on Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Today we went to Macau for one day. We got up early, so we could get most of the day in Macau. We had a short tube journey to the ferry port and then it was about an hour trip on the turbojet hydrofoil thing. We found our hostel, which was pretty basic, and up a few flights of stairs in what looked like a block of flats. We decided to visit the sky tower, which has the biggest bungy jump in the world apparently. I was expecting it to be about £50, but they wanted £150 which although I really wanted to do it, it was just too much and also the fact there was two guy ropes, so you fell perfectly straight, it didn’t seem like a proper bungy.

In the evening we started off by going to a nearby casino and as the minimum bet on all the tables was at least $100(£10), we just played the automatic roulette, I swiftly lost about £40 and Tom lost about a ten. We then thought we would go and check out a nearby club. We go upstairs and the place is completely empty. The guy says it doesn’t get busy till about 2am. We have a bit more of a walk round and visit some more casinos, most people are playing baccarat, there are a few poker tables, which in hindsight we should have pooled our money and bought in on. The poker tables looked like they had professionals playing, all dressed like poker players, sunglasses and headphones, the lot. We just had to watch people play, because you need to come here with some money for a holiday, it isn’t the place for a bunch of travellers to come to. We visited several casinos, in one we watched some guys playing a bit of blackjack, just throwing in £10 chips one after the other, and that was the lowest minimum bet table. Tom changed up twenty quid and swiftly lost it in two hands to the amusement of everyone else at the table. We then tried the club again, at about 1:30am, but it was still dead, obviously everyone in Macau just lives in the casinos. We return to the first casino and play a bit more roulette with our beer money. I do a bit better this time, winning back £20 of my losses, so we both go home about 30-40 quid out of pocket.

Macau is a great place, but not for backpackers, you need to stay at a posh hotel at £150 a night and have a couple of grand to gamble with.

Victoria Harbour

on Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Today we first tried to find a repair shop so Tom could get his iPod fixed, for some ridiculous reason they wanted £80 though. We visited Victoria harbour and had a look round and took some photos. The weather today was really nice, but just way too hot, It feels even hotter than India or Nepal. We stopped at the market on the way back so Tom could get a rucksack and laptop case and then went back to the hostel to get changed for our first night out in Hong Kong. We went out a bit early so we could get some food and it was just ridiculously hot, so we ended up eating and then just going back, because it was just unbearable wearing jeans. We also had to be up relatively early so we could get to Macau and have a look around tomorrow morning.

China Round Up

on Monday, 28 June 2010

Well, it’s over our second month in China has come to an end. Almost two months in total spent in China and for me it has been the best place by far. It’s funny because everybody seems shocked that I like it when they ask what we think of China. The seem to find the Chinese rude, and some have said they are fake. I can slightly understand the rude bit, because when it comes to queuing, they just don’t do it and they also constantly spit in the streets, but for me this is just what they do and how things work, and if I am honest it doesn’t even bother me that much. There are so many more great things that make you not even think about these small things. I have only found them extremely friendly and helpful, both older Chinese, who on the trains are always interested, want to talk to you and will offer you food and drink, to the younger Chinese who are also so interested and want to chat and have their photo taken. They are different, if not weird, but I think that’s what makes China so great, the same as Japan. From when I first arrived, I knew this was somewhere I would want to come and live, the question was when, I was close to ending the trip and just staying here for a few years and even now I don’t know how long I will go before returning. When I left several people said they didn’t think I would come back and I thought there was no chance of me staying away for more than the planned 11 months, but now I don’t think there is any chance of me being back in the UK for any serious time in the next 10 years! China has everything, from the remoteness and nomadic people of Tibet, with the huge mountains, to Chengdu and Xi’an with their chilled out atmosphere, to Beijing and Shanghai, which could rival any big city in the world, for a modern city and nightlife. Down in the south there is beautiful lakes and almost jungle like terrain, that although we did not see this time due to the flooding, I know I will see when I return. China also has two of the most amazing man made attractions in the world, the great wall and the terracotta army, I have not seen the pyramids or any other “wonders of the world” but I can’t imagine anything being as impressive as these things. The great wall really must be the most amazing man made structure ever made. China has also seen us meet so many great people, not only travellers, but locals, we have not met so many people in one country, some of which were brief meetings, and some we spent several days or even weeks. When we first left China I didn’t feel disappointed, but I think this was because I knew that we were coming back. This time, I know I will not be back for at least several months and just like Japan am feeling really disappointed about leaving, I am sure this will fade, but I know that I will return in the future and it will be for much longer. China has so many people, yet it doesn’t feel too crowded, the country is just so massive, unlike India, which was just way too crowded, you don’t get that here, even in the big cities. The only place we had the problem was the Expo and that was the most ridiculous thing ever. China has to always be the best and put on the biggest show when they host something. With the expo they just went one step further. The place was so busy it was ridiculous, 7 hour queues, just to enter some pavilions! The place is absolutely crammed full of Chinese, they have at least 300,000 people a day, sometimes 7 or 800,000, and this is everyday for the last two months and probably will be the same for the next 4 months. The Chinese go absolutely crazy for it. We have been told it is because lots of them are either too poor to travel to other countries or it is just made too difficult by the Chinese government for them to travel. I will definitely be back to China and can even see it being somewhere I could end up living.

Highlight – Walking on the great wall and the people we met.

Lowlight – The Queuing at Expo.

Comment of China – Tom (again) – When talking about who will win the muay thai fight tom says “I will make you a cucumber!”.

Funniest moments – James walking through Tiananmen square at 5am during the flag ceremony and shouting “Nihao sexy” to every girl he saw and Pree in Shanghai, especially singing Oasis and shooting people with his hand guns.


