A Travellerspoint blog

A Pikachu in Hiroshima 2015

Pika Pika?

sunny

We're back from our trip to Hiroshima, which means only one thing... A new Around The World With Pikachu video! You can view on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXrrRaP0fMs

We had an amazing time in Hiroshima and have plenty to write about so look out for our blog posts about our latest adventures very soon.

Until then, enjoy the video.

Kathy and Gavin

Posted by Gavin_w207 00:22 Archived in China Tagged japan asia hiroshima Comments (0)

Exploring Qufu!

Home of Confucius

sunny -36 °C

Our first trip out of Jinan was to Qufu, pronounced Chufu. It's the home of Confucius, master philosopher and one of the most important historical figures in Chinese history. To make the journey we had to take one of China's high speed trains, an experience that proved to be very comfortable and reliable. Watching the Chinese countryside fly by in comfort was a great start and end to our trip.

Buying the tickets wasn't too difficult as we used a travel company called Ctrip who specialise in rail tickets and flights across China. Booking was relatively easy, although we did struggle at first due to use trying to book a few days before a trip. The best advice is to book your tickets at least a month in advance as the lines to Beijing and Shanghai are very busy and the tickets sell fast. We had been warned that the railway stations across China were always packed with people and queuing at the ticked collection point would be difficult, due to it being the same place people try to buy the remaining same day tickets. Luckily, there was an orderly queue and the line wait wasn't too long. We can't speak for the rest of China but our experience in Jinan station was pretty good. Still, we're going to have all future tickets delivered from Ctrip as it cuts out a lot of fuss and means we don't need to arrive so early.

We arrived into Qufu station, which is a short bus ride from the town, and were instantly approached by taxi drivers. Despite us actually trying to get onto the bus, they still insisted on trying to get us to go with them. They kept pointing at the bus and going 'no, taxi!' which began to quickly grate. It was only when I told the guy it was a bus, not a taxi, that he got the point and that we managed to get somewhere.

Qufu is famous for its Confucius temple, the Confucius family mansion and the cemetery. You can buy a single ticket for each, depending on what you want to see, or a cheaper ticket that gives you entry to all three. We had a little difficulty finding where to buy the tickets so we've included a picture, just in case anyone is making the journey. The building is just across the road from the temple's entrance and buying a ticket is as easy as pointing to the one you want.

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The temple is set within a sprawling complex that is filled with old buildings and statues which are fascinating to see. Many of them are showing signs of their age but to us that just added to the overall atmosphere. The main temple is located roughly in the centre and is magnificent, towering over everything else. The interior is just as amazing and we were both thoroughly impressed, not just with the temple, but the grounds and surrounding buildings. If you're in the area, it's well worth the trip just for the temple alone.

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The temple's exit leads straight onto the road which leads to the Confucius mansion. It's a short but interesting walk as the road is lined with stalls selling all manner of items and has retained an old fashioned feel.

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The mansion is interesting too, although lacking the grandeur of the temple, and the winding alleys lead to some fascinating buildings and courtyards. Unfortunately, you can't enter the mansion but peering through the windows gives you a good glimpse of what life would have been like for Confucius' descendants. Behind the mansion is an impressive garden and pond, plus the obligatory area to buy drinks and ice creams.

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Done with the mansion, we decided to head towards the cemetery. It's within walking distance but still a fair way. Luckily there are no end to the rickshaws and carriages eagerly seeking our visitors, so if you're done with the walking then its an affordable alternative. We decided to walk and personally I'm glad we did. Qufu couldn't be more different to Jinan. It's clearly a poor town and many of the shop fronts are empty, but it still feels very much alive. Many of the inhabitants in the area you walk through are completely reliant on the tourism industry, selling refreshments and offering rides to and from the main tourist attractions. It gave us a welcome change from the city and an interesting look into life in the smaller towns in the Shandong province.

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The Confucius cemetery is set within a huge forest, with a warren of trails leading through it. It's a strange place, filled with countless grave stones that stretch away in all directions. Most people in Qufu claim to be descendants of Confucius, taking his family name of 'Kong', and the cemetery is a clear testament to this. By this point the heat was getting to be unbearable so we made a bee-line to Confucius' grave. As you can see from the pictures below it's an impressive sight and is naturally very busy. The forest itself is too large to walk unless you're willing to dedicate a large amount of time to it. Instead, you can take one of the many tourist trains that stop at the main burial sights.

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The day was coming to a close so we made our way back into the town, hoping to find some food before getting the train back. Strangely, we couldn't find any restaurants, or shops selling food for that matter, and had to take the bus back to the station empty handed. Luckily, just outside of the station is a supermarket and inside the station are a number of restaurants.

