Thursday 20 December 2007

Xian and Hong Kong

The highlight of my trip to China was seeing the Terracota soldiers. The first pit was amazing. Felt so surreal being there. There are over 6000 soldiers in the pit. Spent half a day there just lookin around the complex.

Only 2 pits were open sadly, and the museum. Also saw some important government offical there (not sure who exactly, but high up from the mass security and road cade). Afterwards headed back to town and went to the city walls which were massive. 12m high and about 3 lane car widths wide. And they are completely intact around the whole old Xian. Walked around a bit and also went to a Feng Shu museum where I also got a lecture on feng shu,. most interesting. The to the east bell tower,which is the dead center of town.

That evening went to a Chinese show/opera and had a fancy meal of the local delicacy which is special dumplings. The taste was amazing and there were over 30 different ones that I got to try. The show was very nice as well. My final day in Xian I went to seethe white goose pagoda which was very large and even saw some buddists from Thailand praying. Very interesing. and the provincal museum, which had a large number of fascinating artefact, as Xian was the captial of China for 13 dynasty's. Had a proper Chinese tea ceremony ( bought a very interesting one)., and went to a silk carpet factory.
Headed off for HK late in the evening.

In Hong Kong I did a heritage tour which went to places not normally seen by tourists. That took half my time and with the rest I walked around, walked along the avenue of stars (chinese version of Hollywood walk of fame), and went to the Space Center.

Monday 17 December 2007

Yongshau and Guilin

China was amazing. I was very lucky arriving in Guilin with my luggage as they were having trouble transfering it from my flight from Hong Kong/London. But made it safe and had no problems as my guide was waiting there to pick me up.

The first real day in China started by a lovely view in the morning. Guilin is a small town of 5 million, and is surrounded by karst stacks. This was the view from my hotel room. After getting up headed off for a cruise down the River Li. Which definately is, one of the most scenic areas in China. The river cuts thru the karst stacks which are amazing. Its really hard to describe the feeling you get in such beauty, the fog gave the area an errie mystical feeling. Very nice trip.

After that headed to Yangshao. Here I did a bike tour thru the countryside (thankfully very flat). It is amazing the difference between the countryside and the city. Much prefer the countryside for the absolute quiet and beauty. The lifestyle there is completely different. The lifestyle is very hard, with people growing and producing everything for themselves. Something really amazing was the building of their own houses, making the bricks and mortar themselves in some cases. A unique fact abut this area is that size is of all importance. If a farmer wants to show that he has money he will build a big house, like 4-5 storeys, but this usually results in the lack of funds to complete it. SO you just get these massive shells of houses everywhere in the countryside. Its all about status. Went shopping that evening down the West road which is the one of the oldst in the province. Spent a bit too much of course but oh well. Only there once.

The next day we headed back to Guilin (by we I mean me, my guide and the driver, I LOVE private tours). There we saw the elephant truck hill (legend goes that a giant elephant was drinking the river water when killed and turned to stone, hence the mountain looks like an elephant drinking from the water). At the top of the hill was a really small pagoda called Guilin Buddha. Altho not many chinese are religious these days.

From there we headed to the reed flute caves. The lighting in these caves were amazing. Look spectacular (I urge you to look at my facebook photos). This cave was also used by the resistance back in the day. Then headed to Xian that late afternoon

Wednesday 23 May 2007


After almost getting to Rjecka, we had to transfer to a bus as the line ahead was broken. Once I was at the station got on the transfer bus to get me to the next train stop I needed. And then got on another connecting train, which was the final one. Quite the mission to get there, but definitely worth it. Only sad part was taxi driver wanted to charge me twice the price it should have been when I arrived, so spent 30+ mins walking to my place, lugging the worlds heaviest suitcase it felt like, with a heavy backpack to match.

The place is definitely the nicest ever. The lady is incredible. She upgraded me for free, to my own private room (since there was only one other couple here and its 6 person house only). And the new room was even cooler, not only was it private but I was upgraded not to a double, not to a queen but a king size bed all to myself. Heaven. After cooling off a bit, headed out to see the lovely sites. Went firstly to the ampitheatre which was built by Augustus!!! Its so old. There were so many old Roman sites around here (a big reason for me coming, and coast). Walked around and of course took millions of photos. Was really cool as there was a band competition going on in town between bands of Istra (the region) so music was everywhere. Listened to a couple of bands play before my stomach got the better of me and I headed home. Cooked dinner for me and the lady since she was so nice. And of course she has to be nicer and insists that tomorrow dinner is on her (Croatian style chicken apparently). After dinner she was really cool and took me for a walk around Pula, the non-tourist areas so I could see what real Croatia was like. Learnt a lot about the history and building styles.

