I have been home since the 10th September, and I have been doing so much that I haven’t really had a chance to sort through my blog and my photos. I think it is about time that I do this, so I am starting today.
Today is a bank holiday in England and I have volunteered to work my day off – more money, yes please – whilst most people enjoy an extra days holiday. It is fairly quiet so I thought I would have a look at the blog.
I can see now and you will once you read this – so perhaps this should be the foreword to whatever this turns into – that way you wont get too lost in which country I have been to and when. But basically I had this original plan that I thought was amazing and that I would stick to . . . looking at it now, I couldn’t have been more wrong. At the end of whatever this is, I will put “The Route” as it originally sits on the website and next to it the actual route that I took.
A bit of a long foreword, so lets crack on. Enjoy the read
Looking back at the past 10 months, it has been emotional, extremely rewarding and something that I will treasure forever. It seems odd, 10 years ago I moved to New York, which turned out to be only for a year, but it seemed such a long time; whereas now nearly done a year travelling to 14 different countries, it seems such a short time in some instances, but very long in others!
South America certainly has much more to offer than South East Asia; I am not saying I preferred one to the other, but I certainly felt I saw a lot more in South America. South East Asia seemed all about drinking and mixing with Gap Yah people, and although I did get very drunk occasionally in South East Asia, I felt the next day that I wanted to die through the hang over; in South America no matter how drunk I got, there was always something amazing to see and do.
The reason why I wanted to go to South America is because I hadn’t been to that continent before and to do the Inca Trail once my friend told me all about it, and the reason I wanted to come to South East Asia was to hug a tiger in Thailand and go to the Great Wall of China. Once I was in Vietnam I didn’t think that I would be going to China as I was seriously intending on bringing my flight home a month earlier than planned – to the 2nd October – to surprise my mum on her 50th birthday!
Once I met Kim and she told me her plan, I thought to hell with it, I will meet her in China and see the Great Wall and everything else that goes with China! So I still got to do the Great Wall!
I brought my flight home even earlier as there is the annual party of the “Last Night of the Proms”, so I will be surprising most of my family, a handful know that I am home on the 10th September . . . my dad thought I was home on the 12th, and so he thought he wouldn’t be seeing me until he is home from New York on the 16th so even he will get a surprise as he was gutted that he would be missing me coming through the front door – but little did he know!!
I am so excited about being home . . . I just hope I don’t turn into a couch potato and do nothing. I have learnt that I miss cooking, and I cannot wait to cook for my family! Cathedral City cheese is all I want when I get home alongside a glass of milk!! YUMBLES!
Favourite Country = Cambodia, for the history and the friendliness!
Worst Country = WHAT YOU TALKIN’ ‘Bout WILLIS!!! There is nothing bad about any country I have been to!
All the countries that I went to have been different in so many ways, but also very similar! I was bored with South America and was glad I left after 6 months, because they all blended into one what with the language being the same in all countries except Brazil, but even then that was Portuguese so quite similar.
The countries I have been to in the past 10 months:
6) New Zealand
14) Hong Kong
I cannot wait to be home and start settling down and focusing on a career and family . . . but first, a holiday to Australia for Vinny and Kate’s wedding!!
BRING IT ON!! J
Thank you for keeping tabs on Sabs whilst I have been away! I hope I don’t bore you to death with the nonstop talking about travelling!
My motto in life is still “Everything happens for the best” and it certainly does!! Am I sad that I didn’t do a complete year . . . the truth is no I am not sad. It has been the greatest 10 months of my life so far; I managed to go to every country I wanted and then some and I got to do things I wouldn’t have been able to if I wasn’t travelling – like eat a scorpion!
This trip has been made possible by the people who I treasure most: My parents!!
Tuesday 6th September 2011:
I got up at 05:00 and Kim came downstairs to say our goodbyes and as she headed upstairs, the taxi arrived. I got to the airport within half and hour, so I sorted out my case and ended up throwing my day bag away as there was no room for that in my big case. I checked in and made my way to the gate and watched a bit of “House”.
The flight was 2 and a bit hours and we arrived safely; it was weird, because I have been to Hong Kong before, so it felt a bit like home – I knew the city a bit – and was looking forward to getting to where I was staying. I am staying in a friends place, she is a friend from home but moved here just over a year ago, and is living with her boyfriend, so I have the place to myself. It is up a huge hill that I was not going to walk up nor down; I did make my way up to her apartment and showered before venturing to the shops to get some food for the next few days!
