Tibet

Potala Palace in the early evening

Potala Palace in the early evening

“Hello lookie, lookie,” almost seems to be a Tibetan greeting as we have heard it over and over again. All the vendors say exactly the same thing with the same intonations as they try to sell their trinkets to the tourists. We even heard it from someone who wasn’t selling anything, and must have picked up the phrase from overhearing it and not understanding what it meant.

We are very lucky to be here. In the last year it had been closed off for a while to all tourists. Currently it can only be visited by permission which is only granted when travelling with a group. Up until the last couple of weeks you had to be escorted when travelling outside of the hotel. Now we have had the rewarding freedom of being able to wander around and interact with people by ourselves. However, when entering any of the major sites you still need to be escorted.

local Tibetan girl

local Tibetan girl

Our first afternoon here we wandered through town to see the incredible Potala Palace. It is a magnificent building built into a stand alone hill and had been the on and off again home of the Dali Lamas since construction in 1645 up until 1959. In the evening the entire group went out for dinner and most of us had various forms of yak meat which makes up most of the menus in this area.

On our second day we went to the Summer Palace, the summer home of the Dali Lamas. It is fascinating walking through this still furnished home and all of its parts. At one point I was standing half way down a walk way taking photos of one of the buildings when I realized a large group of German tourists was standing behind me taking photos with some clearly agitated that I was in their way. I turned around and took their photo to remember the moment. After leaving the palace many of us wandered around trying to find somewhere for lunch. One of the places we went in was so smoky from incense it was nearly impossible to breathe.

In the afternoon we went inside the 1300-year old golden-roofed Jokhang building. There were people praying outside and inside the smell of yak butter candles and juniper incense was suffocating. Our local tour guide was very thorough in describing all the Buddha statues and its history inside. Unfortunately, when you feel you aren’t getting any oxygen there is some anxiousness to get back outside. We were rewarded with going to the rooftop and having a view over the square and all of Lhasa. It is a beautiful location. Lhasa can be hard to photograph though as there is an incredible military presence throughout it and it is illegal to capture any of it on camera.

Summer Palace

Summer Palace

Upon leaving the Jokhang Leanne and I wandered around the pilgrim circuit of Barkhor that is lined with market stalls. Many of the people in this region are beautiful in their unique way and it was enjoyable to soak up the atmosphere. We are certainly a spectacle whenever we are on our own. Leanne keeps getting her photo taken by local tourists and I keep having people who want to be close to me, and wanting to follow along as I’m walking. This is sometimes accompanied by mouth opened expressions with eyes gazing up at me. I’m not sure if I should feel complemented or offended. Either way it is a strange experience.

That evening we celebrated the 30th birthday of one of our travelling companions from the UK. What a cool spot to be celebrating a landmark birthday. We went for drinks at a pub on the top of a nearby hostel that has incredible views towards the palace.

Monks debating at the Sera Monastary

Monks debating at the Sera Monastary

Yesterday Leanne and I found our way to an incredibly comfortable café with great coffee and cakes and free WIFI. At noon we went to the Potala Palace. We climbed up the hill to its entrance and went inside to visit a number of its ornate and remarkable rooms. There are over 1000 rooms here and visitors are given only an hour to see inside, so we saw only the most important sections. The massive gold tombs of some of the former Dali Lamas are particularly impressive. No photos are allowed to be taken inside but we will remember it well.

In the late afternoon we went to the Sera Monastery to watch the afternoon debating of the monks. It is thoroughly entertaining. As they make their points they often follow up with a swinging loud hand clap into the face of those they are arguing with. We were desperately hungry after finishing our excursions and had a quick fix from a local fast food restaurant. Later Leanne and I wandered to a Potala view point to watch it light up at dusk and then watched a water and light show in the main square before going for tea and snacks at a nearby top floor coffee house overlooking the palace. As usual we had a highly entertaining interaction with the people working there with all of us laughing as we each tried to use the few words we new of each others’ language.

