A Travellerspoint blog

The Big Year Out-Singapore,So Good they Named it Twice!

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large_1842667_13488270751767.jpg%footway in sultanSingapore,Singapore so good they named it twice!

We fell in love with Singapore, well its hard not too, friendly people, friendly place, easy to get round, lovely food, stunning Architecture, and so clean….Actually I am still in Love with it!

Our first taste ofSingapore was the SMRT (metro) so easy to navigate and very cheap, escalators to anywhere above or below ground floor. It needed to be easy we had had quite a difficult time in China and we needed a break.Singapore was it!

We followed the easy instructions to our Hostel, 5footway Hostel near the Masjid Sultan Mosque. This was literally ten minutes walk from the metro (reviewed). Welcomed by friendly staff who didn’t argue about price, booking or even taking us in the first place because we might actually dare to be “tourists”.large_1842667_13488270761773.jpg Such a difference, we had arrived after a late flight (9.00a.m.) we didn’t really feel up to the rigours of sights seeing after a 24hr escape journey from China, so settled down with a drink at the tables and chairs just outside the Hostel. Booking in time is not before3.00p.m.But we did get into our room at 12, I think they realised how tired we were and very kindly let us rest. We didn’t venture far from our Hostel that evening we had spotted on the way in a steak house with something on the menu we had not seen for 6mths. Jacket Potato, I know silly things you miss from home, but this was one we did not want to pass up. We were ideally situated with so many lovely eateries around us, we could have had local food, Indian, Persian, Egyptian, Western in fact it was a bit like being back inLondon, anything we liked was in easy reach.large_1842667_13488270761946.jpg The street next door had a collection of more shops inc. a small (by Singaporean standards) mall. A 7-11(handy for drinks etc) various take aways, hairdressers (where I got a great haircut), foot massages etc. Oh and only ten minutes walk from the metro with a great small eatery that did a great dumpling soup for breakfast, right next door to the KFC, and Subway and just down from the Pizza hut!! Don’t worry didn’t fancy those.

Our first day we took a bit easy (hah!) we made for the shopping mall (this was huge) for the nearest M&S. Now I don’t know if anyone has told you, but after 6mths travelling your clothes start to fall apart, especially Angela’s trousers, and we had both lost a lot of weight so this was going to be serious downsizing! Not sure by how much but it was serious, Angela had lost around 25kilos and I have lost around 20.large_1842667_13488270773363.jpg I knew Angela would find something but I wasn’t sure about me, sure enough good ‘ol M&S came up with the goods. Angela had dropped two dress sizes and so had I, the first time I had sampled the clothes from M&S since before I had my first daughter (22yrs), Woohoo, what a result. Both feeling better attired (did I mention how nicely dressed everyone is in Singapore) than when we walked into the mall, we stocked up on the daily sundries. We basically spent the day around that and getting our bearings and working out the air conned metro, nice and relaxed with no pressure worrying about how we were going to get around.

I did manage to sample the healthcare system here in Singapore, after a nasty fall on one of their spotless pavements and giving myself a large nasty gash on my right knee, we sought help from a nearby hostel close to where it had happened.large_1842667_1348827077762.jpg They kindly brought out their first aid kit, flagged down a taxi (much quicker & faster than an Ambulance) to take me to The Raffles Hospital, where I was greeted by a gent with a wheelchair ready to take me straight to A&E. few minutes later I was Triaged and sent for three x rays on my knee to make sure there was no other damage returned to A&E for 14 very very neat stitches. The cost? Not as hideous as you might think £260 saw me with all that plus 10 ten days worth of antibiotics and four changes of dressing at the two day later check for infection (all clear) for a further £45 saw the total bill at a very reasonable cost, I was impressed, and thank goodness for travel Insurance.

