Thursday, February 19th, 2004 – Day ZERO to Sunday, February 29th, 2004

Thursday, February 19th, 2004 – Day ZERO

As you see, there is no point in moving past 365 days on my RTW so today is Day Zero. i am home now and so another chapter begins. I did little today. Started unpacking my bags and taking to relatives on the phone. Very weird. I cooked some thing for the first time in a year. My sister came home a day early her work place (an my other sister is due early tomorrow morning) so nearly all the family is back this weekend to say hi and welcome back.

Friday, February 20th, 2004

Spent some time on the Net. found a site that allows the user mark the places in the world they have visited.

Above, is a representation of the palces and countries in the world I ahve visited in my life. You can create your own visited country map at World66

This site was mentioned at a Bray Town Forum.

According to the Match Personality Test, this lady is my perfect match.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

My perfect Match- if you see her knocking about- tell her to give me a buzz 🙂 (19-02-2004)

The following is my summary. My full report is here.

Favorite Qualities

Your photo choices suggest a woman over 45 is probably getting a little old for your tastes. You seemed interested in dating a woman at least 25 or older

Very beautiful women So-called “Ecto-Mesomorphs,” with narrow chins and nicely angular faces. Dark brown hair. Straight hair

Favorite Looks

There’s a reason why you can’t keep your eyes off a beauty pageant. We describe a lot of the women you found attractive as “Beauty Queens,” because of their flawless beauty and winning smiles. These women usually have long, shiny hair setting off a face that is either rectangular or heart-shaped. They have very feminine features like thin noses, big eyes, and full lips, conveying a strong, confident look rather than looking delicate or fragile. Even though they look like the “Girl Next Door,” they tend to look mature for their age and lack the “cutesy” appearance of more “girlish” women. Although very popular to look at, most men are sort of intimidated by this type, which is probably why only 1 in 3 (31%) say they specifically seek out these women.

You might head to Europe for your next vacation to see more of the “Mediterranean Beauties” you also seemed to like in the photo test. These women, from a variety of ethnic groups, share dark hair and an olive complexion. Because of their flawless complexion and very full lips, they have to wear little makeup, which adds to a sense of natural beauty. About 1 in 3 men (30%) share your excellent taste!

Favorite Face Type

Faces known scientifically as “Ecto-Mesomorphs” repeatedly caught your eye. Women express this type in two ways. One version has a rectangular face shape that is long and narrow. The other type’s face shape is often compared to a diamond or a heart, because it is wide at the cheeks and then has a sharply angled jaw. Ecto-Mesomorph women have either delicate pointed chins or chins that are slightly squared-off or rounded at the base. This “classic” face type is one of the most idealized for women and can be found on most movie and music idols. These women also tend to have lean, but shapely, builds when they’re young. About 57% of other men especially prefer women with this face type.

Tell your friends to take the test and then compare your results, or for more details, visit

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

I went to Thurles to see the Club Championship hurling sem-Final replay between newtown and O’Loughlin Gaels. As a GAA fan, it was great to see a game and I enjoyed the match. I used my fake student ID (Im the pits) to get in for 5 Euro (normal entry is 15 Euro). Find a match report here.

Hurling is a game similar to hockey, in that it is played with a small ball and a curved wooden stick. It is Europe’s oldest field game. When the Celts came to Ireland as the last ice age was receding, they brought with them a unique culture, their own language, music, script and unique pastimes. One of these pastimes was a game now called hurling. It features in Irish folklore to illustrate the deeds of heroic mystical figures and it is chronicled as a distinct Irish pastime for at least 2,000 years.

The stick, or “hurley” (called cam?n in Irish) is curved outwards at the end, to provide the striking surface. The ball or “sliothar” is similar in size to a hockey ball but has raised ridges

It took about an hour and a half to get there and we had difficulty in finding a car parking space. It was a 2.30pm start and we were back around 5.30pm. If you have no idea what hirling is, check out the GAA website and more specifically here.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Ah Yes, GAA – Thurles (21-02-2004)

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004 to Sunday, February 29th, 2004

Nothing strange. Taking it easy. I miss the traveling. going to palces, meeting new places, eating out, freedom and choice. I fell like a character sprouting rubbish in a Matrix film.

Well, post analysis time. I have been back since the 18th and its time to write a few words about the last year.


Well, I loved my year of travelling. I wont say “off” traveling as essentially the year will stand to me as much as a year of work and it was no holiday. In essence it passed like a few weeks. I remember leaving Dublin airport last year like it was yesterday. I cant believe it passed so quickly and in hindsight my expectations of the trip were met if not surpassed.. A trip like that, well its something i will never forget, not now and not in twenty years. Have I got the travel bug. Well yes, I would love to have spend another six months away but monetary concern and the fact I couldn’t extend my ticket led me back. I would have no trouble taking another year out. Maybe the former Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Worse than a job:

I was very busy travelling. This is especially true in the first six months when I moved from town to town every few days, visiting every museum, attraction, bar and monument that had to be seen. I saw too much and did too much not that I would agree at the time. It was just that i was very motivated to do so. Its the same with every traveller as they set off. Still, the longer you travel the less motivated you become and less things you want to see. by the time I left Beijing at the end of the trip, I could not be bothered to see the Summer Palace, Forbidden City etc. I also didn’t get as much time to relax during the trip as I wanted. No beaches or retreats. You might find it funny, but pure backpacking is more stressful than a 9-5 job. Its true. You get up early (many 5am-8.00am starts) travel from A to B to C using public transport, maybe walking up to 15km per day all in a foreign language. You may get back from a day of sightseeing at 8.00pm and fall asleep. Many of the bus journeys (and I took many) were long and hard over bad roads. Many were in the 15-25 hour bracket. You have to guard against theft, hustlers, accidents and misunderstandings. In many counties you have to bargain from everything from your transport to your food.

Travelling Alone

I didn’t use travel agents, taxis, tour companies during the year, so all transport decisions and tickets were up to me. I walked everywhere. Maybe I made it difficult for myself as i generally enjoyed travelling alone. I would not be a great person to travel with and I cant understand how people to it. I would find it hard to compromise. I changed my plans daily. They were as simple as what places I was visiting that day to changing my route totally.

I met a lot of people who had parted from friends and boy/girlfriends because of travelling. Its stressful. Everybody is different. people want to travel to different rules from where whey want to go, how fast they want to get there, how they want to get there.


As for the year, I felt it pass like weeks. This is no boast. Time flew by. When you are busy and engrossed in what you are doing, time has no meaning. You don’t care what time it is , what day of the week it is – you just take it as it comes. There are no deadlines or restrictions. Its like having a job you love. The money, the time you work and minor problems are no obstacles. Did I fell homesick at any time. Well with the advent of email and because I had this website, they knew exactly where I was and how I was going. Its a weight off my mind, when i knew they were not so worried at home. I rang some only half a dozen times on important dates- i.e Christmas etc.


Sure, a year is a long time and you have to put up with alot. For me the more serious downsides were pickpockets (and attempted ones), accidents (been hit by a firework, electrocuted in a shower), illness (chest infection, piles), lack of hygiene (waring the same clothes for a week, no showers or hot water, sitting on a bus for 35 hours), getting into trouble (Cusco Riots, getting lost on mountains, harsh words with locals etc.) and getting too drunk.


