J and M's Travels https://www.chaosworld.com/blog UK to Oz Travel blog Sun, 03 May 2009 13:00:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://blog.chaosworld.com Comment on Cool Kotor by bojan ivana kotor https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-928 Wed, 25 Mar 2009 20:41:11 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-928 hey where are you now.im going to work on the cruiser next month.ivana sey “hi” we houpe we well se in Serbia next time

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Comment on Cool Kotor by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-832 Wed, 14 Jan 2009 09:54:30 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-832 Hi Guys,

We know that we are way overdue on replying to your post and on updating the website in general – we can only apologise for that.

In short, we took a lot of time out from the traveling in order to spend some at home in SA with our families, but after the planned 6 week break we decided to extend it to 10 weeks. We forfeited our return tickets to Thailand and booked flights direct to Perth.

We’re glad we spent the extra time in SA because it really was worth it, but sad that we cut our big trip short. We’ve vowed to return to Thailand some day and complete our overland journey to Australia.

Watch this space..

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Comment on Cool Kotor by Morne and Leanne https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-757 Wed, 03 Dec 2008 19:48:42 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-757 Hey guys, where are you, we have been checking your blog, but looks like you have given up on thelast leg of the trip down to Perth and are now gonna fly??
Anyway hope that you are both well.

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Comment on Cool Kotor by marizanne https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-746 Mon, 17 Nov 2008 07:10:48 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-746 Hi Bojan & Ivana,
It is so nice to hear from you! We are currently visiting South Africa and are moving to Australia next month. Please keep in touch and come visit us in Perth! Jan & Marizanne

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Comment on Cool Kotor by Bojan i Ivana https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-743 Fri, 14 Nov 2008 12:32:03 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-743 Hey you what you are doing

we are stil in the Kotor and we miss you

greeting

Bojan i Ivana from Kotor FROM SRBIJA : ))))))))))))))))))

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J&M: City of Roses https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/10/15/city-of-roses/ Wed, 15 Oct 2008 08:16:20 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/10/15/city-of-roses/ It has been a long time since we updated the blog, but that is only because we are having the times of our lives in sunny South Africa.

We left Bangkok on the 26th September and after an interesting stopover in Abhu Dhabi (interesting in the sence that we landed at around midnight there were people literally lying all over the place – on the floor, in the corridors and even in the bathrooms) we landed in Johannesburg at 08:15 on Saturday the 27th. Our connecting flight to Bloemfontein was only at 15:00, so we started our SA visit with a long visit to the good and faithfull Spur Restaurant. Marizanne’s whole family greeted us at the airport in Bloem and it was so nice to see everyone again.

Marizanne’s parents took the first week off work, so we stayed with them and spent every day catching up, eating mom’s home cooked food and just relaxing. When they had to go back to the work the second week, we checked in at Sune and Werner’s (M’s sister and her husband) place – not too far from the parents. They live in a wildlife estate on the edge of the city and every now and again you see a springbuck or osterich strolling about.

Werner is quite a cook and we were spoilt with huge steak barbeque’s (or “braai’s” as we know it in South Africa) and all sorts of exotic dishes. He especially went all out on Marizanne’s birthday with a South Indian prawn and pumpkin curry.

It was amazing getting to know Marizanne’s little niece, Anesia. She is now 9 months old, too cute for words with her first 4 teeth and we had the pleasure of being here for her christening on Sunday, 12th October. After seeing our photos of the trip, Jan was the obvious choice of photographer on the day.

We cannot believe that 3 weeks in the City of Roses are almost over. It was awesome spending every day with the family and being here for 2 special occasions – M’s birthday and the christening. The time went so quickly, but at least it is not the end of it all.

Next week we will be celebrating another very special occasion in Cape Town – Jan’s nephew, Nikolai, has his first birthday party on Saturday, 18th October. We will visit Jan’s sister and her husband, Anree and Brad, and their 2 beautiful boys, Luca and Nikolai, for a week before we head off to Jan’s Mom in Port Elizabeth for the last 2 weeks in South Africa.

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Comment on Parting with Phangan by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/26/parting-with-phangan/#comment-720 Mon, 13 Oct 2008 13:41:40 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/26/parting-with-phangan/#comment-720 Hi guys,

Yes, the SA sun has been kind to us and we are having a ball here in good old South Africa. We’ve been kept busy by Marizanne’s folks in Bloemfontain for the last two weeks, and we have another week here before we head down to Cape Town.

We have taken some photos, but far less then on the rest of the trip – as one would expect. We’ll definitely be posting some as soon as we get a gap in the hectic schedule!

Chat soon
j&m

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Comment on Parting with Phangan by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/26/parting-with-phangan/#comment-719 Sat, 11 Oct 2008 09:34:46 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/26/parting-with-phangan/#comment-719 Are we going to get some pics of RSA or is this excluded as its not part of the “official” trip?

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Comment on Hoi An by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/29/hoi-an/#comment-718 Sat, 04 Oct 2008 06:16:40 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/29/hoi-an/#comment-718 saw some of Neil’s relatives there. same build….

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Comment on Parting with Phangan by Morne and Leanne https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/26/parting-with-phangan/#comment-717 Thu, 02 Oct 2008 13:48:48 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/26/parting-with-phangan/#comment-717 Hey guys, wow didn’t realise that you were heading home for a while, but just as good when seeing the world. Enjoy your break from traveling on the go and chat soon when you are back in the mix of things.

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J&M: Parting with Phangan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/26/parting-with-phangan/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/26/parting-with-phangan/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2008 08:27:04 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/26/parting-with-phangan/ Four days on Koh Phangan turned into six days without us actually realising it. We found this tiny resort (Haat Tian) completely by chance and we don’t think we could have done any better. Being the only resort in a small bay away from the crowds, it was exactly what we were looking for.

Each day was spent mixing up the following activities in some random order: snorkeling, lying on the beach, eating, sipping shakes, exploring other little beach coves and bays on the motorbike and watching NCIS on the Archos. In short, exactly what we haven’t been doing up until now during this trip – and it was about time!

Because we heard very few good things about Koh Samui (the last of our 3-island stopover) we decided to only go there for two nights. We were happy we did that in the end since we had a far better time on Tao and Phangan. But to be fair we didn’t give Samui a proper try and only saw about one square kilometer of it. Perhaps we’ll see more next time.

Yesterday we got the ferry/bus combination back to Bangkok and now we’re waiting for the minibus transfer to the airport. Yes, you heard right, the airport..

We have been travelling for exactly 6 months today (left London on 26th of March) and we’ll be flying to South Africa tonight for a 6 week break from travelling. We are breaking the no-flight rules a bit, but we promise to be back in Bangkok on the 9th of November to continue where we left off.

We’ll still touch on the blog from time to time, but as you can imagine, we won’t have too much to report on from Bloem and PE ;)

Chat soon

J&M

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Comment on Koh Tao treasures by Lauren https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/16/koh-tao-treasures/#comment-715 Wed, 24 Sep 2008 06:56:41 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/16/koh-tao-treasures/#comment-715 Sounds like very hard work! Wish we were there, work is a bit of a bummer lately. Enjoy every minute of it!! Sounds fantastic!

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Comment on Bangkok – 1st Pass by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/13/bangkok-1st-pass/#comment-708 Wed, 17 Sep 2008 06:04:19 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/13/bangkok-1st-pass/#comment-708 Hi Nilf & Morne,

Thanks for all the tips on places to stay here on the islands! If only we had this kind of guidance up until now our trip would have been a breeze ;)

We’ve literally just arrived on Koh Phangan and we’ve come straight to a smashing little resort in Haat Tian bay (website: http://www.haadtianbeachresort.com/koh_phangan/koh_phangan.htm). The whole bay only has this one resort so it’s super quiet, but there’s a lot going on in the next bays not too far away.

We chose this spot (just around the corner from Oceanview Resort, Neil) because they say the best snorkeling is in this area. We’re in our restaurant at the moment (with wifi) having a quick lunch before getting the masks for a snorkel session.

Ciao!

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Comment on Bangkok – 1st Pass by Morne and Leanne https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/13/bangkok-1st-pass/#comment-707 Tue, 16 Sep 2008 15:22:37 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/13/bangkok-1st-pass/#comment-707 Hi guys
Just checking out your blog today and see that you are in Kho Tao and then off to Kho Samoi (spelling) We have very fond memories of Kho Tao and scooba diving and stayed in Kho Samoi for a week in the fishing village just off the more private and calm beach of Boput Beach. We stayed in a pub/challets called Eden, really nice and the price was very good too, not sure iof you have already chosen your place to stay or accomodation, but well woth checking out.
http://www.lostinthailand.com/thailand-hotels/Eden-Bungalows.html

Have fun in the fantastic waters

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J&M: Koh Tao treasures https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/16/koh-tao-treasures/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/16/koh-tao-treasures/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2008 10:27:50 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/16/koh-tao-treasures/ Called the ‘turtle island’ because of it’s shape (even though it’s pretty hard to form that exact mental picture when seeing her for the first time), Koh Tao is about 50km east of Thailand’s south-east peninsula and the north-most & smallest of the famous Tao + Phangan + Samui trio of must-see  islands in the Gulf of Thailand. There are many more islands dotted across the region, but many of them fall under protected marine areas, most of which are uninhabited.

After the morning’s journey from Bangkok, riddled with a series of tiny mishaps, we made land-fall on the ‘turtle’ at 14:30 and immediately started dodging touts. We walked through the masses and straight into the center of the small port town of Mae Hat. We checked into a small guest house, above a massage parlour, after spending some time checking through a few different options and getting all hot & bothered. We thought that since we had a few days to burn here that we’d just check-in, chill for a while and then get a bike to explore and pick out a really nice spot for the rest of the time.

That afternoon we rode up the west coast to scour the area known as Sai Ree Beach, just north of Mae Hat and hand-picked our bungalow accommodation for the following days out of a vast range of choices. The next morning Jan carted each of the big back-packs individually the 3-odd kilometers to the new abode on the measly little scooter, and finally came back to fetch Marizanne to finish the trek.

Our bungalow was in a lovely tropical garden environment with only the basic necessities – i.e. no air-con or hot water – but that’s all you need here. It was only after our first evening that we realised our piece of paradise wasn’t so idyllic.. This entire strip of beach only has one noteworthy nightclub, and even though our resort was a good 400m away, the sound seems to somehow bounce off palm-trees, buildings and shrubbery in a mysterious way to somehow find a route to us and resonate in and around only our little bungalow. It was a strange acoustic phenomenon indeed, as during the nigh Jan walked around and standing even a few feet away from the bungalow, the sound was completely muted, yet inside it was a disco of sorts.

After enduring one more night of this we booked into a different resort about 500m further north and this time it really was the paradise we were hoping for. We stayed in 3 different places in 4 nights on Koh Tao, so we naturally rate ourselves experts on the accommodation options of the island.

Despite having the scooter for 2 full days we never ventured further afield than Chalon Baan Kao, one of the southern bays and only about 15min away on the bike. Instead we focused all our energy and time on intimately familiarising ourselves with our strip of beach-front estate, enjoying all that the local restaurants had to offer and trolling over the reefs just off the shore-line with our snorkel gear.

It was an absolute pleasure to finally pull our snorkels and dive-masks out of the dark and forgotten corners of our back-packs for the first time since leaving London. We knew that they were in for an initial lonely few months, but that they would prove invaluable towards the latter half of the trip. And they are!

As one would expect, the days on Koh Tao drifted by almost unnoticed and before we  knew it our ferry transfer to Koh Phangan was upon us.

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Comment on Bangkok – 1st Pass by Nilf and Fee Bill https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/13/bangkok-1st-pass/#comment-706 Mon, 15 Sep 2008 15:57:19 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/13/bangkok-1st-pass/#comment-706 Islandhopping the Kho’sis the best way to prepare for your holiday from a holiday! What a tough life for some.
If you guys make it to Kho Phanang, be sure to stop off at Bovi Supermarket neer Thongsala Pier and ask to stay at Oceanview Resort (owned by the same family). It is away from all the resorts and I’m sure you two wiould love it. They make the best fruit shakes!
Here is a link to it:
http://www.phangan.info/index.cfm?action=accommodation.location&idaccommodation=41&layout=ao#

Keep up the good work,
Lekker ne!

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Comment on The Road to Battambang by branree https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/11/the-road-to-battambang/#comment-705 Sun, 14 Sep 2008 20:07:35 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/11/the-road-to-battambang/#comment-705 Sunday evening here. A cozy fire crackling away next to us and a howling northwester outside threatening to carry our little cottage off to meet the wizard. Loving experiencing Cambodia vicariously though you guys, although we’re not too sorry to have missed out on brokeback road. Enjoy Thailand… looking forward to seeing you soon.

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J&M: Bangkok – 1st Pass https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/13/bangkok-1st-pass/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/13/bangkok-1st-pass/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2008 12:27:40 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/13/bangkok-1st-pass/ The mini-bus dropped us off in a very touristy part of town full of funky bars and restaurants and we managed to find a very nice hotel. It was already after 22:00 at this stage but we still found some travel agencies open and asked around about trips to the island Koh Tao. It was too late to book the bus for the next morning, which meant we had to stay an extra night in Bangkok and will leave very early the following morning to start 12 days of island-style chilling before heading back to the capitol for our flight to South Africa.

We had a lazy day in Bangkok with no sightseeing at all – just eating, drinking a fruit shake or two, updating the blog and some more eating. In the midst of all this excitement we ran into the British couple we met in Siem Reap, Joe and Aysha – hope you had a great time in Krabi!

Our first impression of Bangkok is completely different from anything else in Southeast Asia – while interacting with the people in hotels, restaurants and shops we experienced a lot more of a hard-skinned attitude towards tourists/clients in general. On more than one occasion, without even trying, we managed to seriously upset shop keepers by initiating bargaining and in one case we even had a girl in tears as she was chasing us out of the shop. It seems that this is the reaction due to them having to deal with hard-nosed Westerners constantly. Luckily this is not the norm as we’ve had many pleasant experiences as well.

Bus and boat tickets were booked for Ko Tao and the pickup was at 05:30 on Saturday morning for the departure at 06:00. By 06:00 we’ve already walked back to the office twice and the agents phone the bus company twice, but still no-one arrived. At 06:10 we found out that our booking had been lost and that the bus had been waiting for us in a different location. A representative of the company walked us there (only 500m further!) and we were finally on our way. Arriving in Chumphon (from where boats leave for the islands) there was another mix up with our boat tickets and again we were the last two passengers onboard. It was only an hour and a half Catamaran trip and we finally made it to Ko Tao at 14:30.

As you would’ve guessed by now, we’ve made more alterations to our itinerary and will be spending the next 2 weeks island-hopping in Thailand before going to South Africa, instead of continuing our hectic schedule through Laos. We’ll come back to that after we have recharged our batteries.

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J&M: The Road to Battambang https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/11/the-road-to-battambang/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/11/the-road-to-battambang/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:27:39 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/11/the-road-to-battambang/ As much a destination (it turned out) as a travel route, we believe that the road to Battambang deserves a special mention. The 178km trip was suppose to have kicked off at 07:30 on Wednesday morning, but because of torrential downpours overnight and the central part of Siem Reap temporarily being transformed into a large network of interlinked swimming pools, we only left town well after 09:00.

Once on our way we quickly realised that the ‘Boulevard of broken backsides’, as the guidebook refers to it, was going to live up to it’s reputation. Being a gravel road is one thing, but this was one of the most badly maintained strips we’ve come across. Despite this being a major road link between Cambodia and Thailand, it’s rumored that an undisclosed airline group is paying off Cambodian government officials to delay plans to improve the road in order to maintain a high turnover in international flights between the two countries. Nice.

OK, so the road was bumpy, big deal, but like we’ve mentioned before, Cambodia is as flat as you could imagine. During our very limited travels through this fine country we’ve seen only the occasional blimp on the horizon, which means that when the water comes, it’s got nowhere to go. And with last night’s downpour, the water was already there waiting for us..

About 2 hours into the rattle we started experiencing ever more serious incidents of aqua planing on the muddy surface. The bus driver – even though he had a disturbingly chronic head twitch – seemed to know what he was doing and repeatedly managed to bring the slightly sideways bus back under control and re-aligned with the road.

We also seemed to be encountering more and more unfortunate drivers,  mostly heavy goods vehicles, who had not managed to pick the best line through the testing road surfaces and got helplessly stuck in the mud. Eventually we reached a point where we could go no further because of a apparent gridlocked situation up ahead. Climbing out of the bus one could see a line of cars and trucks disappearing into the distance, all trying to pass each other and work their way around stranded vehicles.

After a while a few Caterpillar road-scrapers magically appeared out of nowhere and started to clear up the mess. It was impressive to see how the drivers of the big Cats managed to pick out the busses and trucks in most peril, tug them out of the mud and skillfully skim off the worst of the mud on the road around them. After a mere three hours of watching and waiting for the road to clear, the oncoming traffic slowly started to move again and before long we were on our way, finally arriving at 17:25.

Battambang, Cambodia’s second largest city, is completely unimpressive and despite the guidebook’s use of words like ‘charm’ and ‘linger’ we were hard-pressed to find much to write about. We got a hotel, had dinner and left the next morning.

The remaining 124km to the Thai border presented slightly better conditions compared to the previous day’s trip, and we were luckily not to have any further traffic-jam incidents. The transition at the Thai border was fairly slick and within an hour or so we were on our way again. Having switched to the left-hand side of the road, and now cruising in a swanky new mini-bus (we were in a real old rattler up until then), we were doing 120km/h on a massive dual-carriage way virtually all the way to Bangkok. A starker contrast in road conditions will be hard to find anywhere else.

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Comment on Mighty Mekong Delta by Lauren https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/04/mighty-mekong-delta/#comment-704 Wed, 10 Sep 2008 03:32:43 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/04/mighty-mekong-delta/#comment-704 Hi! Sorry I’ve been so scarce lately. Have a stinking cold, and we are moving house at the moment. Taking a bit of strain. Not to worry:) Photos are fantastic! Will email soon.

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J&M: Siem Reap / Angkor https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/09/siem-reap-angkor/ Tue, 09 Sep 2008 11:25:44 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/09/siem-reap-angkor/ A relatively easy bus ride from Phnom Penh got us to Siem Reap at about 2pm on Saturday. We didn’t want to spend too much time looking for a hotel so we went with one of the 1st ones we came across. The afternoon was spent strolling through the small central part of town visiting the market and making use of the many but-1-get-1-free draft beer offers advertised at bars and restaurants situated on a short strip affectionately known as ‘Bar Street’.

The main reason for coming to Siem Reap, and Cambodia really, is of course to see the fabled Temples of Angkor. About 6km north of town lies a mystical, other-worldly place that is simply impossible to describe. Cambodia, for the most part, is as flat as they come as far as topography is concerned, but this area is covered with thick jungle and beautiful tall trees. Seemingly out of nowhere rise these impressive structures that look dated and weathered in such an authentic and mythical way that one would guess they were built to look like that. But they have been shaped and worn by nature over centuries during a time when they were forgotten by civilization.

The hundreds of temples that survive today is a fraction of what once formed the vast capital of the ancient Khmer empire, systematically built under order of the Cambodian devaraja (god-kings) between the 9th and 13th centuries. Rediscovered in the 1860s, Angkor Wat (the name of the most well-known temple, but one which has come to represent the whole area) was reintroduced to the world and, as a result of intense interest over the following years, a massive project was undertaken at the start of the 20th century to systematically clear away centuries of vegetation & jungle that was slowly busy devouring the sacred buildings. Only interrupted by the war during the 1970s, the project has made great strides in rebuilding the ancient structures and restoring them to a level that approaches their original grandeur.

To get the most out of our visit we set aside 3 days for visiting Angkor’s temples. The pricey entry fee for a 3-day pass was a sting, but worth every penny. On the first morning the alarm clock went off at 4:15am – we rented bikes and cycled the 6km-odd to the temple of Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise – absolutely breathtaking! Being the main attraction of all the temples it was absolutely packed with people, but they soon thinned out after the oranges & reds of the morning sun started to fade away.

To give you an idea, Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world, surrounded by a moat which more closely resembles a sizable river. The central structure has three pyramidal levels, surrounded by large galleries and corridors each one enclosing a square, culminating in a 55m high central tower. The rock walls are covered with detailed carvings and the outer enclosure is surrounded by an 800m-long series of intricately carved bas-reliefs.

We spent about 2-3 hours inspecting the halls and walls of Angkor Wat before moving on to Angkor Thom, an ancient fortified city another couple of kilometers north. The city’s square perimeter is marked by a 12km wall, 6m high and 8m thick all the way around. As we slowly cycled towards the entrance, the huge structure of the southern gate started to appear from behind the trees lining the road. We parked the bikes and spent close to an hour gazing and snapping away at the carvings of 4 enormous faces (said to be that of Avalokiteshvara) on top of the gate and the dozens of larger-than-life-sized figures lining the bridge across the moat. It’s difficult to explain what this place is really like, so we’re hoping that our photos will paint a better picture.

Once inside the city’s confines, the first temple en-route and built exactly in the centre, is Bayon, which is perhaps the most impressive to look at from a distance and came to be one of our favourites. Remember the Avalok-something fellow we mentioned earlier? Well this temple has a massive 216 of these same Mona Lisa-like smiling faces carved out of rock spires on all 4 sides, each one being at least 3m high. With 1,200m of bas-reliefs and more than 11,000 figures carved out of walls lining a maze of alley ways and corridors this place is simply amazing.

After that we dropped by the temple of Baphuon, the Terrace of Elephants, & The Leper King, as well as a few others inside the city walls – all of which were magnificent in their own right.

Moving out of Angkor Thom, a lengthy visit to Ta Prohm, one of the most photographed temples in the area, took up most of the afternoon. This temple has been left just as it was found about 150 years ago where massive trees are slowly winding their roots in between the rocky structures, making for surreal scenes resembling that of an Indiana Jones movie set (parts of Tomb Raider was actually filmed here).

Just before sunset we made our way back to Angkor Wat for the last light of the day and some more photographs, but a cloudy horizon spoilt things a bit. Cycling back to town in the dark we realised that we had been going at it for 13 hours straight with hardly a break.. and that was only the first day.

To spare you the agonising details, the abridged version of the subsequent days follows: We never made it back for sunrise again (we simply couldn’t get ourselves to set that alarm clock again), but we had various return trips to most of the temples mentioned above, as well as a string of additional ones. Honourable mention to Preah Kanh & Ta Som. If pressed for time when you’re here – and trust us, you have to come here – don’t bother with Phnom Bakheng or Preah Neak Pean.

Day three saw a very quick visit to the ruins as the weather started moving in and after only 2 or 3 hours we scurried back to the bikes and only just made it into town before the heavens opened. That night, as before, we enjoyed great food at good prices – try an ‘Amok’ of any kind when next in these parts (coconut based curry-like soup).

It was up early again for our 07:30 bus pick-up for the short-haul trip to Battambang. Famous last words..

For all Angkor Temples click here (Angkor Wat below).

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Phnom Penh https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/07/phnom-penh/ Sun, 07 Sep 2008 04:11:51 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/07/phnom-penh/ No visit to Phnom Penh is complete without a visit to the well known Killing fields and the notorious S-21 prison, so we insisted on starting our one-and-only day in the capital by checking those off our to-do list.

Between 1975 and 1979 almost 2 million Cambodians died in a holocaust-like fashion as a result of the insane revolution implemented by the Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of the ruthless leadership of Pol Pot (fitting name for such a pig!). Most of the country’s educated were relocated to the countryside and tortured to death or executed. Anyone who spoke a foreign language or even wore spectacles were captured and killed in Pot’s efforts to convert Cambodia into a Maoist, peasant-dominated, agricultural machine.

The cheapest option of getting out of town to the Killing Fields is a motorbike, so we flagged one down, both got on the back and made the 16km trip out of town with our driver. A memorial stupa has been erected in the middle of this relatively small area which contains a total of 129 mass graves, some of which are still untouched. The stupa itself holds a massive amount of human skulls which serves as a reminder of the crimes against humanity.

We walked around for a while taking in the somber atmosphere, but quickly made our way all around the enclosed areas. Because of a lack of government funding the site is in dire need of attention as most of the area is exposed to the elements and little attention is given to the upkeep of this extremely important monument. The dilapidated state makes one feel almost hard-done by even for the measly ‘$2’ entrance fee, but it’s a must-see never the less when in the area.

To our disgust we realised that getting a ride back to town was going to prove a little more difficult. All the bike and tuk-tuk drivers parked outside were waiting for the return of the tourists they had brought from town, and as our driver was long gone (having only arranged for a one-way drop off) we were stranded. Walking back to the main road in the hope of finding another willing bike-rider, an Irish couple, on the back of a tuk-tuk, stopped and kindly offered us a lift to town. As it happened they were also on their way to the S-21 museum.

Tuol Sleng, or ‘Security Prison 21’ (S-21) as it was called under Pol Pot’s regime, is a disused high school which got converted into the country’s largest centre for detention and torture in the mid-70s. At it’s peak the prison claimed a staggering average of 100 victims per day. Those who did not die during interrogation were sent to the Killing fields for execution.

Sobering prison mug-shots of victims and a lot of photos of tortured and mutilated bodies are on display. Some of the exhibits are very simple with only a single iron bed in the middle of a large room, paired with a gruesome photo on the wall of one of the victims chained to the same bed. Much like our lasting impression of Auschwitz, we were left with a dark view of man-kind’s ability to simply disregard life after experiencing all that the museum had to offer.

The Russian market was our next stop for the day, but we spent little time there as it proved to be quite commercialised (in a Western sense) and a little less interesting than some others we had recently visited. We got a comfy tuk-tuk ride to the Royal Palace after grabbing a quick lunch, but got a bit of a sting with the comparatively inflated entrance fees.

The Palace grounds are in fine condition and is in stark contrast to the dilapidated Killing Fields & S-21. Each building is laced with the finest gilding in gold & white and extravagantly decorated inside. It’s the official residence of the King and Queen so large parts are off-limits to the public, but there are loads of space to roam around. The Palace is a beautiful and calm place with many visiting Buddhist monks snapping photos of their favourite spots. We were lucky enough to meet up with Phillipe and Karine again – the French Canadian couple we met during our Mekong Delta tour (see photo below) – and this time remembered to exchange particulars.

Our timing was perfect, because just after arriving back at our hotel the rains started to come down. We only had one day in the capital so we had to pack in the sights, but they were all worth it and we thoroughly enjoyed the day. To close it off we had dinner at a little restaurant/bar on the river where loads of expats (all with serious tattoos) seemed to congregate. Openly smoking grass in restaurants seems to be completely acceptable here..

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For Killing Fields & S-21 click here.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Halong Bay by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/#comment-700 Fri, 05 Sep 2008 12:57:34 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/#comment-700 Hi Guys,
Good to hear from you again – we should sort out a Skype session soon!

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Comment on Quick stop in Hue by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/26/holiday-in-hue/#comment-699 Fri, 05 Sep 2008 12:56:06 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/26/holiday-in-hue/#comment-699 Marizanne’s entries are definately upping the collective average :)

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J&M: Mighty Mekong Delta https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/04/mighty-mekong-delta/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/04/mighty-mekong-delta/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2008 12:09:00 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/04/mighty-mekong-delta/ The pickup was at 08:00 to start our Mekong Delta 3 day/2 night trip. The Mekong Delta is the area around the Mekong river that connects Vietnam with Cambodia and is famous for floating markets selling fruits and vegetables.

The first day of the tour was packed with lots of really interesting things and beautiful boat rides. It took 2 hours on the bus from Saigon to My Tho City where we got a motorized boat along the river to a little island where we stopped to taste some tropical fruit at a local orchard. From there we got into rowing boats and cruised through small canals, full of coconut trees, and stopped off to taste some honey tea and coconut treats at a honey farm in the forest. They served a light lunch there and afterwards we cruised further to a village where they make a living producing coconut candy in a small local factory. Later that afternoon we arrived in Chan Tho and our group checked into a little hotel. We had some free time for dinner, so we decided to do our own thing and walked into town where we found a nice little restaurant with a balcony overlooking the riverfront and busy street-front.

Very early the next morning our bus left at 07:00 after a quick, very basic breakfast at the hotel, to visit the famous Cai Rang and Phong Dien floating markets – the biggest in the Mekong Delta. We were taken to the markets by boat and it was fascinating to see how a whole family live on a small boat and make a living selling fruits or vegetables to other boats. It was a bit disappointing that it was more of wholesale operation and very different from the small, colourful boats you always see on pictures. Also, we were hoping to actually buy something, but that was not possible because we only stayed on the sidelines.

We spent about 1 hour slowly cruising through the 2 markets and then visited a small home factory where they make rice noodles in the back yard. After lunch we headed to Chau Doc and stopped at a crocodile farm where they actually only breed the crocodiles for their skin and meat. You can walk around, choose a crocodile and they will kill it for you – all included in the price (the price being a secret we were told).

In Chao Doc we had time to visit the Sam Mountain (just a small hill really) and enjoy the beautiful view from the top of the rice fields after having a walk through the Queen Lady Temple. Our hotel was situated a little outside town, so our bus dropped us at a local restaurant in town and most of the group stayed there to enjoy their famous fish hotpot dish (which Marizanne ordered and it was delicious!). We were about 20 people in the gourp and we met a really nice French Canadian couple, Phillipe and Karine, from Quebec. The bus then took us back to our hotel where we had no aircon with only a pathetic little fan mounted on the wall. Again, it was terribly hot, so the fan did very little to help and we were very happy to get out the next morning for breakfast.. slightly dehydrated.

After breakfast we took another boat trip to a floating village where they spesialise in fish farming. We then stopped to visit a Cham monority village where they weave traditional scarfs and sarongs. Unfortunately that brought our sightseeing to an end and we boarded the boat again for a 3 hour trip to the Cambodian border.

