Monday, 29 June 2009

I´ve been in South America for 2 weeks

These two weeks have gone really quickly, but also really slowly. Here is a brief run down of what I have been up to in the last 14 days.

15 - Arr Santiago. Jetlag. Heartbroken. Slept All day.
16 - Exploring Santiago.
17 - Wet day in Santiago, shopping and supplies.
18 - Valparaiso sightseeing.
19 - Valparaiso then to Santiago to meet Pippa and Harri.
20 - Chilled day with Pippa and Harri. Night bus to Pucon.
21 - Wet day in Pucon. Met Jess.
22 - Visited Cuerrehue close to Pucon. Afternoon in Pucon.
23 - Climbed Villarica Volcano in Pucon
24 - Trekking in Parque National Huerqueque and Hot Springs
25 - Travel to San Martin de los Andes (Argentina)
26 - San Martin de los Andes and boat trip to Quila Quina
27 - Seven Lakes Route to Villa Angostura
28 - Travel to Bariloche
29 - Climbed Camparino Hill in Bariloche. PM spent infront of computer typing.

I will write a bit more in full (of course i will) shortly, but i´ve had pretty good weather the last few days. When the rain comes I will write more. Promise.

Lots of love to everyone reading. A x

To clarify...

The posts that I have just posted have been written up today in a word document on a computer without the internet, I have just copied and pasted them from the word document to my blog. Part way through writing these posts in Micorsoft Word I managed to press something on the keyboard that changed all the keys around and so the apostrophe key disappeared! EEK! Because of this a lot of the grammar is incorrect. In addition there are a million typos so apologies for those also. But, be thankful, I managed to work out how to switch off the Auto Correct function that was correcting my English words into Spanish. Typing on foreign computers is a nightmare. I miss my Mac.

Woooo!

And after that mammoth seesion, I think that is all I have to say on Australia. So that is the end of the Australian chapter and I guess it is time for the South American adventure to begin. As much as I am really sad at leaving Gwil, after the heart ache and heart break I am really excited about what will happen next... Watch this space.

40 Minutes in New Zealand, 15 June 2009

I have sent a postcard home and a postcard to Gwil from every country that I have been to on this trip. So, when I landed in New Zealand for a 40 minute transfer en route to Santiago I had a panic. Here I was in another country, did i have to send another postcard? Of course i did. I didn¨t have a lot of time or any new zealand currency so i had to pay on my debit card and i wrote them in such a rush that my writing was barely legible. The things we do!

Hysteria at the Airport, 15 June 2009

So we had hysteria after the Wine Tasting, but this wasn¨t quite on the same level. It was just a constant day of tears. I woke up in tears. I was saying goodbye to Gwil for another six months. After 12 days being together I wasnt ready to give him up again for another long stint. I didnt want to go to South America anymore I just wanted to saty with Gwil. However, this wasnt possible, my plane to South America was waiting and I had to get on it. Emotions aside I really wanted to go to South America but with my tears and heartache I couldn¨t bare to leave Gwil.

I cried all the way to the airport.

I cried in the queue at check in.

I cried when the check in lady asked me where I was flying to.

I cried and cried and cried.

In fact I was still crying when I got on the plane.

I don¨t think I¨ve ever been so heartbroken.

The worst hostel in the world ever

I hate to say it but our hostel in Sydney is the worst place I have ever stayed. It wasn¨t bad because it was in the middle of King-s Cross (the centre for all the prostitutes and sex clubs), it had a heater, a fridge, a tv, a dvd player, it had all the mod cons and breakfast was included. But the thing that was bad about this place, the thing that makes it the worst hostel in the world is.... the tannoy! Yes a tannoy. So at 9.30pm every evening the tannoy is used by some drunken buffoon who announces: ¨Bar crawl leaves in ten minutes guys, vodka redbulls for 5 dollars, get your gladrags on and lets go PARTYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!¨ Errr... I think I¨ll pass on that one and stay in with a bottle of wine!

A wet day in Sydney, 14 June 2009

We were a bit silly really, we went to the Aquarium on a beautiful sunny day when we should haev saved it for a wet weather day. So when the wet weather hit us we didnt really know what to do. We rode on the monorail to Paddy¨s market but we quickly left when i realised it was just another market with the same old tat as i¨d seen in Asia. So we got back on the monorail and rode around some more. Then we went to the space and technology museum which was quite cool but not as fun as the dinosaurs in Perth.

That evening we treated ourselves to an amazing dinner. A fish platter at a lovely restaurant in Darling Harbour. We had oysters, mussels, white fish, octopus, calamari, loads of fish! It was incredible! And we had a freee bottle of wine thrown in too! Woop!

Panic at the ATM, 14 June 2009

Sunday Morning Gwil and I got up and headed down to town to do some more touristy stuff and on the way I had to get some cash. However, at the first cash point my card could not work.

I tried another atm and it still wouldnt work. by the 4th atm i was in a massive panic and was straight on the phone to nationwide.

All the horrible thoughts were running through my head! what if my card has been cloned and barred by the bank. how will i get a new card sent to me in chile. arghhh!