I met some great people (foreign and packpackers) on my trips. You run into people by chance and because people are on the road, friendships and trust have to be formed very quickly. You might have met a person twelve hours earlier and my nightfall you might be sharing a room, minding each others stuff and by morning travelling together. I saw some great wonders of the world that I didn’t or would have though possible. I saw cultures at work and the cultures that preceded them like those in Peru, New Zealand, China etc. I defined my strengths and weaknesses. I got to appreciate my strengths like common sense, sense of direction, and stamina. too many weaknesses to mention.

Since I have returned, people have asked me for my favourite countries, but in reality I have none. Each country had its high and low lights. You will see my highlights and lowlights in rhe relevant website section (see the menu), country by country.

Well thats about it regarding the Round the World trip. I will be adding to the site (as I have no job) over the next 6 months. I will be adding more detail to the individual web pages, the stats, my hightlights etc. so Its will be worth checking back to this site now and again. I am sure more travels await me. If all else fails, ifts Saint Patrick’s Day on march 17th 2004. Anyway, CU soon.

i see if I buy a camera phone, I can blog pictures directly to this site. Interesting.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Taking a picture from over my hedge at home in ireland – Cork (29-02-2004)

I see Guinness is enjoying new fund success in Africa.

The secret “essence of Guinness” has been the subject of more bar room speculation than possibly of any other beer in the history of brewing.

For centuries, a mysterious ingredient has been used to make Ireland’s famous creamy black stout. Until now, the undisclosed component has been a closely guarded secret behind the imposing walls of the drink giant’s St. James’s Gate headquarters in Dublin.

But soaring demand from Africa, where Guinness is seen as a macho drink and nicknamed “Viagra” after the virility drug, has led to severe capacity constraints.

That in turn has forced the company for the first time to let the secret slip away from Dublin, and into a $50 million modern plant in Waterford in the southeast.

Like me after one year away, backpackers have trouble readjusting to life back home after spending time travelling? Here’s a few handy hints that should help them settle back in 🙂

1) Replace your bed with two or more bunk beds, and every night invite random people in to sleep there. This will make things seem more hostel like, and will also boost your karma. Ensure at least once a week a couple gets drunk and shags on one of the top bunks all night. Remove beds one by one as symptoms improve.

2) Sleep in your sleeping bag, and forget to wash it for months.

3) Sleep in a different room each day, varying it by setting the air conditioning either too hot or too cold. Sleep behind a pot plant for that jungle effect. Cats also double as pumas with a little imagination. Put up a mosquito net, ensuring that there are plenty of holes, and it falls down at least twice during the night.

4) Enlist help of a family member to set your radio alarm randomly to go off at some time during the night, filling your room with loud talking. Works best if you can find a radio station in Hebrew.

5) Slowly remove items of clothing etc from your backpack, until you are completey using your wardrobe instead. Maybe only one item a day, but remember its one step at a time kids, one step at a time. Don’t forget to smell your clothes before wearing them, and re-introduce the use of the iron SLOWLY.

6) Buy your favourite foodstuffs, and despite living at home, write your name and when you might next be leaving the house on them. This should be the backpackers staple diet of mainly pasta, potatoes and beer.

7) Ask family member to every now or again to steal one of the above foodstuffs, preferably the one you’ve most been looking forward to, or the most expensive.

8) Keep at least one item of food far too long or in a bag out in the sun, so you have to spend at least 24 hours within sprinting distance of the toilet.

9) Even if it’s a Sunday, make sure you’re out of the house by 10am, and then stand on the corner looking lost. Ask first passer-by of similar ethnic background if they’ve found anywhere good to go yet.

10) Once decided to possibly get a job, take a fully packed rucksack to work with you every day. Although it’s perfectly safe next to the coffee machine, watch it like a hawk.

11) Buy your bus, train ticket or order a taxi in a foreign language. The fact the person behind the counter won’t understand you simply adds to the authenticity. Remember to barter for everything, if the bus driver says 70p, offer 30p.

12) When sitting on public trasport (the tube in London is the best) introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you, say which stop you got on, where you’re going to, how long you have been travelling and what university you went to. If they say they are going to Morden, say you met a guy on the central line who said it was terrible, you’ve heard Parsons Green is better, and cheaper.

13) When possible travel everywhere at break neck speeds on a moped carrying as much luggage as possible, without protection

14) Shower infrequently, ensuring that you continue to apply Deet for that true travel aroma.

These simple but effective instructions should help you fall back into normal society with the minimum of effort.

Saturday, February 14th, 2004 – Day 361 to Wednesday, February 18th, 2004 – Day 365

Saturday, February 14th, 2004 – Day 361

I was now in my hostel (I stayed in the associate hotel opposite for one night) and its Ok but shared bathrooms. I don’t mind backpacker hostels per se … Its the people in the room that carry it (or not). Luckily there are no snorers in the room. At the moment we have a Asian-Australian, a Irish guy (just moved here from Taiwan where he was teaching English to do the same here) and a mystery man (Asian guy from Hong Kong who was in bed my 8.00pm).

I was up at 9.30am and decided to spend the day shopping. For the last year, I have purchased little for myself (except pirated DVD’s) for my family and friends. I headed to the silk Market first of all by subway. It is the most popular tourist market in Beijing; best for clothing and jewelry anyway. It has the best fakes in china from north Face jackets to Prada purses

Silk Alley–The famous Silk Alley Market (Xiushui Shichang) is located at Jianguomenwai Dajie and Xiushui Jie (the first alley west of Dongdaqiao Lu), a half-mile east of the Friendship Store in the Chaoyang District. The Yonganli subway stop is very near. The south entrance of this market looks to be nothing more than a hole in the wall where a storefront might have once stood, but this is the gate to Beijing’s most popular clothing market. Hawkers barking “CD-ROM!” stalk the sidewalk outside, selling bootlegged music and movie discs (of dubious quality). Squeeze in through the main gate and then press along either of the two main passageways for a look at hundreds of booths. There’s not much silk in Silk Alley these days, and the astonishingly low prices that once thrilled travelers are becoming harder to find, as the initial asking price seems to be about three times what it should be. Nevertheless, there are some good deals to be had here on “name-brand” sportswear, Gore-Tex jackets, silk apparel, fake Levi jeans, sweaters, and Nike-like footwear. Try them on–some of these items may even be the real McCoy. Logo luggage and handbags abound, as do Timberland shirts and designer-label shirts and blouses. (I’ve had mixed luck here: poor quality designer shirts for $10, The North Face copy-jackets and gloves for $25, a good duffel bag for $5, and reasonably decent faux silk ties for $1.) There’s a fair amount of duplication among vendors, so keep browsing before you haggle. Silk Alley runs on for a few blocks due north, emptying out at the intersection of Xiushui Dong Jie and Xiushui Nan Jie near the embassies of Ireland, Bulgaria, and the U.S. in a pleasant diplomatic district. Open daily from 9am to sunset.

It was a lot smaller than I expected and full of tourists. The problem is that many do not have the ability to bargain. Its simply not in them, especially if they come directly to china from a Western Country. The sellers simply quote an outrageous price i.e 80 Yuan for a jacket. The naive tourist will say to himself – ha, I will say half and the deal is done even though the garment is worth 100 Yuan. You have to give them an outrageous;y low figure back: like 10% of the asking price – i.e 80 Yuan.

