Today I was meant to have a guide to take me to Binglang Valley (which LP made sound amazing). But since that idea sunk, I had to find a plan B.

The most obvious plan B was Tianmen mountain but after having watched youtube compilations of panicking tourists, I was a little relunctant (I’ve always had a fear of heights).

But I couldn’t come up with anything else. When I arrived, the cable cars were fully booked so I took the bus.

(This could be a blessing in disguise as the queue for the cable car was horrendous)

This is the world’s longest aerial cable car. It’s 7km long and takes 30min to climb up the mountain.

The bus is quite a fun alternative. It rides up the Heaven-linking avenue, which has 99 bends (with a lot of ‘wooaaa’ and ‘ohhhh’ from the kids on the bus at each bend). See below.

The bus drivers drove very swiftly (maybe a bit too quickly) up the mountain.

The bus stopped in front of the Heavens gate. Tian = sky/heaven. Men = gate.

This cave, also known as heavenly door, is thought to be the first stopping point of the immortals when they go to earth.

Another day sweating as I climbed up the stairs.

The next step was to take the escalator, which is deep within the mountain and takes you to the top.

At the top, I started by walking down the East line.

First skywalk of the day.

It doesn’t show very well on the picture but you can see all the way down the cliff.

The views were incredible though.

The East line cliffwalk is 3.7km long and 1km high.

Lunch break:

I reached Tianmenshan temple, a large Buddhist temple.

This building had the Sakyamuni Buddha in it but it felt awkward taking pictures inside as monks seemed to be telling people’s fortunes.

Outside are little ponds with a mini gold fish version of Wulingyuan Scenic Area (aka Zhangjiajie).

A dumpling falls prey to the little fish.

I’m sure these 2 people are important.

Blueberry ice cream break !

A Chinese version of a bridge in Paris.

The suspension bridge was terrifying, it kept moving and creeping.

Some people were very brave.

Guigu practiced flying and tree walking at this crack in the mountain.

A poor puppy was dragged up here.

In the forest of wishes:

(I hope that the 5 yuan fee includes not chopping off the branch I placed it on)

The west skyglass walk felt scarier than the East one.


I climbed up to the top of mountain, which has a catchy name: cloudy and dreamlike fairy mountaintop

On the way down (bus), I booked my hotel. The goal was to find something more affordable and better located than last night.

If you pay cheap…. you get cheap….

(I think the chair has been a dog’s chew toy, the walls are covered in stains, the road outside was quite noisy and the bathroom is .. rudimentary? – but at least there is air con 😅)

I went to the nicest looking cafe I could see and grabbed an iced coffee with my new friend.

Another Chinese food shopping haul: grape fanta, sweet bread and a cheaper version of KitKat. I also grabbed a face mask since my skin has been rebelling since I left Beijing.
Also sanitizing wipes (just in case).

On route to Zhangjiajie

Before taking the bus to Hengshan West station, I visited Nanyue Temple.

Nanyue is a large, and very popular, Taoist and Buddhist temple. It is opposite the entrance to Hengshan scenic route.

In China, tortoises are a symbol of longevity, wisdom and peace. It is also one of the 4 sacred animals, representing the North and winter.

In Taoism, the tortoise supports the weight of Heaven. Its shell represents the Heaven whilst the underside is Earth. It is therefore the animal that has supported the universe since the beginning of the creation.

The children were very excited by the turtles swimming around. (Turtles have shorter lifespans and therefore don’t represent longevity)

All the shops, restaurants and hotels were selling incense in Hengshan.

Hunan region is known for its spicy food.

The hotel lady kindly gave me a red date yoghurt as a parting gift, which I treated myself to on the bus.

Lituo bus station:

A statue of Mao decorates the security check point.

I took a small snack whilst waiting for the bus.

There aren’t any alternatives other than taking the bus if leaving in the afternoon from Changsha. For some reasons the trains only leave in the morning or in the evening, which is a shame as the bus’ A/C wasn’t working great in the 30+°C heat.

After 4 hours of sitting in a bus full of increasingly upset Chinese people (The bus was running 1 hour late), I finally started to see mountains.

Sunset view through the dirty bus window:

I eventually arrived at Zhangjiajie.

Speed walking across the bridge to the hotel.

