January 2019 – Travelling to Nepal to see out the winter before heading south once again towards equatorial Asia. Please tune in to my random jottings as I venture across Southeast Asia.

Please don’t be shy about dropping a comment or 2, good or bad I don’t mind, and thank you. 

Social Media: Facebook Content

Social Media:微信ID是 WeChat ID wxid_vqsil94rom1m22

對於中國讀者,使用微信掃描功能翻譯文本

img_1090

Advertisements

Welcome to Another Random Jotting from Backpacker Paul!

China – Enchanting by Night, Fenghuang

Fenghuang, China, April 2019: Enchanting by day, equally enchanting after dark – a sight to behold as the towns historic core turns into an array of gold, silver and white lights. Seems that everyone in Fenghuang has stomped up to the towns highest bridge to view this rather magic spectacle and this is one time a bunch of photos can really tell the tale spectacularly! So, for the final time of sightseeing in Fenghuang, lets finish on a high note! Here’s

The rain has stopped, the night is clear and the air is still helping produce these nice crisp images of Fenghuang at night.

IMG_9000

IMG_8987IMG_8988IMG_8992IMG_8995IMG_8996IMG_9000IMG_9002IMG_9005IMG_9007IMG_9017

Back to base then leaving behind those thumping sounds emanating from the plethora of bars and discos from down below as the natives begin their boozy night out. For me, I’m on the move tomorrow heading for Dali, a long way West so I need an early start and some sleep!

China – The Modern Town, Fenghuang.

Fenghuang, China, April 2019: To the South of the historic tourist core, Fenghuang has a thriving local scene – A high street like any other high street one would see in England. Full of modernity and with all the  functionality of  modern life in China. The markets here are quite interesting, not that bustling with stall holders getting in some napping time. Its also considerably cheaper to eat in the real town to – dumpling soup around £1.17, a cheap and tasty lunch from one of the many little 2 table cafes around the place.

Walking back to base then through a hive of activity as the town wakes from the lunchtime siesta. locals busy going about their daily business, not a single tourist insight – a strange feeling being the only westerner in a local area, but not as bad as being the only westerner in Ganxia, shenzhen!

IMG_8860

Several varieties of Chilli’s at the local town market.

IMG_8893

Fenghuang High Street

IMG_8864

The Fenghuang Indoor Market

IMG_8871

Local Siesta!

 

 

 

China – Exploring The Ancient Town, Fenghuang 2

Fenghuang, China, April 2019: Although the tourist focus is along the river banks, Fenghuang also has a network of quaint and attractive stone paved back streets.  narrow, well preserved and free of traffic apart from the odd scooter rider chancing their luck with the authorities! There exists about half a dozen museums located within noteworthy ancient buildings located around the place. Visitors with an interest in ancient Chinese history will need to pay a fee for each visit or buy a one time visitors card covering all the museums – its a bout £12. Personally, museums don’t interest me that much so ill skip it all for now and just stroll the quaint little lanes around the town taking in the atmosphere and mixing with locals.

IMG_8748

Narrow streets back from the river.

IMG_8735

Ancient town wall and lookout tower.

IMG_8644

The towns only coffee shop, empty but and ideal escape from the rain.

IMG_8743

The Town wall deterring would be invaders during ancient times.

IMG_8755

Directions to noteworthy sites and prominent landmarks

While exploring the lanes and alleyways one should be prepared for a few aspects of the Chinese way of life – eating snakes and frogs. Yes, don’t be surprised to see a cage full of snakes awaiting the chop of a butchers knife! While western visitors will balk at such a notion, the natives I’m sure will be delighted that their snakes are quite fresh! A part from caged snakes and furry creatures, one can observe noodle production, chilli grinding and plenty of processed foods fast foods being deep fried. Oh, and a tone of candy production, yes, the Chinese developed a sweet tooth.

IMG_8643

|for those in a hurry, good news for you. The place is small enough to cover on foot in about an hour, maybe two, including a quick look around one of the museums, before grabbing a few deep fried snacks. Despite the commercial aspect of mass tourism, Fenghuang is still a place where real people live and where visitors can enjoy a slice China past and later on, present!

Next, China present…Fenghuang.

China – Exploring The Ancient Town, Fenghuang 1

Fenghuang, China, April 2019: According to what one reads, the consensus reached on the age of the town settles at around 400 years old, so yes, its an ancient town without doubt. How much of the place is original, well that’s hard for a non-Chinese tourist to figure out but I’d guess there’s been plenty of restoration and sprucing up for tourist effect. Anyway, lets take a gentle meander around the Phoenix Ancient town and try to immerse ourselves into a little piece of old China.