Singapore is a wonderful place with one caveat the attractions (brilliant and stunning as they are ) are expensive and your RTW budget can take a hammering, so our focus was on cheap and free things to do.large_1842667_13488270781916.jpg We had spotted the Changy museum advertised which is actually free, but we paid 8SD for the audio tour which is excellent. This is definitely worth a visit if you are here, thoughtfully laid out and very moving especially when you listen to first hand accounts of peoples experiences at the hands of the Japanese. A box of tissues might be needed for some people. We saw a lot of Australians visiting and people were encouraged to leave their thoughts and comments, a fitting memorial to such a waste of life and all nationalities that were there were represented equally, a sobering experience.

We decided that we wanted something quiet after that so the cities Botanical Gardens was our next destination. We picked up some food supplies from the nearest supermarket (a bit like a small M&S) and settled down in the beginning part of the park.large_1842667_13488270788199.jpg There were Singaporean Au Pairs with ex pat children having a great time there. The Botanical Gardens are very big and house an OrchidGarden, a Ginger Garden, a Health Garden along with a rainforest and small lake. I was primarily interested in the OrchidGarden as this stopped selling ticket at 6pm and it was getting on for that we hotfooted it to there first. Angela decided to sit this one out and just wanted to look outside and relax. Heaven for me to see such beautiful collection of flowers in their natural climate. My camera had a field day (around 150 shots of differing blooms), so many colours, shapes and variations. The garden is laid out as a garden with a smooth stone path running all the way through it (did I mention how disable friendly Singapore is?) they have a VIP plant centre where they prepare plants for “ fostering international good will” by gifting them to other countries.large_1842667_13488270798311.jpg They also had a green house, without glass but instead with green netting to prevent the plants from scorching to death in themiddaysun. They were stunning! I spent around two hours in there and was left to let myself out along with three or four other people. We walked back through the park to the metro, and passed lots of people including single females jogging in the park, unremarkable except that it was now8.30pmand I don’t know anywhere else a single woman would feel safe doing this. Note the park was well lit.

Our next day we decided that we would take the LP Little India Walk, as LI is not far from our accommodation we decided we would walk it. The main aim of being to see up close the mosques, temples and colonial Architecture.large_1842667_13488270794000.jpg We started with the Masjid Sultan Mosque which was just round the corner from our accommodation. This modern looking, twin domed mosque with its attached madrasa was impressive. When you enter you walk into a large vestibule. If you are not properly attired they will offer you a blue gown to cover up with. Basically chaps & girls in shorts and strappy tops need to be sensitive. Once up the few stairs you are greeted by a huge prayer hall, non muslin visitors are not allowed into the prayer hall or upstairs but you can walk in the wide corridors by the sides which allow you to see in through the wide wooden doors. Back in the vestibule there is a brilliant display about Islam and the prayer process. It was very informative without being intrusive.large_1842667_13488270803928.jpg We actually got quite a lot out of it, considering we thought we knew quite a lot, how shall I say, it took the mystery out of the praying five times a day and how and what they do during this time.

After passing neatly coloured tower blocks and colonial Architecture of the usual shop front buildings. We stopped by the Kampong Kapo rMethodist Church, a sight for sore eyes amongst all the mix of colonial and modern buildings around us. The Manse which sits behind it is now a private dwelling. It is still a functioning church with a thriving congregation so we moved on as there was a mother and baby group meeting inside. Our next viewing was Sri Srinivasa Permul Temple a beautiful temple adorned with many effigies of all beautiful colours along with its own swami, again camera time.large_1842667_13488270807362.jpg

Following the LP guide we continued the route to a cluster of three temples one Buddhist and two Taoist. The Buddhist temple was lovely, butted up next door to the first of two Taoist temples. It had a large Buddha in the main hall , with a small reclining buddha in a chamber behind the main one. The guide at the temple was very helpful and explained that there were info cards at the entrance in several different languages inc. English. Yay! After visiting theTemple we of course dropped in next door to theTaoist Templewhich was really more like a shrine with the real deal across the road. This one housed a golden round shaped Buddha as well, almost like they had merged the two together Buddhism and Taoism.