A girl from the travel company took all our passports and went ahead by motorbike to sort out our visas, so by the time we arrived at the border, we already had the visas and Vietnamese exit stamps in our passports. Passport control on the Cambodian side was very quick and we then took the boat again for the last 4 hours. The boat was very basic with nothing but a local women selling drinks and snacks and a small toilet, so we were very glad to finally get off it, but then we still had to take a 1.5 hour bus ride to Phnom Penh. The bus station was at the lake side, but all the hotels and guest houses seemed a little too dodgy for our liking, so we took a tuk-tuk (motorbike taxi) into town where we found a nice enough small and quiet hotel. A good end to an great, but exhausting few days in the delta.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Halong Bay by Ciara & Trav https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/#comment-693 Thu, 04 Sep 2008 10:47:54 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/#comment-693 Still loving the photo’s, marizanne that bruise is massive! Hope you received loads of TLC from that man of yours. Keep them travel stories and amazing photo’s coming.
Trav and Ciara

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Comment on Quick stop in Hue by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/26/holiday-in-hue/#comment-686 Tue, 02 Sep 2008 21:49:57 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/26/holiday-in-hue/#comment-686 your pics seems to be getting better and better, or is that just cause Marizanne now is taking pics too ; ) The ninja in this set is my favorite.
Good to see the occasional one of you both too, you both looking happy and relaxed.
Laters

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J&M: Sleepless in Saigon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/02/sleepless-in-saigon/ Tue, 02 Sep 2008 13:19:41 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/09/02/sleepless-in-saigon/ The bus dropped us off in a very busy backpacker area with lots cheap hotels, bars and restaurants. Jan walked around, looked at a few different hotels and found one that suited our requirements, right in the middle of all the action.

Hoi Chi Minh City , also called Saigon, is the second largest city in Vietnam with almost 6 million inhabitants and 3 million scooters buzzing through the streets at all hours.

We only had 1 day in the city, so we spent the morning talking to different travel agencies about Mekong Delta tours. Originally we wanted to visit the Mekong Delta on our own, however after comparing the costs and effort of getting there ourselves with a package tour, we decided on a 3 day/2 night tour. Due to the lack of reliable public transport, it can be very difficult to get around the country independently, which is why this is now our second arranged tour in Vietnam.

After sorting our our travel plans, we visited the Ben Thanh Market where you can find anything and everything under one roof, so we stocked up on some souvenirs and gifts for the family. Due to the heat we ran out of steam before getting around to all the sights on our to-do list, but at least we had a good sampling of Saigon’s culinary scene during our short time there.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Nha Trang & Mui Ne https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/31/nha-trang-mui-ne/ Sun, 31 Aug 2008 13:16:53 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/31/nha-trang-mui-ne/ J&M:

Again we had a reservation and checked into the Blue Star Hotel. There was no swimming pool this time, but the beach was about 3 minutes walk away. We only had 1 day in Nha Trang, so we headed straight for the beach where we spent the rest of the morning lazing on the beach chairs taking the occasional dip and fending off countless vendors selling everything from sunglasses to full body massages. As we were leaving we bumped into 2 Australian girls we had met on our Halong Bay trip – Michelle and Lindsey.

We had hoped to do some snorkeling however we found out that we had to take another boat tour to the nearby islands and after our bus night we simply did not have the energy and opted for a afternoon nap instead.

Early the next morning we left again on a sleeper bus to Hoi Chi Minh City (Saigon). However during our lunch stop in Mui Ne we decided to get off the bus and stay the night. Mui Ne is a little town with nothing to do except lay on the beautiful, white sandy beach. For the more adventurous there are watersport options – windsurfing being the most popular. We found a very cheap hotel on the beach close to the bus station and spent our time there sunbathing, swimming and sipping cocktails at a very funky bar right on the beach.

Unfortunately we had to leave this oasis at 14:00 the next afternoon to make our way to Hoi Chi Minh City down south.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Halong Bay by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/#comment-675 Sun, 31 Aug 2008 05:07:07 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/#comment-675 Hi Brett,
Happy birthday for today!
Thanks for the comments. Yeah, the fall was pretty hard and could easily have been more serious, so we’re lucky. We’re in a lovely little beach resort with windsurf spots all over and a really laid back vibe. Having lunch in a local restaurant on the beach waiting for our 13:30 bus to Saigon.
Cheers mate

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Comment on Halong Bay by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/#comment-674 Sun, 31 Aug 2008 01:06:02 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/#comment-674 shame man! hope you feeling better M, glad to the rest of your trip has been injury free. loving all the photos and stories. Makes my weekend reading all about what you both got up to. Laters guys, keep well

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J&M: Hoi An https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/29/hoi-an/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/29/hoi-an/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2008 16:08:21 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/29/hoi-an/ J&M:

Arriving back at the bus office after our motorcycle escapades, we got on the bus and arrived in Hoi An at around 18:00. We headed straight for the An Phu Hotel in the old town, because for a change, we pre-booked 3 hotels in advance through the very helpful staff in Hanoi.

Dropping off our bags in the room, the swimming pool was next on the agenda for a quick cool down followed by a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant.

The room rate included breakfast and what a fine breakfast it was! After stuffing ourselves, we got on the bus for a day tour to the area’s most stunning sight, the Cham ruins at My Son – 35km southwest of Hoi An. The 7th century ruins are situated in a beautiful, lush valley surrounded by the Hon Quap Mountain (Cat’s Tooth Mountain). There were a few different sites, but our guide spent most of the time concentrating on only the biggest one. In total we could only walk around for an hour and a half, which was a bit disappointing as we would have liked to spend more time exploring all the different areas. On the way back we had a light lunch on a boat and stopped at a village to look at a crafts shop.

The next day we had time to visit Hoi An as the bus was only leaving at 18:00. All the guidebooks bestow great prize upon Hoi An using terms like “living museum”, “enchantment” and “beauty”. Unfortunately this was again either a case of expectations set too high, or us simply having seen too many great and enchanting villages in China, but we found Hoi An to be simply a nice little fishing and market village – not worth more than 1 day’s visit. The streets are packed with tailor shops and if you are interested in having some outfits made within hours, this is the place to be! Marizanne couldn’t let this opportunity pass and had 2 garments tailor made within 3 hours.

The sleeper bus left Hoi An at 18:00 and even though this was our 26th overnight trip, we still struggled to get comfortable. The bunk beds on the bus are too short for regular sized people and the air con are either freezing or not working at all – not to mention the many toilet stops along the way waking everyone up. Needless to say, we did not really get a lot of sleep and arrived in Nha Trang in a rather fragile state.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Quick stop in Hue https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/26/holiday-in-hue/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/26/holiday-in-hue/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2008 12:29:43 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/26/holiday-in-hue/ The sleeper bus left Hanoi at 18:30 and we arrived in Hue at 08:30 where we had to change busses. Hue is a small seaside town and has been traditionally been one of Vietnam’s cultural, religious and educational centres.

The bus to Hoi An only left at 14:00, so we had the morning to kill in Hue. We left our luggage at the bus office and managed to arrange 2 motorbike guides to take us to some of the attractions in the area. We both got on a little scooter with a young girl and older man and our first stop was at a little temple just outside town. We spent about 20 minutes walking around before getting back on the bikes to visit the Tomb of Tu Doc – a majestic site set alongside a small lake. The next stop was the Thien Mu Pagoda – the octagonal pagoda is one of the most famous structures in Vietnam and about 4km southwest of the Citadel, which was our last stop. Inside the 6m-high, 2,5km long wall is a world of disintegrating treasures, heavily bombed by the Americans, much of it now used for agriculture.

Our 2 private drivers dropped us as the bus office just in time for the next bus to Hoi  An, where we arrived at 17:30. We had pre-booked the An Phu Hotel in the center and was very impressed with our large double room overlooking the swimming pool (!!). The hotel also had a travel desk where we booked a daytrip to some of the temple ruins in the area for tomorrow. Again, an organised tour is the only easy way to see the sights. This is very unusual for us after doing almost everything ourselves so far.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Halong Bay https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2008 13:27:42 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/25/halong-bay/ Being another one of the countless UNESCO World Heritage sites that we’ve visited over the last few months, Halong Bay is a sublimely beautiful place with scenery not unlike that of Yangshou in China. There are thousands of karst hills forming individual islands off the coast in the bay which makes for an amazing skyline.

We bought a 3-day/2-night package trip to the bay – package tours seem to be the preferred method of getting around and seeing things in Vietnam – and our tour bus picked us up at 8:00 on Saturday morning. It was an easy 4 hour ride to the coast from Hanoi, with a very excitable guide talking most of the way and the usual stop at a local handicraft centre thrown in for free of course. Having arrived in Halong City, our group of 16 were loaded onto one of literally hundreds of Junks (authentic looking boats, with multiple decks) moored in the small harbour.

Our junk had sleeping cabins on the bottom deck, a lounge/dinner area (and two more  cabins, one of which was ours) on the middle deck and an open area on the top deck. We sailed for about an hour before reaching a small floating village, set in an enclosure of island hills. We got the chance to take a small boat ride through a few caves openings in some of the hills – at an extra cost of course – and we got the chance to look at some of the homes.

Our next stop was a massive cave in one of the hills ,where we had to get off the junk and climb a short way up one of the island hills to the cave entrance. Having seen our fair share of caves recently we didn’t have major expectations, but it was pleasant never the less and quite impressive. A little further along the junk stopped for the evening and we could swim and of course jump off the top of the boat. Unfortunately the weather seemed to be closing in all day and we moored in an enclosed area.

Our group consisted of 2 French couples and a Spanish student group – all very nice and laid-back people. All our meals were included and the food was very nice indeed for the price we paid  for the bottom-of-the-price-range trip. We played a lazy few drinking games with the rest of the guys on board before turning in for the night. A rather big storm forced everyone to scurry around and close all windows properly as the junk got whipped with heavy winds and rain – didn’t last too long luckily.

It was up at 7am the next morning for breakfast (don’t ask us why) and off to the main island (Cat Ba) where we left the junk and got a mini bus to the Cat Ba National Park where we did a short hike up a hill for nice views of the lush surrounding areas. It was absolutely pouring down with rain again when we started walking, so despite the flimsy plastic raincoats we bought from a local, we got completely drenched. It was extremely muddy and very slippery all the way with massive amounts of mosquitoes attacking our bare legs (Jan later counted 32 bites on one of his legs).

Halfway down the return path Marizanne slipped and landed with her back and upper arms on the roots of a tree. She took a really hard fall and has been left with huge black & blue marks. Luckily it doesn’t look like she’s done any internal/serious damage to her back or anything else. All got back on the bus to go to the main town on the island and check into the pre-booked hotel. After a quick lunch and the chance to hose off the mud, we were picked up around 14:00 for sea kayacking to an island with a monkey colony. We had a great time swimming and lazing around on a nice beach before paddling back the 40minutes to the main island.

After dinner we had an early night after the day’s activities, while the rest of the youngsters in our group went out on the town. We boarded the same junk again on Monday morning and cruised for about two hours before arriving back at the harbour at Halong city. There we enjoyed our last lunch with our group before getting on the bus for the 3 hour ride back to Hanoi. The bus dropped us of at the hotel around 16:30 where we picked up the rest of our luggage and waited for our overnight bus to Hoi An.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Hot Hot Hanoi by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/22/hot-hot-hanoi/#comment-665 Sat, 23 Aug 2008 14:29:31 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/22/hot-hot-hanoi/#comment-665 Hullo julle liewe twee,
Die skype maak dit amper nie nodig om kommentaar te lewer nie. Dit bly egter ‘n groot verrassing dat China so fantasties is en was vir julle nie, julle laat ‘n mens skoon watermond om dit ook te kom sien. Deur julle ,die vertelling en fotos, is dit asof ek regtig daar was
Wat nog ‘n groter surprise was om van Charl en Lauren se verwagte babatjie te hoor!! baie geluk julle 2 daar in Perth.Dis wonderlike nuus!! Gladnie gedink julle beplan soiets nie
Net ingeval iemand dink dat ek nie opgewonde is oor J en M se kuier in SA omdat ek dit nie hier op die blog noem nie: DIT IS ABSOLUUT FANTASTIC.en een vd beste idees wat julle al gehad het
Liefde Mamma.

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J&M: Hot Hot Hanoi https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/22/hot-hot-hanoi/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/22/hot-hot-hanoi/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2008 16:42:12 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/22/hot-hot-hanoi/ We spent our last day in China in Kunming  and caught the 20:00 overnight bus to Hekou on the Vietnamese border on Tuesday evening.

The sleeper bus was from the stone ages with no aircon, super small and narrow bunk beds and full of smokers.  We tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, but little did we know that the journey of hell was awaiting of us..

We got to Hekou  at around 08:00 and went through both the Chinese and Vietnamese passport controls very quickly. From the border we went straight to the train station where we managed to get tickets for the 09:15 day train to Hanoi and at that stage we were under the impression that we will arrive in Hanoi at 21:30. This is where the best part of the journey starts..

The train office only sells tickets for hard seats, so one of the officials at the station offered to organise soft sleepers for us at a “small” supplement. He then called one of his “colleagues” to take us to the train and show us our new places. This was of course exactly what the guide books warn about – many government officials being corrupt. Needless to say we stuck with our hard seats, which turned out to be a wooden bench bearly wide enough for 2 people.

The mere 300km, that was supposed to take 12 hours, ended up taking 14 hours and we only arrived in Hanoi at 23:30. This translates to an average speed of 20 km per hour, but it was actually much slower as we stopped very often for long periods of time. We also later found out that they had a typhoon about 2 weeks ago and that a large part of the area on route was flooded and the train tracks damaged.

At that stage we were starving (we didn’t have any time to buy food at the border as we had to board the train straight away) and coudn’t feel our bums anymore. We took a taxi to the Vietanh Hotel, mentioned in the Lonely Planet, and ended up in the best room in the hotel – an enormous family room with a lounge  area. They were fully booked and we could only get a standard double room the next day, however due to Marizanne’s finely honed haggling skills, we managed to get it at the same rate as the double room. After the horrendous day we had, this was like heaven!

The hotel is right in the center of the Old Quarter, so we spent the last 2 days exploring the maze of crooked streets, bustling with locals selling all kinds of specialities on street corners, deciding in which cafe to have a “Bia Hoi” (local draught beer) while dodging literally hundreds of scooters (most of them carrying a whole familiy of 4!) motoring around. Hanoi is a busy city with a very intimate core and being so close to the action really makes one experience the local lifestyle first hand. The entire Old Quarter is centered around tourists with hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and souvenir shops taking up about 90% of the area. Cyclo (bicycle taxi big enough for 2 people) drivers are constantly hassling foreigners and everyone is trying to make a living by offering some kind of merchandise or service to passers by. Bargaining is mandatory as the general feeling is that you are getting a raw deal unless you do. One can really tell that we are getting closer to the tropics with temperatures and humidity being right up there.

The staff at the hotel was excellent and helped us to book a 3 day trip to Halong Bay and Catba Island, leaving tomorrow. We are very much looking forward to just relaxing on a “junk” (a kind of sail boat they use for these trips), taking in the beautiful scenery as well as doing some trekking on the island.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Farewell China by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/19/farewell-china/#comment-663 Fri, 22 Aug 2008 13:56:14 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/19/farewell-china/#comment-663 Hi Guys!

That’s great news! Can’t believe it’s going to be a little girl – knowing that really starts to make it real. We’re so glad that everything went well with the scan and that all the fingers & toes are there, loving it!

We’re also very excited about your new house! It’s going to be so awesome to have your own space and somewhere you can nest properly. And we’re looking forward to packing off there when we get to Oz of course! ;)

Thanks so much for the post on the blog – it’s broken a two-plus week drought. Seems all our friends have forgotten about us!

Chat soon
j&m

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Comment on Farewell China by Lauren and Charl https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/19/farewell-china/#comment-662 Fri, 22 Aug 2008 10:30:03 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/19/farewell-china/#comment-662 Helloo! Glad the travels are still going well. The trip to SA is a good idea! You can take a break from your vacation:) I think you have earned it!

Just to let you know that our scan went well this morning! All the finger and toes are there, heart, kidneys, bladder, brain, spine and limbs look good AND ITS A GIRL!
Very excited! She was moving around and swallowing on the scan, she even gave big yawn (if thats possible). Bought my first baby thing a few days ago…a little baby sling to carry her around in. Will have to start thinking of nursery stuff soon, but will wait until we are in the new house to buy.
Lots of Love
Charl and Lauren

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J&M: Farewell China https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/19/farewell-china/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/19/farewell-china/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2008 10:39:05 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/19/farewell-china/ We can’t believe that our wonderful time in China is now finally coming to an end. What’s harder to believe is that we’ve spent almost 50% of our entire trip so far in China. As you know we decided to prolong our stay here shortly after we arrived and we’ve not regretted it for one minute.

It’s been two-&-half months since we arrived on the Trans-Siberian train in Beijing on the 4th of June and we’ve had a journey that has far exceeded our wildest expectations. Out of the 15-odd provinces and municipalities we’ve visited it’s impossible to choose a favourite, there have been unforgettable experiences everywhere we’ve gone.

We’re still planning on getting to Australia some time in January, but we’ve recently added a new twist to our travel tail. We thought that, since we’re taking so much time off to travel, we should spend at least some of it at home with the folks. As such we decided to make a break from full-time travel and we’ll be flying to South Africa for a 6 week period when we get to Bangkok in about 1 month’s time. Yes, we kind-off break our no-flights trend here, but we’ll be returning to Bangkok to continue our trip when we’ve finished in SA.

We’ll be entering Vietnam tonight on an overnight bus to the border and we’re aiming to spend about two weeks there before moving on to Cambodia, Laos and eventually Thailand from where we’ll fly out.

We’re very sad to leave China, but we’ve probably given it a good go. This is an amazing country, with super friendly, humble and welcoming people. We hope to be able to come back one day to get to all the bits we weren’t able to fit in now.

Farewell China!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Tiger Leaping Gorge https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/17/tiger-leaping-gorge/ Sun, 17 Aug 2008 05:49:56 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/17/tiger-leaping-gorge/ Saturday morning we got off to a very early start as we had to catch the 08:00 bus to the town of Qiaotao – the start of the Tiger Leaping Gorge walking trail.

About 60 kilometers northwest of Lijiang Old Town lying between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain is the Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is believed to be the deepest gorge in the world and around 15 km in length. Legend says that in order to escape from a hunter, a tiger jumped across the river at the narrowest point (still 25 metres wide), hence the name.

After a few bus connections we started walking at about 10:45. It took about 1 hour to get from the drop-off point to the high path where we finally started the trek at the Tea Horse Guest House. The path goes through a fairly steep, rural mountainside area and there are only 3 or 4 guest houses along the way, most of which are locals offering modest accommodation. We were very glad that we took enough food and water, because it was only after about 3 hours walk that we found the first stall along the way.

Usually the trail is done over a 2 day period, which is what all the guest houses along the way are there for, but because we didn’t want to overnight we only did 3 quarters of the trail. We did the route in the opposite direction from the norm, which meant that for the first few hours we didn’t see any other hikers -we did pass many locals offering horse rides though.

With accurate weather information hard to come by, we had to guess which day would be best to go as the current season promises some rain at least once a day. In the end we were very lucky with no rain and even a bit of sunshine for an hour or two.

After some of the mountains we’ve climbed in China, the trail was relatively easy going with a few steep and very muddy sections and the views of the gorge were excellent. We finished the walk just before 17:00 and were glad to be able to get on a bus straight away back to Lijiang.

Back in the Old Town at 19:00 we had another lovely dinner at a Tibetan restaurant, one of many excellent restaurants around.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Life in Lijiang https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/14/life-in-lijiang/ Thu, 14 Aug 2008 12:59:26 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/14/life-in-lijiang/ We left the beach and sand of Sanya at 23:55 on Saturday evening to board our first of two overnight hardsleepers. At 08:30 we arrived in Zhanjiang and had to take a local bus to the main train station – about a 30 minutes ride away. It started raining at that stage and we didn’t really have the energy to walk around town, so we just parked off inside the station and waited for our next train in the afternoon. Luckily they had tv screens in the station that showed the Olympics, so the 5 hour wait went by quiet quickly.

The train departed at 14:12 for Kunming and this time it was a much older train with no aircon. We had the upper hardsleepers again and only survived the heat due to the little fan above our heads. But for some unknown reason, they switched off all the fans and closed all the windows during the night. So, after a sweaty and stuffy night, we arrived in Kunming at 09:45 on Monday morning. We had a flyer of the Hump Hostel so we headed straight there from the train station. It is a very nice hostel with a huge lounge/patio area on the 3rd floor that overlooks the main square. We checked in for 1 night and left again the next morning on the 10:00 bus to Lijiang.

The journey to Lijiang was 9 hours on a a sleeper bus. After our previous sleeper bus experience, we were not too impressed but this bus turned out to be much more comfortable and the time actually went really quickly.

It was just before 19:00 Tuesday evening when we arrived in Lijiang and as we already booked Mama Naxi’s  Guesthouse in the Old Town, we just gave them a call from the  station and they arranged a pick-up. The hostel is run by a little lady and we arrived in the middle of dinner – which is a very busy, noisy affair (but a good bargain at only 10 Yuan per person) with all the staff running around, including Mama herself. Needless to say, there was complete chaos and confusion when we wanted to check in and after some shouting and arm waiving from Mama, we realised there was no double room left in the main guesthouse. One of the girls then took us to another one of the Mama houses and we got a big double room in a much quieter environment.

Lijiang is about 2000m above sea level and this cause for a very mild temperature – even at this time of the year. It is a pleasant, cool haven after our previous steamy destinations and it actually feels strange not having to apply sunblock all over before heading out!

Wednesday morning we started exploring the Old Town and soon realised that it is quiet a challenge without a map, but we found our way around just fine in the end. The Old Town is a maize of cobbled stone paths and canals with dozens of shops selling all kinds of colourful trinkets. It is a beautiful little town with loads of character and we’ve spent the last 2 days just wondering the streets, enjoying the local delights in cozy cafes and sipping ginger tea while watching life go by in Lijiang’s alleys.

We’re planning on spending another few nights here in Lijiang and if the weather permits we’ll be attempting a day-trek to the famed Tiger Leaping Gorge – about 2 hours further north. Either way, we’re but too happy to be spending some quality time in such a laid-back, wonderful little place.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: So long Sanya https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/09/so-long-sanya/ Sat, 09 Aug 2008 13:44:25 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/09/so-long-sanya/ The weather was not that great for the last 3 days in Sanya. It was overcast and threatening to rain most of the time, but we still managed to get 2 full days on the beach (as well as a decent sun tan). Apparently a tropical storm hit the South coast of China earlier this week and is only moving Northwards by this weekend.

We discovered the best little dumpling restaurant (that’s if you can call a few plastic tables and chairs outside, a restaurant) just next to our hostel, so needless to say, we had loads of dumplings over the last 3 days – awesome! Yesterday we went to the beach for a few hours and the rest of day was spent relaxing, taking an afternoon nap and watching the Olympics opening ceremony in our room (yes, hostel rooms in China all have TV’s!).

Check-out was at noon today, so we left our bags at the hostel and headed straight for the beach. We found a very nice spot under some palm trees and parked off there for most of the day. Late afternoon we bought drinks at a supermarket and sat in a park watching some of the Olympic gymnastics on a big screen with lots of other locals.

Back at the hostel we managed to take a quick shower and we’re about to go to the train station to get the 23:55 train. This is the first of two 12-hour journeys ahead of us – both on hard sleepers – and we should arrive in Kunming on Monday morning.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Once Around https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/08/once-around/ Fri, 08 Aug 2008 15:19:19 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/08/once-around/ ‘Around the world in 80 days’ has proven to be a tough act to follow, it’s taken us 135 days!

Although we’re still about 360km short of the magical 40,075km mark – equivalent to the circumference of the earth – we thought it would be ok to post this early.

Stats update:

We’ve now traveled 39,717km and visited 25 countries in 135 days. Of that we’ve spent a total of 27 days and 15 hours on some form of transportation and have taken 23 overnight trips. We’ve taken 77 trains, 68 buses and 10 ferries, and have stayed in 31 youth hostels, 19 hotels, 5 guest houses and 4 different private accommodations.

We’ll be spending another 2-odd weeks in China before starting with South East Asia on about the 20th of August when we plan to enter Vietnam.

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Comment on Sun, sea & Sanya by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/06/sun-sea-sanya/#comment-640 Thu, 07 Aug 2008 08:11:17 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/06/sun-sea-sanya/#comment-640 Hi julle twee
Sus, kyk na jou e-mail.
Baie liefde
Pappa
xxxxxxxxxx

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J&M: Sun, sea & Sanya https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/06/sun-sea-sanya/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/06/sun-sea-sanya/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2008 14:13:17 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/06/sun-sea-sanya/ Luckily we didn’t have to spent too much time in the chaotic waiting hall before we boarded our overnight train at 21:25 in Guangzhou – not too optimistic about the journey ahead. We were pleasantly surprised with a very quiet coach and not even a single snorer. We actually managed to get a good few hours sleep and woke up as the entire train was being loaded onto a ferry for the crossing to Hainan island.

Hainan is a relatively large island in the south of China -roughly the same size as Taiwan. It is well known under rich Chinese travellers as a tropical island get-away. The train pulled into Sanya station at 12:40 on Tuesday afternoon and we decided to take a local bus to the main beach stretch where we wanted to stay. The 2-3 km ride ended up taking more than 35 minutes going all over town and it took us a while to find the hostel (again due to the Lonely Planet’s marvelous maps).

The Blue Sky Youth Hostel comes highly recommended by the Lonely Planet and we got a very nice sea view double room. It was around 15:00 that we went for a walk on the beach and Jan even took a quick dip! The beach was absolutely packed – we saw a few foreigners but the majority were Chinese holidaymakers.

To our surprise Sanya is a major beach holiday destination  for Russian tourists too. We were even more surprised to see around 80% of the shops, restaurants and hotels advertising, and some even writing their names, in Russian. Inspite of this we have still not managed to get rid of our left-over Russian currency – no bank in China will exchange Rubles.

We found a nice and relatively affordable cafe on the beachfront after spending some time looking around. Again we were very surprised to still see loads of people on the beach and in the water as this was already after 19:00 and starting to get dark. As we’ve experience before Chinese people have not inhibitions and seeing families walking around all dressed in matching two-piece Hawaiian safari suits is the norm here. As it is a Chinese culture-thing to have white skin (and the girls go to great lengths to accomplish that), it is very strange to see some of them actually sunbathing.

Today must have been the laziest day of the entire trip so far with us only getting out of our pajamas at 14:00 – and this was only because we had no food with us. The weather was dreadfull with non-stop rain, so we spent the day surfing the net in the comfort of our room on our new computer, after getting the necessary provisions for the rest of the day at the local supermarket.

We are currently contemplating changes to our current itinerary… more news to follow…

PS: Happy birthday Mom! We hope you had a great day on Tuesday!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Guangzhou stopover https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/04/guangzhou-stopover/ Mon, 04 Aug 2008 11:28:25 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/04/guangzhou-stopover/ We left Hong Kong on Sunday around 11:00 and caught the Metro all the way back to Shenzhen on the Chinese border. At the Chinese passport control point, we got held back because they did not believe it was Jan on the photo (it must be his long hair). They even called another official to investigate and he only let us through when an alarm went off somewhere and he had to run. A few steps further we got stopped again and they searched our hand luggage (which was just a plastic bag with the new camera and computer boxes). They discovered some bananas and apples in this bag and took us to a little room. Very seriously they filled in different forms and we expected to be charged with some kind of fine for smuggling fresh fruit into China. But after dramatically discarding the fruit in a big blue plastic bin, we were sent away again. Of course no one could speak any English so we just smiled and walked away at this stage.

It was fairly easy to get on a train to Guangzhou in order to get connections to the rest of the country. The high speed train only took 1 hour and was very luxurious compared to other Chinese trains. In Guangzhou we went straight to the ticket hall to try our luck with train tickets for the same day (near impossible in China!). We had planned to go to Sichuan Province, however all the tickets for the 30 hour train journey were sold out for the next 3 days. After spending more than 2 hours at the train station trying different routes (having to queue up every time we wanted to ask a further question), we decided to do something completely different and bought tickets for the island Province of Hainan. This still meant we had to spend the night in Guangzhou, so we took the Metro to a small river-based island in the city and checked into a hostel, The Guangdong Youth Hostel, for the night. The hostel is actually a hotel with a communal lounge area with computers and a TV and after the dodgy, dirty accommodation in Hong Kong, it was very refreshing and felt like a 5 star haven to us.

We spent a while relaxing and recovering from the Chinese heat before we found a very nice little restaurant on the waterfront for dinner.

This morning we managed to fill another 10kg box with goodies we bought as well as stuff we don’t need anymore and posted it to Australia. The women at the counter very kindly charged us for every piece of tape that was used to close the box as well as the time it took her to check the contents (a full hour of unpacking and looking at everything in the box!).

After a proper Western burger for lunch, we visited the Qing Ping Market in Guangzhou – the most famous and bizarre in China, full of strange foods, animals, and animal parts for sale. There is a saying: “the Cantonese will eat anything with four legs, except the table”. The market is full of all kinds of strange Chinese herbs and everything you can imagine is sold in a dried form – from dozens of different kinds of mushrooms, to seahorses, snakes, tongues (we couldn’t figure out from what animal though) and worms. Then there is also the live animal section. The Lonely Planet warned that the likes of dogs and cats are on sale for human consumption, but we did not see any of this (only in pet shops). We only found live scorpions, water turtles, frogs and snakes in plastic buckets on the streets.

