A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: John999181

Sleeper Bus to Yangshou - HAPPY NEW YEAR


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Thinking back on how I've spent New Years Eve in the past, this is certainly up with the best of them. A beach party on the Gold Coast, Australia, or seeing the new year in at a local pub in a remote town called Hugo, which is in the outback of Colorado among the Rocky Mountains. Or how about a street party in Lerwick, Shetland..... This time I'm opting for something different. This year I choose to be legless, lying on my back as the clock strikes midnight. Though it isn't alcohol related... Its because I'm lying on a poxy sleeper bus, staring at the ceiling, travelling through the night as the chimes of 12, midnight just pass me by. No kissing and hugging, no singing Auld Lang Syne and cheering, no letting off party poppers and speaking to people you haven't spoke top for maybes that past 5 year and greeting them with handshakes, just the sound of 30 snoring Chinese locals making there way to Guilin, via Yangshou.

The sleeper bus was made up of three rows, from front to back of bunk beds, one top, one bottom. The beds to avoid however are the top bunks, in the centre isle about halfway down the bus. Reason being, is that you feel ever movement as you're tossed back and forth at every corner. You are also wanting to avoid towards the front too. Basically you're not wanting to see the view the driver does while he bombs about, hand on horn, undertaking on blind corners. It's certainly not for the faint hearted as you're probably best off not knowing what he gets up to, as long as you get to where you're going in one piece. So it wasn't too surprising, once I was forced to take my shoes off, then barked at by the bus assistant in her all in red suit for standing on the road and not the cut up cardboard box that lay at the entrance, that my bed for the night was three from the front, centre isle, top bunk. Great...

There is nothing other than bunks within the bus, so tired or not, for the, entire journey, you are forced to lie there staring at the ceiling. You dare not walk about either incase you get the brunt of the lady in reds growl, as she went about the bus snapping at people. She must of only been about 22, though her attitude was one to be desired. Possibly that time of the month, so I lay their motionless, scared to make eye contact with her incase she came lashing down at me. "Quick, she's heading back, just look the other way. If you ignore her she might go away and pick on someone else."

The bus was scheduled to take 9 hours to get to Yangshou. The thought of arriving in a town, in the middle of China at 3am in the morning never crossed my mind as fun. Rather the opposite though I knew the 3 Australian lasses who were sharing the journey, were getting off there too so I settle slightly, as I continued to stare at the ceiling. After a few local pick ups we were on our way. Every few hours we would pull up for a break which everyone seemed to welcome as the toilet on the bus was not in service. I say welcome, if you were to see the toilets then perhaps not. The bus would pull up into a dusty car park that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere with a few un-occupied buildings scattered about. A line of stalls and tables ran along the pavement selling noodles and fruit. An old brick building which attracted most of those on the bus, I took to be the toilets, so off I went. The shack was a narrow, dirty squabble with a trough down either side running away from the entrance. One side, there was a ledge which elevated you over the trough, the other, the same, though it had four 3ft brick walls to segregate you. These were the cubicles. No doors, just walls so when you, sorry to say, squatted, you wouldn't see those next to you as they do the same, although you would be in full view off everyone else in the restroom. The stench coming from the building was unbearable which made me realise why they opted on having the washing facilities outdoors, as no one would want to stay in that room for any longer as they had too. Saying washing facilities, I mean a large industrial sink with rusty copper pipes running from it that spat out freezing cold water. That's when it dawned on me for the first time that back at home we forget on how fortunate we are and that we certainly wouldn't class being able to wash our hands in warm soapy water in some motorway cafe on the A1 motorway as a luxury...... People of China certainly would.....

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Posted by John999181 20:20 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Schenzhen


