Sep 21, 2015 - Sarytash - Kashgar
At the crack of dawn we were all up venturing our way to the little toilet hut some distance away. We all had tried to avoid this venture during the night being more or less successful...
While it was still freezing, the sky had cleared overnight and we were simply stunned by the amazing sight of the white immense Pamir mountain range – dominated by Pik Lenin of 7’134 m!
In awe we all took in this incredibly beautiful, magic scenery stretching along the edge of this plateau. Even for us Swiss being used to stunning mountain sites this was simply overwhelming and not even our best shots can convey this unforgettable beauty!
After a hearty breakfast in the yurt prepared by our gentle host and his family we backed our cars and glided thru the immensity of this unforgettable snowy paradise – a picture that will hopefully stay engraved in our minds forever!
The approaching the border to China ended our reveries and brusquely brought us back to the reality! Passing a line of ca. 80 huge trucks we got out of Kirgizstan quite efficiently, saying good-bye to our fantastic and knowledgeable tour guide …. during the past 24 hrs and driving off into the ‘nowhere land’ approaching the Chinese border.
As our first stop seemed quite easy we were all in high spirits until we realized that there was no way we would get our passports back b/f the China Tours guide, hired to take us to Kashgar would show up. Well, so far so good, we were indicated to park our cars next to a police building, jointly with large groups of locals and some lonely foreign tourists.
Suddenly the nice, chatty corporal disappeared with the rest of the army guys taking pics of our cars and while the sun was burning down on the dusty ground and it became rather quiet.
Calling our Chinese contact Tomas after an hour’s wait I learned that said guide had not received the permit to pick us up at the border in time and would not show up b/f the customs lunch closure was over. So we all settled for another 3 hrs, some staying in their cars, while others threw in whatever food we had left for a ‘déjeuner sur l’herbe’ sitting on Vincent’s nice MG wool cover on the hard concrete floor next to all the garbage everyone b/f us had left. While Vincent was generously sharing his ‘saucisson aux noisette’ (hope I got that right), our amazing rescue team Babs and Achim started pulling out all the ingredients and utensils to cook us a nice cup of cappuccino and espresso. The wait was long, but spirits high, only slight dampened by the fact that the long awaited guide did not show up until 5:30 pm.
Still no worries another 200 km to drive b/f we would reach Kashgar - piece of cake. A drive that took us once more thru the magnificient landscapes, changing their colors as the sun was setting.
Well, the reality was markedly different: La Grosse, was still choking over the bad gasoline, as Vincent diagnosed – water in the tank – we stopped repeatedly, reached the official customs clearance during their dinner break – our guides favorite announcement: we wait here a while – in the meantime it was 9 pm and pitch-black while we were lining up our cars for inspection. The latter went smoothly – no wonder, it was so dark that there was nothing to see! After another extensive wait inside, we jump-started la Grosse and rolled off into the night, only to reach another police station 10 km down the highway, same game – parking our cars, taking our passports inside and waiting. Even the most optimistic co-travelers have lost the illusion that we’re the least welcome in that county. Shortly b/f 2 am, after la Grosse had stopped again 600 m b/f the hotel! we reached the Qinibagh, our hotel in Kashar, warmly received by Tomas, who had the restaurant next door prepare a dinner for our arrival. At 3 pm, briefed for the next day on how to get our Chinese license plates and driving licenses we finally made it to bed.
Sep 22, 2015 - Kashgar
Sitting in my room, preparing a few eMails and my blog I wait for the internet to get fixed. Marco has left to attend to said license matters with all the other drivers at 8:30 am. Calling Tomas in the early afternoon I learn, that they are not expected back at the hotel b/f 8pm. Earlier this morning I had breakfast with the other co-pilots in the filthiest canteen type of place I’ve ever seen, dirty sticky tables, no one bothering to clean up, honestly quite far from anything you would expect from a 4* hotel in a city of 4.5 mio inhabitants even talking local 4*! Well, no big surprise, no luck in trying to find our hotel in booking.com instead no 1 is the Radisson Blu, most likely the place most Westerners would reside. The food is oily, the Western section of the buffet reduced to some sorry looking white bread waited to be toasted – welcome to China. So far my stomach has coped bravely with all sorts of food, yet after the fantastic breakfast, despite of focusing solely on cooked food, I like most others b/f me am on a crispbread, black tea & Imodium diet. The filthy look and feel does not stop at the restaurant's threshold, it’s true for every corner of the spacy room, with completely dirty window - sorry, tried in vain to take pic of the view from our room on the 22nd floor - the once beige (?) carpets and upholstery are so stained that you just can guess their original color – profound overhauls would obviously have been due more than once during the past 10 years. Reassuring to know that we’ll have the pleasure to spend another 2 nights in this place.
