A Travellerspoint blog

November 2018

Nice hostel experience in Shenyang


View Jilin 2018-2019 & Greece trip, 2018 on baixing's travel map.

Friday
I took the same train at 11 p.m. on Thursday night to arrive in Shenyang in the morning. The night before, I had called the hostel I'd be staying at, Lazy Bee. I had gotten two different sets of directions, one from Baidu Maps and the other from YHA China. It was a good thing I called, because they had moved locations. I talked to the owner Bonnie on the phone and she told me that I should not follow YHA's directions. The Baidu directions were the right ones. OK, great.

I showed up at about 8:30 and it was easy to find from the main road, due to the bright yellow awnings on the outside of the building.
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I was given a really nice bed in the dorm, the biggest I've ever had in a dorm! With lots of shelf space and privacy. The whole place was brand new and designed very well. Everything was spotlessly clean and it was very quiet on such a chilly winter's weekend. There wasn't a lot of heat in the whole place, and no toilet paper or towel provided, but that didn't surprise me a whole lot. I always bring my own, so that's fine.
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I went out looking for breakfast, not really caring what it was. I saw a restaurant with all the windows steamed up inside, so I went in there. I asked the waitress what to order and she brought me some beef soup dumplings. They were extremely fresh and pretty good but a little bland, even with the chilli garlic vinegar sauce mixed to my own liking.
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The mission for Friday was wandering around the Imperial Palace. This particular one was in use in the 17th century for a few Manchu emperors. Eventually they took over most of China and they moved the capital to Beijing, but for a while they stayed in Shenyang. They were nomads and horse-riding people, similar to the Mongols, so the emperor lived in a tent for a while. Eventually some buildings were built that resembled the tents he was used to.

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There was a stele that described one of the emperor's devoted servants, who volunteered to die alongside his master at the time of the emperor's death.
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Then there were some really unique containers decorated with elephants
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And these wooden medallions that were used for transmitting official messages.
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There were lots of rooms to explore including the main throne room, where important rituals and other political deals took place.
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This was the tallest building in Shenyang at the time. The emperor often went up there with his harem and had parties until the sun came up.
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Then there was an opera house, which was the site of massive banquets.
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There were lots of gates and doors and walls to walk around, as in any palace/mansion in China.
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Saturday
My next mission was to go to the tomb of Huang Taiji, the second Qing dynasty ruler. I thought it was a nice park with a big frozen lake. I took the opportunity to go on a big hike all the way around the park, with actual dirt trails. Really rare in China.
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There is an old elm tree growing on the top of his massive grave. I think that's the best way to go, don't you? Not only is the tree keeping you company but there is also a large park for people to enjoy for a really long time as well.
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I was super hungry for dinner after that long jaunt around the park, so I went to a fancy vegetarian place mentioned in my Lonely Planet. This time it was real easy to find, I was not expecting to get there too quickly. They made some bean-based lamb kabobs and wasabi flavoured kung pao "chicken".
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Sunday
I had no more things on the list to do except go see a big statue of Mao. You can see that some of the people at the bottom of the statue used to be holding their "little red books" but they have since been removed.
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There were also a few heritage buildings, including the train station which is also beautiful on the inside.
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I had circumnavigated the whole downtown core and eventually found myself in front of this old Catholic church.
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I sipped my tea while waiting for the second vegetarian meal of the weekend at 4:30 p.m. I liked the first one so much that I looked for another one. While this one was not as luxe as the first one, it was still delicious and some really nice people and monks run it.

It was only about 6 p.m. when I got back to the hostel to pick up my bags and my train didn't leave until 11 p.m., so I chatted with a nice American lady who writes apocalyptic zombie fiction based in Shenyang... Bonnie the hostel owner and a couple of her friends.

Posted by baixing 17:09 Archived in China Tagged liaoning shenyang Comments (3)

Ancient Xingcheng


View Jilin 2018-2019 & Greece trip, 2018 on baixing's travel map.


Thursday
I forgot the city bus only ran until 8:30 p.m. when I booked my train ticket to Xingcheng, so I went downtown early, thinking I'd find a restaurant open late nearby. I did not. The directions I had were confusing and it was cold out, so I just bought some apple cider (!!!) at a little shop and went back into the station to wait two hours for my overnight train to Shenyang. When it came I was exhausted from wandering around in the cold, so I fell asleep almost immediately.

Friday
I woke up in Shenyang and made it just on time for my next train. It was packed, stuffy and uncomfortable. I had a window seat, so I just dozed in the warm sunlight streaming through the window and listened to countless podcasts until we got to Xingcheng. The scenery was quite boring and not worth mentioning.

