] y a w r u [ on Issue #2 2010
r wo u o l e v a r to t
s Lear ned in Ort igia
Tea Trail Trek go online... www.onurwaytravel.com
[ Contents ] Issue #2 2010
Features 8] Winters Summer Palace Discovering the beauty of winter at Beijingâ€™s Summer Palace. 10] Marrakech in My Eyes Exploring a land of great mystery and ancient tradition. 14] Tea Trail Trek Trekking Hangzhouâ€™s mountainous tea trails. 20] Lessons Learned in Ortigia Never give a Sicilian your phone number! 24] Beyond the Grey The colours of winter in Beijing.
28] A South African Secret Discovering Coffee Bay.
The Common Room
Visit the Website vel tales, Jump online for more tra e, photos, travel tips, gap year advic video and more. .com
28 Editor: Sasha Peakall
Copyright & Disclaimer
Sub Editor: Rod Peakall
All material in On UR Way Magazine is copyright. All photography and articles are copywrite to the writers. Reproduction in whole or part is strictly forbidden without prior written consent. All opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of On UR Way Travel. All statements made although based on information believed to be accurate and reliable at the time cannot be guaranteed and no fault or liability will be accepted.
Design: Sasha Peakall Writer & Photography: Sasha Peakall Unless otherwise specified. Contact: email@example.com Online: www.onurwaytravel.com
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Editors Postcard Recently while procrastinating the dull but essential chore of food shopping, I planted myself on a park bench overlooking Kequio’s beautiful canals. As I paused to watch life go by, children playing with their parents after school, ladies washing clothes in the dirty canal waters, I was shocked by the strangest of sights. Right before my eyes was an old man rowing his very tired looking traditional Shaoxing canoe while dressed in an immaculately tailored grey suit. I was completely taken aback both by the canoeist in his fancy suit, and the sudden reminder that here I was actually living in China (2 months in). Culture shock overcome, China is a country I have truly come to love.
However, this experience would not have been nearly as enjoyable had it not been for my two amazing friends and travel buddies. To the 2 D’s I am so grateful to have you! A big thanks also goes to my family for being so supportive of my travel dreams and living abroad. I know that they miss me and would love to have me home. I love you all and really appreciate your support. To all the readers, I hope you enjoy this 2nd issue packed with great travel stories from some very talented globetrotting guest writers. I also hope you enjoy reading about some of the fascinating and colourful places I love in China!
hina are, Beijing, C u q S en m an Tian
Sasha Sasha Peakall, Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
On UR Way Readers Somewhere in the World
Contributors Special thanks to this months contributor’s for writing such inspiring and entertaining stories. Would you like to contribute? Do you have a story to tell? On UR Way Magazine is always on the lookout for writers/travellers with unique stories to tell and photos to share. If this sound like you I would love to hear from you, email email@example.com
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R O T U B I R CONT S T R O P S PAS PASSPORT
Marrakech in My Eyes...
AUSTRALIA ADAM AXON
I’m an Aussie Born Englishman and proud of it! I’m passionate about Football (Man United), photography and obviously travel! For as long as I can remember I’ve had a overwhelming drive to get out and explore the world. I’m fascinated by human behaviour and love to explore new cultures as a way of broadening my understanding of our World. I’ve travelled around Europe twice, first in 2006 for the World Cup in Germany and just recently towards the tail end of 2009. My favourite city would have to be Berlin! On my blog Illuminated Traveller I share my experiences, photos and learnings from not only my travels but also my day to day life. After all every day is an adventure if you have the right perspective!
UNITED STATES SUZY GUESE
in Italy for studying abroad le hi w ed om bo l Sicily, My love for trave idyllic locales of e of Italy’s most m so vel, in tra ar of ye s a ie over e stor ce. I seeks out th en or Fl to go, d re an he o, w nt e, Sorre what to se of ns io ct tra at e l rather than just th maintains that al travel philosophy y M al or t. ic ea ys to ph t er ha th w and yone, whe an r fo le ib ss po e mperament, forms of travel ar my redheaded te s ct fle re g in rit w ery piece. I just mental. My m throughout ev as rc sa d an n io ell as on weaving in pass publications as w e lin on l ra ve se r currently write fo om. te, SuzyGuese.c d ne ar my own travel si Lessons Le ns around various destinatio in s th on m in Ortigia ... e re th rst stop on I plan to spend e in its entirety. Fi ac pl a ow kn to story, people, the world, getting st yet with the hi ju d he is fin t no my list, Italy. I’m to! scenery, and gela
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A South Afr ican Secret ...
