Photos - China, Hong Kong and Indonesia

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Photos - China, Hong Kong and Indonesia

Postby Bencito » Tue Dec 02, 2008 12:58 am

http://travel.webshots.com/album/568524116xPkKjG - China - Beijing and Great Walls
http://travel.webshots.com/album/568294454rVKOAH - China - Yichang, Three Gorges Dam, Yangzi River Cruise, Xi’an, Pingyao and Datong.
http://travel.webshots.com/album/568049018pHSsDo - China - Hong Kong, Shanghai and Zhouzhuang
http://travel.webshots.com/album/567788579Xscxbn - Indonesia - Bali and Yogyakarta

Please have a look at my albums of China, Hong Kong and Indonesia. I joined the Highlights of China tour with Gap Adventures in September 2008, and it was a fantastic journey! This tours covers Shanghai to Beijing. I also did Hong Kong and Indonesia on my own.

Below are the trip notes:

Indonesia - Bali and Yogyakarta

I heard of so many great things about Bali in person and at travel forums. I have done research and have decided to get a taste of it. As Bali has so much to offer, it is difficult to choose when I was doing research. During my research about Bali, I became aware of the great attractions that Yogyakarta and the rest of Java offer. Within limited time in Indonesia, I decided to take a day trip from Bali to visit the great sites in Yogyakarta.

In Bali, I stayed at a nice and reasonably priced homestay and the homestay offered set tours with private drivers and pick-up / drop off service for airport.

Highlights are as follows:

· first day of arrival - Uluwatu temple for sunset and Kecak dance - beautiful setting of sheer cliffs. Be very careful of the monkeys there as the monkeys took my glasses! Kids on the grounds got the glasses for me for a small fee of course...I had to take off my glasses and could not see the beautiful area that well. The sunset was spectacular and the kecak dance was interesting with the "chat chat chat" chant and the monkey.

· Explored the town of Ubud with its beautiful palace, temples, market and museums - I really enjoyed the Ubud Palace and the Neka Museum. The view of the Gorge from Neka museum was stunning. Then I saw the elegant Legong dance at the Ubud Palace.

· Day trip to Yogyakarta - it was so easy to arrange it. The manager at homestay took me to a travel agent and I was ready to go the next day! I had an excellent tour guide meeting me at the airport and took me to the monumental Borobudur, the elegant Kraton and water castle, the market in downtown Yogyakarta and Prambanan. I enjoyed all that Yogyakarta had to offer and was glad to see a bit of another part of Indonesia.

· I arranged a driver with the homestay to visit the excellent Bali Bird Park, the Mengwi Royal Temple (Pura Taman Ayun), the beautiful Pura Ulun Danu Bratan in Bedugul and the beautiful rice terraces in Pacung. I really enjoyed all of these sites, especially the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - beautiful temple in a picturesque setting. Then I went for a nice scenic walk around Ubud.

· I took another tour from the homestay, got the same driver and visited Elephant Cave, Holy Spring Temple, the Stunning Gunung Kawi with beautiful rice terraces, coffee plantation to try different types of drinks, a view of the Lake Bratan, the mother temple of Besakih and Klungkung. The sarong and sash were very useful this day. Without a doubt, Gunung Kawi came out as number 1 highlight. For the mother temple - Besakih, although I enjoyed the mother temple and thought it very interesting, the local guides were very aggressive to get more money and bargain for the price.

· Spent some time visiting batik galleries, silver shops, the beaches of Sanur and Kuta before flying to Hong Kong.

The driver did warn me about the monkeys in Uluwatu and the local guides in Besakih, but it was still a shock when it happened to me...

If I were asked for my top favourites, I would choose the dances, Ubud Palace, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Gunung Kawi as my favourites.

I enjoyed the little restaurants serving cheap and delicious local food. The Balinese people are graceful and friendly, enhancing my visit to this beautiful island.