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Being that Shenzhen was just on the otherside of the border, I assumed that it would be pretty much similar to Hong Kong and a good place to start, giving me a taste of China before hitting it big time. Boy was I wrong; talk about throwing me in at the deep end. I stood their, froozen like a rabbit caught in headlights looking on at the chaos and commosion around me. The noise was deafening while people scuried about within the cold, dirty concourse. Wooden karts lined the walls serving hot food 'n' drinks within the hollow building that was open at one end. Wind whistled past and out the holes of the old tiled roof which was in desprate need of restoring. Esculators lead off to the left, one up, one down and a large cigarette booth to my right. Who were all these people? Where had they been and where were they going? They certainly didn't cross the border with me, nor were they entering Hong Kong; they were just there, buzzing about in their raggy clothes, spitting on the cigarette-butt littered floor. It was as if they were placed there, like on the Trueman show, perhaps to prove a point to those visiting that they are not Hong Kong. Not a single sign, menu or advertising board was in English, as they had been only 200 metres south which made my directions off the internet pricless. No wonder Lou was laughing at me and at that point, I wished he had never found my visa. Still in shock, I pleaded my legs to work, though I was routed to the spot. All I had to do was cross the concourse and up the esculator, taking a swift right across the bridge, then down the stairs to my left, but my legs just wouldn't move. I pulled my hat down over my ears; part to try and disguise my western apperance which I was nervous about being in such an enviorment for the first time and part to help shut out the noise as you do when watching the scary parts of horrors movies. A look up to the heavans, a few deep breaths and I was on the move. It was like treading water as my feet barely touched the ground, taking me across the concourse in the sea of people to the other side. Brushing myself down I took the esculator which lead skywards. Again, the calm before the storm as I stood, slowly approaching the top, then spat out back into the crowd which then carried me across the bridge and to the top of the stairs. Before I knew it, I was at the entrance of the bus station. Like the concoure, it was dated, dirty and full of people giving off a lot of noise. I was the only westerner as I looked about for a clue on where I was. People looked on as I wondered back and forth in search of some assistance. I confirmed in sign language with the gateman that I was in the right place and took a seat in the corner, hiding beneath my hat and behind my book as I waiting the 2 hours for my bus to Yangshou.

As time went by I started to feel a bit more at ease. At one point I even took my hat off for a few seconds while I scratched my head. I sat opposite a flight of stairs that led up to a room above the bus station which I decided to check out now that I had taken in my surroundings. I hoped it was a waiting room with maybes some food that I could try and off I went. I could see Sleeper Bus posters and "Enjoy Cola" signs, although in Chinese, as I climbed the stairs, laughing at myself, thinking how I was going to write up on my blog how I had sat in the cold for the past 90 minutes when I could of been warm and comfortable sipping on a hot drink. As I entered the room I could instantly feel the warmth hit me as my cheeks glowed, then out of the blue, before even getting time to treasure this warming moment, "Laowai’, laowai’, laowai’"screeched out from a local women as she stood up just infront of me, pointing. My hat, pulled back down over my ears and the laughter now stopped as I looked for a way out of the situation I was in. Two more women approached me, this time touts, although I had no idea what they were saying to me though they were pointing at a business card with a bus on it. Those looking on, again, all being Chinese sat and stared. I pulled out my ticket, indicating that I wasn't interested and that I didn't require an additional ticket. I turned to one of the booths for a bit of breathing space with the sound of laowai still bellowing out behind me. The younger lady of the two with the business cards screams "Four, Four" and smiles. I look up, where I stood at booth number six and realised she was indicating to the foreigner booth, number four, so I side shuffled, bag still on my back along the two windows and waited. I handed over my ticket, which was then torn slightly, stampt and passed back with the lady telling me I'd be leaving from bay 6. I hurried back out the waiting room and down the stairs, thankful that I hadn't found the waiting room earlier and to my awaiting bus where I was to be spending the next nine hours and setting away from Schenzhen forever.

Please Note

Laowai is the Chinese word for foreigner and is often called out, especially by the older generation when they see a foreigner. It is mainly to warn others that a non-chinese is among them and also out of curiosity. No harm is ment by it although they do come across a bit in your face, but hey, thats the Chinese for you.

Posted by John999181 01:53 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Welcome to China


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I was skipping down the street back towards Chungking Mansions knowing I was leaving Hong Kong later that day, when I saw, among the hanging signs above my head, "Shoestring Travel". At the end of the day, if I could confirm that there was a train seat available then I would, so up the stairs I went to the 3rd floor office on the off chance that they could book me a seat. It must of been breakfast time as the 3 members of staff, 1 male and 2 female, were all slurping on noodles as I entered, at their very untidy, clustered desks. The gentleman spoke very good English as I presented my travel plans to him, hoping that he could come up with the goods. In return he suggested that I should take the sleeper bus, which left that night at 7.30pm from just over the border at Shenzhen which was only a 45 minute train ride away. It also stopped in Yangshou, although at an expected 4 o'clock in the morning, before continuing on to the dreaded Guilin which on that note, I was sold. $250 later I was out the office, now dancing down the street and into the Chungking Gardens.

