Jan 31 2010

Xian, China

Train ticket (around 55 Yuan) is much cheaper than the bus ticket (90 Yuan) to Xian. Was trying to take the 7.12am train to Xian but got an 8am train (K59 from XuZhou) instead and the train was delayed for another 1.30 hours.

Arrived at Xian train station at almost 3pm.

Xian train station was pretty crowded. Met a young man, Du on the train and dragged him along to the hostel since he has never heard about youth hostel. Took bus 603 to NanMen and found a youth hostel called XiangZiMen. Originally I was planning to stay at ShuYuan hostel but I lost the address and found XiangZiMen hostel instead.

XiangZiMen hostel (30 Yuan~USD$4.5 for a 6 beds dorm room)

Shaanxi has a very long and interesting history. It’s considered the heart of Chinese civilization, Xian is the capital for Shaanxi province and is one of the oldest Chinese city, more than 3000 years old. The city has been the capital of some of the very old dynasties. Xi’an became a cultural and political center of China in 1100 BC with the founding of the Zhou Dynasty. During the Sui dynasty, Xian was the largest city in the world with a wall enclosing the city of 84 km^2. But during the end of Tang dynasty, Xian was destroyed.
A wall around the city was constructed during the Ming dynasty in 1370 with 12km long, 12meters high and 15-18 meters thick, the wall still remain intact today.

Today, Xian has a population of around 8 millions.

NanMen (South Gate)

GuLou (Drum Tower)

It’s a crowded day in Xian.

Walked back to the train station. Passed by GeMinGongYuan.

Older generation dancing hip hop

Arranged marriages are still popular in China and many old people gather here to exchange information about the availability of their sons and daughters.

Advertisement about looking for a partner

Took bus 5 to DaYanTa. The pagoda was constructed in 652 AD to store the Buddhist sutras obtained by Xuan Zang from India. The pagoda has a height of 64 meters.

South of DaYanTa is BuYeCheng.
Mr. Du was pretty photogenic and loved posing for photos.

Restroom in the art museum.

Walked to TangFuRongYuan, a recent built park with buildings similar to Tang structures in ancient times.

Took bus 26 to GuLou and went to HuiMinJie for food.

Kite flying

Dinner, fried rice with meat on sticks and a drink. (10 Yuan~USD$1.4)

Finally got back to the hostel around 11pm after walking around for 8 hours today.

Jan 30 2010

Luoyang, China

Luoyang is bigger than I thought. The city has a population of around 3 millions. Luoyang is one of ancient Chinese capital just like Xian. It was the capital for 13 dynasties, 96 emperors over a period of 1,529 years until the Northern Song dynasty moved its capital to Kaifeng in the 10th century.

Took bus 81 to LongMenShiKu, LongMen Grottoes which is listed under the UNESCO heritage site. The bus ride took around 40 minutes to the southern part of the city, 16 km away from the city center.

LongMen Grottoes (60 Yuan~USD$9, student price)

There are around 100,000 statues of Buddhas in caves along the banks of Yi river.

Met a Chinese family and a Canadian lady in the Grottoes and I sort of became the translator for the Canadian lady.

Buddha statue

Small buddha carving on the wall

The main statues to see


Across the banks

The family then drove me to BaiMaSi, white horse temple.

BaiMasi has a history of 1900 years old and is the first Buddhist temple built with the sanction of the government then during the Han Dynasty. There are also myths saying that the temple was built for XuanZeng, the famous monk from the story journey to the east during 600AD but it’s not true.

There are around 100 monks living in the temple and to be a monk nowadays, a university degree is required.

If I remembered correctly, these 3 statues are 2 meters high and weight only 15kg. There is a unique way of making these statues by emptying the inside of the statues after it’s made, the statue is only 2cm thick on the outside.

The family whom I spent the afternoon with.

Took bus 56 back to the city.

A busy street vertical to ZhongZhou street with many street food.

Took bus 58 and 25 just to tour around the city new district, south of the river. Sometimes I just like taking public bus to places far outside the city for no reason and just to look around.

