Call 1800 020 020
Call 1800 020 020
Ray Renfrey travelled to China in August 2017. He gave us such wonderful travel notes and photos we couldn't keep them all to ourselves...
Ray in Xian, China with his Private Tour guide Donna
"I arrive in Shanghai, the population of Shanghai (25 million) is larger than the total population of Australia OMG!
I suggest you use a reputable agent for travel in China, I say this because I am certain most of you do not speak or read Mandarin or Cantonese.
My travel in China was organised by Travelbay, their service is A1, they treat you as a person not a number!! Travelbay organised everything for me from arrival to departure including all accommodation, drivers, guides, and all points of interest, this is important because driving in China is a challenge even with GPS! I am sure Nikki, Nicola & Fiona will look after you, I was entirely satisfied. I advised them where I wanted to visit and they organised everything.
At night local musos gather on the embankment of the river opposite my hotel in Shanghai, I estimate there were about 20 playing a variety of brass, stringed & percussion, the music is 'western style' they play jazz to rock & roll, it is great free entertainment for me and locals who were there in hundreds...
Many signs are translated, some signs can be funny some can be confusing.
Tho' Shanghai is a city of steel and concrete the local government is doing a good job adding nature, many streets are tree lined.
GOOGLE is 'Persona Non Grata' in China, the government has blocked Google. I have a Google account, I could not access the Internet in China.......
There are many electric motor bikes and scooters in China, when driving at night most drivers do not turn on their lights - beware beware beware! There was more than one occasion when I almost 'wore a scooter'.
As expected the food in China provides unexpected surprises and experiences. My hotel offers meals in a variety of restaurants, ranging from various international cuisine to local delicacies such as: JELLY FISH, ABALONE, CUTTLE FISH, BLUE BERRY YAM, 3 KINDS OF BAD (I have no idea what that is and my waiter could not translate its meaning ), ORGANIC ICE GRASS, COKE DUCK WING, WIND VOLUME, SHANGHAI MEMORY FISH...there were more exotic dishes too numerous to mention......
I ordered pork shank and noodles - the menu had some interesting notes about my choice. These are the notes about the meal.... Quote!
"This dish in case of the central disk well founded sex discrimination price of 1.5 times of calculation the market price is well founded sex discrimination, the company reserves the final interpretation."
Can you work out what the above means? I can't!
By the way I could not consume the meal in one sitting, it was delicious, they gave me a take away doggy bag.....
The people of China need a 'Telephonedectomy' - mobile phones seem to be part of their anatomy ! I noted many drivers using mobile phones while driving, I did not see any hands free devices. Mobile phone and computer bundles are very cheap in China. I cannot remember the costs but I do remember thinking the Australian providers are profiteering! Most private homes are not equipped with a land line. Mobile phones are everywhere, as are convenient charge points.
This is bamboo scaffold, it is commonly used in many parts of Asia, I have seen bamboo forest as high as 20 meters with a diameter about 30 centimeters.
Solar Power is growing in China, tho' I was surprised when speaking to my guide about Solar Power - he has a University degree but did not know what a solar unit was. When I showed him one on a roof top, he had no idea what I was talking about.
Shanghai is a city of contrasts the very affluent live alongside the not so affluent.
The traditional buildings create an interesting environment to walk amidst - the sights, sounds and smell of cooking will excite your senses.
This is my Uni Graduate guide:
There are a multitude of cafes, restaurants and public food halls to choose from. The variety of food is bewildering - I was not attracted to the following choices: SNAKE NECK, LOTUS ROOT, SOUR MILK RICE PARCELS, SPARROW, FRIED SQUID ON SKEWERS. I did eat Moon cake which is a sponge cake type texture.
Silk is very important to China, a large variety of manufactured goods are available - we visited a silk factory. Silk sheets seem to be a status symbol in China.
You can choose from thousands of articles for sale, my visit to the silk factory was most educational.
Night markets are popular and congested in China, streets are packed wall to wall with goods and people and as always the variety of sights, sounds and cooking aromas are evident.
I see many residents who do not have air conditioning sit at the footpath to escape the heat of their homes and hope for a zephyr to ease the high temperatures and humidity of Shanghai. During the summer humidity and hot temperatures are continuous in Shanghai.
I am sure Shanghai has more skyscrapers than New York city, buildings like these are always in sight, even as far as 30 km from the centre. The car park at the bottom left of this photo will soon be covered with skyscrapers. I have never seen so many construction cranes in one city as I did in Shanghai."
"I fly to Xian for an overnight stay to see the Terracotta Warriors.
A tip when at airports in China (and Asia): Be alert to possible changes to your departure gate. It happened to me at least 3 times - the information on your boarding pass can differ to that displayed on information screens. Always ask at the information desk which gate to depart from - do not trust information screens or your boarding pass as they are often incorrect.