Perhaps a less conventional way to cross the river here, is to negotiate a series of stepping stones! Quite a famous selfie spot for those brave enough to take the risk. One false move and its all over I should imagine.  Yes, it has to be a brave soul to risk life and limb like this, especially in the rain. I wonder how many phones are laying on the river bed?

IMG_8591

No room for error – no pushing and shoving here! And how do they get those boats upstream?

For those without the nerve to cross on the stepping stones, well, here’s a slightly less precarious method. Thankfully not crowded today, Better not let the kids run around though, those planks could be slippery!

IMG_8703

A tourist town with a river inevitably means boat rides. Here in the ancient town tourists can ride up and down the gently flowing river and observe other tourists going in and out of pubs, bars and shops and restaurants. Boats are lined up on the Southern end of Tuojiang River although the price and duration are not easy to discover – maybe time to sharpen up those haggling skills.

IMG_8578

Another precarious method of crossing the river.

Being a popular tourist spot, its of course no surprise that the place is packed with enough shops to satisfy the most ardent of shopaholics.  Yet despite the inevitable consequences of mass tourism, the ancient town admirably retains charm and character, at least along the along the river banks, added rain for good measure.

IMG_8605

Densely populated with shops but still with charm and character.

An intriguing feature of the place are a collection of wooden structures with a room or perhaps more accurately, an extension, jutting out over the river, supported on stilts, while the main portion of these are constructed on solid foundations. These are all tourist venues – cafes, bars with live music in the afternoons and the odd hostel for backpackers, accessed from the front street of course. All along the Tuojiang river there are features and relics (not just local old-timers) to observe including the towns old pagoda.

IMG_8614

On stilts making quite a unique scene of ancient quaintness.

IMG_8619

A few secret passages and chambers no-doubt. All looks pretty ancient to me!

IMG_8623

An Ancient Pagoda in an Ancient Town

IMG_8722

Climb a hill to get that enchanting scene.

To get an elevated view that so often makes a good photo, one can climb the hills around Fenghuang, accessed by stomping through the back streets. Somehow the place looks quite enchanting from altitude where views along the river reveal just why the place is on the tourist trail.

IMG_8642

HongQiao Bridge, the towns original although one suspects a few rebuilds and restorations at various points during the last 600 years.  Nowadays, pedestrianised with a hall so visitors may shelter from the rain while looking at some local art. 

Next time, a look into the back streets of Phoenix Ancient Town.

China – Phoenix Ancient Town, Fenghuang

Fenghuang, China, April 2019:  Fenghuang is actually quite a big town with it’s ancient core sitting in a valley with modern residential units spreading up into the nearby hills. it doesn’t take long to establish that here is another tourist destination with all the associated establishments that contribute to such. Nonetheless, one can also quickly establish that Fenghuang has a uniqueness that doesn’t come along that often on ones travels. The river with picturesque bridges of historic proportions along with an interesting blend of historic (and not so historic) architecture is going to make this visit to Phoenix Ancient Town well worth the effort, I can just feel it!

IMG_8510

Lone boatman on the Tuojiang River

There’s no rush to get around here – 2 full days to explore the small historic core of the this ancient town along with a few ancient traditions along the way such as Venetian style boating. With daylight fading and the drizzle annoyingly persistent once again (it must be all across China) time to grab some photos from an initial stomp around before  bad light stops play. So, here are a few snaps before a more comprehensive look around tomorrow.

IMG_8513

less historic bars, pubs and night clubs!

IMG_8542

Chinese Alcoholism is well catered for as bars, pubs and clubs line the waterfront. Here though is one less boozy joint to choose from!

IMG_8519

Plenty of street hawkers in Fenghuang. Here, domestic tourists haggle over the price of black olives.

IMG_8559

Olives and apricots for sale.

IMG_8524

Plenty of options to cross the river.

China – Introducing Phoenix Ancient Town, Fenghuang

Fenghuang, China, April 2019:  I’ve arrived at Fenghuang town after a 3 3/4 hours bus ride from Zhangjiajie. Despite a lifting of the cloud base earlier enabling a few en-route photo’s, its back to mist and drizzle as I hike downhill towards the old town and my Air BnB accommodation. I shall be here for the next 3 1/2 days, aiming to immerse myself with some real old Chinese culture. By all accounts this is the place for that, a well preserved historic town that is also a tourist hot-spot.