The apartment block is about half an hours walk up from Victoria Peak – one of the touristy parts of town where you can see the whole island – so it was very plush! I spent the day relaxing and watching plenty of films on Chantal’s laptop. Tonight was nice and quiet for me to relax and do nothing.
Wednesday 7th September 2011:
I told myself to get up and have a little swim in the pool that was available for use, it was great I spent a good hour just swimming some laps and feeling less lethargic than I had the previous day; I was meeting Chantal and others for dinner at around 19:00 so I had the day to do as I pleased. I headed to town around 16:00 to make sure I knew where the restaurant was and how to get there without getting lost.
I purchased a really cute leather – probably fake – bag from a market stall and met Chantal, her boyfriend Mark, and their friends for dinner. It was great; I got to catch up with Chantal and got to interrogate her boyfriend! Nah, he was a lovely man and I wish them well together. After dinner we went for a drink at a bar before we headed our separate ways.
I am meeting Chantal and her friends for dinner tomorrow.
Thursday 8th September 2011:
My penultimate day travelling – I did nothing – well if you count walking half and hour to the top of a very steep hill to see the view of the peak before coming back to meeting Chantal and her friends for dinner.
It was nice because I got to contemplate how amazing the last year has been and how I think I will miss a few or a lot of things about it. I got back to the apartment and had a look at some of my early photos from Argentina – a whole 10 months ago – and thought wow, I have seen so much!!
Friday 9th September 2011:
HAPPY 24th BIRTHDAY ANJA!!!!!
Wow, my last day in not only Hong Kong but my last day as a traveller. I have packed my bag, wrote this blog and for the few hours I will probably read and watch a film or two. My flight is at 23:15, so plenty of time to procrastinate!
Next stop . . . . ENGLAND!!!!
Thursday 1st September 2011:
Kim and I arrived safe and sound in Beijing after an odd sleep on the train – it is no where near like falling asleep in a car – at 08:00 and had no idea which station we were at (there are two main train stations in Beijing). We thought about getting the metro but then because we realised we would have to get a bus to some metro station and we weren’t entirely sure which bus we needed, we opted for a taxi. We told lots of taxi drivers which area we needed to get to, but none of them had any idea; eventually one guy says he will take us, who then tells his mate to take us and we hopped into this little car that wasn’t a taxi – GULP!
We made it in one piece all fine and dandy to the road where we thought / hoped the hostel would be; whilst I sat with the bags, Kim went scouting up the road and came back 5 minutes later with a smile on her face –which I took for her having found the hostel. We checked in, and when we saw the room we were staying in, we were instantly a bit disgusted; it had 5 Korean’s staying in that were still asleep – it was noon by this point – and it was a total mess.
We left them to it and headed to reception to try and see how I could sort my train ticket to take me to Hong Kong and Kim had to try and sort out her visas for Mongolia and Russia. We were instantly hit by a brick wall; the receptionist woman was a complete bitch and was totally unhelpful, so this didn’t reassure us! We were told where a travel agency was that could help us a bit better, and after a long think I thought I might just buy a plane ticket and save all the hassle with trains and border control; it is nearing the end of my travels so I was slowly getting the “I can’t be bothered to deal with people” attitude.
After we checked flights with a travel agent, I thought I would be able to find it cheaper so didn’t book with them, and she told us that the Embassy for visas was only a 2 minute walk away. We arrived at the Embassy and walking upstairs we came to the realisation that this was the Chinese Embassy – how exactly were they going to help Kim get visas for Mongolia and Russia. We then headed to another place that helps with both these visas and got told that we had to go to the Embassies that were both on different parts of the city; they could however sort out the trains (30 hours train ride to Mongolia, and 6 days to get to Moscow), and after a long sit down and discussion Kim came to the realisation that she wouldn’t have enough time. Money here was not the factor; it was simply that she had to get a flight home on the 24th September as she has job interviews for the week after that.
Kim was a bit disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to complete her South East Asia section of her travels all by land, but as I kept reminding her, the countries will be there next year! We made our way back to the hostel as Stefan – the guy from Laos and Vietnam – was going to meet us there as he has also just arrived in Beijing; he wasn’t there on our return, but I did manage to book a flight to Hong Kong for the 6th September, giving me 3 full days in Hong Kong to either chill out or see sights, and then HOME!
