First time backpacking China

Once upon a time in China…

part 1 of 2

“西安” in the name Xi’an mean “Western Peace” Travel diary to China 2015, traveller story, tips and maybe something new. Trying to write about the biggest place on earth as elementary as possible.

June 5, 2015 landed xian at 23:30

Taxi pickup to hostel ¥150. Check-in Ancient Youth Hostel, ¥50 per night and went to bed.

June 6, 2015. Terracotta warriors

In the morning, decided to walk to the bus station and take the bus to the terracotta warriors site, searching for the bus station, we got lost for a while. After 2 hours, finally found the bus station and train station (they are nearby each other) which is located just outside the gate of Xian north-east entrance.

There was a long line for the bus (about 200 people in front) but as there was like one bus every 10 minutes on the roll, we got on to the bus about 20 minutes later. Bus fare ¥7.

the line stretch really far.

40 minutes journey, arrived at this small parking lot, filled with busses and people but still no sign of the entrance gate. Later, found out the entrance just behind some buildings nearby that parking. Strange as it seems, but right in-front of the gate there’s also a huge parking lot with lots of busses. Maybe that parking is for some other group of busses.

Admission tickets to the terracotta. ¥150. After the first entrance gate, a walk through a green park and another entrance gate, we finally arrived at a square visible with large prominent buildings. It is a big site, three pits and lots of visitors.

area map of the site.

We visited all of the pits, a museum with the terracotta warriors on display, took some pictures as any other tourist did, for few hours. The pits are huge, viewing what’s in front of me, I just can’t imagine, what else are there to be unearthed later on.

viewing the terracotta warriors on site.

It’s been years since they found this dig site and I’ve seen a lot of pictures and documentary about them but, being personally here gives a special sense of satisfaction.

Back to the city by bus the same way and reached the station at about 15:00. Walk south heading for the bell tower and tourist attractions there. (clearly on google map) Visited bell tower and drum tower area, just viewing from outside. Then into the Muslim quarter and Xian mosque.

Xian bell tower
Xian mosque

Antique architecture. Amazed with the authenticity of the architecture and history. For a while, while inside the compound, I forgot it was the 20th century. By 19:00 pm, back to hostel.

Mt Huashan.

To Mt Huashan. Night trek from bottom to peak at night. From the hostel staff, “take train ¥19.50 to Huashan then a taxi ¥20 to mountain entrance. Train journey 1 hour.”

arrived Huashan station 23:50

The train arrived Huashan station. 23:50, ‘greeted’ by a few cab drivers tolling ¥60-¥70 to gate of Mount Huashan… yeah right. Firmly declined, ¥20, final offer. At last one agreed, done deal…  Not! That’s not the end of this chapter.

Arrived at this dark and secluded ticket booth, the cabby convincingly showed it was closed! He recommended us to a hostel instead. Fortunately, did my homework, read from previous travellers experience and knew there was 2 gate. The east and west entrance. The west is open for night trek and the east gate will be closed. For whatever reason, they will persuade you to the negative side and bring up all sort of story to stop you climbing and stay overnight at some hotel.

After a few minutes of unpleasant ‘dispute’, he finally agreed to take us to the west gate. Still heated up from all of that I guess, until I forgot to take some pictures of the drop zone, but you would know it by heart, with many shop lots and even a few souvenirs shop still open. 00:10 that time.

(Don’t forget, important to stock up. Almost underestimate the trek, its cool but the air is very dry and dehydrating)

June 7, 2015 West gate Mt Huashan trek, 00:30 give or take.

From the road, where the taxi drop, hike uphill approximately 100 m (warming up session I guess) towards the main gate and ticket counter.

the ticket counter and entrance to Mt Huashan

Admission fee ¥180. The walk is quite easy, walking up stairs, paved pathways, not so steep but after two hours it gets steeper and the path gets smaller after passing the cable car, the number of tourist jumps up exponentially.

Everybody’s going the same way, it was like a circus up there. Bottlenecks, crowds and just too many nonsense, I decided to stop, waited at the highest, open space, sky viewpoint available hoping for a nice view.

Sunrise view that day, 05:30, took some pictures, and then continued exploring aka climbing the mountains. Now, Mt Huashan has many peaks, north peak, south peak, east peak, west peak and middle peak, if i’m right, but I’m here on a vacation and the objective here is not to conquer all so with my own time, got to another peak, back to the cable car by 11:00 and for ¥40, went down to the lower station, another ¥40 to the parking and later for another ¥20 to the trains.

Mt Huashan, Sunrise view

On top.. #huashan #mountain #travel #china

A post shared by wal (@walism_) on

Mt Huasan, at the cable car.