Sep 23, 2015 - Kashgar
9:30 pm last night after 13 hrs. our drivers were finally back at the hotel giving us the latest updates on the ‘play day’ they spent at the overly crowded police station for the technical check-up of our vehicles in order to obtain our Chinese license plates and driving licenses.
Lunch at the police station...
It had taken the local authorities hours to accept that the chassis no. of our MG does not consist of more than 4 digits and even more time to type said no. into their system. We greatly enjoyed our late dinner at a nearby restaurant when Tomas broke the fantastic news that tomorrow the whole circus would start all over again! All cars back to the police station.
Today at 2 pm all cars were cleared to cross China, leaving Vincent the much needed time to attend to his fuel tank!
As we needed to attend to our cars in the afternoon most of us skipped the city tour.
At least the co-drivers got a chance to explore some historic parts of this Uyghur city learn a bit about their life style, culture and history.
The streets are buzzing with honking electric motorbikes pulling their carts heavily loaded with fresh vegetable, fruit, sheep and everything else that needs to be moved from A to B.
The historic center is surrounded by a town wall sheltering a few old homes and countless grocery stores, pharmacies,
some local crafts, bakery, barbecue stalls etc. The four of us meandered thru tiny streets and bazaars thrilled to discover yet new treasures.
Well deserved desert after a local meat skewer lunch.
Sep 24, 2015 - Kashgar - Hotan
That's what we've been struggling for for 2 days - our Chinese no. plate and driving licenses.
I sneak out of the hotel to get fresh bread – the lively streets from yesterday have significantly changed! It’s the first day of an extensive local holiday – Uyghur New Year as we were told by Tomas – the food stalls are mostly closed, incl. my yesterday’s outdoor bakery, instead the streets are crowed with dressed up men and exceptionally a woman all streaming towards the largest mosque of Kashgar. Skipping breakfast we saddle our car and off we drive off.
Today 520 km on the Southern edge of the Taklamakan desert the same scenery that will accompany us for the next few days.
The view is limited to the sand changing its color every now and then, at times our surroundings are flat at times slightly hilly. Few times we pass a village - little has been left of the once glamorous oases back when the Silk Road was in full swing.
Unfortunately the 2 MGs had opted to follow our guide Tomas and his driver – big mistake! The driver got completely lost – we never found out if they can’t figure out their own Chinese road signs or read a navy – the result was the same, rather than visit the old kings city Yarkant, according to the road book the only place worth spending some time, we spent an extra hour on the high way, gaining some insights into the Chinese culture. As we wait for Vincent and Pierre having missed a U-turn cars would stopp behind us, passengers crawl out, take a pic and leave... reassuring we wern't stranded for good!
First camels in a long, long time...and sandy flats and hills of all colors and shapes.
Dinner at a restaurant seemed quite nice until the next morning…
Sep 25, Hotan - Qiemo
… when I was so sick that I just about made it to the car and patiently waited to reach my next bed to stretch out and sleep – the latter was 600 km away and Marco bravely drove the 600 km on his own. Well, seems I did not miss a lot, the numerous picturesque oriental villages and markets pointed out in our road book obviously had ceased to exist long b/f our time.
The towns we traveresed were all rather bleak stretching along the main street for km.
Occasionally some flocks of goats and sheep crossed our road, while a mid-sized donkey family decided to take a rest.
Another regular interruption of our rather uneventful drive are the frequent police controls - by now we stopped showing our passports, just explain in English, underlined by some helpful gestures, that we've shown them a hundred times already. That works quite effectively.
Sep 26, Qiemo - Ruoqiang
While the 4 other teams stopped at some excavation sights we took advantage of the comparably short drive to reach the hotel in time to recover for the long distances still ahead of us. Later we learn that we've taken the right decision - not missing out on a lot.
Incredible to imagine, what these distances must have meant for every single caravan back then – moving at 30 km/day. For us quite monotonous after these few days – it must have felt like an eternity to them.