Hong Kong Here We Come

We arrive in Guangzhou and the weather is absolutely dreadful, there is some serious flooding and we are glad we had stayed in Shanghai and not come down to the south of China. We have to first get a train to Shenzhen from Guangzhou which is an hour and a half away and then we get the metro to Hong Kong island and it’s a short walk to our hostel from the station. I put some clothes in the laundry and we have a quick look around town. We plan to go to the apple store, to buy some bits and get Tom’s iPod fixed. The actual apple store is closed, but Tom buys a Mac book and I get another iPod touch to replace my lost one. A £135 I don’t really have to spare, but I don’t think I could survive without one. We have an early night, because of all the travelling and so we can get up early and explore Hong Kong.

On Our Way To Hong Kong

on Sunday, 27 June 2010

I got home at about 7am this morning and we have a train leaving at 11:30am, therefore I get absolutely no sleep and not even a chance to have a shower. We catch a cab to the trains station as it is raining again. The station is absolutely massive and is more like an airport than a station. We get on the train and as we have a hard sleeper, we both get some sleep straight away as we think we are due to arrive in Guangzhou at 4:30am, so won’t get much sleep tonight. We later find out that it is in fact 7am and the train is again delayed 2 hours so we don’t actually arrive until about 9am.

Shanghai Propaganda Museum

on Saturday, 26 June 2010

We end up waking quite up late as usual and decide to find the apple shop as Tom’s iPod, the sound has stopped working. I look at buying a new iPod as well, but it is much cheaper in Hong Kong so will wait until we get there. We then decide to visit the Shanghai Propaganda museum, which we had been told about by a friend we had met in Tokyo, we had the address written in Chinese, but new it was hard to find as it is in the basement of a block of flats. We eventually find the place after asking quite a few people for directions. You had to go down the lift to get to the museum and there was no sign of there even being anything there, which was weird and we were a little worried it was some dodgy place. The museum had quite a lot of old propaganda posters, a lot anti American. The cartoons depicted were pretty funny on some of the posters, some with little Chinese babies bayoneting American soldiers shown with chopped of legs and usually shown as goblin like creatures. The museum was quite small, but very interesting. They also had lots of the posters for sale and I would have liked to have bought one, but the originals were at least £60 and just too expensive.

We had been told of an all you can eat and drink buffet in Shanghai and planned to eat there tonight, with some English teachers we had met at the hostel. It was a huge buffet, for 49Y, but the food wasn’t that great and neither was the beer. It was also full of really young Chinese girls eating a ridiculous amount of food, I have no idea how they are all so slim. They were also all drinking beer and they really can’t handle their drink, one girl even knocked everything of her table covering us in beer. We left the restaurant early as we wanted to visit the Bund at night, because I hadn’t seen it and we were also going up the Shanghai world financial centre, the biggest building in Shanghai, and the third biggest in the world. It also has the highest observation platform of any building in the world because the building is flat on top, so no huge aerial to make it 100m higher. We had been told you could go to the bar near the top for free, but we decided to pay the £15 to go to the observation platform. The lift was unbelievably fast and it showed how high you were as you went up. The actual observation platform was a little disappointing as the glass was quite dirty and it as very hard to get a decent photo. It may have been better to go during the day.

We stopped of at the hostel so I could drop of my camera before going out for our last night in Shanghai. For the 4th time we ended up at Muse, we had tried another club beforehand but it was full of foreigners so decided to just go back to Muse, as it was now 10 drinks for 100Y again.

Rainy Day In Shanghai

on Friday, 25 June 2010

Today we woke up and decided to have a walk down the bund and visit a local park, with a few British girls we had met the night before. We get out and it is tipping with rain, so half way down the bund we decide to give it a miss and go back to the hostel. The rest of the day we just chill out, play some Uno and pool, watch the football before going out to a club at about midnight. We go to a club called Muse which we have been to several times and is always quite busy and has cheap drinks. We arrive though and find that on Friday nights the drinks are ridiculously overpriced, with anything costing at least £5. Nevertheless we have a good night, even if it ends up being quite expensive and get back to the hostel at about 5pm.

The Fastest Train In The World

on Thursday, 24 June 2010

I wake up this morning and find that last night, after being in a pretty bad way, I have lost my iPod. This is a real pain in the arse, not because of the music, but because of all the notes, with information on places to go and with all my bank details and passwords and account numbers, so not a good thing to lose. I get up about midday and Tom at about 3pm, we decide to go and travel on the Mag Lev train, which is the fastest train in the world and doesn’t touch the tracks. It runs at different speeds during the day, sometimes at 300kph and sometimes the top speed of 431kph, so we make sure we get there in time for the fast trip. The trains also pass each other at a combined speed of 700kph. We buy a round trip ticket, which costs 80Y each and go up to the platform as it travels on a raised track. The journey, which goes to the airport is 30km and takes 8 minutes. The train doesn’t really look anything special, nothing like the bullet trains in Japan. The train starts picking up speed pretty quickly and is not actually as smooth as I had expected, it is soon at its top speed of 431kph, which it only travels at for probably less than a minute and then starts slowing down. We pass the other train and it creates quite a loud noise and goes past so quickly. We get to the airport and don’t even get off, just move seats and make the 8 minute trip back. We return to the hostel and chill out until Pree has to leave, we then go for some food and although had planned to go out, decide to give it a miss.

