A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Gavin_w207

A Pikachu in Hiroshima 2015

Pika Pika?

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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

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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)

Thousand Buddha Mountain

Our favourite landmark in Jinan so far!

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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)

Quancheng Square, Baotu Spring and the Five Dragon Pool!

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For our next adventure in Jinan we decided to visit Quancheng Square, Baotu springs and the Five Dragon Pool, three of Jinan's main landmarks.

To get there, we decided to take the bus again and it was an easy ride straight into the city centre where the landmarks are located. I know we mentioned that we would be posting a video of our journey on here but after a closer look Traveller's Point require you to upload videos through either YouTube or Vimeo, both of which are blocked in China. So, it looks like we won't be sharing it with you, sorry!

Quancheng Square is the central square of the city and is immediately recognisable by its large blue statue and fountains. As we arrived, the fountains had come to life, putting on a pretty impressive show. They were accompanied by opera and then the Titanic theme, which did make it all seem a little overblown. Still, it made for quite the sight! Wandering through the square towards the statue, we were suddenly stopped by a group of what looked like university students with microphones and a television camera. One of the guys leapt straight into his interview full of confidence, until he realised he couldn't speak English! It took an awkward few minutes of him looking desperately to his friends and trying to translate what he wanted to say on his phone before, luckily, one of the girls in his group came to the rescue. She managed to explain that they wanted to find out if we knew of any 'big news or hot events'. Sadly we didn't, so they instead asked us to repeat some phrase in Chinese with them to the camera and we were on our way. It was all a little surreal and no doubt the first guys going to struggle to live it all down! We made our way to the statue next, which isn't as big as it looks in any pictures you see of it. Still, I thought it looked pretty cool. Kathy, however, wasn't impressed.

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Jinan is known as the city of springs, having over seventy of them. Baotu spring is probably the most famous and was really easy to find, it just across the road from the square. The main spring is well hidden in what feels like a labyrinth of paths, pavilions and pools. It was an extremely hot day and the whole place was filled with parents and children. Most of the children had water pistols but they were surprisingly well behaved though, and we avoided getting wet. We came across a number of areas that had been deliberately flooded, with stepping stones through the water. It was here where most of the crowds were and a lot of families were enjoying the water and the shade. After a wander, we finally found the main spring. It looks like a large pool, with an ornate pavilion and we couldn't see anything that gave it away to be a spring. It was still pretty impressive though and well worth a visit.

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As usual, we spent most of the time being stared at and we had barely stepped past the entrance before a girl was asking to have her picture taken with us. That was fine, but we did notice a few people trying to take sneaky shots of us. One guy even walked ahead of his wife to try and get a picture of us in the background with her! Still, since we've been here we've only seen a couple of other westerners so its understandable that people are going to be curious.

To round off our trip, we visited the Five Dragon Pool which, again, isn't far from the Quancheng Square. It only cost 50p to get in and as soon as you enter you come across the five dragons standing over a large pool. The rest of the area is similar to Baotu Spring, but on a smaller scale, with pools and pavilions.

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Well, that;s it for today's post. Our next adventure is to Jinan Zoo tomorrow in search of giant pandas so check back soon for that. Also, take a look at our new instagram page https://instagram.com/whtkathyandgavin/ for more pictures of our travels. Be sure to follow us on there and subscribe to our blog!

Posted by Gavin_w207 04:58 Archived in China Tagged china jinan quancheng_square baotu_spring five_dragon_pool Comments (0)

Daming Lake

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Our first big adventure in Jinan was visiting one of the city's many famous landmarks, Daming Lake. It's the biggest lake in the city and is fed by the its many springs.

At first we thought the journey into the city centre to visit the lake was going to be a challenge but, after a bit of help from our new boss, we were able to find the correct bus stop and we were off. The bus was fairly clean and made quick progress through the city, even if it was lacking in suspension which is something we could both forgive considering the fare was 10p! We got a great look at the city and it became quickly apparent that the area we are staying is very different to much of the rest of the city. We'll get a video of our next journey so you can see what we mean!

The bus journey went without a hitch and we soon found ourselves at the lake. It's a beautiful place, with an excellent view of the city's skyline as a backdrop. We spent a pleasant few hours walking around the lake's perimeter, visiting the many pavilions and halls. It was our first taste of Chinese architecture and we were both really impressed with what we saw. After a while, the more cultural side of the lake gave way to a few fairground attractions but luckily they didn't last long and we quickly passed them and back into more tranquil surroundings.

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Two highlights of our visit were Quiliu House and Chaoran Tower.

Quiliu house once belonged to a local doctor and is well worth a visit to see its traditional rooms and courtyard. The real star was Chaoran Tower however. which was first built in the Yuan Dynasty then rebuilt in 2009. The tower can be seen from several points around the lake and is home to many interesting cultural artifacts such as some stunning paintings and wood carvings. The real reason for visiting though is the view it provides from the top. From there we were able to get a great view of the entire city as you'll see from the pictures below.

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All in all, our trip to Daming Lake was real success. We made it there and back in one piece without getting lost and were able to enjoy some beautiful surroundings. As usual, we were stared at by almost everyone we encountered. Kathy is a real novelty to pretty much everyone who sees her (we're blaming the blonde hair in particular) and this time a little boy even brought her flowers!

Our next trip is to Boatu Springs, the most famous of Jinan's seventy springs so check back soon for our next post!

Posted by Gavin_w207 05:29 Archived in China Tagged china jinan daming_lake chaoran_tower Comments (0)

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