Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

That says it all really. I can’t remember the last time I went to a town that didn’t have McDonalds, but Bruge was free of them. Excellent. Just what I hope for in a medieval town. It’s a very pretty town, crammed with ice, waffles, chips and massive bowls of hot chocolate. Mmmm.

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Avebury Henge

Today we went on a drive to Avebury to see the standing stones. Woo! I think (if I say so myself) that I’m able to rustle up (with help from the folks) a fairly good UK tour. The other day we went to Cheddar. All this is made possible of course by the fact that C, unlike me, has a valid driving licence. And also the fact that my parents gave us their old car.

Avebury was very quaint. And there were sheep amongst the stones! Black sheep! Sigh.

The stones are around 4000 years old or so. Well, the ‘standing stones’ are that old, I imagine the stone itself is muuuuch older.

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In the Aviary in Hong Kong

In the Aviary in Hong Kong

In the park NEAR the aviary. A result of bird flu panic.

In the park NEAR the aviary. A result of bird flu panic.

Behind the door in a toilet cubicle.

Behind the door in a toilet cubicle.

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First you need to wash and peel 3 wives… Nah I jest, none of the ingredients involve actual people.

I made these BEAUTIFUL wife cakes (and egg rolls) in Hong Kong on a great cooking lesson at the Wing Wah cake shop run by the excellent Hong Kong Tourist Board (if you’re going to Hong Kong use them, seriously they have a whole series of really interesting activities).

I was going to write out the instructions as given to me by the shop here. However they don’t actually seem to make any sense so instead I recommend you go here and follow the steps contained within.

They’re best eaten fresh out of the oven. C and I enjoyed them for breakfast. Yum Yum.

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Since arriving in Beijing last week this has been the first time I’ve been able to access my blog. The censors are much much stricter here. So sorry for the big pause. I will have a massive session next week when I’m in the UK and tell the tales and show the photos.

We’re staying with friends here who have an awesome apartment so it’s pretty cruisey. We’ve been doing all the touristy thing such as staggering up the great wall and seeing the forbidden city. Right now we’re mainly buying lots of things to take away with us. I’m loading up of presents for my family and C is out for a whole set of new clothes.

Only two days left now……

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Whilst we were waiting for the time to board the cruise we wandered around Chongqing town. We tried to find a restaurant in the guide book but failing that we stumbled into a goodish looking (or rather close) one that had the plus points of having people eating inside. Above is what we ordered. They didn’t have an English menu. We’d worked out it was a hotpot restaurant (famous dish in the region) by looking at the other tables. Plus the fact the waitress had flamed the table and put a silver dish with liquids over the fire. We pointed at random things and asked an old man standing watching us for advice. We think everything not weird we got were his options. Mind you before ordering we had to pose with everyone in the place for about 20 photos. They were very very amazed and amused we were there. Don’t think it was a tourist hotspot. Was delicious food though. And so fun teat. Basically you dip everything into the broth in the middle to cook and then dip it in the chilli outer ring, and then add crushed garlic garnish and then eat.

Onwards to the fancy cruise! We went to pick up our bags from the ticket office and got escorted onto our boat where they fussed around for a bit deciding what to do as we had no actual ticket just a reciept saying we’d paid.

Here is the President No1. Our boat:


We then got taken on a tour of the boat with the sole intention of getting us to agree to upgrade. For a fee of course. We got very briefly shown the room we’d paid for then whisked through a series of far fancier rooms starting with the suites and ending with room with a kingsize bed. We gave in and took the kingsize. Mainly because it was on a higer deck, partly because we just wanted to sit in our room and not have people try to sell us things. Also in a final desperate attempt to get up to upgrade ‘Tina’ told a fabulous lie. She originally said 80 pounds was the price to upgrade. I said 40. She went to her manager, came back said 50. We said no. She went to manager THEN came back and said that our travel agency had ‘just phoned’ and offered to cover us for the extra ten. Lol.

Here was our room (It also had a very lovely balcony):


This cruise along the Yangse was apparently 5*. We got 3 meals a day. Breakfast was buffet style and lunch and dinner consisted of about 10 delicious dishes. And we also got an excursion a day and to sail through the three gorges. It was very fancy. For the meals we were assigned a table with the only other people who weren’t on a tour and middle aged. These were a British couple and a Canadian couple.

Excursion number one:

dsc01956Ghost City. When we all die we will have to make our way here to be judged. This picture is a ghost who was lining the way to the gate of hell.