Thai Visa, Done

on Wednesday, 23 June 2010

This morning we have to go and get our Thai visa from the consulate. We are woken early again by the sound of drilling, this time at 7:00am.  I end up going and complaining and the guy goes to speak to them and says it will not happen anymore, if it does we will have to move room. We go and pick up our visa and it’s free which is a nice surprise. I also get some washing done and we just chill out for the rest of the day. We go for some food at a local Japanese restaurant and then go to a pub to watch the football. I meet some weird guy who calls himself stab man UK or something and is trying to sell drugs and is just basically a not very nice bloke. We have a couple of beers at the pub, but it is very expensive at 35Y a pint. We then go back to Muse, the same place we went on the night we arrived in Shanghai as it is Pree’s last night in shanghai, before he goes back to Beijing and flies home.

Expo Day Two

on Tuesday, 22 June 2010

This morning, I wake up at about 7:30am to an unbelievably loud drilling sound in our room. Somebody next door is drilling directly behind our wall and also hammering the wall. We bang on the wall but they just carry on. At least it makes us get out of bed and we end up getting up early and going straight to the visa office, luckily this time we have plenty of time and manage to give our forms in and have to go back tomorrow morning to pick them back up. We then go straight to the Expo to try and get some more of the pavilions done. We decide to try and do some of the smaller ones with small queues, and as there is almost every country in the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, we should find some short ones. We end up visiting New Zealand, which in all honesty is dreadful, although they have a live show at the front, and they perform dances, which are quite good, and the Chinese really love. We also visit Slovakia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Argentina, Peru, The Ukraine which although there are little or no queues are even more of a waste of time than Japan, there just dreadful. We also visit Sweden, which is quite a long queue, about 30 minutes and although not as bad as the others is pretty boring, although they have a slide, but he queue for the slide is too long for us to bother. We visit the UK, as we are bale to get VIP access and walk straight passed the queue, although it takes us two attempts as the Chinese guard isn’t having any of it to start of with. The UK one is probably the most impressive building, and is really quite impressive. There is not much to it inside, basically it is a huge cube made of Perspex tubes with different seeds in the end of each tube. We then decide to try Australia, Tom tries to blag our way in by talking to the guy in a Aussie accent, but it doesn’t go very well. We go round the front to try again, but there is a couple of Aussies going in and tey ask if we are Australian as well, we say we aren’t but they tell the guy we are and we manage to sneak in past a nearly two hour queue. Inside, they just have a big circular TV with some weird models in the middle ad it lasts about ten minutes. If we had queued for 2 hours, I would have been unbelievably annoyed. We then decide we have done enough for today and head back to the hostel.

First Day At The Expo

on Monday, 21 June 2010

We end up getting up a bit late and we have to try and book a ticket to as close to Hong Kong as we can. We have two options, but first we have to go and try and get out Thai visa. I have got the receptionist at the hostel to write the address from the Thai consulate website in Chinese and we jump in a cab as we have left it a bit late and apparently it closes at midday. The cab driver stops outside a bank, although the street and number is the correct one, so we jump out and have a look up and down the street. We can’t see anything, so i go into the bank and ask for the Thai consulate,. They go into the back room and bring out a piece of paper with another address on and tell us it has been somewhere else for the last two years. Obviously their website is updated regularly. They say it is ten minutes away and we still have enough time to get there before midday so we jump in another cab. We find it fine and go up to the 15th floor, but on the door it says that it closes at 11:30am, we will have to come back the next day and hope we can get it before the end of the week. We head back to the hostel and have decided to do an evening at the Expo, we are going to go with Pree, who has already done several days, but not two of the biggest ones, Japan and Saudi Arabia. We find out the ticket is 90Y and they don’t do a student discount, where as the whole day ticket with a student discount is only 100Y, so really not worth us coming just for the evening. At least maybe the queues will be shorter, when Pree went, which was on a national holiday, there was seven hour queues. We have a look at Saudi Arabia, but he queue is about three and a half hours, so we decide to try Japan. We get to Japan and it’s about three hours, but decide we have to do it as it is supposed to be one of the best and the chances are the queues are only going to be worse. We sit in the queue for three hours and it barely moves. Finally we get in about 8:30pm and it takes us about thirty minutes to look around. They have a couple of shows, one is a brand new camera and some futuristic home entertainment system that you can control with hand movements and has a robot that plays the violin. The next show is a Japanese opera, with people on these weird robot chairs. The Chinese are absolutely mad and almost all the people in the Expo are Chinese and they are getting 300,000+ people a day, 700,000 on a busy day. The queues are ridiculous and they get so excited. They have these Expo passports that the queue up again to have stamped with teh countrys fake visa stamps. When we finally leave the Japan pavilion, all the others have already closed, so we end up having to leave after just seeing one country. We get a cab back to the hostel as there is literally thousands of people all trying to get on the subway. we stop off on the way back and have a pizza hut, before getting a reasonably early night, so we can go back to the visa office early.