We had to hang around the hostel for the rest of the day as our overnight train to Hainan Island only leaves at 21:25. We are not really looking forward to this hard-sleeper journey, but we are planning on just relaxing on a beach in the town of Sanya for the next few days.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Massive Mission Hills by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/30/massive-mission-hills/#comment-617 Sun, 03 Aug 2008 17:31:49 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/30/massive-mission-hills/#comment-617 Hi julle
Dit was tog te lekker om met julle te kon Skype gister. Ek het nou die webcam op ‘n beter plek gesit en dink ek kon dit regkry om die volume van die mikrofoon harder te stel. Ons sal nou maar sien hoe werk dit volgende keer as ons weer Skype.
Dit gaan nog steeds baie goed met ons. Babie het toe gisteraand by ons gebly. Sy’t so ‘n bietjie gehuil, maar toe raaksy aan die slaap en het die hele aand rustig geslaap.
Nou ja, julle twee. Geniet alles verder en pas julle baie mooi op.
Baie liefde
Ons twee
xxxxxxxxxx

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J&M: Hong Kong https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/02/hong-kong/ Sat, 02 Aug 2008 05:16:31 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/08/04/hong-kong/ Having been reminded of our tight budget recently, we aimed for the ‘cheaper’ part of Hong Kong and started looking for a place to stay in Kowloon as soon as we arrived around 14:00 on Wednesday afternoon. We soon realised that our money definitely would not go very far in this place.

Pushing our way through countless touts offering rooms, fake watches and tailor-made suits we systematically checked out five different ‘youth hostels’ in one apartment block, but they were not quite what you’d expect from a youth hostel with seriously small rooms, hordes of people everywhere and cockroaches scurrying around. We had passed by another hostel further down the road a bit earlier, because at that stage it looked a bit dodgy, but now all of a sudden seemed like a real possibility. We checked into a small, yet clean-ish room for way more than what we were used to paying in China.

The first afternoon and most of the next day we spent prospecting the shopping streets of Kowloon. With our budget concerns temporarily gone by the way-side (again!) we were looking for a mini laptop computer for the trip and methodically collected data on specifications and prices for some of the latest models around. We would frequent internet cafes to check up on reviews of some of the ones we had shortlisted and by the 2nd evening we had made our shiny new purchase.

On Thursday we made our way onto the main Hong Kong island with the primary aim of getting a new Vietnam visa. Because of our extended stay in China (the first two months of our double-entry visa for China was up, which is why we had to get out of China and into Hong Kong) we forfeited our Vietnam visa which Marizanne spent days working on back in London. We headed to the Vietnam consulate and withing 50 minutes walked out with brand new visas.

On Friday we went up the well-known tram which leads up to the top of the hill overlooking Hong Kong island and Kowloon. The day had been hit-and-miss weather wise, but we were lucky to get a bit of sunshine when we got up there and enjoyed a drink at a coffee shop with wonderful views of the city.

We walked around many parts of town and had drinks in Soho after taking a very short ride on ‘the world’s longest covered escalator’. Seems that whenever something new is built in this part of the world, it needs to break some kind of record.

Fishing around many electronics and camera shops we worked our way down to the waterfront and took the refreshingly cheap ferry back to Kowloon. We enjoyed the sound & light show on the waterfront, where they light up dozens of high-rise buildings with lazers and spotlights, and we had many great meals around town.

Saturday was a lazy day that we spent familiarising ourselves with the luxury of having 24-7 mobile computing at our fingertips. On our last night in the tax-free zone we took one last dive into the indulgence pool and bought Marizanne her own digital SLR, something that was long overdue.

Hong Kong is a great mix of cultures (sometimes a scary mix) with seriously rich and desperately poor living side-by-side. One can walk past designer shops, turn a corner and be in the middle of dodgeville. We enjoyed our short trip here very much, but are looking forward to return to the real China.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Massive Mission Hills https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/30/massive-mission-hills/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/30/massive-mission-hills/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2008 09:49:41 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/30/massive-mission-hills/ The luxury sleeper bus for which we had bought tickets a few days before ended up not being all that luxurious. The bus left Yangshuo at 21:45 on Monday night, and we were cramped into seriously small births, that were impossible to lay down op properly. Each bunk was wedged underneath the one in front and there were no space to move at all.

What made things worse was that the road to  Guangzhou & Shenzhen are in a really bad state and we were driving through and around crater sized potholes throughout the night.

Arriving ‘fresh and rejuvenated’ in Shenzhen at 09:20 the next morning we took the first taxi we could find to the Mission Hills golf resort. It’s the world’s biggest, with 12 championship golf courses, each one designed by a different celebrity golfer. Jan didn’t want to loose out on the chance to play here, and so after much research and decision making the Nick Faldo course was chosen as the one to go for.

Having arrived at around 10:30 we had lots of time to relax and get ready for the 14:00 tee-off time we had booked a few days prior. The place is so massive that it took about 30 minutes with two shuttle buses to get from our hotel to the course. After signing in and getting rental clubs organised we found out that Marizanne would not be allowed on the course unless she was playing as well.

As a consolation Marizanne checked into the resort’s spa for a mid-afternoon full-body ‘Hawaii Lomi-lomi’ massage. She admits that it was much more enjoyable than riding around on a golf cart for 4 hours would have been. Jan actually carded a tidy 83 after not having played at all for months, so he was extremely happy with the afternoon’s performance.

We treated ourselves to a lovely dinner in one of the many restaurants and then went back to enjoy what was easily the biggest hotel room that we’ve had during our entire trip. A nice extra was the fact that we had breakfast included in the price, and we made sure we got maximum mileage out of it.

Having spent huge amount of money already we decided against taking any of the hotel’s transfer options, but instead Jan ventured outside the confines of the massive resort to flag down a taxi, go pick up Marizanne and the luggage and then head to the Hong Kong border at Shenzhen.

This whole outing was of course way over our budget, so we’ll be living on dry noodles and water for a few weeks now.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Yangshuo Vol 2 by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/28/yangshuo-vol-2/#comment-588 Wed, 30 Jul 2008 05:23:28 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/28/yangshuo-vol-2/#comment-588 Hi julle twee
Marizanne, dankie vir jou e-mail. Ek kan net dink dat julle dit baie geniet het daar in Mission Hills – veral jy Jan!!! Teen hierdie tyd is julle seker al in Hong Kong.
Hier by ons gaan dit baie goed. Mamma gaan Saterdag vir Ouma Bettie haal en dan vat ons haar Sondag na Boetie se kerkie op die plot. Daarna gaan hy haar sommer terug neem Dewetsdorp toe.
Ja, ek sal laat weet as ek Skype by Sune-hulle installeer het. Ek weet net nie wanneer dit gaan gebeur nie. Werner het gese dat hulle sommer na ons toe sal kom met sy laptop en dan moet ek dit daarop sit.
Dit was so lekker om weer met julle te kon praat Sondag.
Julle moet Hong Kong baie geniet en pas julle baie mooi op!
Baie liefde
Ons twee
xxxxxxxxxx

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J&M: Yangshuo Vol 2 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/28/yangshuo-vol-2/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/28/yangshuo-vol-2/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2008 09:47:23 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/28/yangshuo-vol-2/ After our exhausting cycle day yesterday, we took it very easy on Saturday. We came down for a late breakfast and then spent 3 hours on the internet at the hostel.

Around 14:00 we ventured into town again, but regretted it almost straight away – it was 35 degrees again and we were still a bit fragile after Friday’s near heatstroke experience. We headed into a little airconditioned cafe on the main street where we had a light lunch while surfing the internet for free – a lot of restaurants and bars offer free internet in Yangshuo to try and get business. After a bit of retail therapy we felt strong enough again to bargain for bus tickets to Shenzhen (on the Hong Kong border).

We befriended the owner of a little travel agency in a quiet street, and after the obligatory bit of small talk, he offered us a very good rate for the sleeper bus tickets – a unique Chinese bus with bunk beds instead of seats. Also, we decided to splash a bit and treated ourselves with tickets for hotair balooning.

On Sunday morning the company picked us up at 05:30 and dropped us on a dirt road outside town from where the balooons took of. It wasn’t long before we were in the basket and ready for lift off. As we went higher and higher, the sun started rising and the scenery was just breathtaking. We reached 1000m and you could see karst hills streching as far as the eye can see – absolutely amazing. For a first time experience, we definately chose one of the most beautiful spots in the world to go hotair balooning!

There was not alot of wind but we still managed to drift away and landed on the other side of the mountain from where we took off. We had to wait for the help team to come and assist with moving the baloon to safer grounds and then we had to venture back to the road. As we landed in some field, this meant we had to climb under fences and walk through the river to a nearby little school building from where we were picked up again and brought back to town.

Back at the hostel we had a very nice breakfast (actually included in our room rate – very unusual in China) and then went back to bed for a few hours. At around 14:00 we hired a scooter in town and went exploring – this time in much more comfort (and a softer seat) than the bicycles. We rode for about 20km north of Yangshuo and stopped at a very small village, Yangdi, on the river. After a tough 15 minutes bartering, we managed to get a good price for a bamboo rafting ride downstream to the next town, Xingping – scooter and all! From Xingping we had to really go full throttle to make it back to Yangshuo to return the scooter before 19:00.

We ended a beautiful day with some local delicasies (but still no dog or snake meat) on the balcony of a little cafe on the main street.

Monday is our last day in this blissfull part of the country before we take the bus to Shenzhen at 21:00.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Yummy Yangshuo https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/25/yummy-yangshuo/ Fri, 25 Jul 2008 14:56:17 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/25/yummy-yangshuo/ Rolling into Yangshuo on Thursday afternoon, it was clear that this was going to be a much better experience than Guilin. The town is much smaller and really is set snugly amongst the massive rocky karst hills.

After sniffing around a few places for about 30mins we checked into the friendly Flowers Hostel, just west of the central part of town. It wasn’t long before we slapped on the sun-screen and started exploring – it’s getting hotter the further south we go.

We walked down a few of the well-known touristy streets before we got to the Li River, where Marizanne skillfully haggled a cheap bamboo boat ride from one of the locals. This part of the river is packed and we were but one of many little bamboo rafts motoring their way northwards in the direction of Guilin. We stopped off about 3km up stream and were each offered a small, spicy, bbq’d whole fish on a stick by our captain – very nice indeed, with heads & all.

The 40 minute cruise concluded where we had started on the ‘waterfront’ back in town, completing a thoroughly enjoyable little trip. The 20 Yuan we forked out for this seemed much more reasonable than the 450 Y they we charging for the pleasure of cruising all the way to Yangshuo from Guilin.. that’s why we took the bus for 16 Y each!

We continued strolling and window-shopping the many stalls and shops. Touts here are much more aggressive than we’ve experienced elsewhere in China and their persistence often makes for a less enjoyable interaction – but that’s just their style. We picked a restaurant ‘not’ advertising western food – not easy to find – and after flipping swiftly through the horse and dog meat specialities went with a beer-fish dish for 2. Beerfish is a local speciality, and as such is a little more pricy then the average dish, but it was well worth the extra few bob.

Moving further south have also steadily brought on more and more exotic dishes along the way. Menu entries like dog meat shavings, dog meat hot-pot and pictures of sad-looking Rottweilers aren’t even catching our eye anymore.. scary!

We woke up relatively early this morning to a perfect day. Renting a couple of bikes from the hostel (these ones actually had gears!) we set off on a carefully planned route. We made a couple of wrong turns but made our way past the Big Banyon Tree (not worth the entry fee) and Moon Hill. Being pestered by super-persistent old ladies selling water, we made our way up the steps to Moon Hill, which has a massive arch-like crater through the middle of it. It was around noon when the day started to really heat up and we realised that we had to hydrate or die..

We had a very nice and brief sit-down lunch at a cafe at the base of Moon Hill and then were on our way again. Backtracking a bit we then started on a path along the Yulong River, one of the Li’s attributaries, and this is where the scenery really started to live up to expectations. Cycling amongst lush green, towering hills stretching out as far as the eye could see, made us feel a million miles away from everything at times. Unfortunateley it was getting seriously hot and we were so drained that it often seemed an absolute mission just to get the camera out the bag to take a few shots. The camera was actually malfunctioning a few times because of the heat.

To our dismay the paved road running next to the river soon turned to gravel and it steadily got worse as we went along. It was around a certain point – at which we had had just about enough of the self-inflicted pain and started considering turning back – that we realised we had already passed the point of no return and turning back was actually the slightly longer way home than simply pushing on. We we trying to look on the bright side, thinking that we were past the half-way mark, but it was difficult to see through the salt-encrusted sweat layers on our sun glasses.

Stopping off at various picturesque spots along the way and quite often just pausing in the shade of a tree to try and break the extreme heat, we completed a large loop bringing us back onto the main road for the final 6km-odd into town. With the quality of maps around here it’s futile to try and estimate the distance covered (nothing too serious actually), but we had been riding for just under 7 hours.

Perhaps a couple of hours short of heat-stroke, and with extremely sore bums we struggled up to our 4th floor room in the Hostel and enjoyed lengthy cold showers and cold drinks in the comfort of our air-conditioned room.

We feel it especially appropriate at this point in our trip to make an honerable mention  and give thanks to the late Mr Willis Haviland Carrier, considered to be the father of the modern air conditioning system. Sir, we salute you.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Guilin Day 1 by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/guilin-day-1/#comment-554 Fri, 25 Jul 2008 05:25:11 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/guilin-day-1/#comment-554 Hi julle twee
Ek wil net vir julle se dat julle moet onthou ons gaan die naweek Pretoria toe – ons en Sune-hulle. Ons gaan almal by Engela-hulle bly. Oom Pieter-hulle gaan ook daar wees. Ons sien baie uit na die naweek. Ons kom weer Sondag-oggend terug.
Ek hoop dit gaan nog goed met julle en dat julle alles steeds baie geniet. Ons ADSL lyn is aan die werk en my web cam is ingestalleer. So, nou sal ons lekker kan Skype.
Nou ja, julle moet julle naweek baie geniet – waar julle ookal gaan wees! Pas julle self baie mooi op.
Baie liefde
Ons twee
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Comment on Guilin Day 1 by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/guilin-day-1/#comment-549 Thu, 24 Jul 2008 11:01:26 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/guilin-day-1/#comment-549 Ag liewe J&M, 2x het my hele skrywe aan julle net verdwyn,en ek kannie nou weer alles oortik nie!! Regine het na julle fotos gekyk,en verder het ek julle gekomplementeer met die reisbeskrywings.en die pragtige,kunstige fotos.Julle sal ‘n pragtige fotoreisboek kan saamstel eendag. voor alles weer weg is groet ek. het kunsklas ingewerk toe julle wou skype.So jammer daaroor.
Liefde Mamma

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J&M: Guilin Day 2 & 3 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/23/guilin-day-2-3/ Wed, 23 Jul 2008 14:53:01 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/23/guilin-day-2-3/ The Backstreet Hostel offers free transfers to some of the sights in town, so we booked one for Tuesday.

We were very happy about the late-ish pickup at 10:00 and the driver dropped us as the Solitary Beauty Peak in town. Like all the other sights in town, they charged an extortionate entrance fee for a little park with a few halls and a 152m high peak. The view from the top was not too great – partly due to the weather (it was raining all day) and the ugly buildings in between the karst hills around town.

A bit dissapointed, our driver picked us up at 11:30 to go to the Reed Flute Cave, 5km northwest of the city. Despite the high entrance price, the cave was worth visiting – it’s very big and again the stalactites and stalagmites were coloured by floodlights. This time our tour guide could actually speak a little English and tried very hard to explain the sights to us. From the caves we took a bamboo raft across 2 lakes (which was actually only 1 big lake devided into 2, but this was the raft owner’s biggest selling point!) to the parking area from where we caught the bus back to town.

We had a lazy afternoon and spent a few hours on the internet before dinner.

On Wednesday we decided to make our own way to the terraced rice fields called the Dragon’s Backbone. We had to catch 3 different busses to make the 90-odd km journey and we arrived in Ping’an at 14:40 after having left Guilin at 09:25.

At this stage we realised that a package tour to this place might have been worth the cash, as we had very little time left to explore. Unfortunately the day was a complete wash-out from the word go, but we had been hoping for a break in the weather as we only had this one chance to see it. In Ping’an, where the various trails through the terraces start, it was pooring down heavily with rain, but we pushed on with our one little umbrella.

After having progressed about 500 meters up the hill, a thick fog bank rolled in amazingly swiftly and within minutes we could not see further than a few meters. We promptly called it a day, backtracked to the bus stand and managed to get a 15:00 direct bus back to Guilin. It was a 9 hour, 180km round-trip for the pleasure of 15 minutes in the pooring rain.. some days are stones.

To top off a slightly irritating day, Jan had a small disaster as we walked through the front door of the Hostel. We had been covering the camera and lense with a flimsy little sling-bag to protect it from the rain, and it was right at this point that the strap broke and the camera fell a solid three feet onto the concrete floor. The average point-&-shoot might have bounced once or twice, but this camera/lense combination weighs in at around 2.5kg, and it as if it plugged when it hit the deck.

The lense-cap was fused to the filter and the batery door broke off, but amazingly the camera body still seems to operate and the lense came off unscathed by the looks of things. Thanks Canon!

A relaxed evening and following morning brought us to a noon departure for Yangshuo, and the promise of more sublime scenery.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Guilin Day 1 by nev https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/guilin-day-1/#comment-538 Tue, 22 Jul 2008 23:18:15 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/guilin-day-1/#comment-538 Hey guys
Hope you are both doing well.
Can t believe how far you have got. Places you have visited look amazing.
Will have a deeper look ino ther piccies and stories.

Keep it safe and have as much fun as possible

Nev

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Comment on Vintage Villages by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/17/vintage-villages/#comment-533 Tue, 22 Jul 2008 06:32:47 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/17/vintage-villages/#comment-533 very cool, seems like on of the best places you have visited for pictures so far. so much charachter.

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J&M: Guilin Day 1 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/guilin-day-1/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/guilin-day-1/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2008 11:28:28 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/guilin-day-1/ After leaving Heng Shan, we headed further south to Guilin. The bus trip from Heng Shan to Hengyan was only an hour, but there we could only get a bus at 15:00 to Guilin. Having arrived just after 10:00, this was not ideal so we decided to go to the train station instead. It was raining very hard all the way there and by the time we arrived in Hengyan the roads were completely flooded – so much so that people were walking almost knee-deep in the water!

As we had no idea how far the train station was, we got in a taxi only to find that the taxi driver has doctored his meter and it was going about 3 times as fast as it should have. After the hugely overpriced ride we heard that the only train that day to Guilin was leaving at 15:30 and the tickets were even more than the bus. Still raining at this stage, we headed back to the bus station and sat there (with our soaked bags) until 15:00.

The bus took 5 hours to do the 300km to Guilin and we arrived at about 20:00. Tired after another bumpy bus ride, we walked to the closest hostel but they were fully booked. We managed to get a very good rate at a little hotel next door from the hostel and checked in for 1 night. We had a flyer from another hostel in the center of town, so we walked there and made a reservation for the next 3 nights (at the same rate, but clean rooms and a much nicer atmosphere).

Guilin is a beautiful, scenic city with lots of karst hills and the Li River running through it, but the booming tourist trade has made it a challenge to enjoy its charms. The area around the bus and train stations are very bling with flashing, neon lights everywhere – not really the tranquil atmosphere we’ve seen on pictures and expected. But walking further north the city changes into pedestrianised streets with many little shops and cafe-style restaurants.

We ended our first night in Guilin with a very nice alfresco dinner in the city’s “Walking Street”. We pointed to very interesting looking dishes the Chinese family next to us had ordered and the waitress told us that if we ordered the same dishes off the English menu, the price is almost double. Aparently this is very common in Guilin to overcharge foreigners in restaurants.

Monday morning we checked into the Backstreet Youth Hostel we had reserved. It has a fantastic location and is a really great place with super friendly and helpfull staff (that can speak very good English).

The Lonely Planet raves about the Seven Star Park, so that was our first visit. The tourist sights in town levy heavy entry fees and we paid quiet a bit to see a relatively nice park (according to the book one of China’s most picturesque city parks, but we have our doubts), a small hill supposedly resembling a camel, a little, delapidated zoo and 2 caves (of which one was closed).

The Seven Star Cave was actually very impressive with a capacious chamber filled with huge stalactites and stalagmites coloured by floodlights. We had to follow a Chinese tour guide through the caves that only switched on the lights as the group approached a bizarrely named stalactite or stalagmite. As soon as the group moved forward, the lights would go off immediately, so there is a very small window of opportunity to take photos.

We were back at the hostel at around 19:00 and just relaxed for the rest of the evening, chatting to one of the staff members and learning about local life in Guilin.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Vintage Villages by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/17/vintage-villages/#comment-526 Mon, 21 Jul 2008 11:04:59 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/17/vintage-villages/#comment-526 Thanks Laurie – yeah, those towns were absolutely great for getting glimpses of real rural life in China. Definately one of our highlights so far!

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Comment on Vintage Villages by Lauren https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/17/vintage-villages/#comment-524 Mon, 21 Jul 2008 08:13:09 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/17/vintage-villages/#comment-524 I like the photo of the old man asleep in his undies!

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J&M: Heng Shan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/19/heng-shan/ Sat, 19 Jul 2008 12:17:03 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/21/heng-shan/ Another day, another long distance bus double header..

We left Nanchang at 9:00 on a 6 hour mission to Changsha (the capital on Hunan Province), where we had to change and get a 2nd bus to Heng Shan. Of course we arrived at Changsha’s northern bus station and had to depart from the southern bus station; and only figured this out after much frantic sign-language and phrase-book pointing.

We finally arrived at Nanyue – meaning Southern Peak, the name given to the village that markes the base of the Heng Shan mountain range – just before 18:00; 9 hours after setting off on the 400-odd km journey.

It was a bumpy ride and a few of the locals had steadily been filling up car-sick bags on the way down. Marizanne offered some water to a mother and her daughter who was suffering from motion sickness. They were extremely grateful and, when we arrived in Heng Shan in the pooring rain, insisted that we take their umbrella. We’ve said it before, but these people really are so giving in spite of having so little.

Standing on the sidewalk, looking lost and paging through the guidebook as we so often do when just having arrived in a new spot and still getting our bearings, we were approached by an old lady who offered accomodation just around the corner. We gladly accepted and after Marizanne gave the room a once-over, checked in for two nights. It was seriously dirty and in need of a paint job, but dirt cheap – and of course thunderous rain often makes one go for the first option.

We settled in and, once there was a break in the rain, went out to look around and get something to eat. On our way out our granny inn-keeper requested that we have dinner in her little restaurant by writing the words “are you rice” on a piece of paper. We felt we had to diversify a bit and decide to hunt for something a little more stable in town.

Heng Shan is the southernmost of China’s five Taoist mountains and represents fire among the five primordial elements of Chinese philosophy. Reputedly kings and emperors once came here to hunt and make sacrifices to earth & heaven. Not counting Song Shan, which we had previously missed because of the weather, this was to be our 3rd Taoist quest.

We knew that the hike up the mountian took about 4 hours and, since we were planning on getting a minibus back down, decided to forget about alarm clocks. We started the climb around 11:00 and found it to be a little less scerene then what we’ve come to expect from China’s holy mountains.

At some stage, the authorities decided it would be a good idea to build a 2 lane paved road winding from the village all the way to Wishing Harmony Peak, the mountains highest peak. Loads of bikes, private cars and tour busses smoke their way on the 8km track and blow their horns at anything that moves (anyone who has visited Asia will know that any form of vehicle operation requires absolutely no driving skills, but simply a heavy hooter-hand).. taking away a little bit of the aura of the place.

In many places the walking trail deviated from the road, but one was never too far from the smell of automotive fumes. The miseries of the combustion engine aside, the scenery was nice and we were treated with many small temples and monasteries dotted along the way. The going was fairly good, but with a heavily overcast sky there was the constant threat of rain and the possibility of having any kind of view from lookout points were washed away.

Reaching the top was unfortunately a bit of an anticlimax also, with a rather bland looking temple plotted next to a heaving little parking lot.. those hooters were starting to get to us..

To top things off, in spite of loads of mini busses wizzing around, we weren’t able to get a ride down. Our pleading requests for portage were only met with an abrupt wave of the hand and mostly rather rude brush-offs. Finally we clued together that there was an official bus stop 4 km down the mountain – not very far really, but we had not planned on 4 extra km’s of ascending steps.

We started down and to our joy found the busses parked only about 2km down the hill and paid our way with a smile.

Back in town we had quick Skype catch-ups with the folks and went for a very late dinner in a proper local joint before turning in. The morning promised more joys in the way of long-distance buses..

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Hazy Huang Shan by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/16/hazy-huang-shan/#comment-497 Thu, 17 Jul 2008 21:38:11 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/16/hazy-huang-shan/#comment-497 hectic stairs! no wonder those kung fu dude prefer to fly…

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J&M: Vintage Villages https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/17/vintage-villages/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/17/vintage-villages/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2008 11:17:40 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/17/vintage-villages/ We spent the night at a hotel, Xingqiu Hotel, opposite the Nanchang train station (again, one we found in the Lonely Planet). It was nothing fancy and besides the cockcroaches running around, quite acceptable.

We bought train tickets for Changsha (our next destination) yesterday for 17:00 this afternoon, but realised that this will not give us enough time to do everything. So, we decided to go to the train station very early (07:00) to change the tickets (not an easy thing to do..). As usual in China, all the remaining trains for the same day were already full, so we headed for the bus station (about 2km away). There we found out that there was a 08:00 bus to Changsha the next morning and we bought the tickest straight away. The next thing was to try and cancel our train tickets, so we went back to the station and managed to sell them to a tout outside for about 80% of the value – a better rate than through the actual ticket office.

The main reason for coming to Nanchang was to visit 3 ancient villages not far from there. It was a bit of a mission to get there – we first had to take a bus to a little town, Anyi, 1.5 hours away. In Anyi we were lucky to find the local bus station in an alley opposite the main station, from where we took a minibus (which only leaves when it is completely full) to Shibi. We got dropped off in the middle of nowhere in Shibi and took a three-wheeled motorbike to the first village, Luotiancun.

The stone alleys and ancient houses with dark stone walls plastered with red sand and grass gave this little village a lot of caracter. Luotiancun has a beautiful backdrop of fields and hills that gives it a very special charm. We wandered the tight maze of lanes with handworked pumps, chickens roaming about and smiling faces popping out of doorways around every corner. Everyone was very friendly and one old lady even came out running with an icecream for each of us when we walked passed her house.

From Luotiancun it is only a 500m walk through fields of rapeseed plants, passing waterbuffalo cooling off in streams, to the next village, Shuinan. As in the first village, Shuinan has a very special feel with its old barns, uneaven stone paths, authentic houses with their owners sleeping in the doorways and chillies drying in the sun everywhere. Again, the inhabitants were lovely and here we each got given a piece of watermelon from 2 little, old women.

A further 500m walk was the larger Jingtai – a village with a 1400-year-old history. We spent 2 hours walking through these 3 villages and Jan managed to take about 250 photos!

Just to mention again how great the locals were, 3 of them offered us a free ride back to the town of Anyi where we caught the bus back to Nanchang. None of them could speak a word of English, but they were very friendly and helpful.

It was a great day-out and back in Nanchang we had dinner at a Chinese canteen-type restaurant. These dinners are always interesting (no English menu or English speaking staff), but we managed to have a great meal and everything we ordered were very tasty.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Hazy Huang Shan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/16/hazy-huang-shan/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/16/hazy-huang-shan/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2008 13:30:01 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/16/hazy-huang-shan/ We were in two minds about the amount of time we were to spend in Tunxi – our base for exploring the south of Anhui Province. After the wonderful day visiting the towns of Xidi & Hongcun, the scales were tipped in favour of a rest-day and we spent the whole of Sunday doing stacks of laundry, processing & uploading photos, Skyping the parents and sampling a selection of dishes from the Hostel’s own restaurant.

Monday morning began at 4:55.. The bus to Huang Shan mountain was scheduled to depart from the hostel at 6:00 sharp, but at 6:30 we found ourselves sitting in the bus in front of the Hostel, waiting for two girls who had been waiting for the breakfast to arrive.. Don’t ask!

Arriving at the town of Tangkou around 7:45, we still had to get another bus to the base of the mountain’s western side. Finally we kicked off the hike at 8:15 – more than 3 hours after we woke up, at a spot about 50km from where we stayed. Oh well, that’s China for you.

It was a near-perfect day and we were preparing for a scourcher as we started at the immediate steep incline of the endless stone steps. At that stage we were still in the valley with no direct sun-shine luckily, but within 15 minutes we noticed a bit of light mist starting to roll in from the west. Of course we kept on going but as we progressed it got steadily worse and within the first hour we were completely enclosed in a white-out of sorts. The fact that we couldn’t see in front of us for more than about 20 meters and that it was almost totally wind-still created an eary, yet mystical atmosphere. Everything went very quite apart from the occasional distant voices of Chinese tourists further down the hill.

As we progressed onwards & upwards the inclines became more serious and people coming from above (they had spent the night on top and were on their way down) were warning of slippery surfaces and other ‘dangers’. Being the all-concouring explorers that we are, we paid no heed to these plebs and carried on..

We reached the top of ‘Heavenly Capital Peak’ – the first of 2 peaks we had scheduled for the day and the 2nd highest of the cluster – with relative ease in the end and had a spot of chow before making our way down into the 2nd valley for the main peak.

To our dismay we walked smack bang into a big public notice saying that the ‘Lotus Flower Peak’ was closed. We later learned that they took turns in closing one of the two peaks for a period of 5 years to give the natural habitat a chance to recover from human intrution. Good idea, we thought, but it did mean we couldn’t plant the SA flag on top of the 1873m pinnicle. We’ll do it next time.

Making our way towards the eastern side of the range we crossed the ‘Jade Screen Peak’ and a few other lesser bumps before reaching the cable-car station. At this stage the weather was looking decidedly nasty and we chose to pay the extra 80Yaun each for the ride down the hill. While queueing for the cars the moving lines suddenly stopped and remained stationary for a while. After a while Marizanne went to enquire and we heard that they had stopped the service due to the rain and lightning. Because we were inside the station we had not noticed the terrential downpoor outside and it was only then that we started to hear the thunder.

2 hours and one power-outage later and we were on our way down the mountain. We shared a taxi back to Tangkou with two very cool guys from Shandong Province (we had been there of course and could share storied of our quest of Mount Tai about a month before). Almost being conned by an evil taxi driver into thinking there were no more busses back to Tunxi for the day, Jan told the guy exactly where he could/should go to (in the nicest possible way) before hopping on the 70 min bus-ride back to our lovely Hostel.