I’m Laura, I’ m 23 and I’ ve been wo port section rking the cu of i-to-i TEF stomer sup L for a few managed to months. La save up en s t year I fina ou and did a s lly outhern hem gh money to go backp acking, isphere tou went to Sou r with my b th Africa, Au est friend. W stralia, Fiji, America, fin e New Zealan ishing with d and South walking the ambition of Inca Trail, a mine. Since lifetime getting hom get out there e I’m alway again. Whils s looking to t at i-to-i I’m certificate and wo year in Marc I’m looking to go out to rking on my TEFL h 2011. I’ve Japan to te ach for a also had th a bit with w e opportunit ork - only la y to travel st week I w Fulham fan as in Hamb s to the Euro urg escortin pa final. g
I’m an aspiring photojournalist with a passion in writing, avid traveller that loves the great outdoors, friendship and cultures in different countries. I’ve traveled to quite a few locations and still have a long list of places to travel and take many beautiful photographs. www.photojournalist-tgh.tv
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A beautifu l sunset a fter a day rain off th of heavy e eastern s id e of Singapo known as re, Changi Boa r dwalk, a q tranquil ar uiet and ea off and a w a y from th busy cosm e opolitan c ity of Sing apore.
Changi Boa rdwalk
Snapshots Photography ÂŠ Jinghui
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Winters Summer Palace Discovering the beauty of winter at Beijing’s Summer Palace
The cold winds prickled my nose and fingertips. A soft cold mist swirling within the smog veiled the palace in the distance like a sheer curtain ready to reveal it’s hidden beauty. This was Beijing’s Summer Palace in the Winter. The Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) is located 15 km from central Beijing and is the largest Royal Park and Garden in China. Despite still being very much in the city once you step through the entrance gates it’s like entering a whole other world, a world of peace and tranquility. It’s no surprise why Chinese royalty of the past had chosen this very spot for their summer retreat.
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Despite it’s name ‘The Summer Palace’ it is every bit as beautiful in the winter. The iced over Kunming Lake glitters like brilliant crystal and the snow that lines the path edges and rooftops make this an unexpectedly beautiful winter wonderland. By visiting in winter, you not only experience this rare beauty but you also escape the hoards of tourist that plague the palace during the summer months.
Cost Entrance tickets cost 20RMB during the slack season (November 1- March 31). This ticket gives you entry into the park and gardens leaving you free to wander around the lake and four great regions. However if you wish to see inside many of the buildings and temple you will need to purchases additional tickets or the 50RMB combined ticket.
Getting There The most efficient way to get to the palace is to take the Subway on Line 4 to Beigongmen Station at the North Palace Gate. l By sasha Peakall
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With a return flight to Australia looming on the horizon, my European adventures were coming to a close. I realised that if I didn’t see Marrakech before I went home it would cast a gloomy shadow over my entire trip. In the face of rapidly depleting funds I bit the bullet and booked a week’s stay in Marrakech. Marrakech stood out head and shoulders from other potential Moroccan destinations. Whether it was the frantic Djemaa el Fna, the Labyrinth-like Medina or the imposing Koutoubia Mosque, Marra-
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kech seemed to be filled with the mystery and tradition that Paulo had described so vividly! I was filled with excitement and anticipation in the week leading up to the trip. This was to be my first experience of a predominantly Muslim based society and I was expecting a stark contrast to western society. So much of our history is characterised by our differences and I wanted to see first hand what those differences were really all about. After a slightly dubious easyjet flight we finally arrived at Marrakech’s Menara airport. As soon as we left the terminal we were confronted by an endless barrage of obscene offers by drivers to take us into the city. Strangely these offers became cheaper and cheaper as the bus approached, to the point where we were getting drivers offering to match the bus price at the very moment the bus
driver handed us our ticket! The airport was only ten minutes from the city by bus. Our final destination was Djemaa el Fna, It’s almost impossible to describe the overwelming chaos of activity that we walked into. Only a five-minute walk from the Djemaa el Fna was our accommodation the Equity Point Hostel. Although if it wasn’t for a YouTube video showing us how to get there we would have got lost for sure. Luckily for us if we had of gotten lost, there was an abundance of helpful locals willing to show us the way, for a price of course. Equity Point is a former traditional Riad that has been turned into the most luxurious and accommodating hostel I’ve ever stayed in. Complete with authentic Moroccan design, modern facilities, a delightful family of cats and a fantastic rooftop view over Marrakech.