Had a lovely restful day. Spent the morning emailing future hostels to get better directions as I don’t want to get lost . Had a nice lunch with the other 2 people here, and then we headed off to the cruise. It was a 2 hour cruise around the Brijun National park, which has 14 islands in it. The main was important during the former Yugoslavia control as a very important meeting happened there (between Russia). On this island there was also a safari and golf course. Very interesting. On the cruise was included wine from Croatia. After getting back from the cruise, we (went with the other couple) came home to a lovely feast prepared by the lady of the house. So nice, and flavorful. After finishing this lovely meal the storm that has been across Italy (where it killed 9 people) and Slovenia arrived. It was kinda scary, caused a mini flash flood and so much lighting.

Pula, Croaita à Ljubljana, Slovenia
Got up around 8 and packed up. Biba (the lady) made breakfast yet again. Afterwards went to walk around the coast. I was expecting the water to be horrible and mucky after the storm but to my horror it was fine. Beautiful blues and greens. Was lovely. Got my legs fully in the water. So annoyed I wasn’t wearing togs and walking back would have taken to long. ARGH. I seriously contemplated skinny dipping, but just as I had made my mind up to do it a family arrived at the beach I had found (was away from main one). So had to settle with just having wet shorts and legs totally in the Adriatic sea.

Biba made me lunch (even tho I had already eaten) and insisted that she make me sandwichs for the train. Got a taxi this time. Was a sad goodbye, gave Biba a big hug. Had 3 different trains to get to Slovenia. Met a very nice interesting girl to talk to on the way there. Actually met her just after the 2nd connection where I actually fell out of the train. Kinda embarrassed but luckily no one saw. They just saw the suitcase on the ground as I limped over to put my other stuff down. The suitcase kinda got away from me as I thought the train was going to move, so rushed and then lost my balance and the weight of the suitcase pulled me over. Thankfully no serious to the suitcase, altho my knee got stones shoved in it, which needless to say hurt, but no big damage. Eventually got to Ljubljana earlier than expected and found the right bus no probs. The bus driver was nice and dropped me off right outside the hotel which saved me walking (as hotel is inbetween bus stops)

Sunday 20 May 2007


After a 6 hour train ride from Budapest, I arrived in Zagreb, Croatia. IT WAS HOT! The temperature was 32 degrees C. Very painful when trying to lug around a suitcase. Got on the tram and got off at what I thought was the right stop but it wasn’t so walked to where I was supposed to go. Only to find out that Croatians are very silly have two tram stops with the same name on the same line!!!! After consulting a pharmacist who rang my hostel for me, I got going the right way again, and got on the same tram going the opposite direction to the same stop opposite end. Checked in no probs.

It was after this point that I discovered the Zagreb isn't that big, and the main sites of interest are actually able to be seen in an afternoon. The architecture is the main highlight of this area with the buildings being beautifully restored after the wars. Thankfully Zagreb was only a stop point along my way, and I wouldn't really recommend it for much else.

Thursday 10 May 2007


First stop was the Atomium (although you need a pass to get here its miles from the center), which was built in 1958 for the world festival. Its meant to represent an iron atom several thousand times larger, was kinda boring inside. But had the shock/surprise/delight when I got up to the highest sphere. As I was reading a sign stepped back and the disab led person the people were helping was actually Stephen Hawking!!!!!! I couldn’t’ believe I was 20cm away (I stepped away to allow them more room to move). I was so shocked I didn’t ask for a picture and they did seem in a hurry.

So finally after calming down, I went to mini-Europe which was heavily overpriced (but I am only here once, eh!!) so I went. It was really cute and well done. Although they were still missing some countries out (like Hungary). They had miniature models of the major monuments from each country that is part of the EU. After that, went to the European center of Brussels, which was on the complete opposite side of the town. Saw the new monument that they erected which was nice, as well as the European Parliament. Headed home and had a night in cause weather crapped out just as I was having dinner. Right foot has gone down a little.
The last day of this little holiday was pretty good. Had a great sleep in a room with an ensuite shower, and 3 American girl roommates. Got up fairly early and went out. Got metro to the farthest place which was the Palace of justice. Sadly it was under construction so I couldn’t really see much of it. Around it were also the World War monuments. Walked to the Egmont park which was nice, and saw Egmont Palace which was hiding behind the park and not a well known site. Wasn’t that impressive. Then went to the Royal Palace which was cool, and quite large. Typical European style of grand building, with it being rebuilt several times. Sadly all the museums are closed on Monday (which I didn’t know) so I couldn’t go to the museum showing the old ruins of the castle. Then walked thru the Royal Gardens to the Belgium Parlimentary building. 