Finally Some Sights In Shanghai

on Sunday, 20 June 2010

We end up waking up quite late, but thankfully I feel better today after a goodnights sleep. There has been some major flooding in the south of China, so we have decided to change our route and head straight to Hong Kong from Shanghai. We are told it is easy to get a ticket, so head to the train station to get it booked. We don’t have to leave China till the 3rd of July, so assume we will easily get a ticket before then. We get to the station and apparently everything is totally sold out until the 8th of July, which is too late for us. On the way back we stop of at the peoples park and visit the Shanghai urban planning exhibition. The park is a bit of a letdown compared to the other parks we have visited, with not much going on, just a lot of white pigeons and tourists. The museum is also a bit disappointing, although the huge scale model of Shanghai is quite impressive. I am also starting to feel a bit ill again, so we head back and try to work out how to get to Hong Kong. We look at flights which will cost £120, but think we have no other option. We speak to some Dutch girls doing the same thing and they say they managed to book a train to a nearby city in mainland China, where you can get a bus to Hong Kong. Therefore we decide to try and get that ticket the next day. Tonight we plan to go and watch the acrobatic show. We had heard Shanghai was the best place to see this, although we didn’t know where to go and there is so many different places. The one the hostel recommends, he says is not the best, but the most famous, so we are already put off that option. I have a look on the internet and find one which is highly recommended, so we decide to go there. We leave an hour beforehand thinking it will be plenty of time, but end up arriving just before the show and not being able to get the cheapest 80Y tickets, but having to pay 180Y for the next best seats. The show is absolutely amazing, with some brilliant acrobatics and contortionists. The highlight at the end was the metal cage which they had seven motorcycles riding round at one point. I am glad there was no cheap seats left, because these were well worth the extra money. I go back to the hotel as I am now feeling worse than ever and the others go out for a bit.

The Cotton Club

on Saturday, 19 June 2010

Last night I ended up being really sick and throwing up all night. We therefore end up not going out during the day again, and not doing anything, which seems to be coming a bit too much of a regular thing at the moment. We sit on the sofas downstairs and end up having a chat with an old guy, who must be in his 60’s who is a proper disgusting old man, all he talks about is young Chinese girls and we don’t know whether to cringe or laugh. Later in the night I see him upstairs in just his disgusting old pants cornering a young Chinese girl, he is trying to get a visa extension, they really shouldn’t give it to him. I find out that a couple we had met in Xi’an are also in Shanghai and I give him an email and he says he is playing a set at a local jazz club. We had seen him play in Xi’an, where he played the harmonica. He invites us to the place where he is playing, called the Cotton Club. We turn up just before he is on and another guy from the hostel goes and buys a drink, which ends up being 55Y(£5.50). We decide we will give it a miss and not drink and as it is so expensive will just say hello, watch the set and then move on to somewhere else. He does about a one hour set with the live band which is absolutely awesome, but it’s a bit too classy a place for us backpackers. They keep trying to get us to buy drinks but we just decline. The place is full of a weird mix of old foreigners with young Chinese girls, single Chinese girls (looking for old men) and young, obviously rich Chinese. We leave once Dennis’s set is finished and although had planned to go out, it’s now quite late and I don’t feel too good and nobody else is really feeling like going out, so we just head back to the hostel and get an early night.

Murial, Shanghai

on Friday, 18 June 2010

We get up quite late and end up sitting about and recovering all day. Most of the guys are leaving today and it will just be us and Preeyan left in Shanghai. We go out for a meal at a local restaurant. I order some meat which they just get out of the window and is horrible and cold, but stupidly I eat it anyway. That night we go out to a club called Murial, which is 100Y all you can drink and plan to watch the football there. In the cab I start to feel a bit ill, the club is full of Americans, as we get in one makes a snide mark to Preeyan, we don’t react, but it puts me and Tom in a bad mood from the start of the night. If only we had already done our Muay Thai training. Every mouthful of beer is making me feel worse and worse, and I end up just sitting there all night. We all end up leaving before the game starts and I go back to the hostel. Tom and Preeyan stay out a little longer and watch the first half, but come back before the end of the game.

Arriving In Shanghai

on Thursday, 17 June 2010

We finally arrive in Shanghai at about 11 o'clock, about 6 hours later than we had expected, the journey took 17 hours, not the 11 we had thought it was. We get out of the station knackered and walk straight into an underground McDonald’s. We then catch a taxi to the hostel, we just jump in at the taxi rank without him understanding the map on Tom’s IPod, Chinese taxi drivers, just don’t seem to understand anything unless your Chinese, this includes Chinese roads written on Google maps. Luckily the hostel is listed in the Lonely Planet with a Chinese address, so on my laptop we manage to get him to understand. We end up meeting Xavier, Milo, Ollie and Preeyan from the hostel in Beijing and end up going out to a club as they are leaving the following day. Xavier is leaving about 5am and ends up staying up all night.

Leaving Beijing

on Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Today we are finally leaving Beijing, hopefully. I wake up really early after last night and have only had one hours sleep, hopefully that will mean I can sleep on the train. Tom finally gets up at about midday and we just chill out in the hostel and watch films while we wait for the train. At about 4:30pm we leave for the station. This time we have a soft seat and find the train no problem. We walk down, dreading that we will have another packed carriage, thankfully there is nobody standing and we get our seats no problem, which is a relief. We have a Chinese guy and Chinese girl sitting opposite us and the guy proceeds to pull out bag after bag of weird food and open them all and lay them out on the table. We both have a pot noodle and kindly decline the offer of his food. We chat with him and he teaches us a card game, but is constantly trying to get us to bet on the game, which seems to be complete and utter luck, similar to poker, but you just get five cards dealt ad whoever has the best wins. I am sure there was more to it than that, but we couldn’t understand. Then he tries for hours to explain that he thinks England will get to the quarter finals and either Spain or Argentina will win. With the girl next to him just in constant hysterics watching us try and work out what he is saying and him trying to explain. Finally a French student with a translator and a reasonable understanding of Chinese manages to work it out. By this time there is a crowd round us laughing and trying to assist! Tom is feeling really rough from last night and throws up several times, so didn’t really want t attention I don’t think. We both finally get a bit of sleep, but are constantly waking up.