Even better, realize its a fake product and ask yourself, how much is it worth to me and don’t move from that figure. For example, I purchased a fake Adidas trainers. I went to a few stands and got a general idea of prices, bargaining them as low as possible and then telling them the biggest trainer size was too small. Once I got an idea of the lowest price (75 Yuan), I went into another place and said I would buy them for 65 Yuan. He wanted 340 Yuan!!!! After five minutes and me walking away, I had them for 70 Yuan. Big drop. I got a North Face Jacket for 120 Yuan (asking price was 800 Yuan), BARGAIN HARD.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Chenglish at the Great Wall yesterday- Beijing – (14-02-2004)

I took the subway to a few shopping areas but only purchased a few fake ties. Spent the day walking about. Its a massive city and very smoggy.

Sunday, February 15th, 2004 – Day 362

I was speaking to the Aussie last night and we decided to go to a market today. Its a market that starts at 4.30am and closes down around noon. We got up around 7.00am and we took the number 12 bus directly there.

Panjiayuan Antique & Curio Market–Also called the Sunday Market, the Dirt Market, and the Ghost Market, Panjiayuan (tel. 010/6775-2405) is located well south of downtown on Huaweiqiaoxi Nan Dajie, inside the Third Ring Road (Dongsanhuan). Some regard this as the best antiques market in China. The best time to go (the only time, according to locals) is Sunday morning at dawn or shortly after. Panjiayuan is open Saturdays, too, from dawn to about 3pm, but early Sunday morning is the hot time to look and buy. As many as 60,000 shoppers visit here each Sunday. Taxis from downtown hotels take about 25 minutes to reach this distant market (35RMB, $4.20 each way; no subway). The attractions are ceramics, furniture, antiques, and the exotic, with an emphasis on collectibles, many of which seem to have been family heirlooms. The vendors are as interesting to watch as the wares. The market is surprisingly well organized, divided into aisles beneath flowing, brightly striped canopies. As many as 3,000 vendors gather here (paying 300RMB, $36 a month for space). The aisles are even numbered and labeled, rather haphazardly, in English. There’s an aisle for “Jade,” another for “Folk Secondhand,” and one for “Brone [sic] Teapot.” Scrolls are displayed on one side wall. Among the more massive items are rusty cannons, Mao posters, Tibetan costumes, Qing dynasty furniture, sewing machines, large Buddhist statues, and even upright pianos. There are food stands just outside the marble aisles and an air-conditioned building serving fast food, apparently intended for foreigners and named “House of Guests.”

We found the market boring and so we headed back into town for breakfast. The buses are fine as they are just 1 Yuan but they are so packed with everyone standing and squeezed together. A pick pockets dream come through.

We had got details yesterday on a big plaza called PC online and computer city. As we are both tech heads we got the number 4 bus costing 2 Yuan. This is one big feckin city. It took 1.20 minutes to get there by bus and were still within the e city – near the outer ring road. We spend a few hours in these packed (weekend shoppers) high technology centres. While prices were good, range not as wide as Bangkok.

I still purchased a USB joystick for PC gaming, a memory card media Reader for my camera and a firewire Cord. I also looked into buying a DVD layer. Shinco seems to the best seller in china and its relatively cheap compared to Western DVD players.

During the evening I took the 603 bus to the French Supermarket Carrefour to check out DVD players as well as purchasing cheap Mach 3 razors.

Once I got back I met the other Irish guy from the room. They have a shop at the hostel which sells bottles of beer for 2 Yuan (.20 cent). We got totally pissed. In this cold, my need to go the toilet increases so I was back and forth all night. I staggered to bed.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Panjiayuan Antique & Curio Market – Beijing – Military kitsch (15-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Panjiayuan Antique & Curio Market – Beijing (15-02-2004)

Monday, February 16th, 2004 – Day 363

I was up at 8.00am and headed back to another Technology centre where I decided on the Shinco 315 DVD player for 750 Yuan (75 Euro). My one big purchase. The guy at the shop had no English but he tried and we tested the player with various disks and connections. You can change the setup from Chinese to English. They say here that there is no point in buying Sony, Panasonic etc. As they are not designed to play pirated disks. The Shinco models are designed for the Chinese market and can play all pirated and damaged disks.

Anyway I was back in the hostel by 10.00am where I met Nick. We decided to head to the Russian area and the Russian market.

Yabaolu Market (Russian Market)–Formerly a massive outdoor market located on the northeast corner of Ritan Park on Ritan Lu in the Chaoyang District, this market favored by Russian clothing buyers has undergone several great moves. As a result of a city government initiative to upgrade and bring indoors the outdoor markets of the city center, the outdoor stalls that lined the northwest side of Ritan Park have disappeared. Some of the vendors reappeared in the brand-new, very spiffy Ya Bao Lu Shopping Centre that occupies the first block of Yabao Lu west of Ritan Park. This arcade (open daily 9am-7pm), like the neighborhood restaurants, still caters to Russian business travelers shuttling back and forth across borders with furs, leather goods, wool coats, and other textiles in bulk. Speaking of leather, if shoes are your shopping fetish, the Beijing Auterlima Shoe Market (open daily 9:30am-6:30pm), a second indoor offshoot of the outdoor Russian Market, now flanks both sides of the north entrance gate to Ritan Park. The biggest move of all, however, was the creation of a mega-Yabaolu Russian Market in four buildings under a series of blue metal roofs at 16 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie (east of Full Link Plaza). This complex, containing 1,500 stalls that rent at about $450 a month each, is chock-full of winter and outdoor clothing, furs, fake designer fashions, household goods, and cheap bric-a-brac.

You could spot the Russians everywhere, especially the women – usually over weight and wearing gaudy colorful fake furs. Most of the stalls in the shopping centers sell wholesale to Russians and many of the Chinese stall owners speak Russian. Even the pirated DVD’s here have Russian covers and subtitles. Funny place in central Beijing where all the advertising sings are in Russian. I would love to visit there sometime.

From there we walked to Beijing’s top shopping area called Wangfujing and Dongdan streets, where the most modern and the most traditional modes of retailing commingle. Here you’ll find Beijing’s two top megamalls, Sun Dong An Plaza and Oriental Plaza. I didnt buy much.

We got back around 6.00pm and I starting packing. Well packing and throwing away the clothes I have been wearing for the past year. The cleaning ladies can have thewm. I decided to leave my Adidas trainers where were in bad shape and contained 3 insoles. I left a pair of torn jeans which I could clean the stains from and my light Chinese army Jacket which I purchased a few months ago. I also purchased a 20 yuan case for the DVD player.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

My last njight in bejinga nd my last night of my RTW before heading home – Beijing (16-02-2004)

My flight back to Ireland via London is at 12.30pm. I wanted to get an early night. I had two beers in the hostel and had an early night.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2004 – Day 364

I was up around 7.00am and had breakfast. I had gotten a girl at the hostel to write a note for a taxi driver to take my to the CALL building at the top end of T. Square where buses for the airport leave from. They say it takes one hour thirty but you should get there in an hour. I got a taxi outside the hostel and it took him a while to find his way through the traffic. It was kind of my unwritten rules that I avoid taxis over the year (as well as McDonald’s, Irish Pubs and various other quaint ideas). I think I have taken less than half a dozen taxis over the year. Don’t get me wrong. I have taken hundreds of moto bike taxis and tickshaws etc, but no, weird, I know but no 4 wheeled taxis!!!!