From here it was to St Micheals Cathedral which was very nice and grand. The pulpit was incredible. Cannot believe such a piece was carved from wood in such detail. It shows the story from the first sin to redemption, with symbolism (such as sin being the skeleton above Eve and also representing the punishment of death). Heard the clock bells chim, they had a nice tune to them. Then walked around the center of town. The main two things to see wast eh Grand place which was really nice. Pity I didn’t come later as during the summer the square is turned into a blanket of flowers. And then Mankken Pis, which is a little statue of a boy peeing. Somehow important. Got myself some cheapish chocolate, and the usual souvenirs. But the unique one was Belgium lace which is suppose to be an old tradition.

Friday 2 March 2007

Seeing a few more sites

Went away this weekend to Pecs, and to the Mohacs festival, which was awesome. Pecs is in southern Hungary, and has alot of Turkish buildings, which is really confusing seeing a mosque being used as a church now. It was so cold there, had slet. And it was supposed to be a balmy 12 degrees not 2. Froze that night as well, it was so cold in the student dorm we stayed in. Some of you would love this, they have bars attached to the dorms. But this leads tot eh place turning intoa dump. The whole place smelt like urine. When I went for a shower, my fl had no hot water, the floor above had poo in the shower and no showercurtains, and all of them had no showerheads so it was more of a tap then a shower.

The Mohacs festival was amazing. Kinda like a gala in NZ but ppl dress up and stuff. Its incredible. The story goes that the villagers had fled cause the winter was so bad. And croatians came and told them that a knight would appear on the night of a storm to end their woes. And  he did, and told them to dress up and wear masks and make as much noise as possible. And to go back to their village and winter would be scared away. And it was, happy ending.  

So these, I would call them sheep demons, walked all around the place, had a parade. Then we could go around the stalls and buy Hungarian food and souvenirs of the day.  The atmosphere was awesome. Sadly I missed the burning of winter (a straw man to meant to depict him) / bonfire cause as per usual in hungary it wasn't running on time. But everything else was awesome. 

Other cool things was ice skating. Went ice skating on Europes oldest and largest rink. The place was great, surrounded by lots of monuments and the city park next door. Also saw a hungarian film. Was a romantic comedy entitled, just sex and nothing else. Good fun. Hungary has definately grown on me. Its nice to see that when an older person gets on the tram the young unquestionally give up their seats. Altho the amount of hunchback ladies due to oestoporosis is very scary. Still not used to the beggars, its so sad seeing them there. And people pee in the streets all the time, more often at night tho, cause in alot of places you have to pay to use the toilet and there are not many toilets to begin with. But there is just something about waking up here, its so different and exciting change. The whole city feels old and its nice.

Wednesday 7 February 2007

Bratislava weekend

This weekend was awesome. A group of 8 of us (7 girls, 1 poor Fredrik) went to Bratislava, Slovakia. Was such an amazing place, in town there was Durg castle, which had the national museum with some great exhibits, especially the coin one (of prehistoric coins), and the view from the top tower was awesome. Afterwards, walked around town a bit. The weather was pretty bad, so didn’t to do too much. Dinner was, well, kinda gross. 

Had the local food. Dumplings (not the big asian style ones) with sheep’s cheese (too cheesy) with smoked bacon (see photo). It didn’t really agree with my tummy but I ate half. And had tradition wine. As the saying goes: Slovakia, the only place were you eat sour sheep’s milk and wash it down with wine. I

personally didn't enjoy it, but each to their own.The second day was just as interesting with new sites and sounds. That is right, sounds, birds chirping. Such a lovely change from trams and horns beeping. Bratislava is so much cleaner air and no homeless. Such a nice change from Budapest. Woke up to a lovely bright sunny day. Even got a little sunburned which sucked. Started with part of historic old down town which had a lot of statues that you could be silly with as I did accordingly.

Went out to Devin castle. My first official ruined castle. Was incredible. So much archaeological sites there. The castle had been there since the Bronze Age, and over a thousand years had been added to lots. The photos are amazing. Was also really interesting feeling being in Slovakia and yet looking out from the castle onto Austria. Eniku and had a picnic lunch atop the castle. Back to town, and we finished looking around the old center. Also saw St. Matthews church where 13 Hungarian kings were crowned, during 12-13th century. Had a very cool protected hole in the floor where they had dug down and exposed some old bones. I got all excited of course. Was just incredible so much history. Was very gutted to leave.

Thursday 1 February 2007

Welcome to Hungary

The good fun of O week has finished. Has been a great O week and we actually go away as a group and see the sites of the city that we are going to live in. Good times. The pollution is so bad here, like on Friday was wandering around doing chores and had huge trouble breathing because of the traffic jam putting out so many fumes.

