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Extending your Chinese Visa in Lijiang

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This morning we are extending our visas at the PSB Office. I'm going to include some detailed information in case it helps someone else, as when we were looking, there wasn't a lot to go by, and all the guide books, including the 2011 Lonely Planet, list the wrong address details for the office.

The PSB Office is located at 110 Taihe Street, Xianghelicheng (West Side of the Government Building). You can get a taxi from the Water Wheel in the Old town for between 8-10 Yuan, otherwise you can take bus 8 or 16 to the station called XinShiZhengFu and then it's a short walk. Ask your hostel to write the address in Chinese for you to give to the taxi driver.

The office is open between 8:30-11:30 and 15:00-17:30, and closed in between. Walk up the big stairs and once inside, the desks on your right are for visas. The staff speak excellent english and are really helpful.

To extend your visa you must be registered online by the guesthouse/hostel you are staying at. Make sure they have done this before you leave as otherwise they will turn you around. You need to take your passport, 1 passport photo, Address and Phone Number of where you are staying, and 160 Yuan. We paid at collection, but I hear different things, so make sure you take your money when you drop off, just in case (and they don't do change, exact money only!).

The extension took 3 days (during which time we went to Tiger Leaping Gorge) and you get to keep your passports while they are processing. When I went back for collection, I checked the stickers, paid the money, and was done in about 10 minutes. Both times we easily hailed a cab outside, so don't get your cab to wait, as you might be 20 minutes inside.

They didn't cancel our double entry visa, so we are still able to re-enter China if we want to. Apparently this also varies from office to office, so maybe we were lucky. We were given another 30 days from our original visa date.

So, hopefully this information helps if you ever find yourself extending your visa in Lijiang!

Posted by Long way home 20:51 Archived in China Comments (0)

Lijiang, China


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28.11.11 - Despite our boy-racer bus driver, we arrived safely in Lijiang and we took a taxi showing the driver our hostel address card. As often happens though, when they don't actually know where something is, they drop you off and point you in a direction, which isn't always right! Thus about 20 odd minutes of aimless wandering as we tried to find our way through the narrow streets of the old town.

We checked into the Lijiang Garden Inn, a nice little hostel located just off Wuyi street, one of the main streets. The staff here are really friendly and our room was nice, so we were happy. Late evening already, we grabbed dinner in a nearby restaurant, where for some reason they seemed fascinated that western tourists had dared to enter. The food was good though, and our chopstick prowess soon showed us as worthy diners, and they left us alone.

Despite only being here for a few hours, we can already see the similarities that draw people to the Yunnan province. The old town is filled with shops and street food, the shopping here is different, more crafty handmade goods, and not as much mass produced rubbish. We drank some tea, wandered the streets and made our way back to the hostel and into our warm cozy bed.

29.11.11 - This morning we are extending our visas at the PSB Office. I'm going to include some detailed information separately in case it helps someone else, as when we were looking, there wasn't a lot to go by, and all the guide books, including the 2011 Lonely Planet, list the wrong address details for the office.

We first went to Lion Park, and enjoyed the views over the Old Town. The temples are quite impressive and the gardens are a nice reprieve from the tourist packed streets. We wandered through the maze of the old town streets (which bear no resemblance to ANY map!) and after getting lost several times found our way to the outskirts and took a taxi to the PSB Office.

Formalities completed, we spent the afternoon wandering through the Old Town and caught up with Paul, a Kiwi who we'd hiked with in Dali. We ate out at at traditional Naxi restaurant, enjoying some of the local delicacies.

30.11.11 - The decision to put the washing on the line was clearly a bad one, as we were intending on leaving this morning and our clothes are still not dry! Typically, the clouds have come over not helping things.....

We waited until lunchtime before heading off to the bus station to catch a bus to Qiaotou. All buses to Shangri-La stop at the Qiaotou, so despite what people may tell you, you can definitely head out there in the afternoon. Make sure you don't get off at the new town stop, stay on the bus until the river town. When you get off the bus, cross the bridge and the entrance and ticket booth are on your right.

We stayed at Jane's Hostel, which is located about 200m past the ticket booth. I think in summertime it is probably a lot better, as we didn't really get any information or assistance from them, and once they'd checked us in, they didn't say another word to us. I don't think Jane was actually there....but the room was nice enough, and the food was really tasty, so it was still good. They had the most adorable kitten who took perch on our legs for the entire evening, so we had a nice lap warmer!

We wanted to start hiking early-ish the next morning, so bearing that in mind, we had an early night.

Posted by Long way home 20:27 Archived in China Comments (0)

Dali, China

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25.11.11 – Woke this morning feeling rubbish – but was determined not to miss out on seeing Dali Old Town. After dropping off 8kg at the post office we wandered the streets of shops and restaurants, grabbed some lunch, and then I headed back to bed to collapse. Perhaps I shouldn’t have stayed out so long, that was the end of me for the day. Chris spent some time in the courtyard relaxing and I tried some of the famous ginger tea that was meant to be a miracle cure for cold & flus, fingers crossed it works!

