2015 Review (extremely late!!)

Post written back in April and never published until now!!!! 

So this is very late and I intended on getting it out in January but it’s been a bit manic so it gradually got later and later until all of a sudden it was April!

It may seem a bit pointless to review something so long ago but it was such a fantastic year and the turning point in my life with regards to prioritising travel. Holidays and adventures had always been a part of our life but our trip to Uzbekistan changed it all (and encouraged me to start this blog!)

A doubly landlocked country in Central Asia that most people would struggle to locate on a map. I had previously had my reservations mainly due to lack of knowledge about the area but a bit of research and endless hours on the internet I began to see its charm. Now, there isn’t THAT much content on the web about Uzbekistan or Central Asia in general so it did take me a long time to come around to the idea.

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Pandas!

Again, sorry for the delay in getting this out been a busy month! We snuck in a trip to London to celebrate Valentine’s day which I might put a post up about shortly. But, here it is our last real day in China. Pandas. Check out the other posts for a recap on our amazing trip. 

Our final proper day in China. The end of a massive trip which inspired, entertained and exhausted us. I still don’t feel like I am finished with China and I keep finding new things I would love to see and do so I hope I get to go back for a third time!

Anyway, back to Panda day. Yup. Pandas!!! We had an earlyish start of 8:30 am but it was worth it. Our hotel was close to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding so we arrived shortly after 9am, collected our tickets and headed into the massive reserve to find some panda’s.

Yup. Panda Police

Yup. Panda Police

Bamboo

Bamboo

Our guide was very used to the site so helped us to negotiate our way round getting every opportunity to see these wonderful creatures. Top tip – arrive early, it is so worth it. A) there are much less people (which is saying something in China) and B) the panda’s are much more active.

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

Spot the panda

Spot the panda

We learned that the older panda’s get the more unsocial they become, so they start off in groups and as they get older they get their own pens. I was a little concerned that the reserve might not be as good for the panda’s as I hoped but my worries were unfounded, they obviously love the pandas and the facilities are perfect for them. Yes it would be better if they were all in the wild but right now this is as good as it gets and that’s just fine.

The pandas were in separate sections of the reserve depending on their age, baby pandas, 4 month olds, sub-adults (teenage) and adults.

4 month old babies...taking a nap. It's a hard life.

4 month old babies…taking a nap. It’s a hard life.

We were lucky enough to be able to see two baby girl twins in the nursery who were so adorable I could have watched them for hours. We made our way round the park doing 2 loops of some sections to ensure we got our fill of pandas. It really was one of my favourite parts of this whole trip.

Baby Panda Twins. SO cute.

Baby Panda Twins. SO cute.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Sleeping in a tree

Sleeping in a tree

Even saw a red panda

Even saw a red panda

We grabbed an early lunch in a restaurant which appeared to have opened early just for us. Yet again the food was wonderful. After that we caught a flight to Shanghai before departing early the next morning for home.

So many spring onions

So many spring onions

I am still digesting this trip months on (along with the 3000 odd photographs we came back with.) I’ve enjoyed the series on the BBC for Chinese New Year which has shown some of the wonderful cultural and interesting things which can be experienced in China.

Last selfie of China

Last selfie of China

I hope it’s opened up the eyes of some of the people we know as to why we chose to visit this epic country. Although it wasn’t my favourite trip of the year (Uzbekistan nabbed that) it was a once in a lifetime….or maybe twice?

Over and out.

Over and out.

Where else would you recommend in China? I fancy Hong Kong and the Yellow River – any thoughts?

Leshan & Dafo

Our first day in our final city. A day I had been waiting for most of the trip to come, the reason I rebuilt this whole trip myself rather than booking onto a pre-booked tour, to visit Dafo in Leshan – the giant Buddha.

We filled up on a yummy breakfast in the hotel (best breakfast of the trip) and then spent the next 20 minutes trying to find our guide. In the end we found her hidden in a huge chair – not very easy to find or recognise. Slightly annoyed we headed to the car for a 2 hour drive to Leshan.

The drive was pretty uneventful, the usual Chinese drivers were out in force driving like maniacs and swapping lanes like their life depended on it. Anyway, we pulled into the pretty town of Leshan and made our way to the dock for a boat tour.