There was a mishap in the booking (ie. They completely forgot about me) so my plans changed and I ended up in a slightly more spacious (and more expensive) room then planned.

I noticed this ice cream place on the way to the hotel. I wasn’t really sure what I was ordering and instead of ice cream, I ended up with bubble tea. 😅

The smell of this small restaurant attracted me. I pointed at the picture of fried food cuz that was something I thought I could handle easily but then I got served the ramen that was in the picture next to it.

Another chopstick challenge! (Super cheap though, 13 yuan)

There was pretty much everything in there. Slices of tomato, mushrooms, tofu skin (maybe), sausage, cabbage, chilli, egg…


The hotel owner dropped me off at the station (along with the Dutch couple I met the day before). Right outside the hotel, people were practicising tai chi and playing badminton.

After taking the train to Hengshanxi station, I met a friendly lady on the bus who helped me find the ticket office for mount Hengshan entry.

Hengshan (from the bus):

After buying the ticket I had an intense typing conversation with the lady, who wanted us to go up together but she was taking the bus whilst I wanted to go by foot (always listening to the wise words of LP). She wrote I was being foolish…

The road up to the scenic route:

Panels on socialist values were placed at the entrance:

1km uphill with a heavy backup already tired me out.

Despite being cooler than beijing, I was already leaving a pool of sweat behind me.

The animals on the bridge looked funny but none were as cute as me.

It doesn’t matter where you are in china, you can rest assured that a security camera will be there with you.

The incredible tale of Li Mi and Lan Can.

(Wikipedia says he was a lieutenant general in the National Revolutionary Army so that may have switched to prime minister in translation)

This is violin rock: because it is leaning on the rest of the rocks like a violin.

Which I suppose is unusual for a rock.

Another tale about the great monk Lan Can:

(Essentially a Chinese version of king Arthur and the sword in the rock)

After several hours of walking uphill with a 10+kg backpack, I reached the cable car. At this point I realised that the price for the cable car was the same for cable car + bus journey there so all this walking hadn’t saved me any money.

If you think I look scared it’s because the cable car swung from side to side, which did not help my fear of height.

It was very misty when I left the cable car and I was concerned I would have gone through all this effort for close-ups of white clouds.

At this point I didn’t really know what I was doing and ended up next to Zushi temple.

The temple doesn’t look that nice and there are big green bins on every side of central courtyard, making sure to ruin any photo prospective.

After wandering clueless (which was very noticeable as I was the only foreigner – or at least teddy bear – here), I found Zhurong peak…

..which had been invaded by Chinese people.

A gap through the clouds!

After more walking, trying to find the 2 hotels LP mentioned, I found the sunset (or sunrise?) viewing station.

For the first time since I landed here, I welcomed the sun.

For the more snazzy travellers out there, there is a porter service.

Most of the people sitting in them are the porters.

Back to Zushi temple because I didn’t know what I was doing anymore.

The original plan was to find a place to stay on the mountain and then see the sunrise in the morning. However, the 2 places mentioned by LP did not have a website and the phone numbers didn’t work.

So I head back down to the village/town.

On the way down, I finally saw all the temples that the map mentioned.

To be honest, they all looked a bit the same to me.

Bamboo forest version #2

I made some friends.

One of the nicer looking temples was near Nantianmen, where the cable car is.

A memorial.

I was very happy to see the exit. After 29km of walking up and down a mountain, it was clear that I didn’t bring enough water on this trip. The price of a bottle on the mountain was outrageous (up to 10 yuan a bottle) . So obvs I didn’t eat neither.

Challenge #2 of the day was to find the hotel I booked on trip.com on the way down.

The lady who runs the place (Fancle hotel) was very nice and when I asked if I could buy a drink, she invited me to tea with her family.

She also invited me to join them for dinner.

So I tried chicken feet – bottom left corner. (By tried I mean I nimbled the tiniest piece off each claw). It’s not that bad but its awkward dealing with the bones afterwards.

The lady was very knowledgeable in Chinese tea art and said she had been studying it for 10 years. It’s also a subject taught in school.

I wanted a fresh drink and inadvertently I told them I was going to head out to buy soda after dinner. Instead, someone got sent off and ended up driving his motorcycle to bring me fizzy water. 😅

Everyone was very nice and I learnt that I am the first teddy bear to stay at their hotel.