Anyway he got there for 10 Yuan (which means the journey was less than 2.5 km). Taxis are quite honest and they print off a receipt for you at the end. I hear in some taxis, you are warned in English (computer) to note the drivers number.

Anyway, I got there at 8.00am and the next bus was at 8.30am. The ticket cost 16 Yuan. It was one hour to the airport. I love airports, as if people had previously read this blog, they know I hate customs and immigration officials. I feel they might not like me 🙂 as well a the 300 odd pirated DVD’s in my bag. I would hate them to be confiscated at the stage of the trip.

Anyway I paid the airport tax of 50 Yuan and I went through customs. I have purchased a bottle of cheap booze 2 days ago for 5 Yuan to knock myself out on the plane but the security guides confisciated it. Feckers. At least I persuaded the check in lady to give me a access seat which has leg room. I thought some thing was up as they didn’t give me my ticket for about 10 minutes. Its a big heap at this stage so they took a lot of time and three personnel to give me the all clear.

I boarded the plane at 11.45 and settled in to watch movies and drink myself stupid as in all these years I have rarely slept on planes. I simply can not do it.

Anyway, I watched the mediocre School of Rock, the disappointing intolerable Cruelty and the matrix Revolutions (first time to see it) and though it was a fitting end.

It was a BA flight. It was busy but the stewards were chatty and friendly. I was speaking to one guy for about 30 minutes as he quizzed me on various places. For an flight attendant, he had not been to many places.

I arrived in Heathrow at 3.00pm. Its a big place but well sign posted. It took about 40 minutes to get from terminal 4 to terminal 1. From there I watched the lousy weather outside the window and Sky news until my 6.00pm flight to Dublin on a packed Aer Lingus Flight.

I felt weirder and weirder the closer to home I was getting. Dispointed and not at all some sick yet.

I wasnt allowed to take my hand luggage on board – i hate customs as my bag was deemed too big in a full flight. I hate this crap as I took out the DVD player, I saw about 20 business men pass through with similarly sized and bigger bags than me. Kind od pissed me off. It was a full flight.. so full it was stufft. its now a Ryanair type of flight. you must purchase any food or drink. At least its a really short flightand I arrived in Dublin at 7.00am.

I love Dublin Airport. No straight lines. You must go upstairs, tend down about half a dozen times along narrow corridors before getting to bagge collection. In all my years, i ahve never seen a customs man in Dublin. Indeed my passport wasnt even checked once I arrived in Dublin. We all walked through. My sister wa waiting for me ath e airport. all kind of weird.

The sister had the car and I would stay at here place in Dublin that night. I rang all the immeiate family on her mobile to say i was abck. After getting my abgs out, me grabbed a bite to eat. I didnt get the prices, around 3.00 Euro for a pint. That would have bought me 15 litre bottle of beer in China. ha.

I had an early night as I was heading home to Cork tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 18th, 2004 – Day 365

I was up around 7.00am and heading to town around 8.00pm by public bus. I chaged in the city centre for the train station. i didnt do any sight seeing in Dublin. I will leave that for anyother time. I purchased a few news papersn and waited around for the 11.00am train. It was a quite afair and I was nearly first to board. It was a pleasant journey back down. My dad was waiiting for me at the station and it good to see him. We had lunch in the local town before heading home.

It was pretty weird to be home. Said hi to the family Dog who seemed to recognise me and called by to my elder brother in his house.

The Brazil – Ireland match was on at 7.30pm. Enjoyable match.

I am home – home – Cant really believe or want to believe it.

Friday, February 13th, 2004 – Day 360

Friday, February 13th, 2004 – Day 360

I was up at 7.00am and had breakfast (included in the price). I then booked out and rebooked into the hostel across the road which is 60 Yuan per night but does not include the TV, ensuite facilities. At 7.35, I met the mini bus. We collected about half a dozen other back packers.

The Chinese call it Wan Li Chang Cheng, the “Long Wall of Ten-Thousand Li.” (with three li to the mile). Actually, the Great Wall is even longer than its poetic name claims, measuring about 6,200 miles from east to west, counting all its serpentine sections. The Wall’s origins go back at least to the 5th century B.C., when the rival kingdoms of the Warring States Period (453-221 B.C.) built defensive ramparts against their enemies. The First Emperor of unified China, Qin Shi Huang Di, fortified the barriers in the 3rd century B.C. Over a 10-year period, 300,000 conscripted laborers, many of them slaves, knit the walls into a continuous rampart to protect the western frontier. New sections extended the Wall east to the Yellow Sea.

The Great Wall was constantly repositioned along new routes as successive dynasties rose and fell. In the year A.D. 607, more than a million workers toiled on this line of defense, but soon after, the Great Wall was abandoned. The Mongols eventually broke through from the north and established the Yuan Dynasty (A.D. 1271-1368), making Beijing their capital. Their successors, the emperors of the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644), set in motion the last great phase of wall-building, which created the Great Wall as we see it today north of Beijing.

The Great Wall at Simatai is quiet, remote, and virtually unreconstructed; it is far less crowded than other sections of the Great Wall near Beijing. Locals proclaim it the most dangerous section of the Great Wall. Because it is largely unrestored, it does indeed have difficult and dangerous passages to hike. Fortification aficionados consider Simatai the most beautiful section of the Great Wall. It is beautiful, but its main aesthetic attraction is its state of ruin. This is how the Great Wall really looks 500 years after the Ming constructed it. Simatai is also a paradise for hikers and hill walkers with its dramatic natural scenery, the contours of the sharp peaks heightened by the outline of the Great Wall and its crumbling watchtowers.

The Chengde highway to Simatai is smooth; the countryside, green. At Miyun Reservoir, the terrain steepens. The roadside is clotted with fishing families selling their catch, enormous reservoir trout, many 3 feet long, sheathed in plastic and suspended on posts like lanterns. At Gubeikou, 70 miles northeast of Beijing, a country lane winds 7 more miles through the foothills to Simatai Village and the entrance to the Wall. The town at the base is tiny. The main street leading to the Wall has a few beef noodle cafes, souvenir shops, and vendor shelters stocked with T-shirts and Great Wall tablecloths, but this is a mere minnow pond of sellers compared to the ocean of hawkers flooding the gates to Badaling and Mutianyu. Towering high over the village is the formidable outline of the Great Wall at Simatai, slithering like a dragon’s back over a series of sharp, clipped peaks.

You can visit the Great Wall most easily at four dramatic points near Beijing. I would be walking from Jinshanling to Simatai. Simatai is a wild, nearly unrestored segment, farther from Beijing and, as a consequence, far less inundated with tour buses – a fitting representative of the greatest wall ever built by man–what one 19th-century traveler called a “fantastic serpent of stone.”

It took 3.5 hours on the bus to get there. I didn’t bring any food or supplies as it a 10 km walk. We started at noon and the bus would collect so at 4.00pm. I didn’t think there would be any problem walking 10km in four hours. Six backpackers walked. We were the only people walking this stretch that day. You could walk the 10km in 2 hours and we took our time, stopping to chat and take pictures. There were three English people, one Canadian and one two Norwegians (brother and sister). We had some hawkers selling postcards follow us the first 1/3 but they headed back. It was far colder than Beijing and we had a small snow shower, but the wall itself surpassed my expectations.

