A Travellerspoint blog

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Day 1

Air China Here We Come


View Deb and Lyns European Winter on DebandLyn's travel map.

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Technically day one of the big tour begins with a fresh wake up and my first cup of coffee in bed for sooooo long. Thanks Lyn I forgot how well you do holidays, put your clothes away, wake up early and happy to get me coffee in bed. The new Lyn.....

Our carry on back packs weigh less than 9kg for a two month trip in the coldest weather the world has to dish out. Packed and repacked with only the bare minimum, only three pairs of undies (one to wear, one to wash and a spare pair), two socks and yes just a couple of thermals and t shirts should do the trick for two months???? Oh well we can buy some authentic made in China garments if the need arises

Lyn has worked hard to get four visas, air fares, accommodations and various train tickets all booked in less than four weeks, a mega effort, lucky for night shift. It’s been a busy few weeks with guests moving in and out and back in to the bnb, the shed all sorted, the gardener and cleaner booked in and all jobs ticked off.

A huge feeling of relaxation as we are dropped off at the airport nice and early and join the long queue to check in, Air China flight is full. The flight goes smoothly with no dramas to report, the staff exceptionally efficient and very quiet passengers. Oh I nearly forget to share that Lyn managed to wear the rice from her beef meal quite well.

Posted by DebandLyn 22:24 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 2

Clearing Your Nasal Passages


View Deb and Lyns European Winter on DebandLyn's travel map.

Arrival at Beijing airport sees row upon row of parked aircraft, we bus it to the terminal and wait for ages in a queue as large as previously experienced at Heathrow. An hour and a half to get through immigration and get our bags. Omg quickly turn right as soon as you alight the airport commuter train as there is a finely dressed woman with all her boutique bags sniffing her head off, tolerance levels low due to lack of sleep.

We squeeze onto the train and position ourselves at the back as this rather large man sniffs so loud and with such vigour I suspect there may have been some brain matter included in that reverse thrust. Oh dear how to avoid the nasal clearance.

Finally free of the train and our bags ready as we find our trusty driver. He drives like a maniac, he prides himself on only taking forty minutes to do a usual hour and half trip to the hotel. Whip lash, about four near misses and a grotty slag out of the window was all too much after a long haul flight. Wtf was that about?

Thank the lord Lyn was clever enough to find us a great hotel and make the decision to pay for the deluxe suite, compensation for economy travel. We get a very early check in thanks for that from the Inner Mongolia Grand Hotel Beijing, a lovely big bathroom with the mandatory holiday bath to soak away the inflight germs and very cheap cold local beers to sample. A quick snooze before taking to the footpath to familiarise with our surroundings.

It’s always difficult in the early stages to fulfil expectations but surprisingly Beijing has not provided the ugly polluted air that was so recently warned about. Actually as we flew into Beijing the night sky above the vast city with the brightest of sunrises was clear and beautiful. The streets are certainly full of cars, no different to any modern city of the world, we could easily have been in London stuck on the motorway. The difference was that you don’t realise there is hardly any sound as every motorbike and small vehicle is electric. Crossing the road I had no idea about fifty bikes, scooters and pushies were quietly waiting for me.

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The hangry starts to set in, our tummies craving some local food and all that surrounds us is row upon row of American chain take away food crap. Out of desperation we choose Kung Fu the local take away for students and local workers. It was surprisingly tasty enough as we share a dish of chicken and potato curry and a plate of Chinese broccoli. We were calorie responsible but in true holiday celebration I make the fatal mistake of finishing off with a Haagen Daaz ice cream, only one scoop please. I take my treasure next door to meet Lyn who is trying to enjoy her Costa coffee to be disgusted at the realisation I had just paid $9.00 fucking Australian dollars for a selfish Belgian chocolate ice cream in a cone. I’m so annoyed at myself I consider not eating it. Well that never happened.

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Ok food done we wander around popping in to the lovely department stores craving a beer and a loo. Finally a sit down (toilet as well) to sample the lovely local beer and a few hands of cards above the city watching Beijing life go by. In true Lyn style, let’s go back to our hotel to regroup, reluctantly I agree, why I think I was very happy where we were. We then discover the back streets where the true local food is enjoyed, let’s come back for dinner. It never happens, coming back on a holiday is inefficient.