I took the bus to my hotel only to find it was closed for the winter. Booking.com found me another place nearby but I still hadn't gotten my refund from last time, so I was a little reluctant to go there. But I had no other options at that moment. The woman who owned it was so excited to see me that she made me dinner for free. The fish was fresh and the salty sauce she poured over it was delicious. It was so great. I found the shower only had cold water, but decided I'd find out more about that the next day. It was already dark at that point, so I went to bed early.
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Saturday
It was 4 a.m. when I woke up, so I had a lot of time to make it to the beach for the sunrise at 6:45 a.m. The pink sky made a nice backdrop for the enormous ocean goddess statue lazing on the beach.
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I was already freezing but I decided to go straight back downtown to see the ancient walled city.
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It was definitely nothing new. I'd been to Pingyao twice and it was exactly the same, just smaller and emptier. The Lonely Planet said it was less polluted, but that was not true. I walked the perimeter of the walls and then stopped at every sight on my combo ticket.
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I found Anonymous!
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The Confucius Temple, built in 1430, the oldest in the Northeast
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Another general's house
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That took until lunch time but I wasn't very hungry, so I went on a wild goose chase to find some Sichuan noodles the idiot writer recommended. I walked up and down, back and forth, until tiring myself out and calling this poor noodle woman twice from either side of her little noodle shop. I think I walked by it three times. I realized finally what this guy did. He was staying at the chain hotel "7 Days Inn" and simply turned left. The restaurant had changed owners so the name was different from the book. That's not the writer's problem, but giving directions like "300 m east of 7 Days Inn" instead of "opposite from a dozen flashing KTV signs" would've been helpful. (There are a LOT of KTV signs in China) Also getting the address right would've been great too.

The noodle lady was really excited to see me and used my translation app to tell me the story of how the noodle shop's name changed. The noodles were pretty good, but nothing I would take the time to write about in Lonely Planet. The writer's other recommendation was going to the mall for dinner, but that seemed preposterous.

Throroughly exhausted, I grabbed a couple beers on my way home and went back to the hotel. When I asked about hot water for the shower, they brought me a thermos of hot water to wash my feet with. They said I could go to the bathhouse down the street. Not impressed, I decided to go in the morning after recovering, and also when I would have a better attitude about the whole thing.

Sunday
Turns out that yes, I did have a better attitude in the morning. I had never been to a Chinese bathhouse before, so it suddenly became an opportunity for cultural education. The hotel owner brought me there in his car and the showers weren't even running yet. The cheery bathhouse manager gave me the key to my little locker and I had a pretty OK shower with an old lady and a 10 year old girl. As people filed into the locker room for their morning shower they stared at the strange naked white woman and all I could hear was them saying "foreigner foreigner" mixed in with other words. I like to believe they were just astounded by my beauty.

The actual bath was way too hot, so I just wrapped my hair up to brave the cold again, packed my stuff up and headed back to the train station. Good ideas come in the shower, so I decided to exchange my ticket home for an earlier one. There was nothing else to accomplish in Xingcheng. The angry ticket lady gave me a bunch of money back because I'd be taking the train with no seat all the way home. Bonus.

Posted by baixing 20:12 Archived in China Tagged liaoning xingcheng Comments (2)

Big disappointment at Changbai Shan


View Jilin 2018-2019 & Greece trip, 2018 on baixing's travel map.


Friday
It was raining heavily when I woke up, so I grabbed my good umbrella and my raincoat before I went out for the weekend. I bought my bus ticket the day before, so it was easy to make it on time for the 6:35 a.m. bus. The only one of the day. Booking.com called me about my refund from last weekend at 2 a.m., so I had absolutely no problem waking up for the 5:30 a.m. alarm I set... sigh.

The bus ride was uneventful, aside from two disgusting bathroom stops, the first had a pile of used menstrual products in the corner in lieu of a garbage can, and the second had maggots on the floor, beside the hole I peed in. Yummy. But alas, no one comes to Jilin province for luxury.

When I got to Songjianghe, I bought my return ticket right away because I had no idea when I'd be able to get back home. I also found out how to get to the other side of the mountain for next time. That bus leaves at 2 p.m. from Songjianghe. So I'll probably take the bus there and train it back on Sunday afternoon, if it fits with my schedule.

Anywho, then it was a short stroll to my homestay, but I couldn't find it, as usual. So I called them from another hotel. It feels rude, but what can you do? They came to pick me up and brought me to an apartment around the corner. Just like couchsurfing, but I get my own TV and bathroom AND I don't have to socialize with people I probably don't like anyway. Ha.

