A taste of Ilocos

A taste of Ilocos

Finally getting some free time, I was able to finish up this post. In the spirit of the previous post, I’ll continue the story starting from December 31st. Enjoy!

While Krissy was getting ready to celebrate the oncoming new year, I was actually onboard a plane from Denmark to Philippines. The plane landed in the afternoon, and baggage claim was its usual time-consuming ordeal. However, it felt good to be back. It is that sense of nostalgia that rushes through your veins. It was a concoction of sensory awakening; feeling that heat on your skin as you set foot off the plane, getting a whiff of that familiar airport smell, seeing the hustle and bustle of balikbayans – it all comes together, giving me a deeply-rooted sense of belonging.

Balikbayan refers to a person of Filipino origin who lives outside of the Philippines.

It was a special night, not only because 2014 was right around the corner, but mainly because I could celebrate New Year’s Eve with my sisters—something we (sadly) haven’t done in many, many years. Needless to say, it was a memorable night; one that I will always cherish.

During my stay in the Philippines, I was also very fortunate to visit the beautiful province of Ilocos, located on the Northwest coast of the country. Although I was born in the Philippines, I have unfortunately not seen much of the country (there is just so much to see!) So I felt very excited that I would get to experience a new place, and of course try their cuisine. This post is dedicated to all that I saw and all that I ate.

Ilocos, Philippines
Ilocos collectively refers to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Ilocos actually consists of four provinces: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. I saw most of what both provinces has to offer in the form of tourist sites. In hindsight, it probably would not have been as effortless (nor as informative) without the help of our kind tour guide. After arriving in the city of Laoag  at night and having rested, the first stop early in the morning was the sand dunes of Paoay, Ilocos Norte. There, it is possible to explore the sand dunes on a 4×4 or even have a go at sand boarding. Being a man of extremely adventurous spirit </sarcasm> … I did not try either activities. So I cannot offer silly pictures of me with sand all over my face. Instead, I give you another photo (other than the cover photo) taken near the sand dunes.

Barbed wire, Paoay Sand Dunes

Following the sand dunes was a stopover at Malacañang of the North, the official residence of late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and his wife, former First Lady Imelda Marcos (yes the Imelda Marcos, the Rose of Tacloban, the Steel Butterfly, the Lady of 3000 pairs of shoes). Casting aside whatever opinions people may have of these two individuals, their home was an undeniable display of grandeur: from the arching staircase carved in Narra hardwood, to the hanging pieces of art, the scenic view over Paoay Lake, and to all the other intricately carved furniture, their home is certainly fit for people with power. The Spanish colonial architecture definitely brought a sense of time travel. As I walked through the corridors of their home, paying close attention to all their interesting memorabilia, I listened to the tour guide talk about the former President with so much vigor and Ilocanian pride.

Next stop was the Church of Saint Augustine, or Paoay Church. I clearly remember its distinct architure, borrowing from Gothic and Baroque designs. According to UNESCO, its architecural style is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen. There is a certain beauty with the way light falls on its facade, accentuating its lines and curves. The spirals featured on the buttresses breaks all the linearity and adds a more organic, and nature-centric touch to the design.

Paoay Church Paoay Church

After seeing a number of museums dedicated to Marcos, the tour headed south, toward Ilocos Sur; specifically, the destination was the city of Vigan. Having spent many hours touring, we arrived in Vigan quite hungry. I was quite excited to finally try Ilocanian cuisine. Oh yes, the joy of food! The guide took us to a place where we could get Vigan-style empanada. Basically it is a crispy shell filled with vegetable and meat. The shell is made of rice flour with added atchuete (achiote) to obtain that bright orange colouring.

The filling is normally grated green papaya, mung been sprouts, egg and longganisa (a type of sausage). So how do I explain its taste? I can’t. You will simply have to try it for yourself. The finishing touch is the vinegar sauce that comes along with the empanada, which really brings the whole thing together. It does dirty (oily!) wrestling with the empanada in your hands, so make sure you have extra napkins. As such, it will receive (as this blog’s first) the wildwonton seal of approval (SoA)!

wildwonton Seal of Approval

The wildwonton seal of approval (SoA) is given to specific food or eateries that we feel perfectly captures the spirit of ww, in form of taste and presentation. Look out for the seal in future posts! Fun fact: The SoA was designed to look like Chinese art stamps! If you look carefully, you can spot all the letters that form ‘wildwonton’. 