So i spoke to Nationwide and the lady kindly told me that all nationwide accounts were barred until 9am GMT as part of some banking thing. With a sigh of relief put the phone down, so happy that it was the bank and not my card that had been barred. I had to wait then till 9am GMT until I could take money out of the ATM which was a little annoying to say the least.

iPhone addiction

Some of you may have noticed that although I never updated my blog when i was in Oz, i updated my facebook status quite a lot.

Gwil has an iPhone and OMG it is addictive. Hence I was changing my facebook status while he was buying drinks etc.

iPhones are really cool, i may have to get one when i get back!

Sushi Club, 12-14 June 2009

We ate such a lot in Perth. Such a lot. We decided that when we got to Sydney we would go on a diet. But that isn¨t easy when you have to eat out every day. To cut down on the carbs we did sushi lunches. We had three lunches in Sydney. For every lunch we had SUSHI! Oh my god i love that stuff! We tried different Sushi bars each day and had different varieties. SO GOOD!

Kangaroo Steak, 13th June 2009

Kangaroos Steak on a bed of Sweet Potato slices with Asparagus. Heavenly.

I love Aquariums, 13th June 2009

As we¨d only been to Perth Zoo a few days earlier, we decided that we would skip Sydney zoo and do the aquarium instead! It was soooo good! They had two dugongs (a bit like a manatee) and we spent ages admiring them as they swam around. they are so big and so beautiful. and of course we saw some nemos and sharks too. good day trip!

Sydney reminds me of....

Leeds.

I know, I know, its a ridiculous comment to make but Sydney really does remind me of Leeds. Obviously Leeds doesnt have the Opera House and the Harbour and all that shebang, but the city centre with the banks and the shops really reminds me of Leeds city centre. The Victoria Quarters in Sydney also really reminds me of the Victoria Quarters in Leeds. I never thought I¨d ever be comparing Syndey with Leeds, but I am. Crazy eh!

The Opera House, 13th June 2009

We decided to take the tour of the Opera House, and it was money well spent. The tour was really really cool and we went in all the different theatres, backstage and learnt about the architecture of the Opera House and its controversies. It was reallly cool to see inside this Icon of Australia. We were going to see a concert but the tickets were a bit expensive and as it was a nice day we decided to enjoy Sydney from the outside.

Botanical Gardens, 13th June 2009

We hit the botanical gardens on a really beautiful monring and had some amazing views of the Opera House and Harbour. It was a beautiful place for a chilled walk.

A Night by the Harbour, 12 June 2009

We stayed close to our hostel when we arrived in Sydney on the first night but on the second night we were down by the harbour.
We chose a good night to be down there. There was a special comemoration for a former convict ship that had sunk in the harbour. There was a reconstruction of the convict ship in the harbour and it was set alight in memorial. It was pretty cool indeed. Tehre were loads of food stalls down by the harbour and there was a Bonfire Night atmosphere going on which was very cool.

As well as the memorial to the Convict ship the Opera House was illuminated with cool projections. The projection changed every 15 minutes or so and was jsut incredible. It was very cool to see the Opera House in such a different light. I promise to add a picture soon!

The problem with Manly, 12 June 2009

Now I made a very unwise choice when getting dressed this morning. I was dressed warmly and to keep the heat in i decided to wear my Marks and Spencer Shoes that i had bought in Hong Kong, i thought that having my toes inside a shoe would be warmer than wearing flip flops.

It was warmer, but it was also ridiculously unconfortable. I had worn the shoes on a couple of nights out in Perth and thought they were quite comfy, but I had never really worn them to walk in. And of course, M and S shoes are sensible shoe, and you would never expect sensible shoes to rub.

But rub they did! By the time we got to Manly i had blisters on every toe and on both my heels.

Hobble. That was pretty much what i did as we walekd around Manly. I went and bought some socks and palsters and so for the rest of the day i sported the lovely slingbacks and socks look! I looked cool!

Manly Beach, 12 June 2009

After viewing Sydney from above we decided to make the most of the good weather and head to the beach at Manly. We jumped on the ferry and got awesome river views of the Harbour, the Bridge and the Opera house. I was certainly snap happy.

Manly was really cool and chilled and the beach here was beautiful too. It aslo reminded me of Home and Away ¬(inicdently, Gwil never took me to the actual Home and Away Beach which I have since found out is actually quite close to Sydeny! Grr!). We grabbed a sushi box for lunch and chilled by the beach watching the surfers. It was very cool and very relaxing and we had a really nice walk along the beach front.

We then went to another art gallery which had a ceramic display by Steve Harrison. Well done Dad, you make some good pottery! (Obviously it wasnt my dad¨s work!) After grabbing a milkshake we jumped back on the ferry to Sydney.

My first view of Sydney, 12 June 2009

The first real thing I saw of Sydeny was from high above in teh Centre Point Tower. Although the Opera House is obscured from the observation deck, it is certainly a really cool place to check out the city from!

$10 Steak 11 June 2009

Can you believe you can get steak in Sydeny for 10 dollars, thats like a fiver! I guess we were in the equivalent of a Wetherspoons, but still! Super cheap. Impressed!

Sydney!!! 11 June 2009

Australia is somewhere that I have never really wanted to travel to. I mean I have wanted to see Australia, but there were other places higher up on my list that I wanted to see first. So really the only reason I was in Australia was because of Gwil. It was great to discover that Perth was a great place and when I landed in Sydney I quickly discovered that Sydney was a really cool place to hang out.