Photography © Adam Axon
I think it was reading Paulo Coelho’s epic ‘The Alchemist’ which first put Morocco firmly in my mind as a must see destination. Paulo painted Morocco as a land of great mystery and ancient tradition. I was fascinated by the lure of a culture distinctly different from what I’d experienced in western society.
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The Atlas Mountains
The food in Marrakech was superb. I found the Moroccans experts in using just the right amount of spices in order to enhance and not overwhelm the original flavour of the dish. Traditionally cooked in a tajine Moroccan meat is always perfectly tender! Make sure to try a traditional pigeon dish.
The most memorable experience of my time in Marrakech was a day trip into the Atlas Mountains. Through Berber Adventure Tours, we’d arranged a hike up into the Mountains, which included a traditional lunch in a Berber village.
Seeing Daily Life Getting lost in the Medina gave me an insight into daily Moroccan life that you just won’t find in the tourist areas. We ended up stumbling across a neighborhood of endless workshops. All kinds of craftsmanship were on display. As the locals were hard at work creating all the wares that would later be sold to tourists in the many souks that dominate the tourist areas of the Medina.
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I’ll admit the early stages of the hike were taxing, but the view we got when we reached the top was absolutely stunning. Our lunch with a traditional Berber family was definitely the highlight of the tour. The food was fantastic, our host Mohammed was so welcoming and the smiles on the kid’s faces as we left will stay with me forever.
Underground Club You won’t find this in any tour guide but the most unique experience I had was spent in an under-
“The smil stay with
les on the kid’s faces as we left will h me forever.” ground Marrakech nightclub with a group of new friends from the hostel. I couldn’t tell you its name, I couldn’t even tell you where it was! All I can tell you is I had a brilliant night drinking watered down alcohol, dancing the limbo with ladies who we suspect were Moroccan prostitutes and chillaxing whilst smoking shisha pipes!
So did Marrakech live up to it’s billing as something mystical and completely different? Most definitely! I’ll openly admit that for the first few days I was a little blown away with culture shock. Listening to the Islamic Call to Prayer for example certainly prompted that classic ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’ feeling.
Because Morocco is an Arabic country and subject to Islamic law you don’t see the abundance of nightclubs you see in Western countries, and most you do see are filled with Westerners. This place was different. We were the only westerners inside and I got the feeling it was the place were Moroccan men went to do things they are not suppose to! It was like no other nightclub I’ve ever been too!
But you know what? A funny thing happened towards the end of my stay, especially after the nightclub experience. As I became more comfortable in my surroundings I began to see through the differences that at first had seemed so huge. I came to realise that when it comes down to it basic human behaviour, despite our skin-deep differences we are all very similar.
smile in any language! Our differences simply contribute to the rich tapestry that is humanity but underneath those differences we really are all cut from the same cloth. Marrakech, a city full of unique experiences that will forever hold a place near to my heart. l
More Info Follow Adam’s Adventures: illuminatedtraveller.com @adamaxon on Twitter flickr.com/photos/statto7/
The same key values of family, friendship and community apply across all cultures and a smile is a
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By Sasha Peakall The sweet smell of nature, not a wiff of an offensive smell, nor a hint of smog! After having spent so much time in China’s bustling cities, I had begun to believe that the tranquility of nature was all but a fairy tail. Led by our curiosity and fast paced strides we found ourselves exploring Hangzhou’s tea trail nestled in the spectacular foothills surrounding West Lake. We wandered down the path going wherever our feet led us. Silence, calm, not even a bird whistling in the tree, nor a mouse rustling in the undergrowth. The only sounds were my
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gulps for air and our heavy steps beating down on the stone steps as we ascended up Dahua Hill.
disappointed. The view out over Hangzhou’s Qiantang River was spectacular, even with the smog!