Thanks to my wonderful friends back home practicing ABL and BodyTalk - energy medicine doesn't know geographical distances - I feel much better already - thank you!!
Sep 27, Ruoqiang - Huatugou
Despite the weather forecast we face another beautiful, sunny day - we get our suitcase back on top of our luggage rack and are ready to take off.
Knowing we’re crossing an immense plateau at 3’000 m surounded up in the Altun mountains and a pass at 3’588 m we’re warmly wrapped up in lots of layers, our jackets, furry flying helmets and fur gloves.
As all along thru China the roads are in excellent state and gently slope up to incredible heights.
The usual ochre, brown & grey landscapes are flecked with reddish bushes reminding us the fall is just around the corner.
Up on the plateau it’s ice cold – time for Pierre to put on ‘la laine’ as his grandma would have reminded him
– yet we take a few pic stops and baptize ‘La Grosse’ – she’s just crossed her 10’000 km line starting her trip from Le Touquet Paris-Plage and we toast on St. Vincent's day!
Given the long trip of La Grosse we jump start her a few times, she’s still not used to heights and chokes terribly on thin air.
We’re passing these magnificent sceneries yet we still are and likely will always be shocked at how little the locals care for their environment. Every road is seamed with heaps of garbage – pet bottles being the uncontested winner – no difference between town, village or countryside.
Same at every hotel we stayed at in China – cleaning is not their thing. It’s difficult to glance thru a window & taking a shot an absolute no-go. We've decided long ago to only boil bottled water for our tea – given their hygienic standards you wonder where they could possibly find a bucket of clean water.
One of many trucks we overtook on our drive up the pass carrying 20t of chili pepper! Once Pierre became aware of its true length he commented drily ‘had I known, I’d never have passed it!’
During a lively discussion over dinner at the hotel we learn from Tomas, that the production site we had spotted earlier was exploiting asbestos and that adding proudly for over 50 years. We close the evening with lighter topics translating jokes from German to French and vice vesa.
Sep 28, Huatugou – Dunhuang
By far the coldest morning of our trip although we only start at 9 am. Shortly after 10 heavily armed policemen insist on seeing our passports – what a tourist friendly country!
Out of town we’re passing large oil fields with colorful pumps working like clockwork in this grey, drizzly morning.
As we climb slightly higher we reach today’s travel altitude at almost 3’000 m. By now it’s ice cold with a nasty wind, the drizzle changes to light snow, well looking at the overcast sky ahead of us it can only get better, anyway, too much of a hassle to close the top.
1'111 km to the Great Wall!
We follow La Grosse, as this has proven an efficient way of travelling, so in case she starts choking we’re close behind. We drive for hours over what is called the Tibetan plateau admiring the magnificent landscapes changing from enormous sand dunes, to mountains, flat deserts as far as you can see changing colors despite of the lousy weather.
Even in Chinas they seem to have a (rare!) feebleness for non-profit operations.
Seems a perfect time to give all our MG friends and enthusiasts a quick update on the outstanding performance of our MG TD, the Red Bull! You may remember the melted gasket in Posen… ever since not the slightest hick-up!! Thanks to Marco who has spent endless hours in overhauling our MG, efficiently and effectively supported by Beat – thank you!! – to ensure a flawless engine running smoothly from the very start thru the first 10’000 km which by the way we reached today. Despite of the 1’250 ccm engine – La Grosse, an MG ZB has a 1’500 ccm – our Red Bull runs at a steady 100 km/h even up at altitude of almost 3’000 m, climbs hills without a cough – just truly amazing. Apart from the daily check-ups, tightening a few screws, fixing some our leaf springs back in place early on in Kazakhstan – you remember the horribly bumpy roads! – Marco has changed the oil once and cleaned the oil filter! Turns out a spare would not have been luxury, but given our limited space there’s just no way to take all desirable spares along.
After another pass of 3655 m we reach Dunhuang, in early days a busy oasis where the Northern and Southern Silk Road crossed.
Sep 29, Dunhuang
We follow the main tourist tracks and visit the impressive sand dunes along the Southern edge of the city: 40 km long, 20 km wide & 600 m high.
Lots of tourists all over up in the helicopter, motor gliders, on camels, jeeps etc.
and in all sorts of outfits - Chinese Lawrence of Arabia
Marco and I skip the afternoon sightseeing to the Buddhist Mogoa caves - another afternoon filling undertaking - to stroll thru the city, do some people watching, simply relax and do a quick check-up of the Red Bull.