Our journey home was in the first class carriage, it not being much different from second class in price, and we definitely traveled in style. All in all, the train stations and the high speed trains are just as efficient and comfortable as those in Japan and we both left very impressed.

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Thanks for reading and look out for our next blog posts. We'll be talking about a few hidden gems in Jinan, and this week we're heading to an ancient village a couple of hours out from the city so check back for more. Meanwhile, while not take a look at our Instagram accounts of leave us some comments!

Posted by Gavin_w207 05:14 Archived in China Tagged china confucius qufu Comments (0)

Furong Street and Black Tiger Spring

Visiting a popular streetfood location and Jinan's 2nd most important spring

storm 37 °C

Our next adventure took us into downtown Jinan. Gavin had been saying since we arrived that he wanted to eat and try some of the local street food, so we headed into the city in search of Furong Jie (street), a road which is well known for its variety of food and other goods.

Located off of Quancheng Rd, the main shopping street, Furong Jie is recognisable by the large wooden arch marking its entrance. The main part of the street itself is not long, maybe 1/4 of a mile in total, but there are also side streets selling various treats. It is also off of here that there is a rabbit warren of alleys known as the 'old town' which are home to many small restaurants and bars (and from a recent experience of ours, only navigable with a local Chinese friend!)

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We perused the many offerings the street had, from fried squid and other creatures to buns and (possibly) vegetables cakes of all kinds. Gavin had a particularly proud moment when he asked an old lady for the price of her steamed buns and she understood him completely!

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Feeling successful, we carried on our journey in search of the nearby spring, Gavin munching on his entire fried squid as we went. We will definitely be heading back to Furong Jie again soon to try some of their other delights!

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Along the way we took a diversion into nearby Parc 66, a fashionable and expensive shopping centre which is home to many high-end western brands. It was quite strange as most of the centre was completely devoid of shoppers, though it was mid-week. We have since been back at the weekend and ,thankfully, it felt a bit more soulful. While we we there we also met a few new friends...

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From there we headed out across to Quancheng Square in search of Black Tiger Spring. Walking along the old moat is the eaiest, and most scenic, way to get to the spring and makes for a very pleasant walk with much to see along the way.

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It is said to be called 'Black Tiger Spring' because the shape and colour of the rock supposedly resembled a black tiger, and the sound of the water is said to have sounded like the roar of a tiger. The only tigers we saw though we these!

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The spring is famous for being a spot where many local Chinese go to gather the natural spring water. We weren't disappointed when we reached the spring itself, as there were many people filling various containers from kettles to buckets.

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Unfortunately we had to cut our trip short as the weather was growing increasing stormy and it began to rain rather heavily as we left. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and will be heading back again soon.

Our next post will be about our trip to Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius and Confucianism! So, please make sure you subscribe if you haven't already and check out our Instagram pages for more pictures of our travels and adventures... Links are on the right hand side of this page :)

Kathy

Posted by kathy_w 06:36 Archived in China Tagged china jinan street_food streetfood black_tiger_spring furong_jie furong_street Comments (0)

Thousand Buddha Mountain

Our favourite landmark in Jinan so far!

sunny 36 °C

Yesterday we made the journey to Thousand Buddha Mountain, which proved to be one of our favourite landmarks yet. Located within the city, there seems to be some confusion as to whether the mountain is actually a hill. All I can say is that after climbing it in plus thirty degree heat, I'm more than happy to let it be a mountain.

As we arrived, we were straight away greeted with stone steps that lead up to the main climb up the mountain side. They're home to fantastic statues of Buddhist monks, each different from the last. The personality of each monk has been captured perfectly and there are some downright strange looking ones as you begin the climb.

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The mountain is home to a series of caves, but we chose to make our way to the top of the mountain first. There is a cable car which takes you part way up the mountain but we decided to go on foot, not wanting to miss anything interesting on the way up. What had started as a fairly warm day changed instantly to crushingly hot one as soon as we started the climb though. As a result, what would have no doubt been a fairly relaxed climb turned into a real challenge. The steps are steep and winding as they climb the mountain and the forest which surrounds them only add to the humidity. We noticed that there are quite a few different paths off of the main one, with some fairly confusion signposts, but we decided to stick to the main path rather than risk getting lost. No doubt there are a few interesting sites to be seen and we'll discover them on our next visit.

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After a long, hot climb we finally made it halfway up the mountain and our determination was rewarded. As you'll see from the pictures, there are some fantastic temples and a great view of the city which makes the climb completely worthwhile. It's here that the cable car ends, meaning that if you want to make it to the top you'll have to make what is quite a difficult climb.

