23/04/2010 - 23/04/2010 21 °C
ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha - i got to cuddle a baby panda in Chengdu!
other panda photos in main gallery section...
This Blog is to keep friends and family updated on our travel plans, photos and gossip! It may also help (?) anyone else who stumbles across this site re travel ideas!
23/04/2010 - 23/04/2010 21 °C
ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha - i got to cuddle a baby panda in Chengdu!
other panda photos in main gallery section...
No not really, but that would have been funny!
17/04/2010 - 21/04/2010 16 °C
Yep, another train ride... We're on number 4 now. Beijing to Xi'an is about 16 hours of fun but this time just Jon and I now (Lucky 7 - our groups nickname - have all gone their separate ways) ...
The Han Tang Inn is centrally located so after 'freshening up' Jon and I went to explore. We went to the Bell tower (a Tower with a big bell in it) then the Drum Tower (...can you guess what's coming? yep...a Tower with a big Drum outside of it - we watched a music show inside this which consisted of lots of bell and drum hitting).
Xi'an is still as polluted as Beijing, the bus journeys only cost 10p to go anywhere on route, but hold on for your life! And of course, everyone still beeps like mad! The Hostel staff are very friendly and always trying to help you if you need anything - Chris even gave us Chinese names; Li Lin (Jon- meaning forest) and Cho Mi (Rosie - meaning flower). We took a tour from the hostel to see the Terracotta warriors, guided by Jia jia (said like "JaJa Binks" - Star Wars) who seems to have fallen in love with me - she gave me a keyring with the Emperor on it to bring me good luck during my travels, how sweet!
The Terracotta Army is magnificent, as we knew it would be. There were three chambers we visited, each with thousands of warriors still to be pieced back together and put on display, ranging from kneeling archers, standing archers, chariots, horses and footmen too. It was humbling seeing them all stood together in their resting places in the ground, especially when you learn of the level of detail that went into each one, not to mention the floor they stood on, the walls surrounding them and the ceiling covering them!
We were in luck that day; the founder of the site (the man who made the discovery whilst digging a well) was signing autographs - we didn't bother with a signature but Jon shook his hand whilst i took a photo, conveniently ignoring the "No Photo" signage that all the Chinese ignored too!
Then it rained.
Jono here now: This was the first time we had seen Rain since leaving the UK!! It was horrible walking through it, getting wet and cold. Rosie correctly described this events as "a Storm!" I tried to explain that this was just like the rain we used to see all that time ago (4 weeks) back home, but she was having none of it and considered no more sight seeing until the whole ordeal was over! Of course we all know what Jon had to do to make Rosie's suffering end: That's it, I quickly purchased an ice cream fix, "the storm" ended but the rain continued for the next couple of days...will be heading to Chengdu next (Sechuan province) to see the pandas...!
Rosie Posie had a Great Fall...
09/04/2010 - 17/04/2010 8 °C
Arriving in Beijing by train was fun because you instantly get to see what city life is like, passing by neon lit buildings, banks of Beijing, couples in parks (they wave back), men practicing bowls (competition for u dad), cyclists etc. The city is somewhat dusty but no more than the last train we were on as it went through the Gobi desert.
Exiting the train station was amusing because outside was fairly crowded (like most train stations) but people could spot us a mile away. Some people stared, others took photos of us n others carried on as normal. We of course took photos so it felt quite ironic since the Chinese like to do tours in groups n take photos of everything which is exactly what we were doing...
The other vodka train group we met on the Russian train and who had been with us along the same journey, but with different honcho's now merged into our group so Alice (our Beijing honcho) had 13 People to make happy. She is so sweet. Shes 26 but looks 16 and is so helpful.
Friday eve (day of arrival) we took a walk to Dongcheng night market where there is a street of food stalls, mainly sugared fruits on a stick or insects on a stick. We found: snake, sea-horses, scorpions (some still moving), squid, fish, locuts, steamed crabs in shells, dumplings and many other wild n wonderful things!! Have yet to sample the delights yet...
Yesterday (Saturday 10th) she showed us the Jingshan Park where upon entering (2 yuan -£0.20), you are immediatley greeted with a beautiful if somewhat bizaare scene; 50+ (both age and quantity) people doing aerobics together outside with the music blaring out. Behind them are a series of steps leading up to the temple at the top of a hill from which you can see the Forbidden City - stunning. On the way up the various steep stepped routes you walk alongsode trees which let the light stream through as well as a gentle breeze making you feel relaxed and very much at peace. Made me think this was a great place to come n chill out from city life, which is exactly what the locals were doing.
We then headed across the road to the Forbidden City (60 yuan entry -£6) where we got a James Bond (Roger Moore) audio guide! Only in China eh?! I had assumed China would be like a cattle Market all over with hordes of ppl crowding everywhere I went- well it certainly was in the FCity. Tour grp after tour grp could be seen with different coloured hats used to identiy them from each other (Red, White, Orange...). They came on mass to the major buildings/gates in the city trying to push or jostle you out of the way without any apology (reminded me of London rush hour) so we got tough n returned the privaledge. when in Rome...