Sep 30, Jiayuguan
Quite surprised we looked at the sugary environment and all the Chinese taking pics - indeed it has snowed overnight and flakes were still dancing from the sky! According to the weather forecast we had been prepared for icy temperatures but not for snow over one of the dryest spots in China!
Vincent and Achim help Marco to put up the top - well, no choice today, the skies are still of a dark leaden grey.
Being misslead by our navy Garmin Thomas guides us back on the highway - for Chinese a roadway or a carrageway! - and we continue our journey of 380 km in snow, rain and later heavy Westerly winds, an est. 6-8 knots blowing sideways thru our car and freezing temperatures all along our way thru the Hexi passage, a realtively narrow valley. No surprise that we passed hundreds of wind generators decorating the valley flats, yet despite the gale-force winds less than 5% of the genarators were working! As we're still in the middle of the desert the air above the surface is dense with yellowish sand. Seems we're quite lucky to avoid a true sand storm out here!
Even the French in their coupé were frozen to their bones once we got to the fortress of Jiayuguan, an impressive, immense construction originally built in the 14th century right at the end of the Hexi passage, a must for all caravans in early days.
The fortress was an integrated part of the Great Wall of the 14th century, whereof original parts can still be found in the area. Other parts, such as the overhanging Great Wall have been reconstructed to convey a realistic impression of the immensitiy of that undertaking to today's visitors.
Oct 1, Zhangye
A rather relaxing day ahead of us, only 230 km to cover on the highway. While it is still fresh outside, the sun's up and the sky is of a autumnal light blue.
Down goes our top and while Vincent and Pierre do a bit of car cleaning the concierge takes pity on our Red Bull, still sandy all over from the countless days thru the desert.
Todays journey is rather dull, continuing thru the valley, along the Qinlian mountains in the South. Worth mentioning is the increasing traffic, partly due to the fact that we're steadily moving East out of the scarcly populated West, but even more so to todays Chinese National Day, succeded by some China-wide holidays. According to our guide Tomas this attracts millions of Chinese to criss-cross the country to visit their families and get some sightseeing done. Well, we've still got some important sights ahead of us, let's hope we get a chance to see them!
Later, at Zhangye, another center of the Hexi passage in the old days, we wind our way thru thousands of people thru large streets buzzing with festivities, wedding parties and shopping to see the largest lying Buddha in the temple of 'the Great Buddha' - quite an impressive statue measuring 35 m.
Oct 2, Zhangye – Lanzhou
A rather unspectacular 500 km drive on the highway. Worth mentioning however is our last night dinner discussion with Thomas. He told us boldly that the standard of a 4* or 5* hotel in China was markedly above the one of Western hotels – we exchanged a few frowns around the traditional round dinner table – indeed, is that sooo!?! – Well, the ‘vote’ was taken by Thomas last year’s clients, some 30 Chinese. Enquiring on their criteria we learn that merely the size of room and bed are of relevance. We finally understand that most other 4* hotel guests couldn’t care less if carpets are filthy, wallpapers torn, bathrooms not clean, sink, pipes, faucets etc. never properly fixed, breakfast buffets sticky with food and tables constantly dirty.
We stop twice to get gasoline and take a quick break – usual crowds around our two MGs. No way to leave our car unattended for 5’ else everyone around sits in or on our MG, kids crawling over it, touching, pulling whatever they can lay their hands on – goes for adults too – while taking more shots.
Passing some tunnels we hear that ear-splitting sound. Back out in the open, Marco & I exchange a quick glance and in unison we decide ‘certainly to ensure that the Chinese don’t fall asleep while driving thru a tunnel!’ Thomas, with a big smile enlightens us ‘you were driving too fast, speed limit in tunnels is 80 km/h, the faster you drive, the louder the siren!’ Well, we were way above 100 km/h!
Quite a surprising sight, even more so given the vastness of the country, are the tiny parcels of land cultivated one by one – neither efficient nor effective as far as we’re concerned! Again Thomas has the answer for us: peasants do not own land, but lease some lots from the government. All available parcels are divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ lots. In order to obtain a fair share of both, the lots are kept small and each lessee gets a fair package.
Entering Lanzhou a modern rather dusty, dirty city with lots of rather sorry looking buildings seaming the main road.