Today is a free day, and I might go with others out of town to visit a monastery high up in the mountains while Leanne is looking forward to a day of relaxing. Tomorrow we will start making our way through some of the highest passes in the world as we make our way towards the base of Mount Everest.
 
Photos are posted here: http://mcwilliams.ca/photos/China

Lijiang and Shangri-La

locals in Shangri-la

locals in Shangri-la

On the flight to Kunming I am sitting in an emergency exit row reading when the cute attendant comes over and tells me, “this is an emergency exit row, don’t pull red handle, ok?”  “OK,” I replied and we both smiled. I had a similar thing on the flight today to Tibet. She tells me, “emergency seat, so don’t touch anything, ok?” We have had a lot of interactions with people trying various English phrases they have learned on us. This is often followed with smiles and the occasional giggle. We have had a great time with many of the locals we have come across and it has been a lot of fun.

We are currently in Tibet just down the road from the magnificent Potala Palace. We flew here from Shangri-la after the most overly thorough security screening we have ever had. Not only did I have to remove everything but my pants and shirt, even after I cleared the metal detector without setting it off I was waved over by the female security officer for an inspection. She literally groped me everywhere including some extended cupping and butt cheek squeezing. She was cute and it left me quite flustered. Leanne went through next and had the same treatment, but where I felt like I should be tipping her, Leanne felt violated.

Shangri-La was not quite as impressive as its name suggests. It is a beautiful area and they are trying to turn it into a tourist destination but it feels a bit forced. We still had a pleasant time here visiting a monastery, the world’s largest prayer wheel and wandering the streets of the old town. I particularly enjoyed watching the locals going about their daily lives. Leanne also met a couple girls travelling from Shenzhen who spoke English and had their photo taken with her. In the evening we watched part of a cultural dance in the main square with some girls dressed in traditional outfits. Over the next couple hours it seemed like every resident had joined into the dance as they danced rotating around the square in a large circle.

The incredible, almost surreal Lijiang

The incredible, almost surreal Lijiang

Lijiang was our previous destination and I have to say, this place is incredible. It is bar-none my favourite tourist town in China and one of my all time favourite towns out of all the ones I have been to in my travels. The restored town is a UNESCO heritage site and it even ranks in the top 100 world wonders. Our tour was supposed to stay two nights here, but due to booking problems we only had one evening. I was very disappointed. This is a spot I hope Leanne and I return to one day to spend time in and to soak up the atmosphere. It is impressive and beautiful with tremendous life to it. There are little hole-in-the-wall pubs, endless little shops, and restaurants to explore.

We are travelling in a group of 15 including the tour facilitator which is a bit big for my liking, but it is a great group and this type of travel allows us to wander away and still have our own personal moments exploring the places we are in.

Our time in the Yunnan province was too brief and involved time in transit than visiting the areas. I think the tour company needs to revise their itinerary to allow for better exploration. I look forward to updating from Tibet. We will be in Lhasa for a number of nights before making our way through the Himalayas towards Nepal.

The Great Wall and the Forbidden City

Michael as Emperor and Leanne as his Concubine

Michael as Emperor and Leanne as his Concubine

We flew into the very impressive Beijing airport and made our way to the hotel. It was October 1st, and the celebrations for China’s 60th anniversary were well underway. Most of the city was closed down for the festivities. It was an invite only celebration for the country elite though and everyone had to watch it from home. The day before we arrived smog apparently clouded the city, but government used 18 planes the night before to put chemicals into the air to magically make the smog disappear and the weather perfect. We had beautiful clear skies with incredible visibility and it remained during our whole stay here. In the evening we went for dinner at a great little dumpling restaurant. Later we watched the celebrations on TV before heading onto the streets to witness part of the fireworks celebration.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

The next morning we took a bus out to see the Great Wall. We went to Mutiyanu and took a gondola up the hill to the edge of the wall. A few of us climbed to the highest part of the restored section and then ignored signs and carried on well beyond to original parts that were showing their age, with a single small dirt trail through the brush along the top of the wall. It was a great day and we managed to get little sections with very few people on it. On the walk along the restored section to the exit it had become crowded. Leanne took a chair lift down and I took a toboggan on wheels on a metal track.