We went to bed after having a little drink at the bar to settle our annoyances and I was sleep after about 20 minutes . . .
Midnight struck: Stefan knocks on our bedroom door!!!
Friday 2nd September 2011:
We spent three hours talking to Stefan; he had booked into a hostel miles away and couldn’t work out for hours how to get to ours, so we let him sleep in Kim’s bed whilst Kim shared my bed – I haven’t top-and-tailed in years!! We finally went to sleep at 03:30.
We all woke up around 10:00 and Stefan went back to his hostel to collect his things as he has booked in to stay at the hostel we are at. He didn’t show up again until gone midday, so in the mean time Kim and I tried to find her a flight, which was very hard work as her bank cards wouldn’t let the transaction go through and I tried with my card but that too was being unsuccessful. Stress levels increasing, it was a good thing that Stefan turned up when he did; we headed out to go and see the Forbidden City – the old Emperor’s palace – but by the time we turned up it had closed for the day!!!
Not knowing what to do next, I decided that we should go and see the Nest – the Olympic stadium – as it was close to dusk and it was meant to be totally different to seeing the sights during the daylight hours and then once the sun goes on. We got there with an hour or so until sunset, so we got to see the main stadium and the swimming centre at its glory in day light. We walked all the way through the central walk path and ended up where the food court was – buy a card with money on – and bought a few things to eat before handing back the card to get our deposit back. I remember doing that type of thing in Chiang Mai with coupons; and as the sun set we headed back to the walk way and it was such a stunning sight.
The Nest was lit up yellow/red and it was beautiful; we spent the next hour or so walking the whole way down the path where we saw lots of places renting out roller skates or roller blades. There were also plenty of people casually strolling along and also some Karaoke stands playing some awful music, which obviously the Chinese loved – as do all Asians who love their Karaoke. It was striking because the weather was still relatively warm and everyone was just relaxing at nearly 22:00; the three of us all thought that there was no way this could be done in the UK because not only would things get stolen, but the weather would be so terrible most of the year that no one would want to be hanging outside.
Saturday 3rd September 2011:
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA BABY!!!
We were up at 07:00 to get the metro to another location where we could pick up a bus to take us to Mitianyu – a section of the Chinese wall; we got there and were instantly accosted by people offering private cars to take us to the wall. We managed to barter one guy to take us to the wall and we thought we may have had to wait for other tourists to join us, but we got the private mini bus all to ourselves.
We got to the wall at just gone 09:00, and it was amazing to look up the mountains to see the edges of the wall all over the tops of them. We bought our tickets and got a chairlift to the top and spent a good couple of hours walking along the wall and taking silly photos of us doing handstands and jumps; we came to one part of the wall where I knew my legs and knees would not like walking up – steep as all hell – so I told Stefan and Kim to go on ahead, giving them my camera and I sat waiting for them for 20 minutes. It was lovely because I got to reflect on my life and realise just how amazing it is that I was sitting on THE Great Wall of China! Looking back, even just 6 months ago I was in Peru with Kate doing the Inca Trail!! I am so lucky! I also sent my final set of postcards before the two of them came back.
We walked up to where we arrived and bought tickets to toboggan down to the start; it was absolutely fantastic, but would have been much more fun if the people in front of Kim hadn’t stopped to take things slow – ITS ALL ABOUT SPEED BABY!!! Either way it was brilliant and we wanted to do it all over again! We grabbed a quick bite to eat before we had our driver take us back to Dhongzihmen station where we got picked up originally.
We arrived back at our hostel and Stefan had to book his flight to Seoul, South Korea for the 6th as well and to finalise Kim’s booking. She is going home on the 7th so we had a few more days together before we all split up. We then decided to go out for a drink, we ended up at an expensive place, well anything apart from beer was expensive; we drank the beer and also got given this free tea – which happened to have alcohol in, but simply tasted of tea – so whilst the other two sipped their tea, I was downing them and so I ended up fairly drunk. . .
So drunk that I managed to kick a professional dancer off of her podium and got the whole dance floor clapping and cheering as I did the dance – albeit very drunkenly – to Shakira’s Waka Waka song (last World Cup’s song). Then we decided to pole dance, and Kim taught me how to hang upside down from it and slide down; I did that a couple of times before I smashed my ankle in the bar and had to stop! Walking home was a blur, but funny nonetheless.