All that ugliness none of our concerns tonight! We stay and dine at the Crown Plaza – a true treat and much welcomed change after all the mediocre places we resided at and a much appreciated break from Chinese food on round tables in a sticky little room. Wining and dining like back home – great buffet carrying almost all you could aks for - no cheese for our French, but helas, an excellent Chardonnay and nice Tinto from the Ribera del Duero valley round up our lavish dining.
Oct 3, Lanzhou - Baoji
A backward glance at Lanzhou over the yellow river.
Construction sites dominate this modern city.
Another long drive thru rather unspectacular countryside. Skies are soon overcast and temperatures still low. Only gradually we're weaving our way down to 650 m a.s.l.
We learn that the neatly terraced hills all along the highway are all cultivated by the local peasants.
The driving gets crazier and more dangerous by the day! Chinese are either inexperienced, ruthless or simply stupid drivers, overtaking left and right - Uzbekistan a piece of cake in comparision!
At the gasoline station - selling fresh apple - there truly tasteful!
Pierre and his fan club!
As our hotel is located at the Northern outskirts of the city we just take a quick glance whizzing by the famous pagoda.
Our Intercity hotel per se is nice, yet English is still not widely understood and 'key' a word all 4 receptionists have obviously never heard of before - good Thomas is nearby!! Quite incredible, given that all Chinese are being taught English from their first grade on, for 9 years, 1 hour a week!!
Oct 4, Baoji - Xi'an
A short drive takes us to Xi'an - then all the fun starts! Along with thousands of Chinese we try to get near the entrance of the Terracotta army museum!
An unforgettable experience of pulling and pushing our way not very ladylike towards the sights!
Out of the 6'000 warriors buried in the first pit 2'000 have been excavated and 1'000 restored. Archeologists will continue working for the upcoming 10th of years and still hardly ever finish their job.
Most of the warriors and wooden carts had been destroyed during peasant upheavals. Still the sight of all these warriors is impressive!
Back at the hotel the director warmly welcomes us with a small reception.
The usual speeches for us given by Vincent and me.
At last a bottle of Champagne - even though its a Chinese champagne!
After dinner we weave our way thru the nearby Oriental Night market
full of live, exotic ordors, amazing colors ...
Oct 5, Xi’an
In the old days Xi’an was a major crossroad and the starting and ending point for countless caravans.
Right after breakfast we tour the city with our local guide, Johannes, quite a character. He spend a few years in Germany at a priest’s school, when he fall in love with a Chinese girl, returned back home, abandoned his catholic career and became a tour guide. He’s got 3 girls – one child policy of China?!? – and immediately enlightens us on all the exceptions to said policy.
We watch the locals, mostly elderly people, do their morning workout in the park around the city wall – and climb up the latter to get a bit of view over the old city.
Today’s city wall measures 14 km attracting lots of Chinese visitors and newly weds to have their pics taken.
We learn that the small and the large wild goose pagodas were built as document storages and a 20’ crash course introduces us to the Chinese calligraphy – long lost memories of endless practicing of kanjis at University come back to me!
Original bell of the drum tower.
A milky sun is barely visible on the yellowish sky – Johannes explains, that Xi’an is the geographical center of China and that moving further east we’re entering the smog area.
My question if he’s ever seen more of the sun, he answers with a broad smile, ‘yes, when I studied in Germany’.
The evening was meant to be a special treat – local Xi’an dinner and theater performance.
The 18 courses dinner turned out as a race thru 18 pretty similarly tasting little dumplings, the music & dance performance was quite nice, although obviously only staged for tourists – as hundreds of us ‘long noses‘ were squeezed around the tables.
Oct 6, Xi’an - Luoyang
Crossing the Yangtzes (Yellow river)
We didn’t expect a blue sky, but according to the weather forecast at least a dry day. We’re proven wrong and while we don’t mind the slight drizzle leaving the hotel, we don’t particularly appreciate the steady downpour over large stretches of our 370 km. The worst is driving thru this 2 mio. city, every other 100m a traffic light and every single one of them red!!! We’re pretty soaked once we arrive at the hotel and getting even worse visiting the famous Longmen caves – shoes etc. are soaked, as it runs out in the morning blow-drying didn’t help much! A very knowledgeable local guide explains that the rainy season has started – reassuring to know and excellent trip planning by China Tours!