I think thats about all I have to say on Perth 4-11 June 2009

I only spent seven days in Perth and the time flew by! Seriously flew. We did so much in just a few days. I really liked it there too and it was great to see Gwil had settled in and made nice friends and stuff. (Does that sound really gay?)

Dinosaurs, 10 June 2009

I love dinosaurs, so we decided to head to the Perth Museum for some Dinosaur hunting. I have to say the dinosaur exhibit was pretty damn good. Far superior to that in Cardiff. They had some really bones and skeletons going on. And it was all presented with really nice fonts and was really modern. They had some aborignie exhibition as well, but i was in a mood for dinosaurs not for aborigines.

Another note on dinosaurs, we made ginger bread triceratops one day as well. they were amazing. and definitely tasted good for being triceratops!

Watching Ozzie telly, 9 June

I think Gwil got more than he bargained for when we settled for an evening in front of the telly. After a Neighbours and Home and Away fix we watched a couple of other Ozzie shows. During these shows I managed to spot a million actors who had been in Neighbours and Home and Away in bygone years. Christian Schmidd who played Todd Landers in Neighbours YEARS ago is now in Sea Patrol, as was Stu Parker and Jack Scully from Neightbours! Its super geeky but it was really fun for me. Although possibly a little bit sad that i was able to name the actors and their character names. Oh dear!

I need an OJ, 9 June 2009

So after the zoo I was really thirsty and needed a juice. So, rather than heading to an expensive juice bar, I headed to the supermarket instead. It took a while to find the chiller cabinets with the juices but eventually i found them and grabbed an Orange and Mango juice.

Walkign to the bus i cracked open the juice and started to drink it. It was a little zingy and tart but tasted good. Gwil tried it but didn´t like it.

Standing at the bus stop gwil noticed that my juice carton said ´contains ten servings´. I was a little confused, this was only a 500ml carton. Then i looked at the carton and saw it said CONCENTRATE. oh my god i died. I´d drunk about 250ml of neat squash! Yukkkkk! I started to down water as fast as i could glug. i had a sudden headache and started to get the shakes. that was the worst journey on the bus ever as i was dying. i got back to the flat and drank some more water. yuk.

lesson learnt: if a juice is cheap in an ozzie supermarket it probably means it is squash, and not actually fruit juice!

ZOOOOOOO! 9 June 2009

I love zoo trips. I really love them. And I definitely love zoo trips that involve a boat trip to get to the zoo.

I didn´t really expect too much from Perth Zoo, but oh my god it was amazing!

We saw all the native aussie animals, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, emus, other things that look like emus but that aren´t actually emus, koalas, tasmanian devils, little penguins. The weather was quite cool so the animals were moving around. They had an amazing orangutan enclosure with big mummas and the most gorgeous baby orangutans ever! there were tigers and lions. But my favourite of all was the elephant enclosure. We went to watch the elephant talk and saw THE MOST IMPRESSIVE DISPLAY EVER! The elephants did everything on demand, raise their left foot, raise their right foot, wave theri trunk. Of course none of this was in a cruel way, but in a way that allows the zoo keepers to keep and eye on the elephants and check them thoroughly. But the best of all was not when the elephant squirted the audience on demnad, but when the elephant did a handstand. OH YES! AN ELEPHANT DOING A HANDSTAND. It´s something I thought i would never ever ever see in all my life, but I did, and Gwil saw it too and it was amazing. The day at the zoo was a great one!

A chilled out day, 8 June 2009

Since arriving in Perth we haven´t really stopped and I had a list as long as my arm of things that i needed to do. So Monday was spent doing things like taking photos off my camera and backing them up at Gwil´s, fixing my rucksack, etc. etc.

I looked out of the window and the sun was starting to set. It looked beautiful and I grabbed Gwil and we ran down to the jetty to watch the sun go down. Romantic eh! It was a gorgeous sunset and was really chilled by the river. That evening Gwil cooked me some Trout that he had caught the previous weekend. It was much better than the tuna pasta. I had a glass or two of wine, but not quite so much as the other night.

Wine, wine, wine, 7 June 2009

Looking back now, I think Gwil probably regrets taking me to the winery. But our trip to the winery does make for a funny story.

Sunday in Perth was Wine Day and we jumped on a mixture of buses and taxis to get to Lamonts winery on the Swan River.

Now, if you don´t know, Gwil works offshore on boats and when he was on one boat for a long stint he got really chummy with the Chef called Scotty. Now Scotty´s partner Fiona is part of the Lamont family and runs the Lamont Winery in Margaret River and the Swan Valley. Fiona also has the restaurant that we visited on Friday night. So Gwil has become a bit of a local down at Lamonts Winery as a friend of the owners.

We rocked up after lunch, but we hadn´t eaten lunch. This was a whole different side to Perth, there were hundreds of vineyards all around and it was lovely countryside.