Step after step we climbed and climbed. Every bend in the path gave us a glimpse of hope that we had finally reached the top. Yet, each deceiving bend left us disappointed that we still had hundreds of steps to climb. All this time, two persistent thoughts keep running round-and-round my head: ‘why on earth didn’t I wear more appropriate shoes?’ and ‘this view had better be amazing!’ Although drained of energy, when we finally reached the summit we were not
The panoramic view over Hangzhou city and foothills reinvigorated our mountain climbing adventure. We proceeded full steam ahead to the top of Ma’an Hill. Once again the view was breathtaking as we overlooked Hangzhou’s foothills dotted with tea plantations and tea villages. After pausing long enough to take in the view, and catch our breath, we descended through the lush green forest into the valley below.
Tea Trail Trek Trekking Hangzhouâ€™s Mountainous Tea Trails
Nine Creeks in Misty Forest
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o View fr
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Our path ended abruptly at the entrance to the Li’an Temple. The temple complex, though small, was set in beautiful tranquil surrounds and was truly inspiring. It was easy to appreciate how this place could inspire spirituality. Li’an Temple is most famously known among Chinese Buddhists for the famous five Dynasties (907960) monk named Zhifeng, Abbot the Tiger Tamer. Legend has it that Zhifeng was responsible for taming the tigers that once lived on Wuyan Hill reeking havoc on the villagers. Centuries later he is still hailed as a hero and many pilgrims still visit the temple to pay homage to this mystical monk. Leaving the Li’an Temple behind, we continued down the cobble-
stone road, passing row upon row of tea plants before arriving at the most unexpected surprise. Suddenly, and without warning we found ourselves at what I can only describe as the most beautiful turquoise blue lake I have ever seen. It was a picture perfect image, soft blue waters set off by the deep green trees and the darkening grey sky. I could have spent hours sitting by that little lake surrounded by the pure magic of that beautiful place.
ourselves at the Long jin iun Tea Village one of the many tea villages that have made Hangzhou world famous for green tea.
Sadly, as the day began drawing to a close we forced ourselves to head back. We headed in the direction that we hoped was the right one, passing numerous tea pickers making their way home, their tea baskets overflowing after a hard days work. We soon found
After a few minutes, our newfound friend stopped in front of her house. She gestured for us to follow her inside. I hesitated, was this one of those notorious tea ceremony scams that I had heard so much about? Would we be yet another pair of dumb tourists
As we entered the village, we were spotted by a local who enthusiastically greeted us. “He cha” (drink tea) she said and gestured for us to follow. Curious and just a little thirsty from our walk we followed the little old lady through the village, all the while being stared at by the curious locals.
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lured in by a friendly face, and not allowed to leave until we paid an obscene amount of money for just a few glasses of tea? After deliberating under our breaths we decided ‘what the hell’, how often would we have the chance to drink tea with a local from China’s most famous tea growing region. What is more, there was two of us, and only one of her, and we certainly had the height advantage.