Leanne posing for locals

Leanne posing for locals

In the evening I went to a Kung Fu show, which was ok, and did have the occasional impressive display of action. I followed this with dinner with a few others and we had the funniest local server who helped make the meal a blast. We closed down the restaurant as we were the last to order minutes before it was supposed to close and ate at the same time as the workers. We were brought free dessert at the end and it was great.

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

Today we spent the morning at the Temple of Heaven before going for great noodles at a restaurant nearby. Later we wandered through Tiananmen Square. It was so busy it felt like half the country was there. Everyone in the nation is on a week long holiday that coincides with the country’s anniversary. All of the floats and display screens from the huge performance were there on display. It was great to see it all. With so many people visiting the capital from non-tourist sections of the country they are endlessly asking to take photos with us. In particular they absolutely love getting their photo with Leanne. Since she doesn’t like having her photo taken this is particularly funny, but she always obliged. We left the square and went through the Forbidden City. We had a local guide and the pace of the tour was frustratingly slow. Leanne and I left a bit early to try to squeeze in a little extra from the city, but just had enough time to visit one more exhibit. After the tour we parted ways with our travelling companions and went to a phenomenal view point on a hill in the park.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City

We had 360 degree views of all of Beijing and stayed there well past sunset. In front of use were the rooftops of the Forbidden City. To the left was a full moon over the financial buildings in Beijing and to the right the sun was setting over the high-rises. Behind us we could see all the way to the hills where the Great Wall is. We were in a pagoda with a lot of others. We were talked into posing in traditional outfits. I was dressed as the emperor and Leanne as one of my concubines. We were quite the spectacle and everyone was taking our photo. We had a great romantic evening there just loving the views. We followed this with a return to Tiananmen and we are so happy we did. In the dark it takes on a whole new look and all the elements from the parade and celebration were impressively lit. We eventually made our way across it and hoped a cab to a restaurant for a farewell dinner with our group. The meal was Peking (Beijing) Duck and it was definitely a meal highlight. It was a nice conclusion to our little tour. We were with a good group of travellers and we hope to see a few of them again sometime in the future.

Early tomorrow we fly to Kunming and start a whole new trip that takes us through Tibet and the Himalayas to Nepal. We are looking forward to it. Photos are uploaded here: http://mcwilliams.ca/photos/China

Xi’an and the Qin Terra Cotta Warriors

Muslin Quarter, Xi'an

Muslim Quarter, Xi'an

We had a great introduction to the city of Xi’an. Excellent dumplings and finally some non-greasy vegetables made up our first dinner. We enjoyed wandering through the busy and narrow alleyways of the Muslim quarter as it has the feeling that it hasn’t changed in forever and really gives a sense of being somewhere different. All I bought through the markets was a small bag of dried kiwi fruit.

High up on Mt. Hua

High up on Mt. Hua

On our following day we took a long bus trip to Mount Hua. We stopped to visit an old walled city, which is essentially a small version of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Since we haven’t seen the famous one, we still enjoyed our visit. We took a gondola high up the mountain to where we would climb ridiculously steep rock cut stairs, with chains providing support for people to make their way safely. Years ago walking in this area was incredibly dangerous with small wooden planks nailed into the sides of sheer cliffs and stairs so narrow people couldn’t pass one another. The scenery was beautiful and it was a great hike. Our trip back to the city took forever as we took side roads avoiding traffic on the highway. We were lost a couple times and the bus stopped for directions.