Xian is around 5 hours train ride away from Luoyang. Was deciding if I should take the overnight train to XiAn or wait until tomorrow morning, picked the later option because I was a little tired and decided to take a rest. There is a LiangZiZuLiao branch in Luoyang. LiangZi is a popular franchise brand for massage and there are almost 600 stores all around China. For 68 Yuan~USD$10, you can get a 100 minutes massage, drinks and fruits. With another 10 Yuan to stay overnight.
Overnight for 78 Yuan~USD$12.

Jan 29 2010

Zhengzhou to Dengfeng, Shaolin Temple, China

The bath house where I stayed

Took the 9am bus (27 Yuan~USD$4, 2 hours) to Dengfeng.

Arrived at Dengfeng at 11am after 2 hours

Dengfeng is not far away from where the famous Shaolin Temple is located.

Shaolin Temple which is located on SongShan mountain is around 15km from Dengfeng. Got to Dengfeng bus station at 11am and took bus 1 and then switched to bus 8 to get to Shaolin Temple.
Shaolin temple was founded around the 5th century by an Indian monk. Shaolin boxing style incorporated some of the natural motions of birds and animals. The temple was burned a few times and because Shaolin monks had also intervened in some of China’s fightings, most recently in 1928 the temple was burned by the local warlord.

There are many KungFu schools around Shaolin Temple. Someone mentioned there are around 90-100 schools with an average of 1000 thousands or more students in each school.
One of the KungFu school.

Foreigners can train there for 3000 Yuan a month including food and lodging. However, locals only pay 300 Yuan.

Ticket to get in into Shaolin Temple cost 100 Yuan~USD14.

Shaolin students taking a break

Student dorm

Shaolin kids

Lunch at Shaolin canteen (5 Yuan).

I was kind of disappointed visiting the place because everything is so touristy and commercialized. I was hoping to see some older, experienced monks living in the temple but instead everything in the temple was made very businesslike.

Student dorm, the tuition is 7000 Yuan~USD$1100 a year including food and lodging.

Shaolin sports shoe which is not cheap.

Shaolin cookies

Shaolin Temple

10 Yuan to snap a picture with the monks and abbot.

There are monks selling all kinds of products around the temple, cookies, medicine, writings….

The Shaolin abbot, Shi YongXin even tried to make Shaolin temple a public company and had a plan to raise capital in US capital market. The current abbott has a mba and had a lot of criticism from the past for being too money minded.

Shaolin Temple going public

Pagoda forest. Cemetry of 248 Pagodas.

Shaolin Kungfu performance

Shaolin soccer, just like the movie

Kids acrobat training

Went back to the bus station and took another bus (17 Yuan~USD$2.5, 2 hours ride) to Luoyang at 5pm. Luoyang is one of China’s ancient city. The city was the capital of 13 dynasties until the Northern Song dynasty moved its capital to Kaifeng.

Got to the bus station at 7pm. There is a hostel recommended in the city, it’s actually a hotel but with a Hosteling International sign. I was kind of lazy to look for the place and stayed at a hotel close to the train station (60 Yuan~USD$9).

Since it’s Friday night, walked around and visited a JiuBa in the city.

Jan 28 2010

Zhengzhou Day 2, China

Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan province and is one of the transport hub in China because it’s quite center to the country. The city is just situated south of the Yellow River and agriculture plays a big role in the economy of Henan province. Zhengzhou commodity exchange is one of the 3 futures exchange in China.

Took a public bus to Henan provincial museum.

Henan provincial museum is one of the more famous one in China because many old Chinese cities was in Henan province and many old artifacts were found at the surrounding area.

Writings on the shell of a turtle, JiaGuWen. Used to historical and divine records before the invention of paper.

Ding, used to store food and for sacrificial ceremony during ancient times. This ding is used during the Shang dynasty, around 3500 years old.

There are exhibits from different dynasties in the museum starting from the Neolithic period, then Xia (around 2010-1600BC, is even older than Egyption history and civilization.)

Then came Shang, Zhou, Warring Period, Qin, Han, Tang, Song and was pretty educational to me.

