A Travellerspoint blog

January 2011

Travellers stare kitsch horror bus in the face

rain 3 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

No. of street sweepers per square kilometre: 10 - communism and all that
No. of days snow: 3
Hours spent queueing at train station not to get a ticket: 5
Current pool score: Richard - 13 Pauline - 7
Number of tantrums during pool: Pauline 13 Richard 0
Speed of the Shanghai to Beijing sleeper train: 243 km/h

A quick update from Guilin (home of the HSBC adverts showing the fishermen collaborating with the cormorants). Its nice to finally see some Chinese countryside although the food is still a minefield, for Pauline at least! Who knew Tofu would be served with minced beef sauce (and the menu was in English with no word of a cow!). We flew from Beijing to Guangzhou since there was no other form of transport not fully booked and after a few enjoyable days there took a sleeper bus here which was interesting. Unlike India where the worry is cockroaches and the cold, we suffered from death by Chinese (anti-American) movies and variety shows played throughout the night and the sweltering heat from the air-con not because it was actually hot! Add to that the dolls house-esque furnishing with beds sized for far-eastern proportions and the sealife scene glass flooring meant it was a strange, sleep deprived experience.

Anyway we're here now and it gave us something to blog about! Onto Yangshuo tomorrow (supposedly more picturesque) and then to Hong Kong where we've managed to book the last two beds in town, albeit in a shared dorm with shared squat toilet (good exercise for the quads!).

Struggling to upload videos and photos at the moment or even get on the net sometimes so please be patient, there's lots to share from the last few weeks.

One final thought, in one of the nicest hostels we've stayed in a rat has just ran over my feet! The staff just said: 'Don't scare him he's our pet!'

Posted by millfred 22:00 Archived in China Comments (7)

Shanghai stick - Beijing bust

sunny -1 °C

We've been in China almost exactly a week and shared our time so far between Shanghai and Beijing. Both very modern cities and we are enjoying everything China has to offer. We had an amazing host in Shanghai, thanks Lara! We were totally spoiled and very well taken care of. Now we are on our own in Beijing and we've already blown our budget. There is so much to see and do here. We might actually have to stay here as there are 230 million people trying to book train tickets this week so they can get home for Chinese New Year. Terrible planing on our part and its going to be a very long walk to Hong Kong. It will be great to see some of the celebrations though when it all kicks off.

So what did we see & do in Shanghai? We had a fair few more beers than we'd been used to in India so the sightseeing wasn't quite as active as it had been. Our posh city centre pad was a very useful base and we enjoyed strolling around the French Concession, evening views along The Bund and some much needed cheap shopping to layer up for the cold weather here. We gatecrashed the drum & base scene there and were glad to find everyone really welcoming and not embarrassed by our not so hip outfits, we didn't pack for the night scene much.

Having spent 7 weeks in India suspecting regular rip offs we must have let our guard down in China. 24 hours in Shanghai and we fell whole heartedly for 'The Tea Scam'. Nearly a week ago now and i'm still furious. Apparently it's famous and our hosts felt bad that they'd forgotten to warn us. We returned from a successful shopping day with tales of our 'weird' experience which on closer inspection from our wise Shanghainese friends is a total scam. Hook, line and sinker. Luckily Richard's keen eye for our daily budget restricted their winnings from us but we still paid a fiver each on the worlds smallest cup of tea. We left the cosy tea house thinking we'd made some cute new friends - oh you fools!

As we have only seen big cities so far we can't believe how clean everywhere is. It's such a contrast to India and we are trying to get to grips with the culture and politics here.

Beijing is massive and very spread out. We are excited about heading out to The Great Wall tomorrow but can't decide whether to take the cheaper option and go to the touristy part or stump up to explore the more remote and less restored parts. Today Richard was in sports heaven when we visited the Birds' nest stadium and water cube from the 2008 Olympics. Yesterday was very cultural, Tian' an men Square and The Forbidden city. Interesting, but the guards had a very Russian feel so I was scared. We missed Mau's mausoleum though and Richard is quite intrigued so we may go back and stare at him for a while.

We've kept up with the beers here and our hostel is great for meeting people. After a few free drinks with the special buffet here we got chatting to some other guests. A young couple from Oz got a barrage of questions about Nieghbours but they seemed happy enough to humour me. Can't wait to get to Australia and go to actual Ramsey Street! I've go t a feeling the Kennedy's will be having a family meeting that day.

The food has been interesting. We ate like Western royalty in Shanghai but so far here its been a bit ropey. We are checking out a night market later and Richard is psyching himself up to try a scorpion.

So provided we find a way to get to Hong Kong for our flight to Bangkok, it's all good!

Posted by Po Gallon 18:25 Archived in China Comments (0)

7 weeks in India, 100,000 rupees...

not killing each other yet - priceless!

overcast 1 °C

India Stats
Modes of transport used in India: 16 (car, bus, train, taxi, motor rickshaw, cycle rickshaw, rowing boat, bicycle, motorbike, jeep, raft, plane, metro, kayak, ferry, foot)
No of different beds slept in: 20
No of overnight trains: 4
No of overnight buses: 3
Miles on the road in India: 3,488
No 0f McDonalds seen: 5
No of McDonalds eaten: 0
No of stray dogs: 134,672
No of times ripped off: 1 (for 40p!)
Maximum no. of layers worn: 8 (Pauline on overnight train)
Weight of Chapatis / Rotis / Naans consumed: 400kg (each!)
Current Rummy score: Pauline 17 Richard 9 ( Finally a game Pauline can seemingly dominate!)