This is by far the best way to see Dafo from the river right up close. The boat itself was okay despite us having to wear life jackets which added an orange tinge to our pictures. As we made our way down the river and round a corner he came into sight. As spectacular as I imagined and hoped for (coming only just second as the best site in China to The Great Wall.)

From the river

From the river

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Xian – Day 3

Day 9 on our grand Chinese adventure and our last day in Xi’an before flying to Chengdu/Panda land.

Today was somewhat a day of additional new activities that weren’t things we had planned to come to China specifically for but were added on during my extensive planning stage with some help of our guide.

Night time pic

Night time pic

First up was the Drum and Bell towers. The Bell tower (originally built in 1384) is a building which was built in the geographical centre of Xi’an in ancient times, you can see North, East, South and West streets radiating out from the square in each direction. The road connected the tower with the city wall gates.

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Tang Dynasty Show and Dumpling Banquet

Check out what we did during the day

Xi’an is relaxed. No matter how much you try and squeeze in it still feels relaxed. We managed to have a rest after our day with the warriors before we headed back out into Xi’an night life to experience the Tang Dynasty Show and Dumpling dinner. Touristy yes but it was also so much fun.

Please excuse my lack of pictures of actual dumpling. I need to work on this food picture thing!

We had a couple of cocktails in the hotel bar before we were picked up, it was a short drive to the venue which was packed with many many groups of tourists. We were shown to a lovely table with a good view of the stage and waited for the food to come!

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Xi’an – Day 2

After our action packed evening we had a good sleep and a later start so we were refreshed and ready to go. We were also very excited as today was the day we were going to see the Terracotta Warriors.

Before we got there we headed to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. It’s a Buddhist temple and has been standing in some form or another since 652, ranging in “layers” from 5 to 10, resting at 7 today. We wandered around the complex which had undergone a lot of regeneration in recent years (there was a shopping centre built and opened in like 3 years!!!)

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

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Xi’an – Day 1

Having thought about it since posting my photo “essay” on The Great Wall of China I probably should have mentioned the awesome toboggan ride down from the top. It was a great end to a fantastic hike and although you have to walk much further than the cable car exit it’s so so worth it!!!

I don’t have any pictures of the way down but take my word for it when I say it was so much fun!!

Anyway on to our next day, another early start – 5:30am – which does not make for a wonderful start to the day as neither of us are morning people. However, we managed it and caught the underground to the Beijing West Railway station. The underground was yet again efficient, clean and cheap!

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The Great Wall of China

After our wonderful time in Beijing it was time for our most highly anticipated day – a trip to The Great Wall of China. We went with a tour guide from Great Wall Hikes who was wonderful. We went to an un-restored section Jiankou to Mutianyu which is a restored section. It was an amazing hike, hard hard work but so totally worth it.

Its the highlight of our time in China and my highlight of 2015. The only way I could do it justice is by the photographs we took so here is my first photo post. Enjoy!

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Beijing Night Market

After our action packed day in Beijing we went to meet a family friend for dinner. Stuart hadn’t seen him for 7 or so years after he came on a sort of exchange trip from the UK so we were looking forward to it.

We headed to a well known Peking duck restaurant (I believe it was Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant.) We were treated to a wonderful dinner of duck, vegetables, more duck and some chilli beef. The meal was delicious and very Chinese…including duck head. Stuart was very polite and said he would try some but somehow managed to pick up duck neck instead.  

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Beijing – Day 2

Catch up with the previous post – Beijing – Day 1

Firstly let me apologise for the huge delay between the last post and this one. It’s been a pretty manic since we came back from China. I was adjusting to a slightly different job role and the run up to Christmas. I just didn’t get the time to sit down and finish off the posts. But, here we go for Beijing day 2!

I will start by saying this is an epic day with a lot of walking and sights!

After a good breakfast at the Park Plaza we met out guide Skye and headed for the tube. Beijing has a comprehensive underground system which does go most places and is expanding rapidly so I suspect you will be able to get anywhere in Beijing very soon. The one thing I would mention though is that Beijing is huge and even with a underground system it can still take hours to get places on the outskirts (e.g. the Summer Place.)

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