Last Night Out In Beijing

on Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Today, again we didn’t do anything, just chilled out in the hostel, and watched films. We had arranged to go out that night with the two girls we had Tasha and Adrian, but we played some drinking games in the hostel, with a bottle of Whiskey the guys in our dorm had left us and eventually went out about midnight, joined by a British couple who had just arrived. We went to Mix club, which was supposed to be the biggest club in Beijing. It was very expensive. 30Y to get in and a beer was 30Y. They had these huge bottles of Whiskey on the tables, that must have been ten litres or something and must have cost a fortune, one guy even bought four of tem, with loads of other drinks and just sat on the table for a few minutes and let the Chinese girls go to him. It was quite a messy night, especially for Tom and we eventually left at about 5am and went back to the hostel.

Our First Duck

on Monday, 14 June 2010

We were up early today and walked round to Leo’s to try and book another train ticket. We were told by Amy at reception that there was no chance we could book anything, because of it being a national holiday and the fact the Expo is on. We couldn’t believe it so we ended up going to the station ourselves. We managed to book a soft seat for Wednesday, although we could have got a soft seat for the same day, but it was too expensive at 660Y. We tried to get a refund for our other ticket, but they weren’t having anything of it, so we had lost the £19 for that ticket. We get back to the hostel and are relieved we have a ticket booked and have another two days in Beijing. We decide to go out for some duck in the evening, we first try, what is supposed to be the best place in Beijing. A whole duck is 200Y, but we get there and there is 200 people queuing outside the restaurant to get in, so decide we will have to try another one. We go back to the hostel and ask reception where another good duck restaurant is. They say there is a good one just down the road where it is only 78Y for a duck, we meet a couple of girls at reception, Tasha and Adrian and invite them along, so the four of us share a duck, which makes it much cheaper, less than 20Y each. The duck is pretty good, and they bring the different parts out on different plates, with pancakes and then a soup. We then just chill out at the hostel and have a few beers and just chat to a couple of Norwegian girls, who are going home from a long trip tomorrow and a British girl, Tasha who is also going home in a few days, after travelling on and off for almost 10 years.

The Most Ridiculous Train Ever

on Sunday, 13 June 2010

We spent the whole day just chilling out, as we had our train to Shanghai that evening at 10:15pm. The whole day we just watched films and sat in the hostel. We left the hostel at about 9pm thinking that we would have plenty of time to get to the station and we planned on trying to upgrade our hard seats to soft sleepers. It was absolutely tipping with rain and there was the loudest thunder and most amazing lightning I have ever seen. We had a nightmare trying to catch a cab, standing in the rain. Eventually we decided to just get the subway, even though we had our bags and were worried they were going to empty our bags. We arrived at the station and there was a huge queue so we decided we had no time to try and upgrade, so went straight in. Inside we are told to go to platform three. We get there and wait, 10 minutes before the train is due to leave they have not opened the gate and so I think this is odd and ask a member of staff where to go, they say it is down stairs. We rush downstairs and run to the carriage, it is unbelievably packed and we can actually barely get on. There is literally a two hundred people standing on the train and even standing in the toilets. There is no chance of us getting to our seats with our bags on and after standing there for a few minutes, I look at the ticket and see the price 189Y(£19) and think “what am I doing, spending 12 hours standing on a train like this”, so we just get off and decide we can’t do it. Compared to India this is absolutely ridiculous, nobody should travel like that. So we end up going back to the hostel, arriving at about 11pm, the hostel is fully booked, but we get a room at their sister hotel and will have to try and get another train the next day.

Summer Palace

on Saturday, 12 June 2010

Today we visited the summer palace, It was a huge place with some very steep walks up and down. There were lots of different fees for specific parts, but in all honesty we were not really that interested in it and it was so unbelievably hot that we ended up only walking round a small section and only spending a short amount of time there. We meet a couple of English guys who have just started there trip and are basically following our route from now on so we all go out in the evening, to find somewhere to watch the football. We caught a cab to the bar street and had a quick look around, every single bar and club had huge projectors and TV’s playing the football, but none seemed that good, so we decided to grab a couple of cheap beers and got to a club nearby that had been recommended by several people. We get to the club and finish our beers sitting outside, while sitting there a guy that looked like he had just come from the 70’s with a yellow sweat band on his head and long hair walks past and starts chatting. He recommends a place behind the club that is supposed to be just as good, but free to get in, instead of paying 60y just to get in. We decide to give it a try and go inside, it must be one of the most extravagant clubs in the world. The place is absolutely full of Chinese and we barely see any foreigners. We have a walk round and a guy on a private table, calls us over and starts chatting, he offers us champagne and buys us more beers. The guy is obviously loaded and says he owns the club and another 20 around China. Soon it starts to become obvious the guy is gay, and we move on, but James, seems to like it and ends up going back for drink after drink.

Birds Nest Stadium and Fried Sparrows

on Friday, 11 June 2010

Today we decided to visit the birds nest stadium. We went at about 3pm as we wanted to go to the night food market afterwards, so just chilled out in the hostel for the morning. We caught the subway to the birds nest and had a look round, unfortunately it was closed so we couldn’t go in and have a look around. We also saw the aquatic centre, but decided not to look round anywhere else.

We then caught the subway to the night food market, where you can eat all sorts of weird foods. I was planning on trying to eat everything, Tarantulas, scorpions, starfish, sea horses and any other weird stuff they had. We walked down the street and the smell was disgusting, they had live scorpions stuck to sticks, constantly trying to sting each other. After a quick walk down, we buy some small scorpions, Tom ends up eating the first scorpion and I get roped into eating the second two. They don’t really taste of anything, but are very crunchy and oily. I also try some snake and then what I am told is donkey penis and cat, but am later told is sheep’s liver and lamb. They also sell a juice drink that they put a lump of dry ice in to keep it chilled and it does keep it very chilled. We take a walk down he street and I notice this guy in a long jacket walking up to these girls and them looking shocked and walking off, he goes up to another couple of girls and they almost fall of the bench in surprise. We think it must be a flasher, but when getting closer, we notice the man has no hands just stumps and is in fact begging, but they way he is doing it is just getting the most surprised reactions, we walk down another part of the food market and find some American guys eating one of the big scorpions and a guy eating a starfish. Neither of us have the bottle to try these though which is disappointing. We head back to the hostel and have some decent food while still picking little bits of scorpion out of my teeth.