Sunday 4th September 2011:
Getting up at midday, we headed to a local area and walked down this alley that had some very cute shops; selling things from leather note books to vintage items. That was a good couple of hours, where I purchased 7 badges of the different faces that Spongebob pulls – like on my belt – and then we headed on the tube to Wangfujing – a place that had more shops and best of all the night market.
We were starving by the time we got to the night market, so we had a quick bite to eat in McDonalds – will definitely be avoiding this food place when I get home. We headed into the night market and were instantly attracted by the food stalls – they had Scorpions that had their heads cut off but were still trying to attack each other with their pinchers; we were a bit grossed out by them and the wichitigrubs that were next to them, but we did try Dog and Monkey and Snake – YUM! The meat was lovely; dog tasted like chicken but far juicier, and the monkey tasted like pork but far more tender! The snake tasted similar to when I had it in Cambodia, although I am not sure if they totally tasted awesome due to the meat or the lovely seasoning that was spread over it.
I bought a couple of things from the market before we headed back to the hostel where we came across a couple from Belgium who couldn’t find their hostel – not the one we were staying in – so they came back to our hostel and got directions from the nicer reception woman.
Monday 5th September 2011:
This morning we finally made it to the Forbidden City; all I wanted to see there was the Starbucks, but we didn’t happen to find it – the Forbidden City was HUGE! – we walked through all the main buildings, one was for the Emperor to change, one was for him to rest once he had changed and so on!
We headed to Wangfujing to try and find the fake market, and wound up outside McDonalds doing a bit of people watching! It was good fun, we then decided it was necessary to try the Scorpions, which we all did, and it tasted of nothing but it was crunchy!
We then went to find the market that everyone raved about that sold really good fakes! It took us a couple of hours and a few times of asking people before we made it and OMGeee, it was incredible, I wish I had more room in my case for stuff I would have shopped until I dropped! I did buy two pairs of trainers – Air Jordan’s and Van’s for £20!!! Bargain, although they will probably last like a £10 worth of shoe, but they are still wicked. I also bought myself a lovely jacket that I had wanted for 3 years – Abercrombie style and few other bits and bobs!
We made it back to our hostel with lots of goodies and had some dinner; I skyped Toby and my Dad before heading back to the table where Kim presented me with a lovely gift of Spongebob underwear!! Whoop!! It was a sad farewell as I am getting up ridiculously early to get to the airport for my flight to Hong Kong. L Feels like my travels are over!
Sunday 28th August 2011:
After checking our clothes to see if they were dry; we put on a wash last night, we went for a wander around Xi’an city. The main city of Xi’an is surrounded by very high walls; which you can apparently go on and see the view.
We came back in the late afternoon and had a brief nap before feeling hungry; we decided to try something local so we went next door where they spoke no English and nor did their menu’s! We just chose something and it came back as a broth and we chose some symbols that were vegetables and some raw beef slices that were to be cooked in the broth.
It was a lovely dinner, and after we were full and paid up, we went back to the dorm to watch a bit of Archos; as we sat there watching, we realised that we stank because of the hotpot broth! We seriously could not shake the smell, and thought we would never get rid of the stench.
Monday 29th August 2011:
This morning we had booked on a trip to go and see the Terracotta Army Warriors – 8,000 clay people were built some many years ago to protect the then Emperor – these were unearthed in 1974 by some farmers who were scared shitless. Eventually they got some money from the government and the government dug up these warriors which are now on display.
We stopped in Bapon village before heading to the warrior’s and got a chance to see how the Chinese lived in some dynasty or other – as you can tell, it has been a good week since I was there and I am finding it a bit difficult to remember vital points (Whoops)! We then made our way to where reproductions of the warriors are made and got to see how they were manufactured – their heads are made separately from their bodies. There are 5 different grades of the army from General to standard Infantry. After buying a couple of small infantry men to put on my so far non-existent shelf, we eventually made our way to the area where 1,000 or so army warriors had been dug up and put on display.
It was quite stunning to see them all either standing up fully without any breakages, or carefully reconstructed with several parts to make one warrior. There were even some that were still in their place when they were found to have been “wounded” and so were lying down in what could only be described as a deadly pose if they were real people.