In moving forward we relax and plan our next activities, tickets for train to be delivered to hotel and booked for the forbidden city visit. Jobs done I’m exhausted. A big day in a big city we decide to stay in house to dine for dinner, feeling lazy I wear my slippers to dinner, these look a little bit Chinesey don’t they?

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Posted by DebandLyn 21:56 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 3

Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and much much more


View Deb and Lyns European Winter on DebandLyn's travel map.

Lyn navigates us to the underground subway, assistance is provided from the ever so friendly staff to get our tickets from the machine. Very efficient system of guiding thousands of tourists through the endless security checkpoints, bag checks, x rays and rub downs, lucky we brought our passports. I feel safe and secure as we move as a mob of thousands of people.

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We enter the famous Tiananmen Square and feel the emotion of being in a place with such a history. Then into the Forbidden City where millions of feet and hands have travelled the same path and touched the same 300 year old trees of the palace gardens and the long gone homes of many emperors and their concubines.

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We share a table in the busy cafe with a mother and her naughty boy who is chucking a tantrum as he has to wait for his noodles. His mother shoves the biggest chopstick full into his fat face that he starts to gag, oh dear this is getting ugly.

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We discover that we cannot use our credit cards and have only enough cash to buy two icy poles which apparently are insta worthy as all the tourists are taking selfies with their little monster pops. I throw my stick in the bin as Lyn uses the translator to read her good luck message on hers. My luck is now ruined.

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Exhausted and hungry we exit the Forbidden City walls to look for an ATM, we are woman-napped by three lovely English speaking Chinese women who want to be our new best friends. They are English teachers on a week of training in the big city who take this opportunity to chat to us. In true teacher style they take over and decide to take us to the bank, to lunch, trips on local buses and to the theatre to see the young famous acrobats. Email addresses exchanged we now have new friends for our next visit to the terracotta warriors as they live in Xian. Promises of dumpling making lessons and personal tour guides we have been blessed by this random exchange of cultures and seen more of Beijing than ever expected in one day.

Lyn prises herself off our new besties as she is totally spent and needs a break, we make excuses to get away as they had a whole tour of the old city and Peking duck restaurants for us to visit, they leave us at the underground with instructions to take three trains. Well, try getting a ticket and catching a train in a non English speaking country and without small change to get a ticket. We manage to get the security guard to hunt down the cashier who looked like he was packing up for the night to break down our money to smaller denominations then just follow the map. How can I possibly explain how overwhelming this exercise was and that Lyn in her calm demeanour manages to master the Chinese underground (subway not communist party).

We arrive back in the vicinity of our hotel without drama and decide all we want is a cold beer and a few hits of cards so venture back to where we know the beer is cheap. Oh bugger it let’s share a plate of chips, well never has a bigger mistake been made, they come out covered in the powdered yolks of a thousand eggs, what the fuck taste is that as I spit my disgusting chip into a napkin. This place is dead to me. Let’s find a bar that’s got happy hour serving the best gin and tonics at two for the price of one, thank you Blue Frog you did not disappoint.

Posted by DebandLyn 04:13 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 4

The Open Lunchbox

The big day has finally arrived., a bucket list for Lyn and the reward for three weeks of intense planning to depart our hotel at the crack of dawn to head to the subway to board our train. It cannot go without mention that already our small back packs are insufficient as on day one of carrying mine an old shoulder and neck injury didn’t like the weight so I was forced to purchase a small wheelie case. Now with our extra case and two back packs which by the way is still full, I’m not sure what has happened but in only two days we have accumulated a full case of stuff. All those toothbrushes, combs, shampoos, noodles, bottles of water and yes cans of beer and snacks for the train are literally dragging us down.

This station is hugemongous and again Lyn navigates us with 100% accuracy and confidence. I know Lyn you should become a holiday planner. The ride down the long escalator and we are presented with our train in all its glory, it’s so exciting I get a tiny tear. Like little kids we open and shut all the small compartments of our cabin, first class of course, make ourselves at home.