We continued on our LP round Little India walk picking out colonial buildings with my camera.large_1842667_13488270803136.jpg We were on our way back to our Hostel when I had this fall, the one that I rolled my foot over and landed on one ofSingapore’s spotless pavements and ended up inRafflesHospitaland 14 stitches to my left knee later! And the excellent medical facilities and a super Dr., who did some very very neat stitching, bit likeSingaporereally.

Another place to visit is Santosa Island, joined by Cable car (and road) to the Fake Island of palm trees, sand and as I affectionately call it, “Stromboli Land”, We took the cable car to the Singapore side and then back to the Island, you fee includes entrance to the Island so you might as well explore. There are various packages that include theme park rides and attractions. We didn’t as my knee didn’t allow and actually they didn’t really appeal to me, but great for families.large_1842667_13488270817064.jpg We took the cable car to the Singapore side and you do get stunning views from the mount, the café right on top of the cable car station does do food and drinks(very expensive) and is a lovely viewing place if you cant stand the viewing platform round the outside. It’s just it will cost you. We walked a bit further on after walking the viewing platform and found another nice place to stop and view the City side of theIsland. This was a bit more reasonable and the staff were lovely. After tiring ourselves out eating and drinking and relaxing we took the cable car back to Santosa, there for your cable car fee you can see the Merlion, get a free beach bus that drops you off anywhere along the fake beach which is pristine, the cove is carefully buoyed off from all the super tankers that que up to get into what I can only describe as the tidiest and cleanest docks I have seen anywhere in the World! Beach front restaurants are everywhere and in true Singaporean style offer all World foods for a slightly higher price.large_1842667_13488270812302.jpg The views from the cable cars during the day and returning at night are well worth the fee. It is particularly magical at night seeing theIslandfrom such a height all lit up below. The City is also spectacular with its sky scrapers illuminated and dock areas. Very romantic.

So it doesn’t probably sound like we did a lot in Singapore, but actually it was at our usual pace and considering my accident we did quite a bit. Singapore is a feast of Architecture (colonial & new, the business district was stunning) we did another full days walkabout as I call it, just looking at it all (free activity again), eateries inc. the great value for money “Hawker centres”, holes in the wall, small cafes, small restaurants, larger restaurants, Western food outlets, giant malls (and I mean giant, one we went in was five malls all joined up together!) Open spaces (beautiful open spaces), Cultural melting pot, brilliant public transport, fantastic people, with politeness and helpful, what more can I saySingapore,Singapore, so GOOD they named it twice!


Posted by TheJohnsons 00:06 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Istaravshan to Penjikent

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large_1842667_13407922047966.jpgour 4x4 being loaded with everyones stuff. This one eventually took 9 adults one small child and a cage of budgies x4! Oh and I got the front seat.


Not really a great place! We got there by first getting a taxi to getting the old bus station in Khojand [Khojand-travel-guide-1358665] and then getting a shared minibus to Istaravshan [Istaravshan-travel-guide-1193313]. The shared minibus cost us 23TJKS each, so much cheaper than private taxi. We then paid another 4TJKS to get from outside the town into the centre (quite common in this area). We got dropped off just outside the Bazaar where we picked up a taxi to try and find somewhere to stay. Yes this time we had not booked anything in advance and decided to “go by wire”. Epic fail! We visited two establishments in the LP which were nothing short of dire! Our taxi driver managed ot find us the only decent place in town, near the 5D complex, you can’t miss it it looks like a fairly new build complex with children’s rides and peddelo pools etc.large_1842667_13407922058829.jpg We paid $50 a night for two people, it was very clean, and fairly modern. It was easy to pick up shared taxis to the bazaar from outside the road (anywhere along it you like) for just a couple of TJKS (flat rate). We were able to walk to the sogdian fort where Alexander beat them, as this was so close to the Hotel. We then picked up a taxi to the other two small sites, That was it for Istaravshan, nothing remarkable at all. I think I am glad we did visit it, but on the other hand I would say if you do not have the time, then don’t bother! You won’t miss much.

