I really should of done this sooner… I mean it’s been over 2 months since I was in Vietnam and to be honest since I didn’t make any notes on paper things are a bit blurry already so this post may be a bit lacking compared to my others!

Well let’s start at the beginning…

I jumped on the bus in Yangshuo to start the long bus/night train journey down to Hanoi and who happened to sit next to me other than two Ozzie girls (Jess & Rach) I met a few nights ago at the big beach party. It was cool to say hi and catch up but not really anything special (I mean you re-bump into fellow travellers all the time so didn’t think much of it) well that was until we go to the train station and ended up being in the same 4 bed cabin… not much chance of that happening!

At silly o’clock in the morning we hit the happy jolly border crossing which is where we met a fellow English girl Izzie and quickly adopted her. She just happened to be heading to the same hostel in Hanoi which was cool and this was the start of our Vietnam family!

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I know I should be doing the rest of my last trip but I had already started this a while ago so thought I would get it up. Over the last couple of years I’ve met people who have said I put down in writing some of the dodgy (and some not so dodgy) ways of saving money / surviving as a backpacker.

I’ve titled this Oz & Nz because from my experience quite a few of these options aren’t do-able in Europe or Russia (or I never saw anyway) but of course there will be some cross over. I will update it as I think of more things or as people remind me. Oh and i don’t want to hear any crap about morals etc – when your hungry, your hungry.

*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.

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What a shitty place…

No honestly, it is the worst city I have ever been to. There isn’t anything cultural worth seeing, it was build by the Russians so you can imagine how awesome the architecture is and there are warnings in every guide, hostel, hotel, restaurant to basically walk around naked otherwise something will be stolen from you (or after midnight you will die).

The only reason to go to UB is to get out of it…

Irkutsk & Lake Baikal – Siberia

Irkutsk is a nice enough place. Locals are friendlier, weather is cooler and it has the feel of a more relaxed / tourist town. I bumped into Zak & Josh (who I met in Moscow) while walking around the city and after a bit more sightseeing, which consisted of an eternal flame (bunsen burner), more cathedrals & statues, and some interesting tradition involving padlocks…

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Trans-Sib-rossiya-snow

To be honest I didn’t know what to expect on this journey. I had the feeling it could go one way or the other, so got my supplies and jumped on the train… a couple books, charged the DS, some basic food supplies, 6 beers and a bottle of vodka. Bring it on train!

First thing I noticed was the cabin (Kupe class) was much better than the one I had from Budapest to Moscow. All 4 beds in the room could be left down and still leave enough room to sit comfortably – this allowed me to get onto one of the top bunks so I could stay out of peoples way if required.

I started off sharing a cabin with a Russian family (a couple and their grand-daughter) and at first it felt a bit awkward so I tried to stay out of their way so started chatting to a married couple (English & Colombian) who were in the cabin next to mine – It was a relief that someone spoke English and I wouldn’t be completely cut off for the whole trip.

Before long I was collared by the family in my cabin and forced to sit with them… I really didn’t know what to expect but all of a sudden the woman was feeding me and the guy was pouring 8% beer in a cup, turns out this family was very nice!

They got off the next day and were replaced by 2 iffy Russians who didn’t make any attempt to communicate so I ended up playing Uno & Backgammon with the married couple.

The last night involved plenty of beer and sharing my bottle of Vodka with half of the train which in turn got me plenty of drinks in return. It got blury, don’t remember packing my bags and was a bit tipsy when I got off the train and started walking for an hour in a massive storm, falling over in puddles twice, getting pitied by the hostel woman and given plenty of nice coffee in return… welcome to Irkutsk… it’s 5am.