All-&-all this really was nothing compared to the grualing Hua Shan mountain (note the slight difference in the name) we did a few weeks ago. It was sad that we had such little visibility from the top, but we still had a great time and saw some beautiful sights.

We had planned on doing two mountains while in Tunxi: Huang Shan, but also Jiuhua Shan (another one of China’s 4 sacred Buddhist mountains). However, because of serious entry fees and a lack of enthusism for two mountains in a row, we had another rest-day yesterday. More laundry, internet-ing and eating..

This morning we got the 08:20 bus from Tunxi arriving in Jiujiang at 14:00, in order to catch the 14:30 from there bringing us to Nanchang in the province of Jiangxi around 16:20. We’re here to explore a couple of villages just outside of town, but more about that later.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Placid Putuoshan by Lauren and Charl https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/10/placid-putuoshan/#comment-486 Wed, 16 Jul 2008 12:22:04 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/10/placid-putuoshan/#comment-486 Hellooo! Dont have a clue how to message you on skype…Charl says your mic is broken. Thought I would send you a quick message to say sorry I missed you online.

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Comment on Xidi & Hongcun by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/12/xidi-hongcun/#comment-484 Wed, 16 Jul 2008 05:16:25 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/12/xidi-hongcun/#comment-484 Hi julle twee
Dis jammer julle kon toe nou nie Skype gisteraand nie. Ons kyk maar weer later. Ek kan nie verstaan wat Sondag gebeur het met die baie opbreek terwyl ons ge-Skype het nie.
Met ons gaan dit baie goed. Die erge koue het darem weer ‘n bietjie gewyk, Maar dit sal seker weer terugkom.
Geniet alles verder en dan praat ons hopenlik weer een van die dae.
Baie liefde
Ons twee
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Comment on Heavenly Hangzhou by ciara and trav https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-473 Mon, 14 Jul 2008 20:34:00 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-473 Hi J & M
I am in awe of you two travellers….been jealous for about 110 days so far and counting. Love the photos and have read all the entries, but anyway news from the world of sport. The boks beat the all blacks in NZ in a thriller 30-28, first test at lords SAvsENG ended in a draw. Of course ended last week withn a thriller 5 set that Nadal beat Federer 9-7 in the 5th. Missed the scottish Open – can’t bear to watch it, if I am not watching it live. Sad news concerning mike schutte, the sa boxer who died at age 57. Other news is we met the newest team on the connan windsurfing side, Declan, very cute! Not sure if we mentioned that the kwagga 100m olympics race took place 6weeks ago withme coming stone last, brett a close second and Neil with home advantage coming first.
Last but not least, England retained the world champion pea shooting contest.

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Comment on 100 DAYS! by Nat and Andrew (London) https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-462 Sun, 13 Jul 2008 18:28:32 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-462 Hi Guys

Kim gave us the website – we are so jelous….you guys have seen so much – awsome hope you both keeping well.

Love us

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J&M: Xidi & Hongcun https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/12/xidi-hongcun/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/12/xidi-hongcun/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2008 11:48:18 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/12/xidi-hongcun/ Another day of busses, ferries, trains & taxis has brought us from Putuoshan to Tunxi. We arrived at 20:45 at what looked like a parking lot in the middle of now where. Everything was completely dark and there was no one around. We had no idea where we were and how far it would be to the hostel, so we took the only taxi in sight.

The hostel, Koala International Youth Hostel, is opposite the train station and perfect for our needs. We don’t usually take organised tours, but the hostel organised a bus with entrance tickets and lunch to 2 famous villages in the area at a very good price, so we booked it straight away. Usually tourists have to get a visitors permit for this area, but they cancelled it a few months ago. The only expense now is the extortionate entrance fee to each village. The tour bus picked us up at the hostel at 08:00 Saturday morning and we met a very nice Australian guy, Andrew, and Chinese girl, Ellen, on the bus.

The main reason for coming to Tunxi was to visit the 2 ancient villages, Xidi and Hongcun. As Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed here, we had very high expectations.

Our first stop was Xidi – a beautiful village built between 960-1279 AD. Included in our tour was a Chinese guide, but we decided to wonder the streets and alleys at our own pace. It almost feels like stepping back in time in this picturesque little town with water ways which flow through the village and green beans drying in baskets outside houses.

From Xidi we took the bus again to Hongcun, only about 7km further. Before exploring the sites, we first stopped for lunch in a little restaurant at the entrance of the town. Our group was sat down at a large round table and we didn’t know what was going to happen next. But very soon the green tea started flowing and the food started arriving – one dish after another.

After stuffing ourselves with all sorts of Chinese delicasies (nothing too strange though), we headed for the streets of Hongcun. Another beautiful, old village with many stone bridges, girls washing clothes in the streams and wrinkled, old ladies baking ‘moon cakes’ (sweet, round pastry) on every corner.

After visiting these amazing villages, we definately want to watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon again to see if we recognise any of the locations.

Back at the hostel Andrew invited us to join him for dinner at a famous restaurant in town – there is no menu, instead you walk around a huge buffet where raw or plastic versions of all the dishes are on display, including all drinks and desserts. You then write down the numbers of the dishes you want, without actually knowing how they will prepare the food. The restaurant was absolutely packed and we had to wait a while for a table, but it was worth it. A few of the dishes we ordered were a bit of a lucky dip, but everything was very tasty. A perfect ending to a very nice day.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Placid Putuoshan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/10/placid-putuoshan/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/10/placid-putuoshan/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2008 16:37:54 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/10/placid-putuoshan/ Departing from Hangzhou just after 10:00 yesterday morning, we sat through a 30min local bus, 3.5 hour train, another 15min local bus, a 1 hour long distance bus and a 1.5 hour ferry before arriving at Putuoshan Island around 16:30, having travelled only about 400km.

We were met by a group of touts from local hotels and viliages and after a short delibiration we went with the cheapest private-accommodation option, only about 500m from the port. As always we had a relatively comfortable room with air-con, TV, shower and sit-down toilet. Unfortunately the neighbours (home-owner & other locals) turned out to be a bit loud, but it wasn’t too much of a problem.

Putuoshan is a small island, not too far from Shanghai, and has one of the 4 holy Chinese Buddhist mountains – which was the main reasons for our visit. That, and the fact that the local TV stations advertises this place like crazy.

Specialising in seafood, we tried one of the many restaurants which had large baths, containing all sorts of live sea creatures, on display outside. As always, there was no English menu and enquiring about prices seemed to produce hugely overpriced quotes from the manager. Not wanting to fork out too much we had to settle for something a little less exotic and went for dishes containing land-roaming animals.

This morning we got up at a lazy 9:30am and got ready for the day’s adventures. Compared to the other holy mountains Mount Putuo is an absolute puppy, only reaching a hight of 291m above sea level, but with the heat, humudity and steps we’ve learned not to underestimate any mountainous apponent. We set out from the south of the island and walked the 3-odd kilometers to the start of the trail on the northern side. As usual, there were dozzens of stalls dotting the path up the hill selling provisions and all sorts of trinkits.

Reaching the ‘summit’ 1.5 hours after leaving home (we couldn’t actually get to the very top as there is a massive military compound built on top..), we had plenty of time to explore the unusual Huiji Buddhist temple close to the peak. We had hoped to have lunch in the temple, prepared by monks at a select few of these temples, but contrary to what we have read everywhere, this option was non-existent.

We spent some time taking photos and roaming the different halls before starting the trip back down. The 2nd category of sights on the island was the various caves, each one having an annoingly remote location relative to everything else. We first set off from the base of the hill for the most famous and revered cave of the lot. ‘Cave of Buddhist Sounds’ is reputed to mimic the sounds of chanting monks when the waves crash inside.

We walked in scourching heat for about 3 km along a non-pedestrian friendly road before reaching the cave, only to find out that it was closed for renovation and we only had the option of looking down at the small construction site from the cliff-side. We had to look at the bright side and counted ourselves lucky not to have been charged anything at the entry gate.

We got a bus back to the main town and, after deciding that caving was not our thing anyway, proceeded to visit the Puji temple and afterwards swing past the signature ‘carved rock’ – a massive rock with bright red carvings, balanced in a precarious position and which appears on all postcards and promotional material of the island.

After all the mandetory sights we spent a bit of time relaxing on Hundred Step Beach, a short walk from town, and had some well deserved snacks and refreshments. Chinese life-guards are particularly intollerent of bathers disobaying the rules, regularly shouting commands over megaphones and chasing people around.

With the day drawing to a close at this stage, we had to make our way to the south-eastern most tip of the island to get a glimpse of the 33m high golden statue of the Goddess of Mercy ‘Guan Yin’. It was well worth the hike and the 6 Yuan entry fee, and we got a lovely view of the setting sun from the Buddhist pavilion.

Knowing we had a long travel day ahead of us we turned in early.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Heavenly Hangzhou by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-438 Thu, 10 Jul 2008 05:20:48 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-438 Hi julle twee

Ons hoop dit gaan nog goed met julle daar in China. Ons is bly julle geniet die land so baie.Hier gaan dit baie goed. Ons kry net baie koud!! Die winter het behoorlik toegeslaan. Ek wens ons kon so ‘n bietjie van julle hitte kry.
Ek vat more verlof want ons gaan mos die naweek Aldam toe. Ons en oom Christo-hulle gaan saam. Ons kom weer Sondag terug. Ek dink ons gaan bitter koud kry daar, maar wat, ons gaan sommer net ontspan.
Babie het gisteraand by ons gebly. Sy word elke dag ouliker. Sune-hulle het na ‘n vertoning gaan kyk en daarna gaan uiteet
Nou ja, julle moet steeds alles baie geniet en pas julle self baie mooi op.
Baie liefde
Ons twee
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Comment on Heavenly Hangzhou by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-435 Wed, 09 Jul 2008 20:35:51 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-435 Liefste Kinders, Ja ek is nog hier.Voel of ek lanklaas gepraat het. Die 4Eyes Hostel klink net die plek om bietjie asem te skep,maar ek sien julle vertrek alweer more. Julle het met ‘n vorige keer gepraat dat dit so dynserig is,en hoor dat hulle wil nou,met die oog op die Spele,alle motors en nywerhede wat dit so maak,stop want ‘n mens kan glo gladnie die stadion van afstand sien nie.
Oorweeg julle dit nie om ten minste die opening te sien nie? Wat ‘n pity as julle in die land is.Dink dit sal spectacular wees. Het julle toe met Brad se vriend ontmoet? Ek het dalk net nou op die oomblik vergeet. Sien Charl-hulle was in SA?
Sat het Anree-hulle van Kanada gebel.Bly hulle het die trippie goed gemaak en dit was lekker om met hulle almal,skoonouers ook te praat. Weet nie of jy my probeer skype het Sondag nie,Jan. Hoe maak julle,laat weet julle wanneer julle dit wil doen.Moet dalk by Benji hoor.
Hierdie keer moet jy ‘n haarlok hou vir die nageslag voor jy dit weer kortknip. Baie soentjies vir julle. Mamma

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Comment on Heavenly Hangzhou by Morne, Leanne and Ethan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-433 Wed, 09 Jul 2008 15:16:18 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-433 Hey guys, loving your pictures of China, def looks like the place to travel and such beauty, who would have thought!! Had a good chuckle at your travel look Jan with the unshaved and long hair look, and then how neat and pruned Marizaan is. Ha ha. Anyway keep well and enjoy!

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Comment on Heavenly Hangzhou by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-428 Tue, 08 Jul 2008 22:24:37 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comment-428 sounds awesome, loving the recent pictures of the buildings too. good contrast between old (dragons and figures) and the new skyscrapers.

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J&M: Heavenly Hangzhou https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2008 14:04:00 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/08/heavenly-hangzhou/ The train arrived in Hangzhou station at 10:48 on Monday morning and it was as if stepping into a steamroom.. It is unbearably hot and the humidity must be close to 100%, so we are permanently soaked!

We found the most amazing hostel, 4 Eyes Hostel, about 1km from the West Lake. Even though Hangzhou is a big city, it feels like we’re on a tropical island. The hostel is located among rolling green hills with very nice, clean and modern double rooms (we even have our own balcony) and a beautiful courtyard where delicious food and drinks are served – we know because we’ve eaten 4 meals at the hostel already!

The West Lake is the main attraction in Hangzhou and after we checked in, we went straight there. There are walking and cycling paths all around and a few causeways crossing the lake. It is absolutely beautiful, but very big – it takes about 2-3 hours to walk around the lake. Due to the extreme heat, we opted for the convenient, sightseeing buggy-option. Going back to the hostel feels like going to another world as you leave the city behind and retreat into the lush hillsides.

After a relaxing, late morning in our airconditioned room (which we didn’t really want to leave), we did some laundry and then had a very nice breakfast in the hostel courtyard. We had a lengthy internet session to try and sort out some perceived problems with our blog, but everything seems to be working okay now. At about 13:30 we rented 2 bicycles down the road and started a trail through the hills around the facinity of the hostel. We made a quick stop at the China Tea Museam (just too late for the free tea tasting though!) and then sweated it out peddaling up steep inclines all the way to Lingjing Tea Village.

It is a beautiful setting with tea plantations everywhere and locals selling the famous Lingjing tea leaves on every corner. From here we couldn’t muster the strenght to cycle further up the mountain (close to dehydration by now) and made our way down to the lake again. We cycled through Hangzhou city centre and made a few stops to relax on the waterfront.

On the way back to the hostel, we picked up a few precious, cold beers from a little local cornershop and enjoyed the stunning sunset from our balcony.

We are really sad to leave this oasis tomorrow but our next destination, Putuoshan (an island off the east coast of Zhejiang Province – just south of Shanghai), promises to be as good, if not better.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on 100 DAYS! by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-424 Tue, 08 Jul 2008 04:43:01 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-424 PS: Photos now uploaded..

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J&M: Steamy Shanghai https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/07/steamy-shanghai/ Mon, 07 Jul 2008 15:07:53 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/07/steamy-shanghai/ The train pulled into Shanghai Railway Station around 15:00 Thursday afternoon and we took the Metro to a hotel we found in the Lonely Planet. They turned out to be quite expensive (like most hotels in Shanghai), but nevertheless we checked in for 1 night, mainly because of the good location. While walking around the main shopping area we found a youth hostel at a much better rate, but they were fully booked and we had to be wait listed for the weekend. Thursday evening was spent walking along the Bund – Shanghai’s embankment – people and skyscraper watching.

First impression: Shanghai is very impressive, just very hot! The average temperatures are around mid 30 degrees with about 85% humidity! We don’t think we have ever sweated as much! At least all buildings are airconditioned, but walking on the streets you constantly have to dogde the water literally spraying from ancient aircon units. There are loads of foreigners in the city (an unusual site for us at this stage) – even more than in Beijing.

Friday morning we got up early to visit the Yu Yuan Garden before we had to check out of the hotel. It is a tranquil Chinese garden with beautiful ponds, stone bridges and bonsai trees. The area around the garden is full of little souvenir shops, traditional tea houses and stalls selling steamed buns (delicious!). We ended up buying a stunning (but fairly big) photo album that Jan is carrying in his suitcase at the moment. When we went back to the hostel they had some cancellations so were able to check us in for the remaining 3 nights.

That evening we went to the New Pudong area – the business district south of the river with many new, modern buildings. It is possible to take a “tourist sightseeing tunnel” under the river to the other side, but as this is very commercialised and cost a small fortune, we decided to do it the local way and took the commuter ferry across (this time we were the only 2 white faces in sight and only 1 Yuan for both us!). We then went straight to the Jin Mao tower. Until 2007 it was the tallest building in China (420m high with 88 storeys), the fifth tallest in the world by roof height and the seventh tallest by pinnacle height. The views of the city were amazing from the observation deck and we got some great night photos.

Saturday was a relaxing day and we spent most of the day indoors trying to escape the scorching 37 degrees outside!

On Sunday, our last day in Shanghai, we joined the rest of the Chinese tourists and went on one of the fastest trains in the world – the Maglev Train that goes to Pudong International Airport. The train can reach 350 km/h in 2 minutes, with a maximum speed in normal operation of 431 km/h and takes 7 minutes and 20 seconds to complete the 30km journey. It was something to watch the cars on the highway next to us – it almost seemed like they were standing still! Like the other tourists, we got off at the airport, just to get onto the next Maglev train back to the city.

We left Shanghai on a fast train to Hangzhou (about 200km away) this morning at 09:30.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on 100 DAYS! by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-420 Mon, 07 Jul 2008 08:52:53 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-420 Hi julle twee
Ons is so bly dit gaan so goed met julle en dat julle alles steeds so baie geniet!!
Ek het ‘n baie lekker week voor die TV gehad en het die tennis omtrent geniet. My mense het nouy wel nie gewen nie, maar dit was baie goeie tennis.
Engela-hulle het van Donderdag by ons gekuier en is gisteroggend weer terug – dit was baie lekker.
Nou is ek weer by die werk en ek pas maar moeilik aan. Mamma het darem nog ‘n week vakansie!
Julle moet lekker verder toer en geniet elke dag. Pas julle baie mooi op!!
Laat weet maar net as julle weer kan Skype.
Baie liefde
Ons twee
xxxxxxxxxx

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Comment on 100 DAYS! by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-407 Sat, 05 Jul 2008 11:40:32 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-407 Hi Leon!
Wow, it’s been years – good to hear from you! Yeah, we are travelling – some say a bit too far/long, but we’re loving it. Keep in touch, chat soon!

Hi Lauren/Charl,
Can’t believe you’re back in Oz again – feels like you only left the other day! Hope you’re doing well. We’re getting some Perth weather here in Shanghai at the moment.. Mid-30s with huge humidity.

Can’t upload photos at the moment, these computers are not cooperating.

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Comment on 100 DAYS! by Lauren and Charl https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-401 Fri, 04 Jul 2008 08:57:35 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-401 Hellooo! Got back from SA this morning and a bit jet lagged…flight was very full and noisy Thanks for the Birthday wishes, it was nice to catch up with lots of family and friends at once.

Need to catch up on your blog!

Lots love

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Comment on 100 DAYS! by Leon Nieuwkoop https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-399 Fri, 04 Jul 2008 06:46:55 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comment-399 Hi Jan,

Neil told me about your adventures. Great stuff. I told some of my friends about your trip and no one can believe it.

Leon

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J&M: 100 DAYS! https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2008 05:44:51 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/04/100-days/ Today is day 100 since we’ve left London on the 26th March 2008.

To date we’ve covered 34,635km and spent a total of 23 days and 4 hours travelling on one of the 66 trains, 44 busses and 8 ferries along the way.

We cannot believe how quickly the time has gone. We are still having the times of our lives and are looking forward to the (now extended) remaining 6 months.

Thanks so much for all the messages and support over the last 3 months!

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J&M: Zhengzhou https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/03/zhengzhou/ Thu, 03 Jul 2008 05:29:29 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/03/zhengzhou/ Our plans to go directly to Shanghai from Song Shan didn’t quite materialise. We had to get a bus to Zhengzhou and from there a fast train to Shanghai, but when we tried to buy train tickets in Zhenghzhou we were told that everything for that day had been sold out. This meant we had to overnight in Zhengzhou and catch the 08:23 fast train to Shanghai the next morning.

We found a hotel opposite the train station, did a bit of walking around and then had a quiet dinner in our hotel restaurant.

Thursday morning we were at the train station at 08:00 and were pleasantly surprised with the train. We had reservations for soft seats and the ticket price was well worth it (an absolute fortune!) – the seats were very comfortable with loads of leg room, the people on the train was actually quiet and we even got a free bottle of water! We did the 1000km journey in 7 painless hours.

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Comment on Longmen Caves by marizanne https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/27/longmen-caves/#comment-394 Tue, 01 Jul 2008 11:39:44 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/27/longmen-caves/#comment-394 Hi Annette,
Thanks so much for the message – it is really great to hear from you again!
I hope and the little one are well – can’t wait to see some photos.
Lots of love
Marizanne

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J&M: Soaked Song Shan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/01/sacred-song-shan/ Tue, 01 Jul 2008 11:34:24 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/07/01/sacred-song-shan/ After another 3 bus journeys we finally made it to the next sacred Taoist mountain, Song Shan – most famous for the Shaolin Monastery as it is believed that Gongfu (or Kungfu to the Westerners) was created here by the monks.

We arrived in Dengfeng, the village at the foot of the mountain, around 16:00 Sunday afternoon and took a taxi to a hotel we found in the ever faithful Lonely Planet.

We were tired after another full day of bus travelling, so after chilling out for a bit, we went to find something to eat. This turned out to be impossible as there are no proper restaurants in town – only very dodgy looking little canteens which we don’t feel quiet strong enough for yet.. In the end we discovered a Dico’s (very similar to Kentucky Fried Chicken) and decided to go for the fast food option.

On Monday we felt the need for a lazy, doing-nothing day before tackling the mountain the next morning. After breakfast at 13:00 we went for a stroll and spent 2 hours in an internet cafe. Then went back for an afternoon nap before going to good old Dico’s again for dinner.

Tuesday morning was supposed to be us and the holy mountain, but when the alarm clock went off at 06:30 it was pouring down outside. We had hoped to do the 15km trek up the mountain and even took a taxi to the starting point. But halfway there we had to turn around as the weather was just getting worse. Very dissapointed we went back to the hotel but in the end enjoyed another relaxing day with no sightseeing at all. It is now our 3rd day in a row without taking a single photo, but we think the break is doing us, and our readers, a lot of good.

This has now put an end to our quest to conquer the sacred 5 Taoist and 4 Buddhist mountains in China, but we are still determined to give the remaing ones a run for their money.

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Comment on Wutai Shan Hiking by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-393 Tue, 01 Jul 2008 10:57:06 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-393 Dankie vir die comments oor die fotos julle! Dis maklik om mooi fotos te neem as die scenery so mooi is :)

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Comment on Wutai Shan Hiking by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-392 Tue, 01 Jul 2008 10:53:21 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-392 Hi Brett,

Wutai Shan means ‘Five Plateau Mountain’. I’m a bit disappointed in you, thought you would have used wikipedia for that piece of trivia ;)

The 5 are the North, South, East, West and Central peaks of which we only had time to climb the Northern one – obviously the highest!

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Comment on Xian by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/24/xian/#comment-390 Tue, 01 Jul 2008 02:49:34 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/24/xian/#comment-390 interesting that so many of the terracotta army are smiling. Guess if you going to be around for eternity you may as well be happy about it.
great shots

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Comment on Wutai Shan Hiking by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-389 Tue, 01 Jul 2008 02:36:52 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-389 hello there, some impressive photos of the monks, play and the buidings. must be nice seeing so few westerners around too.
Tell me does WuTai Shan mean Wu Sacred Mountain? the tai shan bit rings a bell…

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Comment on Longmen Caves by Annette Good https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/27/longmen-caves/#comment-388 Mon, 30 Jun 2008 13:57:43 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/27/longmen-caves/#comment-388 Hello Marzianne

Love your blog and everytime i’ve got some spare time at work i go and have a look where you are.
Also the pictures you have taken are awesome. Great way to escape to another place for just a few moments.

just wanted to let you know that I am with you…..
LG Annette

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J&M: Guoliangcun https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/29/guoliangcun/ Sun, 29 Jun 2008 11:21:41 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/29/guoliangcun/ One of the girls at the hostel in Luoyang was very helpful and told us that it is possible to go to Guoliangcun in only 2 bus trips (instead of 3 as per our Lonely Planet). We thought this would actually shorten the journey, but we were very wrong..

We got on the first bus at about 08:30 in Luoyang and after a 5 hour very bumpy, shaky, hot and sweaty ride (not to mention the neverending horn honking – apparently a necessity in Chinese driving) we made it to Huixian. As this part of the trip was only supposed to take maximum 2 hours, we were already fedup at this stage. Here Marizanne desperately had to go to the toilet and made a dash for the public toilet. It was in a little building far away from the main bus station building and as soon as she entered, she knew why.. We have seen many “strange” toilets on our trip sofar, but this was officially the worse toilet experience of her life (bad enough to even make it on the blog)!

The next bus journey to our final destination, Guoliangcun, was over in 2 and a half hours (thankfully!). We got dropped off about 3km from the village and had to take a taxi. The taxi driver took us to a hotel, but we decided to find something else – partly because the room was dirty with no bathroom, but mainly because one of the staff walked and killed 2 chickens right there on the street in front of us!

We checked into a small family-run hotel down the street and went exploring. Guoliangcun is a traditional, ancient village with an amazing setting in the mountains. We walked through the little town and then down to the man-made tunnel in the side of a huge mountain. In previous times the village could only be reached via a very steep staircase (the “Heaven Stairs”) but later they decided to make a tunnel through the mountain by hand. It is quiet impressive and apparently used in many Chinese movies.

There were no restaurants in the village but our hotel served food on a little veranda on the first floor. They had something of an English menu written on a small piece of paper (copied word for word out of the Lonely Planet). As we were waiting for the food to arrive, a young Chinese girl came to talk to us and even gave us each a fruit juice and a plate of dried fruits and nuts from the mountains in that area. She could speak a little english and was just to happy to practice.

We had only planned to stay 1 night here, so the next morning we caught a taxi to the next village, Nanping, where we got on various buses – Nanping to Huixian to Zhengzhou and the final change our next destination, Song Shan mountain.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Longmen Caves https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/27/longmen-caves/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/27/longmen-caves/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2008 13:22:11 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/27/longmen-caves/ After our holy mountain experience, we caught a bus back to Xian where we had pre-booked train tickets (again hard sleepers for the 5 hour journey) to Luoyang.

Arriving in Luoyang we checked in at the Mingyuan Hostel and had a very relaxing evening (partly due to the fact that our legs were so stiff we could hardly walk!).

There is not much to do and see in town, except for the Longmen Caves about 13km away. We had a very nice lay-inn this morning and at around 14:00 took a local bus to the caves, south of the city.

The Longmen Grottoes are one of China’s few surviving masterpieces of Buddhist rock carvings. The site is absolutely huge with dozens of caves – the Ancestor Worshipping Temple definately the highlight of the day. This section was carved between 672 and 675 AD and contains the best works of art with three-dimensional figures and a central 17m-high Buddha.

It is a great day-out, except for the somewhat extortionate entrance fee and all the steps! Usually we don’t really mind steps, but after the Hua Shan experience, we are still a bit wobbly.

We ended the day with a very nice dinner (seated in hanging, swinging chairs) and tomorrow morning we are catching the 08:00 bus to Guoliangcun, an ancient village about 150km away.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Xian by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/24/xian/#comment-380 Fri, 27 Jun 2008 05:20:29 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/24/xian/#comment-380 Hi Julle twee

Ons het lanklaas van julle gehoor. Ons glo dit gaan baie goed met julle. Hier by ons gaan dit ook baie goed. Dit is vandag my laaste werksdag! Ek het mos volgende week verlof en dan gaan ek net tennis kyk!
Ons was toe gisteraand by Boney M. Dit was ‘n belewenis! Dit was wonderlik om hierdie internasionale sanggroep te beleef.
Hier by ons is nie regtig nuus nie. Sune en Mamma gaan vanoggend inkopies doen en babie gaan natuurlik saam.
Nou ja, julle moet steeds elke oomblik geniet en pas julle self baie mooi op.
Baie liefde
Ons twee
xxxxxxxxxx

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J&M: Holy Hua Shan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/25/holy-hua-shan/ Wed, 25 Jun 2008 21:19:43 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/25/holy-hua-shan/ On Tuesday we had a lazy morning at the hostel in Xian and after getting up fairly late, we spent a bit of time on the internet (free at the hostel) before making our way to the long-haul bus station for a local 2 hour bus to Hua Shan.

The bus stopped at a little hotel in the village and everyone on the bus (all Chinese tourists) went directly inside where the bus driver started a lecture on the trek up the mountain (this being the only reason people visit the village). We were offered accommodation and as the price was very competitive we checked in straight away. The room was very basic (and not the cleanest we’ve seen), but with great mountain views on the top floor.

In preparation for the big hike the next day, we had a quiet dinner in a local restaurant across the road from the hotel and picked up some food supplies at a little corner shop. We met an American couple who were planning on climbing the mountain at night to make it to the East peak for sunrise. We learnt that most of the Chinese do this trek at night and the idea is to start at around 23:00, which is definately the cooler option, and after watching the sunrise from the peak, make their way down.

Hua Shan is one of the 5 sacred Taoist mountains in China with 5 peaks – north, south, east, west and central. From town it is a 6km hike to the north peak from where a route towards the south leads to a cluster of peaks – the east peak being the first on a circuit of about 5km covering the remaining peaks. 

We started the climb at 08:15 and the first 4km were relatively tough (just a few steps, but serious inclines) and it just got tougher from there.. We reached the north peak after 3 hours and then started making our way further towards the higher peaks. The south peak is the highest at 2160m, but all 3 rear peaks afford great views. We were blessed with the most amazing day – blue skies and almost no wind, even at the very top. This was the second day since we’ve been in China, that we’ve experienced such beautiful weather and from the top of the peaks we could literally see for miles.

This is by far the most scenic and hectic climb we have ever done. The route is very strenuous with a lot of near-vertical steps, several narrow and almost vertical “bottle-neck” sections and a few places where the trail runs along ridges with impressive sheer cliffs on either side. “The scenery is simply spectacular with twisted pine trees clinging to ledges, knife-blade ridges and vast, transcendent panoramas of green muontains and counryside strecthing away to the horizon.” (quoted from the Lonely Planet)

At 16:00, after 8 hours of climbing, we reached the final peak and then realised we still had around 8km of serious downhill steps to burn through before the end of the day. Originally we had planned to take the cable car down from the north peak, but to our dismay it was not running that day! The vast majority of people do the entire circuit over a 2-day period, spending the night in one of the small hotels on top of the mountain, but with the cable car not operating and pre-booked train tickets the next day, we had to do it all in 1 go.

At this stage our legs were very tired, our knees killing us and most of our snacks already finished.. As expected the way down was very hectic on the legs but we made it down to the village at around 19:15, which made for a total of exactly 11 hours.

As we walked into town, we went straight to the previous night’s restaurant and placed the same order (it was very nice, but also partly because it was the easiest thing to order from the Chinese menu).

