Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Qinghai Lake (Qinghai Province)

Qinghai Lake is China's largest inland salt-water lake. After our visit to Xi'an, we had landed in the city of Xining, slept in one forgettable hotel, and then hopped in a van to drive to the lake.

What was really interesting about the lake--apart from the gorgeous blue sky, the still waters, and the amazingly-colored flowers--was that the land around it was privately owned by Tibetan families.

Both aspects were interesting. First, private land ownership does not exist much in China, as people can generally only have land tenure, not own the land. (Or at least, that is my uneducated understanding of this.)

Second, we were on the Tibetan plateau, a big elevated slab of land that runs all the way from Gansu and Qinghai to Tibet. I've always been interested in Tibet and it was interesting to get a glimpse of the culture and people here.

The bus we used in Qinghai and Gansu.

At Qinghai Lake. We asked about the meaning of the flags, and the answer was that they illustrate "Buddhism traveling with the wind."

The lake, the grass, the yak. (And Roel)

To access the lake, you can ask one Tibetan family if you may cross their land. You pay a small fee and then walk to the lake. (It gets a little funny if you want to walk along the lake, as every 100 meter you would have to pay another family. Luckily this did not really happen during our walk.)

Looking for frogs along Qinghai Lake.

Flower power.

Yak power.

Having fun at the "beach."

(To be continued...)

In het nederlands: Vandaag wat fotootjes van ons bezoek aan het Qinghai meer, China's grootste zoutwatermeer. We hebben niet gezwommen, maar wel heerlijk gewandeld door de bloemenzee.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Xi'An: Home of the Terracotta Warrior

In 1974, a farmer in Shaanxi province was digging a well and stumbled on some bits of stone that looked like body parts. Years later, a few Dutchmen stand at the site of one of China's (and possibly the world's) famous historic sites: the mausoleum of China's first emperor, mister Qin Shi Huang.

We're in the city of Xi'an--located roughly in the middle of China. From Guilin and Yangshuo (see last post) we had flown to this ancient capital to bike on the historic city wall and take a closer look at the bīngmǎ yǒng (兵馬俑), the terracotta warriors. These stone soldiers and horses were once lined up for the afterlife of Emperor Qin and now continue to be digged up and glued together as a result of the meticulous work of a lot of Chinese archeologists.

There are lots of fun things to do in Xi'an, but I have to say that the actual terracotta warrior site is so packed with people and hyperactive tour guides, it is kind of hard to truly enjoy or appreciate the experience. Nevertheless, I think the pictures look pretty cool. And for the bread in Xi'an's muslim area, I would go back any day :-)

It's great to bike on Xi'an's city wall! You can bike a big square of 13.7 kilometers.

More biking on the city wall: Roel, Paul & Thomas.

We're all standing on Xi'an's historic (though probably upgraded and renovated) city wall. The well-lighted house in the background is actually a bathroom. It might be--at least on the outside--one of the best looking bathrooms I've ever seen.

Thousands of soldiers lined up for the dead emperor's afterlife.

"We're on the road to nowhere..."

Mascotte of the Xi'an Horticultural Expo. We did not see the Expo itself, but this mascotte was following us throughout the city.

At the temple next to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an. We're visiting the temple and pagoda on our last day in the city. In the afternoon we'll leave for Xining in Gansu province.

Picking up a prayer card at the temple.

View from the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda itself--a final snapshot of Xi'an. While seeing the sites in Xi'an was lovely, we're all ready for more peace and quiet in Gansu....

(to be continued...)

In het nederlands: Dit is het tweede deel van een superkort reisverslag van onze vakantie in China. Na Guilin, Ping an en Yangshuo zijn we dus in Xi'an terecht gekomen. Xi'an is mooi, maar het meest blijft me bij hoe ongelooflijk druk het is bij de terracotta soldaten. We maken ook een leuke fietstocht op de stadsmuur, gaan een keer zwemmen, en zwerven lekker door de moslim buurt van de stad. De derde dag--na een kort bezoek aan de Wilde Gans Tempel--gaan we alweer door naar de stad Xining in de provincie Gansu.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To the End of the World...and Back Again (Guilin, Ping An, Yangshuo)

Like the Hobbits in their famous story, I feel like I've travelled to the end of the world and back again.

The end of the world would be the open fields with the yaks in the middle of Gansu, where we spent a night together with a nomadic family in their yak-hair tent. Before getting to Gansu, however, we spent about a week in the rice fields and rice terraces near Guilin. Here are some pictures of this amazing spot on earth.

In the bus from Guilin airport to Ping An. We're traveling with our friends from The Netherlands.

In Ping An, one of two touristy villages in the Longji rice terrace area just north of Guilin, you can't drive all the way to your hotel. Some nice ladies come to check out our luggage and offer to carry it uphill. We're a little bit embarrased that "grandma" is carrying our luggage, but have to admit it is pretty convenient...

Our luggage goes uphill.

View from our hotel--the Longji One Hotel--in the middle of the rice terraces.

We walk up, along, and in between the rice terraces. On the way up the boys take a rest.

The rice terraces and me.

More rice terraces.

Rice grows with its feet in the water.

In addition to rice, we also spotted lots of bamboo. The bamboo is used to build irrigation pipes in the rice fields.

After a night and a day in Longji, we head a few kilometers south to Yangshuo, home of the Yu Long and Li Rivers.

Bicyling around Yangshuo.

Thomas' red "Lightning McQueen" trailer-bike.

Breakfast at the Outside Inn, our guesthouse in Yangshuo.

Paul discovers a new brand of coffee: Yunnan Coffee.

Thomas and the limestone hills.

With our bikes on the bamboo raft to cross the river.

Swimming with the best view ever.

Lots of things to do at the guesthouse.

Art on the wall (a Beijing Opera face) in Xing Ping near Yangshuo.

Street view in old Xing Ping.

"Can you hear me now?"

We go bamboo rafting. Following ancient customs (but paying modern tourist prices) we use a bamboo raft to navigate the Yu Long River. During the trip we go down nine small waterfalls.

Two Guilin fishermen.

Absolute peace.

Note the Heineken t-shirt :-)

Sunset over the Yu Long River. Tomorrow we leave for Xi'An.

(...to be continued...)

In het nederlands: We zijn net terug van vakantie: een rondje China. Samen met vrienden uit Nederland reisden we naar het gebied bij Guilin dat bekend staat om de vele rijstterrassen en het karst gebergte. Over dit gebied gaat de blog post van vandaag. Na Guilin gaan we nog naar de stad Xi'An en naar de staat Gansu. Het was een prachtige reis, maar het is ook weer lekker om thuis te zijn. :-)