(They did not speak English either so it was another slightly awkward chat through our phones)

Changsha (or so it was going to be)

I missed my 8am train after running around the train station from queue to queue. (After obtaining the ticket in one building, you have to leave the building and follow the other running people, who enter another building where there is a ticket and security check).

I successfully changed it to a later train, after a rather painful queue in the English speaking ticket office, and find myself with time to spare.

I head to Mr Lee’s restaurant. (They were taking a staff photo)

I tried this mango with ice cream and something else + some kind of chai latte (Not too bad, just a bit weird).

Another foreigner was there too and tried to ask where the toilet was by imitate the flush haha.

Beijing West Railway station attempt #2.

On Chinese Highspeed Railway

The train has sanitary bags for spitting + waste. Spitting is very common place here. On the way back from Gubeikou, the bus driver opened the window to spit out of it.

The views get nicer after Xianning station but I’ve forgotten to take pictures as my neighbour started “telling” me about attractions in China and what the emergency number was. He also recommended that I know my embassy contact details. (I say “telling” cuz we were actually both awkwardly talking to each on our phones via translation apps).

At Changsha station I am greeted by a sunset.

I walked towards my hotel (or at least where it says it is on the trip.com map) only to find myself lost, surrounded by very similar looking buildings.

Some ladies nearby were taking a dancing lesson.

After a difficult call with the hotel where I was trying to explain where I was, I stumbled upon a Dutch couple who were headed towards a similar sounding hotel to mine.

As it turns out, they were staying in Jinyuan hotel and I was staying in Xinyuan hotel, but the owner of Jinyuan hotel is the sister of the person who owns Xinyuan hotel 😂 So it all eventually worked out.

This did however mean that it was too late for me to go search for a restaurant and visit the town as originally planned.

My room has a very interesting ad next to the TV.

I headed downstairs to the shop to buy another healthy meal.

On the way up I took the stairs and realised that hotels dry their linin there, which is probably why no one takes the stairs here.

Beijing 3

The sun rose early and I treated myself to yoghurt with fruits.

The lady in the hotel kindly gave me a heart shaped pancake.

Kittens hide around the hotel.

Gubeikou village also has statues recalling of its past. It was very quiet, with no shops and very few restaurants (I haven’t seen any).

This part of the wall is overrun by creep-crawlies and plants. The bug being eaten by ants made a lot of noise, so much that I almost suspected it to be a mini drone.

The Great Wall of Gubeikou is mostly unrestored ( with the exception of the Gubeikou gate). It is also a long way from Beijing, making me the only teddy bear on it for most of the walk.

I chose the coiled dragon route.

Jiangjun tower.

The wall continues on but into a military zone so I went back to Gubeikou via a shortcut. (Some Chinese tourists seemed to be coming from the military zone though)

There were a lot of larvae, camouflaged as small twigs hanging along the path. These were almost impossible to avoid walking into to.

Find the posing chicken!

I took an another shower (it’s 80-100% humidity today) before saying goodbye to the hotel and its kittens. 🐱🧡
I met a friendly man, called small bear, from Shanxi, who helped me with my bag along the way to Beijing.
Xie xie! (Thank You!)

My hotel is situated at Beijing West railway station. A lot of people were sitting outside, waiting. The atmosphere was rather grim despite the glass passageways around.

I searched for a restaurant nearby for dinner.

Dinner was a rather embarrassing experience as I did not know how to use chopsticks so food occasionally fell onto my lap. The brown stuff was described on the menu as tea steamed red onion (I think) but tasted nothing like that. I also had prawn dumplings and quickly realised I didn’t know how to eat that either. 🙃

I managed the straw for iced tea though. (Fried bird claws were also on the menu but that was way beyond my skill level)

Qing man yong! (Formal version of bon apetit, meaning to eat slowly).

My (Railway) hotel was ready for anything.

Beijing 2

This morning, I woke up ahead of my fellow dorm-mates and quietly packed my bag.


On the way to the temple of Heaven Park, I crossed the bridge that makes kids smarter in China.


(Other than e=mc^2, the other equations were unknown to me)

I also bought a healthy breakfast in 7/11 😶


The men shouting outside restaurants that serve dumplings overwhelmed me 😅

My first stop was at the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.


(Managed to get there before the big crowd)

Further South is the Imperial Vault of Heaven.