Hua Shan was an awesome experience and definately made it to our top 10 list!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Xian by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/24/xian/#comment-373 Tue, 24 Jun 2008 11:00:44 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/24/xian/#comment-373 Hi julle twee
Dis wonderlik dat julle China so baie geniet met al sy baie tempel- en berg-ervarings! Ons het nog nie weer kans gehad om na al julle fotos te kyk nie – sal kyk of ons hierdie naweek ‘n kans kry. Ek is mos volgende week met verlof en dan sal ons ook kans daarvoor he.
Ons gaan Donderdag-aand na Boney M hier in die Callie Human kyk en sien baie uit daarna. Ons wou hulle al so graag sien.
Verder gaan dit baie goed met ons. Mamma geniet haar vakansie en ek kan nie wag vir volgende week nie, en veral die tennis!!
Sus, ons het vir tannie Riens weer jou e-mail adres gestuur en sy sal nou weer probeer om vir julle te e-mail.
Nou ja, geniet julle self en pas julle baie mooi op.
Baie liefde
Ons twee
xxxxxxxxxx

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J&M: Xian https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/24/xian/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/24/xian/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2008 03:49:26 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/24/xian/ We took the overnight  from Taiyuan to Xian and were booked on “hard sleepers”, which basically means it is a very hard bunk – 6 beds per compartment with no door. We got the 2 bottom beds, but decided to give it to 2 old men that shared the compartment with us, because it is quiet difficult to get to the middle and top beds (very close to each other with very little space).

The train arrived in Xian at 09:30 on Sunday morning and it was absolutely pouring down. We took a bus straight to the Shuyuan Hostel – we got a flyer at a previous hostel. The hostel is very nice with open-air courtyards to sit and chill, a little restaurant/cafe and a funky bar (where everyone gets a free beer every night). The staff speaks very good English are very helpful in terms of travel info.

After having a cup of coffee and getting out of our soaked clothes, we decided to make our way to the famous Army of Terracotta Warriors as it is all indoors. We took a bus from the train station and were there in about 1 hour. We started with the smallest pit (of the 3) containing 72 warriors and horses and then moved on to the next pit with about 1300 warriors. You cannot get close to them, but in Pit 2 they had a few of the soldiers in glass boxes to examine up close. The largest pit (Pit 1) was the most impressive with almost 6000 warriors and horses standing in rows. It was amazing to see this life-size army and even more amazing to think that it took 700 000 people more than 40 years to built the tomb and the warriors for the Emperor Qin Shi Huang more than 2000 years ago. It is believed that the Emperor expected his rule to continue after death and wanted to take a whole army with him in his tomb.

After a very interesting afternoon we made our way back to town and had a proper Western-style pizza for dinner.

Xian is one of the few cities in China where the old city walls are still standing. We were very lucky that the hostel is located right next to the South Gate in the city wall. The next morning we visited the Big Goose Pagoda and the Da Ci’en Temple. After strolling the grounds (unfortunately the Pagoda was closed so we couldn’t go up the tower), we spent the afternoon walking through Xian’s main shopping street. Our suitcases are packed to their max, so we couldn’t give in to the temptations..

At 21:00 we went back to the Big Goose Pagoda to see the largest fountain and music show in Asia on the main square. It was beautiful and very impressive, except that we almost got soaked a few times and had to try to keep the camera dry! There were hundreds and hundreds of people and afterwards we litterally had to fight our way onto the bus again. The Chinese take queing and pushing to the next level – if you don’t shove people out the way with force, you don’t get anywhere!

After 2 days in Xian, we are about to take the bus to Hua Shan for another sacred mountain experience.

Click here for the Terracotta Army.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Wutai Shan Hiking by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-365 Mon, 23 Jun 2008 05:22:39 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-365 Hi julle twee

Ons het so gehoop julle gaan kans kry dat ons weer die naweek kon Skype. Ona het ‘n baie stil en rustige naweek gehad. Met almal gaan dit baie goed. Mamma het nou vir 3 weke lekker vakansie. Sune gaan vir babie vanoggend by Mamma los vir ‘n ruk – sy gaan haar hare of iets laat doen.`
Marizanne, tannie Riens wil weet of jy haar e-mail gekry het . Sy het dit blykbaar al ‘n hele ruk gelede vir jou gestuur.
Nou ja, julle moet steeds elke oomblik baie geniet en pas julle self baie mooi op.
Baie liefde
Ons twee
xxxxxxxxxx

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J&M: Wutai Shan Temples https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/22/wutai-shan-temples/ Sun, 22 Jun 2008 10:06:48 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/22/wutai-shan-temples/ On Saturday morning we woke up to perfect blue skies! This was a big thing as it was the first time that we’ve seen actual rays of sunlight since we arrived in China. It was an absolutely perfect day and it was great to have the whole morning to explore a handful of selected temples in the village of Wutai Shan before having to take the bus back to Taiyuan.

We started with the main Tayuan temple and it’s distinctive white stupa. As you’ll notice from our photos, the enormous stupa can be seen from everywhere in the valley and was in fact visible from the trail the we did up the North Peak the previous day – more than 20km away.

The Tayuan temple is the main attraction in the village and is also the point through which most pilgrims pass (to spin the massive prayer wheels at the base) before making their way up the North Peak. We obviously did it in the opposite order, but we think we were blessed anyhow.

From there we popped into a smaller temple on the way to Xiantong temple as there was a live opera show being performed. The massive Xiantong temple holds, amongst a huge amount of attractions, a 15-faced, thousand-armed statue of Bodhisattva in the Manjusri hall. They were in the middle of a service when we arrived and we had the chance to see hundreds of monks perform ritualistic prayers and offerings.

Moving on past the 5m tall, 50 tonne golden Buddha statue we exited the temple and, after passing through a few smaller ones, eventually got to the top of Bodhisattva Peak which was our last temple for the day. It’s reached via a final 108 steps, the amount of beads on the Buddhist rosary.

It was noon and we had to get back to the hotel to gather our bits and get on a bus. The supposed 4-hour ride from Taiyuan took 6 hours on the way here so we had to leave plenty of spare time. To our delight the return trip was a comparatively swift 3 hours for some reason, but it meant that we had about 5 hours to kill before our overnight train to Xi’an. We spent some time in an internet cafe and had a lovely dinner before heading to the train station.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Wutai Shan Hiking by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-358 Fri, 20 Jun 2008 21:03:01 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comment-358 Ag julle neem die pragtigste fotos. Sulke inters angles.Mens kry so lus om daar te wees. julle tweetjies gaan lekker fiks en maer word van h/d trappe en stappe.
Kyk my ander boodskap. Mamma xx

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Comment on Picturesque Pingyao by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/19/picturesque-pingyao/#comment-357 Fri, 20 Jun 2008 20:51:27 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/19/picturesque-pingyao/#comment-357 Ek het h/d skyfies baie geniet,veral om van die mense te sien,enook waar hulle bly. Die plekkie lyk regtig so pragtig as wat julle se! Ek sal glad nie eers probeer om die name te onthou nie.
Ek dink ek het genoem van Estelle en Ian se klein Annabel. Nikki verwag ook in die vlg mnde.
Klein Nikolai het waterpokkies,en alhoewel hy hopelik gesond gaan wees as hulle DV oor 2 weke Kanada toe gaan, val Luca dalk ook in. Kom ons hoop maar nie so nie. Anree bly ook maar siek,eintlik te aanmekaar na my sin. Brad het ook gehoes toe ek daar was.
Bly gesond ,gelukkig en afhanklik. Mamma

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J&M: Wutai Shan Hiking https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2008 11:14:32 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/20/wutai-shan/ Wutai Shan, or ‘The 5 Terraced Mountains’, is Buddhism’s sacred northern range and one of the 4 holy Buddhist mountains in China.

We are staying in the valley town of Taihuai surrounded by forested slopes leading up to the 5 peaks. The town is full of temples and monastaries – there are an absolute huge amount of them!

It was almost impossible to get any information on hiking in the area from our hotel, so we decided to just head for the bus station to see if there was any way to get to the North Terrace Peak. Before even getting there a local minibus stopped and offered us a ride to the Hongmen Rock Gate – at a price of course, but very reasonable. From there we were able to walk the rest of the way to the peak. This 9km stretch of relatively easy road took us just under 2 hours to reach the 3058m summit.

Before we even got to the top the weather started rolling in and the peak was completely cloud covered and very windy. We didn’t linger and after making the obligatory rock-pile as proof of our ‘massive achievement’ we started making our way down.

About 1km from the end of the trail some locals offered us a ride back to town – roughly 20km away. With it only being 2pm we tought it would be a nice extra to scale the somewhat smaller Dailuo Peak as an after-thought. It’s 1148 steps up to the monastery start right on the edge of town and we made it to the top in a record 25min.

With jelly-legs we strolled the confines of the small monastery and temple. It was a very peaceful scene with Buddhist Monks wondering around the grounds, burning incense and keeping the Chinese tourists in check. Since we got here we’ve only seen 2 other white faces – we love it and are almost dissappointed each time we do ;) We sat around and spent about half hour just people watching and taking photos of unsuspecting Monks.

We’re about to upload some more photos and will then sample more of the local cuisine (not including the chicken head & kidney bbq’d scewers on offer at street stalls!).

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Picturesque Pingyao https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/19/picturesque-pingyao/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/19/picturesque-pingyao/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2008 11:30:13 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/19/picturesque-pingyao/ After spending the night in Ji’nan, we took the 11:00 train and arrived in Shijiazhuang late afternoon. We checked into a little hotel and had an early night in anticipation of our daytrip to Zhending.

When we woke up the next morning, it was raining heavily and continued to do so until the afternoon. This curbed our plans of visiting Zhending (an ancient city) and we just spent the day in Shijiazhuang.

Early the next morning we took a train to Taiyuan. We were very lucky to get soft sleepers (in our own compartment) for this 5 hour journey, but only got hard seats on the next leg to Pingyao. Hard seats generally mean cattle class with literally dozens of people standing in the corridor. This was quite a challenge as we got on the train when it was already full and with our big suitcases it was very hard making our way through the masses to our seats (with hundreds of eyes staring at us again).

On arrival in Pingyao we forgot all our sorrows as we went through the main city gate. Pingyao is a beautiful little village with only red lanterns to light the streets. We checked into the Yamen Hostel and we absolutely loved it. It is built in an old residence with 3 beautiful courtyards. They even had a nice restaurant where we had a lovely meal.

The next morning we walked around town to discover many hidden alleys where women were washing clothes or cooking food. It was a real experience and definately a must-see town. We ended the day with a typical Pingyao meal – braised local beef, fried dumplings, some potato dish made with sugar and home made noodles with lots of chillies.

We tried to update the website last night, but the internet at the hostel was not working and it is very hard to find internet cafes in small villages.

We were very sad to leave the picturesque town when we got on a local bus back to Taiyuan this morning. A 1.5 hour journey turned out to be closer to 3 hours and we had to make our way to another bus station for our next destination. In Taiyuan we got on a bus to Wutai Shan – one of the 4 sacred Buddhist mountains in China. Again, what was supposed to be 4 hours on the bus, turned out to be more than 6 hours – the toughest bus journey of our trip so far. About 100km of the way was under construction, so the surfaces of the roads were just mud and huge holes everywhere. To add insult to injury, everyone was chain-smoking on the bus!

Well, we finally made it to the holy mountain and have just checked in to a hotel (cannot pronounce or spell the name). We’re planning on doing a hike up the mountian tomorrow, but at this stage we haven’t been able to find any information. Hopefully we’ll have better luck in the morning.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Beijing Part 2 by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/beijing-part-2/#comment-353 Tue, 17 Jun 2008 23:00:52 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/beijing-part-2/#comment-353 OH BEAUTIFUL! LOL, love these posing shots and could be a whole topic in itself.
have been going through the flickr albums with piclens, you getting some great shots. Hard to believe you guys have been away for so long already. keep the updates rolling in and travel safe.
Cheers
Brutus

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Comment on Titanic Tai Shan by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/14/titanic-tai-shan/#comment-351 Mon, 16 Jun 2008 06:55:18 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/14/titanic-tai-shan/#comment-351 Hi Moeder,
Ons is bly Ma kan ook nou bietjie na die fotos kyk met die nuwe ADSL connection. Dit maak ‘n groot verskil.
Ja, kan nie glo ons het al meer as 1,600 fotos opgesit nie.. in totaal het ons al amper 6,000 geneem!
Liefde
j&m

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Comment on Titanic Tai Shan by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/14/titanic-tai-shan/#comment-349 Sun, 15 Jun 2008 21:13:52 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/14/titanic-tai-shan/#comment-349 Jan en Marizanne, nou eers weer gekyk na julle nuutste fotos,en wou net se dat dat pragtig is!Nou vir die 1ste keer na die fotokalender gekyk.Jong dis darem ‘n fantastise blog!!Oom Daniel is in ekstase daaroor en herken hier en daar ‘n plek waar hy ook was.
Bye.xxxx

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Comment on Titanic Tai Shan by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/14/titanic-tai-shan/#comment-348 Sun, 15 Jun 2008 20:54:34 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/14/titanic-tai-shan/#comment-348 Hi julle .dankie vir jou antw Jan. Dis baie goed dat julle kans sien vir die klim. Ek raak sommer kortasem om net daarna te kyk!Dis Vadersdag vandag en ek en my buurvrou het gaan uiteet,lekker maar teleursteling van oorgaar steak as jy rare bestel het.More is Jeugdag,so ek gaan ‘n slag rolbal speel.
Vandag gesien van die oorstromings in die suide van China.
Geniet dit en weet dat ons julle liefhet en dat julle vir my dierbaar is.
Mamma v PE

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Comment on Zhujiayu by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/12/zhujiayu/#comment-347 Sun, 15 Jun 2008 13:16:30 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/12/zhujiayu/#comment-347 Hi Hanwei!

We are so glad you found the website! Yes, I was not on any of the photos, but someone had to hold the camera!
We are in Shijiazhuang tonight and will be visiting Zhending villiage tomorrow before moving onto Pingyao and Xi’an.
It was very nice to meet you and your friends and we will always remember the nice meal we had with you. Thanks very much again for inviting us!

Keep in touch
j&m

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Comment on Zhujiayu by hanwei https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/12/zhujiayu/#comment-346 Sun, 15 Jun 2008 08:16:44 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/12/zhujiayu/#comment-346 Hello,my name is hanwei who is the tallest among the four .I have seen the photo .They are
very beautiful ?But there is no the photo which we all together taten .It is a pity .Iwill never forget this experience.we are really very happy.We are very envy of you .We are hope wewill have the chance to call for you.where are they? Have a good trip. 2008.06.15

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Comment on Beijing Part 2 by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/beijing-part-2/#comment-345 Sat, 14 Jun 2008 11:56:10 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/beijing-part-2/#comment-345 Hi Brett,

We have just uploaded a massive batch of photos and loaded slide-shows in some of the old posts. Here’s one we think you’ll enjoy especially: Chinese Poses. We’ll publish more as we get them.

Cheers, j&m

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J&M: Titanic Tai Shan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/14/titanic-tai-shan/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/14/titanic-tai-shan/#comments Sat, 14 Jun 2008 10:39:50 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/14/titanic-tai-shan/ Taking a taxi from the Tai’an train station we checked into the Jixiang Hotel, right opposite the Dai Temple in the heart of town. The hotel is modest, to say the least, with your standard hole-in-the-ground toilet (which is also the shower) and previous patrons hair all over the bedding. As always the bed was the normal half-inch thick matress on a hard-board base and novel bean-bag pillows.. tough on the old ears, and hips. We’re getting old!

That night we decided to brave a local eatery just up the road. We each ordered a main meal which we soon realised was not quite neccessary as this was enough for at least 4 people. The food was quite good, but we learnt our lesson again to not order just any old chicken dish as they often simply chop the whole bird into shreds – bones, skin & all and toss it in a broth. It’s impossible to work your way through to the meaty bits with chopsticks!

The only reason for coming to Tai’an was to climb sacred mount Tai Shan – the most revered of China’s 5 sacred Taoist peaks with imperial sacrifices offered to heaven and earth from it’s summit. It’s is said that if you climb to the peak that you will live to a 100 years.

Early Friday morning we set out from our hotel to walk the 2km to the start of the mountain trail at the north end of town. The peak is 1545m above sea level with a total climbing distance of 7.5km from base to summit and a measly 6,600 steps to grind your way through. We started the assent at about 9:40 and reached the Midway Gate to Heaven (1/2 way up) at 11:15 – 20 min earlier than expected – our faces a strange shade of purple. We got out our packed lunch here and rested to catch our breath.

Being one of China’s major tourist attractions (the May-holiday weekend attracts almost 200,000 visitors) there were thousands of people on the trail but we were the only foreigners in sight. In fact since we left Beijing 2 days ago we’ve seen a total of 3 other white people. Needless to say we were as big an attraction to the Chinese tourists as the mountain itself. Everywhere people stop and stare, point and laugh or try to make conversation. At this stage Marizanne is just behind Diana as the most photographed woman on earth; taking into consideration the 95 million people in this, relatively small, province alone.

We reached the summit just after 14:00. On the top of the mountain is an array of temples, hotels and shops with people everywhere. Apart from walking up, there is also the option of taking a minibus & cable-car to the top, so there are lots of fresh faces about. It was extremely humid and the whole mountain was cloud covered and shrouded in a misty haze, which gave it a mystical feel.

The entire hike was an amazing experience, albeit a pretty tough one. Dispite the exhuberant price, we opted for the easy way out and took the cable-car down.

We were absolutely knackered and enjoyed the evening with instant noodles and sweetcorn sausages in our hotel room. We had noticed an informal snooker club in the alley behind the hotel, and after dinner Jan decided to test the locals’ skills. He managed to get a few games, but of course these guys were much better than they looked.

Taking a ‘rest-day’ we made our way back to Ji’nan on the train this afternoon and will be moving on to Shijiazhuang in the morning.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Beijing Part 2 by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/beijing-part-2/#comment-344 Thu, 12 Jun 2008 21:59:29 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/beijing-part-2/#comment-344 sounds lovely and very interesting for photos. dare you to shout “someting wrong” and see who turns around. might help in the photo scrums. glad you chaps having fun. looking forward to seeing the photos.
HH to you both

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Comment on Happy Birthdays! by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/11/happy-birthdays/#comment-343 Thu, 12 Jun 2008 20:47:03 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/11/happy-birthdays/#comment-343 Hullo julle! Kanni glo ek het so lanklaas iets geskryf nie. Wow! Alles klink absoluut so great. ‘n Mens weet eintlik nie soveel v China nie,en diet moet wonderlik wees om hd redelike onbekende te sien. Skryf nou voordat ek julle nuutste fotos gesien het ,want ek lees nog net die 1ste stukkie,dan ek alweer offline. Ek het toe Collin gebel en ‘n ou kom more (Vryd) om router te konnekteer,dan sal hd frustrasie hopelik verby wees. Woe-a!!!Vandag het die kunsklas my verjaarsdagete gehad voor klas.My ‘n glas rooiwyn laat drink,en my oe het nog lank na ons begin het,oormekaar gekyk! Die skildery het nie so sleg uitgekom nie.
Veriang baie,maar lewe my so in met alles wat julle doen. Brad het blykbaar ‘n lekker verjaardag gehad ,met Anree wat lekker kos gemaak het en gisteraand ,op sy dag gaan uiteet.Vnaand is hulle ook uit en dan gaan hele gesin naweek weg,vir buurman se verjaardag.
Met baie liefde,Mamma xxxx

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J&M: Zhujiayu https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/12/zhujiayu/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/12/zhujiayu/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2008 17:15:31 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/12/zhujiayu/ Zhujiayu was the main reason for coming to Ji’nan. Not easy to get to, we had to walk about 2km to the long-distance bus station to catch a 1:30 hour bus to Mingshui. From there we had to change to a local minibus for another 35min trip to 1km from the village gate.

Zhujiayu, 45km east of Ji’nan, is an unspoiled stone villiage flanked by 3 hills and one of the oldest in the Shandong province. There are very few local inhabitants with many of the older buildings either empty or used as museums. It only takes about 20min to walk through town from the main entrance gate to the start of the foothills.

Apart from a handfull of Chinese tourists all you see are dotted pancake & colddrink stalls and a few small restaurants here and there. It is actually quite uncommercialised which made for a pleasant change from the norm. We walked along the suggested route and strolled through a few of the older buildings, where we met a group of English-speaking local students very keen to have their photographs taken with us. We happily agreed and this turned into a 10min photo shoot from all angles and with individual & group poses.

After having said our goodbyes we slowly made our way out and back to the bus stop (just a random corner in a little side-street where we had been dropped earlier). After a few minutes wait our student friends from earlier arrived and invited us for a drink and a rest in a non-descript building across the road.

As we sat down the food started arriving and our beer glasses never went lower than the half-way mark. It turned out that one of the girls lived locally and knew the residents (we couldn’t figure out if it was a restaurant or not) and told them about the ‘guests of honour’!

This was our first true Chinese home-cooked meal and it was facinating to experience this first-hand. We happily snacked away until we realised that the first course was a broth of sheep stomach (or something similar) and tofu.. There were lots more edible courses to come though and we had a great time learning about their way of life. It was their first encounter with foreigners and they kept telling us that they would remember this day for the rest of their lives. As a leaving present they gave us Chinese money on which they wrote their names – a friendly Chinese gesture.

After this lovely encounter we had a very tight timeframe to make it back to Ji’nan as our next onward train was sheduled for 17:18 to Tai’an. We bought the cheapest tickets, which in this case meant cattle-class with people basically just sitting wherever they want. Thankfully the journey only lasted for one hour.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Leaving Beijing https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/11/leaving-beijing/ Wed, 11 Jun 2008 18:07:02 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/11/leaving-beijing/ Our last day in the capital was a fairly relaxed one. We spent the morning wondering through the Lama Temple – our last must-see sight. The grounds consists of one temple building after the other culminating in the main temple (Wanfu Pavilion) which contains a huge 18m tall Maitreja Buddha statue carved from a single sandalwood trunk.

We had a few more to-do’s, but decided to take a rest at the hostel over lunch-time before meeting up with Michiel for a late afternoon coffee in the CBD. Michiel is one of Brad & Anree’s best friends currently living in Beijing. We met in a Starbucks, close to the World Trade Centre, in an area littered with Coffee shops, and paid more for one latte than we normally pay for a whole meal in China!

Wednesday morning the train for Tianjin was booked for 11:15 and we planned to stay there for one night only. Upon arrival we found out that there were no onward tickets available to our next stop Ji’nan for the following day. Luckily we found a very friendly guy who could translate the ticket officer’s gibberish and had to make a last minute decision to leave on the very next train to Ji’nan. We sacrificed Tianjin, but there wasn’t a lot to see anyway.

Arriving in Ji’nan we walked straight to the closest Hotel according to the Lonely Planet. By now Marizanne has become fluent in Chinese sign-language and manages to communicate fairly well with the locals. We checked in and had a quiet evening.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Happy Birthdays! https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/11/happy-birthdays/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/11/happy-birthdays/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2008 02:06:05 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/11/happy-birthdays/ Happy birthday to a few family members of the Roos/Conarroe Family! Luca 23rd May, Mom 1st June and Brad 11th June.

All our love and best wishes.

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J&M: GREAT Wall https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/great-wall/ Mon, 09 Jun 2008 15:17:40 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/great-wall/ Despite everyone in the hostel telling us it is impossible to get to Jinshanling (a less-touristic part of the Wall we wanted to see) without taking a tour bus, we did some research and decided to make our own way.

We left the hostel at 07:00 this morning, but after some cash withdrawl problems and a quick call to have one of our cards unblocked, we were on the Metro and on our way by 08:00.  Getting the local bus to Miyun was relatively easy and this part of the journey took just over 1 hour. From there we couldn’t find the minibuses that the Lonely Planet was talking about, and ended up in a friendly little Chinese lady’s taxi. She was lovely, but drove like a granny – never exceeding 60 km/h – and the last third of the trip (only about 50km) took 2 hours.

Arriving at Jinshanling, we bought our tickets and headed for the wall – taking the long route to the furthest watch tower and started the 12km hike there. It was everything we thought it would be and more! A truely unbelievable experience, even though quite exhausting – climbing literally thousands of stairs.

Throughout the whole route, there are hardly any level sections. Therefore you are forever either climbing up or down seriously steep and seriously long sets of steps. In many parts the walking surface is quite delapidated with huge drop-offs at either side, making for an even more adventurous journey.

At every opportunity, locals are trying to sell icewater, other drinks and souvenirs, but we soon learned how to get rid of them without being too rude.

The view was constantly changing and just seemed  to get better and better as we got closer to Simatai (our final destination) with the wall extending into the distant horizon. Needless to say we took way too many photos again and will have to spend hours sorting through and picking a worthy few for the website.

We were very pleased to see our taxi lady waiting for us at the end of the trek. After explaining to her that we really needed to get back quicker and were considering a faster minibus, she organised a different driver to drive her car (her in the passanger seat). We made the earlier 2 hour drive in less than an hour and then from Miyun caught the local bus back to Beijing again.

Even though we are absolutely exhausted, today will go down in the books as one of the highlights of this trip and our lives!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Beijing Part 2 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/beijing-part-2/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/beijing-part-2/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2008 14:55:53 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/09/beijing-part-2/ Day 2 started early-ish at the Beijing Zoo because we specifically wanted to see the Panda’s that were moved from the earthquake Chengdu area to Beijing for the Olympics. Of course we picked the wrong day as it was Saturday morning and the news of the Panda’s arrival was all over the media. We felt like we were in a loose scrum trying to get to the front to see anything.

Even though the Chinese are relatively small, they have no concept of queing and can be quiet visious. Jan had to activate the image stabiliser on the camera just to get a few good shots of the bears (while Marizanne was pushing small people out of the way). We only spent a total of 1 hour in the Zoo and then moved on to the Summer Palace in the north-west of the city.
The Summer Palace is a serious of temples and Imperial buildings in an enourmous plot of land with a massive lake. First on the list was a themed traditional Chinese village built on the water edge with all sorts of arts and crafts shops and little restaurants. From there the stair climbing began as you accended up the hill towards ever more impressive sights and buildings. Expecting great views from the top, but unfortunately we had to again contend with serious pollution visibility issues.

It was absolutely stunning however and we ended up spending most of the day there.

Late afternoon we tried to get as close to the Olympic Park as we could, but that seemed an impossible task and after having spent 10 hours on foot already, we didn’t have the strength to walk around the massive enclosure (looking for access points).

We ended the day with a bowl of beef noodles at Mr Lee’s – a local Chinese fast food place just around the corner from the hostel.

Day 3 we planned on getting up a little later than usual, but that turned into a serious of snoozing the alarm clock and dozing off for a little longer. We had plenty to organise in terms of onward train tickets, trip to the Wall and other admin and in the end we only left the hostel at 2pm. We managed to buy our train tickets to Tianjin with little trouble (we must be getting very good in hand sign language).

We also found out that a big part of our trip which takes us past Jiuzhaigou, Chengdu, Leshan and Chongqing (all part of the earthquake zone) is now inaccesable, which is costing us quiet a large chunk of our inland travel through China. We still have to decide exactly how we’re going to spend the extra time, but we expect to add some bits in the south-west of China instead.

After all the admin stuff, we started at Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world. Getting off the Metro right next to the square leaves you thinking you’re there, but you have to traverse many underground pedestrian walkways and undergo random security checks before setting foot onto the square. We spent a bit of time people-watching and taking a few photos before heading to Beihai Park, just north-west of the Forbidden City.

The park is much like the Summer Palace, but on a slightly smaller scale. Saying that, it is still enourmous and took us a good few hours just to see the tip of the iceberg. There were lots of Chinese families having picnics on the grass next to the lake and we spotted a few old men practising water-based ancient Chinese caligraphy on the pavement. It was another beautiful day – it has been very hot and humid (around 30 degrees).

On the way back, we swung passed the Drum and Bell Tower and strolled through Beijing’s Hutong area – famous for it’s alley ways and little restaurants and shops.

Like most things in China, food is also relatively cheap compared to Europe and we’ve dined out every night so far – even though perhaps not in very fancy restaurants. We found a very nice chain restaurant close to the hostel and had an unusually nice meal for about 4 GBP in total.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Beijing Part 1 by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/07/beijing/#comment-342 Mon, 09 Jun 2008 14:28:14 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/beijing/#comment-342 Hi Morne & Leanne,

Yes we have covered 23 countries in Europe, ect. in 2 months and are planning on doing 8 countries in the remaining 6 months. That translates into a much less hectic schedule, with plenty of time lazing on beaches, snorkeling and sipping Mochito’s and other delights.

Thanks for thinking about us and keeping us in your prayers – we can really say that it has made a big difference. We are so blessed on this trip.

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Comment on Beijing Part 1 by Morne and Leanne https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/07/beijing/#comment-341 Mon, 09 Jun 2008 11:05:15 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/beijing/#comment-341 Hi guys, you are doing very well on your travels. You seem to still have so much time left till you arrive in OZ, are you therefore spending a lot more time on the last leg through the far east? Been thinking alot about you guys this weekend and praying for your safety. Take care.

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Comment on 145 Hours by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/145-hours/#comment-340 Sat, 07 Jun 2008 18:36:45 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/145-hours/#comment-340 Hullo julle 2-tjies. So bly julle is veilig en dat dit nie te bad was nie. Kon my amper nie indink dat veral jy Jan, solank ingehok kan wees nie. Dis ook weer ‘n ondervinding wat nie baie mense beskore is nie.
Ek wil weer dankie se vir die ongelooflike duidelike oproep met my verjaarsdag.!Dit was awesome om met julle te praat. Sondag het die hele Conerroe-fam met koek,kersies,geskenke en baie liefde vroegoggend op my bed tuisgemaak en Luca het help oopmaak! Toe het ons 2 ‘n sessie in my PJ’s op die trampolien gehad!! Ek is ook getreat met ‘n heerlike ete by ‘n wonderlike restaurant!
Hulle nuwe plek is eintlik nog ouliker as die vorige. en julle het gesien hoe pragtig die kleintjies is.
Hoor graag van China. Liefde Mamma xxxx

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J&M: Beijing Part 1 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/07/beijing/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/07/beijing/#comments Sat, 07 Jun 2008 01:46:00 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/beijing/ After checking into the Beijing Central Hostel (on the 6th of June) we had a little nap to recover from our jetlag. Even though we had a week on the train to get used to the 4 hour time difference between Moscow and Beijing, we’ve still found it hard to adjust.