Bronze mirror (TongJing), before the invention of mirror.

Han style architecture, more than 2000 years ago.

There is also a section about the 4 great invention of ancient China,
Compass, Gunpowder, Papermaking and Printing.

Walked to Zhengzhou new district which is at the east part of the city.

View Zhengzhou in a larger map
The new district was designed by a Japanese architect and the planning for the new city had won some awards for the city planning design.

A paper about Zhengzhou new district by KPMG.

An old chinese game, a guy whipping the top.

Don’t do your laundry in the river.

The CBD (Central business district) is built in a circular shape

with a lake in the middle

Stayed at a bath house (30 Yuan~USD4.5) since it’s cheaper than the hotel I was staying at.

Jan 27 2010

Kaifeng and Zhengzhou, China

Arrived at Kaifeng train station at 6.45am in the morning.

Breakfast (1.5 Yuan~USD$0.20)

Kaifeng is in Henan province. Henan is the most populous province in China with a population of almost 100 million people. Stored my bag for 8 Yuan, walked around the city and went to the museum. Since the museum only opens at 9am, I visited KaiFengFu first (25 Yuan with student discount ~USD$4). KaiFengFu is something like a municipal government center during the Northern Song dynasty. Everything is rebuilt since the city was buried deep underground.

There are some traditional performances in front of the entrance of KaiFengFu at 9am.

Inside KaiFengFu

The prefecture of Kaifeng was first built in AD 907. Kaifeng is the capital of Northern Song dynasty for 168 years and was one of the biggest metropolis in the world then with a population of around 1.5 million. Some famous individuals in Chinese history such as BaoQingTian and Su DongPo held their post in the city.

Taoism was the national religion then.

One of the few lakes within the city

Kaifeng Museum

Kaifeng lies just 10km south of the yellow river and was flooded hundreds of times during history. The city of Northern Song was actually buried 9m deep under the earth. There aren’t many high rise buildings because buildings that require strong foundation weren’t allowed by the government to protect the old artifacts buried underground.

There are 6 layers of cities in Kaifeng.

Kaifeng is enclosed by a city wall around the city.
City northern gate

Tieta Park (15 Yuan with student discount ~USD2).

Tieta is one of the oldest and tallest pagoda in China. It’s around 55 meters tall and is around 1000 years old. This is only one of the 2 historical structures still remain above the surface in Kaifeng.

LongTing palace, a rebuilt version of the emperor’s residence

Walked to GuLou, an area with many kinds of food.
Fried LiangPi (3.5 Yuan ~USD$0.50)

I noticed that people love eating outside in Kaifeng. I ate all 3 meals today outdoor.

Took train K31 at 2.48pm towards Zhengzhou (13 Yuan~USD$2, 45 minutes ride). Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan with a population of almost 8 million.

Zhengzhou train station

There isn’t any youth hostel in Zhengzhou so stayed at a hotel around the train station (80 Yuan~USD$12).

View across the train station

The weather here wasn’t too cold. Some homeless people sleeping on the street.

Workers from a bakery singing on the street, one of Chinese team building activities

Sticks from fried stuffs

The February 7 Tower was built to mark the great strike by the workers on the Beijing-Hankou (Wuhan) railway in 1923.
February Seven square, ErQi GuangChang.

HuiMian is famous in Zhengzhou, fat noodles with mutton (8 Yuan~USD$1.2)

Walked around and visited a bar/club at WenHua street.

Jan 26 2010

Jinan, China

Went to Qingdao train station early in the morning and got on the 7.50am T162 train to Jinan (55 Yuan~USD$8, 4.5 hours). There are also express trains with the letter D taking just 2 hours but it’s more expensive. China has an impressive railway system and is getting better. Just a summary, train without letters are usually slower, then faster with K (kuai),T (TeKuai),D(Dongche, with speed of above 200km/h),C(only took it once with a speed of 300km/h), G(GaoTie with speed above 300km/h).