Fun fact: temple halls are round but bases are squared following ‘tianyuan difang’ (heaven is round and earth is squared).

I read an article that this notion also (supposedly) inspired the design of a Chinese version of Amazon echo: LingLong DingDong.


A dragon carved in the ceiling symbolises the Emperor.

The wall around this temple is meant to be an echo wall, allowing whispers to be clearly heard from the other side. I am not sure if it works because everyone trying was speaking quite loudly to the wall (possibly because of how noisy it was anyways).

The path then leads to the round altar.

Every thing is in 3s as odd numbers are meant to be associated with heaven, with 9 (as the highest 1 digit odd number) being an imperial number.
In this park, locals gather to practice tai chi…

Play jianzi…

Or cards.

After taking a break, I slowly moved towards the long corridor.

After visiting the park, I took the subway to Dongzhimen

And then the bus to Minyue station.

At Minyue station, I was planning on taking another bus but someone offered to carpool me to my hotel in Gubeikou.

Despite raving reviews, my hotel is quiet, with me being the only occupant of the dormitory.

Before dinner, I went for a quick walk into little Great wall.

Gubeikou gate

A reminder of its past strategic importance

Gubeikou village

The wall at Gubeikou is not as well defined as in other more popular places, which doesn’t stop it from being a pleasant (but sweaty) walk.

On the right is a crouching tiger.

Small Great wall (I only made it to the first tower)

Gubeikou gate again.

There are not really any maps of the area so today it was more scouting then visiting.
For dinner: spicy potatoes! Ended up not being spicy at all, I suspected the cook deliberately left out the chilli – Still delicious and filling after missing out on lunch.

Arriving in Beijing

I arrived at 5 something am at Beijing city airport ..

.. ready to see the city.

I headed towards the Forbidden City via Qianmen Emperor’s avenue.

This quiet pedestrian avenue was once part of Beijing’s old market district. In front of shops are statues reminding of the former market.

I also saw the ideal shop for people who collect fans 😉

This led me to Tiananmen square.

The square is barren, with 0 shade, so I quickly crossed it to make my way to the Forbidden City, following a large crowd.

Mao and I look alike… 🤔

Passport numbers and identification cards are used as tickets to enter the Forbidden City.

At this point, it was very very hot and I was essentially swimming in my nautical costume.

The audioguide is location-based. It just starts talking when you arrive somewhere where it has something to say, but then it remains silent in other rooms. It also does not give the same name for the room as what is shown on the map. Confusing!

(The chinese audioguides seem to be newer than the foreign ones so I suspect they work better).

I made a terrible mistake by drinking this. Guaranteed not to recover from central Asian food now. 😅

The main point of entering this room was the air conditioning but it wasn’t plugged in (chinese tourists faffling with it above).

Not sure what this cow means.

Archery room:

Winking elephants:

Opera pagoda:

Lots of large bronze buckets everywhere, which were used against fires.

Jade carving (I think)

Concubine Zhen’s well:

She was the Emperor’s concubine and a supporter of his reforms, and therefore was favoured. But the Empress was jealous and ruined the reforms and eventually drowned the 25 years old in the well. (Well, this is what I understood)

This anatomically impossible kneeling statue of an elephant is meant to show that even they bowed to the Emperor.

Imperial gardens. Everyone was hot and sweaty.

The sewage system:

I’m not sure if I’d seen everything but I was desperate to escape the Forbidden City.

I headed towards Jingshan park.

A street vendor was selling melon but after buying it, it quickly found it’s way to a bin. (Bye bye lunch)

A Pair of lions act as guardians of Jingshan park (and other important place). The male lion holds a globe under it’s paw, signifying the Emperor’s power over the world, whilst the lioness holds a cub, showing He is fertile. (I didn’t know this at the time but I’m guessing that makes me a cub)

Jingshan park was a lot quieter than expected, especially when seeing the large flock of people that leave the Forbidden City. It is known for its pagodas, which are placed at the top of a hill and have a view overlooking the Forbidden City.

Me trying yet another local drink.

There was a lot more shade here so I took a break.

It was a pleasant walk up.

View from the highest (and busiest) pagoda.

It was very nice to sit and relax here but you could hear the noise of dozens of tourists and guides shouting through loudspeakers at the bottom of the hill, right outside the forbidden city.