Instead of only having an hour and a half to kill in Hong Kong, I now had 4 hours as the bus left later than what the train would have done. I decided to ring ahead to Yangshou to see if I could arrange additional accomodation as I hadn't been due to arrive their till the 3 January, which was booked for 3 nights as of then. The owner, Alf, said it wouldn't be a problem though warned me of the touts for when I arrived in Yangshou. Basically, the bus should bring you right into the centre of the town, though instead, it drops you off on the outskirts, at a local petrol station, this allowing the accomodation touts get to you. Again, everyone is on the make as the driver is bunged for doing this.

After using the internet cafe, that was hidden among the booths and shops within the Mansions, for information on how to get to Shenzhen bus station, then lounging about my room for an hour, I decided to make my way to the border incase I encountered any problems. With my bag packed and having said goodbye to Mr Singh, I took the lift for my very last time. Even though I was leaving the building, the accomodation touts still continued to prowl, seeing me with a backpack. "Nice room for you sir", "No thanks I'm leaving today", "Just come and look sir, very nice room... Very good price for you my friend".... "Em, Ok, why not.... I suppose I could stay in the mansions for one more night" As if........... and off I went, clicking me heels down the 6 steps at the entrance and strode across the road, met by the Metro station on the other side.

After a short metro ride, I picked up the Regional train line from Kowloon Tong, that was to take me to the border crossing at Lo Wu. The train was made up mainly with commuters and shoppers, though a father and son stood there, the boy, a local lad, about 8 years old, proud as punch, stood in his scouts uniform; long grey shorts, pulled up socks and even the jumper, sporting a number of badges down one of the arms.

I'd soon arrived, not knowing what to expect at the border crossing as I hadn't actually walked into another country before, well, other than France to Spain when I was nine. On leaving the train we were rounded up and filtered like cattle into different sections. For most, it was pretty routine as a lot were just returning home to China after a day in the office or an afternoon shopping and do this crossing at least twice a day. The words 外国人 - FOREIGNER hung above my head as I wondered off towards the desk. The floor squeeked beneath my feet as I nervously approached, with the bitter memories of Officer Attitude quizzing me in New York only 12 month previous. (See blog www.kingstonpark.travellerspoint.com) I handed over my passport along with my entry form, to the overweight Chinese custom official, Lou, who accepted it with a friendly smile. He rountinly checked my passport details, glancing up to make sure I matched the photo, then, with his oversized hands turned the pages in search of my Chinese Visa.... to no avail. I stood, looking on as he flicked back and forth, back and forth, still no visa. He looks up at me, still smiling, then down again, back and forth, back and forth. Sweat now gathering on my brow as Lou continued to flick through the pages of my passport like a pack of cards, back and forth, back and forth and yet, still no visa. I knew I had it, though why couldn't he find it? Was this some sort of Chinese joke they play on westerners; or had I lost it over the past few days. I had visions on returning to the Mansions when Lou ammounces he's found it. Phew...... Relief.... His oversized thumbs had been turning the pages in 3's and 4's as he flicked through. He chuckled as he handed me back my passport. I headed through the steel barriers and out the otherside, the chuckles of Lou, who was still giggling away like a school kid, faded out with the noise of hundreds of people rushing back and forth within the concourse I had just entered and at that point, I was in China.

Posted by John999181 22:12 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Leaving Hong Kong