Qingdao train station

Got to Jinan Train station around 12.30pm

Jinan is the capital for Shandong province and has a population of around 6 millions. During the Warring States Period (475 B.C – 221 B.C.), the area of Jinan was split between two states, the state of Lu in the west and the state of Qi in the east. Even today, Shandong still has a nickname of Lu.

Lunch, tofu with rice (8 Yuan~USD$1.2).

This is my second time in Jinan and I visited the city 6 years ago. Walked BaYi bridge,

JingShiYi road, the place where I stayed 6 years ago.

Outdoor pingpong

Took bus 2 to Shandong provincial museum.

Jinan is the capital of Shandong province. I noticed that the provincial museum of a city is sort of a good representative of its development. As the local government has more fund, they always try to develop a brand new museum along with other infrastructure projects. The city is constructing a new museum at the east side but the museum is still housed in an old building. Compared to other cities with brand new museums, the level of development of Jinan is just so so.

Took bus 139 to the east part of the city.

The brand new museum which will open later this year.


A street with many Hui Chinese selling bbq meat

Swimming in the cold river

Jinan is famous for its spring. The city has 72 spring and is also called City of Spring, QuanCheng.

Jinan Incident, happened on 1928 May 3rd where clashes between kuomintang soldieres and Japanese troops caused the Japanese to occupy the city for 6 months.

One of Jinan’s famous tourist attraction is BaoTu spring. I went there few years back so I didn’t go in to the spring this time.

QuanCheng square.

Shandong produced a few famous strategists and thinkers such as ZhuGeLian, Confucius and Mencius.

Confucius, not sure if this is what he really looks like

The weather in Jinan wasn’t that cold. Bought some fried stuffs from the supermarket and ate it at the square.

DaMing lake

Took bus 11 and took the 9.51pm 1565 overnight train to Kaifeng (154 Yuan~USD$23, middle hard sleeping berth, 8.5 hours ride).

Jan 25 2010

Qingdao Day 2, China

As a coastal city, Qingdao is quite similar to Dalian.

View from the hostel in the morning.

Morning exercise – wushu practice

Met up with Byron in the morning at ShiMao square at the east part of town and played badminton at high school no. 25 for 2 hours. I have not played badminton for a long time so had a good workout.

Was trying to visit LaoShan, there is a famoust Taoist temple there but buses there are not frequent so we canceled the plan.

Qingdao hosted the Sailing competition during the Olympics.
Olympic park.

Bridge similar to the one in Dalian

Swimming in winter. 1,2,3 Jump..

May 4th square again

BaDaGuan, an area with some old colonial houses.

Met some travelers on the street and head to QingDao brewery.

I didn’t go in since it’s just another brewery.

Tsingtao beer office next to the museum

Indoor shops


Dinner with Byron, Sam and Laura. Shangdong is famous for its Lu cuisine, I guess the dishes were cooked in Lu style.

View Dalian in a larger map

Jan 24 2010

Dalian to Yantai to Qingdao, China

The boat was delayed and arrived in Yantai at 8am instead of 6.30am. Yantai is the 3rd largest city in Shandong and is also a port city.

Got to Yantai bus station

and got the 9am bus (69 Yuan~USD$10) to QingDao.

From Yantai to Qingdao, it’s around 250 km.

View Larger Map

Most transportation companies in China are state owned, including bus companies, bus station, subways and train station.
However, the bus to Qingdao was pretty comfortable, fast and punctual. There’s a small tv screen at every row. This is not the type of service I expect from a state owned company.

Arrived at the bus station at around 12.30pm and took bus 5 to ShiLiYiYuan. From ShiLiYiYuan, I found the xiangguang er road and hiked up the hill since the hostel is in an old observatory on top of the hill. Got a dorm room for 25 Yuan~USD$4.

8 beds dorm

Qingdao is the largest city in Shandong with a population of around 7 millions. It is famous for its German style architecture because the city was a German colony in the beginning of 20th century.

Church down the hill from the hostel.

So far I had not used couchsurfing in China because I thought I knew a little more Chinese cultures. Somehow, I sent a few messages just yesterday on couchsurfing and Byron was quite nice to be my guide for today.