Long jin iun Tea Village
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We entered her home and were quickly led to a wall covered in photos. She first pointed to a large photo in a beautiful gold frame. It was a photo of her glowing with pride as she drank tea with Queen Elizabeth. One by one s-he pointed to all of her other photos, some with famous Chinese political figures others with lowly travelers just like us. Clearly she
“It was the most amazing green tea I had ever tasted. What is more, I was drinking it sitting upon the very hill from which it had been picked” loved having her photo taken with anyone, famous or not, and even more so if green tea was involved! After viewing the photo wall, we were led outside to a sitting area where she had set two glasses of steaming hot freshly poured green tea. It was the most amazing green tea I had ever tasted. What is more, I was drinking it sitting upon the very hill from which it had been picked. We drank, glass after glass, each time it was swiftly refilled. Despite the fact that I was a foreigner who didn’t speak her language, I felt right at home, welcomed and privileged to be drinking tea with her. Between my friends’ Mandarin (which is far better than mine) and lots of pointing we discovered that our new friends name was Jiang a yi. The tea we were drinking was from her family’s plantation and
was picked, dried and prepared by her. Uncountable glasses later it was time to leave. That’s when we discovered the catch! As we stood up to leave, our friend swiftly wrote down a number on a piece of paper and frantically pointed at it. Despite initially being told that the tea was free we were now being asked to pay 15RMB each. We weren’t entirely happy about the fact that we hadn’t been told this upfront, however we were happy to pay such a tiny amount, if not to just repay her for her kind hospitality and for welcoming us so warmly into her home. After all 15RMB (about AUD$2.50) wasn’t exactly going to put us out of pocket. Nonetheless, I did leave wondering what she had charged Queen Elizabeth for her cup of tea! l
More Info Where is it: Hangzhou is located in the Zhejiang province of China, 2 hours south of Shanghai. Suggested Route: Liuhe Pagoda (Pagoda of Six Harmonies) – Climb Dahua Hill & Ma’an Hills – Li’an Temple – Nine Creeks in Misty Forest – Long jin iun Tea Village. Read more about things to do in China online at: www.onurwaytravel.com
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in Ortigia e a v i g r e v e 1. N
ber! m u n e n o our ph y n a i l i c Si
Most travel lessons must be learned the hard way, usually beginning with trial and ultimately ending in error. When I reached Sicily on an unbearably humid day, I made my first Sicilian blunder, arriving in a sweat suit during summer. The thick heat on the island engulfed everything in its path that not even a cold shower could provide a 10-minute respite. Clad in head to toe black velour, opting
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for comfort on my three plane connections from Colorado, I felt as though everyone had their eyes feasted on me. I was met with intense glares, not knowing what was wrong with everyone. Is there something on my face? Hopping into a stuffy van ride to Ortigia, more Sicilian stares locked eyes with my own. I grew to know this is just in their nature. Sicilians
are always wary of outsiders. The island that appears to be at the kick of the Italian mainland’s boot has been invaded by the Greeks, Romans, Normans, Arabs, Byzantines, Spanish, and yes, even the Italians. Sicilians are not quick to trust foreigners and their history tells you why. Perched on Sicily’s southeastern coast, Siracusa once rivaled Athens
Photography © Suzy Guese
By Suzy Guese
in power. If you are not a believer, just pay a visit to the massive Greek amphitheater, the largest in all of Sicily. Ortigia, however, is not Siracusa. Ortigia serves Siracusaâ€™s historic center. You must cross a bridge to reach this small island off the island. As the van charged ahead over that key connector, a dream world met me at the other end. Rosy pink and creamy colored buildings set against a
cobalt blue sea looked unbelievable and worthy of pinching to find out if they were in fact real. An ancient Arab arch fell right next to my apartment. I gazed out my window to read a plaque on the neighboring building. A famous Sicilian poet lived right across the street. Stereotypical old men sat in Piazza Archimede playing scope, a traditional Sicilian card game. I strapped on my rose colored glass-
es for Ortigia seemed to do no wrong, providing scenery, poetry, history, and most importantly, life. Wandering around the city my first day, I encountered the inspiring and take-your-breath-away Piazza Duomo. Being no stranger to Italian piazzas, this one seemed to out-do all of the others. In daylight, the surrounding buildings glowed, even when the town grew
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emotional and poured gloomy rain. At night, an overwhelming feeling of connection came over me, as all of Ortigia came here to catch up on life, chatting away the evening with gelato in hand. Soft light illuminated Duomo Santa Lucia, the cathedral of Ortigia dedicated to the patron saint of Sicily.
to get someone to bite a Sicilian orange or two. Watching this scene play out daily is the Temple of Apollo, or at least what is left of him. It seems so strange to me to just casually walk by ruins en-route to buying groceries. In Ortigia, fresh produce and ruins mingle and it has been that way for thousands of years.
In December, a giant festival is held in her honor. A silver statue to Lucia is paraded through town as locals chant to their fair lady. The devotion and tradition of this celebration is enough to make a believer out of anyone, and not just in religion, but also in people. Her home in Piazza Duomo holds Greek origins. Along the sides of the Duomo, giant Doric columns can still be seen, for it was here the Temple of Athena stood when the Greeks had their way with Ortigia. No wonder I am so impressed. A goddess and saint used to occupy these grounds.
