Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Cave Dwellings of Guyaju

Exploring the caves of Guyaju with My China Opportunity

Last weekend My China Opportunity and friends went to the caves of Guyaju (古崖居). This fascinating historic site is about 70km from Beijing. Although 70 km is not too far away, it did take three hours to get to.

The caves of Guyaju go back all the way to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). They were made by a forgotten minority group in China called the Xiyi. Many Chinese think that these caves were formed because the Xiyi were hiding from war or a plague that was sweeping through the country at that time.

With 174 caves in all, Guyaju is a pretty extraordinary site to explore. Many of the caves are anywhere from five to twenty square meters. Most of the caves are bunched together in two rock face villages, similar to what an ant farm would look like for humans. The first set of grottoes is open to visitors for exploring, as it was restored with wooden stairs and ladders.

Guyaju is not a large place that takes a day to explore. We recommend staying there for an hour or two and then making your way to Longqing Gorge. You can definitely visit both of these sites in one day. Going to both sites in one day would make the day trip more interesting.

First set of caves that can be explored.

Interesting little houses at the bottom of Guyaju.
Getting There:
Take bus 919 from Deshengmen. Make sure to ask if the bus goes to Yanqing. From Yanqing take bus 920 or take a minibus to Guyaju. We recommend taking the minibus because the 920 bus stops every 2-5 minutes. Make sure to bring a student card because you can save 50% off of the ticket price. RMB 40 adult price (RMB 20 student price).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Beijing Botanical Garden

Yesterday, we went on an adventure to the Beijing Botanical Garden. We arrived at this park thinking it was the place we were supposed to be but ended up at this little dingy park.

Olga and I sitting at the first Park
After reviewing the map we realized that we weren't in correct place. So we hopped back on the scooters and arrived at the BJ Botanical gardens!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hong Kong Trip

We recently went down south and spent a couple of days in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. It was nice to get away from the cold of Beijing for a bit.

While in Hong Kong we went on a much needed hiking trip. We started our trip at an organic strawberry farm where we were able to pick strawberries.

Searching for Strawberries

Towards the end of our hike we came upon this abandoned village.
Sha Lo Tung abandoned village

Random restaurant we found in Sha Lo Tung

It wasn't completely abandoned, we found this small family owned restaurant hidden away. We had a tasty lunch and explored a bit.

While exploring we found this random picture of an old man inside one of the buildings. It seemed like everyone left in a hurry when they left the village because there were still dishes, furniture, and clothes left behind.

Chris' dream home

Headed back to the city. The thing I really liked about Hong Kong is how close hiking areas are to the city but how secluded they are. It was a very nice, peaceful, and clean hike.

If you want to visit this spot I highly recommend going. You can visit the following blog to get more information and directions on how to find this place

Asian people are funny, they like to cart their dogs around in peculiar ways, I always see similar things in Beijing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The forgotten sister city: Tianjin

Since we didn't have any plans for Chinese New Year, Miranda, me, Yassine (roommate), and Olga (Yassine's GF) decided to check out Beijing's sister city.  Tianjin is not really a city that you would want to see, but since it was 30 minutes by bullet train I guess it was worth it.  Going from Beijing to Tianjin is about the same distance from Ontario to San Diego in California.  The bullet train is one of the coolest technology that China has and the USA doesn't have.  The bullet train can travel at super fast speeds of about 350 km per hour.  It was amazing how comfortable it was while going that fast.

Bullet train to Tianjin
When we arrived in Tianjin, we found that the city was actually a dump. There was nothing there. They had some high rise towers and that was about it. One thing that we got to try was Tianjin Baozi.  Baozi is kind of like a bun with meat stuffed in the middle of it. It is usually filled with pork and tastes delicious. You would be quite amazed of how cheap it is. It cost 5 mao, which is about equivalent to 7 cents. The baozi in Tianjin were super expensive though. I have no idea how they can charge so much money for the same product. It cost 60 yuan (about $10) for 8 pieces. It was crazy expensive, and tasted exactly the same as the Beijing ones.  Just because they are famous really makes a difference on the price.  Its like I went to MCD's and paid $10 for a cheeseburger. WOW!!! 

Goubuli Baozi (Tianjin Dumpling)
After we finished our Baozi, we were still hungry.  We decided to eat upstairs after we finished Goubuli Baozi.  Something that was quite shocking was that we ordered so many dishes and wanted to order rice, but couldn't because they wanted to sell their overpriced baozi.  It was the first time I had ever went to a restaurant in China and you couldn't order rice. I got into an argument with the fuyuan (waitress) and told her that she was trying to scam us. After I was tired of arguing with her I decided to buy overpriced baozi. It made me so perturbed. 