We decided that the next morning we would get up early to get a shared 4x4 to Penjikent [Penjikent-travel-guide-1325512], so back to the bazaar and this time it was very easy to find a car to get onto, negotiations on price done 150 TJKS each got us the 4x4 and decent driver you see in the pics.large_1842667_13407922063864.jpg We did however have to wait until around11.00a.m.before departure, as what these drivers seem to do is come in from Istaravshan with locals who then go to the bazaar (which is much bigger) do their shopping then get a shared 4x4 back over the mountain. Sweet! So we waited while our driver loaded up the roof rack with our luggage and various other goods (inc. watermelons) and squeezed 9 adults and 1 small child into the car, along with a cage of budgies(pic as proof!).

The climate here was noticeably cooler than we had been experiencing in Khojand and especially cooler thanUzbekistan. As we left the “one horse town” limits we noticed a rather noisy and cold rain storm making its way towards us, or maybe we were making our way towards it! I haven’t actually felt rain on any part of my body for 8 weeks, oh my! So lovely, I nearly asked the driver to stop and let me get out, but I was mindful that we had a minimum 6 hr journey ahead, so enjoyed a brief fling in the rain whilst the driver checked the taup on top of the rack on the luggage again.large_1842667_13407922063813.jpgYou didn't believe me about the budgies did you?Please be aware that no one else in the car spoke English, and neither of us speak Russian or Tajik, although my understanding of Russian is getting better, I guess I am just not confident enough to start the words, as I don’t like getting it to wrong and a. insulting their language and b. getting the wrong response. But jestures and smiles and mime go a long way with a few well placed English words they do understand. The will at least try. So do we, spectacularly badly!

I was a bit interested to see how and if I responded with any altitude sickness as we would be climbing upto the pass on the Mazar-i-sharif, approx. 3600km. The road up was a decent width for mountains and we passed lots of 4x4 and Lorries going both ways and strangely keeping to the rules of the road.large_1842667_13407998828271.jpg I was also a bit concerned as our driver kept opening and checking the driver’s side of the vehicle as we drove along, the reasons for this will become apparent later.

We were of course treated to spectacular views of the mountain and surround slightly smaller mountains and hills, looking down I could see the road below us winding its way like a ribbon on the side of the mountain, with a couple of toy looking cars as we ascended. The air did seem to become clearer and cleaner as we progressed and I did watch myself for signs of altitude sickness as this was my first ever climb at anything over a few hundred feet. All seemed ok, and other people in the car seemed to take the opportunity to start their lunch, I decided that the bumpy gravel track was not worth it, and I could eat later.large_1842667_13407998831468.jpg I did however keep up with sips of water. I must say our driver was top gun, he negotiated hairpin bends and snow and mud-sludge roads, carefully and at correct speeds. I guess as I do now, you know when your driver is a good ‘un. We did feel fairly safe with him. There was an elderly tajik couple with us, who were so chuffed that we were travelling with them all to see their beautiful country. He was really impressed to see me taking so many pics of our journey, and delighted in seeing them on my DSLR screen afterwards. I actually felt quite sorry for him; he had the budgie cage stuck between his legs the whole journey and they were not even his! When we did arrive at Penjikent I joked with the recipient of the budgies that they owed the old guy a few hundred TJKS for having gone thro torture with the birds, they did all think that was very funny inc.large_1842667_13407998836490.jpg the old guy.

As we neared the top of the pass the clouds did get a bit close, and it did get darker, and colder, surprise surprise! Bearing in mind I have never been this high! Hah, so once over the top, it’s all the way down, much steeper at first and a few crashed and mangled vehicles as a sober reminder of what goes on when the weather is bad or too dark or they don’t drive safely. None of them too recent it seemed. But still I noticed everyone in the car went quiet when we passed them.