Walking back to my apartment one night, I encountered the usual gaggle of Italian teenagers and twenty-somethings. You will see them in their tight jeans and shiny T-shirts, calling out to any foreign woman that moves, praising her beauty. As a group began to call out to me, I mastered the art of ignoring and kept my eyes straightforward. Then I looked up as one said, “Sono Vincenzo (My name is Vincenzo)”. I thought, “I know you”.
I stroll through the old market on a clean, crisp morning. The stares I receive here could shoot holes right threw me. It may have something to do with the red hair. Most Sicilians are dark haired with tan skinned. Vendors on the sides of the street howl ever so loudly
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No, I had not already covered the island in that sense. A friend back home had studied in Ortigia as well, picking up a Sicilian boyfriend in the process. I had seen pictures of the famous Vincenzo, although I am not sure I needed to. He was just what you would imagine, dark, mysterious, but also inviting. I explained to him I knew his American girlfriend and his excite-
ment peeked just knowing that fact. I thought to myself how nice it was to make some innocent and new Sicilian friends that had no interest in catcalling or clinging. After going out a few times with these goofy Sicilians, Vincenzo asked for my phone number. Thinking he was just being nice, still dating my friend I might add, I gave it to him without hesitation. That moment when the numbers poured from my mouth, I went back to over and over. Every day for a month, I received calls from Vincenzo, wanting to get together. It soon became apparent what his intentions were. I was his next
2. Never arrive in Ortigia in a thick black sweat suit in summ er.
American object of interest. The phone calls eventually trickled off when they went unreturned. On my last day in Ortigia after living on the island for several months, I received a text message from none other than Vincenzo. He knew it was my last day and wanted to get together. I had to give the guy some credit. Sicilian men are so persistent. I learned several lessons throughout my time on that island off the island, detached and disconnected from the rest of the world. Never arrive in Ortigia in a thick black sweat suit in summer. Pack mosquito spray for the nasty bites will resemble battle wounds. The
history of Sicily makes for an unusual backdrop, floating in isolation in the Mediterranean Sea. The Sicilian stare is perhaps the most powerful weapon. And never give your phone number to a Sicilian man unless you are looking for that type of guy that really will call you the next day and the next day and the next day. l
More Info Follow Suzyâ€™s Adventures: suzyguese.com @suzyguese on Twitter facebook.com/SuzyGuese
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Above: If there was anywhere in Beijing to immerse yourself in colour then it would be at the Yonghegong Lama Temple. This massive Tibetan Buddhist temple is home to an amazing collection of Buddhist relics.
Beyond the Grey Winter in Beijing By Sasha Peakall Beijing is a city that on first impressions is a cold, grey, sterile and heartless place. In the winter, Beijing can be a particularly depressing sight, frightfully cold, brown snow lining the ground and dirty brown smog blanketing what otherwise could be a beautiful blue sky. As depressing as the winter weather, is the communist architecture standing as a reminder of the countries suppressive past contrasting with the massive concrete skyscrapers as a warning of a shallow globalised future.
â€œYet, beyond the grey there is a city rich in culture and colour waiting to be discovered!â€œ
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Right: These beautiful traditional rickshaws give you a taste of what it must have been like back in the day before motorcycles and scooters took over as the transport of choice in China.
Below: These bright and intricately carved wooden arches line the street leading up to Beijingâ€™s Hutong neighourhoods.
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Above: There is just something so commanding, suppressive and inspiring about Tiananmen Square. Maoâ€™s face looming over his people with the forbidden city as a backdrop is both an eerie and breathtaking sight.
Left: Even within the grey crumbling Hutongs there are glimpses of colour everywhere, in the Lanterns that hang in every courtyard, in the fruit stalls that pop up out of nowhere and most of all in every local who flashes you a big wide smile.
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Right: All over Beijing and particularly around the hutongs, beautiful colourful shop fronts line the streets. Behind these shop front’s many things can be found from restaurants serving up Beijing’s famous Peaking Duck to shops selling arts, crafts or religious and spiritual artefacts.
Below: At Beijing’s Summer Palace you can see glimpses of China’s rich cultural and colourful past.