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So that was that, after only 2 nights, 6 meals, 428 photos, 3 pints of larger, 2 approaches from local prostitutes and $1720, I was leaving Hong Kong and heading for main land, China. Only thing was, I never had any means of getting to my next destination, Yangshou. I enquired at the local Chinese travel centre who, for some reason, couldn't book the train for me and suggested I made the 2 hour trip across the border and into China to a place called Guangzhou, on the chance I could purchase a ticket at the station. From there it would be an overnight train to Guilin, then another 80k trip south by bus to Yangshou. I didn't quite fancy taking the chance of heading across the border to Guangzhou, as if there were no seats available on the train, I would be forced to seek accomodation and wasn't sure on how the locals would take to a westerner, walking about like a tortoise, with a hugh shell on his back to house his belongings, not speaking a word of Chinese looking for somewhere to stay. "Bed??? Bed???", holding my clapped hands up against my tilted cheek as if to indicate a pillow. I also never fancied going via Guilin, although I wan't aware of any other way. Guilin is a large city, right on the outskirts of one of the most buitefull parts of China and has had many years booming from the tourist industry (mainly Chinese tourists). River trips were a big highlight of Guilin, where passangers would snake their way down stream, amidst the towering limestone peaks that are dotted eitherside of the slow moving river allowing you to witness one of China's best natural beauties. Trips like these terminate at a small village called Yaungshou, 80k south. Over time, people started to cotton on that they no longer had to stay in the built up city areas of Guilin to witness such beauty and turned their sights to Yangshou, that could offer cheap, quiet guesthouses along the old cobbled streets only minutes away from the rivers. Guilin obviously didn't take to kindly too this, seeing its little brother take away most of its tourist trade that they had come to rely on for so many years. Stay with me readers, my point is coming, so when passing through, especially as a westerner that stands out, you find it hard to get from the train station to the nearby bus station as you are greeted by the local touts, angry at Yangshou, and are reluctant to allow yet another tourist slip through the net to their, now hated little brother.

"Accomodation Sir?", "Big fire , Yangshou?" "You stay here, Guilin better" "Yangshou out of season - no boats"
Bla bla bla, the excuses go on and on as the highly trained touts, taxi drivers, tourist help desk assistant, who don't speak English, and police offercers, who all share the same aggresive stance towards Yangshou, try their upmost to get you to stay as if their life dependant on it, which is possibly does.

So at the minute, that seemed to be my only option on getting to Yangshou. I had another 2 days accomodation paid for in Hong Kong and could of quite easily of stayed, planing my ongoing route a bit better, but I didn't want to. I'm a pretty, spare of the moment kind of guy and was going to go for it. No travel arrangements made nor was there any accomodation sorted; The joys of travelling, not knowing where your journey is going to take you or where you will next rest your head. I've been in tricky situations over my times travelling where I have turned up in towns, isolated from major cities with only 40 quid to my name, not even enough to get me a bus to another town and I managed - so what, if I picked grapes for the next month, but I managed. I've always had the motto of - "Whats the worst that is going to happen to me - I'm not going to die." It hasn't failed me yet - 4 days later, breaking news, "A 28 year old traveller from Newcastle Upon Tyne has been found, frozen to death as he sheltered in a barn house on the outskirts of Guangzhou, China."

Ha Ha - You's should be so lucky.........

Posted by John999181 07:59 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Red Lion - I Don't Like It

20 °C
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The travelling alone doesn't bother me in the slightest. I find it's the best way to do it, unless you find someone with similar interests. If too many of you go, it ends up turning into a piss up and you miss valuable days lying in bed nursing a hangover - "Eh, we'll see the Peak Mountains another day". The next thing you're home and have missed out on seeing places that you should of seen. With travelling alone you can also go where you want, when you want and not have to consider anyone else on the chance you decide you want to leave a place early. Though, not being a loner I'm not going to spend my entire time in China sitting in my shoebox of a room with my indian TV stations and flee-like creatures, twiddling my thumbs and reading my guide books to help me on my forthcoming legs of my journey. To gain the best advice and knowledge on places to go and things to see and do is actually talking to other travellers doing the same as what you're doing. That way you get some priceless advice while being able to chill out, meeting new people from around the world, enjoying a beer after a day of sightseeing. Only thing is that you need to find them first. Welcome to the Red Lion.

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My 2nd day started off with breakfast in a Starbucks Coffee shop, enjoying a chocolate danish pastry and a Latte to suit. $28 later, travel guide in toll, I was ready to face the world and off I went in search of the Star Ferry terminal to take me to Hong Kong Island. The weather was lovely as I stripped down to my t-shirt , tying my hooded sweater around my waist. I'm not saying I'm thin or anything though I had to wrap the sleeves around my waist 4 times to prevent the cuffs scuffing along the floor behind me. The ferry ride was only a 15 minute trip across the South China Sea giving me some excellent views of the skyline as we approached the towering buildings that were now gaining in size. I spent the new few hours walking about the city, taking in the sites. To be among the people of Hong Kong was an experience in itself, just seeing them go about their daily business was so different to the English eye. Trams cruised down the main street as cars went about tooting their horns at one another. It was either to warn each other of their presence or it was a very close knit community and everyone knew each other. "There's Li", Toot-Toot, "Oh and there's Wun-Hym" Toot-Toot.... "Bloody hell, and there's Chang Siyao", giving the hand up to the window wave, though not actually moving the hand side-to-side, Toot-Toot.

