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Xian and the Terracotta Army,

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Xian and the Terracotta Army,

The last stop on our trip was a return to China. As I said in my previous post, the reason we had a stop in China on our outbound leg and also our return leg was that we flew with Air China from London to Kuala Lumpur this was the best air fare we could find, and the fact, like most airlines it does not cost any more on your airfare to stop at the airlines hub for a few days, which in our case was Beijing.

On our return to China we decided not to stay in Beijing but to get the super fast bullet train to Xian to visit the amazing Terracotta Warriors. Whilst we were in Beijing at the beginning of our trip we thought it wise to visit the train station to purchase our tickets and to get the lay of the land so to speak, and also to purchase our tickets. Top Tip if possible ask at your hotel reception, or in our case the owners of the Hutong where we were staying to write down in Chinese your journey details, dates and times etc, as English speaking Chinese are few and far between.

The Xian train leaves from Beijing West to Xian North 16 times daily, so you have plenty of choice. Point to note. You cannot buy return tickets, just singles, the cost at time of writing was $77 each for second class one way, $154 or £114 return per person. We chose the 08:05 train taking 5hrs 48min to cover a distance of 756 Miles at speeds in excess of 196 mph very impressive. Although you would really not know that you were travelling that fast at all. We thought that the journey would take us through some nice and scenic Chinese countryside, but instead it was very flat and baron, quite disappointing really. To add to this the whole vista was shrouded by the infamous smog that the country is known for, but to be fair it did get a little better as we approached Xian where the region is a little more scenic. After checking into our hotel we decided to explore the city. Xian felt much calmer and slower pace than Beijing, and the people seemed a little more laid back. The must do’s whist in town “apart from the Warriors that is” is to visit the Bell Drum Tower, just amazing in the day time but spectacular at night. Another must see is the Muslin quarter, which luckily for us was just around the corner to our hotel, a truly amazing place with lots of diverse shops,restaurants, and street food vendors, selling what can only be described as “strange looking food” but a must visit.

Terracotta Warriors

On our first full day in Xian if was off to see the warriors. They are situated around an hour away by bus from the city,”possibly quicker in a taxi”. Getting the bus to the Warriors was not as straight forward as the guide book states. We arrived at the bus station and it was manic, crowds of people going about there daily commute, but I suppose like all bus stations really. Now our guide book suggested to get bus No 915 but the local map we were given at the hotel said to take bus No 306? We decided to join the queue for the bus 306. Whilst we were in the queue there were people with loud hailers trying to get you on bus 915, they were even trying to politely drag people out of the queues to get on there buses. We decided to stay put as there were a lot of locals in our queue, so we presumed they would be the ones to follow. It turned out the right decision as the 306 was like the map stated the public bus and the 915 was the tourist bus. But all that said if you want to take the tourist bus and stop at the other attractions on the way then take that one, it’s a personal choice.

The Warriors are situated in three large halls. A Top Tip all the images you see on tv and online of the Warriors are mostly taken in Hall 1, but someone told us don’t go to the main hall first, like most people do, but to visit the halls in reverse order, halls 3, 2 then 1. As by doing it this way you build up to the main hall. When you eventually enter the main hall you will be blown away. The only disappointment on our visit to the site was the fact that after you leave the site you are ejected into an awful man made replica of an old Chinese Market with endless tacky gift shops and fast food restaurants, with a long walk back to the bus. I suppose in reality the cost of restoring the site, and to pay for the on going restoration work it’s a small price to pay. Entrance fee at time of writing is 120¥ which is around £13.50 which is an absolute bargain in my book.

Click here for a very useful website explaining all you need to know about visiting

For more photo’s of the Terracotta Army, click this link to my Flickr page

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam

Well it’s to Holland this time, to the stunning city of Amsterdam. This trip all came about one afternoon having some lunch and a drink in a pub in my home town of Lincoln UK, when I was checking my emails, I received an email from Ryanair advertising one of their many sales, so I fired up the iPad looked at some dates and prices to  the various locations on offer and it was unanimously agreed that we should take a trip to Amsterdam, and so with a tap of a finger flights and hotel were booked. We found our accommodation on the trusty Booking.com website, and after viewing a few possibilities we settled on the Blue Tower Hotel. The hotel was just on the outskirts of the main city centre but in a great location for transport links and was very nice indeed.