26.11.11 – Maybe if I have some more of this ginger tea, it’ll finally kick in, as I’m still feeling rubbish this morning. Such a shame as it’s a beautiful day outside. Chris headed off on a bike ride on the lakeside, while I stayed home and spent most of the day in bed. When he eventually got back around 7pm, he’d had a fantastic time travelling through the villages along the lakeside, meeting lots of friendly locals and taking some great pictures of the rice fields. He wasn’t sure how far he’d ridden, but it must’ve been many kilometres, as he was feeling it in his legs. Tonight we met a few new people at the hostel and discussed doing the mountain walk tomorrow, hopefully I’ll feel up to it!

27.11.11 – This morning we set out for the Cangshan mountains, a few kilometres outside Dali, where we took a cable car to the top and began our 12km hike along the mountain ridge. The walkway overlooks Dali Old Town and Erhai Lake, so makes for a lovely walk, even if you're not feeling 100% (like I still wasn't!).

Despite being assured that it was going to be an easy stroll along the mountain top, we began with an upward climb, which fortunately didn't last long. Once up there, the tourists disappeared, seems most like to take the cable car up and down, rather than do any walking. We walked along to the Seven Dragon Maiden Pools, stopped for lunch cliffside and enjoyed sandwiches in the sunshine before heading onwards towards the chairlift at the other end. Unfortunately for us, the chairlift had stopped working about a week prior, so we had to make our own way down the mountain, following a trail that was little more than a goat track.

Around 14km later we arrived back at the hostel tired and weary, ready to enjoy an Indian dinner in downtown Dali. While Chinese food has been amazing, we were all feeling like something different and really enjoyed the vindaloo, korma and tikka masala on offer. We grabbed desserts in the Sweet Tooth Cafe (if you're ever in Dali, make sure you check it out!) before heading back to the Jade Emu for a night cap and a well deserved rest.

28.11.11 – This morning another girl in the hostel, Sarah, and I have booked on to do the Chinese Cooking Course offered by Rice & Friends, a small company setup by a lady named Yuxi, keen to share the delights of Chinese cooking with those travelling through the region. We met her at 10am outside one of the bars in the main street of Dali, and from there she took us to the local market to buy our ingredients. Complete with straw baskets, we purchased chilli, spring onions, peppers, tofu, fruit, eggplant and a few more ingredients before heading back to Yuxi’s courtyard home which she has transformed into a small cooking school.

Our workstations were already setup and a lot of the ingredients had already been prepared for us, which was nice, but there was still plenty for us to do. We were going to cook 3 dishes this morning – A dried tofu salad, Fish flavoured eggplant (with no fish, strangely enough!) and Gongbao chicken.

Firstly we began slicing peppers for the tofu salad, and then prepared the dressing ,lastly slicing the dried tofu before mixing it all together, a very simple dish, but so tasty! I promised Yuxi I wouldn’t reveal her recipes online, so won’t be posting all the details on here. For our second dish, we began by chopping pickled red chilli, ginger and garlic. The eggplant had already been sliced and fried for us, so we made the sauce and then began frying it all together. From nothing comes something delicious, this dish was amazing. We put it in a clay pot and put it aside, to enjoy with our main which we would begin straight away.

Gongbao, or Kungpao as it’s also known, is a famous Szechuan dish we’ve already had several times since being in China. It’s a simple dish of chicken, roasted peanuts, spring onions, chilli and peppercorns, but it’s the sauce that makes it such a delicious dish. Cooking it was simple, but required complete concentration as we turned from heat 1, to heat 2, add this, back to heat 1, add this, up to heat 3 – you get the picture, but the ending result was so tasty, it was definitely worth the effort.

The funny thing about Chinese food is that it takes about 20+ minutes to prepare, and about 3 or 4 to cook. The best thing about the cooking course was that we didn’t have to do the dishes afterwards! We sat down and enjoyed our 3 course meal, complete with dessert afterwards, a little treat Yuxi had prepared separately.

If you’re in Dali, I’d highly recommend you take this course – it’s one of my favourite things I’ve done so far! The courtyard setting is Yuxi’s home, so it’s authentic and genuine. Really, really enjoyable day.

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I’m currently sitting on a bus to Lijiang, with a driver who Chris says is driving like Carlos Sainz. I’ve learnt whilst being a passenger in China that the best thing to do is keep your head down and not look out the front windscreen. We plan to spend a few days in Lijiang extending our visas, before heading to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Feeling much better today so looking forward to it.

Special hello to my Grandparents who are getting a copy of my blog via snail mail (thanks Mum!). Hope you are enjoying it and look forward to sharing photos and stories with you both when I get home. xoxo

Posted by Long way home 04:03 Archived in China Comments (0)

Chengdu to Dali, via Kunming, China


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24.11.11 – This morning we are taking a flight to Kunming. We gave the guys at the hostel the bag of food and goodies before we left, as we can’t fly with it, before heading to Chengdu airport on the shuttle bus. Our flight was delayed slightly, but shortly we were in the air and on our way south! Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to post anything home yesterday, and our bags are weighing in at around 17kg each – ridiculous! We are going to post first thing in Dali, we really don’t want to travel with any more than about 13kg.