I was expecting tour buses, hawkers, souvenir seller and restored walls but we were the only people on the wall, the only bus and the wall stretched as far as I could see in most directions. It looked fantastic. I could not believe how lucky we were to get the place to ourselves. We had a very enjoyable day stopped to talk lots of times and spending other times in silence contemplating the magnitude of the wall.

We arrived at the end of the walk at 4.30pm where the bus was waiting. You have to buy two tickets at 30 Yuan each (3 Euro). One ticket each for Jinshanling and the Simatai sections.

It was cold and windy by 4.30pm and most of the bus was falling asleep. We were on a three lane highway back to Beijing and we were in the outside lane. All of a sudden, a truck passing in front of us to turn right down a small road. He did it without warning and our driver had to apply the brakes fully to avoid hitting him. We all got a jolt. All of a sudden our driver let out a roar and started following the said truck down the road at top speed. We went about 2 miles down the road following the truck at top speed until we passed him. A few back packers were roaring at out driver at this stage to forget about it. Our driver stopped in the middle of the road so s to stop them moving off.

We then went up to the drivers window and smashed it with a screwdriver. He then dragged him out and started belting him and trying to drag me into our bus. We then started hitting him with the screw driver. Half the bus was shouting for the driver to stop. The other half (me included) were egging him on to smack him.

After a few minutes our driver returned and we heading back on our journey. No body slept the rest of the trip. It took four hours to get dropped off back at my hostel.

I found a nice place to eat (I hadn’t eaten all day) and had three bug meals. I had stripped pork plate with vegetables. I had a large plate of chicken fried in garlic with onions and a very large bowl of rice and a beer. I also had a side plate of green vegetables. It could have fed 3 people. I was so hungry though. It all came to 23 Yuan (2.30 Euro).

There are so many restaurants here. Very second building is a restaurant. The only thing is hygienic. What I don’t see I don’t care about. It was a family restaurant. There was a granny and grand kid. With kids here, they wont wear nappies but a had a slit in the back of their pants so that they pee and crap in the street. In the restaurant with the encouragement of the rest of the family, a little kid about 3 years of age, peed in the restaurant floor in front of me. Not a pretty site.

by the way – my hostel:

Far East International Youth Hostel

113 Tieshuxie Jie, Qianmen Wai

60 Yuan day/ with a breakfast coupon most people upgraded with an extra 5Y.

It’s southeast of Qianmen gate at the southern end of Tiananmen Square walking distance to many good cheap restaurants, sites, and shopping. You can walk to the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven or the metro line to the rest of the city.

Metro stations are Qianmen and Heipingmen.

Ita a good place as you can walk to the metro and its near many of the main sites. It can be find first time out bit once located you will find it a quiet spot far from the noisy traffic. There are also some bus stops here.

It’s on an old Hutong street, in American that would be “Hey, this looks just like an alley! You can get nice pork and verg meals in the alleys and I never felt unsafe there. They are empthy after ten but I walked it with no problems. There a great ense of community in these alley ways even in Beijing with 16m people.

(p.s I did not relaise it was Friday the 13th until I was going to bed).

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

the Great Wall – Beijing (13-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

the Great Wall – Beijing (13-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

the Great Wall – Beijing (13-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Frozen river near the Great Wall – Beijing (13-02-2004)

Thursday, February 12th, 2004 – Day 359

Thursday, February 12th, 2004 – Day 359

I arrived in Beijing at 2.00pm and took a taxi for 20 Yuan to the Far East International hostel. It was 75 Yuan for the night in the hotel section. It was a four persoon dorm but with TV, ensuite, hot water. I scrubbed myself clean and was ready to leave at 4.00pm for town. I enquired at the hostel (opposite the hotel) about the Great Wall of China. I paid 60 Yuan for a tour (transport only) that leaves at 7.30am tomorrow (it would have been 90 with the hotel). Its a self guide Wall-walking tour (about 10km) from the Great Wall at Jinshanling to Simatai.

I then walked to Tiananmen Square.

This is the world’s largest public square, the size of 90 football fields (covering 99 acres) with standing room for 300,000 people. It is the heart of Beijing and of the Chinese nation. The square received a face-lift over the winter of 1998-99; its old paving blocks were replaced with granite stepping stones, which were laid just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, on October 1, 1949. Chairman Mao Zedong stood that day on the Gate of Heavenly Peace at the entrance to the Forbidden City, across Chang’an Avenue from the square, and announced the founding of a new China to the masses. Mao’s portrait now hangs from that reviewing stand, where a new generation of leaders gathers every October 1 to face the citizens of China. Tiananmen Square served as China’s open-air forum through much of the 20th century, the scene of both historic ceremonies and protest demonstrations. It is best known to the outside world (via live international television coverage) as the arena for the democracy demonstrations that culminated in the crackdown on June 4, 1989. When foreigners stroll across Tiananmen Square, as most visitors do at least once, it is this specter that still seems to haunt the stony expanses and its monuments.

Tiananmen Square stands on the central north-south axis of the old Imperial city. In fact, there was no square here during the time of the emperors, only a wide boulevard, the Imperial Way, lined with state offices. The Imperial Way ran from the Gate of Heavenly Peace south to Qianmen (Front Gate), which still stands guard at the southern end of Tiananmen Square. Qianmen was one of the nine great gates when Beijing possessed its city walls. (They were removed in 1958.) The Imperial Way was the southern axis of the city, stretching from the Forbidden City all the way to the Temple of Heaven. Qianmen, which dates back nearly 500 years, remains a city landmark. Its northern passage is known as the Main Gate, and its southern passage is the Arrow Tower. Just beyond the square stands the world’s largest KFC.

Today, Tiananmen Square contains fresh monuments to the new city. Located on the square itself are the Monument to the People’s Heroes and the Mao Zedong Mausoleum. To the west is the Great Hall of the People and on the east flank are the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution. Each site is open to the public. The square itself is open daily from dawn to dusk. At twilight each day, there is a ceremonial lowering of the Chinese flag by a detachment of the People’s Liberation Army, a popular photo opportunity among visitors. And those contraptions that look like video cameras on the speaker poles encompassing the square are just what you supposed–surveillance devices to record what happens in China’s most sensitive and venerated public forum.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Beijing – Tiananmen Square – Crowds waiting for duska nd the unfurling of the National flag (12-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Beijing – Tiananmen Square (12-02-2004)

  • Information on the destruction of Peru’s historical sites.

Tuesday, February 10th, 2004 – Day 357 to Wednesday, February 11th, 2004 – Day 358

Tuesday, February 10th, 2004 – Day 357

Surrounded by rich loess farmland, Xi’an (Western Peace), the present capital of Shanxi Province, was home to the ruling houses of three dynasties, when it was known as Chang’an (Eternal Peace). The city reached a peak during the Tang dynasty (618-907), when it was the military and trading base for China’s shaky control of the Silk Routes. During (712-755), it boasted two million taxable inhabitants and was the largest, most cosmopolitan settlement in the world.