Leanne and Michael at the Terra Cotta Warriors

Leanne and Michael at the Terra Cotta Warriors

Today we went to see what the region is so famous for, the Qin Terra Cotta Warriors.  I loved seeing them up close. It is incredible that all 8000 statues are completely unique. This is a place that will be worth returning to in another ten years. They have finally found a way to preserve the original lacquer paint on the warriors and will start uncovering remaining finds to preserve them in their original colours. All the ones unearthed lost their 2000 year old paint to oxidation within days of exposure. In addition the Qin mausoleum and underground city with all of its treasures has yet to be excavated and when it is done, it is expected to become a new world wonder. Leanne, not a fan of having her photo taken, was asked by some Chinese tourists (likely from an area without tourists) to pose with a lady and her child. Leanne thought they wanted her to take their photo, but they wanted a photo showing they had been up close with a foreigner. So Leanne obliged and will now be forever in a family’s photo collection.

We had the local Pao Mo (a kind of lamb and bread stew) for dinner and following this I went on top of the city walls and hired a bike to ride in the dark a quarter of the way around the city before needing to bring it back. Tomorrow we are doubling back to Hong Kong for a night. It lets us skip an overnight train and is necessary for us to renew our China visa for the second half of our stay in the diverse country.

Hangzhou

Six Harmonies Pagoda

Six Harmonies Pagoda

We had a pleasant train ride to the city of Hangzhou, followed by a not so pleasant taxi to our hotel. It can be terribly difficult to get a taxi in this city at times and we needed three to get all of us to the hotel. After walking around in the heat and humidity with all our bags we eventually loaded all eleven of us into one truck. I was wedged into the back corner against the bags and it was cramped and stifling. Fortunately it wasn’t a very far drive.

Hangzhou is situated around the attractive West Lake. Our first evening was spent wandering the lake side walk paths. Enjoying the scenery and hunting for somewhere to eat. We eventually settled on a Chinese restaurant with a picture menu not far from the main path. We then walked past all the shopping areas and grabbed a Dairy Queen dessert. There is a lot of wealth in China and this is a town to spend it in. It is a common weekend trip from Shanghai and there are designer stores and Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Ferrari and Maserati car dealerships for the rich Chinese to spend their money on.

West Lake Light Show

West Lake Light Show

On our second day we grabbed a coffee and breakfast at Starbucks after being underwhelmed with the Chinese-style breakfast offered at the hotel. We met up with the rest of the group and went to the lake to be paddled around in a couple of boats. Following this we went for some tasty local cuisine that included the local specialty Beggars Chicken. In the afternoon we went to one historic and one modern rebuilt pagoda. Both were interesting in their own way. Leanne and I tried to catch a taxi back to the hotel and spent over an hour trying to hail one. When taxis stopped to let people out we would grab the door and start to get in only to have the drivers start shrieking “No! No! No!” to us. It was so frustrating. We finally walked a great distance to a hotel and were told taxi drivers are all changing shifts right now and it is really hard to get one. We took the bus instead after getting advice on which to take. We couldn’t read the signs at the stops to know on our own.  In the evening we went to another outdoor theatre visual feast by the director that did the Olympic ceremonies. It was stunning to watch. Not quite as big or scenic as his other one in Yangshou, but a bit more modern and quite different.

We have uploading more photos to http://mcwilliams.ca/photos/China/.

Shanghai

Rooftop bar in Shanghai

Rooftop bar in Shanghai

We landed in Shanghai a bit far down the runway and the plane had to break really hard after touching down. After checking into our hotel we wandered down the massive pedestrian street Nanjing Road. It is a bustling street and at night it is a glow in neon lights. We had dinner nearby before heading to the area along the river called the Bund that looks towards the impressive downtown buildings across the water. Unfortunately the main walkway was closed as the entire area is under construction to host the 2010 World Expo.