We had a wander around the museum that describes the warriors in a bit more detail, and it could be noted that the warriors were built as I said to protect the Emperor, who was subsequently buried in a hill nearby that had everything you could possibly want in a lifetime; he had things buried in this hill before his death so that in his afterlife he could still have all his worldly possessions.
As we were walking out towards our minibus to take us to the hill where we could have a view of where the Emperor is buried, my flip flop decided to break. It was heartbreaking because not only did I have to hobble around for the next hour, but also because I had worn these flip flops for 2.5 months solidly; even the soles were millimetres thick! Sad times . . . but moving on, I did manage to fix it at least until I made it back to the hostel where I would be throwing them away; I attached a hair tie to the underneath and made it stretch up and over to the straps – I AM CLEVERER than you think!
Coming back to the hostel, we had to wait half an hour whilst those that paid extra could go to the hot springs, and we got chatting to a couple of people who we had spent the day with but barely said two words too. We then spent the next couple of hours driving back to Xi’an city; passing a pagoda and a water fountain show and lights that looks stunning at night. We were told that there is a daily water show there and we decided rather than getting up at silly o’clock to go climb some mountain, we’d have a relaxing morning and head to the pagoda to see the show in the evening.
We got back to the hostel, and spent the evening writing out some emails to people; I then accidently hit Kim on her bad toe – its been sore for 10 days so far (she hurt it in Halong Bay [different time to when I went there]) – and as she got off of my bed, she smashed my head accidently . . . so we were left pissing ourselves laughing!
Tuesday 30th August 2011
Today we had a lovely lie in and once again sorted out our lives before venturing out on a long walk to the pagoda that I mentioned about yesterday. It was a lovely walk and took a good half an hour to an hour to reach the place. As we walked in, we tried to see where the water show would be – DISASTER – we saw a sign that told us of times of the show, and guess what . . . there is no show on a Tuesday! GAH! We were very disappointed as it is our final night here before we head to Beijing.
We gave up sulking and had a wander through the area, which was still very pretty! We saw a couple of street vendors having a full on fight, and saw some people dressing up in traditional clothing and having their pictures taken – we didn’t realise they were tourists until we saw a stall offering services to take photos of them dressed up. It was quite cool seeing a woman dressed up standing next to who I guess was her friend in normal clothing; we headed off down to the market to look at the usual touristy crap where we bought some huge sticks of candy floss that was bigger than my head; sadly it shrunk quite quickly due to the humidity.
We then decided to head for some dinner; we realised as we sat down that it was a Korean restaurant – they had mini coal BBQ grills in the middle of every table – we were helped by our waitress (who was very sweet, she kept saying “You are wonderful”) throughout the meal – which was sweet and nice, but also very annoying as every time I had a sip of my beer, she was there filling it back up! LET US EAT IN PEACE! However, the meal was amazing, we got to cook our own lamb kebabs and prawns; as we left we wanted to give the waitress a tip, but she refused it whole heartedly!!
We got a very small tuk tuk back to our hostel where we would spend one more night in Xi’an
Wednesday 31st August 2011:
Today is our last day in Xi’an, and we thought we would do some final emails and then head to the surrounding wall. We didn’t get out of the hostel until 15:00; that gave us two hours to go to the wall and have a view of Xi’an. We got up to the top of the wall and thought it would be fun to hire a bike and cycle some of the wall – we knew we wouldn’t have enough time to get around the whole wall – but some would be interesting to see at least. We saw that there was a tandem bike and we thought it would be funny to rent the tandem bike rather than have a bike each; the one we saw had been taken by the couple in front of us in the bike rental queue, so we thought we wouldn’t be able to get one, but luckily there were more!
We grabbed the tandem, had a few photos and off we went; it was hysterical because the pavement wasn’t exactly smooth, and it was hard going with two people trying to pedal. We made to a quarter of the way around the wall, each taking turns to be the front driver; we also made up some songs – “We are in China, my friend, and we’ll be in China till the end!” – lyrics changed to the song by Queen!
We finished our biking and went back to the hostel in time to grab to bags and head off for the bus to take us to the train station. We were an hour or so early for the train, but better to be early than late; it turns out the whole of China was there, or so it seems, but in China it seems that the locals get to the train station very, very early so it was quite crowded. We got on our sleeper bus – both of us had top bunks in the cabin – and we got comfortable and took some fun photos of us geeking in the cabin; all the while two Chinese guys below us were either trying to sleep or just read a newspaper.
BRING ON BEIJING!