For 35 pesos a piece, those little orange bundles of joy are quite filling. I…had three.  #satisfiedtummy #sealofapproval

Seal-of-approval

The next stop on the itinerary was pottery making. The people of Vigan are known for their pottery skills. They value and commit to preserving the tradition of making burnay (unglazed earthen jars), a skill passed down from immigrated Chinese artisans during pre-colonial times.

The tour continued to the Vigan Heritage Village, a residential complex of Spanish colonial houses. In the heart of the Heritage Village lies Calle Crisologo. As I look back at the memory, I close my eyes and I hear the the clippity-clop-clattering of hooves on the cobblestone street, as people experience the town through horse-drawn kalesas.

Calle Crisologo

Following Vigan was a trip back up north, across Ilocos Norte, driving along the northwestern coast that is bounded by the South China Sea, all the way up to the town Pagudpud. On the way there, we also passed by Burgos and Bangui. In Burgos, there is the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse , another cultural heritage from Spanish colonial times. It was first lit in 1892 and it marks the northwestern-most point in Luzon.

There are stories told of ghosts watching over the tower. The distressed look of its exterior definitely adds to the image of a lighthouse that is often shrouded with mystery. To me, the structure stands magnificent and resolute; like a lonely sentinel of the sea, withstanding the tests of time to keep watch over the expansive waters.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

The word is derived from puraw, which means pure or white.

Only a few minutes further away,  the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations are located in the rocky coast of Burgos. The beauty found here is in stark contrast to man’s architectural prowess exhibited in the cities; these limestone rock formations shows the beauty of nature’s canvas. A thousand years in the making, these creamy white and streamlined formations were sculpted by the forces of nature.

The wind turbines are from a Danish manufacturer called Vestas Wind Systems. Go Denmark!

Still en route to Pagudpud, we took a quick stop at the Bangui Windmills. Facing the South China Sea, these towering windmills arc along the shore and provide 40% of the energy for Ilocos Norte. It was quite exhilarating standing right underneath one of these 70-metre wind giants. It was, shall I say, FANtastic…………………………………. (   ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Bangui Windmill

It was a long drive from Laoag to Pagudpud, and so upon arrival, we made a pit stop at Evangeline’s beach resort for some refueling. The menu was surprisingly varied, but my eyes were set on thing and one thing only: pancit (noodles)!

Pancit bihon
Pancit bihon & kalamansi!

After enjoying three days of resort-life at Hannah’s Beach Resort in Pagudpud, the trip came to and end in Laoag with dinner at the Saramsam Ylocano restaurant. The place was very cosy and the dishes were not only delicious, but also creative, accentuating traditional Ilocanian cuisine with modern-day twists. Absolutely worthy of the wildwonton SoA!

From man-made structures to nature-sculpted landscapes; from Chinese ceramic artistry to Spanish architectural mastery, and from century-old kalesas to modern-day wind turbines, Ilocos definitely has much to offer. I only hope that I was able to give you a taste of its splendor.

-Gideon

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Defibrillating WW

Defibrillating WW

We have already moved well into 2014, so looking back at the year that went by seems rather foolish.

Yet, that was exactly my intention. Our last blog post was almost a year ago, and to many followers wildwonton has been dead. But that is why we humans construct New Years resolutions, right? To start over. Clean slate. New beginnings. For some time my bf and I wanted to revive this space and share with you our travels, musings and other rants – the original idea behind WW. And with a new year beginning, this is our excuse to do better.

As with many things in life, to start afresh often requires coming clean, which is why I have decided to fill in the gaps. Those fillers will hopefully illustrate where we have been since April 2013 and give an idea about where this platform is heading in the future.

