A Glimpse Of North Korea

A trip to the North Korean border was a bonus day trip this summer while I was on vacation in China! My boyfriend was so excited when I told him the news, yes, we all read the book called Nothing To Envy: Real Lives In North Korea. ( If you haven’t then I would seriously recommend it!).

Living in the democratic West, the most oppressive country like North Korea seems so far away, very hard to imagine. There I was arriving in Dandong which is the Sino-North Korean Border and North Korea is only across the Yalu River. It’s unbelievable at first and straight away you will see the contrast! Dandong is in fact a small holiday city for Chinese people, as shown in the picture below, big buildings, lots and lots of shops/restaurants; a relatively happy place I would say. On the side of North Korea however, there’s nothing except for a few small flats,quite a few old rusty abandoned fishing boats and some fair ground wheel that stopped functioning.

As I stood on the Sino-Korea Friendship bridge, I saw some disturbing things through the binoculars; an old man washing himself in the river, his face was gaunt and grey and had an extremely thin frame, yet again providing another contrast to his Chinese counterpart. Behind him there was a group of people just sitting, presumably the Government wanted to portray a positive image of the relaxing lifestyle in the village of North Korea. That’s the problem in North Korea, the Government only wants you to see what they want you to see. So I still have a sense of doubt about everything I saw on that day, whether it’s real or not?? It’s hard to believe isn’t it, almost like fate that seperated people on the two sides, in this case only by a Yalu River.  

 20130726_174230

SAM_5460

SAM_5463

SAM_5471

SAM_5466

 

Advertisements

Summer 2013 – Best Summer Ever.

It’s been so long since I last blogged, my internet connection has been down recently. Here I am finally home getting hold of a computer and proxying through the Chinese Great Fire Wall onto WordPress. If anyone is wondering which VPN I use, I recommend Pandapow!  🙂 I’ve been having such a hectic lifestyle lately; yes, I only have 5 days left in China, therefore I need to see everyone again.

I must admit 2013 summer has been the best one so far!  First, I get to see the good and the bad of Beijing ( our ”lovely” capital city haha! 😉 …to read more about my trip to Beijing, click here )  Then, perhaps the most memorable trip of my holiday got to be my 7 days in Guilin, I loved it there, especially about its great nightlife and scenery!  Recently I travelled to Dandong which is a city in China bordering North Korea, (I plan to write about that soon. ) Oh and not to mention the endless drive to Inner Mongolia that too me a week to get back home.  Overall what can I say?! I would love to do this all over again, sunshine, exploring different culture with the people I love. What more can I ask for? 😉

SAM_5162_副本

SAM_5415

 1073949_10201082419637783_751423522_o

1073920_10201082363356376_1316389948_o

1082342_10201082422437853_1922813320_o

1093820_10201085763281372_1135253440_o

Experiencing Beijing – The good & The bad

It’s been so long since I last blogged about my holiday in China. Right now it’s around 30 degrees out, here I am hiding indoor to organise all the pictures I took from my trip to Beijing and ready to share it to you guys, yes the good and the bad!

Being the capital of China, Beijing is pretty famous in the West for its many sights worth to see such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and of course Tiananmen square. One could say that Beijing is probably one of the must visit destination for any foreigner on their trip to China. So, Beijing started with me and my boyfriend getting approached by many black cabs shouting prices offering to take us to our destination soon we stepped outside of the train station. suspicious looking men! So being a native Chinese ( though having never visited Beijing on my own before, I, avoided them like a plague, kept my head down and casually waved them to go away).  Instead, we took the tube which is cheaper and much reliable transportation in Beijing and found our way to the hotel called 7 Days Inn that I pre booked a week ago.

So, did I honestly think that I was about to take a shower and relax in that double room I ‘supposedly’ booked? NO! another trouble found me again?! The girl behind the counter working for the hotel chain told me they didn’t accept foreigners because of their company policy then just ”sorry, you did not read our booking policies.” By this time I was furious, 20 minutes spent on the tube in the heat was all for nothing! As a wannabe Law student, this was clearly unjustified, so I started arguing my way at the reception, voicing my anger and frustration.  Good job I did that, because the staff eventually lost words to say and transferred me and my boyfriend to another branch nearby (we did have to pay for taxi and that branch was located in a run down side street but hey at least we had somewhere to stay!) 

After all this drama, we finally made our way to the Temple of Heaven, Tian Tan Park in Mandarin. We spent a lovely afternoon there right until it closed and then settled for a Beijing Roast Duck near the East gate. Overall, even though our trip didn’t start very pleasantly, but I refuse to let someone else’s mistake to affect my mood. After dinner, me and Joe walked back to a street called happiness Street which Joe gave it a funny nickname ”Misery Lane” .