German governor’s building

Western style red roof building

Home of Lao She, a Chinese nobel prize nominee for literature.

Old German prison

Old municipal building

A few western style buildings at ZhongShan road

Zhan Pier, also a symbol of QingDao beer

With Byron, the man

MalaTang and RouJiaMo (10 Yuan~USD$1.4)

Check out another hostel called KaiYue. With a nice bar and the sign seems a little similar to Starbucks.

There are tons of signs like this in China.

PiCaiYuan, street selling multiple kinds of food

Took bus 25 to May 4th square, WuShiGuangChang.

May 4th movement happened in 1919 where students from Beijing protested Chinese government’s weak response to the Shandong Issue under the treaty of Versailles where Shandong was handed over from the Germans to the Japanese after the end of world war 1. The protest sparked a nationwide chinese nationalism movement.

Jan 23 2010

Dalian day 2, China

Walked south from the hostel to the beach.

Western style building

Big Clam at FuJiaZhuang Park

The beach

Walked southwest towards Xinghai square.
Dalian Safari


Back to XingHai square

Lunch, HunTun and Tomato Egg noodle (10 Yuan~USD$1.40)

Visited the Dalian Modern Museum. The museum is about the development of Dalian from a backwater small village to a big city today.

Took bus 16, a double decker bus, from the southwest part of the city to the northeastern part.
View on bus 16

Dalian Tram

Land reclamation

RenMin Square where office of the municipal government is located

Japanese style building at south of RenMin Square. Dalian was a colony of Japan in 1930s and there some old Japanese style building still remains.

As a coastal city, Dalian is famous for its fried squid
Fried squid, 4 Yuan

Olympic Square

Flag lowering ceremony as the sun goes down

Went to the train station and got on a bus to Dalian port at 10pm.
Got a ferry ticket from Dalian to Yantai 2 days ago on the train, (130 Yuan~USD$19, 6.5 hours boat ride, hard seat).

The boat, DeYinHai is huge and can even fit a thousand passengers, trucks and cars.
Sleeping berth cost 260 Yuan, but usually they provide last minute discount for just 180 Yuan

Hard seat 130 Yuan

I just took a hard seat since it’s only 6.5 hours ride. The boat should have left the port at 11.50pm. However, the boat was delayed and left slightly before 1am.

Jan 22 2010

Dalian, China

Arrived at Dalian train station at 12.40pm.

View from the train station. The sky is blue and clear here.

Dalian is the second largest city in Liaoning with a population of around 3 millions. Dalian is a relatively new city dating from 1898. The city was colonized by British, Japan and the Soviet before the city was returned back to the Chinese government. As a port city, Dalian develped very well under the leadership of the mayor Bo XiLai, moving away from heavy industries to tourism, commerce and IT outsourcing. Dalian has recently become an important center for information technology offshoring and business process outsourcing, similar to Bangalore in India. It’s also the financial center for Northeast China. Dalian commodity exchange is one of the only 3 commodity exchange in China.

View while waiting for bus 702

Tried to find my way to the only one youth hostel in Dalian recommended. Took bus 702 to TaoYuanShanZhuang and found the hostel after an hour. Melly Hostel (38 Yuan~USD$6).

View Dalian in a larger map

Dalian is quite hilly and greener than a typical Chinese city.

Lunch, beef noodle (7 Yuan~USD$1)

Took bus 404 to XingHai GuangChang.

Took the light rail to the last stop of Dalian western area. At the west part of Dalian, there are quite a few universities and there is the Dalian software park. Dalian is sort of the Bangalore for Japan and there are many outsourcing firms servicing Japanese companies. Intel is also opening a new fab in Dalian, actually I do have a friend, WangMiao who was just sent back by Intel to Dalian the night I am leaving the city.

Tianjin street, famous for street food

ZhongShan Square

Dinner, chicken rice (8 Yuan~USD$1.2)

Around TuanJieLu, there is a street with many Russian style buildings

Dalian has influences from other cultures and even some signs are in Japanese, Russian and Korean.

There are many shopping malls in the city center.
One of the transparent shopping mall.


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