Traveling is at the heart of this blog, not only because traveling musters up fond memories, but also because it allows for some critical reflection about oneself and ones everyday life. So what better way to fill in the gaps by starting with the 2013 travels that were not documented here on WW?

In June we heard the chimes of wedding bells in Estonia, as some of Gideon’s best friends got married. It was not only a magical experience to witness such an important moment in two people’s lives, but the ceremony was straight out of a fairy-tale, with the actual “I do’s” taking place in a little chapel, on a hill, near a forest by the sea. Checking all of those dream-wedding-locations at once. Having visited Tallinn on an earlier occasion myself, getting to revisit it during our stay was a perfect addition to the wedding experience. No trip to Tallinn is complete without vising the Old Town, stumbling along the cobblestones and getting into that medieval spirit.

For my part, summer also included travels with the girlfriends. A spontaneous trip to London became quite the highlight, as I have a deep and affectionate love relationship with that city. Of course shopping was on the agenda, but it soon enough evolved into eatery frenzy by visiting both the famous Jamie Oliver Italian kitchen (spaghetti bolognese gets a whole new meaning) and the Dishoom, an above and beyond Indian cuisine experience. There was also time for some Columbia Road Flower Market perusing, something I wanted to check out after having seen a few bloggers documenting their experience. And it was great! With a coffee in one hand and the flowery scents hitting you from left and right, it was worth the travel/walk to go browse and soak in the market atmosphere. Southbank Book Market also became a highlight, tucked away under Waterloo Bridge. If I one day get to live in this vibrant city, I would consider myself one lucky lady.

I also went with my long-time childhood friend, Maria, to Lisbon – Portugal. Completely new to Portugal, I savoured every moment. It is a completely different Southern European feel, with picturesque monuments everywhere. Walking around along winding, narrow streets is definitely a favourite of mine, and it is easy to lose track of time. Mosterio dos Jerónimos was probably my favourite – unbelievable beautiful, and a sight which I wouldn’t mind visiting again. Another genius stroke of ours was taking the train to Sintra to go look at Walt Disney-worthy castles. Despite warnings from tourists, we decided to make the climb up the mountain to Pena Palace, and it turned out to be half the fun! I just have one advice for you if you are near Lisbon: go to Sintra. And also eat Pasta del nata – Portuguese egg tart pastry. And go see Castelo de São Jorge. And Belem. And… you get the drift – See it all while there; they are not tourist traps for nothing.

Summer went by quickly, but travelling was not over. In the wet, dark and rainy months of December/January, I went back to Thailand with the family. You can read an earlier post on Thailand here if you are interested in the Hua Hin area. Gideon was fortunate enough to visit family in the Philippines, so stay tuned for some pinoy blogging soon to happen, right here on wildwonton.

And with those words, I hope I seem convincing about defibrillating the heart of wildwonton.

Let us know what you think,

-Krissy

A Merry Hua Hin Christmas

DSC09171

I have been fortunate enough to end my amazing exchange experience by celebrating Christmas with my family in Sam Roi Yod, Hua Hin – Thailand: and what a Christmas! It might not entail snow and your usual runny noses, but Hua Hin did offer 30 degrees Celsius, pool and shade under the palm trees. It was great to see my family again, especially my clown of a brother <3 Danish tradition is to celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, with a massive dinner table carrying roasted duck, pork, white and brown potatoes, red cabbage, gravy and ris a la mande. A tradition is a tradition. Thus, my tummy contained all such wonders on the 24th, mixed with a good deal of red wine. Our Christmas tree was somewhat untraditional this year, yet the Christmas spirit was as high as ever.

It is not my first time in Thailand, and it is great to be back once again. If you know what touristy places to avoid, this country is simply wonderful. The Thai people are the most smiling and warm-hearted I’ve ever met, with a good dose of humor, always making fun of you, themselves or whatever comes to their mind. Thailand to me means laughter. Obviously Thai food contribute to the wonder of this country, and this Christmas season has offered many plates of pad thai, king prawns and spicy curry.