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Secret Discovering Coffee Bay [ on ur way ] Issue #2
Photography ÂŠ Laura Summers & The Coffee Shack
A South African
By Laura Summers When in South Africa, many travellers spend their time between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on the stretch of coast called the Garden Route. But tucked away on the Eastern Cape of South Africa is Coffee Bay, one of the lesser known destinations on the backpacker route. Breaking away from the tourist masses to discover coffee bay for a glimpse of true South African living made the effort all worth it. The hours journey from Mthatha, where the Baz Bus dropped us off, was a brilliant way to start off my rural African adventure. The main hostel in the area, The Coffee Shack runs a shuttle service once a day, not only for the hostels in Coffee Bay, but for all the local community. We found ourselves crammed into the mini bus, alongside the regular backpacker crowd of Germans and Australians, but also members of the Xhosa community who live in and around Coffee Bay. It might not sound like the most pleasant experience, but once you’ve spent the entire journey laughing and chatting with the locals and your fellow backpackers, you’ve already had a taste of the culture of Coffee Bay.
If your journey is anything like mine, you also might find yourself at the local market on the way home to pick up dinner for the whole hostel that night. Filling my days in Coffee Bay was a breeze. Spending the day lying on the beach or in the hammocks soaking up the beautiful scenery of the bay was a perfect relaxing way to spend a day. Coupled with the 300+ days of sunshine Coffee Bay gets each year, it was fairly easy to just sit back, relax, and do nothing at all. Exploring the picturesque 10 km walk along the coastline to the Hole in the Wall was one of my favourite experiences. The Hole in the Wall is a unique structure; a huge detached cliff that has a
giant opening carved through its centre by the waves. The local Xhosa call this place ‘izi Khaleni’, which means ‘place of thunder’, and there is of course the romantic local legend about a beautiful girl cut off from the sea by the mighty cliff and how the sea people formed the hole in order to free her. Looking to add a little more action and adventure than stories about fish people, the hole in the wall had just the thing. If the tide and weather conditions are right (and you’ve had a beer for Dutch courage) you can jump into the opening as the wave comes crashing in. If that’s not enough for adrenaline junkies, you can also try your hand at abseiling the 45 metre cliff face virtually into the ocean.
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South Africa has some of the best waves in the world, and Coffee Bay is certainly no exception. The small beach is inhabited by dolphins, which we watched jumping and playing as we carried our boards down to the water. It was first time I had seen dolphins in the wild and the experience of swimming alongside them was one I will never forget. Plus I couldn’t really argue paying for probably the cheapest surf lessons in the world; only ZAR 40 for a 2 hour lesson and all surf equipment hire included. With Dave, the owner of the Coffee Shack and former Pro-Am World Championship title holder, on hand to help out with any technical difficulties, I found myself standing up in no time. Well, sort of! The Xhosa Culture is right at the heart of Coffee Bay and is a great way to experience the ‘Real Africa’. The surrounding area is the only part of South Africa still governed
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by tribal authorities. With no water or electricity for the locals, you can experience a small piece of the traditional way of life. The Xhosa people were incredibly welcoming, we were invited to join them for meals and ceremonies. It was also a great place to experience the South African arts. The Xhosas love to sing and dance, and The Coffee Shack regularly hosts different groups to perform their unique dancing and singing style. If you’re as lucky as I was, you’ll also get a performance from the owner’s little boy, who seriously runs the risk of stealing the show. There is also a serious note to experiencing this side of African culture. Much of the community survives off backpackers in some way or another. Whether this is working for the hostels in the area, by making shell necklaces to sell, or providing the food you eat every night, all of it is dependent
on tourism. If your after a unique South African experience then head to Coffee Bay and check yourself into The Coffee Shack. The Coffee Shack is definitely up there as one of the best hostels in the country. Every guest is welcomed with a tour of the hostel, a free beer and later on in the night, free oysters caught earlier that day by the local fishermen. Not only that, but every evening the women at the hostel cook up a two course feast for all the guests, and the nights are finished off by playing pool in the bar or sitting around the campfire. To keep this amazing little destination going a take a trip to Coffee Bay. I promise you, it will be one of the most memorable places you’ll visit in South Africa, it sure was for me! l
“With no water or electricity for the locals, you can experience a small piece of the traditional way of life.”
More Info The Coffee Shack hostel is located in Coffee Bay, South Africa. CAMPING 2-3 man tent ZAR60 DORM BEDS 6-8 bed dorm ZAR110 Jump Online: www.coffeeshack.co.za
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