Tag: travel

Moganshan: Bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo

Moganshan: Bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo

Last weekend it was outing time! Our company here gives each employee a budget and an extra day off to go on a trip, aka the outing, with coworkers. Thorben’s department always does something pretty fancy:Β  Japan last year and Vietnam this year – I’m still bugging him to finish his blog post. My department wanted to take it a bit easier so we stayed in China. Our destination was Moganshan, which is a 3-hour drive from Shanghai.

Moganshan or Mount Mogan is both the name of the mountain and the village we spent 2 1/2 days in. Our hotel was located on the edge of the town and – as everything in this area – was surrounded by bamboo. Besides lunch and dinner we didn’t have any planned group activities. The weekend can be summed up in a few words: Relaxing, reading, hiking and eating. Many of my coworkers brought their spouses and kid(s), so you could also call it “31 Chinese and Marina in a bamboo forest.” πŸ™‚

On Saturday and Sunday we got quite a bit of rain, so when I ventured outside the air was pretty misty. I joined some colleagues on a little hike to a waterfall on Saturday and then on a bigger one through the bamboo forest and up the hill for some good views on Sunday. Sadly, just because there is bamboo doesn’t mean there are pandas. They prefer a different he climate, so I’ll have to wait a bit longer to see some.

Monday morning we had beautiful weather but unfortunately our bus already picked us up at 10:30am. I took advantage of the sunshine for as long as I could and took lots of pictures. If anyone asks, that’s what Moganshan looked like the entire time πŸ™‚

Overall, it was a very relaxing weekend (especially after all the kids returned to Shanghai Sunday after lunch πŸ™‚ ) in beautiful surroundings.

Nanjing or why not to travel in China during National Holidays

Nanjing or why not to travel in China during National Holidays

Today is Labor Day in China. As May 1 falls on a Tuesday this year, the office was closed Monday which meant that Saturday was an official working day. I have to say I’m not a fan of the 6 day work week … but definitely a fan of the 3 day weekend πŸ™‚

To take advantage of the extra day we’d planned to spend 2 days in Nanjing and then relax at home (read: do laundry) on the holiday. The fastest train was sold out but we managed to get there in less than 1 1/2 hours. Gotta love train travel in China.

We didn’t do as much as I had wanted to because it was a little too hot, too crowded and the air was quite polluted. This is what we managed:

Nanjing Massacre Museum

Sunday morning we headed to the Nanjing Massacre Museum, or the “Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders” as it is officially called. Just walking inside and seeing the sculptures is really depressing but I’d still recommend going. The exhibition inside is very well done, with lots of pictures, artifacts, information and videos.

Fuzimiao or Confucius Temple area

Next, we headed to Fuzimiao, the pretty area around the Confucius Temple. There are lots of shops, mostly tourist traps, and because of the holiday it was really busy. From the pictures I saw it looks beautiful at night all lit up but we didn’t manage to go back when it was dark.

1912

For dinner we headed to 1912, a little walking district with lots and lots of bars and restaurants. There are many western places but we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and tried a local specialty: Nanjing Salted Duck.

Purple Mountains

Trying to avoid the crowds a little we got up early on Monday and went straight to the Purple Mountains. Looks like everyone else had the same idea and when we got to the Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum a little after 9 it was already very very busy.

Thorben said that when he went to the Purple Mountains during a business trip a few years ago it was a really nice peaceful place. To get some room to breathe and escape the picture taking (not many foreigners in Nanjing), we decided to skip the main sights and exlore the smaller walking trails. This worked pretty well and we didn’t see too many people after that.

After a quick shower at the hotel we decided not to head back into town for the afternoon but take an earlier train home. The heat and bad air quality combined with the huge crowds and long queues everywhere kind of killed our sightseeing mood. And our air conditioned and air filtered apartment just sounded way better πŸ™‚

Overall, Nanjing is a nice place with lots of great things to see – but like many people said, it’s best to avoid public holidays. From now on I’ll just keep doing what we did before – leave China when there’s a public holiday (or hide at home).