As we got nearer the bottom of the valley I noticed and photographed works, and various heavy plant. This is apparently where the Chinese are “helping” the Tajiks build a tunnel through the mountain instead of having to maintain the pass at the top. Don’t worry it didn’t look like it was going to fast, but who knows we maybe some of the last few hundred or so people to go over the top, as I suspect it will get more expensive as not so much traffic will be passing that way in the future, which means it will be down to the expensive tour companies to make a killing.large_1842667_1340799884231.jpg

After the plant works we drove about another forty minutes before stopping at the Chaikana stops, of which there were at least four plus much needed squat toilets. Drinks had and refreshed, driver having finally eaten, and rested we were off again. We continued along the Zeravshan river valley we came across some stunningly carved gorges and towns perched on the edge of them with that Mediterranean look of tall cypress trees and houses close together, huddling for warmth. As we climbed gently back above the river valley our driver did one of his “open door” checks, for me the sound was unmistakable, loud hissing of rather a lot of air from the d/s rear tyre could be heard. We had a flat. He pulled over, and everyone out! He was quick and the old guy got some chock shaped rocks and we both stuck them under all four tyres.large_1842667_13408000126183.jpg As our driver was getting bottle jack out and spare tyre out from underneath the car another 4x4 which we had seen (friends of the driver) at Istaravshan pulled up, and 7 men jumped out! Hah so they thought we needed help and tyre was actually changed in about half an hour. We had lost time, and our driver then drove along at a quicker pace than before trying to keep up with his leader car, I put my seat belt on, having been told I was sitting in the front seat for the whole journey, I did so, but right now at around 70kmh I didn’t fancy it if he lost control, as soon as I did that he did slow down a bit, I think he realised that he was going just a tad fast for us chickens!

We arrived in Penjikent around5.30p.m.the rule seems to be be that these shared 4x4’s drop you off to your location so we asked to be dropped at Elina GH as per LP, and some blogs seem to suggest might be a good idea.large_1842667_13408000134828.jpg (Review later).


Posted by TheJohnsons 00:04 Archived in Tajikistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Samarkand

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large_1842667_13408175728411.jpgThis was for me the original driving force for me to come to Central Asia, how little I knew then! Hah! The Architecture of the Rejistan I had dreamed about when researching this trip and in many of my pictorial Architecture books at home, Lived up to all my expectations and more. Stunning, Stunning & Stunning. I was worried after seeing so many stunning Mosques in Iran that I would find the Rejistan an anti climax, nope, not one bit. Along with the Sha h-i-Zinda (the avenue of Mausoleums) which some consider an abomination of restoration, really do not know what they are talking about. Here I would rather see tasteful restoration than crumbled ruins, and overdone lego style fixes. These were stunningly beautiful. (Pictures will follow).large_1842667_13408175733880.jpg We stayed at Antica B&B (see review) and felt we were well placed for most of the sites and the Bazaar. We did just about all the sites around the Rejistan, and we hit Ulubeks Observatory early enough to miss the crowds and the heat of the day. Fabulous views can be had from here across the city and some of the other major sites (Rejistan, and old city walls). We also visited the “Tomb of Daniel” which was set beautifully next to a small river, and high up and the Afrosiab Museumwhich houses some stunning frescos inside along with some exhibits charting the eleven layers of civilisation. Pity the current residents are not so civilised! We were hassled all the way round by sellers that were allowed to sell some books and trinkets. They seemed to think that we didn’t know our way round or that when we finally got to the best bit(the frescos) that we couldn’t look at them without having demands for money for Photography(not Necessary, photography is free) and to buy some utter rubbish! We did feel that you have to give if you want to save something from the ravages of time.


Posted by TheJohnsons 00:04 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Spice Gardens & National Park

, Malaysia

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large_1842667_1354542105888.jpgBatu Ferringhi-

Spice Garden- We took the 101 bus to the Spice Gardens(about 15mins) which cost 15Rm each for entry you can get a guided tour for 25RM which could make the walk round a little more interesting from what we could see. We elected to take ourselves, possibly on reflection we wished we had gone with the guide. Nicely landscaped, very humid and hot, so start this one as early as you can. There is a lovely cafeteria at the top of the walk overlooking the bay. Where you can buy food and drink (a bit expensive, but a lovely view).