View of Pudong, Shanghai

View of Pudong, Shanghai

We had a full next day visiting most of the highlights of the city. We started with a street market in the historic part of town before visiting the classic Yuyuan Gardens. From there we went to the Jun Mao tower to be whisked to the top on elevators that climb at speeds of 9 meters per second. The view was impressive. Following this we took a boat across the main river and eventually made our way to the Shanghai Museum to see China’s greatest collection of artefacts. In the evening we went to see the famous Shanghai acrobatics. I was truly impressed with it. Following this we went to a rooftop night club and restaurant overlooking the city where we ate well and drank excessively. We didn’t return to the hotel until the wee hours of the morning, so this morning has been simply spent relaxing in the comfort of the hotel.

This afternoon we will be taking a high speed Harmony train out of Shanghai.

Chongqing and the Yangtze River

Leanne at Fengdu

Leanne at Fengdu

We packed into massive line at the station to catch our train to Chongqing. The trip was about four hours and because there wasn’t a lot of room on board, we were happy when it was finished. Chongqing is a massive high density region. The population of the city and surroundings is over 31 million. They say it is the largest municipality in China. It is certainly packed with endless high-rises. We did dinner right while we were there. We all pitched in to treat Allen (our tour leader) to dinner and in return he got local advice on a great place and helped do all the ordering for us. I think we were all very happy. We taxied in three vehicles to the restaurant and enjoyed good quality local food. Before going to the boat we stopped in a massive supermarket to pick up supplies. You can get just about everything here that you can at home. Our fears of not finding familiar goods quickly dissipated.

line at the train station

line at the train station

We embarked on our river boat cruise ship and as we checked in we were told there was a possibility to upgrade rooms. Everyone in the group jumped at the opportunity and for a little bit extra we had a two room suite with a large bed, living area and a bathtub in the washroom. You know you aren’t travelling with a young crowd when everyone is willing to pay more simply for comfort. It made for a very comfortable trip for the three nights we spent on board.

We set sail down the Yangtze River first thing in the morning. In the afternoon we went to visit a ghost town called Fengdu. We took a chairlift up the hill to avoid walking the stairs (how lazy are we). It was an ok excursion, but there was very little there that was actually historic. We could see the ongoing construction of new ancient monuments for future visitors. We spent a lot of the day simply relaxing and visiting. That night we stayed up late drinking most of what we had bought in Chongqing.

cruising on the lesser three gorges

cruising on the lesser three gorges

The following day we had an early start and visited the White Emperors’ Palace. The visit also took us to the view point of the picture on the back of the $10 Chinese bill. On the excursion we had a bit of a row with a group of Japanese tourists. They mistakenly followed our local guide and their government employed Chinese-Japanese translator told the poor local guide she wasn’t allowed to speak English to us because it was offending the Japanese tourists. Despite being fluent in English she had to do the whole tour in Chinese and it was then translated to English by our tour leader (who was only there as a tourist that day) and to Japanese by the government translator. The local guide was very awkward about the situation and apologized to Leanne when we were heading back when she was out of ear shot to the others. I made a bit of a stink about it being disrespectful to us and that evening the operations manager and the cruise ship captain came to our table to apologize about the incident and to buy us a round of beer.

Michael above the Yangtze River

Michael above the Yangtze River

In the afternoon we passed some beautiful scenery and went onto a smaller boat to visit the scenic lesser three gorges region. The local guide spoke of the sadness of seeing her village flooded forever with the rising water due to the Yangtze river dam, but also spoke of moving to larger accommodation in a brand new city built in less than twelve years. I feel we missed out not seeing the Yangtze River before the waters had risen so high. The water level will be at its full height in a few years and all that was below this level will be gone from sight.

Our last day ship we went through the water locks from the top of the three gorges dam to the lower river at around 1AM in the morning. After breakfast that day we went to tour the largest electricity generating plant in the world. When completed it will have 32 turbines with up to 22,500MW of generating capacity. Later that day we flew out of a nearby town to Shanghai, which is where we are now.