Clipboard01

Phoenix Ancient Town

IMG_8500

First glimpse of Phoenix Ancient Town.

As one descends the hill and rounds the corner, emerging from the mist and drizzle is this rather enchanting glimpse of the ancient town. The river gently flows as rising mists give the place a mysterious aura as though one is about to enter a magical kingdom.

But first  I must find that Air BnB, grab some tea and food before hiking around the town.

Next..China Enchantment

China – Zhangjiajie to Fenghuang on the Bus

Zhangjiajie, China, April 2019: In a few hours I shall be heading to my next destination, the ancient town of Fenghuang. Not for any scenic agenda, but primarily for the town itself, said to be a well preserved living, working example of very old China and worth a look. I shall aim for the 12:30 bus scheduled according to the China Bus Guide, which has been pretty accurate thus far.  So, before that, lets tank up on MacDonald’s Coffee since the place is conveniently next to the bus station.

Clipboard01

 

Clipboard01

IMG_8484

Its a VIP type tour bus for this 3 1/2 scheduled ride to Fenghuang – packed to the rafters with natives and a handful of Westerners. Comfortable enough as the bus meanders away from Zhangjiajie. A pretty hostess checks my ticket, ticks her papers and smiles as if to say “yes your on the right bus, have a nice day”.  A service station stop about half way, welcome for those that need to choke, spit and smoke, also a chance to snap some en-route scenery under the all to familiar overcast.

IMG_8478

A ghostly appearance, looking down on an abandoned settlement. Could have been some kind of mining operation or a secretive research base. Either way, its a rather intriguing scene here at the service station.

Fenghuang, on schedule as the bus rolls into the northern bus station. I had planned to take a local bus to my accommodation in the Phoenix town but since I can’t find bus number 1 and no one here speaks English, that idea is soon abandoned – a good old fashioned hike in the drizzle it is then!

 

 

China – Avatar, A Jurassic Non-fantasy, Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie, China, April 2019:  I’m on my way to the Zhangjiajie Inter-City bus station, just about a 10 minute walk from the hotel district. Plan is to get a bus to the Wu Ling Yuan scenic area, famed for its Jurassic landscapes providing inspiration for the scenery one sees in the 2009 fantasy movie ‘Avatar’. So, if all go’s to plan, this should be another unique experience following on from Tianmen Mountain. The weather is typically overcast, but the clouds are high and there is a little brightness in the warm spring air so lets try to stay optimistic!

Clipboard01

IMG_8317

Lets go to Wu Ling Yuan.

The only way to find the bus to Wu Ling Yuan is ask someone – or rather just show the ticket otherwise one will end up aimlessly lost in the vast Zhangjiajie bus station trying hard to decipher the system in place here. The staff are friendly enough directing me to the correct bus for this 40 minute ride North at £1.76 single fare (15 Y).

Wu Ling Yuan town is little more than a collection of big name hotels and streets lined with the inevitable tacky tourist souvenir shops. Yes, all the paraphernalia associated with a tourist hot-spot is here as one steps off the bus and strolls the long wide boulevard to Wu Ling Yuan entrance – let battle commence, a statement based on my experience of getting up and down Tianmen mountain!

IMG_8321

Follow the crowds…

IMG_8322

Pagoda marking the entrance to Tianzi Mountain.

Unfortunately the weather is deteriorating – low clouds and drizzle. Do I continue, spend the £35 entrance fee and hope for the best or turn back and save some money? Lets carry on and hope for the best! The ticket queue is short, only 20 minutes long, and bus queues even shorter. Here I am, prepared to do battle with thousands of tourists whom have failed to materialise, or is it that I’m the last to get on the bus! A short ride to the cable way station where visitors can pay about £10 to ride up the mountain or alternatively take a 2 hour hike to reach the Tianzi scenic area. For me, it’s the cable car since I really don’t relish a long hike in drizzle.

IMG_8331IMG_8333IMG_8337

An eerie, surreal ride between the Jurassic sandstone structures as the cable car ascends into the low clouds. A brief but interesting glimpse into the Wu Ling Yuan Avatar mountains which soon is enveloped with fog – a real thick blanket that I think is here to stay. So, for the now there’s little point wasting valuable stomping energy, so lets bunk down in the large and empty MacDonald’s here on the top of Tianzi Mountain for a while and hope for a lucky break!