Arriving into Kunming airport, we took a taxi to the West Bus station (31Y) before buying a ticket to Dali (103Y – slow bus). We could’ve paid 140Y, but we are trying to save some money, and it only saves about 30-45 minutes. The bus journey wasn’t particularly pleasant, we were jammed up the back with no leg room and a window nazi on the bus who wouldn’t let anyone open their windows. On top of the fact that it was hot and sunny, and Chris’s sunglasses were misplaced on the shoot yesterday, it didn’t make for a nice 4 hours. But eventually we made it into Dali, took a taxi to the Jade Emu hostel, and immediately felt at home.

The Jade Emu is owned and run by an Aussie guy, Dave, who moved there after travelling through the region and meeting his wife. It’s clearly run by someone who’s travelled, as they cater for everything and there are plenty of niceties to make the place feel homely. Toiletries in the bathrooms, plenty of charging sockets in the rooms, TV & DVD players in each room with hot chocolate and popcorn able to be delivered to your room! The bar menu is extensive, with Chinese and western food, including New Zealand tasty cheese, and a lamb and vegie pie. They have VB in the fridge, and vegemite with breakfast. Sounds good right?

On top of all of the above, they have endless information about the region and what to see and do. How to travel, a booking service for tickets, and friendly staff who can help with almost anything else. We knew we’d stay longer than the 3 days we’d allocated – especially given I was coming down with a bug and would probably spend the next two days in bed!

We chilled for a little around the hostel, before tucking into a vegie pasty and lamb pie for dinner, playing a few games of pool, and hitting the sack after a long day of travelling.

Posted by Long way home 04:01 Archived in China Comments (0)

Film Stars in Chengdu, China


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23.11.11 – After a big day yesterday, today we were planning on chilling out and visiting the nearby parks and perhaps a post office to post some stuff home. Instead of doing this, we were offered the opportunity to be in an advertisement for ‘Wongs Szechuans Food Company’. Random…..oh yes.

Basically, we were sitting in the hostel finished breakfast and about to head upstairs, when a woman comes in frantically saying – you must help me, you must help me…..please talk to my husband – and hands Chris a mobile phone. Thinking there was some sort of drama – perhaps needing English translation or something, he took the phone while the husband explained that they’re actor for the day had dropped out unexpectedly this morning – and they had a film crew all the way from Beijing waiting to film a series of advertisements, and no western actor. And therefore – would he help them, and they were willing to offer the equivalent of £50 for his time.

The poor wife had been running around hostels in Chengdu for about 2 hours trying to find someone, but as we already knew, there aren’t many tourists around at the moment as it’s off season, and those that are around aren’t staying long in the same place, so don’t have any spare time. Thinking it sounded like a bit of fun, we said yes.

Cue 1 ½ hours we arrived at a hotel filming set where we were invited to enjoy lunch with the crew and try learn some lines in Chinese for the filming. ‘Lian Zan Lao Wai, Dao Shao Hao’ – from what we could gather, it means something along the lines of – Even Westerners think the food is great’ ??

When we were practising around the lunch table, the crew seemed happy with my pronunciation, so invited me to join the scene and say the lines. Sweet! It was a hotpot scene, where basically we had to put food into the hotpot, talk to each other, make ‘mmmm’ sounds before looking at the camera, saying the lines and giving two thumbs up. Talk about cheesy or what! We managed to get through it in about 10 takes.

Next, after a brief walk in the nearby gardens, we head to the Wong Factory and offices where they needed Chris to be the ‘International Business Partner’. Of course, being a business partner means you need to look the part, so off to the shops they weren’t and bought him a suit. Emerging from the bathroom looking very handsome, although the suit was WAY too big, he was then filmed with the Management team in front of the building, shaking hands with the boss and another corny shot where they all looked towards the sky.

From here, we headed inside the Wong factories, where all their food products are made. We had to suit up in overall type suits, gumboots, hair nets, face masks, the whole works before we were allowed inside. Once inside, they had gathered around 50 factory workers to assist with making the scenes look real, most of them seemed pretty pleased to be in the clip, and also to be ‘working’ with westerners. We filmed a series of clips walking around the factory floor (I was included in these ones – looking towards the machinery, the walls, pointing at floor plans, all while nodding and working with the manager whose only English was ‘OK’? Good fun.

Lastly, we went back upstairs to the boardroom, where Chris was filmed back in his suit partaking in some business meetings and agreeing to ‘help make the Wong Company, and International Company’. We were then given dinner, and a goody bag filled with snacks and drinks, before being paid 600Y (£60 – bonus for them taking so long) and being driven back to the hostel by their driver.

All in all, a long day, but a really interesting one – and who else can say they recorded an advertisement while in China! Some of the people we met were really friendly, and who knows maybe we’ll see Chris’s face on billboards around China someday! We will sleep well tonight after a long day.

Posted by Long way home 03:56 Archived in China Comments (0)

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