Back To Leo’s!

on Thursday, 10 June 2010

We were up fairly late today and were moving back to Leo’s hostel. We decided to visit a local market and buy some trainers and polo’s. The polo’s were only 30Y each and we bought a shirt for 50Y and I bought some trainers for 50 and Tom some for 80. This market, we got a lot less hassle, but still lots of grabbing and threatening or whining. We went back to the hostel and picked up our bags and got a cab back to Leo’s. We chilled out back at the hostel and went next door for the most unprofessional hair cut you could possibly have. We go out to a bar across the street and have a few beers, but get an early nights sleep.

Forbidden City And Tiananmen Square

on Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Today we decided to visit Tiananmen square and the forbidden city. The security at the square was unbelievable, there was a lamp post with about eight security cameras on it. We then went into the forbidden city, getting a nice discount on our tickets with our student cards, it was only 20Y instead of 60Y. The forbidden city was huge and we didn’t end up looking around the whole thing, we had been told it wasn’t that great and you could only spend a short while there before you got bored. We had even been told by a couple of people not to bother at all and it wasn’t that great if I am honest.

We returned to the hostel and picked our bags up as we were moving to a hostel in Sanlutin, the bar and club area. We arrived and checked in, soon realising it wasn’t that great and after having to pay more than twice as much for a Tsingdao(beer) we decided we would go back to Leos, so I gave them a ring and booked for our last 3 nights in Beijing. We had moved here to be nearer the bars, but the place we were going tonight was quite a long way away. It was called Juicy spot and it was all you can drink for 60Y and we I had heard they did a really good burger for 10Y. We arrived at 8pm and found it was shut and not opening till 9pm. Thinking that they didn’t serve food anymore, we went to a restaurant next door and had beef and bacon with rice. The bowl it was survived in was ridiculous hot and the rice burnt almost instantly to the bottom of the bowl. We had arranged to meet the guys from the hostel in the bar, so we went in to try and find them. We played a bit of pool and they finally turned up a bit later. The free drinks, were beers or cocktails, so we started on trying all the cocktails they did, but after getting to the Baileys Banana, which was amazing, that’s all I drank. The club had a rooftop bar where they cooked kebabs and downstairs they sold the burgers, I was too stuffed but Tom had the burger for just £1! At about 11pm the place was absolutely heaving and you could barely move in the club. We made our way back to the hostel at about 4am, planning to pick up our stuff and move hostel the next morning.

The Great Wall

on Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Today we were visiting the great wall, we had booked to go to the secret wall. The main part where most people go is the restored section, but this section is apparently completely empty and has not been restored. It is a two and a half our journey to the wall. We arrive and the area is having lots of work done, with turn styles a ticket office and parking being built, so I am sure pretty soon it will be very touristy as well. We arrived and walked through along the stone path they were still building. Then we started climbing up, the wall is ridiculously steep and it was quite hard work climbing some parts. There was only other two people that we met that were not in our group, so we pretty much had the wall to ourselves. We walked about 10km along the wall, with some parts being very overgrown and almost completely collapsed. The wall really is one of the most amazing things you will see, stretching for miles and miles (I think in total it is about 4000miles). It goes up and down mountains as well and must have been an absolute nightmare to build, they don’t know how many people died building it, but it was a lot. Apparently a lot of the workers were criminals, but if the criminal would die during their sentence a member of their family would have to take their place and finish the length of the sentence. We stopped off at a local village to have some food and then made the two and a half hour return trip to Beijing.

In the evening I go to watch the kung fu show with some guys from the hostel, Tom is too tired and stays at the hostel. We are running late and have some trouble finding a cab driver who knows where he is going, so we end up arriving ten minutes late. We find the cheapest ticket is 180Y the same price the hostel charged for a tour including transport. Luckily we manage to get a student discount, so it works out at 126Y, which is still quite expensive, but not too bad. The show is great, with loads of cool displays, the highlight being the really young kung fu kids doing back flips using just their heads. After the show we decide to visit the birds nest stadium, because they have it all lit up at night. We hadn’t thought it through too much and ended up arriving at 10:30pm, the show was over and we had got the last tube, so we had to get back to the hostel, by taxi, which cost 45Y and just had some food and played a bit of poker, which I duly lost, again.

Hassle In The Silk Market

on Monday, 7 June 2010

Today we visited the silk market in Beijing, a large shopping area with hundreds of small shops. They sell mainly clothing and pearls. It was very busy inside and all the shops have young girls, that can’t be much older than 16 years old working in them. As we walked by you would get constant hassle about visiting their shop, they would even grab your arm as you walked past and try and drag you into their shop. If you voluntarily went in to have a look, they would be all over you trying to sell you something and if you declined they started punching, pinching and threatening to kill us. We have had this sort of treatment before, but not with so many people. They sell loads of fake goods as well, they had the usual phones and even a fake ipad. But they also had cameras and play stations, which I have no idea if they were real or fake, but looked like the part, but probably didn’t work like they should, like the fake Iphones. I bought a usb fan for my laptop for a couple of pounds and Tom bought a couple of pairs of sunglasses. Later that night we went out for some food with the guys from the hostel, and ordered way too much food and had to leave half of it! Tomorrow we have the wall and have to be up at 7:30am.