We took up our post at the bar and Scotty started pouring the wine for us to taste. And he kept pouring and pouring and pouring. I know your not supposed to drink all the wine at these wine tasting things, and i know your supposed to use the spittoon thing, but it´s not long since I was a student, and I can´t let myself waste good wine in that way! I tasted some lovely, lovely, lovelyy red, white and sparkling winese. We ate amaazing olives as a snack. +

I was really good at fizzing the wine over my tongue to get the full flavours, although it didn´t go down too well when i announced i could taste carrot in one wine!

When the wine tasting seesion had ended and the other customers had left Gwil and I were dragged behind the bar to help clean the glasses. Love it. I was right at home. Once the staff had left Scotty gave us more wine and a guided tour of all the cellars. I learnt a lot about wine and how the flavours develop and the aging processes and all things like that. It was really interesting and all made sense. It was a really great day sampling wine, touring the cellars and learning all about the wine making.

In the evening, things turned... When we got back to Gwil´s flat we drank some more wine and then i fell asleep. I was woken up with a bowl of tuna pasta. When I woke up I was in a confused state and didn´t know where I was. I was terrified and upset and so I broke into a hysterical fit of tears and tantrums. I was crying and whimpering that I hated tuna pasta (not true). Gwil didn´t know what to do with me, but he managed to get me into bed where I fell back to sleep again.

I woke up the next morning with only a blurry memory of the previous evening. Gwil informed me that I was hysterical and scared and inconsolable. He also told me that after declaring that I hated tuna pasta, was forcing myself to eat it so that I could take my malaria tablet. Poor Gwil was telling me that I didn´t have to eat the pasta if I didnt want to, and I was there amid sobs insisting that i had to eat it so i could take my malaria pill. I then proceded to pour water into my tuna pasta so that i couldn´t eat any more.

What a mess! All we could do was laugh! And thankfully Gwil was able to laugh at his ´possessed´girlfriend too. I´d say that I didn´t drink THAT much, but I probably did. Lesson learnt 1: wine tasting is bad. Lesson learnt 2: I do not like tuna pasta.

AFTER NOTE: Does this note make me sound like a psychopath? or a drunk? or both? I think I was just woken up from a deep sleep after drinking a tad too much. It was pretty funny though.

Falling in love with Perth, 6th June 2009

Saturday morning we jumped on the subway and made our way to Fremantle (about 20 minutes from Perth). As the subway drove throught the Perth Suburbs it was like going through Ramsey Street. I loved it. We got down to Freemantle and I was loving PErth even more. Straight off the train I was into a vintage/boutique type store with AMAZING clothes. Fremantle was what I expected Perth to be. There were loads of uniquey, cutesy shops that I just loved. I was zipping in and out of them like a kid in a sweetshop with the biggest smile on my face. I loved it. We even found some second hand book stores where I indulged in some books. After a pear and cheese pizza (can´t beleive I now like pears) we did some browsing in the market which was really cool. I can´t believe that just the other day i was not getting a good vibe from this place. After walking in lots of circles (Gwil is rubbish with directions) we eventually went to an art gallery where we met some of Gwil´s friends. From there we headed to Cottesloe Beach for sunset... I love Cottesloe Beach, it might not be the best beach in Oz but I fell in love with it instantly. It was better than the beaches in Koh Tao, and wasn´t as beautiful as Mira Beach in Malaysia, but I loved it still so much. Maybe because it really reminded me of the beach in Home and Away, but it was gorgeous. We grabbed a drink in a bar and watched the sun sink into the sea. It was lovely, and I was in love with this beach.

My boyfriend is a vegetarian, 5 June 2009

Dinners with Gwil last year always involved lots of veggies and lots of fish. Not complaining of course as I love fish and I love veggies. But since I´ve been in Australia with Gwil we haven´t been eating lots of veggies, and we haven´t been eating lots of fish.

Gwil has changed since arriving in Australia.

He now eats meat!

After knowing him as a veggie for so long it is soooo incredibly weird to be sat with him in a restaurant when he orders Pork Belly and Beef Cheeks! So bizarre!

Definitely the most expensive dinner so far, 5 June 2009

Emma and I have dined at a couple of expensive places on the trip, but these have been rare occasions, and we always keep the receipts as proof of purchase. When I say expensive I mean we spent nearly ten pounds on dinner rather than a pound or so.

But Gwil and I really pushed the boat out on our Friday night dinner. It was an absolutely beautiful evening at Lamonts restaurant in East Perth. We were greeted with complimentary Rose Champenoise and then dined finely with frois grois and the most amazing lamb. We finished the meal off with a cheese board, something I would never choose normally, but it felt just perfect after the meal and tasted amazing with Quince Jam. I even discovered a new taste for pears which I normally hate. Fine wines, fine food. Absolutely divine.

I kept the reciept for my scrap book.

Second Impressions of Perth, 5th June

Today was such a beautiful day to wake up to. The view from Gwil´s balcony was beautiful in the bright sunshine and after discovering that I love Vegemite we headed into town for a walk in King´s Park.

With the sun shining, and wearing more clothes, I got a really different impression of Perth. I loved it. It was so much nicer in the sun. We grabbed a picnic lunch and found a great spot overlooking the city in Kings Park. It was beautiful. After lunch we wandered trhough the park.

One of the things I love about Australia are the birds. Parrots in abundance. Parrots in a million different colours. And cockatoos too. Willy Wagtail birds. The birds are far cooler than pigeons and seagulls that you get back home. AND! I saw my first ever Kookabura, it made the coolest noise.