When we arrived it was pouring with rain as it was when we left the UK but undeterred and with bags dropped in hotel it was off exploring. We took the tram to the city centre. “Top Tip” A good option if you intend to travel around the city is to buy a 24hr travel card which can be used on buses, trams and metro the cost at time of writing is €13.50 and is much cheaper than paying for individual journeys. After a stroll around the harbour area and as the day was getting on we decided to find a nice restaurant bar to have a meal and plan our next couple of days in Amsterdam.

It was decided that our first full day in the city a must visit would be the House Of Anne Frank Now its worth mentioning if you don’t like queues you can book tickets online to the house but as it was May we thought we would just turn up but in the summer months I would advise anyone to book in advance. When we arrived the queue was fairly long but not horrendous but moved very quickly and as the weather had turned out nice it was quite pleasant to admire the surroundings and to people watch. The admission ticket also includes an audio guide. The whole tour was excellent but very sad and thought provoking as you can imagine. One thing to point out that when you reach the top of the house there are some very steep stairs to the attic where the family hid, this could be a problem for the less mobile it.

After our visit it was time to head off explore some more of the city. Now as you can imagine Amsterdam has some amazing architecture, very tall and narrow buildings, beautifully designed, and if you look up they all seem to be leaning forward , in fact they are IMG_2996 but this is not because of bad workmanship or subsidence but in fact a very clever inherent design, you will notice all the buildings have a wooden or steel girder protruding from the top with a pulley attached, this enables items of furniture or goods to be hauled up the outside and enter the building through the very large windows as bringing  the items in through the front door  and up the internal staircase would be virtually impossible as the staircases inside are very steep and very narrow.

Another must do whilst in the city is to sample some of the excellent gouda cheese, I did not realise there were so many different varieties, “Top Tip” visit one of the many shops selling the cheeses, most of which offer small pieces to sample.IMG_2997

Another thing Amsterdam is famous for its cycling, although it is impossible to say city authorities estimate this figure to be around 600,000 other sites on the web suggest this figure could be as high as 1,000,000 who knows, all I know is there seems to be as many cycle routes as there are roads, and the cycle paths even have their own traffic lights, and its the first place I have seen on my travels which have multi story parking just  for bicycles, amazing.

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Finally a visit to Amsterdam would not be complete without a trip on one of the cities glass roofed canal boats we took a trip on one which we boarded in the Rembrandt area of the city near the Hard Rock Cafe, tours last approx one hour and are a great way to see the cities canal ways, our trip was made especially good-by the fact we had glorious spring sunshine.

Finally, I know I’ve already said that but I do mean it this time, I have to mention Amsterdam’s nightlife now I’m sure everyone is aware of the famous of infamous red light area of the city for nightlife amongst other things but there is more to the city in the way of nightlife other than the reeperbahn, we found a great little bar/club called Bourbon Street, the club is situated in Leidsekruisstraat 6-8 which is in the Rembrandt area which is near to the Hard Rock Cafe, Live music is played most nights, entrance is free on a Monday, coincidently the night we was there, a great night was had by all

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Well that’s it for this trip, next up is the big tour of India, so watch this space. So its bye from me, stay safe, keep well but most importantly keep following

You can find many more photo’s of our trip to Amsterdam along with lots from our previous exploits on my Flickr photo stream, just click on the link at the top of the page.

Mini Cruise to Bruges

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Well as its my wife’s birthday next month I was trying to work out where to go for a short break to celebrate the occasion, I was not sure where this was going to be, so I looked into various places in the UK and could not decide then in conversation with our dear friend and travelling companion we recalled our mini cruise to Santander from Plymouth some eleven or twelve years previous. We had such a great time on this trip it put a seed in my head as to look into doing something like this again, also I must have had some divine intervention from my very dear friend Tony who sadly passed away 10 years ago on the 25th Oct, and was with us on our trip to Santander. Now as we live in Lincolnshire and we are not very far from Hull I decided to look on P&O ferries website and discovered that they were doing some very good two for one deals on mini cruises to Zeebrugge with a choice of either Amsterdam, Bruges or Rotterdam so we decided on Bruges. Now the trip consists of an overnight crossing to Zeebrugge then a short coach journey to the city of Bruges and returning later that eve for the overnight crossing back, but as we felt that a day trip was not long enough we opted for adding another night to our trip and are staying in Bruges at the Hotel Jacob for one night, which we found and booked on the very good hotel site Booking.Com.  and all this for the very reasonable price of approx £150. So another trip that we are looking forward. I will post on our exploits through-out the trip and Photo’s on my Flickr page, and I will also post hopefully some helpful tips on the cruise and the city of Bruges itself

I will sign off for now so stay safe and keep following