Recovery Day

on Sunday, 6 June 2010

Today we spent the whole day again, chilling out in the hotel. After last night we we’re so tired we can’t do anything. Tomorrow we plan on going to Beijing theme park and hopefully a 10km great wall trek the next day. We thought about going out to the banana bar, as Dale was leaving the next day, but in the end were just too tired, so got an early night.

The Great Aircraft Carrier Party

on Saturday, 5 June 2010

Today we woke up quite late. While sitting in the restaurant i over hear someone talking about a party on a aircraft carrier. A quick search on Google and its true there is a huge party on a massive aircraft carrier. The place is two hours away though and it is tonight and the bus leaves at 5:30. We ring up the organiser and manage to arrange to meet him to get some last minute tickets. We end up waiting in a bar, six of us from the hostel, waiting for the guy to turn up. We get chatting to a Swedish guy who is already off his face at 1pm and has been living in China for 12 years making TV shows. The guy turns up and we get our tickets which cost 300Y and include the bus there and back to Tianjin, where the ship is docked. We get back to the hotel and get changed, buy a few Tsingtao’s from the supermarket for 3Y each. A great change from the prices of a beer in Japan. So at 5:30 we make our way to the bus pick up point. While sitting waiting another Audi R8 pulls up and drops off a young girl. It’s like being back in Japan, there is lots of money in Beijing. There is about eight busses ferrying people to the party and we jump on one with the other guys from the hostel and everyone spends the journey drinking on the bus. We arrive at about 8:30 and just sitting in the car park are two Nissan GTR’s. Most of the people on the busses were foreigners, lots of Germans for some reason and not many Chinese. I get to the ticket point and find like an idiot I have lost half of my ticket and they refuse to let me in. Looks like I will have to pay another 150Y for another entry ticket, but thankfully after a few phone calls they let me in. As we walk through a Ferrari drives past and parked down near the boat are three Lamborghini Gallardo's, a couple of 911’s, more Ferraris, an Aston Martin DBS and a matt black Nissan GTR. We get inside and one of the guys we had come with from the hostel, an Israeli guy has fallen asleep in the doorway after being in there 5 minutes. We have a look round and the place is huge, there are two rooms, one down stairs, but the main one is on the flight deck and it is littered with jets and helicopters. The place is pretty empty, probably as it is only about 8pm, they start firing the guns and we have a look round the ship. It doesn’t seem that busy, and I don’t think there is as many people as they apparently had last year, which was 1800. Maybe because the place is just so massive, it didn’t seem that way. Downstairs there is a guy absolutely off his face dancing like a real weirdo, this room is pretty much empty because everybody is up in the flight deck. I go down stairs to the toilet and spot the girl I had seen earlier coming out of the Audi R8. I have a little chat and as a joke ask if I can come and drive his car. It turns out he works for Audi and she is actually German. Amazingly she says it should be fine and gives me her address and number. So sometime this week, hopefully I’ll get a drive. Absolutely mad! I think I end up getting the last bus back at about 5am, by myself as the other guys had already left at various times. It’s another 2 hours back to the park and I find the two British guys crashed out sleeping in the park. I have a quick look round the park and there is about 20 old Chinese guys speed skating round the park on roller blades, people tap dancing and a couple having wedding photos taken. I go back and get the British guys and we share a cab back to the hostel, eventually arriving at about 8:30am. The British guys had stolen a model gun from a shop and are walking down the street pointing it at people and screaming, the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. We still haven’t seen anything in Beijing, so we will have to start seeing the sights soon.

The Great Deodorant Hunt

on Friday, 4 June 2010

Today we are just chilling out, we go try and buy some deodorant and literally nowhere sells it, when we ask they just point us to women’s perfume. We eventually find, what must be the only two cans of deodorant in the whole city, but the women wants 150Y, about £15 and says the usual price is 800Y, £80. Probably the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. We return to the hotel and ask whether there is a big supermarket nearby and are show where a Wal-Mart is. We have to take the subway and after asking several people where it is and getting a different direction every time, we just happen to stumble upon a local pharmacy and buy some deodorant. We get the subway back, but on the subway, everybody has their stuff x-rayed and they tell us we can’t go in with an aerosol can. Which is pretty stupid, we try and convince them but there having none of it. Eventually we end up walking to the next station and just walking through with them in our pockets. So the whole day has been spent walking round trying to find deodorant. We decide to check out the bar area and end up going to a local club and meeting the girls we had met in Ping Yao.

Return To China

on Thursday, 3 June 2010

We are up at 5am to get ready and get to the airport. We end up arriving about an hour earlier than we needed to, so could have got a bit more sleep which would have been nice. We leave at 9am and actually arrive about 10am as we go back 2 hours. We stop of again at Qingdao and transfer to Beijing. We arrive and get the train from the airport into the centre of Beijing and after a short walk manage to find the hostel, we will be staying in for at least the next week. This will probably be the first time since Goa that we have stayed anywhere for more than a few days. We get to the hotel and end up just chilling out as we are so knackered from not getting much sleep the last few nights. I feel a bit disappointed at leaving Japan, it’s a great place, but for us is just too expensive to spend any sort of time without working. It will definitely be a place that I would want to go and spend more time and maybe work. The Japanese really are a completely different type of people than and have a completely different way of life than any other people. I think I could spend my whole life between China and Japan!