I was in a totally different world, the day before I had been cold and tired, and now refreshed and warmer I was seeing Perth in a whole different light and loving it.

After some bird watching Gwil poitned out all the native Australia plants and trees in the park and we chilled out by the lake in the park.

First impressions of Perth, 4th June

It was about 3pm by the time we made our way into Perth. I was cold. No one had told me Australia got this cold. I shivered on the bus into town. We got off the bus and it was grey and all the shops seemed to be closing.

We walked through the High Street and I felt like I was in Cardiff, but with different shops. Now don´t get me wrong, I love Cardiff, but I was expecting soemthing a little more in Perth. In all honesty, I was disappointed with Perth on my first impression.

We went and got a late lunch of sushi and then I bought some sun cream and mosi repellent and other supplies that needed replenishing.

I was still cold and was even contemplating buying some Ugg Boots to keep my feet warm.

We walked down to the river to grab a drink in a riverside bar. THe walk to the river was a little more itneresting. From here i could see the city scape of Perth and it looked cool. It was still a little grey so i wasn´t so incredibly excited, but it was nice still.

After picking up some bits for dinner we headed back on the bus, I was still cold. I didn´t like to say it to Gwil but I was not impressed with this place.

Christmas Morning, 4 June 2009

I haven´t seen Gwil in ten months and so that obviously means I didn´t get to spend Christmas with him. So before i arrived I requested a special Christmas Morning with a Christmas Breakfast and presents.

While Gwil cooked up a treat in the kitchen, I turned his room into a tip as I emptied my rucksack looking in all the nooks and crannies for the little presents I had bought him along my way.

Crumpets, scrambled eggs, ham, hollandaise sauce, fresh juice. I was initially disappointed by the crumpets as I had requested English Muffins but after the first mouthful I was happy. I had forgotten just how good crumpets were. Yum!

After breakfast we pulled my home-made crackers made from a Chinese Magazine (their equivalent of Vogue) and toilet rolls that I had collected and filled with Chinese White Rabbit sweets! Yum!

I gave Gwil his presents and he treated me massively with some Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour goodies. Yum!

It wasn´t really very Christmassy (I don´t think Christmas is very Christmassy in Oz anyway) but it was a lovely way to ease my way back into the real world.

Landing in Oz, 3 June

I picked up my baggage quite quickly and managed to get through immigration painlessly too. So I carried on whizzing round the airport and was one door away from Gwil, when some stupid woman with an x-ray machine asked my if I was travelling with a snorkel mask.

Of course I am travelling with a snorkelling mask I said. I´ve been snorkelling in Thailand and Malaysia. Like durr!

Then she asked me if it had been used in freshwater in the last six weeek.

My mind went blank. Was fresh water in the sea or in lakes? I seriously couldn´t remember. I told here the last time I used it was in Thailand in the sea ten weeks ago. She let me pass without further question.

I was a little dumbfounded that security had pulled me up over, of all things, a snorkel mask. And as excited as I was about seeing Gwil on the otherside of the door just ahead of me I had to ask what the problem was with a snorkel mask.

She answered in a patronising way that there maybe microbes or parasites in freshwater lakes that could be harmful to Western Australia´s ecosystem. Of course!

With the question answered I was out of there.

As I walked through the electric doors I couldn´t see Gwil with a big bunch of flowers anywhere. And then I saw him, sitting and beaming at me with the biggest smile in the world (and no flowers). I let go of my trolley which was weighed down with my backpack and had the best cuddle of my life. I didn´t intend on crying, but a few tears definitely appeared. Ten months is a long time!

We jumped in a cab back to his flat and there I was greeted by his housemate and some of his friends who were a little tipsy and wearing their boxer shorts - they wanted to make a good impression! Ha! They certainly made an impression all right when I was bundled to the floor.

I indulged in some pizza and a lovely glass of wine. My first glass of wine (except the Plum wine in China) in four months! That is a long time without wine! And it was delicious. Then I crashed out and slept.

Movies on the plane, 3 June

I dont normally watch movies on aeroplanes, i usually prefer to read, but the two Kate Winslet films were on the flight to Perth, the one with her and Leonardo Di Caprio which was really good (can´t remember it´s name) and The Reader. The Reader was amazing! So glad she got the Oscar for that. Although I didn´t see the last ten minutes as I got chatting to the man sat next to me, so nobody spoil it for me!

All good stories have a love story, 3 June

Ok, having thought of this title I have jsut defied it... The Wizard of Oz is a great story that doesn´t have a subplot of love. But anyways, generally speaking all good stories have a love story in them. And so far this blog has been lacking a love story... but have no fear, here it comes.

The last time I saw Gwil was August 2008. That is TEN MONTHS AGO! Insane! It´s been hard while I´ve been travelling to speak to him regularly, I think I can count the number of times we have actually spoken to each other on one hand. I haven´t been counting down the days till I see him, I didn´t want to wish away my time in China and SOuth East Asia, but now that I know that I am just a few hours away from seeing him again I am incredibly excited. INCREDIBLY EXCITED.

I was in tears when I got to Hong Kong airport and discovered that I was going to have to spend a night in Singapore Airport before I could get to Perth the following day. It was such a relief when the lady wangled it so that I could get on the direct flight to Perth.