I was bored and a little hungry, so I went to find dinner with my new Baidu map skills. Now, I permanently keep a photo on my iPod that just says "What's good to eat here?" and so I went to the top rated restaurant on Baidu, and showed them that picture. I ended up with a bunch of local black fungus that was presumably grown on the mountain. Or not, doesn't matter, it was still delicious, especially with some beer and rice.
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After walking 2 km back home, through the depressing town with its muddy creek, I found my hosts getting ready for bed. They told me they couldn't make me breakfast in the morning so they gave me 20 yuan back. So nice of them! I went to bed early to get started on the mountain early the next day.
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Saturday
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and left at 6 a.m., thinking the bus would take an hour to get to the park. It seemed like nothing was open anywhere at that time, so I headed to the bus stop. However, I saw one man slurping something in a little shop. He was having tofu na'er, spicy tofu soup and a couple baozis (steamed stuffed buns). I ordered the same thing, I know it was definitely not gluten free but it was so great and homey tasting that I didn't regret it for a second. Also, I already wrecked my intestines with the beer the day before anyway.
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After breakfast I got on bus #1 to the park but in reality it didn't go that far at all. It spit me out at the tourist centre, but I found out that it didn't open until 8:30 anyway. At that point it was 7:15 ish, so I just wandered around looking at closed shops and hotels. Suddenly an old man jumped out of his little inn to invite me inside out of the cold. He gave me some tea with honey. I sat at a little table writing my blog on the back of my hotel booking confirmation while the friendly old man prattled along in Chinese that I couldn't understand whilst eating his breakfast of instant noodles.

At 8:30 I went over to buy my ticket but unfortunately there were none to be had. I was informed that it was "too icy" and I'd have to wait until the ice melted to go up the mountain. A lovely ticket selling lady informed me that there was a 10% chance I'd be getting to the peak today. Oh great. But she was excited to speak English to me and she showed me her English book. I figured I could read some with her while waiting for all that ice to melt. Good god.

So that's what we did. There were a few songs in her book and we listened to them together, Elvis Presley's Love me Tender and the Rhythm of the Rain by the Cascades recorded in 1962. On repeat. Countless times. She invited me out after I was done with the park and I agreed, because of course I had no other plans.
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Finally at about 10:30 we were allowed to buy tickets and make our way up the mountain, however, only the canyon part was accessible.
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To a Canadian this seemed excessive, there was no snow in the city at all, and when I got up to the canyon, only a few centimetres had fallen. I don't know how clumsy Chinese people are in the snow, but it must be atrocious. I was greatly disappointed by this turn of events. I had mentally prepared all week to do a big hike, but all I got was a little loop on the lip of a canyon. Don't get me wrong the canyon was very peaceful and quiet, the gentle snow that had fallen on the trees made a beautiful scene, but it was decidedly not what I was looking for. Oh well, nothing I could do about it. Again.
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I took too many selfies because they looked like they were too dark on my camera. But now, looking at them on my computer they seem fine. Oh well...

All the buildings in this park are in the "ski lodge" alpine style and they really go overboard when promoting their no-flush enviro-toilets. Guess what, I had the same toilets on the bus ride up here, they're not that much better...
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When I got back my friend was waiting for me at 2:30, after she got off from work. Someone on my bus latched onto us, she spoke better English than my first friend, and I have already forgotten both their names. The second friend suggested we go to KTV and so we did. I threw on some Green Day, No Doubt and Hole tunes and they loved it. They didn't even know what punk music was.

After many hours singing karaoke, Friend #2 went home and Friend #1 and I went out for Korean food. She is actually Korean, and her first language is Korean, so we had a great time talking about Korean things. Eventually I had to go back to bed and she promised to let me know when there was enough snow to go up the mountain in a snowmobile, which is usually in January. So, I think I will take her up on that offer. She paid for dinner AND karaoke and ALSO walked me back to my place and then took a taxi back to hers. That was crazy nice of her.

Sunday
I woke up to get to the 7 a.m. bus back home and I was assigned a seat near a huge college student. There was no room for me on the seat next to him so I had to keep moving around to empty seats as they came available. Honestly, people this huge should have to buy two tickets. I'm not being insensitive, it's ridiculous sitting beside someone of this size.