Tokyo: Temples, Shrines and Blossoms

Tokyo: Temples, Shrines and Blossoms

Last Thursday was Qingming Festival, or tomb-sweeping day, which meant that on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the office was closed. To make up for the Friday off, Sunday was a working day. Not for us though because we extended the 3 day weekend by two more days and flew to Tokyo for some sightseeing, food and to celebrate Thorben’s birthday πŸ™‚

Comedy and the Golden Turd

On our first night we went to the comedy show “Get a comedian’s take on life in Japan”, the first Airbnb experience I’ve ever booked. It was a pretty funny show about Japan, the way of life, history and culture. Most importantly, Meshida explained the “interesting” golden statue we’d seen on our walk there. Apparently, the building is a brewery, the statue is from a French artist, the plan was to put up three of them upright, and it’s supposed to be a flame. Now it’s known as the golden poo or golden turd. Gotta love Tokyo πŸ™‚

Sensō-ji Temple

After the show we walked over to the Sensoji Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. The temple and the five-story pagoda are lit up beautifully at night.

Free Walking Tour

Friday morning we did a free walking tour. We started in Akihabara, where the Electronic Town (aka a cluster of lots of nerdy shops) is and then went to the Yushima Seido temple with a big statue of Confucius. Next, we went to the Kanda shrine. There, we learned how to make a wish/pray at a shrine: First, you bow once, then you throw a coin into the donation box, clap twice (to wake up the Gods), make your wish and then bow twice. Afterwards, we wandered through Ameyoko shopping street and finished at Ueno Park.

Meiji Shrine & Harajuku Free Walking Tour

After a morning at the fish market (more on that in another post) we did another free walking tour in a different part of Tokyo. We learned a lot about the early history of Tokyo, back when it was called Edo, and the Samurai and Emperor still ruled. Half the tour we spent visiting the Meiji Shrine and even saw a wedding party leaving. Then we went to crazy Takeshita Street which is mostly tailored to kids and teenagers and saw the old Olympic stadium.

Shibuya

We went to Shibuya for 2 things: to see the Hachiko statue and the Shibuya crossing/pedestrian scramble. The guide book called it the Times Square of Tokyo and it’s supposed to be a one of the busiest intersections. It wasn’t as crazy on a Sunday morning but Hachiko was still very cute πŸ™‚

Photography walk

Another Airbnb experience I booked was a photography tour with a local guide. We went to a lot of different scenic places and Thorben and our guide switched cameras a couple times. Maybe Thorben will upload some of of the pictures later but for now it’s just the ones from my iPhone πŸ™‚

We first went to the observation deck at the Tokyo Government building, then to a close by small shrine, Tokyo station, the Imperial Palace East Garden and finally the Nezu Shrine. While 80% of the cherry blossoms were already gone (they were a couple weeks early this year), we caught some of the late bloomers on the way to the Imperial Palace and lots of other pretty flowers. Especially the azalea (a rhododendron species) at the Nezu shrine were beautiful.

In case you’re wondering where all the food pictures are … I’ll discuss that in detail in a separate postΒ  πŸ™‚

King’s Canyon, Uluru and Kata Tjuta: Exploring the Outback

King’s Canyon, Uluru and Kata Tjuta: Exploring the Outback

Our last stop in Australia was the outback. We flew directly from Melbourne to Uluru (Ayers Rock Airport) and rented a car for 4 days.

Driving through the outback

Round trip we drove around 600km from Uluru to King’s Canyon and I was really surprised how green the outback was. I expected lots of rocks and red sand and not so many plants.

King’s Canyon

After arriving in the Red Center we drove to King’s Canyon Resort and spent the night there. It’s the only hotel in the area which explains the prices and low quality. For example, we had a few spidery room mates, I named one of them Adalbert. Sadly, we had to leave him because our air conditioner wasn’t working and the I decided not to get attached to the new room mates ;).

In the morning Thorben got up while it was still dark to take pictures of the sky and do the King’s Canyon Rim Walk (at this point I was pretty sick). After he finished I also wanted to get a glimpse of the Canyon so we did the King’s Creek walk. The Canyon was also much greener than expected, but really pretty.

Fighting flies

While people might be worried about snakes and spiders the worst thing in the outback for me were the flies. They don’t sting but are very very annoying, constantly landing on your face and trying to get into your eyes and nose. This problem is easily fixed with a super stylish fly net, which we bought on our way back from King’s Canyon, so that’s what I looked like 95% of the time πŸ™‚

Segway at Uluru

Instead of walking the 10km around the base of Uluru I signed us up for a segway tour πŸ™‚ I picked the Uluru Sunrise and Segway, so we first had breakfast with a close up view of a beautiful Uluru sunrise before cruising around the base. The rock is really magnificent with so many different looking parts, it’s really worth going all the way around it.