We went straight to the Forbidden City and walked around there for about 2 hours. The place is absolutely huge (as we soon found out most things in Bejing are) and amazingly decorated. You can spend hours or even days exploring the whole thing but we chose a few specific areas to concentrate on. Definately a must-see!

Afterwards we strolled through Wangfujing Snack Street and were amazed at all the different things they eat around here – you can buy anything from strawberries to chicken hearts, seahorses and scorpions on kebab sticks! Needless to say, we chose a safe restaurant for dinner.

It must be said that the air polution is worse than we ever expected. It seems like a constant mist or fog is hanging over the city – so bad that you cannot see buildings about 1km away! It causes all the photos to appear washed out and bland.

We have a long list of to-do’s for the coming days. Loving Beijing so far!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on 145 Hours by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/145-hours/#comment-339 Fri, 06 Jun 2008 22:31:13 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/145-hours/#comment-339 surprised that you didn’t introduce her to the blouvlamme…
glad you there safely.
bring on the amusing stories.

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J&M: 145 Hours https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/145-hours/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/145-hours/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2008 16:18:06 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/06/06/145-hours/ 145 Long hours on a single train journey accross the biggest country in the world with no shower, one enormous carriage attendant, multiple cabin companions and unlimited boiling water… heaven.

We boarded train number 20 in Moscow at 23:55 on the 30th of May to start our adventure travelling across the whole of Russia to China. To give you a sense of scale, we actually crossed the Chinese border 2 days ago but only arrived in Beijing this morning.

Due to all the horror stories we’ve heard, we were prepared for the worst and had plenty of provisions to keep us going for the 6 days on the train. We bought loads of noodles, soups, some canned fruit & sweetcorn and chocolates & biscuits. We also had enough coffee, tea, sugar and powdered milk to keep us going for days. But despite of all the nasty things we’ve heard, we were pleasantly surprised..

It was a fairly new train with snug, yet clean compartments and we even had our own TV (albeit with one or two Russian-dubbed movies a day). Our second class tickets meant we had to share a 4-bed compartment (we had the 2 top bunks) and started the journey with 2 Russians. None of the others went all the way to Beijing, so during the course of the trip we had a total of 5 different room mates – all Russian and all very nice, friendly and quiet (which translates into no snorning) – even though most of them couldn’t speak any English.

However the last girl that got on at Ulan Ude had a, shall we say, slight flatulance problem while sleeping :). The first night we were amused at the sound of repeated “gun fire” from below which would have made most men (of a certain inclanation) very proud.

It is amazing how the hours and days just went by and melted together. We spent the average day sleeping late, reading, eating, sleeping again, drinking, sleeping some more and then repeated the cycle. Jan even finished his first book of this trip!

We expected to have a few meals in the train restaurant, but after checking it out on our first night (their menu had pictures of animals, including a Springbuck! so we knew we couldn’t trust it) we decided that it was way overpriced. In the end we managed to go the entire trip fueled only by our own provisions, augmented with 2 loafs of bread we bought from private sellers on the platforms. It worked out perfectly.

The 5th day was the toughest by far and encompassed the most insane border crossing we have ever experienced! Arriving at the Russian border post at 08:30 we were chased off the train in order to change the wheels (Russian train tracks are more than 1.5 m apart but Chinese tracks a few inches less) which took about 3 hours. We had to hang around the platform because there was nothing to do in the little town, expect a very small corner shop. Once this operation was finished, we had to get back on the train and then the passport control and cabin searches started. This took another 3 hours.

At our delight we started moving again just before 15:00 only to stop again at the Chinese border post 15 minutes later. This was much more intense, with 3 officials per cabin – searching and unpacking every piece of luggage. We had our Chinese Lonely Planet hidden in Marizanne’s bag and despite it being searched twice they never found it. The Chinese government is not too happy with some of the comments about China/Tibet and will happily confiscate the books if found. The passport controls were also over the top with individual freckles and moles being analysed and compared with the passport photograph.. all very tideous! 7 hours after arriving on the Chinese side, we took our leave and were on our way again. We spent 13 hours covering a total of 10 km!

At this point it was just us and our farting friend who we finaly lost at Shenyang, leaving us with a glorious 9 hours (out of the 145) to spend on our own.

The train steamed into Beijing Railway Station at 05:30 this morning and we went straight to the closest hostel we could find (directly opposite the train station). It was too early to check in at this stage, so we spent an hour having our first helping of dumplings and Beijing noodles for breakfast.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Moscow Act 2 by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/29/moscow-act-2/#comment-337 Fri, 30 May 2008 18:20:21 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/29/moscow-act-2/#comment-337 Morne, Leanne & Ethan,
Great news guys! We are so happy for you! We know this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Best of luck with the orginasation over the next few months, we’ll be thinking of you guys in our prayers.
J&M

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J&M: Trans-Siberia https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/30/trans-siberia/ Fri, 30 May 2008 18:17:50 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/30/trans-siberia/ It’s 22:15 and we’re about to leave the hostel for the train station. Our train departs at 23:55 and we’ll be off-line until we hit Beijing on the 6th of June.

Parents: Please don’t worry, we have lots of food and water for the journey. If you don’t hear from us in two weeks, send a search party..

Signing off..

J&M

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Comment on Time in Tallinn by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/time-in-tallinn/#comment-336 Fri, 30 May 2008 15:25:37 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/time-in-tallinn/#comment-336 Hi Kristiina,

Yeah, we really enjoyed that club a lot and we were all too happy to smuggle those glasses out for you – hope they are being put to good use! ;)
Kristiina, thanks again for your amazing hospitality and for showing us around town and down the coastline. We had a great time with you and it made our stay in Tallinn so much more enjoyable!

Oops – sorry Rein! I’ve corrected the spelling above now :)

Chat soon
jan

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Comment on Moscow Act 2 by Morne, Leanne and Ethan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/29/moscow-act-2/#comment-335 Fri, 30 May 2008 13:18:25 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/29/moscow-act-2/#comment-335 Hey guys, so Moscow, wow you have travelled so far already and still thousands of miles to go. I bet Red Square was amazing, we have alwasy wanted to go there, maybe oneday. Pity about the Hostel experience. Just to update you guys, Morne has been accpeted to study in Canada now so we are planning a move there for January. Very exciting but scary too. Prob be for 2-3 yrs depending on how he does and we will be based in Vancouver. ANyway God willing and if all finances and visa’s get sorted, we will leave sometime in Dec. Anyway enough of that, have a great train ride to China. I know it is going to be a long one but I am sure you will see some amazing sights along the route. Take care and I will keep checkng on your progress. All our love…

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Comment on Time in Tallinn by Kristiina https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/time-in-tallinn/#comment-334 Thu, 29 May 2008 19:01:02 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/time-in-tallinn/#comment-334 Hei!
Tallinn seems really good on phothos!
Sorry about this last evening in the Noku club and thanks for the black classes:))
NB! Rean name is Rein.

Take care and let us know how you doing!
Kristiina

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J&M: Moscow Act 2 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/29/moscow-act-2/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/29/moscow-act-2/#comments Thu, 29 May 2008 12:05:35 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/29/moscow-act-2/ Our plans for an early/peaceful night sleep never materialised the first night.. the drunk American and British students in the hostel made sure of that.

As we didn’t get a lot of sleep, we slept fairly late yesterday and only left the hostel early afternoon. We went on our own walking tour through the city, visiting a handful of sights and a few reputable Metro stations. The most impressive sight of the day was the Church of Christ the Saviour with its white marble walls and huge golden domes. Moscow is famous for some of the most beautiful underground stations in the world, so we went on a little trip to see a few of them. The stations are enormous and a few are quite impressive (and others not so much).

Before we knew it, it was very late in the afternoon and we started to make our way back to the hostel. We cooked dinner and met 2 Swedish guys at the hostel and had a nice chat. At about 23:30 Jan went out to take some night photos of the Red Square and only came back at about 01:00.

Again we went to bed with expectations of a good night’s sleep, but no luck.. This time the entertainment started at midnight in the living room and got worse and worse from there. Unfortunately the hostel does not enforce any curfew for noise which is very strange indeed. This carried on until about 05:30am, despite numerous attempts to shut them up.. We shared the dorm (10 beds) with a couple that is getting married in 2 days, 3 British students and a Russian mother and daughter. Between them they provided endless entertainment in the form of snoring, constantly going in and out of the room and slamming the door, and 2 couples doing the funky chicken right there in the room!  Needless to say we got no sleep at all and packed our stuff there and then.

The Napoleon Hostel has actually won the Top Rated award in Moscow in 2007. It must have been voted for by party goers only, because the place is a mess with clothes, dirty towels and dishes everywhere! A word of advise: stay away from the Napoleon Hostel in Moscow!

We moved to another hostel down the road (Comrade Hostel) and it feels like paradise. We are taking it easy today and will try to find a supermarket later to stock up on provisions for the long train journey ahead.

IMG_5167
Asta, Christoph & David, who we met at the Comrade Hostel

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Comment on Mighty Moscow by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/27/mighty-moscow/#comment-328 Wed, 28 May 2008 20:54:02 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/27/mighty-moscow/#comment-328 Hi Moeder – great om te hoor julle kuier so lekker. Die party en die nuwe pelk klink ook asof dit amazing is. Ons verlang baie – kannie wag vir die fotos nie!

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Comment on Mighty Moscow by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/27/mighty-moscow/#comment-326 Wed, 28 May 2008 19:52:35 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/27/mighty-moscow/#comment-326 Liewe Kinders , so lanklaas met julle gepraat,want Brad se komputor is in konstante gebruik.Hulle het julle sms met Luca se 3de gekry. ,dankie daarvoor. Ons het daardie oggend vroeg geskenke oopgemaak,ook ,klein koekie met 3 kersies gehad en later gaan uiteet by die Foodbarn. Hy het wraggies ‘n 2-wielfiets gekry ,met 2 kleinkant wieletjies.Hy het sommer gou geleer om hierdie skotige afdraendjie met stinkspoed af te ry! Julle kan nie dink watter oulike plek hulle nou het nie. Dit voel asof jy iewers op die platteland alleen in die natuur is,want die akker-erf is so dat jy nie die bure kan sien nie,net die see voor jou en die berg aan jou regterkant. Vir sy party op Sat het Anree en ek die groot vliegtuigkoek gemaak wat julle sal sien op die blog. Dit was ‘n reuse hit! Al die maatjies het tog te oulike goedjies op ‘n feestafel gekry en grootmense fantastiese terte.,wat Anree gemaak het. Sal later weer praat. Baie liefdetjies en seen verder, Mamma

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J&M: Mighty Moscow https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/27/mighty-moscow/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/27/mighty-moscow/#comments Tue, 27 May 2008 19:14:10 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/27/mighty-moscow/ After a surprisingly comfortable overnight train from St Pete’s we arrived in Moscow at 9:30 this morning. We were in a 4 bed compartment, with a potential snorer, but to our delight he never delivered!

We got a flyer of the Napoleon hostel in St Pete’s and walked straight there from the station. We managed to secure only one night as they are fully booked for the weekend, but they offered us matresses on the floor in the dorm room for tomorrow night – not so nice.. There is still a posibility of cancellations, so fingers crossed!

Honourable mention: They’ve got a great shower here! It’s the small things in life..

After a little morning-siesta and a lenghty internet session (free at the hostel) we went on a mission to find alternatives for tomorrow night onwards. We covered quite a few kilometers and saw a handful of hostels (and sights), but had no luck as most are booked, or super dodgy.

On the way back we did some grocery shopping after which we walked through the hugely impressive Red Square just before sunset and got some really nice shots.

We’ve just cooked dinner and are planning on having an early night (which lately means anything before 1am).

We have 3 more full days in this huge capital (10 million people) before we leave so we have plenty more time to see the sights. Moscow is very impressive and has made an excellent first impression.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on St Petersburg day 2 by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/26/st-petersburg-day-2/#comment-316 Tue, 27 May 2008 08:09:14 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/26/st-petersburg-day-2/#comment-316 PS: Technical difficulties now out of the way, we’re all updated again and the latest photos are uploaded.
We often run into computers that are completely locked down with no Admin rights or even FTP ability, which makes it difficult to get some of the details updated on the site.. Anyway, those are just excuses.. ;)
Ciao, jan

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J&M: St Petersburg day 2 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/26/st-petersburg-day-2/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/26/st-petersburg-day-2/#comments Mon, 26 May 2008 18:44:57 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/26/st-petersburg-day-2/ We had to check out of the hostel at 11:00 this morning but could leave our luggage there until we leave tonight.

Most of the day was spent walking around the parts of town we did not see yesterday – ie the Peter and Paul Fortress & Cathedral and the Alexander Nevsky Monastery & gardens.

We came back to the hostel and prepared some dinner, afterwhich we had a quick internet session (please note that due to technical difficulties we cannot update our current location and maps at the moment).

Our overnight train to Moscow leaves at 01:05, so we will probably make our way to the station soon.

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J&M: St Petersburg https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/25/st-petersburg/ Sun, 25 May 2008 19:10:31 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/25/st-petersburg/ After just over 1 month we have finally left Eastern Europe behind. It was an amazing experience and we will never forget it. The only regret is that we didn’t have more time to spend in each country, but we are thankful that we could get a small taste of so much of it. The people are great, the cities beautiful and the countryside awesome!

Stats: We are recording all our trips so far and after 60 days of travelling through 23 countries we have taken a total of 8 ferries, 23 busses and 50 trains with a combined travel time of 13 days 4 hours and 17 minutes – including 10 time zones changes!

The train from Helsinki arrived in St Petersburg at 22:30 last night and we headed straight to the cheapest hostel in the Lonely Planet. We had to take the Metro train 3 stops further and were amazed at how deep underground the stations are. The escalator is probably 200m long!

According the Lonely Planet map, it should have been a short walk from the Metro station, but after walking for about 3km (up and down the street) we found the address on a totally different place and needless to say, there was no hostel. We just love the Lonely Planet at times like these! We then walked to our second option, another 1.5km further. At that stage it was already 00:30 and we were so happy to just find an existing hostel. We were so fedup and decided to take a private double room – at much more than a dorm room – but we really needed after the day we had!

This morning we got up just in time to grab some breakfast at the hostel (served by a very serious little old Russian man) and then headed straight for the train ticket office to buy the Trans-Siberian train tickets. The girl at the hostel very kindly helped us and wrote a note explaining where we want to go on which dates. The note turned out to be our saving grace, because no-one spoke any English. We still managed to buy our tickets from St Petersburg to Moscow, then from Moscow to Beijing in under 1 hour which is definately some kind of record!

Since the start the whole Trans-Siberian trip was a bit of a black hole and even though we had a lot of information, we’ve never been sure whether we would actually be able to get the tickets we wanted. Now that we finally have them it is a big weight off our shoulders. Due to huge price increase whenever you add a stop to the route, we decided to take a direct train all the way from Moscow to Beijing and not stop in Mongolia (even though we already have visas). The tickets are booked leaving Moscow at 23:05 on the 30th of May and will arrive in Beijing at 05:30 on the 06th of June.

With our tickets in our pocket and feeling very relieved, we finally started our sightseeing for the day. It was a beautiful blue sky but still pretty cold – maximum temperature was about 15 degrees. The Church of Spilling Blood was our first stop and definately the highlight of the day. We walked through markets where we bought a little souvenir and then proceed to the Palace Square with the Winter Palace and the Hermitage. To our disappointment the Hermitage was already closed for the day and is also closed tommorrow. We walked a little further west and passed the Admirality, Bronze Horseman and St Isaac’s Church before making our way back to the hostel.

We can see why they refer to “White Nights” during this time of the year (mid May to June), because it is now 23:05 and it is still very light outside. It doesn’t get complety dark at this time and it feels very weird having to go to bed very late at night with it still being so light.

We had a great first day in St Petersburg and still have all day tommorrow to explore further, before our overnight train (departing at 01:20) to Moscow.

From Russia with love..

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on HELL-sinki by Brutus https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/hell-sinki/#comment-296 Sun, 25 May 2008 01:37:08 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/hell-sinki/#comment-296 Hi chaps
having a great time and am loving the couch surfing twist in the tale of your travels.
Jan your travel theme with all the trains is great! keep the photos coming.
travel safe
Brett

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J&M: HELL-sinki https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/hell-sinki/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/hell-sinki/#comments Sat, 24 May 2008 11:17:19 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/hell-sinki/ The ferry arrived at 10:30 this morning and we chose a hostel very close to the port. To our dissapointment this hostel, together with every single other hostel in town, were fully booked for the night (hence the title of our post..)

We tried a hotel-booking agency at the train station, but not even they could find anything within our budget. In the end we just bought train tickets to St Petersburg and are leaving Helsinki at 15:23.

We are very dissapointed because we have heard many good things about Helsinki and it seems great. However it was never a major destination for us – just a quick 1-night-stop before heading into Russia.

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J&M: Time in Tallinn https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/time-in-tallinn/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/time-in-tallinn/#comments Sat, 24 May 2008 02:15:48 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/24/time-in-tallinn/ Our Lux-Bus arrived at just after 16:30 in Tallinn and we had to meet our next couchsurfing friend at a hotel in the centre at 17:30. We found the hotel quite easily and waited for Kristiina to pick us up. It was great because she drives a Toyota Rav and we felt like royalty driving in a car again.

She took us home to quickly drop our bags and then we got straight back into the car and went for a drive outside town. We visited a little waterfall and some of the nearby beaches – it was a wonderful change to be outside of the city again. We then stopped for dinner at a tiny little restaurant in the countryside and had a lovely dinner.

The next morning Kristiina had to go to work, but we slept in a bit and then had time to do some washing. We then headed into town and finally picked up Jan´s credit card that was posted to someone we knew at one of the hotels in town. Thanks again Neil for arranging all of this!

Tallinn is a really beautiful city, especially the Old Town. It is one of the most impressive and well preserved medieval city walls we´ve come across. There are loads of churches and quaint little cobbled streets.

After work, we met up with Kristiina and went for a quick bite with some of her friends – Uku and Rein. Afterwards they took us to what looked like just an apartment entrance in the middle of the Old Town. But when we got upstairs, it turned out to be a cool exclusive members club. One drink turned into many and we only got home after 2:00! Needless to say we were dead this morning when the alarm went off at 05:50..

The Helsinki ferry left Tallinn at 08:00 and we got a special deal that included breakfast. We expected only a cup of coffee and a breadroll, but to our surprise it was an enormous buffet and the food was out of this world! Definately one of the best breakfast buffets we have ever had. The best part was, that instead of paying 265 Estonian Kroon, we ended up only paying 200 each on this deal!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Racing through Riga https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/21/racing-through-riga/ Wed, 21 May 2008 23:43:31 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/21/racing-through-riga/ The bus left Vilnius at 9:00 this morning and we arrived in Riga at 14:00. Our next couchsurfing host, Camilla, was working until 17:30 so we had to hang around a bit in town. We managed to leave our bags at the bus station luggage lockers and went walking around town.

After Vilnius, Riga´s Old Town was a slight dissappointment. It is very nice to walk around, but not as cozy and there is less of an atmosphere – even on the main square. Perhaps we have just seen too many Old Towns over the last 2 months.. We only spent about 2 hours walking around and had a weak, cold coffee at a cafe on one of the squares watching girls in leopard-print stelleto´s go by.

At 17:30 we made our way to Camilla´s apartment and almost fainted when we saw the size of it! She didn´t warn us that the flat is on the 5th floor with no lift though, so we nearly both had heart failure carrying all our stuff up the stairs. But is was totally worth it when we got inside. She lives in double storey penthouse apartment 50m from the main square in the Old Town! We had the whole top floor to ourselves with an ensuite bathroom and amazing views of the city from our balcony. You can imagine that we were gutted that we were only staying 1 night – we didn´t even have time to test the little private sauna in the guest bathroom downstairs (we´ll come back for that Camilla!).

Camilla is actually from Denmark, living and working in Riga for 6 months. She is a lot of fun and very outgoing. She suggested “The Garlic Pub” for dinner (everything on the menu has garlic – even the desserts) and it was really good – great food, great service and great prices – except for our garlic-hangovers the next morning. When we got back after dinner, we still chatted for hours and had a ball staying with Camilla.

The next morning our bus was only booked for 12:30, so we had a very lazy morning. At the bus station we only paid 1.20 Lats extra for the Lux Express bus at it was great – limitless free hot drinks, free wifi access and huge seats with lots of leg room. The 4.5 hours on the bus felt like nothing.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on 2 days in Warsaw by Morne, Leanne and Ethan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-267 Wed, 21 May 2008 10:47:09 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-267 Mmm, well it looks like you may touch on the area of the quake , so I hope that doesn’t mean too much of a detour for oyu guys if any. Keep well

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J&M: Vilnius visit https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/20/vilnius-visit/ Tue, 20 May 2008 23:30:01 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/20/vilnius-visit/ The overnight bus from Warsaw arrived in Vilnius at about 9:00. We secured our first couchsurfing host for tonight, Marija, so we went straight to her flat from the bus station. We didn´t know what to expect, but we were welcomed with open arms!

Marija is living is a brand new flat very close to everything. She prepared a very nice breakfast for us when we arrived and we had time for a quick shower before we headed into town again.

We spent the day wondering the streets of Vilnius´s Old Town. We started the sightseeing at the former KGB Headquarters (now a museum) and found it very interesting – especially the interrogation rooms. From there we visited many churches and ended the day with a nice coffee. At that stage we were so tired (poor Jan did not sleep at all on the bus), so we went back to Marija´s apartment and we prepared dinner for the 3 of us. She got home just before 21:00 and we had a very nice evening together – and even watched Eurovision!

Marija is a very friendly and welcoming Lithuanian girl and we related to her. She made us feel very at home and we were sad to leave after just 1 night. So, our first couchsurfing experience was absolutely amazing – let´s hope the rest are the same! :)

Again Vilnius has surprised us. We had a perfect day weather-wise and the city has beautiful architecture and a lovely Old Town layout. It is a capital with a great buzz and very friendly atmosphere.

The bus to Riga (Latvia) leaves tommorrow morning at 9:00, so it is another early start for us.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on 2 days in Warsaw by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-260 Tue, 20 May 2008 21:30:52 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-260 Ek was nogal verras toe jy ons aanspreek oor antwoorde. Ek het op die blog geantwoord en ook email gestuur in antw op Marizanne s’n.Sedert ek laas gelees het het julle omtrent ‘n mondvol gedoen! Het nognie na julle nuutste fotos gekyk nie,want @ tyd dat my email afgelaai is,sommige gelees is ens is daar soveel tyd verby,dis nie eers snaaks nie. More is my laaste dag in PE voor ek DV Anree-hulle toe gaan tot die 2deJunie toe. Besige naweek gehad met Hettie se man Ettienne wat oorgeslaap het, die braaigroep hier by my gehad,en hy kon toe sommer die vuur aan die gang kry. Het t Mariaan Lucouw ook oorgenooi. Vanaand nog Dissipelskap gehad 8uur eers vir my ‘n groot ete gemaak,en geeet terwyl ek ‘n paar opgeneemde programme kyk.
Oom Ters het toe eers gister ‘n 5-ledige omleiding gehad,en hulle moes glo kwaai sukkel om sy bloeddrk af te kry.More na Bybst,my hare laat sny,en dan gaan ek eers begin dink aan weggaan.O gats,wou vanaand nog bel vir plek vir Jonty!!Liefde tot later.xxxxx

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Comment on 2 days in Warsaw by Branree https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-255 Tue, 20 May 2008 05:31:29 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-255 5:30am on a Tuesday and the boys both decided that it was time to wake up and play. Anree did the night shift. so it’s my turn to drag myself out of bed and do babysitting duty. Luca is watching a Planet Earth DVD and excitedly telling me about the “deers bashing heads” in the taiga forests of Russia, while Nikolai is lying on the floor chatting away (his favorite words these days are Dadadada and ‘Cah!) and bashing the hanging toys on his play-gym around with gusto. I’m taking advantage of the time to catch up with your blog.

I dig the slide-show presentation of your photos… nice. Looked like a great hike in Slovakia and the pics of Aushwitz sent a chill down my spine.

Maybe it is just getting close to breakfast time, but thinking of you guys biting into chunk of garlicky kielbasa took me back to my childhood memories of my grandmother’s ukrainian and polish cooking and set my mouth to watering. My favorites used to be a big plate of cheese and potato filled perogis (dumplings) smothered in sour cream and fried onions. A piping hot bowl of bright red borscht (beet soup), again with a dab of sour cream, is also a real winner, especially when it is cold and cloudy outside. Holubtsi, or cabbage rolls, were ever present and very filling.

On that note, I’m going to break off, go make some breakfast and get Luca ready for school. Always have to be sure to leave enough time for him to go out to the little pond and feed the fish… our morning ritual before Anree drops him off at his little Montesorri school.

Good luck with the couch-surfing. Can’t wait to hear how that turns out.

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Comment on 2 days in Warsaw by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-250 Mon, 19 May 2008 14:07:30 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-250 Hi Leanne. Wow, this is the first I’ve heard about the earthquake! News is hard to come by if you only check websites every now and again.

Yes – we are planning to go through that area – will have to investigate to see if it’s still a viable option now..

This is the BBC’s map of where the quake hit (bbc.co.uk) and this is where we were hoping to travel through (Chengdu map)..

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Comment on 2 days in Warsaw by Morne, Leanne and Ethan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-248 Mon, 19 May 2008 13:50:19 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comment-248 Hey guys, glad that you are both well and on schedual. Morne and I were wondering if any of the earthquake areas in China are on your route there? Will this affect your trip in any way?
Take care and chat soon again.

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J&M: 2 days in Warsaw https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/#comments Mon, 19 May 2008 13:36:39 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/19/2-days-in-warsaw/ According to our train schedule book, we were supposed to catch the 16:12 train from Krakow to Warsaw, but at the station we were told that we could take the 15:55 fast train instead with only our train passes. When we got on the train, we soon realised that everyone had seat reservations accept us.. We chose 2 seats in a 6-seater compartment with 2 other people, but soon after that 2 others came in and chased us off their reserved places. Luckily we 2 seats we ended up with were free for the rest of the way. It was a very fast train indeed and we arrived in Warsaw within 3 hours instead of 5.

In Warsaw we went straight to Nathan’s Villa Hostel that was recommended to us by the hostel in Krakow. It is only 10 minutes walk from the station and in a great location. But all the cheaper rooms were already full by the time we arrived, so we had to stay in a more expensive room for the first night.

The next morning, after seeing what the hostel breakfast had to offer we went on a coffee shop mission and found a very nice one 10 minutes away – Green Coffee. We ordered their lunch special and had 2 delicious ciabattas and huge lattes. It was so nice to just sit in a coffee shop again and have a decent breakfast (even though it was off the lunch menu) for a change. Feeling satisfied we went into the town and saw the Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier. After this we walked the Royal Way (a 4km walking route) through the Old Town and visited the Royal Castle (free on Sundays). Warsaw’s Old Town is really nice, especially the main square – full of cafes, restaurants and horse carriadges and surrounded by colourful buildings. We found a cozy cafe on the square and had a local Polish beer while watching the people go by. Our last stop was at the Church of Crosses where Chopin’s heart is preserved in one of the pillars in the church, after being shipped over from Paris.

On the way back to the hostel we had enormous icecreams (about 10cm high!!) – it must be a Polish thing, because everybody walks around with them. We decided to treat ourselves with a nice dinner, instead of cooking pasta again in the hostel kitchen.

The second night we moved to our cheaper 12-bedded room at the hostel – BIG mistake! One guy snored so loudly that everyone in the room was kept awake for hours. It was seriously the most insane snore-case we have ever encountered! Up until last night, we didn’t think such noises could be produced by the human body.. At about 3am we just couldn’t take it anymore and asked to be moved to a different room. Suprisingly they agreed straight away and gave us 2 beds in a smaller, much quieter room at no extra cost. The joys of hostel life..

About 1 week ago we were told about the concept of “couchsurfing” for the first time. It is a global network of people that offer their homes to travellers at no cost and in return they can do the same when travelling (ww.couchsurfing.com). We checked it out and after last night’s experience decided to register immediately :)

We managed to secure accommodation in our next 3 destinations already! We are going to give it a try and see how it goes, but have very good expectations about the whole scheme.

The weather is terrible at the moment, so we’ll just chill until we leave Warsaw this evening. We have to take the bus to Vilnius (Lithuania) as the train no longer runs this route. It is an overnight bus, leaving at 23:00 and arriving in Vilnius at 09:00.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Santorini day 3 by sune (AKA Kleinsus) https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/22/santorini-day-3/#comment-246 Mon, 19 May 2008 11:33:39 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/22/santorini-day-3/#comment-246 Hallo julle 2!!!

Jis ek is jammer ek laat hoor nou eers van my maar ons internet is op die rotse!! Anesia is al yslik groot, lag al uit die maag, kry tande, rol om en sit al met support. Werner in die kaap vir n maand, maar kom darem naweke huistoe. Mis julle vrek baie. Luv u.

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Comment on Bucharest Blockage by Corina https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-221 Sun, 18 May 2008 04:21:28 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-221 Hello Jan and Marizanne ! You are doing a great job with this website , I spent a lot of time just looking at pictures, or reading your trip diary ! Thank you for the photo ! I’m glad we met that evening, at McDonald’s.
Have a safe trip, and enjoy each moment of it !

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J&M: Cracking Krakow https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/17/cracking-krakow/ Sat, 17 May 2008 12:17:53 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/17/cracking-krakow/ Photos of Krakow here.