The 25th of December was spent on a scooter cruising through Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, scouting for monkeys (for your information: not difficult to spot). There is nothing like experiencing the country-side from the back of a scooter, feeling the wind and the sun on your face, whilst the landscape opens up to you. The park contains dozens of mountainous limestone hills, which stand before you wherever you turn. As you cruise along you will find freshwater marshes and shrimp farms, with beautiful temples scattered around the park. My brother and I also worked off the duck-calories by climbing up to the Phraya Nakhon Cave. A sweaty journey, yet worth while every out-of-shape-breath that you will take. But beware of snakes! My brother nearly stepped on one and had a near-death-experience (read: not at all, but two Danish youngsters definitely got spooked, trying to remember what we have learned on Animal Planet).

On a less-serious note, most of the time has been spend by the poolside, or on our rooftop soaking up some dangerous sunrays. A fair amount of Leo beers have also been consumed in the Jacuzzi overlooking the mountaintops as the sun was setting. It is peculiar how fast the days go by when you do absolutely nothing.

The most memorable moments, this time around, have undoubtedly been the many scooter cruising’s, with my brother as the driver, covering much of Thailand’s countryside. As must by now be known world-wide the Moeller-family is somewhat out of the ordinary, and my brother and I undoubtedly scared a Thai family or two, having covered all possible Christmas songs, “singing” at the top of our lungs in the heat as we drove around. Also late-night cruising at the coast of Sam Roi Yod beach, with only the moon as light will not be forgotten.

Our housing is located in the true Thai country-side, approximately 30 min. outside of Hua Hin, surrounded by beach + cows. Thus, there is always some excitement about “going to the city”. In Hua Hin, the necessary shopping is always done, finding some great bargains, and the city spree is always concluded at the night-market, eating burritos and sipping frozen margaritas at an excellent Mexican joint. Most importantly, the mandatory mango-and-sticky-rice dessert is brought with us home.

Our concluding days here will undoubtedly resemble the others, and I simply do not want them to end.

With the best wishes of a Merry Christmas and a fun and safe New Years Eve, I complete the ranting’s from Hua Hin.

/Krissy

Nasi Goreng vs. Mooncakes

Only a few weeks into the semester, and the first mini-holiday presented itself. The Mid-Autumn Festival / Mooncake Festival / Chinese Lantern Festival provided me with an extended weekend, and I of course had to use that opportunity to see more of Asia.

I thus left behind Hong Kong and all the mooncakes, and instead headed off to Jakarta – Indonesia – with my travel companion, Mette.

Travelling by plane was the oddest thing! After so many weeks of travelling by train with Mette through China, it was strange to once again feel the comforts of a plane seat. Flying with Garouda Air, and having the dilemma of choosing what movies to indulge in on the 5 hour journey from Hong Kong was a luxury.

Now, what made this five-day holiday great was undoubtedly the open arms we were met with. Family friends of my parents opened their door to us, and not only provided us with the best accommodation one could wish for, but enlightened us with insider-information and secrets of this wild capital, catered to our taste buds, provided excellent company and late-night talks. It is also because of them that I finally got to watch “The Painted Veil. It is not the first time I have drawn on their hospitality, and I do hope it will not be the last time, either. Experiencing Jakarta would not have been the same without the Hejl-family.

Jakarta served as an interesting contrast to the rest of our journey through Russia, Mongolia and China. The vibe and the dynamics that prevail here differed immensely, and I loved every contrast.

This capital is the most populous city in Southeast Asia, which clearly shows once you try to get trapped in the infamous traffic jams. These macro-jams won’t get any better any time soon. According to the Economist, traffic gridlock will occur by 2014, unless the government makes drastic changes to the infrastructure. Because of urban migration, more and more vehicles are added to the existing roads, putting pressure on the whole setup. Hopefully the future will provide a solution, so as to facilitate and ignite the country and its economy.

