A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: brent.leslie

This blog!

Getting lazier with old age

Hi all one person that is reading this!

OK, I am embracing my inner laziness whilst actually, potentially making this blog better. Instead of WRITING a blog, I am now RECORDING a blog. After purchasing a Galaxy Note II (a particularly awesome phone, I might add), I have realised that I may as well just record everything to movies on said phone. As uploading data doesn't take much time and the video is much more fun and, well, just generally better, its a win-win for everyone!

So, without further ado, head to my youtube channel here for all my videos!

Brents youtube channel

Posted by brent.leslie 07:36 Archived in China Comments (0)

To Hong Kong & Guangzhou

Another visa run, this time take the girlfriend and cannily meet friends while there!

Ahhh the visas. I was half in process of getting a student visa for a year through a friend of a friend. I am actually studying, but won't be studying at a school, so need to use some guangxi (relationships) to get a visa. However due to some holdups etc I found myself with a visa about to expire which necessitates a trip to Hong Kong for another tourist visa. Since I love HK, it's not really a big drama for me as long as I have the cash and this time my girlfriend doesn't have a job (she was looking but was jobless for a couple of months) so we decide to go together.

This is the strange thing though: In order for my girlfriend to go to HK, she needs a visa. So to travel within her own country, she needs a visa. Huh?? There are actually good reasons for this though - previously when HK was handed back to China the place was flooded with people from the mainland as HK was considerably richer than mainland China. This gap is closing quickly, but still exists - the cool thing these days is for rich people from the mainland going to HK for a shopping trip. Due to the flood of people though, the Chinese govt realised they needed a visa program to slow the flood - hence a visa for Chinese people to visit HK. Its quite funny though - I can go to HK visa free for 90 days. My girlfriend needs to apply for a HK/Macau visa which is issued for a maximum of 7 days in a special HK/Macau passport book which she also has to apply for. WEIRD!

Anyway, we booked tickets on the train and off we went! I hadn't really been to Guangzhou yet (I biked across the city on my way back to NZ last time), so we decided to use the last few days of my visa up visiting Guangzhou. We didn't regret this as Guangzhou was surprisingly pleasant, despite a lot of rain and hot weather. Its a pretty easy to get around humongous city with a good subway and enough parks/sights/food etc to keep us interested for a few days.











Then it was off to Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Walking across the bridge to HK was pretty exciting, we had to split up because I am a foreigner. Pookles was questioned a lot and had her bag searched as she was from Yunnan (drug capital province of China!). Mine was sweet though and I ended up talking to an Indian guy who was bringing his family for the first time. They were getting a lot of questions at the border!

In Hong Kong we stayed at one of my favourite places - Lamma Island - a little island out in the middle of HK bay. Its very laid back out there and is a good retreat from HK central. Plus the island has awesome running tracks on it, whoop! The only problem was CM was sick for 2 reasons: she had never been on a boat in the sea (sea sickness, though she never spewed!) and she suffered a bit as it was the first time she had been down at sea level. Low altitude sickness DOES exist, we can confirm it (she has spent her life at 2000m+!). The result was a nauseous CM for a few days, but that wasn't too bad as I had to study for my IT exam, which I passed (just!) on our 5th day there.

We also met up with Droo and Hayley while we were there. Droo studied with me at CIT and they were passing through HK on their way back to NZ. Was great that we could time our trips there for the same time - we ended up meeting up with them and hanging out for a couple of days.









Posted by brent.leslie 00:56 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged visa hong_kong guangzhou shenzhen Comments (0)

Lots of stuff

OK, so I haven't updated this for...ever it seems like... wow 10 months!

Its been a while. There has been some pretty exciting things happening. Also lots of boring things. Basically.... its been a while!

Since the last time I blogged I have:

  • Gone through 3 seasons
  • Travelled to Chengdu to catch up with a friend and his pregnant wife
  • Chun Jie (spring festival) at my girlfriends hometown
  • Travelled to Guangzhou/HK with my girlfriend
  • Done one heck of a lot of study and a whole lot more work
  • Moved to a different part of the city for my girlfriends new job (was in the North, now in the South)
  • Travelled to Xinjiang and hiked in the Tian Shan mountains
  • Done one heck of a lot of work

I rang my dad the other day. HE was the one reading my blog! Actually, looking at the page views there have been quite a few people, most are probably just the result of me getting just the right amount of word hits to show up in peoples google searches, but hey, I'll take them!