So now I´m sitting on an aeroplane trying to watch a movie but unable to concentrate because I´m just too excited.

I wish the plane would fly a little bit faster.

I hope I don´t have to spend ages going through immigration and waiting for my bags.

I´m a little bit giddy right now. Maybe I´ve had too many free Vodkas.

A new continent, a new pair of flip flops, 3 June

In Bangkok I bought a pair of Havaianas, these were my 4th pair of flip flops. These were probably the flips flops that have lasted the longest, after all they survived Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and the whole of China. But in Hong Kong they were starting to lose the will to live. The toe poke kept slipping out of the sole, so stop this I decided to bring in the ever-useful gaffer tape. It certainly did the trick but the glue from the gaffer tape kept oozing on to my feet and in the heat it was turning into one big sticky mess. So, I not only left my heart in Hong Kong but my worn out Havaianas too. I already had a pair of flip flops waiting in the wings to take over so as I left my lovely little Hong Kong hostel I stepped out into the street in new shoes all new and shiny and ready for Oz.

Hong Kong by Night, 2 June 2009

When the sun sets in Hong Kong the city really comes to life. Every night on the harbour there is a sound and light show where some of the buildings on Hong Kong Island are lit up and lasers are going off. It´s a free thing and is part of some Guiness World Record for the longest running Sound and Light Show. It is pretty cool though. SOme of the iconic towers of Hong Kong take part in the light show and it really is a spectacle not to be missed.

But even after the lightshow Hong Kong is still spectacular. With a pitch black sky the towers just twinkle with the lights and the whole city looks amazing.

If you´ve not guessed it by now, I definitely left my heart in Hong Kong. Seriously, it was awesome.

Two very different nights out in Hong Kong town, 1 & 2 June 2009

My first night in Hong Kong involved my bed. After my full on walking tour of Hong Kong I had to crash and sleep.

After the day in Macau Ted and I hit the town to try a recommended bar on the 40th Floor of a tower block in the centre of Soho. Now to explain, Ted lives in LA and lives a VERY LA lifestyle. This bar that was recommended to him by one of his friends and was VERY LA, and quite unlike any bar I have been to on this trip so far. The bar was called Azures and was truly beautiful in its decor and design. It was so incredibly stylish that I felt completely out of place in my flip flops, sun dress and without make up. The best bit about this bar was definitely the outdoor terrace. On the 40th Floor we were literally in the heart of the city. With all the tower blocks lit up around us it was beautiful (although impossible place to capture on camera). I am a true advocate of enjoying a city from street level, but from this aspect the city looked truly amazing. If I hadn´t already fallen in love with Hong Kong I had at this point. Such a beautiful place to relax, people watch and enjoy a Mojito.

So from a very plush and stylish bar on my second night, my third night in Hong Kong took me to the opposite... With a couple of cans of beer bought from 7/11 myself, Ted, Meghan, Meghan´s friend Ruth (born and bred in Hong Kong) and Ted´s Ozzie friend Mat headed up to the roof of the IFC (International Finance Centre). On the roof of the IFC there are cosy seats where anyone can go and sit and chill, and where anyone can go up and drink! Literally the evening cost about a pound but with our tinnies in our hand we enjoyed some lovely views of the city. Maybe not quite as cool as Azures but it was definitely a great place to enjoy Hong Kong from.

Like I said two very different nights out, one night cocktails, the other cans of beer, but both were equal in there amazingness. Maybe it´s because Hong Kong is just so cool that even cheap skanky nights out (equivalent maybe to drinking cider in a park) are amazing.

Shoe Dilemma, 2 June 2009

I´ve soemhow managed to acquire lots of pretty dresses on my travels so far. All of which were purchased on the premise that I would need nice (non-backpackery) clothes when I got Perth. But there is one slight downfall to the dresses... none of them look cool with either flip flops or walking boots.

You know what that means... SHOE SHOPPING! Except, shoe shopping is really hard for me in Asia. A size 7 shoe is deemed giant and so finding shoes is an impossibility. I trudged through loads of markets in Hong Kong to find a pair that were nice and that actually fitted. It didn´t happen. Nowhere could I find anything that I liked or that fit.

And then, I went to M and S. Good ole M and S! Size 7 and a ½, black patent, pointy toe, no heel, slingbacks! Perfecto! Shoe dilemma solved.

The Goldfish Market, 2 June 2009

I´d read and heard about something called a Goldfish Market in Hong Kong, as a lover of the humble goldfish I decided to check it out. For me, the prospect of a market selling just Goldfish was pretty special.

I meandered through the streets of Kowloon and wandered up to the Goldfish market. Oh my god, there were loads of goldfish. Bags and bags and tanks and tanks of them. And not just gold fish, cool tropical fish too for fancy aquariums.

In all fairness it was less of a market and more of a street full of goldfish shops but it was still very cool and well worth the detour.

In fact, I´m going to go wild and delcare it my favourite market in Hong Kong. Only because I am sick of the markets in Asia that all sound great, but in reality are just stall after stall of knock-off handbags and watches, at least the Goldfish Market is different. (God, I can´t beleive I just moaned about markets selling faux designer handbags, there was a time in my life when a Handbag Market was all I ever needed to make me happy)

So my verdict on the Hong Kong Market scene: Goldfish market = Tip top! Temple Street Night Market and Women´s Street Market = Same same!.