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After pondering on where to eat, I came across a restaurant with large display pictures behind the counter on what dishes they had to offer. Being that my Cantonese wasn't up to scratch, I thought this place would be ideal as I was an expert on finger pointing.

"I want that one", pointing up at the chicken based meal behind the ladies head.

The lady then points to confirm my choice,

"Yeah"

She then shakes here head as if to suggest I wouldn't like it

"I don't care, I want that one", pointing skywards as if pointing for pointing sake and not paying attention,

Again continuing to shake her head, the lady points to another choice, possibly a more suited alternative.

"No, I want that one"

The lady then thumbs up confirming I definitly wanted it before I went off to the booth to collect it.

"Yeah, that one"

Shrugging her shoulders as if to admit defeat she runs it through the till, waving her finger at me as if to say that I wont like it and that I couldn't return it once purchased.

"Yeah, I know"

Handing me my ticket she points to where I collect my meal and off I went.

Two minutes later I'm back at the counter,

"I dont like it!!!!!"

(For those who are perhaphs not from Britain, that is actually a sketch from a comedy series and didn't exactly happen the way I wrote it........ I chose the beef dish)

Heading back to both Kowloon and to the point I was making regarding fellow travellers I set off in search of some kind of international bar. Maybes a british pub or a sports bars as Newcastle United were playing Manchester United in a couple of days time. That way I could get to meet some people along with getting to see the match. I had already discovered an Irish pub and remembered I'd passed a pub, The Red Lion a couple of times while wondering about. The Red Lion, a good old British pub name, and a certain to house British travellers and even more so, the match..... On leaving the subway I merged back onto the busy streets of Kowloon and was immediately called upon to fight off the touts. I continued on, picturing a nice cold pint and maybes some english grub after my episode with the chinese food earlier. I was soon brought back to reality as I was tapped on my shoulder by a Chinese girl. After hours of reading I was expecting to be approached at some point. Normally they say that they are a student and are learning English at the local college and would like to spend sometime to brush up on their english. Right on Que,

"Hello, how are you, my name is Suzi"

Smiling in acknowledgement I continuted down the street, trying not to be drawn in conversation.

"I'm on my holiday. I'm learning English. Where you go??"

"I'm just off to meet my friends"

"I be your friend, where are you staying"

"Em, just down their.", pointing in a general direction, not giving anything away, plus I would be embarrased to mention that I was staying at the Chungking Mansions.

I awaited for the motive of her coming up to me as I tried to lose her in the crowd. I hurried down the street with Suzi on my shoulder continuing to chat away. Normally they look to have a drink with you where you run up a bill that your stuck with and have to pay the local bar keeper for the overpriced drinks who happens to be in on the scam too; or they take you to some Art Show on the chance that you will buy them, again being overpriced. Either of the two I would of expected for this young Chinese women to come out with and was extremely shocked when she came out with what she did.

"Your nice, where you staying? I come with you. I make you happy"

"EH!!!!"

"Yeah, I make you very happy, show you goooooood time......"

"Em no thanks, sorry, got to go........"