After our wonderful dinner, we decided to go shopping. One great thing about Tianjin is that they have decent places to shop. Although I hadn't planned on shopping we decided to because there was nothing to do. 

 Pretty funny Chinglish!!

LOL.  China loves to copy people's great ideas.

Miranda was afraid to step on the ice. 

Olga and Yassine

Old Chinese tank 

Discussing meat dish. 

After we finished shopping we decided to go to bed and wake up early so that we could get out of that dump. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Travel Re-Cap: Hohhot, Inner Mongolia

Welcome to Inner Mongolia!

Visiting Inner Mongolia was probably one of my favorite China trips. While there, we hung out with our friend Sina who is intellectually intriguing and interesting. It was nice getting away from the craziness, loudness, and dirtiness of Beijing.

 Brian inspecting the elephant from all angles.
"Buddha Belly" for some reason Chinese men like to walk around with their shirts up.
Major chinglish, we found this shirt while in a random clothing market.
This guy was hanging out next to his moving home parked next to a random Jenny Lous (import food store).
This museum was pretty cool and modern for being in the middle of Inner Mongolia.
We rode a bus to the grasslands to ride Mongolian horses. Brian was like a movie star and had a mini photo shoot with some locals. When we arrived, we were greeted by this sheep head lying on the ground.

I was expecting Mongolian horses to be Stallions but I was disappointed when I found that they are more like ponies. I thought Brian was going to break his horses back because his pony was super small.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chinese New Year: Round one- the city is going to explode! 2010

A lot of what I have been posting has been from over the last year. Since China blocked facebook and every other social networking site I wasn't able to share my experiences. Last Chinese New Year, we celebrated the holiday with our friend Cindy at her grandparents home.

Cindy's grandpa was so cute. Apparently he is the chief of the house and prepared our entire Chinese New Year feast!
                  Me, Chris, Cindy, and her grandparents.                      Always being silly

Chinese New Years was cool the first day but I couldn't stand 2 weeks of non stop fireworks. After the third day I was fed up with the non stop noise and smoke. I am going to have to vacate the country before this Chinese New Year. Oh yeah, it's my year, the year of the tiger. According to tradition, if I don't do anything successful this year I am going to be a failure the rest of my life.

Travel Re-cap: Oh Mongolia how you torture me

Welcome to Mongolia!

Dealing with Visa's in China is a pain in the ass. The last visa I had, required me to leave China every 90 days and that day always crept out of the blue. The easiest and cheapest way to exit is to Mongolia. $100 covers transportation and food. I went to Mongolia a total of 5 times, the first time by myself. That first time, Chris helped me buy a bus ticket and told me "look for the rainbow and when you find it you're in Mongolia. Good luck and don't get lost or stolen!". Not being able to speak Chinese and looking for a huge rainbow to signify my arrival was quit exhausting and stressful. I thought I was going to be led into an alley and sold into the sex trade. But that didn't happen. I have to say that I actually do like Mongolia because of the blue skies, one of my favorite restaurants, being able to see the stars, and the people are very kind.

 My only guide in my trek to Mongolia, also worked as communications with the Mongolians. For some reason my Mongolian jeep driver decided it was necessary for me to know animal names.

  Once you find this massive Rainbow, you know you're almost in Mongolia.

 The sleeper bus will take you to the Mongolian/Chinese border town in 12 hours, and no the TV doesn't work (a lot of things in China are for show).

 Minor detail, you can't walk into Mongolia. You have to hire one of these jeeps to take you across the border.
China's version of a truck stop without the convenience and a whole different degree of self service.

Random Power plant in the middle of no where.

After that first trip, I was always accompanied by Chris and our friend Brian. We picked up many foreigners on their way to Beijing and had fun meeting people from Italy, Mexico, UK, and I think there was a Spanish guy we met as well.

Bike Basket Baby

This one day when Chris and I were going to the plant market we saw this cute baby in a bike basket. She was so happy and little.

Travel Re-Cap: Bei Dai Hu

Welcome to Bei dai he!

Bei dai he is the nearest coastal city to Beijing, about 6 hours by car or 2 hours by fast train (dongche). It is saturated with Russians and their super heavy food. Luckily we had Olga with us because she translated all the menus for us. We literally ate at the same restaurant over and over because of their scrumptious beer, which is why we were there threes times a day. In Beijing, the beer is really lite and not very good, so it was nice bumping into cheap dark beer.

 We bought our train tickets late and weren't able to get sitting tickets. So I made my own little place inside the luggage storage.

 Poor animals and go carts at the wild life reserve. Such a sad place.

 We stole a picture of this guys snake. He wanted us to pay him for pictures but we refused.
 Travel buddies. Me, Chris, Yassine (my roommate), and Olga

 Fake Hiking