But I will say that the markets in Hong Kong were good because there was a lot less hassle than at other markets I have been to in Thailand and the rest of China.

On a final note while I speak about Goldfish... Did i tell you the story about the goldfish in Xián? Well, I can´t remember now if I did or not, but anyways, we were walking down the street in Xián and could see some keyrings on display, you know the type that are filled with water/liquid and have little plastic love hearts/smiley faces floating inside them... Well we saw some of those, but as we got closer we realised that instead of tiny plastic love hearts/smiley faces they had teeny tiny goldfish in them. And not plastic goldfish either, REAL LIVE GOLDFISH! Serisously the keyrings were about the size of tennis ball (in fact, probably smaller)! The fish were just bobbing around inside these little keyrings. Crazy.

Another Goldfish anecdote... When I was wandering around a Beijing park with Simon (the random backpacker I bumped into on the tube to the Olympic Stadium) we came across a little kids area full of fete type games. We stood and watch one little girl fishing with a net in a paddling pool full of plastic toys. But we soon realised that she wasn´t fishing for the plastic toys... oh no, she was fishing for goldfish! REAL LIVE GODLFISH! She would ram the net into the water (catching the fishes fins) and then pick them up and tip them into her bucket. She was good at fishing, but brutal to say the least.

Whodda thought I could write so much about Goldfishes eh?

Dim Sum at Maxims, 1st June 2009

When you ask for a Dim Sum recommendation in Hong Kong there is one place on everbody´s lips: Maxims.

I headed there for lunch with Ted (who I met in Macau) and his friend Meghan who was living in Hong Kong for a year.

Now this was my second Dim Sum in China (we ate it in Shanghai with Kath) and Maxims had a tough act to follow.

But Maxims was good, really good. It was definitely worth pushing the boat out a little for sometruly gorgeous Dim Sum. The best was the barbecue pork dumplings.

I do really like Dim Sum, but I have come to the conclusion that I definitely prefer Sushi.

So.... 29th June 2009

The last time that I was able to get on the Internet was back in Pucon in Chile, and I could only stay for ten minutes because my bladder was fit for bursting adn the dumb Internet café did not have a toilet! Grr. Hence I wrote a really feeble piece about Macau.
To summarise Macau was a really cool place to visit, i think this was aided by the fact that i had absolutely zero expectations about the city and so was blown away by it.

So, right now I am sat at a computer with the sun blaring in my eyes looking out over the lake in Barriloche (Argentina) and I am planning to catch up with my blog for all the time I´ve missed (which is about the last 4 weeks). It´s gunna be a long stint so get ready for it.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Date problems!

Woopsy, i´ve just realised that all my dates for China have been incorrect. The currently say June, but actually, these blog posts should be marked as May. I´ve just tried to change them all but it´s taking an ages and I´ve given up for now as I´m really keen to get this blog up to date. SO where I´m in CHIna and it says June, I actually mean May! Ok!

A day in Macau, 2nd June

So after my hardcore trekking around Hong Kong City i decided that for my second day in HK I would head out of the city and to the nearby island of Macau. I hadn´t really ever intended on going there, but the guy in my dorm said it was great place to go and see while in Hong Kong... and I´m so glad I managed to make it there!

As soon as I stepped off the ferry I instantly felt a different vibe... I was still in China, but it felt differnt. It wasn´t like Hong Kong, it wasn´t like Shanghai or Beijing... here I was in the Portugese corner of China. And what a great blend Portugese and Chinese makes!

I spent the day wondering around. There were beautiful buidlings, plazas and churches. One of the most impressive churches was actually just a shell with only the front of the old church still standing. It was beautiful. The weather was lovely and it was so pleasant just to wander around the darling little streets and alleyways that felt so different to anything I had seen so far in China.

I ate this amzing custard tart that are local to Macau too that was truly delicious!

By the time i had seen all the things that I had wanted to see it was about 3pm and I was at a loss at what to do with the rest of my day. Then I bumped into Ted a Californian who was also daytripping in Macau. He too was sort of ´done´ with Macau but was heading to the VEnetian hotel to go and see the casino there. I´m not big on Casinos but I ended up joining him so I could go see the casino that everyone in HK, and the reast of CHina, raves about.

Oh my god. I wasnt in Portugese CHina anymore, oh no, i was immediately transported to Venice via Vegas! The hotel is apparently exactly the same as the one in Vegas (exactly the same!) but I was blown away bu it! Can i just point out that ihave never been to Vegas. The Macau Venetian is the biggest Casino floor outside of Vegas, it was HUGE! After an hour or so walking around taking photos in a truly touristic way we were done with it all and headed back to Hong Kong where we grabbed some food before heading to the most amazing bar in the world!

Friday, 19 June 2009

PHOTOS!!!!

What's that? Amy has added some photos to her blog! Good God!

Here are the links to two albums I have just uploaded to facebook. The first is of Sydney and the second of Santiago and Valparaiso. Click on the links to view the pics!