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After checking out the temples and enjoying the view, we began the climb again. The rest of the journey to the top is even steeper than what had come before and if you have any health problems it would be wise to think long and hard about going above where the cable car drops you off. The steps become quite treacherous the closer to the top you get to the top. Somehow it had become even hotter and we practically crawled into the shade of a small tree once we had finally made it. Naturally, there was an old lady selling drinks and ice creams from a shop so I went and paid her a visit. I'm not entirely sure what she made of the sweat-soaked westerner mumbling about green tea and ice cream, but we managed to come to an understanding!

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The view from the top certainly made up for the arduous climb, with Jinan laid out before you in one direction and some more mountains in the other. As you'll see from the pictures, it makes for quite a sight! Luckily, the climb down was far easier as we made our way to Wanfu Cave, home to what gives the mountain it's name.

For an extra £1.50, you get access to the cave and after passing the ticket gate we weren't sure what to expect. We'd heard that the mountain was famous for it's stone statues of Buddha but the internet seems to be a bit sparse on what exactly they look like. Needless to say, the cave was beyond anything we had expected and we can both firmly say that it is one of Jinan's prime attractions and one of the most interesting places we've visited full stop. The cave is filled with amazing stone statues of countless shapes and sizes, with the walls lined with reliefs of Buddha. It seems to go on forever, with each chamber and room filled with something new and to top it all off, the final chamber is home to an impressive gold statue.

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After leaving the cave, we had one more thing to see on the mountainside, the twenty-five meter tall Maitreya Buddha statue. It took a while to find the statue and we were all ready to give up as it was beginning to rain. Luckily, a man flying a kite pointed us in the right way and we finally found it. It makes for an impressive site, but with the rain coming in we didn't linger long.

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All in all Thousand Buddha Mountain is one of the highlights of our time in Jinan so far and we both can't recommend it enough. if you're in the city, make a point of visiting!

Our next post will be about Black Tiger Spring and Furong Street (home to some interesting looking street food) so be sure to check back soon, or subscribe! Also, check out our Instagram pages for more pictures- See the links on the right!

Posted by Gavin_w207 01:01 Archived in China Comments (0)

Jinan Zoo

In search of Giant Pandas!

semi-overcast 34 °C

Yesterday we decided to head to Jinan Zoo to see their Giant Pandas. JInan Zoo is located in the north of Jinan, about 15 miles from where we live. The journey was simple enough, we got a bus into the city and changed buses at Daming Lake to get to the zoo. We were lucky enough to manage to get some of the 'K' buses on our journey. These are air conditioned buses which are much newer that the regular buses, though they appear to be quite infrequent. They are more expensive than the regular buses costing 2 yuan rather than 1 (but still only 20p!)

Jinan zoo is one of the largest in China, and is set in the grounds of and old park. We were a bit unsure of what to expect from the zoo before we got there, knowing that a lot of Asian zoos are different to western ones in the types of enclosures they provide for the animals.

Once we had arrived we headed straight for the pandas. We were expecting there to be a bit of a queue as when we had seen them before, at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, there had been a large crowd both times. We were pleasantly surprised though as there was hardly anyone in the viewing area! We were treated to two young pandas looking quite relaxed, both of which were quite active - and for once not eating bamboo!

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After seeing the pandas we looked around at some of the other enclosures and were left feeling rather confused. What we found was a bit of a mix, some of the enclosures were spacious and quite new, while others were small and outdated.

Having seen where they were keeping the lions and tigers we were set to leave, not feeling very happy. Then, as we were walking out, we came across a huge open enclosure to the back of the big cats. It was an impressive space, and from the signs around the edges it was clearly the outdoor area for the animals. What confused us though, was that all of the big cats backed onto the same enclosure and so they would have to have some kind of rotation to allow all of the animals out!

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There was quite a range of animals, from pandas, lions, white tigers and gorillas to ... seagulls?

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We left the zoo feeling slightly deflated, and probably wouldn't go again, but it was definitely worth it to see the pandas! (Especially seeing as the entrance fee was 25 yuan... about £2.50!)

Tomorrow (weather permitting) we are heading to Thousand Buddha Mountain in southern Jinan, so check back soon for more adventures, or subscribe if you haven't done so yet!

We now have Instagram too!
Kathy: http://instagram.com/kathy.a.w
Gavin: http://instagram.com/gavin_w207

Posted by kathy_w 19:13 Archived in China Tagged pandas china panda jinan jinan_zoo Comments (0)

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