The scale of the metropolis is readily imagined — what are now referred to as the city walls were rebuilt during the M?ng dynasty (1644-1911) on the remains of T?ng palace walls. The T?ng city walls extended 8km (5 miles) north-south and almost 10km (6 miles) east-west, and the south gate opened onto a tree-lined avenue 150m (500 ft.) wide, down which foreign emissaries would once approach the metropolis. The T?ng era was a high point for advocates of “foreign religions” as Manicheans, Nestorians, and Buddhists flocked to the capital. Buddhism in particular enjoyed royal patronage.

Surviving monuments open a window onto the imperial power and cosmopolitan style of the old capital. The short-lived totalitarian state of Q?n Shi Hu?ngd? is reflected in the awe-inspiring massed terra-cotta armies of the Q?n Bingmayong B?w?guan. The influence of Buddhism is clear from the majestic spire of the Great Goose Pagoda (d. 664), who returned to China in 645 after 15 years of travel across India and central Asia. Evidence of the flourishing trade along the Silk Routes may be found in the Shanxi History Museum.

I arrived in Xi’an at 9.30am. There seemed to be millions of people at the station (and probably was) but I already picked out a hostel called the ShuYuan Youth Hostel. First I wanted to buy a ticket o Beijing. For the next 1.5 hours, I tried and failed as they said they would only sell tickets for that day. I visited the nearby tourist office and asked for advice. He gave me directions to another office nearby. After a long wait I purchased a ticket for the 12th. A few minutes later, I checked the ticket again – it was for today. I had to go back and try and explain what a refund was. Frustrating as hell but I got it. I have no idea why they would not sell me a ticket for 2 days time. A hard sleeper price was 334 Yuan. Even though the Spring Festival is over, most University students had an extra week off and are heading back to college now. So the demand is as big as ever. Its VERY hard to get train tickets.

It was 11.30 and so I decided to get a public bus (number 306) to the Bingmayong or as we know them – the Terracotta Warriors. This is the reason most visitors come to Xi’an, and unlike many big sights in China, it does not disappoint.

Amazingly, the warriors are just one attempt to reconstruct his empire for the afterlife. The tomb to the west is still to be fully excavated, and is said to include a full reconstruction of the ancient capital, complete with rivers and lakes of mercury. According to historian Sima Qian, over 700,000 workers were drafted for the project, and those involved in the construction of the tomb were rewarded with graves beside their emperor. Tourism officials pray that the warriors are “just the tip of the iceberg,” but it is just as likely that the tomb was plundered during the T?ng or S?ng dynasties.

It’s hard not to get a shiver down your spine as you survey the unromantically named Pit 1, with four columns of warriors in each of the 11 passageways; there are over 6,000 infantry in battle formation, stretching back 182m (200 yd.). Originally painted in bright colors, they were constructed from interchangeable parts luted together by clay. Because the heads were hand-molded, no two appear the same. Q?n Shi Hu?ng’s army was drawn from all over his vast empire, and this ethnic diversity is reflected in the variety of hairstyles, headdresses, and facial expressions. Even on the mass-produced bodies, the level of detail is striking, down to the layering of armor and the studs on archers’ shoes that prevented them from slipping. The average height of the warriors is 1.8m (5 ft. 11 in.); senior officers are taller. Pit 2 holds 1,400 soldiers and cavalry and a taller (nearly 2m/6 1/2 ft.) general; pit 3 houses the headquarters, with 68 senior officers.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

the Terracotta Warriors – Xi’an (10-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

the Terracotta Warriors – Xi’an (10-02-2004)

A small hall just to the right of pit 1 contains a display of two magnificent bronze chariots, reconstructed from nearly 3,500 pieces excavated from a pit to the west of the tomb.

It was one hour by bus to the door. Lots of construction happening here as they expect the site to be one of the worlds busiest in years to come. It was 65 Yuan in, and thankfully it wasn’t too busy. I stayed for about 2 hours and avoided the hundreds of hawkers before heading back on the bus.

I had checked in my luggage at the station and took into onto bus 603 for the South Gate. From there its just a 20m walk to the hostel. I got a 4 bed dorm all to myself for 40 Yuan – a bargain. Its a real nice hostel with a great little bar and dining room.

In the bar (beers were just 3 Yuan each for a big bottle), I met Paul from Australia. He was on a short break but was very enusiastic about China.

At around 8.30pm, myself and Paul headed to the Muslim Quarter of the city of Xi’an (about 20 minutes walk( to get something to eat. Lots of great food stalls here and you could eat all night.

The Great Mosque and Muslim Quarter: As foreign communities grew in size, they introduced their own customs and facilities. The 50,000 strong Moslem community that lives and works today in Xian traces its history to those Middle Eastern merchants who, after traveling the Fur Road, settled down here. Then, as now, the Moslem community, perpetuated their culture by operating mosques and schools. So it is that the Great Mosque was originally constructed in the year 742. Today the Moslem community, which supports ten or so mosques, runs its own primary school, foods shops and restaurants. For over 1300 years, they have been an integral part of Xi’an’s colorful daily life.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2004 – Day 358

I had a great nights sleep with no one else in the dorm. Pity, as I need to be up early to get my train ticket. At 9.30am, I headed to the train station. As usual there were millions of people there. I went to the main office and they told me no more tickets were available for the three trains to Beijing that day.

I then headed to the other advance offices (where I could not buy a advance ticket from yesterday). Theme told me there were no hard sleepers until the 14th. I was ready to pull my hair out. Outside there was a tout selling tickets. He approached me and asked where I was going. When I said Beijing, he produced a 275 Yuan ticket for a hard sleeper on the 21.20pm train. I was very skeptical. Why with such demand, was there a ticket left, why did he want just 5 Yuan more than the ticket price. Was it a forgery? As I did not want to wait until the 14th, I bought it.

I headed back to the hostel at noon and booked out!

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

the Terracotta Warriors – Xi’an (11-02-2004)

I did little the rest of the day. I met the Aussie and we had a few beers before I took a bus to the station at 8.00pm. There were about 15 trains going and there were millions of people about.

Sunday, February 8th, 2004 – Day 355 to Monday, February 9th, 2004 – Day 356

Sunday, February 8th, 2004 – Day 355

Wuhan is 1,125km (699 miles) West of Shanghai and 1,047km (650 miles) SE of Xi’an.

I arrived at 6.00am to the Hankou bus station. I walked to Hankou Huoche Zhan railway station but they only had standing room for the train to Xian that night. No way. I would have purchased and hoped for an upgrade but I did not way to take a chance. I purchased a hard sleep for 135 Yuan for tomorrow night. It leaves at 5.05pm.

For the next 1.5 hours, I looked for a hotel. They were either too expensive or were closed to foreigners. I finally booked a dump for 138 Yuan near the bus station (where I started 2 hours earlier). I then went to bed until 1.00pm.

I walked around the city until 9.00pm. Its like one big shopping centre with nothing much of interest. I picked up a few DVD’s etc and went to the NET. Still, Its nice to let my liver recover from the past few days.

