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19/12/2013

How to Travel in China by Train Safely II

5. Wait to board a train. For all ticket classes except "soft sleep", you will wait in the general hall. This is huge, noisy, dirty, crowded, but not dangerous except for pickpockets.

Sit on the benches. Notice your train number and look for the aisle and overhead sign at the end where that train will board. At the proper time, the gate will open and people will surge forward affordable China travel packages. Follow but don't worry, you have a reserved seat/bunk.

For "soft sleep" ticket holders, find the separate waiting room. Follow signs or show attendants your ticket and they can direct you. This waiting room is quiet, relatively clean and sane. Use the boiling water dispenser against the wall for hot tea or instant noodles. You will board first. Wait for your train number to be called or look confused and show your ticket. An attendant will guide you here.

6. Treat small town stations differently. Here there are few ticket windows, only a single waiting room, few amenities, and few trains. Be prepared to wait a long time, and bring your own food and water.

For the smallest places, take any train, any ticket top China tours, and pay on board to an attendant to upgrade your seat out of "hard seat". Pay any price and insist you must sit somewhere else. You may have to wait until a bunk is vacated ahead, but then watch for it and move your stuff quickly. Plop down and show your money. It will probably work.

7. Board the train. From any waiting room, pick up your gear, watch for other people grabbing it, and move forward. Show your ticket to the attendant to get it clipped (as used), then find the right car. Look at your ticket or ask a car attendant standing outside each car.

Board your car and look for the right bunk/compartment number. Many people are doing the same. Step carefully around luggage. When you find your bunk, put your stuff on the bunk first, then stow it on the overhead racks or spaces provided. Get out of the way first.
Place your food and water supplies on the bunk or the little center table. Smile at your bunk neighbors.

8. Wait for the attendant to come around and collect your ticket. They give you a chit to show you paid, and exchange it for your ticket again just before you get off of the train. Keep that chit. Without it, you are sunk. It is your receipt, As a foreigner, security will also come to inspect your passport, carefully, and write the details on their log. Be silent and polite. Smile.

9. Enjoy the ride. The train is actually fun. People mostly sleep, play cards, handle the kids. It's fairly quiet except for crying babies. You may sleep, read, practice your Chinese where people are a captive audience and will be curious, look out the window.

Bedding is always provided and is clean unless you upgrade on the train and take over a used bunk. You will get a pillow and quilt with clean cotton covers.

In "hard sleep" compartments, there are three levels. The top level is hard to climb to, and those people usually sit down below or at the window stools in the aisle. If you have a bottom bunk, and don't want it used as a couch, spread your stuff out and frown if people try to sit with you. This is why the middle bunk is best.

Each compartment has a little table, a garbage bin, and a hot water thermos. Fill it from the hot water dispenser at the end of the car and share it with everyone in the compartment.
Find hot water at the end of each car, and use it to fill your tea thermos, eat instant noodles, or wet a cloth for a face wipe. This water is clean.
Find a toilet at the end of each car. It isn't nice but it works. It is locked at stations popular China tours and you may have to ask the car attendant to unlock it again. It's best in the middle of the night. If critical, take a thermos of boiling water and wash it down. No one else will.
Find a sink near each toilet. It will be dirty and will run out of water after 18 hours.
"Soft sleep" cars have better facilities, and they restrict other class passengers from using them.

8. Be ready to get off. Listen to the destination or ask someone or the attendant. Get your gear packed and down off the rack. Exchange your chit for your ticket. There will be time, so don't rush.

9. Exit the train and station. Get off the train, follow the crowd to the exit, probably below or over other tracks to the station outlet. Here watch your possessions carefully. Ignore touts of all sorts, get to the gate, show your ticket and exit. Likely you will be in another large square full of people. In small stations, you will be alone. Find a taxi.

In a large station, move across the square to a taxi or your destination. All stations have a post office, police station, bank, and railroad hotel(s) next to them. Those hotels are usually satisfactory and relatively cheap. Use them as a base if you don't know the city at all, if you wish.

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07:32 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

How to Travel in China by Train Safely I

You have always wanted to adventure in fabulous China, but don't have the money to fly to every destination. Maybe you could take the train! Yes, it's possible, but difficult.

1. Be prepared for difficulty. Travel to China is never easy, especially if you don't speak much or any Chinese, or have a translator.

1>Little public information is available in English. It's often hard to find signs, brochures, guidebooks, schedules, etc.
2>Most people speak little to no English. Most can't read a map with you, or look at your phrasebook successfully.
3>Public officials (police) generally aren't very helpful; many can be rude. Don't look to them for help.
4>Most people don't offer to help. You can stand there looking desperate, but you may not get much attention.
5>Foreigners are usually received politely but are sometimes preyed on, looked to for handouts, and expect to be the object of great curiosity, especially in smaller cities and remote locations.