Leaving the FCity from the south side lead directly to Tian'amon square which was filled with crowns but it's so big it still feels comfortable to walk through, unlike the FCity. We headed straight throught it with Alice since she was directing us to a restaurant for lunch and she pointed out various points of interest along the way. We had more amazing food for lunch (Kungpo chicken, sizzling beef, noodle dish, rice, auberine, and drink which came to £2.80 each!!) before heading off to the Silk Market: 5 floors of stalls selling various goods- we brought out our bargaining skills n got good deals
Sun n Mon we chilled out n sorted out our onward travels plans. Tue we made our way to the Great Wall, Badaling section (the tourist bit) Which took about 2 hrs to get there. The section of wall we climber is 6metres in width n height and the steps get very steep in places, often meaning u need to use the central hand rail. Our section of the wall wasn't too busy once you'd reached the highest part. We had lunch overlooking the mountains with a chilly breeze despite the sun shining. After lunch we continued to the end of our wall section and of course, this is where I fell over! I'm sure few people can say they fell over (on) the great wall?!
Wednesday we decided to be adventerous n take the (very modern) rental bikes out for a ride. We were out for 2.5 hrs seeing the sites, luckily most streets have a cycle lane specially designated; however this is still used by cars, buses, motorised bikes, cycles n pedestrains! So lots to watch out for: horn is king of the road!!! Unfortunatley my bikes bell had broked but suprisingly I survived without any falls!
Thursday we went to the Temple of Heaven, where the emperor performs various rituals after 3 days fasting to hope for a good years harvest. We visited a wooden building, the largest in China that is self supporting without nails... N it looks pretty too. Then we returned to the Silk Market for bag buying- Rosie is now a v happy bag lady!
Ps. Stupid great wall step!
Ulaanbaatar and the Ger Camp
04/04/2010 - 07/04/2010 -9 °C
Arriving in Ulaanbaatar (UB) after the serenity of Irkutsk was slightly soul destroying! Perhaps a dramatic description but UB is a very polluted city where crime rates are high (nothing happened to us) and it has a seedy gritty feel to it despite every now and again happening upon a glass skyscraper which would fit in well in London.
More things that keep happening to rosie
01/04/2010 - 02/04/2010 -7 °C
1 last thing to add on is rosie antics of this journey. Most of the people in our group decided to do some hand washing last night. Not knowing that the owner of the hostel gets angry as water bills are high and she wants us to pay her to do it for us, only one person out of the 7 of us obviously got caught in action. Yes, whilst rosie was washing her clothes she was again being shouted at in Russian having no idea what the lady was saying. The hostlady called the honcho to get him to translate to rosie what she was saying but kept shouting so rosie could not hear him either and continued rinsing her clothes. Once rosie realised what she was saying and of course finished cleaning the clothes she then stopped. :-)
We were then told by our honcho later that we should all pay for our washing. As the hostlady had not made any effort to make us welcome in the hostel with not even a hello in the 3 days, our group came to the conclusion that she would not get another ruble from us. She was probably happy to see us all leave today as we were also all up drinking all of last night and as we had the hostel all to ourselves we weren't the quietest of people!!
31/03/2010 - 02/04/2010 -8 °C
So after 4 long but very entertaining and very hot nights on the train we arrived in Irkutsk (Siberia) at 4:30 am Moscow time, 9:30 am local time. We were woken up early by the grumpy (blondy as we called her- not Maria) Russian carrige attendant lady.
We met our honcho kosta who took us to our bus for the 1 hour drive to lake baikal. Arrived at our hostel which had some great views of the snowy forest and mountains.
After a long day walking it was time for a Russian sauna which included running out of the sauna in just swimming trunks and rolling in the snow. A very wierd feeling but this was then followed by warming up again in the sauna to then be whipped with pine leave and hot oil. Supprisingly this was all very relaxing.
Dinner with our £3 bottles of champange and followed by the cheap vodka and beer sums up most evenings in russia.
We are now heading back to Irkutsk where we will spend a few hours exploring while waiting for tonights train. This time only 2 nights on the traing until we reach our next destination: Ulaanbataar (Mongolia).
Moscow to Irkutsk (27-03-10 to 31-03-10)
27/03/2010 - 31/03/2010 -7 °C
Our journey begins in Moscow where we caught the 12.30 train from platform 9 and 3/4 (I wish- Harry Potter reference for those less well versed in my obsessions). I'm going to split this entry into sections that are defining journey Moments:
The in-mates (Day 2):
Scary Russian number 1 was replaced by nice Russian (Alex) who rather unfortuatley for him had to put up With us all Playing drinking games; 21s and S&P (no crying Anish, sorry) which was fun until the morning, but my hangover wasn't Too bad.