Hong Kong, Shanghai and Zhouzhuang, China:

After Indonesia, I went to Hong Kong before going to Shanghai to join my Highlights of China tour with Gap Adventures.

Hong Kong Highlights:
I had very limited time to visit Hong Kong (one full day and two nights). However, I chose some interesting historic and heritage sites that showcase Hong Kong's unique culture.
- historic Tin Hau Temple in Yau Ma Tei
- the Hakka walled village museum of Sam Tung Uk in Tsuen Wan.
- Elegant and tranquil Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden.
- Golden Mile Nathan Road
- Star ferry across the stunning Victoria Harbour.
- Ultra Modern Highrises of Central with elegant remaining British Colonial architecture.
- Sheung Wan with the atmospheric Man Mo Temple.
- The classic tourist attraction - the Peak
- the vibrant night market in Mongkok with lots of delicious snacks...

Overall a very busy day but I wanted to hit as many sights as possible. The sights are solidly good. Although the historic and heritage sites may not be as impressive as other older Asian cities, they provide a glimpse of the past of this very modern looking city. The Man Mo Temple and the Legislative Council Building are close to major sights and worth a visit for visitors with limited time and who want to see some historic buildings of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was very hot and humid in mid September! I was fascinated by all the discussions on Hong Kong on Fodor's forum. Thanks especially to rkkwan and Cicerone for all the information posted on this forum!

Shanghai is the first stop of my Highlights of China tour with Gap Adventures. I had very limited time in Shanghai and I visited and enjoyed the classic sights of the European architecture of the Bund, ultra modern Pudong Skyline, People's Square and the elegant classical Chinese Yu Garden. The bund at night is so beautiful with buildings beautifully lit up. Be prepared for crowds at the Yu Garden area! The crowds were phenomenal, and the pushing/ shovelling did take some time getting used to…The garden is well worth a visit though! Unfortunately I did not have the time to visit the Shanghai museum.

Zhouzhuang was included in our tour. It was a delightful excursion from Shanghai. I love the ancient architecture lining the picturesque canals. The Quanfu temple is beautiful and tranquil and there are elegant historic Chinese mansions in the town. We took a relaxing boat ride, which was not expensive as six of us shared the boat ride. To get into the historic town and visit the attractions, you need to get a tourist ticket with your photo on it. The only downside is that Zhouzhuang does get pretty commercialized.

When we were in Shanghai, the typhoon was just touching Shanghai. Fortunately the rain was holding off. It was pretty hot and humid though.

Yichang, Three Gorges Dam, Yangzi River Cruise, Xi’an, Pingyao and Datong - China

Yichang and Three Gorges Dam

· On Day 3 we flew from Shanghai to Yichang and had a free night in Yichang.
· Yichang did not have a lot of tourist attractions. The city centre is lined with concrete structures and many new highrises were coming up. We came to Yichang as a base for the Three Gorges Dam project and the Yangzi river cruise.
· However, the central square with green space is lovely and we had a great Sichuan meal in a restaurant at the local market. The streets of Yichang were busy with people at night.
· In the morning of day 4, I visited the lovely Children’s park. The park was very beautiful with Chinese gardens, lakes and pavilions. Well worth a visit if you have some free time in the city.
· Another delightful spot to visit in Yichang is the riverfront park. There is a beautiful Chinese tower like structure. It is tea house.
· In the afternoon of day 4, we visited the Three Gorges Dam project. The dam was indeed huge, and there are many lovely parks surrounding the visitors’ area. On the other hand, pollution was a problem and it obstructs the view of the dam.

Yangzi River Cruise
· It was a one day, two night cruise visiting many scenic spots of this mighty river.
· The scenery was very beautiful. But the weather was overcast and rainy. I was a bit surprised that the pollution affected this scenic area as well.
· The Shennong Stream was an interesting experience with Tujia men pulling our boat upstream and downstream. They used to be naked but not at my time of visit…
· The boat and the room on the boat were just ok.