At this point I discovered that I had used up all my portable battery + most of my phone battery so I hurried to Beihai lake.

I went down some small alleys (possibly hutongs) after taking the west exit of the park.

Beihai lake has a small island in it known as ‘Jade island’, with a white pagoda at the top.

It’s not the most impressive building and it was far more fun to explore the rest of the island.

On the island, they played soft traditional music, making it wonderful to relax in (unfortunately I had my battery curfew).

I needed my travel companions for this.😓

The way back was slightly painful because I decided to cross a bridge and walk along the forbidden city.

And I reached the South gate where I realised I had missed the sundial, symbolizing that the Emperor had the power to grant time to his people.

The route to the hostel became one big detour due to all the security precautions in place (barriers, 1 way routes etc).

(A lot of walking into the subway, passing a security check, only to walk straight back out again)

I tried a grape based drink that every one seems to drink here (and actually is quite nice) only to see it was 7 times cheaper in McDonald’s.

The road to the hostel:

After over 35000 steps for the day, and just 4 hours sleep in the plane, I was happy to take a nap.

At night, I searched for food. The road was bustling with life.

The water vats become colourful fountains at night:I took a popular yoghurt drink before falling asleep.

Day 2 in Murghab

For today, I had to make an executive decision:

1. Continue the Pamir highway and stay another night in Murghab.

2. Take a day off and search for hot springs mentioned by Lonely Planet.

3. Head back to Osh, escaping from Murghab and Tajikistan.

Option 2 prevailed.

After breakfast, I strolled through the local bazaar, where I am the subject of many curiosity from the locals.

Many of the shops are located in shipping containers.

I bought some snickers at the sweet shop for later consumption.

Chilling at the water pump.

After lunch, I drove to the hot springs Lonely Planet mentioned. The road starts off along the Murghab river…

(This hill was making a fistpump).

The route is very pretty and I met a group of South Africans.

We split off in search of the hot springs.

However, after a difficult drive and walk to get there and finding the hot spring, I realised that the bridge to reach it had been washed away.

And as much as I tried to cross the river, all attempts failed.

And I had to head back.

At which point, I needed help to push the car out of the valley (very helpful onlooker).

(More mountain hands)

The route back is stunning and I am starving for dinner.

The usual tomato and cucumber salad followed by this delicious vegetarian dish based on potato. (Wasn’t able to find it on wikipedia)

The border village of Sary Tash

Right next to the hotel in Jalal Abad is the bazaar, which I visited early in the morning to gather supplies

I bought bread and very very dry dried apricots and pistachios for the road to Sary Tash, a small village near the border with Tajikistan.

Foreigners attract a lot of weird looks here.

The route goes through Uzgen where I drove past another bazaar.

Lunch break in Osh, the 2nd biggest town of Kyrgyzstan and also an important checkpoint of the Silk road.

The restaurant (or institution) had apparently been victim to a battle of the dishes. At the time I ate there, the restaurant was empty so fortunately this didn’t happen.

Osh is a lovely city to stay in and nicer than Jalal Abad. Due to the strange borders decided by Stalin’s “divide and rule” mentality, a high proportion of the population is Uzbek.

On the way to Sary Tash, I stopped at a car repair in Gulach to check the tire pressure

The road to Sary Tash is very long and slow to finish but eventually I arrived.

A little boy led us all the way to a guest house

On the sign posted for this guesthouse showed shower facilities but I wasn’t quite expecting this…

And the room was slightly more cramped than the picture suggested

I met a group of cyclists from Grenoble and Lyon + a hitch hiker from Taiwan who had arrived from Tajikistan

Everyone is exhausted (cyclists and passengers)

Song Kul

Song Kul is a large lake, swimming with fish and surrounded by herders’ hurts and their large herds of horses, cows and sheep.

The herders only stay the summer as the lake is at high altitude (3016m) and very cold otherwise.

There’s not much to do other than horse riding…

Trekking uphill for better views of the lake

Or relaxing among the edelweiss

The absence of phone connectivity and limited electricity supply meant that overall time passed quite slowly.

If you wake up in the middle of the night, you’ll see a brilliant starry night sky, which showcases the centre of the milky way.

Song Kul is a wonderful place to enjoy the views and remove oneself of the buzz of online life, as well as everyday conveniences such as radiators, showers, toilets with a flush….

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