The people of Jakarta proved to be absolutely wonderful. Everywhere we turned we were met with the biggest smiles and by joyful laughter. I often feel quite uncomfortable taking pictures of locals, as I feel I am invading a space where I am genuinely not allowed. However, several times we experienced how the Indonesians were the ones contacting us, asking if they could pose for a picture. They found it so amusing. Also, several encounters with children gave us another great insight into Indonesian culture: there is an all-prevailing curiosity, which helped to eliminate all barriers of contact. It was great to have these direct-encounters, even though we could only visit the city for such a short period.

Taman Mini was visited, which is a recreational park displaying the Indonesian culture. I was astonished by the beautiful and detailed architecture you could find here, as local pavilions and houses had been set up to demonstrate just how different such are in the various provinces of Indonesia. We also enjoyed a few hours at the Indonesian Museum, and visited the bird park here – activities which all exceeded my expectations. However, watching Indonesian traditional dances performed by local children hit home run with me. The hand movements are so intricate, and you easily lose all sense of time and space if you keep watching these mesmerizing moves.

Sunday unfolded itself at Thousand Island in the waters of Jakarta Bay. I would not mind spending every Sunday like this. Turquoise waters, sandy beaches and snorkeling opportunities. What more could one ask for?

Experiencing the beautiful Jakarta Cathedral and Istiqlal Mosque also gave me a great insight into this capital. What resonates with me very deeply is when several religions can unfold themselves within the same borders, and I find Indonesia – and also Malaysia – as great examples of such. These two great, religious buildings are not only equally respected, but are also built right next to each other. You only have to cross the main street to move from one sacred building to the other. Mutual respect and understanding is something the rest of the world should take a note of.

Bogor Botanical Gardens also proved worth a visit. Situated some 60 km outside of Jakarta, the park consists of more than 15,000 plants and trees. It is said to be Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who initiated the building of the gardens, so a thick history of colonialism hangs over the place. The trees were gigantic, and it was a great feeling walking around so much greenery after having spent a few days in in a city choked with poverty and pollution.

Yummy in my tummy!

Whilst Jakarta features on many black lists, such as the ugliest city, the most hated city, etc., I certainly found a charm here. Perhaps the Indonesian language gave me positive connotations to my travels in Malaysia, which then may have fogged my judgment. Perhaps, the comforts of staying with family friends blurred reality. However, I came to really enjoy my stay. I ate a lot of Nasi Goreng, was overjoyed by the friendly people I met, and found a beauty in the rough streets. Clouded judgment or not, I wish and hope to come back one day, to explore the rest of Indonesia.

/Krissy

Painted Veil

Going from Shanghai to Guilin(22 hours) was pure luxury: we finally managed to acquire some hard-sleeper tickets. Being able to lie down whilst sleeping, thus allowing yourself to actually stretch your legs, cannot be praised enough! Time always seems to pass by quickly on the train. I belie it is because you always leave a lot of “stuff” for the train ride, so as to avoid boredom, but then one never ends up being able to do all of it (reading, writing travel-diary, etc.) It can also be difficult to have a continuous sleep as the train rattle and bustle, and such difficulties are increased when you get bunk beds right next to the sink area where Chinese men unfortunately like to practice their spitting skills.

The Painted Veil (2006). A British medical doctor fights a cholera outbreak in a small Chinese village, while also being trapped at home in a loveless marriage to an unfaithful wife. [IMDB]. The 20 Yuan note looks like this:

The final destination of our Chinese backpacking adventure was Yangshuo, best known from the movie ‘The Painted Veil’ (though I am yet to watch it) or the 20 Yuan bill. And what a way to end the journey!!! Situated right by the Li River, and surrounded by stunning peaks this was without a doubt the most beautiful stretch of our travels. It is really difficult to do the nature justice –I promise you, even if you visit it, you will be speechless. We stayed at the best hostel ever –No Kidd Inn– I must really promote and recommend this hostel. Not only was it a cosy interior, but the staff was so friendly and interacted with their guests as if everyone were best friends. Also, their rooftop overlooking the river was not too shabby. Drifting down Li River in a bamboo raft was probably the most serene activity on this trip. It was hard to take it all in. There you are, drifting at the slowest pace possible, having all the time in the world to take in the moment. The peaks are everywhere you turn, and looks like something straight out of a postcard. It is the perfect place to get away from fast-paced modernity. Whilst such a cliché statement is often used in connection with the country-side, these limestone mountains bring about a magical aurora that embraces you and make you forget about the nuisances of everyday life. The different shapes and forms make this an idyllic journey, which you don’t want to miss. We rented bikes from our hostel and had them with us the whole day, and also as we had to cross the river (where Mette had a hard time haggling; the woman clearly had monopoly on that stretch of the river, and there was no other choice but to cross). As most Danes know, biking becomes an everyday activity, especially if you live in Copenhagen: a way of transport, a taken-for-granted endeavor. However, being surrounded by the Yangshuo peaks while biking is absolutely magical. My neck was in severe pain that evening. I had simply been so busy taking in everything during the bike trip. We also stopped at Moon Hill, in order to climb the top and get some amazing views. There is probably no need to say, but we were drenched from sweat that day. A journey was also made to the rice terraces of this Chinese province, an almost 4-hour bus ride away. Unfortunately, we somehow got pressured into first going to a smaller village at the foot of the terraces, where the women are known for having excessively long hair. It was very Disneyland-inspired, but not worth the extra money. But I suppose I now have some very commercial pictures of women combing their hair on a stage. The views of the rice terraces were nonetheless stunning, and made up for the tourist trap. It was definitely disappointing that the trip had already come to an end. Nothing compares to travelling for longer periods at a time. You feel alive and humble as your senses are working in overdrive to take everything in. But as we were heading towards Hong Kong, excitement caught up with me. I will continue elaborating on my adventures whilst I am on exchange at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and I hope continue following my journey. :)

//Krissy

Concrete Jungle

Shanghai is real China, but perhaps just not the real China you had in mind.

Such begins the chapter in the ever faithful ‘Lonely Planet’, the backpackers Bible.

When I reminisce and think back to the very beginning of my journey, the contrasts are undeniable. There are no similarities between the Mongolian steppes and this concrete jungle I finally reached: Shanghai. Walking the famous Shanghai pedestrian street of Nanjing Road and strolling along the pier at The Bund, I almost feel like I entered a different country. Modernity screams at you wherever you wander, and you quickly come to realise that this is the future of this region – not the dusty imperial palaces I left behind in Beijing.

Architectural wonders
Architectural wonders

Also, the obsessive picture-requests and the obligatory peace-signs whilst taking such are no longer part of my everyday life. The city is veiled in annoying Western civility. That said, Shanghai has an addictive charm. The city is vibrant and vivacious. The skyscrapers are architectural wonders, and your neck is bent to its limits as you try to take snap-shots of the reflections of the clouds in these wondrous buildings. And lets face it, the glamorous life will always draw humanity in. A year or two in this city would not conjure up much protest from me; nor will my closet object, as it will be replenished by the many shopping opportunities.

An example of the beautifully intricate Chinese Calligraphy. via China the Beautiful.

Shanghai has a really cool art scene, with a few, free delights. We managed to find Shanghai Art Gallery down by The Bund, which had a really fascinating display of modern photography (and other funky installations). The space had a rustic downtown NYC-apartment-feel to it, with a world-class view over Shanghai skyline. However, a thin brown linen was rightfully covering the windows so as not to detract from the art. Shanghai Museum (a museum of ancient Chinese art) was also visited, but because we have seen more potteries, snuff-bottles and bronze figures than my heart can possibly contain (apologies to my archeology roomie back in Denmark!), we skipped most of it and just enjoyed the calligraphy exhibition.

Have a click or 8 on the Google map. Each placemark includes a little info of the site it represents. :)

The Chinese charm can also be found in Old Town, built in the 11th century, where we sloped around in the humid weather. Generally, Shanghai is full of lovely neighborhoods and small quarters, if the skyscrapers and modernity get too much for you.

Shanghai Old Town

Due to the French Concession until 1946, a lot of typical European architectural styles can be easily detected. In fact, many of the streets in this city bring forth many childhood memories, as I spent five or six summers straight in France. Most Shanghai side streets have a row of trees on each side, and this leafy effect, along with the little light that seeps through the canopy makes me feel like I am back in Aix en Provence.