Right, I will start off with the most exciting things.

Start of the year we headed back to my girlfriends home town for Chun Jie (or Spring Festival). Basically this is the time when everyone goes back to their hometown in China to catch up with all their family and friends. If you hadn't heard, China has rapidly urbanised in the last 30 years or so resulting in a massive amount of people leaving their hometowns to work in east coast cities. So during this period 90% of people go back to their hometowns, causing MASSIVE transit problems and huge people movements. Actually I am surprised the gravity and spin of the earth isn't affected by this mass movement!

We went back to hang out with her family and catch up with friends, just like everyone else. ShiZong was pretty much party town by the time we got there, people letting off ridiculous amounts of fireworks, lots of people drinking, lots of family times and playing with friends. We joined in the action for a week, which to me passed in a blaze of really cold weather combined with lots of baijiu (rice wine - 40%!), sore ears (fireworks) and too much food. Basically, I had a ball! Chen Min's family are all really nice to me and didn't treat me like an outsider at all, I feel like I have already joined the family! Stupidly though, I forgot my camera, all I have is a few measly photos taken by my really bad camera phone to remember the time by! They are all blurry and terrible so I won't hurt your eyes by uploading them. The one exception is this one shot when we went to a cave:


Anyway, will write about the others in the following blog entry's...

Posted by brent.leslie 21:46 Archived in China Tagged cave shizong chunjie Comments (0)

Wedding in my gals hometown

First Chinese wedding... and first time to meet the family!

One of my girlfriends friends got married over the weekend. As the bridesmaid (in China generally they have a single bridesmaid they call "sister"!) my girlfriend had to organise and be on hand, helping the bride with everything and anything on the day. She also had to dress up (unusual for her, she is very down to earth and doesn't wear makeup etc normally) and look pretty in front of the cameras, which I think she secretly relished!

The wedding was held in her hometown of Shizong, about 100km due east of Kunming. We hopped on a train on the Thursday night, arrived 2 hours later and found a hotel. The first night was one of not much sleep though due to a Karaoke bar downstairs, a main road being 10m away and some weird effect which appeared to amplify all sound into our paper thin glass windows. That was enough of that hotel, so the next day we booked into another one. On the way though we walked through my girlfriends hometown and checked out all her old haunts!

Old high school:

Old primary school (we couldn't go in as the guards said we would be too much of a disruption to the students... they were right!):

After looking around a bit we headed to the brides house where all the gals were getting prepared with makeup/hair/dresses, all of the things that a bride does in any culture! I was left witht he family of the bride who were pretty happy to have me in their home anyway and fed me lots of yummy tea! The family didn't speak much English and all communication that I heard was in the Yunnan dialect, which while close to standard Chinese, is only really recognisable by a native Chinese speaker. As a lao wai that can't yet speak standard Chinese speaker, I didn't have a shot! Some of them switched to standard Chinese though after they realised I spoke a little and I had some (fairly one sided) chats with them.

After about an hour, the groom showed up! This is a fairly big event as all the sisters (while there is 1 bridesmaid proper, all the friends are sisters!) play tricks on him and stop him from getting to the bride. He has to bribe them with hong bao (red packets containing money!) and complete their challenges to gain access to the bride. I thought I would help and was the main force behind him not being able to get access through the front door! Eventually I relented though and let him throught (he was a bit shocked there was a lao wai stopping him!) but my girlfriend waylayed him on the steps making him answer a question for each landing up the stairs. Ha haa, was very funny. At the top he still had to get into the brides room, which took a lot of pushing and answering questions again. Eventually he got in there by slipping more hong bao under the door!

The groom trying to get in:


He made it!

I aren't too sure about the ceremony in the room but there is a lot of talking and a few speeches before he gets to take his bride. Traditionally in China the bride will come and live with the mans family, so there is a traditional carrying of the bride to the mans home. Her feet are not allowed to touch the ground during the trip there so the groom has to carry her!


Your carriage awaits:


Finally they all left in the car and I was with the brides family again. After another hour it was time to go to the restaurant for dinner - 1 of 2 today, lunch for the brides family, dinner for the grooms. As the date was 11/11/11 though, there were many weddings at these popular venues!

