Well Moscow… where to begin? First and foremost lets get this out of the way – Moscow is the most expensive, unfriendly tourist place I have ever been. There isn’t a single tourist information place in the whole city, people generally don’t speak any English and more or less dismiss you when you don’t speak any Russian, all signs are in Cyrillic (including the tourist areas like Red Square & The Kremlin) and add in the fact the visa costs a chunk to get & takes a while to process shows they really don’t care about foreign tourist trade. That being said I had a great time during my week there!

Day on was essentially the tourist stuff which basically consists of Red Square and The Kremlin.

Part of Red Square was a nice park surrounding the Kremlin wall. Grass, trees, fountains (with lots of people playing in them) and cheap draft beer from all the kiosks kicking about. As you head into the main area there are a few things such as the tomb of the forgetton solider, the huge Gum shopping centre (full of things I can’t afford), Lenin’s tomb (which is a bit creepy) and the impressive St Basil’s Cathedral (pictured above).

Inside The Kremin, which was nice a cheap to get into due to my dodgy student card, are plenty more cathedrals, the worlds biggest bell (which has never been rung) and the worlds biggest cannon (which has never been fired) and thats about it so I found somewhere to nap for the afternoon –  Sleep in Russia’s seat of power…. check!

As of what I did for the rest of my time in Moscow, well you can probably guess…. I was sampling its night life!

Every night in Moscow involved not getting to bed until the sun had risen. The first night I met up with two lovely half English/Russian girls (Maria & Katya) one of which I was in contact with a while ago as she’s going a similar trip to mine. Dragging alone an Irish guy from the hostel (Danny) we went to a couple local places and ended up in Propaganda. Now this place is mentioned in every tour book/guide/website etc and is basically one of those places that is really crappy but at the same time awesomely brilliant.

Russian guys in their silk shirts doing their awesome sway dance, Russian girls who come and their ass on you as your swaying but god forbid trying to touch them… we have come to the conclusion you are only allowed to touch them with your penis… interesting. Anyway I can’t really get across how good & bad this place was, you just have to sample it yourselves (which I did on several occasions).

After the night out with the girls the next 4 nights were spent with my fellow backpackers. 2 Danish guys (Jeppe & Mads), 2 English (Josh & Zak), a Polish (Magic) and an Ozzie (Tom) spent our time in Propaganda invading tables of Russia girls and taking part in the mono-directional sway on the dance floor!

On a random side note I always believed Russia would a cold (or at least cooler than central Europe) country but nooooooooo the place was 36-42C all the god damn time. No-where has fans nevermind air conditioning and by the end of the week I was extremely bored of swearing 24/7.

Bring on Siberia after this next 5178km train ride!

I was writing notes at random intervals on the train so this is sort of broken up.

Well its time for my first long (36 hour) train journey from Budapest to Moscow via the Ukraine – First impressions as the train rolls into the station “Wow thats so Russian!” and thats about all I can do to explain it 😛

The cabin is of course small (3 berth, cheapest) but I do like the little nooks and crannys that hide things (like sink under table, storage under seats, fridge under stool etc).

Continue reading

Belgrade & Budapest

Waiting on Zack to upload his photos to facebook… until he does this post will be a wall of text / placeholders!

Belgrade – Serbia

After the festival Sho, Alfie, Danny, Becca & Myself went to Belgrade for a couple days and to be honest I don’t have much to say about the city. It’s strangely arranged so you tend not to find what you are looking for and all the places that open late are on weird little streets. Nothing much happened in the time we were there, couple normal nights out and thats about it.

One thing I do have to point out though… Continue reading


T-Minus 15 hours until I head off on my next adventure and I can’t wait! Ok still have to do my packing and stuff but least all the paperwork is out of the way!

The plan is to go from home here in Shrewsbury, UK to Beijing, China via trains over the next 60 days and then spend a couple months living as cheaply as possible in China…

Part one: (click for bigger picture)

01/07/2010 – Shrewsbury to London
02/07/2010 – London to Paris, Paris to Munich, Munich to Budapest (night)
03/07/2010 – Got a night in Budapest – not sure where I’m staying at the moment.
04/07/2010 – Budapest to Novi Sad (night).
05/07/2010 – Exit Festival ( for 10 days music, drinking and camping with a friend Sho who I met on a banana picking farm up in North East Australia.  I also have 12ish days free after the festival to spend some time in Belgrade and Budapest!

Part 2: (click for bigger picture)

25/07/10 – Budapest to Moscow via Kiev.

The reason for going this route instead of the more direct path via Minsk is that for some really stupid reason Belarus charge £120 for a TRANSPORT visa… meaning even if you don’t get off the train you have to pay £120 just to go through the country in a few hours… screw that! The train via Kiev is nearly the same price but just takes 8 hours longer (36 total) which I can deal with in the grand scheme of things!