2. Buy tickets. This can also be difficult. Many hotels offer ticket buying services, but you will be charged more than the window price. That can be worth it, though, to avoid the hassle of buying your own tickets. Travel agencies can also buy tickets, but are liable to charge you a lot more than the window price, and there are many stories of agencies cheating foreigners outright, so be careful.

3. It's nearly impossible to find specialized ticket booths outside the train station. You must go to the train station itself.

Most people buy tickets the day of travel affordable China tours. This works if the route isn't the most popular one. If it is a very popular route, you'll want to buy ahead.
You can buy tickets at the station up to 5 days in advance of travel for most of the year. Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is special. Don't try to buy tickets then.

Most city central stations are huge, crowded, noisy and dangerous places. Find the ticket hall, and see if you can spot one window on the far edge that might cater to foreign buyers. Go to this window, as they may speak English.

Otherwise, stand in the long lines, get to the front, try to state (or have written) your destination and desired time of departure. Being flexible is the best. Take what you can get.

Buy the best class ticket you can. Most Chinese trains have three classes. ( A few have four; they include "soft seat", but only run on short hops between major cities, such as Shanghai and Nanjing Yangtze River tour.) At best, buy "soft sleep" tickets. Otherwise buy "hard sleep" tickets.

4. Prepare for train travel. You should have enough to eat and drink for the whole journey (usually 18-36 hours). While food and drink are sold on board and at each major station stop, it's expensive and not that good. Bring some of your own.

On board you can buy beer (not cold), liquor, packaged snacks, instant noodles, crackers, and prepared meals (three per day). The train food is generally bad, though not usually dangerous, and is best avoided. Try it once, but don't depend on it.

At major station stops of 15 minutes or more, except during the middle of the night, people push carts with many foods. Again avoid anything hot or prepared, but look for fresh local fruits, snacks, beer.

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07:31 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

18/12/2013

Pilgrimage to Longxing Temple

Of Zhèngdìng's temple tribe, the most notable is this temple China vacation deals, more popularly known as Dàfó Temple or 'Big Buddha Temple', in the east of town.

The time-worn bridge out front constitutes a handsome historical prelude. Dating way back to AD 586, the temple has been much restored and stands divided from its spirit wall by Zhongshan Donglu. Halls such as the Hall of Sakyamuni's Six Teachers await an entire rebuild from the soles up, but still attract a small gathering of glinting Guanyin statues.

You are greeted in the first hall by the jovial Milefo, chubby enough that temple caretakers have pluralised him – he's now the 'Monks with a Bag'. The four Heavenly Kings flanking him in pairs are disconcertingly vast.
chinatour.com
Beyond is the Manichaean Hall top 10 China tours, an astonishingly voluminous hall flagged in smoothed stone with amazing carpentry overhead, a huge gilded statue of Sakyamuni and delectable Ming frescoes detailing Buddhist tales. At the rear of the hall is a distinctly male statue of the goddess Guanyin, seated in a lithe pose with one foot resting on her/his thigh (a posture known as lalitásana ) and surrounded by luóhàn (those freed from the cycle of rebirth).

The Buddhist Altar behind houses an unusual bronze Ming-dynasty two-faced Buddha, gazing north and south. Signs say 'no touching' but it's evident that its fingers and thumb have been smoothed by legions of worshippers. There are two halls behind the Buddhist Altar. On the left is the Revolving Library Pavilion (Zhuǎn- lúnzàng Gé), which contains a revolving octagonal wooden bookcase for the storing of sutras and a stele on the back of a snarling bìxì (a mythical tortoiselike dragon). Opposite stands the Pavilion of Kindness , containing a 7.4m high statue of Maitreya, one hand aloft.

The blurb introducing the Pavilion popular China tour package of the Imperial Library (Yùshū Lóu) draws your attention to a statue of Guanyin and 18 luóhàn but they are nowhere to be found. The library is connected by a walkway to the immense Pavilion of Great Mercy, where a bronze colossus of Guanyin rises. At 21.3m high, cast in AD 971 and sporting a third eye, the effigy is wonderful, standing on a magnificently carved base from the Northern Song. Examine the carvings which include myriad characters and musicians, including Buddhist angels and a woman blowing a conch. Overhead towers the dusty goddess with a litter of smaller Guanyin statues at her feet: clamber up into the galleries surrounding Guanyin for free, but the third level is often out of bounds. The wooden hall in which the goddess is housed was rebuilt in 1999 with reference to Song-dynasty architecture manuals.

Circumambulated by worshippers, the Hall of Vairocana at the rear contains a four-faced Buddha (the Buddha of four directions), crowned with another four-faced Buddha, upon which is supported a further set. The entire statue and its base contain 1072 statues of Buddha.

tags: travel to China

07:15 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)