For almost 2000 years until 960 nine dynasties were residing at Luoyang. Most of the Buddha statues of the Longmen caves date from the Tan dynasty ca. 700 – 900 ad. As most treasures in China the Buddha statues have been badly damaged over the years and you’re never quite certain to what extend they are still original or to what extend they have been restored. If they had been restored, unfortunately lots of times, this was done in a rather unprofessional manner.
Well, again I’m trying to load our blog, but unfortunately we’re once more put up at one of these glamorous China Tours places with a malfunctioning wifi – so even down at the lobby one more day with neither mails nor blog – well maybe I’ll have more luck tomorrow.
Oct 7, Luoyang – Yuchuang
Smog or clouds – who knows?!? but the drizzle is still omnipresent and we decide to put up the top! To keep the car dry over breakfast I backed it up towards the hotel entrance - only covered space available.
As we all enjoy convoy driving we decide to practice this once more to get to the Shaolin monastery situated in the Song Shan Mountains. The monastery is renowned for its kung fu school and of course we can’t miss the kung fu spectacle quite a touristy affair.
Special ‘treat’ of the day: rather than enjoy our quite spectacular hot spring resort of tonight – mind you, the only one we’re staying at in China – we benefit from the unique pleasure to drive thru the modern city of Xuahang, according to Thomas a representative example of a central Chinese city, by the way the second city that boasts to represent the geographical center of China – seems we really got to figure that one out based on a map!!
Vincent playing 'hide & seek' in front of Yuchang's city monument!
Driving thru any of these modern cities you pass 100 of uncompleted or otherwise empty high-rises another phenomena of modern China. As Thomas explains: the purchasing power of the 1 bio. concerned that their domestic market was too small and exports too high given the country’s size. In order to increase demand they started building high-rises, so peasants can be moved to the cities making up for the lacking purchasing power. What they are supposed to live off or will do once moved to the city no one knows. Never mind next to all the empty high-rises lots are still under construction and the real estate bubble is scaringly fattening by the day – we’ll all see it burst rather sooner than later as this will affect the global world economy seriously.
Hard to imagine the government indeed believes in this dead-end road planning – right now no way for us to find out what aces or exit strategies they've gotten up their sleeves.
By now we are all visibly upset by China Tours & Thomas first misusing us for their 2 hrs promotion drive thru a dirty city and now forcing on us the promotion dinner with 4 Chinese officials. Thomas begs us to offer them our brightest smiles - we maliciously nod at each other - well, we'll smile and adapt to their 'toasting culture' and will not leave the room b/f the last Chinese, incl. Thomas, will have staggered out of it! We all do our round - kampé and bottom up with all officials - they drink beer we toast back with wine.
As expected, the dinner or rather the Chinese don't last long, after 1.5 hrs of toasting, drinking, singing French, German and Swiss songs, asking them to sing in Chinese for us, the event is over. So is our chance to enjoy the hot springs - too much food and wine! Well, sorry, Thomas, you were the one to pay the price for China Tours misbehavior! He didn't look to well when some asked for the bar. He guided us to a lounge area and fell asleep right next to our table.
Oct 8, Yuchuang - Nanjing
Exiting the city we drive the worst roads ever in China, leading us thru rather rural, quite pictoresque sceneries of local markets and daily trades.
Local pepper transport!
Most of the 570 km on the highway to Nanjing lead us thru rural areas with countless modest settlements of shabby looking houses. Small groups of people are scattered all over the fields tending to them with simple tools. Tractors are rare a few small carts help them transport whatever they picked or brought to their plots. We pass rice and lotus fields, goose and duck farms and numerous greenhouses, all seaming the highway gently covered by the constant smog. Keep in mind that the heating season starts on Nov 15 only!
By then all their 100th of coal power plant stations we’ll considerably worsen the already poor air quality.
Difficult to imagine how kids or for that matter any living being can possibly survive here!
Again 1000 of abandoned houses, factories etc. line the highway – we’ll obviously never be able to relate to the Chinese way of treating or rather mistreating natural resources incl. their own land, rivers and air! Again we spot large ‘new districts’ with countless high-rises in the middle of nowhere still under construction.
Nanjiang - Soutern capital - in early ages important harbour, emperors residence for a number of dynasties, starting point for countless expeditions to the west, India, Orient and Africa. Today a modern, fast growing industrial city with close to 8 mio. people.