Pandas and Sichuan

Visiting the Pandas in China

Visiting the Pandas in China

The highlights since the last post have been: spending a lot of time with Pandas, going for Hot Pot, seeing a Sichuan opera, and taking a cooking course.

We had an enjoyable morning at a cooking school out in the countryside of Yangshuo. We prepared four dishes for ourselves for lunch and were impressed with how they turned out. In the afternoon we bought ourselves some nice chopsticks to reuse when we go for meals and as a souvenir for when we return home. This is unusual for us as we typically do not buy any mementos. In the evening we flew to Chengdu in the Sichuan province. It went well except for a particularly hard landing.

Leanne about to eat the meal she cooked.

Leanne about to eat the meal she cooked.

Today we spent all morning visiting the Panda research centre to watch China’s favourite animal eat and play.  We were lucky as a few of them were unusually energetic. It was entertaining to watch them wrestle. I was particularly surprised to see the red pandas. They are smaller and look quite different. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of one before.

For lunch we went to an authentic Hot Pot restaurant. We were the only non-chinese tourists there and people would often look at us to see how we were making out. Our tour leader ordered a bit of everything and most of it was great although I do not recommend the pig brain or intestines. The Hot Pot (Chinese Fondue) here is usually very spicy and our lunch was no exception.

Visiting a monastary in Chengdu

Visiting a monastary in Chengdu

Leanne and I wandered through some restored old streets that are now very touristy and caught a taxi to go across town to visit a temple and monastery and another pedestrian district. We returned to the hotel and wandered by a couple of packed streets full of trendy little restaurants. We desperately wanted to eat in some of the beautiful court yards but all attempts to find an English menu failed miserably. We ended up going to a western style restaurant where we could order with less difficulty. I had steak with peppercorn sauce and a delicious Belgian beer. It is amazing how globalized things are getting. While we enjoyed our food, it was a shame not to have continued to take advantage of the local cuisine.

Fire breathing at the show

Fire breathing at the show

In the evening we went to a Sichuan Opera. It was a variety show of shadow puppets, stick puppets, acrobatics, music, and mask changing opera. I found the whole affair a bit tacky, but the talent on stage was undeniable. The mask changing performance was the most interesting with performers changing their masks and costumes over and over again in the blink of an eye, all in front of the audience. After the show we went out for dessert with some of the other travellers.

Tomorrow we will be travelling to the Yangtze River and boarding a boat where we will be staying for three nights. We have been really enjoying our time here, however we find it a bit frustrating that Facebook is no longer accessible in China. This has cut us off from feeling in touch with everyone and being able to post photo updates.  Until we have access again feel free to email us at michael@mcwilliams.ca or leanne@mcwilliams.ca.

Yangshuo, China

Rice fields in Yangshuo

Rice fields in Yangshuo

We have had a terrific introduction to China and we are thoroughly impressed so far. We are enamoured with the region around Yangshuo. The scenery here is breathtaking. We had another all-time travel highlight day. We spent the morning bike riding around rural areas, through the karst peaks and along the Li River. We watched people working in the rice terraces, and I climbed up one of the peaks to see a cave through the mountain and went swimming in the Li River. We wandered through little shops in town and in the late afternoon we went out with fellow travellers for a great dinner. In the evening we saw a mindboggling show that took place in the largest outdoor theatre in the world and featured over 600 performers as well as live cattle and birds. It was put together by the director of the movie Hero and the Beijing Olympic ceremonies. There is no other show like this on earth and it is truly impressive. The immense scale of the production is hard to fathom.