The hostel was fully booked last night, so there was no chance of sleeping in peace this morning.. We made sure we got to the bathrooms early but unfortunately hit the breakfast rush.

We stored our bags at the hostel and have just gone for another walk through the Old Town and Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter). Krakow is a very interesting city with a great buzz to it. It has the biggest Main Square in Europe (200m x 200m) and is full of little cafes, street performers and souvenir stalls. Large parts are semi-pedestrianised which makes for a really nice walk through town.

Just as we got to the center of Wawel Castle a military parade came past and gave us a few good photo opportunities. A bit later, walking through the Jewish Quarter, we stumbled upon a Polish market fair with traditional folk dancers, costume performers and real Polish food stalls. We had a very nice Kielbasa (Polish sausage) with a huge gherkin and bread roll for lunch.

We are back at the hostel now to pick up our bags and will be leaving for the station soon to catch the 16:12 Warsaw train.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Bucharest Blockage by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-203 Fri, 16 May 2008 23:04:53 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-203 Wow – dit klink insane! Baie geluk met die job Juan! Wel, dis definitief nie London nie, maar ek dink dis ‘n baie goeie geleentheid. Good luck met die besluite, hulle gaan nie maklik wees nie..
Ja-nee, jy weet mos ons is bietjie facebook-sku, nie 100% seker hoekom nie, maar nou-ja. Miskien moet ek en jy ons eie version skryf, sal verseker baie beter wees ;)
Ek het reeds net meer as 4,000 fotos geneem, waarvan daar so 900 op flickr nou al is – daai 70-200 is great.
Bly om te hoor dit gaan goed, chat een van die dae.

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Comment on Bucharest Blockage by Juan en Marli https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-201 Fri, 16 May 2008 20:10:20 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-201 Hey daar die traveling Wilburys – Ek moet sê dat ek omtrent elke derde dag jul blog lees en fotos kyk, maar het nog nie op jul blog geskryf nie, so het gedink dat dit omtrent tyd is.

Dit klink of julle ñ fantastiese tyd het met die trippie, ons is bly dat die Lonely Planet gids goed te pas gekom het in Wes Europa.

Alles is omtrent terug na normaal, na die troue en honeymoon. Ons het Malasia verskriklik geniet. Dis jammer dat jul nie op facebook is nie, want baie van ons fotos het ons daar gepos vir vriende om na te kyk.

Jan, baie nice fotos wat jy neem! Ek sien die 40D werk hard!

Op die werks front gaan hier baie aan, julle weet mos dat ons ook in Australia wil wees binne die volgende paar jaar, nou ja, ek het ñ werks geleentheid gekry om in Doha, Qatar te gaan werk, vir ñ bank. Hulle het my oorgevlieg vir onderhoude en ek het die werk gekry. Ons het die aanbod en kontrak twee dae terug ontvang en dink ek gaan dit vat. Salarisse is belasting vry, so ek en Marli het besluit dat dit ñ goeie stepping stone vir Oz sal wees. Hulle is besig om my werk visa uit te reik, en dan sal ek alleen oorgaan vir ñ maand of twee om my voete te vind, en as ek besluit ek wil daar bly, vir Marli laat weet om te bedank en oor te kom. So, dis glad nie beplan nie, maar seker hoe ons gebede verhoor is oop ñ manier.

Anyways – hoop dit gaan goed met julle twee.
Groetnis
Juan en Marli
xxx

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Comment on Brasov by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/brasov/#comment-199 Fri, 16 May 2008 19:17:27 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/brasov/#comment-199 Hi Guys, your new spot sounds great (by the way, check out Brad & Anree’s new blog at http://branree.blogspot.com/) – would love to see more photos though.
The scenery through the hill country of Transylvania really was beautiful, both of the little towns we stayed at were right on the edge of forests. We didn’t see any werewolves though.. luckily!
Thanks for all the updates :)

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Comment on Bucharest Blockage by jan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-198 Fri, 16 May 2008 19:11:43 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-198 Ja Morne, we were laughing straight afterwards – a real dogshow! London sounds great, we can hardly remember it like that.
Thanks Moeder for all the news updates :)

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J&M: Auschwitz https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/16/auschwitz/ Fri, 16 May 2008 18:47:04 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/16/auschwitz/ Auschwitz photos here.

It was a surreal experience being in the concentration camp where so much suffering occurred.

Auschwitz is a 90 minute train ride from Krakow and as we got close it was easy to imagine what it must’ve felt arriving by rail as a prisoner. The camp is a short walk from Oswiecim train station and the sign “Arbeit macht frei” can be seen from a distance.

As we arrived we went straight in to the theatre to watch a short documentary on the liberation of the camp by the Soviet Army. It was very interesting but cannot quite prepare you for what is waiting.. No matter how much you’ve heard about what happened there, it is not until you actually walk through the rooms and corridors and see the countless photos on the walls that you start to appreciate the magnitude.

It is possible to take an English guided tour through both Auschwitz and Berkenau (Auschwitz II) camps, but we decided to just buy the guide book and concentrate on Auschwitz I only. Each block is an exhibit of a different part of life in the camp – sleeping barracks, washrooms, prison cells, working conditions, etc. The last building on the route was the grim gas chambers and crematorium – it is difficult to explain the feeling standing there and the impact of the whole experience.

This was one eye-opening daytrip and a must-see if you are in the area.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Popping into Poland by Magda J https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/15/popping-into-poland/#comment-197 Fri, 16 May 2008 08:55:58 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/15/popping-into-poland/#comment-197 Hi Julle!!!
Ek dink julle moet daaraan dink om deel te neem aan die amazing race ,julle sal geld maak by die dosyne en na hierdie lang trippie sal julle dit dalk verwelkom ook, ek meen praat nou van al die lande se “ins and outs” ken na dese is julle “experts” op die gebied. hie hie hie

Wel wou net inval om hallo te se, ek kan nie glo dit is al so lank wat julle rond reis van bakboort na stuurboort nie, voel soos nou die dag. Mind you ek is self al 1 maand in die Kaap!!! Dink julle moet hier ook verby kom, meer as genoeg plek en wat is dit nou ekstra, julle is mos nou al alles gewoond!!! hie hiehie

Mooi bly julle en Zaan mis jou baie!!

Groete vir manlief
xxxx

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Comment on Popping into Poland by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/15/popping-into-poland/#comment-196 Fri, 16 May 2008 06:08:15 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/15/popping-into-poland/#comment-196 Hi julle twee

Ons is bly dit gaan nog goed met julle en ons geniet dit om al julle wedervaringe te lees elke dag. Ek maak elke dag ‘n printout om dit vir Ma te gee om te lees.
Met ons gaan dit baie goed. Ma was net siekerig hierdie week – brongites en ek weet nie wat nog alles nie. Sy is afgebook vanaf Woensdag en gaan eers weer Maandag terug skool toe.
Met Sune-hulle gaan dit ook baie goed. Kleintjie raak nou te oulik.
Ek is bly dis weer naweek. Ons is maar baie besig by die werk. Ons gaan net rustig wees by die huis.
Met Ouma Bettie gaan dit ook darem nog goed. Sy is so nou en dan ‘n bietjie deurmekaar, maar dan kom sy weer reg en gaan net aan.
Nou ja, julle moet alles verder baie geniet en pas julleself baie mooi op!! Julle twee is baie kosbaar vir ons!!
Lief vir julle
Ons twee
xxxxxxxxxx

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J&M: Popping into Poland https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/15/popping-into-poland/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/15/popping-into-poland/#comments Thu, 15 May 2008 19:06:34 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/15/popping-into-poland/ We had to bus our way back to Poprad again to catch the train to Krakow (Poland). We had originally planned a route from Poprad to the Polish border but the lady at the train station suggested an alternative route with a fast train and 1 change. When we got to Kysak to change trains, the lady at the ticket office there told us that they are working on the tracks and no trains run to Krakow from there. She didn’t speak any English, so with pieces of paper and hand gestures she managed to get the message across.

The next moment a train arrived at the station and from the Slovak announcement we made out something that sounded like Krakow, so we ran and jumped on the train. Another very friendly local helped us and double checked with the ticket inspector to confirm our destination. The journey was almost 6 hours and we arrived in Krakow at 17:45. It might sound weird, but at this stage 5 to 6 hours on a train with a few changes feels like a breeze. We have deffinately mastered the art of relaxing and letting the time fly by.

At Krakow we headed straight for the Old Town and found a very nice place to stay, Hocus Pocus Hostel, right in the middle of all the action. They offer free laundry (our 2nd load is already spinning), free internet (as you can see), free breakfast and great, clean dorm rooms.

We already had a half hour stroll through the Old Town and are about to go and sample some of the local cuisine.

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J&M: Serene Slovakia https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/14/serene-slovakia/ Wed, 14 May 2008 18:10:11 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/14/serene-slovakia/ Photos of Slovensky Raj here

On Tuesday morning we caught the 10:00 train from Bratislava to Poprad in the north of Slovakia. From Poprad local busses run to the countryside villages and it took about 30 minutes to Levoca, where we decided to stay.

The accommdation we chose ended up being just perfect. Oaza (meaning oasis) is not a hostel at all but a family home with a little guesthouse (2 double rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen) at the back of the main house. This was one of the best accommodation experiences we’ve had so far and we highly recommend knocking on the Dubecky family’s door whenever in town. The Oaza website.

The owner, Mrs Dubecky, is a very friendly and helpful lady who gave us great pointers of things to do and see in the area and even printed out bus timetables for us. We were planning to do a 1-day hike and she suggested the ideal hiking route through the Slovensky Raj National Park – complete with maps and brochures. The pictures looked amazing and we were real excited about our first proper outdoor experience on this trip.

The next morning we had to catch a bus to Spissky Svrtok (don’t even try to pronounce this one!) and then another on to Hrabusica, but there was no second bus.. We asked the locals but there were no busses to the Park entrance and they told us we would have to do the remaining 6km by foot. Not too happy about this, we started walking and hiking at passing cars – at least the scenery was beautiful with the road winding through fields of yellow flowers. About 10 minutes into our hike, a local couple stopped and offered to take us to Hrabusica where we just had to walk the last 2km to the entrance.

At the park we started the trail at about 12:40 and the first section took us up a river gorge – absolutely stunning! The trail starts next to a stream but as you accend it quickly gets more serious and large parts of the route are ladder- and chain-assisted. It is pretty cool but also very scary at times because at certain areas it is very high with a shere drop-off right underneath you. We followed the instructions we got and linked about 5 different routes, eventually leading us back to the valley, lasting a total of about 5.5 hours. We were absolutely knackered but had an amazing time and it was a great change from city sightseeing. It was everything we expected and more – really reminded us of the Tzitzikama hiking trail.

The Slovakian countryside is really beautiful with so much to offer. Part our train journey took us past the snow capped High Tatra mountains – an awesome sight! So far our entire route through the Eastern European countryside has exceeded our expectations – lush, green fields, beautiful mountains, great coastlines, stunning old towns and last but not least very friendly and inviting people everywhere you go!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Tale of 3 Towns https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/12/tale-of-3-towns/ Mon, 12 May 2008 21:29:47 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/12/tale-of-3-towns/ We started the day with breakfast in Budapest (Hungary), took the train at 09:30 and arrived in Bratislava (Slovakia) at 12:15. We only had a few minutes to find a hostel, check in, drop our bags and get the 13:00 1-hour train to Vienna (Austria). So we covered 3 capitals in 4,5 hours..

Photos of Vienna here
Photos of Bratislava here

Like we said before, Budapest is a wonderful city to explore with loads to offer. Moving on to Slovakia, we never expected too much from Bratislava, which is why we decided to take a quick afternoon trip to Vienna. Of course Vienna is lovely and has some amazing sights, but in the end we only zipped through the main part of town in about 3+ hours to get a good feel for the place.

Catching the 17:30 back to Bratislava (where we’re staying tonight), we thought we’d have enough time to see the 1 or 2 sights here. We were wrong, Bratislava exceeded our expectations and is also a really lovely city with plenty of pedestrianised streets, lovely coffee shops and a wonderful atmosphere. These capitals are so close together and all have great things to offer that we highly recommended it for a long-weekend trip.

Easter weekend seems to follow us around – from Greece all the way to Slovakia we’ve hit public holidays. So far we’ve been lucky that it hasn’t affected train schedules too badly.

We’ve now seen and crossed the Danube river for the 5th time, but we have yet to take a cruise on it (too expensive so far). Eastern Europe have been a real eye-opener for us and countryside and people are lovely.

As a result of the extra countries we included in South-Eastern Europe we were 7 days behind schedule, but we managed to make up 1 day by cutting our stay in Budapest short with a day. We are fairly flexible, but have a maximum of +-15 days to play with because of our Vietnam visas.

Tonight will be spent in Hostel Possonium which has a great location for us – literally 800m from the train station – which is exactly what we needed today. We had never heard of them, but saw them advertised in the train station and walked straight here. Our room is a 10-bed dorm and unfortunately some of the other occupants are currently downstairs in the bar getting warmed up..

Tomorrow we are booked on the 10:00 train to Poprad from where we’re hoping to get the bus to Levoca to see a bit of the Slovakian countryside.

Vienna slideshow

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

Photos of Bratislava here

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J&M: Buda and Pest https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/11/buda-and-pest/ Sun, 11 May 2008 18:02:38 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/11/buda-and-pest/ Photos of Budapest here

Arriving at 19:30 we were immediately targeted by the local “hostel officionados” trying to sell us the best places in town. We got a flyer from someone in the hostel in Sighisoara advertising private accommodation close to the station, so we headed straight for that.

Unfortunately “Mama Helena” couldn’t help us as all her hostel-type rooms were full, but she offered us a private double room in one of her son’s appartments. It is a very small studio-type flat in an old block that was used as a Jewish getto during the war. It sounds pretty bad, but it is newly done over and perfect for our needs.

We made our own dinner with our little one-plate stove and had a quite night in.

This morning we hit the town full of energy and started in the Buda side with the old Citadel first. There are loads of beautiful sights in the Old Town as well as amazing views across the city.

After a few hours there we took a bus out the Monument Park (20 minutes out of town) but is was a complete disaster and waste of time and money. Luckily we manage to sell our tickets to others and got the bus back – only lost 1,5 hours.

We got back to town and did a walk around the Pest side, visiting St Istvan Basilica and walking through Varosliger Park with the amazing Vajdahunyad Castle built on an island in the park.

We absolutely love Budapest and can highly recommend it to anyone!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Scenic Sighisoara https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/10/scenic-sighisoara/ Sat, 10 May 2008 17:52:07 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/11/scenic-sighisoara/ Photos of Sighisoara here

After hearing all about the castles in the area we had to decide on 1 as we only had the morning to spare. So we chose Dracula’s Bran Castle in the little town Bran, about 40 minutes from Brasov. We caught a local bus to Bran but on the way it started raining and was freezing cold.

It only took about 10 minutes to walk around the castle and we soon realise that the guide book was correct in saying this is the fake Dracula Castle and not all it’s cracked up to be. Needless to say we caught the next bus back to Brasov.

We had to hang around for a while at the Hostel where we stored our luggage and then headed for the train station to catch the 16:05 train to Sighisoara – Dracula’s birthplace.

It was a beautiful 2 hour train trip through the mountains and forests and our hostel was only 200 metres from the station. We decided to have a lazy evening, made dinner at the hostel, Nathan’s Villas, and went to bed early.

Next morning we walked up the hill to the Citadel (Old Town) to explore the Millennium-old houses and buildings. We walked past the house where Dracula allegedly grew up but decided not to go in as it is now a restaurant that over charges for under-par food (so we’ve been told by the locals). There is a very pretty covered walkway that leeds you right to the top of the hill with great views.

Sighisoara is a beautiful little town and we were really glad we made this stop-over.

We only had the morning to spend in town and got the 11:10 train to Budapest, arriving at 19:30.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Bucharest Blockage by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-191 Sat, 10 May 2008 14:14:05 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-191 ag shame, man. Dis nou een treinrit wat nie so goed uitgewerk het nie. Maar dis ook sulkes wat die trip interessant maak. Ek sou my koud geskrik het. Vir een of ander rede het ek nie vandag(Sat) rolbal gaan speel nie, en ook nie Dond nie! Dinsd heeldag op Kirkwood gespeel. Kan jy glo Oom Erik, Eben se broer en sy vrou speel ook,en hy’s nou mal daaroor. Heelweek Plnksterdienste gehad. Rethie het dit baie goeg gedoen. Gisteraand ‘n heerlike Pinksterete gehad met alles op die spyskaart so eg Bybels.Almal kon ook so aantrek. Ek het ‘n kaftan met stola om die kop en lang dangling goue oorbelle ,en leer plat sandale,heel in die gees vd tyd gevoel!
Weet nie wanneer hd email gestuur gaan word nie, want hy sny elke paar sekondes af!!
As “moeder” sal ek in liefde aan al 4 my kinders dink,more.Ekweet julle sal ook aan ons dink en dalk ‘n bietjie verlang! Liefdetjiesxxxxxxxx

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Comment on Brasov by Branree https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/brasov/#comment-190 Sat, 10 May 2008 11:54:23 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/brasov/#comment-190 Winter snuck up on us last week and so this afternoon we are sitting in the living room watching the storms rolling in off the Atlantic and reading about your exploits in Eastern Europe.

Not sure if you’ve read “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova, but about one-third of the book takes place in Romania. The characters cross the Danube and travel through the foothills and medieval towns of Walachia before venturing up the steep slopes of the Carpathians through dense forests and gorges into the wilds of Transylvania. Her descriptions of the castles, abbeys, villages and their inhabitants give the impression that the Grimms Brothers must have used these places as inspiration for their fairy tales.

Watch out for vampires and werewolves… apparently they are as common there as dassies and bobbejane are here in the Cape. Might be worth tucking a few cloves of garlic into your backpacks just in case ;-)

Other than some lounge loafing in front of the fireplace with noses stuck in books, this afternoon we’ve got a kiddies’ birthday party and this evening the Stormers are taking on the NSW Waratahs to see who will go through to the Super 14 semi-finals. Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day and that is going to be a pretty big event around here. All around a good winter weekend.

Lotsa love to you guys and good luck navigating your way through the land of Dracula. We’ll be thinking of you.

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J&M: Brasov https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/brasov/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/brasov/#comments Thu, 08 May 2008 18:12:16 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/brasov/ Photos of Brasov here

After our hectic trek yesterday, we decided to take the later train from Bucharest to Brasov at 13:00 (instead of 09:30). We got up at about 9:00 and by the time we finished breakfast and updated our blog at the hostel, it was 12:00 and time to walk to the station.

The trip to Brasov was about 2 hours and 40 minutes and we arrived at 15:40. We found the hostel easily, checked in and went straight into the Old Town. There is not that much to see, but Brasov is a very nice little Medieval town in the mountains.

We decided to splash a bit and treated ourselves with a proper dinner (which generally means anything but bread) and had some traditional Romanian dishes at a local restaurant on the main square – very nice indeed.

Having an early night before we head to Sighisoara tomorrow.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Bucharest Blockage by Morne, Leanne and Ethan https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-188 Thu, 08 May 2008 10:16:43 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comment-188 Hey guys, hectic train ride, but what an experience hey. I bet you can look back now and laugh already.
Lekker hot here in London today, 24 degrees and lets hope it stays that way now. You guys are doing so well on your trip and we are loving hearing all your adventures.

Take care

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J&M: Bucharest Blockage https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/#comments Thu, 08 May 2008 08:17:00 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/08/bucharest-blockage/ Best laid plans.. well, we never made it to Brasov yesterday as we had hoped after all. After having breakfast in Velico, we got a short taxi to the train station and were 30mins early for the 11:10 train to Bucharest.

We soon heard that the train was delayed and that it would only arrive at noon. Noon came and went and we eventually left at 12:30-ish. The train got to the next station fairly swiftly (about 8km further), but then stopped for what turned out to be a total of almost 4 hours. At this stage we began to doubt the possibility of going through to Brasov, but still had hope..

Turned out that we had been standing there without a engine and were waiting for a replacement the whole time. We got moving from there at about 16:00 and immediately the ticket inspectors came around to do the usual checks. We had been sitting (feet up) in the compartment by ourselves watching a movie when they came in shouting about the ‘damage’ we were causing to the seats..

They insisted we paid a ‘shtraf’ fine of what we could make out to be ~ 16 euro each. In addition they also started runting about the fact that we had only our inter-rail passes but no seat reservations (dispite the fact that we were 2 of about 7 people on the entire carriage!) and demanded more money.

Needless to say we just acted dumb and told them we had no money on us, while Marizanne was frantically wiping the dust marks off the already-filthy seats. After a few minutes they realised they weren’t getting what they wanted and then just suddenly left, never to be seen again.. Both our train-trips into, and out of Bulgaria have turned out to be relatively unique experiences.

After all this fun we were still about 100 km from the border and more waiting followed while we cantered through the countryside.

We arrived at the border crossing at about 20:00 and waited some more.. and so on..

Long story short, we finally pulled into Bucharest station at 22:30 – the original arrival time being 17:09. We travelled less than 200km yesterday in a total of 10 hours – a day well spent :)

More dramas ensued as we walked the streets of Bucharest searching for our chosen hostel (trusting the Lonenly Planet’s splendid map-work) until we gave up and took a taxi 4 blocks further, finally arriving at 00:30 at the Butterfly Villa Hostel.

We’re aiming to get the 13:00 train from Bucharest to Brasov (2 hour trip), and hope to get there before tomorrow..

The Lonely Planet has really been our Bible on this trip, but it has to be said that some of the maps tend to leave one in the lurch when you most need it.

PS: Juan & Marli, thanks again for the European LP, it has carried us well through Western Europe.

PPS: Nilf & Feebil, thanks again for the cereal bars, the last two saved us during our long train trip yesterday.

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We met Corina (from Cluj Napoca in Romania) in the McDonald’s at the Bucharest train station. She had just arrived back from a trip to Egypt and had plenty of stories to share. Corina is also aiming to go to Oz at some point, so we might meet up again then!

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J&M: Veliko Tar”NO”va https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/07/veliko-tarnova/ Wed, 07 May 2008 07:07:22 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/07/veliko-tarnova/ Photos of Velico here

The Lonely Planet calls Veliko Tarnova one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe.. we beg to differ..

The Hostel Mostel in Sofia made reservations for us at their sister property in Veliko and they were actually waiting for us at the train station yesterday afternoon – 5 star service we’re not used to! It was about 16:00 when we started walking around the streets (well, there is only 1 main street) and went up to the Fortress on the hill.

The whole time we were waiting for our impression of Veliko to improve, according to our expectations, but it never happened. Veliko Tarnova is a nice enough town, but it does not impress in any way and in hindsight is definately not worthy of a 1 night stop-over. This is all very strange because plenty of people have previously told us about Veliko being so lovely and the guidebooks absolutely rave about it. At least we are not the only ones thinking like this – everyone in our room last night felt the same way.

Again, Hostel Mostel was great – it is an old house (built in the 1800’s) newly renovated and the people are very friendly and helpful and we got another free dinner last night.

We were planning on staying in Bucharest tonight, but have decided to try and go straight through to Brasov and skip the apparently unattractive and boring capital of Romania (this is actually according to other travellers and not the Lonely Planet). Let’s hope the train connections all work out.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Soaked in Sofia by Pa en Ma Deacon https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/05/soaked-in-sofia/#comment-187 Wed, 07 May 2008 05:53:39 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/05/soaked-in-sofia/#comment-187 Hi julle

Teen hierdie tyd is julle seker al in Velico Ternova. Dit klink of daardie Hostel Mostel ‘n hemelse ondervinding was! Hier by ons gaan dit baie goed. Sune-hulle het gister toe teruggekom van die see af, maar ons het nog nie regtig met hulle gesels nie.
Nou ja, geniet julleself verder en pas julle baie mooi op.
Baie liefde
Ons twee
xxxxxxxxxx

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J&M: Soaked in Sofia https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/05/soaked-in-sofia/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/05/soaked-in-sofia/#comments Mon, 05 May 2008 18:20:04 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/05/soaked-in-sofia/ Photos of Sofia here

We’ve had perhaps the most relaxing day so far on our trip.. and have loved it!

We got up mid-morning and, after breakfast, headed into town to start exploring. The first stop was the Lady’s Market just up the road from us. It’s a street market with loads of clothes, food and odds & ends. Everywhere so far we’ve been looking for a really small hotplate and/or a boiling element to boil water in a cup. We finally found exactly what we’ve been looking for at this market and bought both today. Now we can finally enjoy a cup of tea and even cook some pasta whenever we want.

We also bought a whole lot of fruit and veg for dinner tonight and had to come back to the hostel to drop everything off. Just as we stepped inside it started pouring down and kept going until late afternoon. We ended up chilling in front of the hostel’s plasma screen (!!) watching movies and spending some time uploading photos (see the latest additions to the Eastern European section).

At about 18:00 we decided to take another shot at sightseeing and did about 1 hour round trip of the town before the rain started coming down again. But luckily when we got back we were just in time for dinner and a beer (included in the price). This is definately one of the best hostels we’ve stayed at (Hostel Mostel).

Planning on catching the 9:50 train to Velico Ternova tomorrow morning – we just hope the weather is a bit better then.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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Comment on Cool Kotor by Lauren Dreyer https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-186 Mon, 05 May 2008 07:07:20 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-186 Hello! Still readying your Blog as often as I can (during the week daily). Glad its going OK – sounds great!

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J&M: Sofia at last https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/04/sofia-at-last/ Sun, 04 May 2008 20:15:39 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/04/sofia-at-last/ It has been 26 hours since our last post and since that time we have been travelling solidly.

We got on the 16:50 bus from Kotor that got us to Bar (still in Montenegro) at 19:30. We had time for dinner at a nice little restaurant opposite the train station in Bar before we boarded the overnight train back to Belgrade; this time we had beds on the train (3 bunk beds on each side of the compartment).

The train was 2 hours late and we only got to Belgrade at 8am. Our next train left Belgrade at 08:40 to Sofia (10 hour trip!). At one stage we shared the compartment with 2 very strange old ladies smuggling cigarettes across the Bulgarian border (hiding the cartons everywhere – from a specially made jacket with hidden pockets to socks and underwear!). The one even bribed the controller because she didn’t have a ticket for the train. It was very obviously not their first time doing it and all this made for a very interesting trip into Bulgaria.

We found a very nice hostel, Hostel Mostel (no, that is the real name) and we even got some free pasta and a beer when we arrived. At this stage we are planning on staying 2 nights in Sofia and then heading to Veliko Tarnovo, but it all depends on how exciting the city turns out to be tomorrow.

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Comment on Cool Kotor by marizanne https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-185 Sun, 04 May 2008 18:52:06 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-185 Hi Moeder, so baie dankie vir al die boodskappies! Ja, die Rijka was vrek sterk, maar ek blammeer die snaakse Montenegro keybord vir al die spelfoute en nie die skop nie ;)

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Comment on Cool Kotor by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-184 Sun, 04 May 2008 15:25:41 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comment-184 Eers julle kommemtaar oor Debrovnik gelees en nou hd een .Dit klink wonderlik en lyk daardie rijka het baie skop gehad,sommer klaargespeel met die k van kick en t van chatting!! Terg sommer! Dis so oulik dat julle oral vriende kan maak.
Lees my ander bydrae. xxxx

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Comment on Dubrovnik Detour by Mamma van PE https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/01/dubrovnik-detour/#comment-183 Sun, 04 May 2008 15:10:14 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/01/dubrovnik-detour/#comment-183 Liewe Kinders,
Dit was sooo lekker om jou sms van Dubrovnik te kry! dit het my hart sommer laat bokspring om te weet julle is daar. Dit was so fantastiese kontras na die watervalle die vorige dag. By al die wonderlikheid ,sal ek ook altyd onthou dat ek amper bokveld toe was!!Hierdie Bloeddruk storie was seker toe al ‘n groter probleem aswat ek besef het. Deur die Genade het ek so ‘n wonderlike trip saam met julle enduit kon meemaak.
Ek het ‘n rustige week met sy 3 vakansiedae gehad. 2vd dae rolbal gespeel.Dond het ons kunsklas weer gaan uiteet en toe klas gehad. Saterdag t Miems Burger se 80ste! by eetplek gehad,eers na 2nm by die huis gekom.Oom Richard se rugoperasie goed gegaan..vir hulle vanog na kerk gaan kuier. (geen braai nie ,ander 3 in Kaap vir AllCape rolbal)H/d week Pinksterdienste.
Hoop om vanaand van Anree-hulle te hoor–hulle was weg vir paar dae.
Baie,baie liefdetjies. Mamma {PE}xxxx

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J&M: Cool Kotor https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/#comments Sat, 03 May 2008 14:00:36 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/03/cool-kotor/ Our bus from Dubrovnik to Herzig Novi (Montenegro) arrived at 11:00 and we decided to go straight to Kotor. We had about 40 minutes to walk around Herzig Novi (nice town, but not worth an overnight) and then caught the bus further.

Once in Kotor it seemed quiet difficult to find cheap accommodation but in the end we found a single room (yes, only a single bed!) in a private appartment right in the heart of the Old Town. We shared the appartment with a very friendly Serbian couple, Bojan and Ivana, who now live in Montenegro.

Kotor is a beautiful coastal town at the bottom of a huge fjord – the setting is spectacular. We climbed up the mountain to the fortress yesterday afternoon and got some great photos of the valley and mountains. Afterwards we walked through the Old Town and had a pizza in one of the little squares. Kotor is really something special and definately worth a visit!

After dinner we went back to the room at 21:30 and Bojan and Ivana invited us for a glass of wine on the terrace. They introduced us to “Rijka” a homemade, distilled apperitif – with a hell of a cick! We ended up chating until 01:30 and had a great time, finishing off with a very strong “domestic” coffee brew.

This morning we visited Budva, another coastal town, but a bit more commercialised. We had our packed lunch on the beach and took the 14:00 bus back to Kotor. On the way back we decided not to stay another night in Kotor, but to go to Bar and catch the overnight train back to Belgrade. From there we will catch the train tomorrow morning to Sofia, Bulgaria, and then resume our original planned schedule. Hopefully all of this works out.