Oct 9, Nanjing –Wuxi
After a tasty Western buffet dinner last night I experienced the most amazing ‘hammer foot massage’ at a local massage place. After several attempts of calling the reception to get a bell boy take our heavy metal trunk down to the garage, we do it ourselves – unbelievable how little English they understand even here in the East!
Surprisingly we could not locate any cheese on the rich Novotel breakfast buffet – helas Shanghai is getting closer, so that will change and on our way thru Wuxi we spot a first Carrefour and Auchan! Before leaving the city we pay a short visit to the marine museum.
Nanjing has not only been an emperors capital in ancient times, but has also harbored a large ship building industry during the early 15 th century.
The local ships out measured any European competitor’s by far measuring up to 126 m of length and boasting 9 masts. They sailed from Nanjing down the Yangtze crossing the seas of central Asia to India and Arabic countries. Some turmoil and a change of government brought an abrupt end to their ship building and trading, their skills and expertise got lost for hundreds of years.
Upon our arrival in Wuxi we’re warmly welcomed by the local representative of tourism and some local journalists each being handed a huge bouquet of beautiful flowers. Pretty handy for the size of our car – thanks you Babs that you brought them back to the hotel for us!
A stroll thru a lush garden – unfortunately with heaps of garbage wherever you lay your eyes on! – ends on a nice terrace with local girls performing a tea ceremony for us. Great Jasmin tea with Chinese ‘scones’ – I must admit I still do prefer the English ones.
New captain aboard!
On we go – more advertising and promotion pics for China Tours b/f we leave – and we all hope that this will soon find an end,
but getting to the rebuild of an ancient Chinese boat it starts all over again rather tiring to be quite honest given that we’re not on a free promotion tour for China Tours!
Chansonnier Vincent - always ready to entertain with a nice French song!
A topic worth mentioning before we all go our own ways once in Shanghai is the modern Chinese marriage policy, naturally prearranged marriages belong to the past – almost anyway! According to Thomas modern parents put some pressure and as time passes increasing pressure on their offspring to get to know and marry Ms. or Mr. Right. Mr. Right owns a flat, a car (paid by his parents) and preferably has a good heap of petty cash to spend….
Oct 10, Wuxi – Shanghai
Wuxi in the early morning slightly hazed by the smog – good China just had a 7 days holiday so the air could recover a bit!
At the water village, after a dragon dance, another x-illion Chinese wanna take pics of us! A cute rather short, but clearly determined girl walks up to us, stretches out her hand ‘can I take a pic with you, please’ – well, of course we can't resist her charm!
When in tourist land - do as tourists do!
Factory visit on our way to Shanghai
Our convoy drive into Shanghai on a four lane highway becomes a bit tricky as our guides driver has a strong tendency for quick and unexpected changes –
his favorite when changing highways is driving on the right, rapidly cutting thru all the traffic – in the middle lanes mainly bumper-to-bumper trucks – to the very left and back to the right to get off said highway. The other side of the coin: once driven behind him you lose all fear of Chinese highways!
Past the next x-ing we spot the Kempinski – yes, we all made it safe and sound!!
So we could almost close our blog….
Glass art at the Kempinski
a room with a view....
Oct 11, Shanghai
... had it not been for the MGCC China who invited us to their 85th birthday party of the MG Club - not MGCC China, their club is quite young, but they are deeply motivated and active, comprising a total of 1000 members already! Reinforced by the spouses of Vincent and Pierre, we 6 MGst happily accept.
Our Sunday starts with a lavish breakfast at the Kempinski – indeed a glamorous place to stay! –
followed by a visit to the ancient French district where we get the chance to stroll thru one of the old residences of the 1920th.
6-7 modern MGs escort us out of the city to their famous club house – the greenhouse!
A lovely site in the middle of a nicely cultivated rural area – sunshine, bluish skies and fresh air. Many local MGsts join this 85 th anniversary – we all enjoy the great atmosphere among all these young MG families, kids playing on the grounds and the president, Gulu and his gorgeous, lovely wife Ray welcome us warmly and shower us with beautiful presents – thank you all we had such a great time with you!!
Sad to learn that we're likely to be the last visitors they'll be able to receive here. The government has decided to cancel their lease and reuse this site for agricultural purposes. Welcome to modern China!
With all the MG families around us we savor a traditional Chinese hot pot dinner – indeed a tasty treat! We hope to welcome some of you back in Europe – may be even for the European event early June 2016 in France!
Finally Red Bull is in the container for the long journey back home...