 year young lady who invited us to work in the garden. We were informed about mysterious plants that are used as vegetables. Part of the job was collecting vegetables for the lunch. At almost 40 degrees the work was rather strenuous and we were soaking from sweat when we cleaned the lot where a kind of Chinese garlic was grown, that grows like shallots. They were very tasty and of course we got quite a lot of them with us, to plant in december in our garden. The next plants after the garlic to plant were sweet potatoes. Further we collected other fruit and seeds, to try in our garden. The lunch was prepared in an outside kitchen, on a wood fired wok kitchen range all parts of the meal were prepared subsequently cooked in one wok, while carefully adjusting the wood fire with dry wooden branches. First we got cooked sweet corn. Then we got a stew of beans, a stew of sweet potato leaves, a soup of young gourd shoots and flowers supplemented by a spicy dish of dried fish from the Li river with beans and a variety of herbs and spices. Of course supplemented by rice and rice porridge. It tasted all very well and it gave us a good idea how a farmers meal was composed. It must be very healthy as it is all fresh. And indeed, you only see very few overweight Chinese.

In one aspect the Chinese are very smart in the towns you see only silent electric scooters. As a two stroke engine as usually used in the Netherlands, pollutes more than hundred times as much as a car. Chinese, however only very seldom use a helmet and in the chaotic traffic that is a major risk on injuries.

Now we are two weeks in China and one more week to go.

Today we go to Fuli town in the Donglan hills, where we booked a fan painting course. The taxi brings us to Fuli to the master fan painter, who usually wins any contest in this field. He learns us the technique and we can make on plain paper some training pictures. Then we get the real fan and make the drawing on the fan. The result is not bad but nothing compared to the art of the Master. So we buy as well some masterpieces by him. It was an interesting experience. When we come back to the hotel, it is cloudy but extremely hot.


From Wikitravel:

Zhaoxing (??) is a pretty Dong minority town nestling in a valley a long way away from anywhere. It's full of old wooden buildings, wind and rain bridges, and drum towers, and surrounded by beautiful scenery. It's had a bit of the government sponsored "Chinese Minority Village" makeover, but is nowhere near as reconstructed as the other towns in the vicinity.

The local people will refer to this place as Zhaoxing and having the name written down will be useful.

The new motorway is now finished and open to traffic. The nearest exit is Congjiang East which is just outside a town called Luoxiang (??) which itself is less than 10km from Zhaoxing, although the road between the two is currently in a terrible condition (probably due to the high volume of construction vehicles passing through the area).

At 9 o'clock in the morning we leave Yangshuo for Zhaoxing. The van and driver will be to our disposal for 5 days.The trip will last 9 hours over rural and scenic roads, along fields, through mountains and along rivers. When we leave we see some rain trickling down but in due course it turns into heavy rain. During the trip we cross a frontal system and at the end of the trip we saw the sun again. Of course we had interesting encounters like a herd of water buffalo's blocking the way. After 2 hours the driver had misused his high power claxon for a few thousand times, so we asked him to refrain from honking, that he did.

The area around Zhaoxing is the land of the Dong people, talented wood craftsmen. When we arrive there the quality of the roads is getting down. Over and above the roads are half blocked bij mud an stone slides. This is the result of the extreme rain. The driver makes a few mistakes and continues at walking space over a new road base, consisting of boulders, a terrible ride. En route we see many autobahn construction sites. The Chinese cut the track in little pieces and on all the little pieces are completed, the motorway must be ready. That takes a fraction of the time we are used to in Europe.

At last we arrive at Hoaxing, a tourist trap of epic proportions. You even have to pay to enter it, 100 Yuan each, that. compares to a dinner for the 3 of us. If you like to extend your collection of tourist hats or t-shirts or other rubbish, this is the place to be. We were booked in the Zhaoxing Hotel but are transported to the VIP department. If this facility is for VIPS, you can imagine how the hotel for common guest look like. In the evening we make a stroll to the village and have a nice dinner. As the tapwater is colored we buy a lot of water for drinking and toothbrushing. However one of the bottles contains something like spirit.