A Gorge:


Excursion Number Two:

We were moved to a separate ferry, sailed for an hour and a half and then went in wooden boats rowed by local boatmen for an hour and then back in the ferry for another hour and a half.


At one point the boatmen launched out of the boat to pull it along a shallow rough part by rope! The guy at the front with the stick was supposed to use it to push us away from the rocks. He was working SO hard! At one point we got stuck and he got yelled at a lot. A boatman on the boat behind us (who was pulling the hardest!) was 69 years old! He was definitely fitter than me!

Excursion number 3 was to see the Dam. But I was ill so I stayed in bed. C said it was very dam-like.

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Along the Li river.


Yangshuo Town.

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Yesterday we hired bikes for 20 Yuan each. Mine was so snazzy it was still half wrapped in bubble-wrap (which I ripped off after about 2 hours of it hitting my leg annoyingly).

We were given a map that we couldn’t follow so we just guessed roughly where we wanted to be heading. Twas pretty scary cycling along the main road with all the other push bikes, motorbikes, cars, buses, trucks, and random pedestrians darting out across the road at any moment.

I apparently worried C, who was behind me, with just how well I was blending in with the local road traffic. According to him I was weaving randomly in and out of the bike lane, cutting off cars and narrowly avoiding being squashed. Quite glad I didn’t know that at the time.

After only about 15 minutes we’d left the big scary road and were happily cycling along more country roads amongst all the rice paddies and karst hills. It was all very very beautiful. And completely worth the leg agony I was in that evening.

In about an hour we’re off to a Chinese cooking class. Yum.

I’ve been guzzling the tasty Sichuan food here as we’re pretty close to that region. It’s very delicious, a little buzzy. I am totally winning the battle of the chillies. C cried. Muha.

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It’s raining. But that’s okay because we’re in Guilin in CHINA! Oh yes.

And we’re staying in a lovely hostel called Flowers.  It’s very welcoming. I especially like the buckets everywhere to catch the rain. The best one is perched above the computer next to me. They have a variety of english books. I’ve already snaffled and read one.

In Guilin they’re into exotic food (tortoise, rabbit). Also very fresh food. We went on a walk and passed lots of restaurants with cages stuffed with live animals and bowls of sea creatures.  They used to eat monkeys but now don’t because of SARS.

I had spicy fish for lunch. It took a while to prepare. Chances are the fish was still alive when I walked into the restuarant. Poor Mr delicious Fish.

We got the train from Hong Kong to (note: names may be mispelt) Guangzhou and changed to a sleeper train to Guilin.  Guangzhou station was horrible. It was massive and confusing. Nothing was in English, there were no apparent platforms, or entrances to platforms. And it was very very dirty. Everyone was sitting on the floor or broken chairs. People were spitting and blowing their noses into bins or the floor. There were babies with no nappies, just slits in their trousers so they could go on the floor whenever they wanted. 
Once we got on the train everything was better though. It takes 12 hours by train to get to Guilin. We’d chosen to travel by ‘hard sleeper’ which is a carriage seperated into about 16 sections with six beds in each section. In bunks of 3. C and I were in the very top bunk! It was tres high. I squeaked with alarm as I tried to hurl myself up it. The ladder was tiny. Plus I was foolishly wearing a skirt.
Tommorrow we’re getting a boat down the Li river to Yangshuo (supposed to have beautiful limestone formations and gannet fishing). 3 nights there then after we’re coming back here – getting a train to Chongching (18 hours) and from there getting a 3 day cruise up the Yangtxi river.  Exciting! A guy called David helped us book everything in a travel agent shop in the station when we arrived. We’d only gone with him originally to get a map. Lol!

I will add photos at some point when I locate a USB port/remember my wires. This may take a few days.

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Today we bought travel insurance. We can now do a variety of mildly dangerous activities (such as abseiling, parachuting, ballooning, bungy jumping, white water rafting, and the rather obscure ‘working holidays’) in China, and if everything goes horribly wrong we can spend up to $10,000,000 each in a hospital driving to fix it.

We wanted to compare STA’s and Student Flights’ prices so we went to both and picked up their insurance brochures. STA didn’t actually have any prices for policies in theirs at all so they lost.

Basic cover for the two of us in China for just over a month was $574.

However I just pulled out the certificate to look it over and find they’ve spelt C’s name wrong and they’ve put my birth in the wrong month! Argh! Why is nothing ever easy? I’m going to have to go back on Monday now and sort them out! So annoying!

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