A Night at the Field of Lights

The night at the field of light started with drinks, canapΓ©s and sunset viewing and then we had dinner under the stars or in our case under the full moon. During a star talk we learned about some different formations and finally we headed to the field of lights, a pretty cool art installation. Overall it was really pricey but also a cool experience.

Kata Tjuta

We drove out to Kata Tjuta on our last night to see the sunset. It’s a massive structure, I think even bigger than Uluru. Just as the sun was about to set and transform the colors it got blocked by some clouds. As a compensation we got to see a really cool moon rise on our way back. I’ve never seen the moon so big and bright.

Sunrise at Uluru

On our last morning we managed to get up early enough to see a beautiful sunrise at Uluru, complete with some typical tourist shots πŸ™‚

 

And that’s it! Almost 4 weeks after getting back this was the last of the Australia posts. Next trip: Tokyo πŸ™‚

5 days in Sydney

5 days in Sydney

Besides many great memories Australia also gave me pneumonia, hence the 2 week delay in recapping our trip. Feeling better now, so this is the start of many detailed posts (maybe 6?) with lots and lots of pictures πŸ™‚

Flying into Sydney at around 1pm was a fantastic start to our Australia adventure, just look at the view we had from the plane:

Here is what we did in our 5, or really 4 1/2 days in Sydney:

Free Walking Tour of the Rocks

As usual we started our trip with a free walking tour. I’m Free Tours has an evening walking tour of the Rocks, a cool historic area with lots of food, which was really fun and informative. We learned a lot about Sydneys origins as a convict colony and also checked out Observatory Hill.

Free Walking Tour of the City

On our second day we did the Sydney sights free walking tourΒ to get an overview of the city. Again, it was a great tour with many interesting stories and ended with a view of the Opera.

Museum of Contemporary Art

After our walking tour we decided to escape the heat and check out the exhibits at the MCA. I don’t really know anything about (modern) art, so I annoyed Thorben with my “That’s art?” and “Even I could do that!” comments πŸ™‚ They did have some cool pieces, most exhibits are free and it was right next to the ferry dock, so why not.

Manly Beach

On Sunday the maximum you can spend on public transport with your Opal card, which also works on ferries, is 2.60 AUD. We took advantage and took the ferry to Manly (usually thats over 15 AUD). Of course we were not the only ones with that idea so it was pretty crowded but that made for good people watching πŸ™‚

Day trip to the Blue Mountains

On Monday we took a small group tour to the Blue Mountains. The tour mainly took us to viewing spots and then Scenic World, where you can ride 2 different cable cars and the steepest train down to the rain forest. Sadly for Thorben we only did one little hike at the end. Overall we had great weather and beautiful views, so it’s really worth the trip.

Taronga Zoo

Even though I’m not a fan of zoos, I’d heard great things about this one so we thought we’d give it a try. Overall, I don’t think it’s a must do, I enjoyed the wildlife parks we went to later in the trip much more. My highlights were the views from the zoo, the meerkats which were fun to watch and seeing quokkas. They were asleep at first but after watching them for a while we got lucky and it was feeding time which made them much more active. After half an hour Thorben had to drag me away, but they are just so adorable πŸ™‚

A night at the Opera

Before Sydney I’d never been to the opera, so I thought that this was the perfect place to change that. We saw Carmen in French, thankfully with English subtitles πŸ™‚ I think I’m going to stick with musicals in the future but it was still a cool experience.

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

This walk was another must do on my Sydney agenda. While Thorben wasn’t too impressed (too many people and too many buildings), I thought it was a beautiful walk. There were lots of steps, so it was also quite the workout. Because of construction we had to take a detour through a really nice cemetery and we even got lucky and saw some dolphins.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

We decided against doing the Bridge climb because a) it’s super expensive and b) you can’t even take your camera. Instead we just walked over the bridge, which is free, and were so happy with the view, we didn’t even go up to the Pylon lookout.

Open Air Cinema with a view

For our last night (and also Valentine’s Day) I had booked tickets for the George Open Air Cinema, which is open every summer. The location is fantastic: overlooking the CBD, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. We saw “The Big Sick” which was really fun. They even had fireworks that night before the movie, it was pretty amazing (and romantic ;)) and one of the highlights of the trip.