The wedding party arrived after a short wait and we all piled into the restaurant for lunch. My girlfriend and the best man are supposed to welcome people and make sure everyone is happy which they did well, plastering everyone with snacks and ciggerettes outside! The lunch was OK (I didn't eat much after eating a chickens head!) with a few speeches and lots of photos. They have an MC which coordinates everything and it all goes smoothly. After lunch my girlfriend and I went back to the hotel to rest a little. We then went back to the brides house and hung out again before dinner.







Dinner was very similar (but the food was much tastier!) with a few speeches, chit chat and lots of eating! Afterwards it was off to a Karaoke bar where there was a bit more drinking and singing. Fun fun!

Chen Mins best friend Song Wen:

The boys at karaoke:

The next day we had a bit of a sleep in due to the nights activities and the night before getting very little sleep. Well Chen Min had a sleep in, I went running! There was a nice temple on a hill nearby when we came in, I decided to run up to it through the town. I got a few looks and some help from some local teenagers to get up to the temple, then came back the same way to the hotel and showered. We then took off to have lunch in one of my girlfriends favourite haunts before going to meet my girlfriends aunty, dad and step mum! Her dad was a bit nervous but he seemed to relax after a while and he eventually he said he approves of me (whew!) and that he just wanted his daughter to be happy. I guess we have his blessing then!

After a while we took off to the market where lots of Chen Mins relatives sell fish and pork. We hung out there for a while and I got to see all the action of a small town Chinese market, which I am pretty used to but like all the same! Once all the meet and greets were done we grabbed a couple of cousins that Chen Min wanted to hang out with and went walking around the town. Walking around was interesting with lots of people shocked to see a lao wai in their home town, but I am used to all the stares. Chen Min was getting a little tired of it though! After lots of chats we went back to a restaurant nearby Chen Mins dads house and had dinner with all the family. It was really fun as all the aunties and uncles were catching up, eating, drinking, and talking about Chen Min and I as a match and how that would work in the future. It appeared that they all thought it would all be OK though as no one got particularly testy! One aunty suggested however that I should shave my beard off as I would look younger! OK, something to remember for spring festival when I will be back here next! After dinner we hung out in a local pub with one of Chen Mins friends and drunk beer while they caught up.

Another cousin:

Chen Mins uncle, a fish farmer/seller:

Dinner! So good, but so much meat!:

A cheeky cousin!

At a bar with another friend:

With Chen Mins sister at the local reservoir:

The next day was more hanging out and seeing family, we finally left at around 4pm on a bus back to Kunming. What a good weekend!

Posted by brent.leslie 21:20 Archived in China Tagged wedding shizong Comments (1)


First holiday away with the gal!

We and the rest of China decided to head to Lijiang for the October National Day holidays. Its an overnight (or 8 hour) train ride away from Kunming which was pretty cool. We had a "soft sleeper" on the way there and a "hard sleeper" on the way back. The only difference really is the hard sleeper is 3 bunks high and a bit more squashed, the soft sleeper is 2 bunks high and has a little more room.

The attraction of Lijiang is it has a really nice old town area and is close to the mountains. The town is set in a big wide valley with a few 5500m peaks around it, which on a good day you can see. Its also the closest real town to the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the deepest canyon in the world. I will have to head up here again at some point to either run or hike it as we didn't get to it this time.

I booked our accommodation online in a place away from the tourist hordes (well, reasonably) in another old town area called Shuhe (pronounced Shoe-her) which is about 10km away from Lijiang. We spent most of our time there though and a couple of days walking around Lijiang old town. Its a pretty nice spot, even with all the tourists and has a lot of history with plaques showing things like "This is where Kublai Khan (Ghenghis Khans grandson and heir) and his men drank water from"!!!! Coming from NZ (where our visible history only stretches back to the white man due to the tribal and fluid nature of the early Maori) this is quite awesome!

The towns have really pretty canals running through them and old buildings abound. Its a great place to go and I would recommend it to anyone (though try and go outside of the Chinese holidays!).

I managed to go running one morning while I was there. I tell you, running from 2400m up to 2900m isn't to be taken lightly! I was a bit dizzy on the way up and had to stop running around the 2700m mark for fear of falling over! I guess the altitude takes some getting used to for that sort of activity...

Check out the pics anyway!

















Posted by brent.leslie 07:04 Archived in China Tagged lijiang Comments (0)

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