There weren't any maggots at the bathroom stops this time, but there were about five women staring at me while I tried to pee in the rudimentary washroom. If anyone knows anything about me, it's that I USUALLY can't pee or poop if someone is in the same room. Honest to god, there was a line of women just staring me down while I squatted over the concrete hole in the ground. There were no doors or any privacy at all, as you can imagine. I started shooing them away because I really needed to pee and my bladder was NOT cooperating. What did they do? They came closer and started offering me some toilet paper! NO I WANT YOU TO STOP STARING AT ME! I didn't want any of their toilet paper, my god. Finally I think they got the idea and they backed off by two or three steps. It didn't really help because they still watched me try to pee from outside the little hut we were in. It was the worst pee of my life. At the next stop (two hours later!!!) I had a real door so I peed to my heart's content.

Posted by baixing 03:44 Archived in China Tagged shan songjianghe changbai Comments (0)

Sorta Korean Weekend


View Jilin 2018-2019 & Greece trip, 2018 on baixing's travel map.


Friday

I almost missed the train in the morning to Yanji because I took too long getting ready. Luckily, after jogging a little at the station, I made it, even after getting in line for the wrong train. Ha.

It was very cold once we got there, so I put on another pair of socks and walked to where I thought my hotel would be. The only thing open at that time of the morning was a shady looking massage parlour, but the ladies that worked there were very nice, and they took me to another nearby hotel, where I used the phone to try and find my hotel. It didn't seem to exist, so I called booking.com and they sent me down the street to another nicer place. They offered to pay the difference but I haven't seen any of that money yet. It was 84 yuan more, so it's not nothing.

By the time I found the new place, it was about noon, so I headed up Mao Er Mountain, which was the only recommended activity in that city. It's a free park, just outside of town, with an easy ascent and a boardwalk along the entire length. I ate all my peanuts and tangerines at the top and went back down to my hotel again.
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I hung out watching Chinese TV for a while and then I put on some more clothes and went out for Korean miso soup, doenjiang. It was very rich and filling. I had a jug of makeoli alongside it. I hadn't had that familiar comforting taste in forever. It brought back a lot of memories of Korea, wowie! I went back to the hotel to sleep and couldn't wait to eat more Korean food the next day.
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Saturday

Once again, the Lonely Planet disappointed me. I went out in the morning to find the "busy" pedestrian street the writer mentioned, but all the shops on that street were closed and on top of that, I walked around for an hour on a wild goose chase because he was too lazy to mention the street was on the southeast corner of Quanming Jie and Ren Min Lu. (He also called it Quanming Lu in the book which caused a least 30 minutes of confusion back at the hotel, because there is another Quanming Lu in the north of the city) So awful.
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Once I found it, I walked the length of the pedestrian zone and then back towards Ren Min Park, looking for lunch. Suddenly I saw a ton of little kids run into a place with a cartoon kim bap (rice seaweed roll) on the sign. The last time I followed kids into a restaurant was a huge success, I discovered bap burgers. So, I followed them again, and they were right again. I got some crappy curry but a really great kim bap (after fighting with some pre-teens who tried to steal my table while I was in the bathroom!) and went on my way.
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I walked along the river back home, but it was not relaxing, it was just a dusty construction area. I'm sure it'll be beautiful next year though, ha.
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I thought the street market I tried to find in the morning might only be active at night, so I headed out again, but only found one poor guy selling candied fruit on a stick. I bought one and dejectedly went back home with nothing for dinner, but some cheap wine and peanuts I picked up on the way back.
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Sunday

I was determined to make the day super Korean, so I threw out the useless guidebook. I finally figured out how to use Baidu Maps, so I found a popular place for barbecue bulgogi (which I burnt) and then went to a jim jil bang for the rest of the afternoon.
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I was quite relaxed after the 70 degree sauna and cool water plunge. I lounged around in the plaid pyjamas they gave me and soaked in the hot baths. It reminded me that I still needed to find a Korean wash cloth! There are nothing like them in the whole world.

On my way to the train station, I stopped in at some fancy import makeup stores, but they didn't have one and couldn't understand why I was not satisfied with the Chinese wash cloths they had for sale. Finally, as a last ditch attempt, I went down some shabby stairs to a kind of discount store, and yes, under a pile of more crappy Chinese wash cloths, I found the Korean ones! They weren't exactly what I remember from Korea, but I bought one, figuring I'd give it a go anyway.
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PS I got a new water bottle. It's way too big, but I couldn't resist the slogan on the side. Have a look, he was begging me to take him with me, don't you think? "Walkers fear nothing. Thank you for accompanying me all the way." Awww. I had to take him home with me.

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Posted by baixing 17:10 Archived in China Comments (4)

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