Next day at nine we leave with the driver for a visit to the Dong village Jitang it is nested high in the lush green mountains at the end of a road that climbs steep with hairpins. Every one hundred meters we see a mud and stone slide that blocks partly the road. The clouds offer a magnificent framework for the many pictures we make.The village is not a touristic Dong village people seem to live a traditional life there, but including things like flatscreen TV's. The houses are all still traditional. New houses are build and leave the opportunity to see the wood craftmanship of the builders in the village is a quiet atmosphere.

After the visit we head for the village of Tang An, on the other side of the valley.

Here again many mudslides, the car just can pass the obstructions. The weather must have been severe, that old roads are damaged in such a way. Then we arrive at a complete roadblock: we cannot pass it. So the driver turns on the narrow road and we head back.

Sometimes you have a problem and you do not know that. Looking back to our road we see something shocking: the base of our road at one point did slide away in the steep deep valley and the concrete road surface is just hanging in the air. And we did pass this point twice in the car! We are shocked but glad that the road surface did not collaps under the weight of the car. If that would have happened, you definitely would not have read this!

In the afternoon we further explore Zhaoxing and we discover that just outside the tourist area the real Zhaoxing Dong village remains. It is a pure Chinese operation. Nobody speaks English and further no English can be seen, apart from the shield on a few restaurants.

And about the outrageous entree fee: we understand that there are so many rich Chinese now, who like to see all the treasures of their country, that they have to ask high entry fees to limit the demand. If that is the intention, they were highly successful and during the evening stroll we saw mostly empty restaurants and shops. But the cause might have the disaster caused by heavy rainfall and cancelled holidays.

Strange things happen in China with internet. The authorities have full control of it and many addresses are blocked, like Google and Facebook. Now we are in an touristic area where disastrous rain has fallen and almost all addresses are inaccessible, however there is internet connection as some apps can be used normally. Even the Maps app runs very fast, though it burns lots of data. Probably nobody around is using internet anymore, the remaining sites are fast. We see lots of police and even a SWAT team is highly visible in the village. We even see a platoon marching in the village, army style. Apparently they like to make their presence known, but it is a riddle for us why here, in a holiday resort, with a few hundred inhabitants.

Today is Saturday and the destination is Chengyang's another Dong village complex. The road was bad, the road was lined with fresh landslides and a significant part of the route was a road which was renovated. The road surface was terrible there, some times even worse through landslides. But soon the new roads will be ready and all the inconveniences will be forgotten. We arrive at Chengyan in time for the great show in the village theatre. Many strange instruments, Chinese music and Dong folklore. They managed to get the public involved and Mariska had a wonderful time. There was a kind of jumping over bamboo poles that were opened and closed in pairs. Mariska managed to come across. Then we visited other villages an they where mixture of real Dong life and tourist venue, but only for Chinese tourists.

Next day is Sunday and Ping'An is on the program. We leave Chengyang over the same bad roads under construction. The Hotel owner said is was typical for this time of the year to have heavy rain and landslides. Numerous roads are under construction and at higher level a motorway. China takes the development of infrastructure very seriously. The roads were normal again and the landscape, approaching Ping'An was of an impressing beauty. On arrival of the parking lot we saw many women, with bamboo baskets, to bring the luggage op the steep stone stairs to the hotel. It looked like mission impossible, but the ladies managed easily to get the heavy suitcases up into the hotel.

All the steep mountains are used for agriculture. And the hotels are on the more steep mountains. The view was stunning, the temperature was nice, in the lower twenties while at the same moment it was approaching 40 degrees in Holland. The afternoon we spend exploring the village. We met Hans and Ina Visser, from the same travel organization, partly the same trip and even retired from the same employer: he is an infanterist. We share lots of time together and Mariska enjoys all the attention she gets.

Next day we make a long wander tour to scenic points an the Longji rice terraces, reportedly the biggest in the world. Guide Lisa, Spring in Chinese, guides the private trekking. The rice is planted a month ago and is still green, while standing in the water. That water keeps the rice paddies perfectly horizontal. The view was beautiful, a mystic atmosphere was created by the clouds. We enjoyed the trip quite a lot, saw interesting plants and animals and could see the village Longji. It was time to prepare for the way back home and when finished, we went for the last time to Ping'An. From now on our travels are back home, however the first leg by high-speed train is to Ghuangzou, formerly knowns as Canton, the most easterly point of our holiday.