We got to know Alex better over the next day and he shared some mini Cornish pasty style food with us (fillings were cabbage or potato or mushroom, v tasty). We met Two Russian akrobats (gymnasts) who were 11 yrs old and practiced their English with us whilst we played card games and I painted their nails (got to keep up standards...).
Basically days drifted into one long journey and so I am going to briefly summarise the main highlights so u don't get bored...(more bored)- in no particular order but noodles
Is number 1 for a reason!
1. noodles and cuppa soup (staple diet)
2. Missed toilet opportunities (train toilets locked 20 mins before n after station stop)- 87 stations stops from Moscow to Irkutsk!!
That's it folks, until the next train ride, ta ta x x
But no Maffia
23/03/2010 - 27/03/2010 4 °C
So Moscow- the Kremlin, armoury (Faberge eggs), Lenin, Red Square, Arbat n lots of walking!! We've been here for 3 n a bit days now and whilst Moscow is great, it's not for me when compared to St P but it is interesting in it's own right ...
More pictures of Moscow to follow onceweve retouched with Internet- this is to fill the gap from Moscow to train ride!
So our tour 'officially' began yesterday when we met our Honcho (city guide) who is called Marcha n who is v v v excitable, so we get on well... She had so many ideas about where to take us all but cos most of us had been in Moscow for a few days we'd done the tourist stuff so she was a bit disappointed she ended up taking us to the Vodka Museum (imagine that, Rosie in a room filled with hundreds of bottles of prime Vodka) where we had a tour (really interesting) and a shot of (very nice) vodka. Mmm.
After that we returned to the hostel to do chores-wash our clothes- hence why I was in the toilet late last night using the hand dryer to dry my tops!! lol
Anyway this morning is the big train ride; 3-4days on a train from Moscow to Irkutsk across Russia...questions running through my mind are:
Was everyone at work right? (that I'd get left on a platform because I was scoffing food n didn't realise the train was leaving)
Was packing a sink plug worth it?!
Who will help me entertain Jon for 3-4 days??
How much cuppa soup can one person consume without dying from lack of vitamins etc...
How much choccy should I buy for the journey!?
How will I cope with the days merging together...
Will the Babooshkas sell me food? Or will they see Monster Rosie (I.e. Hungry Rosie) coming?
So...packin done breakfast now... So until Irkutsk, ta ta x x x
Then to Moscow...to meet the mafia
22/03/2010 - 22/03/2010 -2 °C
So this is (Monday) the final day before we fly to Moscow tomorrow.
To sum up the 3 days we were here:
We saw a car crash, we saw a big fight in the middle of the road, and I almost stole 50 rubles from the lady on the bus. Rosie cut her finger, burnt her hand and slipped on some ice down some steps. Oh and we also saw some great sights :-)
Today was spent visiting the Church of Spilled Blood which did look pretty amazing inside and Rosie has taken some great pics of all the art work. We then went for a walk accross the frozen river (but we stayed on the bridge) to Peter and Paul's fortress. We had a long walk around there mainly looking at the Cathedral and the Prison (where I am sure rosie would have loved to leave me)...
In the middle of all this we took a really nice walk through a park packed with snow. Obviously we had to jump in to it; knee deep, then lie down to make snow angels until it got too cold for us. Childish fun games in the snow, you gotta love it.
More from moscow ...
No not the scary horror movie!
19/03/2010 - 23/03/2010 2 °C
St Petersburg (or Eatersburg as i typed on Facebook - no reference to food intended Whiteley) is wet wet wet! But the hostel we are in is hot hot hot! Def no need for thermals in here! There are some really cool ppl in our hostel so fitting in well we had free vodka n orange tonight after cuppa soup dinner with banana n mini bread sticks! It's begun, back to being a student!
The hostel is called The Soul kitchen Hostel - http://soulkitchenhostel.com/ and is well good (don't think i've used that phrase since i was 15!!) ... and you should all come and stay here when you come to Russia! Staff are helpful, friendly and chilled out. OK enough advertising...Sun night; the weekend is over so the people we met headed back on their travel paths (must have been something Jon said) so last night we got the 6 people dorm to ourselves (and again tonight) so less noise = more sleep
The hostel is located about 5 mins from the main road so Jon and I (of course) went down the wrong street for an hour on our second day) - on purpose, to expore (ahem!) guess who was map reading (no, not me!). it was fun though as we got a better feel for another side of St Petersburg. Once you get onto the main road at the end is the Hermitage Museum (the big one with millions of exhibits - they say to glance at each one would take 9 years - so we didn't bother and just did a RoJo 2-3 hr dash...!) which was good. Then we went to St Isaac's Cathedral up to the top of the roof for lunch, home made sandwiches - keeping up the Partington tradition and took in the city views.
Planning to go to the Church with the colourful roof cones (called something about blood - Jon will tell you) and the fortress tomo...which is a nice long walk away over two bridges - may try an ice crossing if its thick enough (joke mum)...
This is the short and sweet version (can u tell i am sleepy...) Jon will shortly post the next update...