*as I’m not writing this on my own laptop I don’t have access to my photos – I will upload them later*

After the first couple of weeks in China I was looking forward to getting down to the much loved town of Yangshuo. Word of mouth and guide books all basically said the same thing… very beautiful, very touristy, charms of a smaller town & not to be missed…

I really loved this place.

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Much bigger city than I was expecting and as I only spent 2 nights there I don’t have that much to say about the place. The hostel (Shanyaun) was great and very cheap, the people I met were awesome, I had a couple crazy drinking nights – mainly working my way through the hostels whole cocktail list with a girl from Leicester – and went to go see the Terracotta Warriors.

<Army photo>

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Beijing & The Great Wall

Sorry about the delay on the updates guys… plan to get the rest of the trip typed up and put up shortly, in the mean time… Mmmmm steamed pork dumplings… My first stop in China and a very enjoyable 10 days!

I remember I didn’t get the big culture shock everyone was on about… The city is no busier or hectic on the surface than, say, London. Signage & spoken English use is pretty big after the Olympics and food while sometimes a bit random is generally damn tasty and not ‘un-safe’ off the street stalls. I also never felt unsafe anywhere I was in the city.

I stay at Leo Hostel just south of Tiananmen Square and liked it quite a bit. It had an awesome large chill out zone with plenty of movies and reasonable food, there was a great backpackers bar across the road and the whole pedestrian street it sat in was filled with places to grab a bite to eat

<Street Photos>

Tiananmen Square was… just a large square (well rectangle :p) which led up to Forbidden City and man that place is huge! When you first walk in under the giant portrait of Mao you can’t help but be amazed of the sheer size of the first courtyard but then you walk into 4-5 of the same thing and you start to get a tad bored.

Apart from the calligraphy museum off the side (which I LOVED) my main forms of entertainment were the teaching telling the school kids to jump into our photos, Chris scaring a Chinese girl who was pretty sure we were stalking her and Tony actually stalking a gorgeous Russian girl who was inappropriately dressed for sightseeing.

<Square & Forbidden City Photos>

Great Wall was one of the highlights of my time in Beijing… I went on a tour with the Hostel to a section of wall 2.5 hours out of Beijing which was defiantly worth the journey as we were the only 20 people on a un-reconstructed section of wall. The day involved a 10km walk (read ‘climb’) along the wall which nearly killed me and Chris due to a heavy night and no sleep the night before.

<Great Wall Photos>

Well that’s basically Beijing. I spent the rest of my time socialising, eating, wondering around and people watching with Tony.

Oh just another note: It’s been holiday season for the locals and train tickets sell out 10 days before the departure so instead of being stuck in Beijing for another week I have decided to get my first night bus… 17 hours to Xi’an – fun fun fun!

Sorry for no posts guys. Due to so many sites being blocked here in China I can’t load the full client to post (so can only do plain text) and can’t upload any photos or videos so give me some time. I’ll be in Vietnam in a week or so and will get Mongolia, Beijing, Xi’an and Yangshou posts up!

In the mean time I got a couple random things to post which I’ll work on later.

Trans-Siberian

…via a load of other places!

I mentioned it before and I’ve had a couple people ask about my travel plans so here we go! I’ve been looking into doing some travelling before starting this internship in China and also have had to give a bit of thought about how I would be getting to Beijing for the 24th and here’s what I’ve come up with!

July: East Europe
August: Russia
September: China

Back in 2006 a friend and myself went on a small trip through Hungary & Serbia and ended up in Novi Sad for the Exit Festival which is held in the massive Petrovaradin Fortress in the middle of the river.

It was one of the biggest and greatest festivals I’ve been to and always wanted to go back so now’s as good as time as any!

6th July – Fly Luton to Budapest then overnight train to Novi Sad for Exit

8-11th July – Exit Festival, Novi Sad, Serbia.

After the festival jump on a bus to Belgrade and spend some time between there and Budapest, I have about 12 days to kill and will just go with the flow methinks. Need to be in Budapest by the 25th July for a 35hour train from Budapest to Moscow via Ukraine.

Next is… Russia!

Arrive in Moscow about the 27th July. Spending a few nights in Moscow, seeing the sights (Kremin etc), registering my visa and collecting train tickets for the next step. Will also probably jump on an overnight train to St Petersburg for the weekend, long as I’m back in Moscow for the 3rd….

Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia! This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now… the grand Trans-Siberian railway! I won’t be doing the whole thing in one wack (7 days) because it seems like a waste to just go past some of the places without stopping for awhile so here is what I have come up with!

3rd August 2010 > 7th August 2010 Moscow to Irkutsk
I will be in Irkutsk for 5 days (arrive early morning, leave late at night) and from what I’ve read there is some great things to see in East Siberia’s largest city. Guessing I will be taking a couple days to go to Lake Baikal which is the worlds deepest fresh water lake (and meant to be lovely in the middle of summer when I’ll be there!)

11th August 2010 > 13th August 2010 Irkutsk to Ulan Bator (Mongolia)
Now Mongolia is somewhere I’m really looking forward to seeing! I’ll be there for 6 days and at least some of those will be spent out in the middle of nowhere sleeping in a goat skin tent trying to avoid some of the local delicacies (google for it if you don’t know). From what I’ve read about the city itself its a bit of a strange one. Tribes setting up camps on paved streets and traditional Mongol dressed people drinking with guys in suites. Sounds great! Oh I want to get me one of those hats!

19th August 2010 > 20th August 2010 Ulan Bator to Beijing
And finally arriving in Beijing where I will have 4 days to scout out the place before meeting my fellow interns and getting stuck into teaching.

So there we have it! Nothing is set in stone at the moment as I don’t even know if I’ve been accepted but I’ll be doing this trip either way, below is some information for those that are interested.

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Breakdown of costs: VISAs:

  • Russia: £117 for a tourist visa, must be registered within 3 days of entering the country. Lasts 30 days.
  • Mongolia: £60 for a tourist visa. Lasts 30 days.
  • China: £92 for a tourist visa. I will be going in on a cheaper (£30) teaching visa. Lasts 90 days.

Flight to Budapest: £65 with EasyJet

Train Costs:

  • Budapest to Belgrade is about £22 return. Novi Sad is on route so sorted. Bus from Novi Sad to Belgrade after the festival is £10ish
  • Budapest to Moscow via Ukraine is £130.
  • Moscow to St Petersburg on the night train return is £50
  • Trans-Sib:
    The cost to run direct from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia WITHOUT stopping is around £520. When breaking it up it’s coming to around £550. This is for a standard 2nd class (4 bunk) sleeper, generally with fresh linen (sometimes an extra $1 for that) and all the boiling water you want! The food on the train differs depending on the country you are in but generally you are looking at $3 a meal (meat & potatoes) but there is plenty on offer at each platform the station stops at and i’ll have soup or noodles to make use of that water methinks!

Sleeping & Food Budgets:

Well out of around 50 days doing the above 17 nights will be sleeping on transport so that leaves the following breakdown.

  • East Europe & West Russia: 18 nights @ £15 = £270
  • East Siberia, Mongolia & China: 14 Nights @ £10 = 140
  • Food & Drink: General £15 a day so 50×15 = £750

So there we have it. Costs are just quick lookups and estimates from previous experiences, it just gives me an idea of how much I need to work at this current job before I can quit!

Any questions give me a shout!

…unless your being weird.

My god how am I meant to be teaching others how to deal with English when I can barely get my head around it myself!

Well I’ve just started my TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) course and I’m struggling to dredge up the English lessons from school. I mean it’s just one of those things, you learn all about adjectives, verbs, nouns, pro-nouns and all that jazz, pass your GCSE English and then forget about them…. In day to day life have you ever had to remember which are which in ‘the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’ ahhhhhhhhh

I’m sure as I get stuck into the course it will come back to me and all will be right as rain.

Now after all this TEFL stuff I’ll hopefully be heading off to China (still waiting to be accepted) in August for a 4.5month teaching English type thing where I’ll be earning a basic living, spending next to nothing, getting lost & confused, eating some great food, freezing my ass off in winter and I guess teaching at a school… Can’t wait! Will be awesome to be out of the country for an extended time again and China is so different it’s sure to be a culture shock!

Oh and it’s going to be a blast getting there to! Got a couple months travel planned before hand (more on that later).

Soooo…. Where did I put that Mandarin for Dummies?