Wuhan is primarily an industrial and business center. Were it not for the fact that many of the Three Gorges tours begin or terminate in Wuhan, few Western tourists would ever make it here. However, trisected by the Yangzi River and its longest tributary, the Hinshui, and dotted with a hundred-plus lakes and scores of parks, this city of 4.86 million urban residents is an agreeable place to spend a couple of days. Three districts — which used to be separate cities, comprise present-day Wuhan. Avoid summers when the city inevitably lives up to its reputation as one of China’s Three Furnaces.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

This is Guilin from last night (08-02-2004)

I was surprised how sunny the weather was. I was expecting it to be a bit closer. Still its a massive city and it took me an hour to walking to the main shopping areas. Spend the day thee eating etc. and was back at the hotel at 11.00pm.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Wuhan Sculpture showing world brands – the meaning in a communist country – up to you to decide (08-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Wuhan housing Block (08-02-2004)

Monday, February 9th, 2004 – Day 356

I checked out at 10.30am and left my bags at the hotel. My train was at 5.05pm. I was there by 4.30pm and massive lines were formed. Many people rush for the hard sets. If you have a sleeper, there is no rush although luggage space is limited. My ticket was 135 Yuan and I expected to be in X’ian by 9.00am. It was a hard sleeper journey. To be honest, I didn’t sleep much.

Friday, February 6th, 2004 – Day 353 to Saturday, February 7th, 2004 – Day 354

Friday, February 6th, 2004 – Day 353

Very drunk last night. This is becoming a problem and again it was noon before I got up and had breakfast.

I took a 5.50 Yuan bus to Xingping for a river boar cruise. Its an hour bus ride.

Surrounded by a jungle of karst pinnacles, the charming, as yet unspoiled village of Xingping about 25km (15 miles) upstream of Yangshuo is being touted by some as the next Yangshuo, meaning the next backpackers’ haven, now that Yangshuo has become more of a commercialized circus. Cobblestone streets wind their ways through this quaint village of stone houses that’s refreshingly free of souvenir stores, and residents go about their daily business with nary a glance spared for the visitor. The most scenic area is the riverfront; on market days you’ll see villagers from the surrounding areas boarding boats laden with everything from live chickens to new aluminum works. Rather than sail upstream, some tourists prefer to cycle or take a bus to Xingp?ng and catch a boat downstream back to Yangshuo .

I took a two hour cruise for 40 Yuan. There was just one American and one South Korean guy on the boat. It was fine. I too a bus back and met up with the others.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Boat trip near Yangshuo (06-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Boat trip near Yangshuo (06-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Boat trip near Yangshuo (06-02-2004)

Another night in the pub and very drunk again. Talking about religion of all things. First time I have fallen on my arse fro drink in a long time. There is a climbing walk in the pub, which we try and climb. There is also a rope ladder to the ceiling. Another 2.00am end to the night.

Saturday, February 7th, 2004 – Day 354

Again it was noon before I got up. I decided to leave town before my liver gave up. I took a 10 yuan bus to Guilin where I purchased a 260 Yuan sleeper ticket to Wuhan.

One of the most-visited Chinese cities, Guilin (pop. 630,000), located in the northeastern part of the Guangxi Autonomous Region, has long been famous for its limestone karst hills. Formed more than 200 million years ago when the oceans receded from this area, the hills sprout from a patchwork of paddy fields and flowing streams, creating a dreamy, seductive landscape that leaves few souls unstirred. Though there are a few hills in the city that can be explored, the Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is the top attraction in town. Increasingly, Guilin is also being used as a base to visit the minority villages to the northwest. Unfortunately, the cost of Guilin’s overwhelming popularity is a degree of unrelenting exploitation and extortion audacious even by Chinese standards; foreigners are overcharged for everything.

The bus was at 6.00pm. I spend the day walking around Guilin. Again It was a fine bus but I did not sleep. They showed two Hong Kong movies before lights went off at 10.00pm. A guy to my left snored very heavily all night.

Wednesday, February 4th, 2004 – Day 351 to Thursday, February 5th, 2004 – Day 352

Wednesday, February 4th, 2004 – Day 351

We passed Yangshuo at 5.00am but it was too early to get off and place your self in the hands of touts. I stayed where I was and waited until I reached guilin at 6.00am. Tina was still o board and we got some breakfast. When it was bright was walked to the train station and got a 10 Yuan bus to Yangshuo.

Located at the terminus of the Li River cruise from Guilin, the small town of Yangshuo has long been a backpackers’ mecca. Set admid an awesome cluster of limestone pinnacles, Yangshuo is more beautiful, less expensive, and significantly less crowded than Guilin. In fact, some of the most impressive karst scenery in Guangxi can be found just a short bike ride outside town. With its inexpensive hostels and Western-style cafes, some foreigners have been known to stay for months, sometimes even years. Although today’s Y?ngshu?, overtaken by upscale hotels, new shops and bazaars, and hordes of eager tourists, is no longer the unknown, quiet idyll of years past, it remains a lovely and relaxing place to break a journey and to soak up some of China’s most beautiful scenery.

We booked into a hotel called HAPPY TRAVEL for 50 Yuan per night. You can get cheaper but it was a very clean place with 24 hour hot water. Heating, fresh towels etc. What sold it for me was the cute nice girl at reception. She had a great smile and laugh.

As I did not sleep on the bus last night, I fell asleep until 4.00pm. I met Tina and we headed down to West Street (called Foreigner street by the Chinese).

The majority of Yangshuo’s treasures are located a bike ride out of town. Xi Jie (West St.), with its souvenir shops and travelers’ cafes, has become a bona-fide tourist attraction for Chinese visitors, who completely take over the street starting in the early afternoon when boats from Guilin pull in. The former Ming dynasty, once the guild hall for merchants from Jiangxi Province, has now become part of the Hungfu Hotel on Xi Jie, but it’s worth a quick pop-in for its finely carved lattice doors and windows.

We called into the Karst Cafe as Tina is big into Rock Climbing. We met an Irish guy called Al (ister) and an English girl called Rachel was were well drink. Anyway we had a good time and we all signed up a half-day Rock climb tomorrow for 170 Yuan. We then went to a Disco (techo), which was poor and then a karaoke place until 2.30am. There were two funny English guys inside singing. We had the place to ourselves. Very drunk.

Thursday, February 5th, 2004 – Day 352

I was very drunk last night and did not leave the bed until noon. I had breakfast and met the other there at 1.00pm. We got to the company at 200pm and off we headed.

They run the website. We were climbing US grades 5.6 to 5.9 from 2-6pm. There were four of us and 2 instructors. It was tough especially as you need upper body strength. Well worth doing and we had great weather. It seems the bus was out for the first time in a month.

The pinnacles in Yangshuo were formed as a result of limestone erosion over millennia. This results in variable rock conditions, ranging from extremely smooth to razor-like fins. Sacrifice the skin!

They were hard to climb and it was my first time. I cut my hands a lot but I enjoyed reaching the summits of each climb. I will try this again some time.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Rock Climbing in Yangshuo (05-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Yangshuo (05-02-2004)

Most of the lights in town were off as the Lantern Festival was on tonight. It is usually on the 15th and last day of the Lunar New Year period and people traditionally go out to see lanterns.

We went back to the climbing cafe to celebrate, eat and drink some snake wine. It was 2.30am before I got home. Very drunk again.

Snake wine is generally a rice wine bottled with one or more submerged snakes.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Lantern Festival in Yangshuo (05-02-2004)

Monday, February 2nd, 2004 – Day 349 to Tuesday, February 3rd, 2004 – Day 350

Monday, February 2nd, 2004 – Day 349

I was up at 6.00am and left at 6.30am. The bus stop was 15 minutes walk away. I was prepared to wait until 7.30am (and then get a taxi) as my flight was at 10.00am. I was there until 7.10am until a bus arrived. It took about 40 minutes and cost 50 Baht (its 100 baht from the airport INTO town).