National Park forTurtleSanctuary & MonkeyBeach-We took the 101 bus (again) to the National Park area. The bus dropped us off about 3-4 yards from the main reception station where we were given an excellent intro to what and how to get about, along with your free map n registration of your entry into the park.large_1842667_13545421063246.jpg Although you do not have to book your boat back as well as there as there were plenty of boatmen offering return trips on spec. We clubbed together with 7 other tourists which brought our boat price down to around 17RM each person for return trip. First to the Turtle sanctuary, which were told no swimming allowed? Actually what we found when we got there was that people were swimming, so don’t believe everything you are told. The sanctuary was very quiet with the small tourist groups coming and going, plenty of information to read and a couple of newly hatched turtles to see. We then took the short walk (which felt like a long walk in the heat) to the one of the few small lakes where there is a layer of salt and fresh water that then work their way out to sea.large_1842667_13545421075332.jpg It was pretty dry when we visited in November but it was still interesting to see. All in we did have about 40minutes here and had a quick chance to paddle in the sea before the boat came to collect us to take us toMonkeyBeach. A short 10minute boat ride away back towards the start of our trip.

Monkey beach, very underdeveloped (great!) and almost idyllic Beach style white sand with beautiful palm trees lining the sand giving you shade even in the water in places. We had two hours there and wasted no time getting settled into the water which was lovely and calm and around 2-3 feet deep for some distance. Be aware that the tide does come in quickly here and almost covers all the beach making it almost disappear after two hours we were at the end of the beach that still had some sand access to it, another hour and that would have been gone too. We left with 5 of our party and left two who had decided they wanted to walk back along the 3.5km walk that takes you back through the interior to the park station. Definitely worth the visit and would have spent longer if we had realised that we could have.


Posted by TheJohnsons 23:50 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Singapore Street Art

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For those of you who thought Singapore was all skyscrapers and expensive Beer (which a lot of it is), here is something that I loved seeing on one of my walkabouts.


Posted by TheJohnsons 23:50 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

The Big Year Out - Zhangye & Matisi

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Once deep in the heart of the Chinese state of Gansu , on the outskirts of Zhangye are the Amazing Matisi Cave Temples. Carved out of solid rock face a group of 7 grottos hold holy relics and wonderful wall paintings and beautiful sculptures of the Buddha.

Surrounding the Mati Temple are beautiful hills, peculiar caves, unusual peaks and green waters. Tourists can get the chance to interact with the people of Yhugur Minority tribe, try the authentic stewed lamb and learn more about their cultural characteristics and their unique lifestyle as true nomads.




Posted by TheJohnsons 23:42 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Big Year Out -Wuwei Photos

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Posted by TheJohnsons 23:42 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Big Year Out- Urumqi Pics

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Blog to follow- I have to say that these were the best pics I could find, not a lot going on in Urumqi [Urumqi-travel-guide-246977] apart from a KFC that did not turn us away, I wouldn't bother stopping there again! We got turned away from three hotels that were supposed to be "tourist friendly" and ended up in a brothel (again). I must get some business cards made up next time I am in China!


Posted by TheJohnsons 23:42 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Big Year Out -Hotan Nr. Taklamakan Desert

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large_1842667_1348816681770.jpgIn the Peoples sq. Mao with local heroHotan- please note that there is more to come on Hotan [Hotan-travel-guide-221834]!!!!Just posting what I can when I can as internet is so hard to access in the western side.

Our 6hr bus journey from Yarkand [Yarkand-travel-guide-1335370] to Hotan was pretty uneventful. We got onto our bus at the Yarkand bus terminal, again helped by friendly local terminal staff. Same routine, bags away and seated we found ourselves on a bus full of mostly young people on their way back to College/University in Hotan. This journey was to skirt the southern side of theTaklamakanDesert. Only stops we experienced were the obligatory police check points, where everybody had to get off the bus to have their ID checked, as soon as they saw our passports we were waved through.large_1842667_13488166816540.jpgsome of the first modernity we saw!How nice, as I had visions of having to take out all our bags and empty everything and have passport details filled out in triplicate in Chinese and then having to sign it or something. Nope, just waved straight through. The second one was a very punctual and on the dot for three hour wee stop. Most of the young men seemed to use it primarily as a smoke stop. I followed two of the girls to the “facilities”, which were the usual drop toilets. Not the best, but hey! When you gotta go, you gotta go!