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The old fashioned decor is smart burgundy with white lace linen covers that give it a regal look, timber look panelling and a basic bathroom with a communal toilet at the end of the car.

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A slight misprint or out of date information leads us to believe there is no dining car on the first leg of the trip and that snacks and convenience foods are required, so much so that it tells us where we can purchase such items. A pleasant realisation that we do have a dining car with two meals provided.

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Lunch of some tasty dishes and an opportunity to have some more room temperature beer, no refrigerated drinks, drinking at room or body temperature is the norm, even warm or hot water is preferred over cold.

We get chatting with some of the other English speaking passengers and spend the next couple of hours exchanging life and travel stories with Erika and Sebastian from Canada.

Back to our cabin for some more cards, reading, ipadding and enjoying the view. I’m feeling a little disorganised so decide to unpack and repack all our gear. The snow boots, coats, beanies and gloves all needed for the big freeze, apparently where we are staying overnight with the nomadic family in a felt house (ger) has dropped to minus 20 degrees. Fingers crossed our gear stands up to it, we might be purchasing a yak poncho or two.

We head back to the dining car to enjoy our dinner accompanied by some of China’s Great Wall red wine, it’s actually surprisingly delicious.

All tucked in to our warm cabins with a few games of cards. All good travellers carry a deck, we play two handed 500, the Canadians play Italian Risk and the English boys play Shit Head.

We communicate with the conductor and staff with the translator ap on our phones and are advised that at 9.00 pm we will be stopping just before the Mongolian border to change the bogies on the train as the tracks are different and will not be able to use the toilet for five hours. A slight old lady panic sets in with repetitive pissing syndrome for the next hour.

I manage to climb to the top bunk with Lyn ready to catch me, really??? The train comes to a stop and this is it, no more pissing, just don’t panic. The train is shoved, jerked and thumped for the next few hours, it goes quiet for a while then it starts up again scaring the living nightlights out of us. Just dozing in and out of slumber we are told to get up and have our passports ready for the Chinese border check.

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At this point Lyn opens her lunch box in the teeny tiny cabin trapping all the putrid air as the uniformed officials near. That’s enough to scare them off and not want to search our cabin for contraband or stowaways.

Again we are woken from a slumber for the Mongolian border check, two old ladies one wearing eye masks and the other with pillow hair must be a sight for sore eyes, it goes without incident.

We rock and roll ourselves to sleep.

Posted by DebandLyn 04:39 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 5

Mongolian Connection - Ulaan Baatar


View Deb and Lyns European Winter on DebandLyn's travel map.

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We crossed the border to Mongolia during the night and wake to find a new dining car attached to the train,

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it’s like walking into a tiny house that’s been decked out over the top with every possible hint of Mongolia, rather cliche but awesome. The stern waitress orders me to sit, sit, just sit. OK just looking and trying to take in this new look diner which it seems comes with a new attitude and very bossy lady. Actually, truth is, she is lovely, just trying to communicate to us dumb Aussies who have no ability to speak another language. A couple of Mongolian beers to sample with our Canadian friends before disembarking the train for Ulan Batar. The snow is starting to cover the landscape and the view is breathtaking as we near the city.

Completely clad in our winter accessories to meet our trusty English speaking guide to escort us to our overnight stay in a gur (nomadic tent). The booking.com photos in no way resemble the back streets of the city with a gur located in a backyard with no farm animals other than the noisy dog and definitely no plumbing for a bathroom or flushing toilet. Lucky the gur is toasty warm and we love the host who sits us down and gives us a history lesson, why? Because she is a teacher.

Dinner is provided of home made noodles and beef in a yummy salty broth that fills us up. The fire is soooo hot that we are forced to strip down to our thermals.

We enjoy the beautiful hillside view of the lights and sounds of the snow covered city, tucked in with our many duvets and blankets. Oh and the electric heater for the middle of the night when the fire runs out, how very civilised.

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Posted by DebandLyn 05:57 Archived in Mongolia Comments (0)

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