Japan Round Up

Our week in Japan is over and it is the first time I have not wanted to leave a country. I think mainly because we were there such a short period and hardly saw anything. In hindsight we should have spent the week in just one or possibly two cities, but instead we were constantly rushing around. The Japanese really are unlike any other people we have met so far or I think we will meet again. It is a totally different culture! There very hard working, very respectful of others and their country, I thought China was clean, but Japan is just ridiculous (A girl in a hostel spent over an hour scrubbing a fridge door with a toothbrush). They take so much care in their appearance as well, they must be some of the most well dressed people in the world, I didn’t see a single person walking around looking scruffy. The bullet trains are amazing and they were to the minute on every train we got. They have so many weird things, vending machines are everywhere, they have loads of their multi storey car parks that stack the cars on top of each other. They are also so helpful and inquisitive when they see you, they really do seem like there from a totally different world. A better world! I am getting to the stage where I am thinking why on earth does everyone want to go and live in the UK, maybe it’s just a case of grass is greener on the other side. But I really can’t find any reason why living in the UK would be more appealing. They is also so much money going around, the amount of expensive cars we saw was ridiculous, everybody had an iPhone and we saw several Ipads. This is definitely a place I will have to revisit and ideally it would be great to work here for several years, but it is almost impossible to get work without a degree, or being married to a Japanese person.

Highlight – I can’t really choose a specific thing or place we went, just the whole experience was great.

Lowlight – Spending way too much money on nights out in Kyoto and Tokyo.

Comment Of Japan – Seb in Tokyo – You(Tom) look like a crack head and you(me) look sane.

Funniest Moments –  Our night out in Tokyo, especially Seb.

Last Day In Japan

on Wednesday, 2 June 2010

We had to be checked out by 10am, so I had absolutely no sleep at all. We had decided to go to the technological district of Tokyo and visit the Sony building. As we had all our bags with us and were not checking in to our hostel until we arrived back in Nagoya, we decide to leave our bags in a safety deposit box at Tokyo station. We get the subway to the Sony building which displays all the latest technology. We could watch the 3D TV and they had all their cameras and mp3 players on display. By this time we need to get back to catch the train to Nagoya to pick up our passports, so head back to Tokyo station. All in all we had done very little in Tokyo and could have done with several more days. Our plan to go all over Japan in a week was a bit ambitious and we should have just stayed in one city.

We catch the bullet train fro the last time back to Nagoya and check in to the same hostel we had stayed at the first night. Then went to find the travel agents who were sorting out our visa. Thankfully it’s all fine and we can get bak into China. We return to the hostel and plan on getting an early night. We end up deciding to go out and have a couple of beers in Nagoya, but everywhere is very quiet so don’t stay out long. Get to bed about midnight, but have to be up at 5am in the morning to get to he airport for our flight back to Beijing at 9am.

Ueno Park And Another Messy Night

on Tuesday, 1 June 2010

We ended up waking up a little later than we had planned. Today we were moving to a capsule hotel in Roppongi, the bar and club area of Tokyo. We grabbed all our stuff and caught the train over, not really knowing what to expect at the hotel. We get out of the subway and have no idea where to go, luckily a nice guy, gives the hotel a ring and finds us directions. The hotel is on the 4th floor and the capsule is 4500Y, almost twice as much as we have been paying for hostels, but includes use of their spa and is also in a more expensive part of town. We check out our capsules, which are surprisingly bigger than I had thought and have a TV, light and alarm.

We dump our stuff and go to visit Ueno park.

We had hoped to catch some baseball and go and see some Sumo train, as we ha just missed one of the big competitions. Unfortunately there wasn’t a game being played the day we were there. Instead we decide to visit the park, we had heard there was lots of museums and attractions in the park. We had a walk round the park and visited the Science and nature museum. It was a great museum with some very impressive displays. Including a cinema, which was a huge sphere, where you stood on a bridge and there was screens all over the inside, so you had 360 degree viewing.

We then decided to get back to the hotel and chill out before going out that night for a few drinks. We get back to the hotel and we’re both shattered so try and get some sleep, I can’t get to sleep and end up using the sauna and steam room. This also involves having to share a naked shower with several Japanese guys.

We go out at about 7:00pm to get so me food. Roppongi is the only place in Japan where you get hassled to go into bars and restaurants, probably because it is where all the foreigners go. We end up eating at a small Japanese restaurant and the food is great. We then visit a bar, it is Tuesday night so nowhere is very busy. After being hassled by the huge black guys that hang out in front of every bar and club, we find another Hub bar, the same place as where we watched the football in Kyoto. It is pretty empty and we play some darts, before starting to chat to a Chilean guy who has obviously got on the beers very early. He teaches Kindergarten and is with a British guy and 4 Chinese girls. The invite us over and we start drinking and chatting together. It is one of the Chinese girls 22nd birthday. Sebastian the Chilean guy is coming out with some unbelievably funny stuff and has me and Tom in hysterics. I think Sebastian had, had a bit much and ends up leaving. We decide to go on to a club with the girls and they show us to a place round the corner which is closed. They say they are going to another more local area in Tokyo and invite us, but we don’t want to get stranded on the other side of town so decline. We have a look in a couple of other clubs, but everywhere is so quiet. That’s when we meet a British guy, who is a model in Japan and a French and Chinese guy. They have been living here for about 5 years and say they know a good place about 20 minutes away. We all jump in a cab with the British guy hiding on the floor. We get there and thankfully the place is really busy. Just by chance it is the same place the Chinese girls we had met earlier had gone and we end up spending the night chatting with them. We eventually leave the club at about 6am and don’t get back to the hotel till about 7am. I can’t get any sleep and we have to check out at 10am so am shattered, spent loads of money again. Will we ever learn, probably not.