I suggest you add a visit to the Terracotta Warriors on to your bucket list. It is an unforgettable experience. I rate it in my top 5 experiences I have had in all my many travels worldwide.
Meet Donna my very good guide in Xian, she was a fund of information - her spoken english is A1.
The warriors are situated about a 40 km drive from the city of Xian . The total journey is continuously lined with buildings & humanity. In the centre of Xian there is an old walled city. There are interesting street decorations enroute.
I was told it was a quiet day for visitors to the Warriors, to me it seemed there were masses of people. I wondered what a 'busy day' would be like, I did not have to join the queues as my travel company had organised non queueing entry for me. One needs this type of service in China because all places of interest always have long queues.
The area of the Warrior pits is massive. The Terracotta Warriors of Xian are a 'must see'. The excavation work since discovery is miraculous. I am sure it will take many more decades to complete excavation. I cant urge you enough to visit the Warriors.
After my visit to the Terracotta Warriors I am taken for lunch at a resort which contains a first class restaurant. In the restaurant one orders a meal on an ipad. I have never used an ipad - this will be a test for me. WOW! I managed to use the ipad.
You can watch per ipad as your meal is prepared, this is not a still shot, I clicked on the active cameras installed in the kitchen and the Chefs were beavering!
Upon return to Xian Donna takes me to a food market in the Muslim quarter, Muslims are one of the many (tolerated?) religious minorities of China.
At the Muslim food market you cannot purchase pork! But you can purchase lamb at the Muslim market - I was horrified that the lamb carcass is butchered on the footpath in 30c heat!
The street bustles with humanity, the food on display has interesting and challenging choices, garlic smells fill the air. The woks used for cooking in the Muslim food market are the biggest - one could bathe in them!
In Xian I am taken to a live traditional concert performance, it was a wonderful insight of one of the many facets in China culture. The concert is ablaze with coloured costumes, it has athletic and artistic performance, surprisingly some music was Western style! During the concert information is displayed on 'side of stage' banners, which explain the current action being performed. I had a front row seat at the performance - 'well done' Travelbay thanks.
The performers greet and say farewell to the audience in the foyer, it is a memorable experience. I suggest it is a 'must see'.
Xian has an estimated population of approximately 6 million, it is small in China terms but larger than any Australian city. As you can no doubt tell I am overwhelmed by the sheer size of the population in China.
I am amazed how efficiently China functions; the existing infrastructure is continuous.
Improved and new infrastructures are installed. Transport (public & private) is very good & runs on time, though cars, buses and trucks vie for space on the ever-crowded roads.
Capitalism is alive and well in China, private enterprise is apparent everywhere. Bartering is not so common in downtown areas but it is active in small towns. On TV there is an endless amount of private channels which broadcast never ending commercials urging you to purchase all manner of goods.
China is 'way ahead' of Australia re technology and its use, though government censorship is of concern re the Internet.
Tradition abounds, you will often hear fire crackers celebrating weddings, birth of a child, opening of a new business.
Quality of life seems a priority by government I did not see poverty but some areas of housing have need of improvement. I was often puzzled if water was flowing 'into or out of ' various canals surrounding many buildings. Bottled water is in high demand in China.
Xian is a city of culture and tradition, the old walled city is worthy of a visit it has a distinct ancient feel.
Most China cities 'light up' at night, both ancient and modern architecture are included in the flood of light."
"I fly back to Shanghai and visit a small Water Village about 60 kilometres away. As is usual there are a variety of experiences - I can choose Goldfish for lunch.
The village has the usual large variety of shopping, restaurants and souvenir shops. It is summer and the streets are full of local and international tourists. I indulge in bartering and am pleased with the results - I urge you to barter it is great fun.
I enjoyed the water village visit.
I am craving a decent cup of coffee. Hotel coffee is generally bland and coming from Melbourne I am a 'coffee snob'. My guide takes me to the French quarter of Shanghai, it is the 'up market' area of Shanghai, all the usual clothing labels are here. We find a pleasant looking establishment and order a coffee. The coffee was great 'BUT' the price was outrageous, it cost $16 per coffee! OMG......
I wanted to see Giant Pandas in their natural habitat but time was against me to travel there so I opted for seeing the Pandas in captivity at Shanghai Zoo. Shanghai zoo is set in magnificent gardens of approximately 1 square kilometre, (a massive space in an over populated city). The Zoo houses over 6000 animals, birds and reptiles.
We walked for about 5 kilometres in the gardens. Mini coaches are available to ride around the zoo through the open and green areas. There are many large trees to provide respite from the 38c 90% humid day. Don't let heat deter you, the zoo is well worth a visit.
Many animals can roam free but some are enclosed in conditions which concerned me. The Zoo tells us continuous work is being done to create a more natural environment for them. I noted many birds were in non-caged locations I wondered if their wings were clipped.
I was surprised to see a Keeper amongst the Pandas.
The next day I begin the last leg of my 2 month journey to return to my home in Melbourne."