Bojan advised us against taking a route through Kosovo, so we will take the long way via Belgrade again.

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If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Dubrovnik Detour https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/01/dubrovnik-detour/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/01/dubrovnik-detour/#comments Thu, 01 May 2008 18:41:37 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/05/01/dubrovnik-detour/ Our plans have yet again changed today when we got to Mostar. We were planning on spending a few hours in Mostar (still Bosnia) and then catching the afternoon bus to Montenegro. But when we arrived in Mostar we found out that there were no more busses to anywhere in Montenegro today. We managed to get on the first bus to Dubrovnik (Croatia), which meant that we had to give Mostar a skip. The 3 hour journey turned into a 5 hour bus trip with a 2 hour delay at all the borders.

On arrival in Dubrovnik, we missed our bus connection to Herzog Novi (Montenegro) by 2 minutes (!!) and had to book into the Youth Hostel for the night. We are not really complaining as we absolutely love Dubrovnik after our visit last year. We’ve just had a coffee in the main square watching the sun set and the people go by.

We are fondly remembering our trip to Croatia last year with Mom (PE) – wish you were here! We can’t afford another meal at Momoza Restaurant or to stay in our little guesthouse this time, but it is great to be back here nevertheless.

Hopefully we will be able to get the 09:30 bus to Herzog Novi and spend a few days exploring two or three towns down the Montenegro coastline.

We may have lost Albania on this trip, but gained 4 extra countries in the process. Still having an awesome time and loving everything.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Smashing Sarajevo https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/30/smashing-sarajevo/ Wed, 30 Apr 2008 18:34:28 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/30/smashing-sarajevo/ Sarajevo is really beautiful! It is a fairly big city, but its central part feels really small and welcoming. The dozens of pedestrianised streets make for a wonderful sightseeing experience.

The town is on the banks of the Miljacka river and is surrounded by green mountains covered in small houses. It almost feels like walking in a village in Switzerland. The signs of the 1992-1995 war are still visible in places (bullet holes in buildings, etc), but judging by the people’s attitudes you would never guess they’ve gone through such tradegy.

We’ve spent the day wondering the streets and taking in the vibrant atmosphere, ending the day with a Chevapcici (minced meat sausages with a huge flat bread) at a local Muslim restaurant – really exellent!

Our next journey starts tomorrow morning at 06:45 to Mostar (apparently another beautiful Bosnian town) and then on to Montenegro’s coastline.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Swinging past Sarajevo https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/29/swinging-past-sarajevo/ Tue, 29 Apr 2008 21:04:10 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/29/swinging-past-sarajevo/ “Morning coffee in Serbia, lunch in Croatia and dinner in Bosnia.”

On route from Skopje to Sofia, we decided to change our plans and go to Belgrade (Serbia) instead. This meant we simply had to stay on the train we boarded in Skopje and arrived in Belgrade at 6:30 this morning. We had 3 hours to get to know Belgrade a little bit before we had to board the 10:45 2nd train to a very small town in Croatia.

We were pleasantly surprised with Belgrade and had a great time walking around the padestrianised streets and having coffee on the main square. In the end we were sad we only had a few hours there, but it was never on our itinerary. It is a great city and we would definately recommend staying at least one night.

The 2nd leg of the journey was delayed with 30 minutes which meant that we only just made the final connection in Croatia on route to Sarajevo (Bosnia). It was the smallest train we have ever taken consisting of only the locamotive and a single carriage.

Arriving in Sarajevo at 21:00 we were met by a representative of a local hostel agency. They are listed in the Lonely Planet so we decided to take the free transfer into town where they offered us a double room in a private residence. We are staying in a nice, clean room in an old Lady’s apartment.

We got a free beer on the first night and at the moment we’re enjoying two room-temperature Sarajevsko Pivo’s! Our first impressions of the city are very good and after travelling for more than a day we’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

This U-turn into Serbia, Croatia and now Bosnia Hercegovina is part of a detour that will eventually also take us through Montenegro before returning to our original route through Sofia. A few more countries and sights for not a lot more effort..

We love Eastern Europe – the cities are great, the people are very friendly and everything is much cheaper!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Do Gledanje Macedonia https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/28/do-gledanje-macedonia/ Mon, 28 Apr 2008 16:52:14 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/28/do-gledanje-macedonia/ Goodbye Macedonia!

After breakfast we went straight to the bank to try and get Jan’s card back, but found that all the banks are still closed today (last day of Easter weekend). To get the card back, would mean another day in Skopje and we have already stayed an extra day. We’ve decided to cut our losses and canceled the card.

We had to hang around and chill for the whole day while waiting for our train tonight – one thing we have really learned to do very well over the last month! But at least we had another “home cooked” meal at the hostel – quite a luxury at this stage for us.

The train leaves Skopje (Macedonia) at 20:00 and we get to Nis (Serbia) at 01:00. We then have 1 hour before the next train leaves at 02:00 and will arrive in Sofia (Bulgaria) at 07:00. We got some very good recommendations for Youth Hostels in Sofia from the guys here in Skopje, so we will make sure we find a nice spot to relax after our overnight journey.

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J&M: Hostel Hostel / Skopje https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/28/hostel-hostel/ Mon, 28 Apr 2008 13:40:42 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/28/hostel-hostel/ ‘Hostel Hostel’ in Skopje is perhaps one of the friendliest and comfortable hostels we’ve stayed at. Thanks guys for the great service, clean rooms and free breakfast and internet. We’ve had a great time here.

Thanks especially to Ajet for all the advice and info – much appreciated! We owe you a cold Skopsko beer!

Check out Hostel Hostel’s website.

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J&M: Photos https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/27/photos/ Sun, 27 Apr 2008 18:43:31 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/27/photos/ We’ve changed the way in which we display our photos a bit – you’ll see a new link on the left-hand side called ‘Travel Blog Photos’ which will take you to a summary of all the shots we’ve uploaded (or you can just click here).

It keeps everything in one place and it saves us a lot of hassle.. ;)

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J&M: Skopje day 2 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/27/skopje-day-2/ Sun, 27 Apr 2008 17:29:01 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/27/skopje-day-2/ Photos of Skopje here

So short into our trip, we had our first real bad luck – Jan’s card was swallowed by the ATM at the bus station. But all is not lost, the guys at the hostel very kindly called the bank and we should be able to get it back tomorrow. This means that we had to change our plans slightly and stay an extra night in Skopje (instead of taking the train through to Sofia tonight).

As we now have an extra day, we had a very last minute brainwave this morning and decided to go to Prishtina in Kosovo for the day. When we checked out the website and saw that the bus left in 15 minutes, we just grabbed our stuff and ran to the bus station (normally at least a 15 minute walk).

We actually made it in time, but then found out that the only bus back to Skopje is at 14:30, which would give us only 1 hour in Prishtina. We had to sit down in the station afterwards to cool down and wait for the colour in our faces to return back to normal (at that stage a slight shade of purple from all the running!).

After all this excitement, we then had the whole day to explore the sights (all 3 of them) in Skopje. The Old Town is very small and very run down – you really notice the relative poverty compared to Western Europe. Apparently the average salary in Macedonia is only 200 Euro per month.

The capital is not a beautiful city, but there are many small cafes (even a McDonalds!) and clubs and the young people here are sure to make this an upcoming place. The people are very friendly when you speak to them, but seem fairly reserved otherwise.

We are going to cook a meal at the hostel tonight – the first “home cooked” meal in a month – are will just chill with a cold Skopsko (the most popular Macedonian beer).

We shared a room with a very nice Austrian guy called Andreas Steinbichler. He has just returned from Tibet and took many photos of the situation there that have been published in various magazines and papers. Check out some of the photos here.

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Andreas joining us for the ride to Belgrade

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Outing to Ohrid https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/26/outing-to-ohrid/ Sat, 26 Apr 2008 21:55:35 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/26/outing-to-ohrid/ Photos of Ohrid here

After heading straight to Greece from Italy and missing out on Albania and the subsequent trip to Macedonia through Ohrid, we decided that a daytrip from Skopje is worthwhile as it is the highlight of Macedonia.

Our bus left at 10:00 for Ohrid and we got up at 8:00 to get ready and enjoy our free breakfast at the hostel, but realised just before we left that we were still on Greek time and had another hour to relax. But first we woke up the poor hostel manager to make us breakfast and it was only after he told us that we realised our mistake.

The bus was supposed to take 3 hours, but with all the many stops to pick up locals along the way, it was closer to 4 hours. Ohrid is truely the jewel of Macedonia and a beautiful little town. Both the town and the lake (of the same name) are Unesco World Heritage sites and they have gone to great lenghts to protect and preserve some of the sites dating back to the 3rd Century BC.

We met two very nice and interesting Austrians on the bus, Jetmir (a freelance journalist at the Cannes film festival – check out his website at www.uncut.at) and Birgit, and they even bought us our first Macedonian coffee – thank you guys!

We didn’t have that much time as the bus left Ohrid again at 17:45 and there were plenty of small sites to enjoy. It was definately worth the visit, but unfortunately we were unlucky again with the weather as it was another overcast and windy day.

Tomorrow we are exploring Skopje and will report back before we board another overnight train through Serbia (Nis) to Sofia in Bulgaria – joy!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Kick’n Skopje https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/25/kickn-skopje/ Fri, 25 Apr 2008 21:02:54 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/25/kickn-skopje/ Because of the Easter weekend coming up in Greece, the trains were absolutely packed and we could not get a place on any of the ones to Thessaloniki yesterday afternoon.

We finally managed to get two seats on last night’s overnight train at 23:59 which arrived at 6:50 am in Thessaloniki. The train journey was quiet a dog show with 2 guys almost attacking each other right behind us due to a dispute over an open window, 2 women screaming at each other because the one started smoking in her seat (!!) and people standing everywhere in the corridors (even when the trains are full, they still sell standing tickets – 7 hours overnight!).

We then just had 9 hours to kill before our subsequent train straight through to Skopje in Macedonia. In Thessaloniki we spent the first few hours sleeping in various uncomfortable positions on benches inside the station before we were asked to stop doing so by station attendants. At noon we finally decided to lock away our bags and went for a quick stroll through the central part of town. We took in a few of the sights, but unfortunately there was a constant drizzle, which put a bit of a damper on things. The town is OK, but in the end we were glad not to have spent a night there.

We left Thessaloniki at 16:15 and after very long-winded passport checks going through the border from Greece to Macedonia we arrived more than an hour late at 9pm in Skopje. We thrashed around a bit at first to find our way to the Youth Hostel, which we had picked out before-hand, and got mobbed by the usual over-eager taxi driver squad.. But we’re finally in our little Hostel (actually called Hostel Hostel) and it’s very nice with kitchen facilities and free net access again.

We’re currently alone in a 6 bed shared dorm room, but the manager, Ajet, a really top guy, said he’ll try his best to keep it empty for us.

We’re planning on staying here for two nights and have already booked bus tickets to make a day trip to Ohrid (Macedonia’s highlight) tomorrow – a beautiful lake that forms part of the border with Albania.

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J&M: Athens to Thessaloniki https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/24/athens-to-thessaloniki/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/24/athens-to-thessaloniki/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2008 10:33:10 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/24/athens-to-thessaloniki/ After 3 wonderful days in Santorini, we left the island yesterday afternoon around 3:30pm. The ferry took about 8 hours and we arrived in Athens at 11:45pm. We went straight to the Athens International Youth Hostel again and luckily got a shared room to ourselves.

We are hoping to get on the 2:50pm train to Thessaloniki, but it is Easter in Greece and all the trains are very busy. We might have to stand all the way (6 hours), so we’ll just camp out in one of the corridors (true backpackers style!).

PS: we have uploaded some more photos of Santorini (see all the previous posts on Santorini).

Thessaloniki slideshow

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Santorini day 3 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/22/santorini-day-3/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/22/santorini-day-3/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2008 16:39:30 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/22/santorini-day-3/ Last night we were invited to join a few friends we met in Santorini to have a bottle of wine on the beach. Two of them, Grace (American) and Ian (French Canadian) are staying at our guest house and Monica (Mexican) joined us. We only started at 11pm and got to bed at 1:30am! It was great fun though and later one of the chefs from a little restaurant on the beach joined us too. Monica, we hope your head is okay this morning after the fall.

This morning we had another late start and after we dropped off our laundry at the local shop, we headed up the mountain for a view from the monastery. The church was closed and the view was great, but unfortunately the weather was a bit hazy.

After that we went to explore the capital of Santorini, Fira, and walked around the cobbled streets. The town is beautiful, but it was extremely windy – we couldn’t even put the backpack down as it would just blow away.

We started to become used to our siestas in the afternoon and today was no exception. We’re planning on posting a few photos tonight if we have time, but we’ll let you know.

Thanks for all the messages today, it is really great!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Santorini day 2 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/21/santorini-day-2/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/21/santorini-day-2/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2008 17:14:49 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/21/santorini-day-2/ After updating the blog yesterday afternoon, we decided to hire a scooter from the internet place (they gave us a good deal for 3 days). We must’ve covered 40km yesterday afternoon alone and went to Oia, the very Northern tip of the island, for the sunset. It’s just like on the postcards – hopefully our photos will do it justice.

Oia is absolutely stunning with all its typical Greek white houses and blue doors. We easily could’ve wondered the streets for hours, but it was getting dark and we had a 45 minute ride back to Villa Mihalis (our little oasis).

This morning we slept in and only left the room at 11am. We got on the bike again and explored the various southern sights. Our first stop was the Red Beach with its unusual black volcanic sand mixed with red stones from the red cliffs around it. We haven’t quite braved the water yet.

From there we explored different little towns and ancient settlements. We turned at the lighthouse, at the Southern tip of the island, and made a quick grocery stop on the way back (there is a Lidl on the island!).

The scooter is great fun and for a change Marizanne has to carry the huge bag with all the camera equipment on her back, while Jan is driving. We look like real tourists, because non of the locals wear helmets (and we got a fine looking red one a very funky little silver one for Jan – wait for the photos!) and unfortunately in true Pomm-style Jan got a smashing sunburn today.
We love Santorini! Still not sure if we are staying 3 or 4 nights, or perhaps more!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Soothing Santorini https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/20/soothing-santorini/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/20/soothing-santorini/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2008 14:06:40 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/20/soothing-santorini/ The alarm clock went off at 05:30 this morning and we left the hostel just after 6am to catch the 07:25 ferry to Santorini. It took 7 hours but it was worth the wait – we’ve just arrived and it is absolute bliss..

We met a man at the port from one of the hostel in Perissa beach and he offered us a private room at 7 EUR each. When we got to the area, it turns out the hostel is closed for refurbishment and he offered us a room in his guest house. It is way better than any hostel we’ve ever had – even with a swimmingpool!

At this stage we have booked for 3 nights, but we’re considering staying longer. Santorini is beautiful (the parts we saw from the ferry) and we are looking forward exploring the little island further.

We’ll see if we can rent a scooter so that we can get around a bit easier. The weather is great and we are off to the beach now.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Ancient Athens https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/19/ancient-athens/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/19/ancient-athens/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2008 17:00:55 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/19/ancient-athens/ After a very good night sleep (we had the room all to ourselves) we walked into town in time for the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. From there we followed the walking route specified by the Lonely Planet, which took us through many old and interesting parts of town – particularly Plaka.

We bought combined tickets for the Acropolis including access to a few other sites and museums. The Acropolis and Temples are quite spectacular and the weather played along too. We had a very nice, warm and sunny day, which made the whole day so much more enjoyable.

As luck would have it, we walked passed the ferry reservation offices in town and managed to pre-book our tickets for tomorrow morning. We were lucky to get a discount with our Interail tickets, which helped a lot. The ferry leaves Pireaus (just outside Athens) at 07:25 and arrives in Santorini at 15:00.

Another Australian couple just checked into our room at the hostel, but they seem very nice. We are about to upload some more photos and will then grab a quick bite to eat.

Hope to make contact again from Santorini.

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

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J&M: Stats so far https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/18/stats-so-far/ Fri, 18 Apr 2008 19:41:48 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/18/stats-so-far/ This is our 24th day of travel. Until now we’ve boarded 23 long haul trains, 7 long haul buses, 3 ferries and countless Metro & undergroud trains, local busses and taxis.

We’ve crossed international borders 9 times, visited 6 countries, stayed in 10 different Hotels or Hostels and have taken 7 over-night trips on 5 trains, 1 bus and 1 ferry.

A breakdown of our budget sheet & spending figures is available on request ;)

Greece is the last of the Western European countries on our itinerary. From here we will enter Eastern Europe through Bulgaria and work our way North until we hit Finland. Then beyond..

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J&M: Filling in the gaps https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/18/filling-in-the-gaps/ Fri, 18 Apr 2008 19:23:59 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/18/filling-in-the-gaps/ YahSU from Athens!

We arrived in Athens this evening at about 7pm after a 4.5 hour bustrip from Olympia. We found an excellent hostel, Athens International Youth Hostel, with free internet. Internet cafes are very expensive in Greece (up to 5 EUR per hour!) so we now have plenty of time for a proper update.

Naples was a real disappointment to say the least. Before even getting there, we decided to stay for 5 nights, instead of the original 3 (because of all the little towns in the area) – our first mistake. We arrived late afternoon and decided to go for a stroll through town – second mistake. It is dirty and well dodgy with washing hanging all over the place. We just did not feel comfortable there at all.

Our youth hostel was a little out of the center of town but we thought it was okay, until we decided to only stay 3 nights (after we already paid for 5). It was a real mission to get them to refund the extra 2 nights, but after many discussions and a phone call to the director (from a payphone on Capri) we succeeded!

The second day we took the train to Pompeii and spent the morning wondering the ruins. We enjoyed it and it was quiet an experience, but troubling to see the lack of care that is taken to preserve the ruins and the area. We considered visiting Herculaneum too, but our “backpackers budget” couldn’t afford another 11EUR entrance fee for one day.

At Pompeii train station we found that the next train was for Sorrento and decided to make a quick detour before heading back to nasty Naples. We were pleasantly surprised by how upmarket Sorrento was and after walking through the little town, we caught the train back to Naples.

Capri was next on the list, but unfortunately we got the worst weather ever and our “island experience” was not as idillic as expected – especially with the Blue Grotto being closed! We still wanted to visit Anacapri, but it was so cold and miserable that we decided on having a pizza in a little restaurant and just sat there waiting for the ferry back to Naples.

The next morning we got on the 08:55 train to Caserta where we had to wait about 1 hour for a train to Bari. We got to Bari around 3pm and this was where we caught the overnight ferry to Greece (instead of Albania as originally planned). The ferry to Patras was much cheaper (than Albania) with our Interail tickets, and we expected it to be very basic, as our tickets was only for “deck” access. When we got on the massive boat, it looked like a luxury cruise ship – even with butlers greeting you on board! We discovered that “deck” means outside in the wind and weather, but luckily we managed to get seets in one of the lounges (yes, there were more than one with about 3 different restaurants and a swimming pool!). In true backpacking style we camped out on the floor with our sleeping bags and the friendly waiters left us alone all night.

The boat arrived in Patras at noon and we had to make our way to the bus station as trains in Greece are not as well connected. With the extra 3 days we gained by not going to Albania and Macedonia, we decided to visit Olympia. We caught a bus from Patras and arrived in Olympia at 4pm and went straigt to the only hostel (as per the Lonely Planet), the Olympia Youth Hostel. A little old Greek lady greeted us (that also lives in the hostel) and gave us a double room for the night.

We fell in love with the small, peaceful Olympia straight way. It was like a breath of fresh air after Naples and travelling from 9am the previous morning. We were really happy that we decided to make the trip. We had a traditional Greek dinner – Mousaka and Greek salad with yogurt and honey for dessert – for only 6 EUR! This morning we visited the ancient Olympic site and it was quiet amazing to see where the olympic games started with buildings from 3rd and 4th century BC.

At 11:45 we had to catch a local bus to Pyrgos and from there another bus at 14:45 to Athens, which took 4 hours. From the bus station we made our way to the hostel and checked into a dorm room. At the moment it is just the 2 of us in the room (4 beds), so we are hoping it stays like that – wishfull thinking..

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J&M: Straight to Greece https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/17/straight-to-greece/ Thu, 17 Apr 2008 10:35:59 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/17/straight-to-greece/ After a ‘deur-nag’ ferry from Bari, we’ve just arrived in Patras and found this lovely Information Office with free internet – a nice change.

With the three days that we’ve ‘won’ by skipping Albania & Macedonia we’ve decided to spend some time in the Peloponese area. We’ve just bought bus tickets to Olympia where we’ll stay over tonight and see the sights. Tomorrow we’ll probably move on towards Nefplio if we can get there – supposedly the prettiest town in Greece.

We’re not sure about these places as they are off our planning and Marizanne obviously didn’t do any research on it. We’ll, I guess we can do it like normal backpackers for a few days.

So far the weather looks much better than what we had in Italy – fingers crossed!

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J&M: Naples no more https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/16/naples-no-more/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/16/naples-no-more/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2008 16:00:52 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/16/naples-no-more/ Sorry we’ve been quiet for so long, net access is flippen expensive here. After some thought we decided that three days in the Naples area was enough. The weather also have not been playing along.

Yesterday we took a ferry over to Capri, but unfortunately we chose the worst day weather wise. The wind was near gale at times with scattered showers. We braved walking around on the island streets and also a bit our of town to some of the older buildings. After getting soaked once we decided that was it and had some pizza while waiting for the ferry back.

We took the 8:55 Train from Naples this morning to Bari and it’s here that our plans have started to change. We were suppose to get the ferry tonight from here (Bari) to Durres in Albania. Only there is no discount with our rail passes and they are chanrging 120 euros for the one way trip! We found out that a longer trip all the way to Greece is covered by our passes and we only pay a small supplement.

So we’ve decided to make the first big deviation from our plans and go straight to Greece tonight. In the process we are loosing out on seeing Albania and Macedonia, but we were only planning on spending 1.5 days in each of them, and 120 euros does not make sense in that case.

We’ll try to catch up in more details soon (in Greece), but in the mean time I have to run, Marizanne is waiting by the bags at the port about 3 km away and this place is charging 5 euro per hour for internet access! Unbelievable!

Cheers Italy, Hello Greece! Chat soon, jan

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J&M: Naples https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/13/naples/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/13/naples/#comments Sun, 13 Apr 2008 15:54:45 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/13/naples/ We’ve arrived in Naples after a very quick train trip from Rome, only 2.5 hours. We went straight to a hostel, Ostello Mergellina, outside the centre of town and quite a walk from everything.

We were only planning on staying 3 nights to explore the entire region, but decided on 5 nights, after looking at everything there is to do. At the moment we are walking through the old town of Naples and will have an early night.

Tomorrow we are taking an early train to Herculaneum and Pompeii. After that we will have 3 more full days to explore Capri, Sorrento, Salerno, Positano and Amalfi.

The weather has not been too great, but at least it is not raining at the moment.

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J&M: Roma day 2 and 3 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/12/roma-day-2-and-3/ Sat, 12 Apr 2008 17:25:05 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/12/roma-day-2-and-3/ On day 1 in Rome we did all the main attractions in the city: Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Vittorio Emmanuel II, the Forum and the Colloseum (which was closed unfortunately). As we only arrived that morning, we were completely bushed after taking in all the sights and had an early evening.

Yesterday morning was a little rainy, so we decided to do a load of washing first at a local laundromat. Around noon the rain stopped and we headed back into town to see the St Peters Basilica. On the way there we went passed various other lessor known sights including Piazza Navona.

The Cathedral was quite spectacular and it was in noticably better shape than when I (Jan) was inside 12 years ago. The restoration really has paid off. We again took way too many photos but my 70 – 200 lense really came into it’s own. Unfortunately we were too late for the Sistine Chapel and will come back.

After a seriously long walk through what we thought would be a nice park (but which was not!), we ended up in the Trastevere area. This is supposed to be an area with funky cafes and restaurants, but the weather was closing in again. So we ended the day with a lovely pizza at a restaurant just around the corner from the Pantheon.

Today we went straight back to the Vatican City but had to queue for about an hour to get in. The entry maxed out our budget for the day, but it was well worth it.

It was absolutely packed inside and we had to wrestle our way through many of the narrow areas and corridors. We eventually got to the Sistine Chapel after being led through a maze of rooms we weren’t interested in. The Chapel really is something special but the hoardes of people make it difficult to fully appreciate. Nevertheless we had a fantastic time.

Tomorrow morning we are taking the 10:49 train to Naples where we will spend another 3 days exploring the dozens of sights.

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J&M: Arrival in Roma https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/10/arrival-in-roma/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/10/arrival-in-roma/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2008 10:13:57 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/10/arrival-in-roma/ What was supposed to be 4 train trips, turned into 5 after the second train was delayed yester morning, and we missed our connection in Montpellier.  As a birthday present to Jan, we booked a sleeper coach from Nice to Rome and it was absolutely heaven!

 We arrived in Rome at 09:45 this morning and were approached by various hostel “agents”. In the end we took an offer from one of them and are staying in a Bed & Breakfast very close to the station for quite cheap.

Thanks so much for all the birthday messages on the blog and all the text messages yesterday, I really appreciate it. I was not able to reply to all the texts, but please know that they are all very special.

We are off to explore Rome and will report back tomorrow on our first of 3 days here.

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J&M: Barcelona day 2 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/08/barcelona-day-2/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/08/barcelona-day-2/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2008 20:40:14 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/08/barcelona-day-2/ We started the day with a stroll up the La Rambla and on towards some of Gaudi´s well known buildings after which we moved on the Sagrada Famillia and had a quick picnic lunch.

By then we were absolutely bushed and had to take the Metro to Park Guell (with more of Gaudi´s creations). Little did we know we still had to climb a small mountain to get there! We didn´t realise the hangover from 2 days worth of travelling would still be with us.

We came back to the hostel for a quick break before making another trip to the Waterfront and the Parc de la Cuitadella. At that stage we were starving again and treated ourselves to a pre-birthday dinner at a very nice little Spanish Tapas Restaurant on the main street.

We are off to Rome tomorrow, leaving Barcelona at 08:25 for another 25 hour trip.

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J&M: Photos are here! https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/07/photos-are-here/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/07/photos-are-here/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2008 14:22:29 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/07/photos-are-here/ We’ve finally uploaded some photos and added them to the appropriate posts.

To navigate through all the previous posts and see the photos, select a country or city from the dropdown box under ‘Countries’ in the right hand side menu.

For the first (latest set) click here, then navigate from there.

You can also see all the photos we’ve uploaded to ‘flickr’ by clicking here.

We hope to upload photos as often as possible, but it is a bit more complicated because of the places we’re going to.

Enjoy!

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J&M: Barcelona day 1 https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/07/barcelona-day-1/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/07/barcelona-day-1/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2008 13:16:20 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/07/barcelona-day-1/ We finally arrived in Barcelona at 9am this morning after catching 1 ferry, 2 busses and 3 trains (a total of 34 hrs!!). It wasn’t actually all that bad as we kept ourselves busy with bits of admin and plenty of entertainment from our media player. Brett and Neil, thanks again for all the movies and series!

We checked into a nice enough hostel in the centre of town for 2 nights, Youth Hostel Center Ramblas, and are staying in a dorm room sharing with a Finnish couple. It is clean and we get free breakfast, but unfortunately a very loud group of Dutch teenagers checked in after us. We’ll see how things work out tonight..

We spent a long time washing the last 2 days worth of travel “aura” off before we felt normal again (we are seriously considering throwing away our last pairs of socks!). We stopped at a hardware store to buy an Allen Key and Jan serviced our backpacks’ wheels to get rid of all the Moroccon dirt.

The weather in Barcelona is not too great at the moment, but we are about to start exploring parts of the old town, a bit of Gaudi’s work and perhaps the Waterfront. We still have the whole of tomorrow to see the rest.

Our photo uploading session got cut short in Fez because the internet cafe closed early, but we’ve kicked off the upload again and will let you know once it is done.

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J&M: Fascinating Fez https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/05/fascinating-fez/ https://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/05/fascinating-fez/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2008 20:41:09 +0000 http://www.chaosworld.com/blog/2008/04/05/fascinating-fez/ Our first night apart ended up being not so traumatic after all and it actually enabled us to meet alot of new people.

The youth hostel served free breakfast in the garden (pain ou chocolat and cafe au lait) and we met a very nice Brazilian couple, Luiz & Karla, (see photo below) who invited us to join them on a guided tour they had previously organised. The guide picked us up at 10am and very kindly offered to store our bags in the boot of his car for the morning. As it is apparently illegal to store any luggage at hostels (unless you are staying the night), there was absolutely no way to convince the them to help us.

Official tour guides cost 120 Dirhams for 3 hours and the tour was definately worth every penny! He took us through a maize of alley ways to all the different mosques, markets and factory work shops – wood, metal, leather, embroidery, etc.

The highlight was the leather tanneries – huge pits in the ground each with a different colour natural dye (red = henna, yellow = safron, green = mint leaves, blue = indigo and brown = sedar wood). The guide took us to a leather shop high above the tanneries from where we had an excellent view over the pits. It was quite amazing to watch the workers prepare and colour the leather.

Our tour ended at about 2pm and since then we’ve been stuck with our bags and have spent 4 hours slowly sipping mint tea at a cafe on the main street.  We have another 3 hours to kill before our overnight bus (actually airconditioned!) to Tangier, and we will be spending most of it in this little internet cafe uploading photos. Watch this space..

Tonight starts perhaps one of our longest non-stop journeys departing on the 5th and arriving only on the 7th of April:
– Overnight bus from Fez to Tangier (23:00 to 05:00)
– Ferry from Tangier to Tarifa (09:00 to 11:35 – Spain 2 hrs ahead)
– Bus from Tarifa to Algeciras (12:30 to 13:00)
– Train from Algeciras to Bobadilla (15:50 to 18:35)
– Train from Bobadilla to Barcelona (21:27 to 09:27)

Obviosly we will not be updating the blog tomorrow, so we will touch base again in the beatiful Barcelona!

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Luiz & Karla:

Thanks again for the lovely time guys – best of luck on your travels

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