France or China

The Urban Planning Exhibition is also highly recommendable. If you are just the slightest interested in architecture, this is the place for you; one can easily use an entire day here. It will also appeal to the kid inside of you, with a panorama-3D visual video, which takes you through the city. Also, the many after-and-before pictures of Shanghai will evidently shock you. The city sure did not look the same in the 1980s.

The highlight of my stay in Shanghai was definitely the very lovely dinner Mette and I got to enjoy at couch-surfer-Nicole’s beautiful apartment, along with her boyfriend Daniel. I must once again praise this concept. As I entered the apartment, I met two strangers, and after 5 lovely hours, I left the building socially enriched (and also with a stomach full of mouth-watering food). We got around important life-topics, everything from schooling systems, politics and Chinese history and hope I can one day show them around Copenhagen.

And here’s delightful footage of the Bund, taken from The Guardian:


//Krissy

Warriors and Love

Calligraphy - Xi'an
Calligraphy – Xi’an

Mette and I decided to add some extra adventures to our already tight schedule. We therefore embarked on a 12+ hour train-ride with the locals heading for Xi’an. For some unexplainable reason we thought it would be fairly simple to get tickets, if only we used the hostels to help us write down the right cities and stations in Chinese characters. But of course, in a city considered one of the most populous in the world, others are bound to have the same idea of taking the train. On such trains, you will find an array of ticket choices: soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat, hard seat, no seat. Luckily, there were hard seats left (read: do-able seats, but expect some back/neck pain and very little sleep). Once again, we were the main attraction on the entire ride. Walking to and from the less than rosy toilet becomes a journey you would rather avoid. And expect the floor to be flooded by cup-noodle and nutshells. Despite a night with very little sleeping, everyone proved friendly and just showed their curiosity – and we managed to reach Xi’an on a budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 9, 2012

Archaeologists have unveiled 110 new terracotta army statues excavated near the 2,000-year tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang. [via Globalpost]

Tourists visit Xi’an to go see the Terracotta Army, which is an hours bus-ride away from the city walls. What is most astonishing about this site is how it was found randomly by some Chinese farmers as they were digging for a well. It’s hard to imagine their faces when they found more than 6000 stone warriors, each different in size and with varying facial expressions. A lot of archeological activity is still going on, so you almost feel included in this astonishing find as you walk around the various pits, which make up the museum.

However, the city of Xi’an is underrated.

Mette and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the Muslim Quarter where it is exceptionally atmospheric at night with all the food stalls and the steam clouding your face as you stroll around the lanes. So much food we have never seen before. Women were bearing colourful scarfs and the most delightful smells will hit you – make sure to spend some time here.

Venice of the east – Suzhou

From Xi’an we took the train to Suzhou, an even longer train ride -> still on hard seats.  Suzhou is known for its classical gardens and its water canals, like a little mini Venice of the East. These areas were so peaceful and serene, and had we been luckier with the weather, two days would easily have been too short a stay. It was also my first time to try couch-surfing here. Carly was the best first-hostess one could have hoped for, and when I get back to Denmark I have to persuade my roomies so that we sign up as couch-surfers as well. Such an amazing opportunity to get an authentic experience and meet new amazing people. Carly and her roomie not only treated us to a home-cooked meal, but also took us out for hot pot and Tsingtao, and I hope both will come visit us in Copenhagen one day.

Suzhou was also filled with love and romance. We happened to hit up the city on the Chinese Valentines Day, where glittery roses can be purchased on most street corners for the lucky lady. The story behind this day was told to us by several locals, and it is a rather cute one. In short, cowherd meets fairy-like girl, love and marriage, heavenly Goddess finds out, forbids girl to love a mere mortal, boy and girl can only meet one night a year.

And with such a tragic yet heartwarming ending, this post on our extra adventures shall be considered complete.

The photos are taken by me, using my trusty Sony point-and-shoot camera, and edited in Lightroom 4 by my boyfriend back at home. ♥

/Krissy