This is a little late as we are now in China but we wanted to round up our last week in India. Since our last blog we spent one more day in Varanasi and decided we liked it but couldn't really decide why. I think maybe because it was more peaceful than the other cities with the river having such an influence on everything that happens there. It's a very spiritual place and apparently lots of people go there to 'find themselves'. We found a really nice bakery that runs a charity and a nice cosy guesthouse but we didn't really look for ourselves so can't really comment on that.

You can all officially stop being jealous of us being in sunnier climes. We have been freezing for the last few weeks and I hit a personal body temperate low on the very much delayed train from Varanasi to Agra. After shivering on the platform for 8 long hours we eventually boarded our train and tried to stow away in the posh (used loosely) carriage only to be literally thrown into the sleeper carriage by the very grumpy conductor. This wouldn't be so bad if we had been prepared like everyone else there and taken a blanket, it was baltic. Luckily for us there were some incredibly pissed Argentinians who happly shared their gigantic bottle of Whisky with us. That helped. In the morning some more new friends insisted on buying us chai everytime the sellers came round and refused to take our money. I think they were pleased that some wussy English folk were feeling the cold more than them. So our nightmare icy journey was actually a pleasure in some respects as we met some really freindly co-passengers. In fact, most of the people we have met in India go out of their way to welcome you, feed you, look out for you and ask you every possible question they can think of before letting you get away! It is a very friendly country once you settle in.

On to Agra, not the most vibrant or picturesque place we've seen but amazing for one, maybe two main reasons. Yes, the Taj Mahal is utterly breathtaking. We saw it from every possible angle, one of which is from Agra Fort which in its own right is worth a visit. I'd go back to Agra a million times to see it again but not for any other reason, sorry. We went at sunrise and were more than a little smug at beating the crowds.DSC_0391.jpgDSC_0414.jpg

On Richards' birthday we were in a small town called Bharatpur between Agra and Delhi. It's famous for the Keoladeo National park. We spent a morning on hired bikes spotting the wildlife which was more my ideal birthday than Richard's but he was happy enough taking photos. Apparently there is one tiger there but they aren't too concerned that you'll get eaten, they make you promise to stick to the paths and that's the health and safety briefing over. One problem, no signs anywhere. I was pretty nervous and peddled mighty fast passed the sunbathing jackals and wild boar. Weirdest sight had to be the domestic dog tucking into a huge cow carcass.

We finished our mini tour of India in the capital Delhi. We'd been told it was a bit dodgy and to steer clear so didn't plan to spend long there. Due to delays we'd lost a day or so as well so only had 2 nights to see what turned out to be a pretty cool place. There are some very modern parts of Delhi and it was a welcome change from the India we had grown used to. Contrary to what we had be warned, we felt very safe there and reflected over a cup of chai with our guesthouse owners that we were sorry not to have had more time to explore. We did manage to see India largest Mosque, the Jama Masjid and Delhi's red fort.

This is where I wanted to write my thoughts on India and my feelings on leaving etc, but Richard says it's too cheesy so no can do. On to a new adventure in China now and we'll try to make our updates regular and concise so we don't lose our audience yet!

Posted by Po Gallon 15:30 Archived in India Comments (4)

# Oh oobee do, I wanna be like you hoo hoo #

overcast 2 °C

No. of squatters on the banks of the Ganges = 77 and counting
No. of pizzas eaten = 3
No. of times Pauline would like to have eaten pizza or has talked about pizza = 20
No. of hours on longest journey door to door = 23

Hello fans! Yes this is my first official blog entry but I'm sure I don't need to reiterate that all witty bits of previous entries were my creations. Richard is the brains behind the stats though, he's obsessed.

Since our last entry we have continued North and East a bit from Khajuraho to Bandhavgarh National Park and we are now in Varanasi. Quite a few hours spent on trains, drinking chai in train stations and watching cows negotiate (moving) trains while wandering down the tracks. It is really cold here so you can all stop being jealous of the sunshine.