So carrying on from the tour of St Stephans Basilica, the next day I went to the National Museum. Had a great Archaeology exhibit. And had a large painting section which really wasn't that interesting, although they had an amazing oil painting. It was insanely detailed, and made things worth while. As I mentioned everything is closed on Sunday, so had a movie day and colleen came over for a while which was nice. Late that Sunday night the people I was staying with got home from London, which was kinda nice.

 Classes are like high school here. We use a blackboard, and the lecturer writes up all the notes that we have to copy down. Classes are 1hr 15 mins. There are no handouts or online notes. Have to actually buy all text books (which for this one class cost me $100NZ). Start the rest of my classes (4) this week. There are two different systems at this Uni and I belong to both, but more so to the one called Faculties which starts this week. In total I have 9 hours of Uni a week. Am not really sure what on earth I am going to do with myself with all that spare time. At present have Fridays off which is sweet cause it means I can travel more.

But anyway back to describing the events of O week. The next tour was to Heroes square which is a very symbolic monument. At the base of the tower is the 7 tribal kings that founded Hungary, at the top is St Stephan the first Hungarian king. Then the 14 other statues on the promenade behind the main tower thing are important people in Hungarian history (oh and underneath are geothermal vents that heat the main spa pools in Budapest). After viewing this great place we walked around the city park which is home to the most interesting castle. It has been added on to, and unlike normal they didn't stick to the architecture of the original design but every add on has new design so it looks like puzzle pieces that have just been forced together, very cool.

Went on the Parliament tour which was  amazing. The whole place is barricaded up as they are worried that  during the next independence day (March 15th)  more riots will start, something to do with the ones last year and the lying president, and trying to get rid of him. So had to go thru a security check like getting on planes these days. But everything inside the place is awesome, everything that looks gold, really is gold. The whole place is 

decorated with gold leaf. And the architecture is great, its what the London parliment is based on. And the history behind the place (like every monument) has a symbolic meaning of a struggling time in Hungary. Feel kinda bad, since the turks invaded in 1300s thay have been constantly at war and being controlled by foreign peoples.  

 Went on the buda hill tour which was great. So many monuments up there. Started with Matthias church (named after a guy that was important in histroy) and like all the major churches here it is highly decorated, and amazingly painted on the inside. And the roof has very cool tiles. Then went up on the Fishermans bastion (which has 7 touwers to symbolize the 7 tirbes of Hungary anf of course a statue of St Stephan). the view from here was incredible could see the entire Pest side of Budapest. And could clearly see the mjor monuments with there 96m

symbolic height towering over the other  buildings. On this monument you could see the pollution damage as in some places they must have gotten tired of cleaning towards the end and missed the blackness. Kinda gross seeing the destruction that the pollution is doing. Wandered over to the palace, but we were too late for the tour which really sucked but still the palace all lite up at night was great. And the Matthias fountain was cool. Had the story of a girl that died of heart break when he promised to be with her but he was already married. She was a lady of the fields and came to Budapest like he asked ot see him and saw him with his wife and story goes that she died instantly of a broken heart. Kinda romantic. After missing out on the castle tour, went on the labyrinth tour which was great. It is caves that have been used since neolithic times and then during the cold war were bricked up and used as a safety bunker. had some old relics displayed but bascially the aim was to wander around and find the magical wine fountain. The wine was so gross tho. It tasted like vinegar and smelt even worse. Walked round the palace area some more afterwards, there are statues everywhere of something in history. Hungarians are very nationalistic epically since their independence.

This weekend I went away to Eger, which is NE of Budpest. Such a nice town. There is actually color there. One thing about Budapest that annoys me is the lack of color. Everything is gray. Looks very nice at night tho. Continuing with Eger, saw the old castle ruins, very cool. It was the stratgic wining thing in the war against the turkish invasion in the 1200s. Although that was also cause the Turks thought the "bulls blood" gave them magical powers. Actually its just wine, but the name of it is bull blood. We tried this and other wines with dinner that night. The first white wine was incredible, best thing I have ever tasted. The dinner was okay. Going in back in time. Saw the two major churches intown once again amazingly decorated. Went back to the hostel were we played games which first consisted of everyone getting drunk (not me and a few others) and getting to know each other. Had the pass the string under clothes game, A hungarian histroy game, whipped cream game, noodle in straw game, and pick up nuts. All very entertaining. Sadly a crowd of the exchange student sruined the night.  The next day in eger we saw the basilica and actually got to watch a sermon. Went up this pin concrete thing (optional) which was crazy. there was only enough room for one person to go up the stairs and then up the top there was enough ledge for your feet. Felt so sick up there (am afriad of heights but you have to do everything once).  Then were supposed to go to the baths outta town that we were meant to go to the night before but they were booked out for the day (stupid drunkards made me miss out) we had to go to the ones in town which were small and only had two different temps.