The scenery on the way to Hotan started with lots of green, mostly maize and sunflowers, lined with trees. Then we hit Desert, Long and very flat and very very barren desert. Sometimes just for fun you would see a giant Chinese cement factory stuck in the middle of nowhere billowing out dust and smoke, surrounded by small very harsh looking settlements for workers.large_1842667_13488166828771.jpgPeoples park is very busy with families and , People in the evenings, such a nice atmosphereFollowed by even more dramatic flatlands with small scrub, again temperatures were hot I guess they must have been in the high eighties and I was glad of the air con on the bus.

We arrived in Hotan around5.45pmand this time we did our homework on the Binguans. Our choice was right next to the bus station. Jiaotong Binguan, registered to take tourists, clean and cheap, well within our budget anyway, we paid 160rb for a twin room with own bathroom, western WC and shower.

It was time to get bearings on this larger town, so out we went in search of “Marcos” as per LP. I know I said I wouldn’t do that, but we did. After a very interesting walk through the markets and down thoughtfully placed subways (traffic here is not for the feint hearted) we found Marcos, we had read in LP that the staff spoke good English and this time LP got it right and they did! We were welcomed in and served very tasty food along with some help with our plans for our visits around Hotan.large_1842667_1348816682511.jpgDesert is so close to Hotan, just 20mins drive away.(See review). After our meal we walked to the peoples park, where there is a huge statue of Mao with a local Uighar man who had journeyed to se him and was honoured as this is one of only three statues of Mao with anyone else (see pics) the friezes were stunning around the base too. The park was full of people of all ages, mostly families enjoying themselves with their children and so many playing volleyball type games or just encouraging their very young ones to play too. I did comment to Angela how there seemed to be so many red paper lanterns around the edge of the park, I suppose I thought that sort of thing was just for tourists, but as we had not seen one other single tourist so far, I wasn’t sure.

We walked back to our hotel by the bus station, we needed to plan our net couple of days and already knew we were going to the Bazaar the following morning, well lunchtime as no one gets up early on a Sunday.

Bazaar day!


Posted by TheJohnsons 23:42 Archived in China Tagged sky architecture desert nature landscape history travel mountain adventure fall scenery china blue golden a sand no day one west wilderness old scenic northwest dune yellow natural dry asia gold tourism horizon clean outdoor dust gobi extreme pure xinjiang wide background level dunhuang terrain gansu unmanned transparent taklamakan barren boundless Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Yarkand the deep south, not!

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Yarkand is not really a hot place to stay, well maybe if you count the temperature, but other than that it might not be worth a stop. We decided that we would do the southern loop round to Hotan [Hotan-travel-guide-221834] and the look at either completing it or cutting across the Taklamakan Desert to Kuqe. As we had no experience of Chinese buses and wanted to find out what they were like we thought we would break up the journey by doing a short trip (3hours) from Kashgar [Kashgar-travel-guide-1315664] to Yarkand first.

Well buying a bus ticket was easy, into the bus station at Kashgar and helped by the nice “Official” managing the ques we were able to make it clear that we wanted two seats to Yarkand.large_1842667_13488163012314.jpg Then once again kindly helped by another bus “Official” we were shown to our bus out in the Station (sounds likeIranexperience doesn’t it?). Bags stowed away under the bus luggage compartment and seated in clearly numbered seats (English numbers everywhere so far) we congratulated ourselves in getting this far through the system. Bear in mind this is our first ever trip throughChinaand language is completely different to anything we have encountered so far.