View from the Moon Hill near Yangshuo

view from downtown Yangshuo

The days leading up to today were also memorable. A typhoon hit Hong Kong on our final night there. On the news the next day it showed people wading in knee deep water inside stores. One man caught some large fish on the floor of his store. In the afternoon we made our way by train to the mainland China border. The border crossing was fast and efficient. We had a few hours in Shenzhen before boarding our overnight train to Guilin. We wandered into a local shopping area, but we were bombarded with people agressively trying to sell us things. We retreated to a fast food restaurant to get an ice cream and to relax in some air conditioning. The person behind the counter grabbed a photo card of all the items so we could point and order despite the language barrier. This is such a smart way of making life easier for tourists. We made our way back to the train station and a very friendly young  local struck up a conversation with Leanne asking why we were taking local transit instead of tourist buses. She had taken English in school and Leanne spent a long time talking with her.

view from the Moon Hill near Yangshuo

view from the Moon Hill near Yangshuo

The overnight train to Guilin was as expected and Leanne and I had a hard time sleeping on it. We arrived in the early morning and took a bus to Yangshuo. The countryside on this trip is spectacular. While Yangshuo is a touristy town, this region is one of the most beautiful I have ever visited in my travels. After settling into our hotel, which is thankfully very good, we went for lunch and had beer fish and a number of other interesting dishes. In the afternoon we did a cruise on the Li River and floated past the location of the photo on the Chinese 20 dollar (Yuan) bill. We wandered through a preserved old town and when it was dark we watched a local using a number of tethered cormorants to help him fish out of the river.

We are well, but the weather here has been more humid then we are used to and we find ourselves needing to get relief in air-con whenever we can. Tomorrow we have a cooking class and in the late afternoon we will be flying to Chengdu. We will update again when possible. I’ve added extra photos to the blog since it may be a while before we can post another photo album.

Impression on Sanjie Liu. Cast of 600+ at the world largest natural theatre.

"Impression on Sanjie Liu" a cast of 600+ at the world largest natural theatre

Hong Kong

Aqua Spirit Bar, Hong Kong

Aqua Spirit Bar, Hong Kong

We met my childhood neighbour and friend Marco in Hong Kong and spent the afternoon and evening together visiting several of the highlights of the region, having drinks and food at a number of different places. He has an excellent life working here as a wine specialist. It was great to reacquaint with him after many years. The weather here has, unfortunately, not been very cooperative. We arrived and the smog was about as bad as it ever gets with a visibility of only 3000 meters. We had an afternoon lunch in Soho after taking the longest outdoor escalators in the world and later went to the top of the (Victoria) Peak to show it off to Leanne (her first visit, my third). The visibility there went from almost zero (you couldn’t see more than 5 meters in front of you) to quality views in a blink of an eye. It was strange how quickly it turned. There was a tropical storm warning in effect and torrential rains and wind would get violent and calm down very intermittently. We watched lightning flash in the sky with fork lighting coming down close to us. We decided not to stay and went all the way back to Kowloon to a bar high up one of the towers to watch the city light show. The visibility wasn’t too bad and we later walked along the waterfront before heading back to the hotel. Leanne is still adjusting from the jet lag and went to rest while Marco and I went out for food and more drinks nearby.

Michael, Leanne, Marco

Michael, Leanne, Marco

Today the weather was still bad, so we stayed undercover and took buses, taxis, and the metro to get around, going to the other side of Hong Kong to visit the Stanley market. This evening we met eight other travellers (mostly from Canada) and our tour leader from Beijing who we will be with for the next three weeks. We all went for dinner together and had some great local food. It looks like a good group and we are really, really excited about our upcoming adventure. The weather is currently thundering violently outside our hotel. The storm warning is set at 8 of 10, which is significant as it means people will not need to go to work if it doesn’t improve.

We head to mainland China tomorrow and will be travelling on an overnight train. Once we cross into the mainland we may have limited ability to post updates. There is currently an Internet access restriction to Facebook so it is unlikely we will be able to post photos.  Also, we don’t know yet whether we can access our own site for blog updates and sending and receiving emails. We will be in good hands with our group and the trip should go very well.

We look forward to the next time we can update people on our adventures. There are so many incredible things to see in do in China and this trip from Hong Kong to Beijing should be a highlight.

With the poor weather I have taken very few photos of Hong Kong. We are returning here in a couple months and I should have another opportunity then.