Xi’an
· Sixteen hours on hard sleeper train got us to the historic city of Xi’an.
· I really enjoyed Xi’an and think that Xi’an is one of the highlights of my trip and one of the greatest cities to visit in East Asia.
· Xi’an is famous for its Terra-Cotta warriors, which are a must see.
· Other historic sites I love are – Bell and Drum Towers, City Wall, Great Mosque, Great Goose Pagoda and Da Ci’en Temple and Small Goose Pagoda. The Da Ci’en Temple is particulary interesting with Tang and Ming dynasty architecture. Small Goose Pagoda is now part of the Xi’an museum and the grounds are lovely!
· Xi’an’s Muslim quarter is fantastic! Full of life, vibrancy and colours. The restaurants are great. Well worth a visit! The neighbourhood is lined with traditional Chinese architecture, and this is where you can find the Great Mosque, built in traditional Chinese style.
· The Dumpling Banquet at the De Fang Chang restaurant is very interesting. They make dumplings in different shapes according to where the meat/ vegetable came from! It is more expensive than other restaurants in Xi’an but well worth trying.

Pingyao
· Another overnight train ride (this time on more comfortable soft sleeper) got us to the world heritage ancient town of Pingyao. Pingyao was one of the reasons why I chose this tour.
· Pingyao’s streets in the old city were lined with traditional Chinese architecture. It is very beautiful. With the modernization of Chinese cities, Pingyao’s old streets are really a gem.

Datong
· We only had time to visit the two major attractions outside of Datong City – the Hanging Monastery and the Yungang Grottoes. There are some very interesting temples within Datong city but we did not visit them.
· The Hanging Monastery was probably the most interesting temple I visited on this trip. It was quite fun just walking up the steps to go to the Monastery and look down to see how high the Monastery is!
· The Yungang Grottoes are a world heritage site and another must see in the Datong area. The ornate carving and the huge Buddha statues are unforgettable.
· We stayed at the Hongqi hotel, which is close to the train station. It is comfortable and has a great restaurant serving Chinese hot pot. The hot pot dinner was one of the best meals we had in China!

Beijing and Great Wall - China

First Day in Beijing:
· Beautiful sunny day with blue sky – a nice change from the interior of China for us.
· The first stop was the impressive Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is truly a remarkable experience.
· We visited the Jingshan Park for an overview of the Forbidden and the beautiful Beihai Park. They are within walking distance from the north of the Forbidden City.
· Then we visited Temple of Heaven with its beautiful grounds.

Second Day in Beijing
· Our group visited the Great Wall at Mutianyu, a section that is farther away from the city than the more popular Badaling.
· While the Great Wall is remarkable, the experience of Tobogganing down was quite fun as well.
· I also visited the Lama Temple in the afternoon.
· We had Peking Duck as our last dinner together.

Last Day in Beijing
· Fortunately I arranged an extra day in Beijing. We visited the huge grounds of the Summer Palace.
· We also visited the Beijing zoo to have a look at the lovely giant pandas. At time of visit, there were quite a few pandas at the zoo, the most I had ever seen!
· I enjoyed the historic area – Dazhalan south of the Tiananmen square.

Getting around Beijing is not difficult with the efficient bus and subway system. Taxis were not expensive, especially when shared with other people. For taxis, as discussed many times, have the destination written in Chinese to show to taxi drivers.

Overall China is a great experience. While Beijing has many to offer to tourists and it has been spruced up for the Olympic games, other places I have visited are also very interesting and provide other perspectives on Chinese culture.

This concludes my trip to China. I hope you enjoy the photos and the trip report.

Thanks

Ben
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Re: Photos - China, Hong Kong and Indonesia

Postby JaliscoJudy » Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:55 pm

Beautiful photos!

The Bali Bird Park looks like an amazing place: monitor lizards, iguanas, cool architecture, and BEAUTIFUL birds. The only birds I recognizes were the peacock, the pelican, and the macaw.
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