Trains to Xian ¥19.50. Back at the hostel it was already 15:00, pack ready to leave Xian for Chongqing. Got a ticket at 21:30 for ¥102.00. No, did not get a sleeper coach and it was an agonising brutal 10 hour seating coach, without any reclining seats and you are facing 3 other stranger in front of you. Luckily, sleeping with arms folded comes natural.

June 8, 2015 Ciqikou  磁器口 “Porcelain Port”

Arrived Chongqing about 08:30, (11 hours journey!) Followed the instruction to “Chongqing no 27 hostel” at Ciqikou town using CRT (china rapid transit). Hostel was ¥65 per night. Very near to Ciqikou, just across the street. A nice and small place.

streets scenes of Cikiqou

Ciqikou town, had a very scenic walk-about. Later, went to Shapingba district by bus, shopping complex and city buzz around. Got bored and off to Chaotianmen area, where the Yangtze river passes. Too bad didn’t have time to cruise the river but I doubt a two-hour cruise offered (an abundance by the roadsides) would present much scenery anyway. Still I got to cross the river. 😀

crossing the Yangtze river, from Dongshimen bridge.

June 9, 2015 Wulong; three natural bridges.

From Ciqikou, Chongqing to Wulong town. Ride the subway to Sigongli station, exited the station and the bus station is a 5 minutes walk. Bus ticket to Wulong, ¥60. Arrived at 12:00, Check-in Kaidi hotel, Wulong, if not mistaken was about ¥160/night.

After settling in, back out again to the bus station, hop on a bus to Wulong karst (three bridges) ¥8. At 14:20 arrive at the tourist center (the pyramid looking building) and from there, got the admission ticket ¥135.

Wulong tourist center

A shuttle bus to the scenic area, drop off and not surprisingly, another long line for the elevator down to the sites. Took some pictures, two-hour walk to the exit, while admiring the beautiful landscape, breathtaking and amazing just by the sheer size of it.

three natural bridges
https://flic.kr/p/v79aeU
one of the three bridges

Finishing the walk, ended up at the pickup point, a bus back to the tourist centre, and then ¥8 back to Wulong town. Nothing to do in the evening, so I just walk about the city.

back at the tourist center

June 10, 2015, Mt Jinfo 金佛山 “golden buddha”

From Wulong to Nanchuan, by bus is ¥25. About 1-2 hours journey, at approximately 11:00 Arrived and search for a hotel, asked around with difficulty and finally with the help of two police officers, showed a hotel, close to the bus station. There was something they wanted to say about going to Mount Jinfo but didn’t quite got it. After that, to the bus station just across the road, bought the tickets only to found out later we got the wrong ticket as the station and bus only had ticket that was for Jinfo north. Realised when boarding time, so forfeit the ticket, to another bus station across town, and got another ticket. Fare ¥6.5 reached “Jinfo North” mountain. It was fortunate that the fare to Mt Jinfo wasn’t too expensive.

bus stop at the station.

Arrived Mt Jinfo entrance at 14:30 but unfortunately, closed, some rescue drill going on, said the park staff. A bit bummed, back to Nanchuan and coming back tomorrow.

that’s as far as today

I guess that was what the hotel reception staff and police officers probably tried to explain earlier on.

June 11, 2015 West entrance, Mt Jinfo, Nine cascade mountain,

To “Mt Jinfo west”. After yesterday experience, it wasn’t much of a problem. Admission ¥150/person, including cable car and shuttle bus to cable car.

ticket counter, not open still early

Instead we optioned for a walk to the cable car station. The trail is along a stream and gorge, mystical and beautiful. Reached the cable car station 09:30, and before going up the cable car, park staff, reminded to get down, before 13:00. Limited time exploring the area.

too bad, did not have time to explore all

The top was not all that mountain like, because it was mostly flat terrain, but its high above the fog and cloud, walk through the azalea and bamboo forest, found the pathway to the summit point, down the walkway to the mountain cliff path and back to the cable car station again in two-hour. Unfortunately it was foggy and nothing much was to be seen of the landscape. By 13:30, waiting for the bus back to hotel.

Return to Chongqing

Later that day, took the express bus back to Chongqing bus station, and from there, another public bus to the train station. Missed the train station, had to return back, finally arrived the train station at 20:00. Asked for trip to Zhangjiajie, after some communications fracas, finally got tickets.

There’s no direct train from Chongqing to Zhangjiajie but the ticket counter staff which was very patient and helpful albeit the difficulty in communicating helped us got the tickets from Chongqing – Huaihua ¥150, and Huaihua –  Zhangjiajie ¥35.

few hours while waiting for the train to huaihua

The first leg of the Train Journey started 23:58. Thank god for sleeper cabs, and I slept from the beginning of the journey until the next day.

time for a rest, another 10 hours before Huaihua
Huaihua station

…to be Continued on part 2.

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