I watched about 12 of the Super bowl before getting my flight which too 2.5 hours. Its also 1 hour ahead. They have a cool airport here so no problems. As I have been in Hong Kong before and don’t have much time before my flight to Ireland, I purchased a 250 HG Dollar (25 Euro) bus to Guangzhou (6 hours). Still its a lot colder here than in Thailand. It was a dark and dreary journey. Border controls were no hassle and I got a 30 day visa for china (it was a double entry Visa).

  • 19 Chinese die in England while ……….

  • 37 people die in a crush on a narrow bridge at a traditional Lantern Festival event in the suburbs of Beijing,

The Lonely Planet gives little information on Guangzhou but from what I read it is one of the more Westerised places in china i.e Metro lines, shopping etc. It also says it had the most expensive accommodation. I got in at 5.00pm and toyed with the idea of taking a overnight bus to Guilin. This was indeed possible (and is what I should have done). Even the hostels are 100 Yuan (10 Euro) for a shared bath.

The guide is poor a it only mentions a few hotels. In the end, I went with a tout to a 130 Yuan hotel. The hotel paid the taxi fair and the tout only got a 10 Yuan commission, so its not so bad. It was the HUA NING HOTEL. It was close to the bus station which was fine. The problem is the airport is also close to the city centre and large planes flew over the hotel every 5 minutes until midnight. It was directly under its flight path. I watched them for an hour. The Chinese TV was showing Jack and the Beanstalk.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

A Plane flying over my hotel in Guangzhou (02-02-2004)

Guangzhou is 163km (102 miles) NW of Hong Kong. It’s a shame that for many visitors Guangzhou is their first and sometimes their only view of mainland China — a 1- to 2-day side trip from Hong Kong. While it escapes the rigid grids that dominate other major cities, and while it has genuine wealth rather than the skin-deep glamour of many other former treaty ports, the city’s sprawl is disproportionate to the number of places of interest it has to offer, and those venturing further inland should not mind missing it altogether. From Hong Kong, if the choice is Shenzh?n or Guangzhou for a brief visit, choose Guangzhou.

I walked to the bus station and bought a ticket to Guilin for 150 Yuan. The first sleep er bus was at 8.30pm. After that I went to a Tesco supermarket which was massive. Forklifts traveled along the ailes. It was the biggest supermarket I have ever seen. I had an early night.

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2004 – Day 350

I wasn’t up and about until noon. Why both. After that I took a metro (4 Yuan) to Shamion Island.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Shamion Island in Guangzhou (03-02-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Shamiin in Guangzhou – Called the AGes of beauty this statue is unusual – the 3rd Western girl looks like Posh Spice!!! (03-02-2004)

Forced to relinquish a permanent trading base to the hated barbarians (brits) at the end of the First Opium War in 1841, the Guangzhou authorities probably sniggered as they palmed off a sandbar to the British and French. Perhaps they sniggered less when it was promptly bunded (made secure with artificial embankments); was provided with proper streets, drainage, and imposing buildings; and became home to a prosperous foreign enclave with everything from tennis courts to a yacht club, employing many Chinese in service roles. The rest of Guangzhou lacked even properly surfaced roads well into the 20th century. Shamiin still retains some of its former grandeur in the mansions which were the foreign residences, business premises, banks, and consulates. The mansions were taken over by dozens of families after 1949, but they were recently restored in many cases to former splendor, with each major building labeled as to its former purpose. Now partly pedestrianized, its broader boulevards are like long thin gardens with a lot of topiary. A line of bars and cafes on the southwest side with views over the Pearl River serves modern expats. Souvenir stalls, tailoring stores, and teahouses all have inflated prices, and all offer “special discounts” to those with children — the U.S. Consulate on the island is the one specializing in adoption matters, and wannabe parents fan out from here to collect their new daughters (almost always daughters) and return to do the paperwork.

It was raining all day and there was nothing special about the place. After that I stubled across a chinese traditianl hospital and signed up for acupuncture. Its a recognised hospital and very clean and efficient. It took 40 minutes to explain what I wanted and get signed in. It was 30 minutes of jolt fun as they use electrical current on the pins. It was good though. Pity about my legs moving all over the place though.

Information – The Laymans Guide to acupuncture.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into the body at specific points shown as effective in the treatment of specific health problems. These points have been mapped by the Chinese over a period of two thousand years. Recently, electromagnetic research has confirmed their locations.

I did little the rest of the day. I see on the NET that Official figures show that more than 120,000 people were killed in traffic- and work-related and other accidents in the first 11 months last year in China.

At the bus station (I took a taxi there) I met a Greek American girl called Tina taking the same bus. She had come from Hong Kong that day. It was a very clean sleeper bus (but I never sleep on the bloody things). It was 12 hours to Guilin.

Friday, January 30th, 2004 – Day 346 to Sunday, February 1st, 2004 – Day 348

Friday, January 30th, 2004 – Day 346

I was up at 9.00am in order to attend an appointment at the Dental hospital. I decided to finish off some fillings that needed filling. I rang yesterday from the MBK to make an appointment. Its a clean, professional and relatively expensive place that most resident expats attend. I was ushered up on time at 10.00am and spent the next two hours on the chair. I don’t like going to the dentist but some rear guard action to save my teeth had to be undertaken. I received five fillings and I was glad to be out of there after two hours.

I headed back to town and went to Pantip Plaza for buy some pirated software. Again, I did little today. My mouth was in no mouth to eat. Another early night. I watched a terrible film called Pootie Tang.

Saturday, January 31st, 2004 – Day 347

I was up at 9.30am and took the skytrain to Chatuchak Weekend Market.

Though there are many markets throughout Bangkok, Chatuchak Weekend Market is still pretty much the undisputed king of them all. The scale of it is pretty unbelievable – it covers an area of 70 rai (35 acres), contains more than 15 000 shops and stalls, has over 200 000 visitors each day, and they spend an estimated total of 30 million baht (approx US$750 000). The range of products on sale is extensive, and includes household accessories, handicrafts, religious artifacts, art, antiques, live animals (which unfortunately are frequently caged in cruel conditions), books, music, clothes, food, plants and flowers etc…

Chatuchak is a particularly good place to buy all sorts of Thai handicrafts, as there’s a huge range, the quality is high and the intense competition keeps the prices low. Be careful when buying antiques, the large majority on offer are fake and telling the difference between the genuine and the copies can be extremely difficult. Genuine antiques require a permit to be taken out of the country, but you will also need a permit if a fake is good enough to fool the inspecting customs officer.

I was there from 10.30am until 2.30pm. Its a massive, massive market with everything you can imagine.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Selling IRA T-shirts at the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok (31-01-2004)

I am taking it very, very easy in Bangkok. In its humid heat, its no place to rush about. I am currently reading Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia by William Shawcross. Its a good book and I am looking forward to watch a DVD I have purchased called The Trials of Henry Kissinger.

I had a few too many drinks tonight and not enough water.

Sunday, February 1st, 2004 – Day 348

I felt like death warmed up. Dedydrated. With the market and no water yesterday adding to the fact t that I just drank ice coffee and beer – I feel like shit. Dizzy and sick. I did not leave the room until midday. I did little today. Decided I would not stay in Hong Kong tomorrow.