I’m kicking about in Moscow for 7-8 days and not quite sure what I’m going to do. If I like the place and meet some people I’ll stay for the whole time however if not I’ll most probably jump on a night train to St Petersburg for a few days. I’ll make the decision at the time.

Part 3: (click for bigger image)

Now the main part of the journey… The Trans-Siberian/Mongolian!

03/08/10 – Moscow to Irkutsk. 4 days on the train going through Russia and I can’t wait! Once I get to Irkutsk I have a 5 day stop which I’m guessing I’ll be spending at Lake Baikal (most voluminous fresh water lake in the world holding about 20% of the worlds fresh water) as its middle of summer and the weather should be silly hot!

11/08/10 – Irkutsk to Ulan Bator. Only a couple days on the train and then get into Mongolia. I’m not too sure what to expect from Ulan Bator and the surrounding areas but hey I got 6 days to check it out!

19/08/10 – Ulan Bator to Beijing. Less than 24 hours on the train will get me into Beijing where I plan to stay for awhile – It all depends on the cash I have left when I get there!

Anyway there is the summary of the journey! I will be doing random updates on the way (and another a bit later when I’ve sorted my packing).



Shrewsbury to London : £10
London to Paris: £34
Paris to Munich: £32
Munich to Budapest: £26
Budapest to Novi Sad: £15
Belgrade to Budapest: £20
Budapest to Moscow: £135
Moscow to Beijing: £510 (can’t remember the individual costs of the 3 trains).

Russian: £117
Mongolian: £60 (I paid £85 for express service)
Chinese: £90

Accomadation – Estimates using previous knowledge and hostel websites – Prices are per night in hostels.
Budapest: £10
Belgrade: £6-8
Moscow: £12-17
Irkutsk: £5-10
Ulan Bator: £5-10
Beijing: £3-5

Out of the 60 days I’m doing this journey 10 are camping and 18 are night trains so that leaves 32 nights to pay for… not bad.

… and I woke up hung over and bald this morning!

I’m going to start doing periodic blog updates relating to how my learning and travel plans are going. Not sure if anyone is interested but it’s a good way for me to keep motivated and also keep an eye on progress (or lack of!).

Here are the things I’m going to keep an eye on:

TIME LEFT: 121 Days!

Internship still in application stage, where oh where did I put those school results?!

TEFL Course

Well I have only just got access to it so this is pretty non-existent at the moment. Will be spending the weekend and the following 3-4 weeks taking a small look at it but most of the work will start in April when this job finishes.

Currently booked into doing the classroom stuff on the 15/16th May in Birmingham


Hah this language is impossible! I didn’t really get into the Chinese for Dummies book and couldn’t really bring myself to put any time in, however a couple days ago I got hold of Easy Peasy Chinese which I think is a great book and would happily recommend it! Ok it’s not very advanced and I think if you knew the whole book inside and out you would only be able to ask where the toilet is and say sorry when you walk into the women’s but it’s defiantly helping with sounds and structure.

Big problem I’m having is putting Japanese in the middle of things (or using Japanese sounds).

On a side note there is a cute video on YouTube for learning the Chinese Number Gestures sometimes used for haggling in markets etc.


Haven’t even started and to be honest don’t really want to. On my too learn list is the Russian alphabet & basic pleasantries to survive for 2 months.


This is still on my list because after spending the last 4 months learning I don’t want to forget what I already know so going to try and keep up with it… defiantly in the negative here, forgetting more than I’m learning due to lack of time and attention.

Vodka Training

Well what can I say… over 2 months in East Europe and Russia… I need to get my act together on the Vodka front! Training starts tonight!

Chop Stick Training

Must stop stabbing and shovelling! I will become a chop stick master by the time I need them! Bring me more Chinese food with that vodka!


Travel Plans

Well my plans have changed slightly. I thought about it and it seemed like cheating to start my big journey off by flying to Budapest so the plan is now to do it all by train! So the route is now (only changes/stops listed):

Shrewsbury > London > Paris > Munich > Budapest > Novi Sad > Belgrade > Budapest > Kiev > Moscow > St Petersburg > Moscow > Irkutsk > Ulan Bator > Beijing

More details can be found in the original entry that will be updated as I change things.


So there we have it, learning is going very slowly at the moment and I’m spending a lot of time drunk and covered in Chinese food but the plan is there! Things should pickup at the end of the month when this contract finishes and I have 3 months bumming about before leaving the country! 😀

Oh I brought a shiny new camera today as well! WOO!

How’s everyone else’s learning/training/planning going?


…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.


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?