Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wide Open Spaces


July 28th was my last day of work and we had to move out of our apartment on July 30th leaving me jobless and homeless until August 24th when I am to start orientation with my new company (while I wait to see if my work visa will even be attainable...)

Nonetheless after working stressful hours and being extremely bored with the city of Shenzhen, I decided to plan a trip around China. Traveling around China is // can be extremely cheap--much cheaper than booking a plane ticket home. While i have a visa to be here I might as well see as many places as I can right?

I have never been so excited to travel somewhere by myself and just adventure around...I was in need of what the Dixie Chicks would call wide open spaces. (Never in a million years did I ever imagine traveling alone in a country where I can barley communicate with the local people!)

I found 2 places on the UNESCO Heritage site that I wanted to see then used this gem and Adoga to plan my trip from there

(note: if you are ever traveling in a place you don't really know the language, booking your hostels or hotels first may not be the best idea--ill explain in further detail later! Luckily Adoga was a fabulous site that allowed me to quickly and easily change my reservation dates around...with the help of free wi fi and my iPhone) 

My brief outline of travel plans--which i actually came pretty close to following
I over budgeted my trip (I knew i had more than enough) but I still chose to take the cheapest most public form of transportation when I could. I think this gave me a lot better feel for the places I was traveling in. 

Two weeks of luggage. I ended up buying another side bag mid trip. After walking/metro-ing to the train station in Shenzhen my back already hurt from the heavy backpack. I wouldn't be surprised if I have back problems in the near future. 

I left Shenzhen for Changsha at 8pm on July 31st. It was an overnight train and I purchased the ticket that day. From what I think I could understand, all other tickets were sold out except the cheapest one.

Yup. No more slow trains. The smoking area was right next to where I sat (if you look in the picture above) The entire 10 hour trip there were at least 2+ men smoking. 

We were across from this guy. I sat with a 19 year old boy and two older women who were friends. They thought I was crazy for traveling by myself with limited Chinese. 

Four people packed in this space not comfortable. My butt hurt for a week after this. By the end of the trip our legs were tangled and I was sleeping on the 19 year old kid.

Not to mention the lights stayed on the entire 10 hours. The train stopped a few times on the way to Changsha so I had to keep asking the women if it was Changsha.

People came around selling food. Imagine being on a plane, train, bus...ect. and someone whips out a can of tuna. All chinese travel snacks smell much worse than tuna. Pickled eggs, meat, and fish are staples. Mid trip the women whipped out some home cooked chicken feet. Chicken feet are similar to wings but A LOT more bones. Mid chewing they offered me a chicken foot--i politely declined. Where did they spit the bones? On the floor right next to our feet.

Overall no more slow trains. With so many ways to travel in china (and to Changsha) I was definitely with the lowest class. My ticket was 140 RMB which is about $20. 

We arrived at Changsha at about 8 in the morning. I was traveling to this funky ancient town called Fenghuang. In order to get there I needed to take a 7 hour bus to Jishuo then an hour bus to Fenghuang. 18 hours of straight traveling! 

There was some sort of train station right outside the station so I searched for Jishou (no pinyin--I had to look up the characters on my google translate--吉首 

After 10 minutes of wandering in and out of buses I gave up. There were people yelling places and showing buses so I found a lady who was going to Jishou and bought a bus ticket from her. She led me to this private room with a group of other people and then right before 10:30 we walked across the street and taaaadahhhh there was the long distance bus stop. She brought us right on to the bus--she only charged us 20 RMB($3.50) more than the actual tickets from the stop...cant complain i probably wouldn't have found the long distance bus stop on my own!

The view on the way was beautiful! I slept most of the way there. Getting a bus from Jishou to Fenghuang was very easy. Once I made it in Fenghuang finding my hotel was like a scavenger hunt. I had the address on my phone but the taxi from the bus station couldn't physically drive down the road so he just dropped me off and charaded the general direction to walk. 

I found the main street along the river and then just started showing people the address. Finally someone helped lead me up a little side alley to the hotel. 

There were so many little places right on the water. Luckily my hotel was in a pretty good location but in the future i would just find accommodation once i arrived. 

I got in around 5pm and went out to find food and to explore. Such a beautiful city! I was one of the only foreigners there. 

A lot of jerky--pig face seems to be a specialty. 

And snake wine. From the right the first three are snake wine, the fourth one is some sea creature and I'm almost positive the last one is testicles of a large animal. 

Within the city it was mostly touristy shops and some history attractions of the old city. 

This was one of the cleanest nicest jerky shops I came across. Everything was in boxes. 

So much touristy shopping!

On the main stretch was a food street. Vendors for probably a mile doing noodles, barbecue, fruit, honey (the top right picture)...every food you can imagine. 

The next day i woke up early to walk the other way down the river. The people who own the hotels//live there were doing laundry in the river

Many tourists here take a boat tour

There were many touristy bars

I didn't see many foreigners though, most tourists were chinese people. 

Such a breath of fresh air from the big city! 

Ginger candy is the specialty here

You could watch them make it--the guy isn't wearing gloves 

Ginger candy covered in some sort of nutty outside

There was also tons of dried kiwi and kiwi juice

This is my hotel--not too bad for the price--just not a fan of the squatter toilet. ehhh 

I left for the bus station around 2pm--not even a full day here! I can't really imagine staying much longer though. 

The next stop was Zhangjiajie, a four hour bus north from Fenghuang

The essentials: some baked lays--some meat flavor, herbal tea, and a long book

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