I hurried down the crowded street, fending off more touts, "Good quality watch sir, you like", "No thanks", though they were no longer my main concern. Suzi, still followed me across the street. She must of done this kind of chase a hundred times before as I zig zagged throught the stationary traffic. "Chinese food sir??", "Just eated thanks..... Full!!!", rubbing my tummy while striding along the pavement, beneath the baboo scaffolding of a derelict building and over the muddy puddles, all in turn, Suzi is still on my case whispering, "Good good time" I shot back across the road to the other side doing my best to lose Suzi, "Nice foot massage sir" "Not today". I turned around the corner, just about tripping up the crouched bodies of shoe polishers who knelt in front of an empty wooden box for a seat. "Clean shoes for you sir.... Impress the ladies... Yeaaahh" "No thanks, must dash"........ and there it was, the bright red sign of the RED LION, my savior. Only 100 yards and I was home dry. As I fastly approached, the sound of two sets of footsteps reduced to one. I turned and she was gone - vanished as if into thin air. "Hallelooya!!" bellowed out from the heavens as the burden of Suzi was taking off my shoulders. I was greeted by the lady at the door and was escorted into the Red Lion, relieved to have lost Suzi. I was hot and flustered and looked forward to a nice pint of larger. I re-adjusted my top after the 10 minute chase and went to settle at the bar. I looked about the smokey dark room trying to make eye contact with one of the fellow travellers, although there was none in sight. I scanned the room turning back on myself where the only people in the room were five women sitting at the end of the bar, playing cards in short skirts and skimpy tops, waving at me. The lady who had escorted me in had ordered my drink where it rested on the counter. What, no travellers, no flatscreen TV above the bar, no barman called Trevor welcoming me. Only a seedy looking women at the front door, five ladies sitting on high stools and an old, rough faced female bar tender barking at me "42 dolla!!!!" It dawned on me the kind of establishment I was in, where I didn't want to be. I reluctently put down my $100 bill for the already pulled drink. The money was snatched away and replaced with my change, which I collected, other than the $8 as that was also wisked away once I picked up the note. As expected I was accompanied by two of the women who sat either side of me. "You buy girl a drink", barked the bar tender.... "Em, I don't have any.....", "Drink, Drink", "ok" I said sheepishly. I thumbed through my pockets looking for my change when the lady to my left said, "You buy mama kitti a drink to?", which I took to be her name. "I can't", which she took well and off she went. "G&T, there you go for the lady, 200 dolla!!!!!!!!", I just about spat my pint back into my glass, "EHHH????? Well I'm sorry, I don't have that kind of money on me. I didn't expect it to be that much" I continued to feel through my pockets in search of any spare change on the vision of some hefty Chinese dude come bouncing through to influence me to cough up with the cash. The women spoke away in Chinese, seeing me nervously looking for the money which I never had. Well I did, stashed in my wallet but I certainly wasn't being forced to buy someone a drink and at $200 too. The bar tender agreed at $50, which I handed over, thinking to myself, I'd just been done...... G&T?? Doubt it. It was only water with ice and I was sitting there just been scammed. I hurried off my pint, fending off any questions put to me by the women sipping her ice and water regarding having a good time and quickly exited the building to a fit of laughter from those playing their cards. No wonder Suzi left me, not wanting to step on the territory of the local female escort house. Well, that was enough fun for one night. At least I had Chungking Mansions to look forward to and on that note, I definitely decided I was to be leaving Hong Kong early.................

Posted by John999181 15:52 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Hong Kong - What do you mean, Westernised?


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My room here in Chungking Mansions is more of a cupboard. It is a very small box room that barely fits my single bed in. There is no storage space other than under my bed, nor any where to keep my valuables. Off from the room is some bi-fold doors leading to the toilet and sink, with a shower unit above the toilet. Basically, its a shower cubical with a toilet in it so the whole room gets soaked when taking a shower. Great bit of space saving, Ikea eat your heart out. I have a TV, which is restricted to 4 indian channels above my bed and a side table with my "free local-calls telephone" and a bottle of water that Mr Singh provided, though when I went to take a drink, the cap wasn't sealed so I don't think I'll be having that.
My room is also home to some flee looking creatures that crawl around my bedside cabinet and tiled walls. I'm yet to find any on my bed though there is plenty of time for that. All in all, not to bad for a place to rest my head. I've stayed in worse places, though have also stayed in some better ones too......

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On leaving Chungking Mansions, you are greeted by a busy road running left to right and the noise of screaming chinese adverts above your head from the large LCD screen. The street opposite, running away from the Mansions, is littered with over hanging signs which light up the night. Duty free shops and resturants line the streets with the annoying touts still begging for your business. "NO THANKS". You sometimes find, when you go to look in a shop, it isn't actually a shop, it's an alley way between two buildings. You enter looking at the goods and before you know it, you have walked back 50 yards and in a network of dark alleys that are littered with rubbish, hanging stairwells leading to the back entrances of the tower blocks above and soaked in puddles that never seem to dry up.

At night, I've walked down to the harbour that over looks the Hong Kong skyline on the island opposite. What a sight. Like the Manhattan Skyline, Ayres Rock and the Lights of Las Vegas, this is certainly up there with the best of them. Even at day it's impressive, as I took a tram ride up the mountain which is on Hong Kong Island. The tram takes up the mountain where your almost lying back in your seat as it's that steep. On the way back down, you travel backwards cause if you didn't, you'd fall out through the front window. At the top there is a 5 storey viewing tower. From the roof balcony, again you see across the whole of the city, seeing Hong Kong in all its glory.