Our safari experiences were incredible. Bandhavgarh was rumoured to be the inspiration for Rudyard Kippling's Jungle Book (hence the blog title in case you thought I was going mad) and although I think this has been dispelled, it's a beautiful place for sure. After only 3 hours sleep, having arrived in the middle of the night to our guest house on the outskirts of the national park, we met up with Kaspar the friendly German and bundled in our open top jeep. At 5am Northern India is chilly to say the least and our million layers weren't quite enough to keep us warm. We set out hoping the tigers wouldn't be too shy and cold to show their pretty faces, they were! There were plenty of spotted deer, various cheeky monkeys, a jungle cat (apparently quite rare), wild boar, owls and eagles so we weren't too disappointed. Nevertheless, we had set out to see a tiger so we embarked on another safari with Kaspar in tow and two Americans we practically kidnapped to keep the cost of the jeep down. Sure we would spot one we set out in the afternoon with high spirits and a spot of sunshine. With only half an hour left before the park closed it wasn't looking hopeful, but some excitable exchanges between our guide and a neighbouring jeep suggested the king of the jungle was near. A commotion ensued ,we all nearly fell out of the jeep as we sped off into the distance, we were flagged down by another jeep and came to a screeching halt. At this point I thought we'd surely scare off whatever was there but no, there she was, the Queen of the jungle right in front of us, an adult female. It was very special. I don't think I breathed for a good 5 minutes as we watched her mark her territory and calmly pass us by. 3 words for you AH-MAY-ZING! Loads of good pictures thanks to Richard's steady hand, the video I took is hilarious as I'm clearly not as calm as the tigress. DSC_0044.jpg

So, Varanasi is quite something else. It's clearly a very sacred place but some people show their respects in a funny way. This is what Richard is referring to by 'squatters' in the stats. Lets just say we wont be taking a dip in the river Ganga anytime soon. In fact its difficult to avoid accidentally snapping the squatters when taking in the view, they are everywhere. It doesn't smell too bad though surprisingly and a dusk boat trip last night was really peaceful if a bit eerie due to the mist rolling in. DSC_0213.jpgYesterday was a strange day. It isn't difficult to find yourself immersed in this place. When we got a little lost down the side streets off the ghats, several funeral processions passed us very closely. That spooked me no end but I guess it's an experience. Nothing spooks Richard though and he calmly navigated his was between a few dead bodies and some of the biggest cows I've ever seen. Richard was yet again unfazed today when we crossed a really long, very unstable, very poor excuse for a bridge across the river. I need to toughen up for China as even this scared the ganga out of me!

We can't believe how quickly our adventure in India is unfolding and plan to make the most of our last week here. Looking forward to the Taj Mahal in a few days when we head to Agra, apparently the fort is good there too. We are still loving the food, I think Richard will have to write another entry just on food before we leave, he discovers a new favourite thing everyday. We have both eaten our body weight in peanut caramel brittle today. tasty good!

Posted by Po Gallon 19:57 Archived in India Comments (4)

1 month down, hopefully 11 to go!

sunny 20 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

No. of different beds slept in = 21
No. of days rain (pretty much just a light shower for less than an hour) = 2 / 34
Ratio of cows to people in Mahabalipuram = 1:1
No.of mozzie bites on feet = 14

We've just about survived the first month, although Pauline has thought about coming home about 10 times! Seriously though we have a great Christmas and New Year and hope you all have too.

So we left Mysore for Chennai and stayed with the Shah family who were amazing hosts for four days. We had a cracking time modelling for a new fashion store (see our celebrity interview), going to the cinema and were privileged enough to have an audience with a guru at a Jain temple. Richard also got to experience life on the back of a motorbike on the manic indian roads on a trip to the post office. No protection (helmet/jacket) deemed necessary!

After Chennai we went to a small beach village called Mahabalipuram for Christmas and Boxing day which was just the chillout we needed. Spending the day in 30 degree heat on the beach was certainly different for Christmas. We decided to try and make it more like home by buying as much chocolate as we could (not an easy task) and Pauline had a cheese toastie for lunch. SANY0415.jpgSANY0444.jpgOn Boxing day we got up at 5am (yes 'we', Pauline did get out of bed) to see the sun rise over the east facing beach, which was made more surreal by the realisation that it was the anniversary of the tsunami that affected that coastline 5 years previous. Later Boxing day we got the bus to Pondicherry to experience a french colonial town on India's south east coast. By far the cleanest place we've seen and some great ice cream.

After two days we got the bus back to Chennai and then straight onto a 17 hour overnight train to Nagpur. SANY0508.jpgThe trains have been a breeze and much more comfortable than the buses. Not much to see in Nagpur though, we just used it to break up our journey North. We did try to go to the cinema but the rickshaw driver took us to the wrong one inside a different mall so instead we ended up eating pasties in the supermarket! In the hotel in Nagpur we had our first cockroach in the bathroom experience too so we didn't come away with an affection for the place. The staff in the Hotel however were a class act, and actually booked our next two nights accomodation for us!

We left Nagpur on another overnight train to Jhansi, which is the furthest North we have been, and a bus to nearby Orcha for New Year which is a nice quiet riverside village with some good temples. Can't say we larged it on New Years Eve though. We gatecrashed a party in a nearby hotel but found it to be a big cheesefest and we sloped off at 11.00pm. On New Years Day we went white water rafting and trekked the local nature reserve. We stayed in posh swiss tents on the night which was the best 'payed for' accomodation so far but we spent the night shivering only to realise in the morning there was an electric heater under the table!SANY0550.jpg

So we're now in Khajuraho and today had two full games of cricket with some local kids. Richard was rubbish and embarrased by the nine year olds and Pauline turned out to be a bit of a pro (1 over, 2 wickets)!270_SANY0577.jpg

Anyway, will try and do this more regularly so its not so long winded.

Till next time...

Posted by millfred 05:04 Archived in India Comments (4)

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