IMG_8344

as one leaves the relative comfort of MacDonald’s, no sign of any imminent improvement in the weather – socked in good! Looks like the only scenery I’m going to see is tour guides screeching through megaphones and amplified PA speakers while their clients cackle, spit and yell into the fog expecting to hear an echo – no exaggeration! A host of food stands and the very familiar tacky tourist trinket stalls are abundant here. There really isn’t much else to say except at 1.15 PM one has to abandon all hopes of any mountain top sightseeing and start the journey down – might as well walk since gravity is on my side at least!

IMG_8385

Defeated by the weather

IMG_8384

For about £40 one ca be carried up or down in a chair!

IMG_8416

Another glimpse of Jurassic Park 

Its a 2 hour hike down and quite peaceful as the tour groups exit the same way they arrived – by bus and cable car. The only thing to meet are the dodgy characters waiting for a sedan chair customer and a few monkeys, that is until at the bottom where one joins up with the tour groups once again. A succession of buses back to the entrance and back to base in Zhangjiajie, where its not raining, yet!

IMG_8440

If one is to draw a conclusion then this is it – ‘Spring isn’t a good time to be conducting a scenic tour of China’.

China – Quick City Stomp, Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie, China, April 2019: It’s A compact city centre with a small Central Business District which includes the train station, bus station, hotel district and the airport – all within walking distance of each other, well, perhaps not the airport, which is really just a 10 minute ride away. Today I’m om what I call a stomp around – pounding the pavements of the local area to discover some of the city’s sights.

The city centre is separated from the suburbs by a rather wide river – the Lishui according to Google. Here is perhaps the most picturesque city skylines I have seen in a while – certainly in China anyway. The river extends East-West and here, just north of the city centre is a rather fine city bridge contributing to some pretty good photo scenes.

For those who like an elevated view, the 5th floor of a nearby shopping centre fits the bill – but only for boys! yes, the only window I could find with good views was in the male toilets! So, here’s what a quick City Stomp of Zhangjiajie looks like. Notice the lack of glass sky-scrapers and glitzy malls, that’s because they simply don’t exist here.

Clipboard01

IMG_8137

City bridge across the Lishui River

IMG_8146

Zhangjiajie’s Church, across the river.

IMG_8126

Zhangjiajie’

IMG_8140

Across the river

IMG_8157

Chinese plants

IMG_8099

City Park Entrance gate

IMG_8180

Zhangjiajie’s old district.

IMG_7566

Zhangjiajie’s shopping Mall

IMG_8208

View from floor 5 of the shopping mall.

And as the sun sets across Zhangjiajie, here’s a look across the rooftops towards the Tianmen mountains.

 

China – Wrapping up Tianmen, Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie, China, April 2019: Having survived the Tianmen Mountain glass walkway (physically and mentally), then finding refuge from the thousands of domestic tourists by hiding out in  Shangri-La on Tianmen, its now time to move forward and complete this hike around the Tianmen Plateau. According to the map the colour coded path turns red from here, indicating the final section and possibly the most scenic portion of the hike now that the clouds have dispersed – lets take a look.

IMG_7951

For those feeling adventurous, an open chairlift will take folk across the forest canopy and up to the fairy peak and another Temple. – about £9

IMG_7979

A Chinese tradition, something to do with love and fertility one would assume, not entirely sure though.

IMG_7908

Insanity strikes, but its all pretty solid – hopefully earthquake proof!

IMG_7913

Bridging the canyon with this suspension bridge.

IMG_7918

Hazy scenery looking towards Zhangjiajie City

IMG_7994

Here’s another glass path hanging on the mountainside. Having survived the first one earlier, I’m not inclined to push my luck any further! 

So, as this hike around Tianmen Mountain draws to a close, here’s one last look at the hazy scenery before heading down to the cable way station where undoubtedly one will need to fight for cable car seat, the same way one had to fight for a bus seat on the way up here earlier this morning.

IMG_8017

At 3.45 PM the queue for a cable car ride down is 2 hours  long.

Having just completed a 2 1/2 hour hike around Tianmen Mountain, There is now a massive queue for the cable car – at 3.45 PM the cable car ride is at least 2 hours away. Tired legs forced to stand for another 2 hours as natives tentatively try to queue jump. Thankfully the security guards quickly spot those attempting to cheat and order is restored. With that, the shouting and spitting, its enough to try the patience of any saint!

At 5.45 PM a vacant cable car rolls around and at last, possibly the worlds most exhilarating ride off a mountain top – short of jumping off in a winged suit of course!

IMG_8020

Coming down the Mountain in a cable car.