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It seems to be a pretty safe place when dark as there is that many people out and about wondering the streets. I found myself walking in circles for hours, under the lit up streets as I enjoyed the experience, taking in my surrounds and looking on at the people, in turn who would be looking back with equal fascination. This is it, I'm here, living the far east experience, or so I thought... After discovering an Irish Bar, Murphys, I got chatting to some British guy who lives and works in China and only comes back to Hong Kong to get a bit of Western civilisation.

Westernised?????? Eh?? What do you mean, Westernised... and here is me, thinking I was living it large in the Far East, as I struggle to communicate with the touts and finger point at menus when ordering food. I thought it was wierd when most people were able to understand me, and that HMV, Pizza Hut and Starbucks Coffee shops line the streets. Boy, am I in for a shock. Never the less, Hong Kong has been a great experience and 2 days early I'm moving out, so ROLL ON CHINA !!!!!!!!!!

Posted by John999181 18:47 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

No internet service due to Taiwan earthquake

It is now 31 December and I have been unable to update anything on the internet due to the earthquake in Taiwan recently. It seems to be up and running again so I should be able to keep you all updated over next few days posting some photos too.....

Posted by John999181 19:49 Comments (0)

Cheap accomodation Mr John???

From Hong Kong Airport I took the train to Kowloon, which is where I was staying. The Airport express shuttle had me there in no time and a shuttle bus awaited, taking those to their respective accomodation. Saying respective, I was staying in a place called Chungking Mansions. Although it sounds nice, it not. The place is a like a concrete jungle, a world within itself. It is as wide as it is high and looks as if it needs knocked down. The bottom 2 floors are full of stalls and booths filled with counterfit watches/bags and other random goods. It is mainly occupied by indian/african people though the odd Chinese is knocking about. The next 15 floors above are made up of guest houses offering cheap accomodation, hence the reason for my choice of lodging. At first it is a bit nerve wrecking when you come and go from your digs as there seems to be a lot of people hanging around watching you, gathering on each corner. You pass the stalls and it's always, "phone card sir", "Cheap watch sir". Though its the same even on the street when I'm walking about, "You want fake watch". I've learnt to keep walking, saying "NO THANK YOU", waving my hand as if using the force of the Jedi, "This westerner does not require a watch" and away they go. "Foot Massage?", "NO THANKS", few seconds later, "Nice suit for you sir", "NO THANKS", again, keep walking, waving the hand. "Nice lady for you sir, show you good time," "Em, no thanks".......

After dropping the other passangers off at their Hotels, I was left on the bus snaking throw the back streets, missing out all the traffic. We eventually stop at a Holiday Inn Hotel, which is way above my budget. "Your Stop!!!!" I knew this wasn't where I was staying so I hurried off before the porter got to me to take my bag off me, only for me to say I wasn't staying. I had no idea where he had dropped me and nor did I have a clue where I was...... I was standing out like a sore thumb so hurried towards the lights of the busy street, trying to merge with the crowds. I turned the corner, not even having time to think on what I was going to do or where to stop to get my bearings when I was fastly approached by a small indian guy. I had done enough reading to know that they approach you trying for you to stay at their hostel. "Accomodation sir", "No thanks, I'm already sorted", "You stay at my place sir, we're waiting for you", "Sorry though I have already booked with a place and have already paid", which I hadn't paid, I was just trying to shake this guy off. "I know sir, where are you staying, Paris Guesthouse", "No", "How about Singhs Guesthouse", "No", at this point, I was totally unaware of my surroundings as I scurried down the very busy street with Mr Singh in quick succession. "Where you staying?", "Em, City Guesthoue" "Oh, that is my place.... I have been waiting for you... You come, come, I take you", He pulled his business card out which had the name of the 3 hostels on which he obviously owned and away we went, bypassing the other touts as they watched on in envy at Mr Singh and his catch. "Yes, Mr John, we have been wating for you. You will enjoy" And off I went, ushered into Chungking Mansions, through the bronx and into the lift. 7 floors later I had arrived. "You see Mr John, City Guesthouse. Its mine, City Guesthouse"

It seems a bit sureal with Mr Singh pulling me out of the crowd saying that he had been waiting for me when I have never met him before in my life. I realise he must approach all westerners, especially with backpacks on, though I was just glad it was him, the guy from the hostel where I was already booked at, unless I could still be there now, walking the streets of Kowloon, fending off touts and counterfit watch salesmen in search of the "City Guesthouse".....