What we have seen is that, if there is a successful business, immediately others are joining the success, that means lots of competition that keeps the prices low. And rural China has hundreds of millions of people who like to join successful businesses and that keeps the prices and inflation under control.

Today is the way back home on the program. The bearers, two girls that carry our heavy suitcases, have the easy trip this time: downhill. Incredible how powerful the girls are. In fact one is an old looking little lady who managed to get the suitcases up as well. They fix the suitcases on a basket and defy the steep stone stairs of a few hundred meters. At the parking lot down Ping'an the driver waits, he brings us in 3 hours to Guilin to the high speed train-station. The high-speed train brings us through an amazing landscape. After 3 and a half hour we arrive in Ghuangzou, a 15 million inhabitants mega city. The high-speed railway station is giant and beautiful, as big as a full size airport. The high-speed train is very comfortable and follows the time schedule to the minute. If the Netherlands like to know how to run the HSL high-speed train, I can give them the telephone number of the Chinese rail company.

The hotel is a surprise: bij a wide margin the most luxurious we had until now. We check out Ghuangzou and visit the prime pedestrian western style shopping quarters are next to the old Chinese quarters. We see that similar shops are concentrated in area's. After the walk a visit to the pool is on the program.

Next day on the end of the evening we have to board the plane to Amsterdam.

We spend the day loitering around and at the end of the afternoon we take the taxi to the airport. A giant airport that dwarfs Schiphol Amsterdam, in a perfect condition. We fly with an Airbus 330-200 in 11 hours to Amsterdam. We take off at midnight and can sleep right the way, so no jetlag when we arrive in Amsterdam. We have time to shop and board the Boeing 737 to Budapest. The pre-arranged taxi is waiting and after an 3 hour trip we arrive at home. Everything looks OK at home.

Now the evaluation of the holiday. It was a wonderful trip in a country still not geared for non-Chinese tourist and that’s perfectly OK.

And about the Country?

Well, if you have a law degree in Constitutional Law, you are by default a dedicated supporter of democracy. And you have that superior feeling about those well develloped democracies. Indeed, in contrast communism is a violation of most human rights and brings economic disasters while the party bosses live a luxery life, as seen in Cuba and North Korea. But if you travel in China you clearly can see that a country that had only 30 years ago only bicycles and riksja’s now boasts a well extended middle class that drives in shiny BMW’s, Mercedeses and Audi’s and all of them the big, premium models. And they live in the megacities in luxurious high rise apartments. And everybody seem to have the latest model premium smartphones in their hands. No doubt that the Chinese system delivers wealth to the population. Ok, the government has full control of the internet and sometimes you see a photoflash on the roads 20 times a day, but who cares if you are flashed in your shiny new big Mercedes?

Democracies definitely never could have delivered this wealth and for a simple reason: the many have-nots in a democracy, who prefer to make themselves dependable on government handouts, vote for parties who tax the active, productive people to extinction. Even more, they loan money that the poor next generation have to pay back, but never can pay back. The present Greek drama is good example what democracy can have for effects. As a contrast, the Chinese have a gigantic sea of savings, and a growing mountain of pure gold, and effectively little or no debt. A drawback is of course that the one party system leads to corruption but the present president Xi takes that head on. No doubt that China very soon will overtake the USA as the biggest economy, if it has not already done so. And is has a tremendous potential with still half a billion people who like to join the middle class. China does not need the West, it can consume all it produces.

If you are looking for opportunities in the future, you better learn Chinese!

if you are an investor, feel confident in the economy and the smart Chinese people, and don’t bet against China: you would regret that!

And tips for travelling in China? Take some effort to learn Chinese. A Chinese translation program on the smartphone is essential. We used thye Pleco app. Almost essential are maps on the smartphone, we used Ulmon CityMaps2Go. Everywhere you can get free WiFi, but at a snails speed and many webpages are blocked.

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