Comfy seats and a swift three hours saw us to the Yarkand bus terminal. We arrived around3.00pmand it was hot! We had read in LP that the Subiyi Aletun Hotel would take foreign tourists, WRONG! No they don’t, well not anymore, after a 10rb taxi ride to said Hotel we were told “no Tourists” in Chinese and hand signals….large_1842667_13488163011114.jpg .oh no, and we don’t speak English and they don’t speak Chinese. After much discussion and gesturing we managed to get them to understand that we needed to stay somewhere! I hit upon the idea of ringing our English/Chinese speaking tour operator we used for the border crossing fromKyrgyzstantoChinato help out. He advised us that he only knew of the “Yarkand” Binguan (hotel) that accepted foreign visitors there. So with some basic words and a bit of help from the manager at the Subiyi Aletun we got another Taxi to take us up the road back toward the bus terminal and drop us off outside the Hotel. At last, we booked in, funny how the price of this Hotel managed to be more expensive than the one we just left. Never mind, double room with air con, western loo and breakfast did us.large_1842667_13488163021337.jpg We had after all only wanted to stop for one night to A. break up the journey and B. visit a couple of sights we knew were there.

Thankfully nothing shuts early hear inChinaand once we had dumped our bags we were off out and back towards the sights were had come to break up the journey with. First stop the Mausoleum of Ammanisahan a Uighar Queen, revered musician and famed for her work collecting the Uighar muquam. Her Tomb was stunning; they obviously loved her very much as great effort had gone into its placement and construction with surrounding garden for her (see pics). A few meters away is the Mazaar cemetery where members of Yarkand Royal family from 16th& 17thCentury lie. Calm and slightly restored we saw maybe 30 tombs with intricate stone carving (see pics) with the main man (Sulitan Saidyidhans) centralised in the cemetery (also have pics of this).large_1842667_13488163033508.jpg Right next door to this Cemetery is the Altun Mosque Complex this one is an open style mosque and was built in 1533A.D. by Sulitan Abdureshidhan, another Royal member of Yarkand. It also was a cool and calm place and even though it was Friday we were able to walk round and take pictures, although I did run into afternoon prayer time so left a little earlier than I would have liked. We paid 15rb each to get into all three sights which I thought was reasonable considering how much I enjoyed it and how many sights we got for our entrance fee.

Tired, hungry & hot we decided that the next task was to find food, and edible food. There really is only so much shashlik a girl can eat. LP was pretty useless and it seemed that anything LP suggests turns out to be pretty expensive and quite a disappointment.large_1842667_13488163035508.jpg We decided to trust our instincts and let me follow my nose and eyes on the locals. Sure enough on the main road back to our Hotel we found a restaurant whose name I couldn’t read let alone pronounce, but I do know it was number 161 on the street. We walked in with other customers and followed the way they did things. Seated we looked around at what other patrons were eating which gave us a good idea of the kind of food they served. Great! Food at last, the obligatory pot of chai was brought to us and we basically pointed at what other people were eating and said “one of those please”. The staff was really friendly and brought us two Thali like plates with an assortment of chicken, beef (small pieces), some peppers and aubergine with cooked onions, and a decent portion of plain white rice.large_1842667_13488163036035.jpg Yum! At last a lovely spicy, filling meal. We were stuffed, we left after paying a whole 15rb for the two of us and this is what we had been looking forward to. We walked back to our hotel as we had already purchased our next day’s bus ticket to Hotan and wanted to make sure we had ourselves packed up and ready to go the next morning. Not the most exciting place inChina, but then again my view is it’s what you make it; it gave us a good introduction to Chinese buses and local “foreign tourist registered only” hotels and definitely a taste of good local food. Hotan here we come!


Posted by TheJohnsons 23:42 Archived in China Tagged sky desert nature culture travel town china map wild red portrait macro asia marker marked deer geography countries silk business push badlands hair corridor close-up tajikistan background bukhara afghanistan panj pamir fur pin antlers riparian badakhshan yarkand thumbtack cartography pushpin grazer bactrian wapiti lowland bokhara yarkant corridors herbivore chordata vakhan Comments (0)

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