Posted by John999181 22:36 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

British Airways - Guide to Jet Lag

I cant beleive that there was no dramas for me arriving in Hong Kong. Flight was fine and the customs were a breeze. Even my luggage turned up without me panicing as I normally stand at the carosel, getting a bit nervouse after 10 minutes and my bag still hasn't turned up.

My seat on the plane was alot better than what I had been used to. The only down side was the constant noise coming from the air conditioning fans being fed into the cabin. It's the same noise you get when you put your car heaters on full to de-ice your car in the morning, which you'll find is that annoying that you would rather put it down to 2 and continue your drive to work cold and with a restricted view for the 1st 5 minutes of your journy. I cant really complain as my seat was more like business class. I was sat in a row of 2 seats that reclined with the leg rest rising enabling me to sleep. Which was possible the worst thing I could of done, hence the jet leg. Saying that, I think British Airways are fully responsible for all those walking around Hong Kong, shattered due to our body clocks being back to front. Within an hour of boarding the plane, we had eaten and the lights were dimmed, which was fine, since it was 11pm. All the window shutters were pulled down and everyone was ready for sleep. This was the case up until an hour before landing when the captain woke us, announcing BREAKFAST was to be served prior to us departing. The cabin crew came round serving the continental breakfast wishing everyone a good morning. 45 minutes later, we had landed in Hong Kong. So there I was, yarning and stretching, walking down the isle, leaving the plane, being wished well and thanked for flying with British Airways. I felt good after my good nights sleep and was ready to face China. Too ready though, I was was fully charged and it was 6.10pm........ Yes 6.10PM..... How was I expected to have a full nights sleep in 4 hours time..... Hence Jet Lag.....

Posted by John999181 19:23 Comments (0)

Bored at Heathrow!!!!!!!

Well here I am...... Sitting in Heathrow, as I have been for the past 4 hours waiting for my boarding call; well its not even a boarding call as I still haven't even checked in as I'm not due to take off for another 4 and a bit hours. I'm Bored!!!!!! I have nowhere I can sit and chill. Its dirty, dull and noisy with the sound of luggage trollies being pushed over the tiled floor. There is people buzzing about everywhere and the heat is a joke. I wont mind once I'm able to go through to the international depature which is clean with soothing background music, where I can endulge in a bit of duty free shopping, along with shifting this backpack which I've been humping about for the past few hours. It's like an annoying younger brother.... Every where I go, it follows...... I can't even go and have 5 minutes without it being on my back..... I wouldn't dare leave it as you hear constant security annoncements saying that if any luggage is left, it'll be removed and DESTROYED!!!!!! I should be so lucky....

The flight from Teeside was fine, arriving 30 minutes early here at Heathrow, which makes a change. Fingers crossed the next leg of my trip goes as smoothly.

Well I'm getting bored and restless sitting in this tiny internet booth so I'm going to head off into the crowd......

Next stop, Hong Kong!!!!!!!

Posted by John999181 09:12 Comments (0)

Hello once again.......

Well I'm back again and this time I'm off to China. Almost a year on since my USA trip and still I'm yet to finish my blog, Coast to Coast in 16 days, although I have good intentions to complete it one day so stay tuned......

For those who don't know me, my name is John and I'm from Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. I caught the travel bug a few year back when I backpacked around Australia, covering over 20,000 mile.

Since returning back in 2000 I've became a father so was unable to continue on with my plans of travelling the world.... Or so I thought. What I discovered last year was that I didn't need to be away from home for long periods of time if I wanted to see the world and also that I wasn't restricted to the run of the mill 2 week holidays in a Spanish resort with the lads. Last Christmas Eve I set out to go coast to coast in the USA, where I spent 16 days visiting the likes of New York, Washington, Denver, Las Vegas, L.A and Santa Monica and I loved it. I stayed in hostels along the way, fitting in with the travelling community once again. Though I must admit, I did envy some of them who were travelling and were doing so for a few more month along with a few more countries.

A year on, I've decided to set out on another 16 day backpacking experdition. This time China.

Posted by John999181 11:02 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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