SAM_5021

SAM_5037

SAM_5052

SAM_5045

 

Day 2 We got up at 2 am in the morning! CRAZY, I know, but sadly had to be done because the day tour we booked was taking us to see the flag rising at Tiananmen square. As the mini van picked us up from our hotel. From that moment, little did I know that an adventure was about to start! Any experienced traveller would probably know, haha yes, we booked a black tour. But I didn’t realise this until half way through our trip, basically we were dropped off at some run down breakfast place to sign contract. We were not the only one, there were plenty others there too so I didn’t suspect anything at first. It all started when we payed our money which was about 240 yuan ( 24 GBP). The tour guide was of course illegal too, out of every single tour I ever went on across Europe, America, she had by far the most disgusting attitude! ”NO QUESTIONS, NO TALKING WHILST SHE’S TALKING, LISTEN TO WHAT SHE SAYS” In another word we were being led by a dictator for the rest of our trip!  Even though we payed 240 yuan which is way more than others on our tour because we naively thought we were on that so-called VIP trip where all tickets were included in the price we payed for. 6 minutes through our journey, this illegal tour guide began to demand an extra 80 yuan for the bus fee ( apparently she said it isn’t included in the price). All the people on the tour were pretty stupid enough to believe her and gave her the money but not me! Once again, I went all law student on her, finding the contract that I signed along with the travel agency’s advertisement. All she replied back was : call your travel agency!! Pretty rude of her. So I did and argued down the phone again; demanding an explanation. In the end the travel agency stopped answering my phone, probably recognised my number. That’s when I realised they were probably on the same side running this black tour together. Uh- Oh! Around this time, we arrived at the Great Wall so that’s the plus side I guess.

SAM_5077

SAM_5086

 

After climbing the Great Wall for about an hour, this black tour guide began to show her true self. She hardly talked about the sites that we were going to see, rather 2 hours spent on talking about Chinese Jade and boasting about how rich she made since she bought this so-called money god back in the Dynasty time that was made from Jade. Yawn. Then not surprisingly, she took us to a Jade factory, making each one of us to go in to buy Jade, in her words, we can get them at warehouse price really cheap. No thank you I said and made some excuse to stand outside. I have heard stories about when you enter into these shops they won’t let you go ou unless you buy something. After this jade factory, most of the people in our tour began to suspect something was wrong, we were being conned! The tour guide refused to let us know where she was taking us next, a compound after a compound where the sales person trying to get you to spent thousand in their shop. I have to say I did got a little scared, firstly, I didn’t even know where we were at the time, I tried to google locate myself on my phone and searching for any taxi or bus station but found nothing. Thankfully, we arrived at this Wax museum and for the first time I saw bus stops nearby. Starting to plan my escape. As the tour guide making us to queue up in the line at the entrance, I heard a guy from my tour shouting at our tour guide, she argued back as usual. Then next thing, he punched her across the face!! HAHA, no one could believe it!!  Luckily, this was a perfect opportunity forme and Joe to escape. Asked a really nice lady for the direction and wrote down every bus route that I need to take back to Beijing City centre. Phew!

After our great adventure, we took the tube to Tiananmen square and decided we deserved a treat from our hectic day, so we checked out of our hotel from the rundown side street and booked the best hotel in Beijing called the Jade Garden hotel near Wangfujing street, a diplomat suite 😉

SAM_5088

 SAM_5091

Our Last day in Beijing, we woke up early, packed our bags and headed towards the Forbidden City. It was really close to our hotel. I recommend people to buy a map before entering through the front gate because it is like a maze in the Forbidden City and a map would definitely save time. Oh and don’t forget to get tickets early, the booth opens at 8:30 and we arrived there at half 9, it was madness!

SAM_5127

SAM_5128

SAM_5120

So that’s my Beijing experience, it was pretty stressful but I get to experience the bad and the good of Beijing, it’s pretty important lesson learnt too, being 18 and realising what society and our world is really about! Please don’t get put off by visiting Beijing from my experience. After all, I did meet so many lovely Beijing people who were really really helpful and I can not be more thankful. For anyone planning to visit China,  recommened you guys to search for different cons at tourist places just to get an idea and preventing these petty scammers ruining your holiday!

 

Tips:

  •  anything they are trying to force on you is a fake, there are so many stories about people spending thousands on these products and turns out to be all fakes! 
  •  for those traveling to Beijing, any guys offering or approached to you first, whatever vehicle they might have ( a car, rickshaw etc) AVOID AVOID! Go and get a taxi that has proper license and that’s got a company headlight on the top!

 

Beauty of San Francisco

I remember how ”Save Me San Francisco” by Trains has always been one of my favourite songs, luckily this time last year I finally had a chance to experience the beauty of San Francisco! 😀

Renowned for its rolling steep hills, cool summers, fog. All of which marked a stark contrast to Los Angeles where I traveled from and made me realise how ill prepared I was at packing for this trip. Yeah, I only brought one thin blazer and the rest consisted of shorts and t-shirt. Basically I had nothing to keep me warm for the early mornings of San Francisco. The weather reminded me of the typical Welsh weather, foggy, chilly then some sunshine in the afternoon. But of course, San Francisco is about 100 times more fun ;)! Our tour guide Will told us how most people in SF are skinny, well let me tell you, it is not a surprise when you have to walk up all of those steep hills just to get a croissant for breakfast! haha.

Continue reading Beauty of San Francisco

Yesterday’s update – mums birthday celebration!

It’s been a while since my last post and don’t worry guys, you are not forgotten! So I’ve been quite stressed lately about the upcoming exams and yesterday was mums birthday so I had some detox time with retail therapy and a delicious meal at Chimichangas. Here’s some pictures:

image imageimage

A Touch of Europe in California – Solvang Village

Good day lovers, I haven’t post a travel blog in a while now, today was extremely sunshine in the Welsh Valley and it reminded me of my USA trip. I’ve been wanting to write about the Solvang Village for a while now so here you have it 🙂
Continue reading A Touch of Europe in California – Solvang Village

My VIP Grand Canyon Helicopter tour

I had an amazing opportunity to take a VIP helicopter tour at Grand Canyon, all I want to say is what an experience!!!

Continue reading My VIP Grand Canyon Helicopter tour