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=203649&id=223600543&l=d725534823

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=203652&id=223600543&l=46e50e8131

Unfortunately I am no longer carrying round any pictures taken before Sydney (don't panic i've not lost them i just uploaded them to Gwilly's computer and deleted them from my memory cards)so you won't see my lovely pics of India, South East Asia or China until I get home. Gwil will be uploading the pictures of Perth very soon so you will be able to see them at some point too!

Enjoy the photos peeps!

x

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

So... Hong Kong, 31 May 2009

I have wanted to travel to Hong Kong for soooo many years! So. Many. Years.

And now Im here.

Ive just had an amazing day exploring this awesome city. I started off following the Lonely Planets HKG walking tour, but when I realised how easy it was to navigate this tiny city I ditched the guide book and made my own way.

Start: 10.30am

Chunking Mansions - the standard backpacker place in Kowloon, the cheapest place to stay in Hong Kong. I actually stayed next door in Mirador Mansions as the rooms are just as cheap but supposedly nicer. My dorm was prison-like but it was cheap soI was happy.

Avenue of the Stars - The Equivalent of Hollywoods Walk of Fame. Handprints in the floor and everything. Unfortunately I didnt know many of the actors so I walked as far as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee before turning back. Enjoyed some amazing views of the city landscape on Hong Kong Island.

New World Centre - A shopping mall with a nice hotel. I went in here to find an ATM and got very lost.

Hong Kong Museum of Art - Amazing Louis Vuitton exhibition including luggage pieces, the history of the LV monogram and its manipulations as well as some amazing random exhibits selected by LV designers. Very cool. Also contains some great Chinese Calligraphy and Illustrations.

Former KCR CLock Tower - Just a big clock.

Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island - Oh my god I love this. Just 12pence a ride and its amazing. Its only a 12 minute ride over but it is the best view of Hong Kong and it feels very HOng Kong-ese to travel on it. Definitely beats the subway any day!

Eat Lychees in the harbour.

Walk along Harbour View Street for views of Kowloon Island. Not quite as good views as those of Hong Kong Island, but still very cool.

Western Market - A very British market complete with a red telephone box.

Hollywood Road - The road with all the antiques and nothing to do with Hollywood.

Into Soho - All the cool bars where the trendy people go.

Pedestrian Escalator - Hong Kong Island is on a big slope and so an escalator was installed to aid commuters on their walk to work. In the morning the escalators go downwards and in the evening they go back up the hill. Its all to save the legs of the workers. Brilliant idea. I rode the escalator to the top and then walked down to the...

Botanical Gardens and the ZOO! - Not the best zoo in the world but it had a few cool monkeys. Although they were very sleepy in the heat.

Peak TRam - From the Zoo I headed to the Peak Tram which takes you to the top of the hill that looks down over Hong Kong city. It was an amzing view looking down onto the city.

Hong Kong Park - a lovely little park surrounded by skyskrapers. An oasis of calm in the middle of the hustle bustle.

Star Ferry - Back to Kowloon

Temple Street Night Market - the place to pick up some touristy bits and some great Cantonese food.

Bed - After so much walking I was knackered and bed was calling by 9.00pm.

Before I start on Hong Kong

Im on a different computer to the one I was on earlier - i was paying for that one and now im on the free one in my guest house. For some reason I cant use the apostrophe or the brackets keys. I dont know why, but this is why none of my words are correctly punctuated. The keyboards in south america are pretty much standard qwerty keyboards, but this one has strange settings and i dont know how to change them! Grrrr! So, apologies!

The end of the road, 30 May 2009

29 June was not only the lsat night of fun times in Shanghai, it was also the last night of the Jones and Harrison trip.

Originally Emma and I were due to complete this trip together. But for various reasons we decided to go our separate ways. Donçt panic, we havençt fallen out or anything dramatic, just there were lots of factors going on that made it better for us to carry on alone.

So Shanghai was our last stop together. After Shanghai Emma was heading to Vietnam and then down to Indonesia. She will be travelling to South America later in the year for just a few months. I on the other hand will be sticking to the original plan and will beheading to South America after two weeks in Australia.

So from now on this blog is all me and the randoms i meet along the way.

Teppenyaki and heels

Id never heard of Teppenyaki until I got to Shanghai. We were sat watching infomercicals at Kaths flat when we first arrived and up popped this FUNYAKI thing. It was an amzing informercial, brilliantly tacky with all false promises and lies. I was like "What is this?" and Kath replied htat it was like Teppanyaki which we were due to eat at on Friday night - eat as much as you want, drink as much as you want for 16pounds! AMAZING!

It was out lastnight in Shanghai and we dressed up big style... well as big style as you can when your back pack is your wardrobe... and I WORE HEELS. Magically kath has the samesize feet as me and i grabbed a pair of pretty stilletoes to set my dress off to a tee.

The food itself was amazing. We ate goose liver, eel, mackerel, crab, salmon, steak, squid, sushi, LOTS OF SUSHI, scallops. It was a feast. And to wash it down we ahd copious amounts of saki and plum wine! IT was a delightful evening and lovely way to end our trip in Shanghai.

I do love a good skyline...

Ive already mentioned the view from KAths bedroom window, but we took in the delightful view of Shanghai from several other places as well.Including the view from Captain Morgans bar which is up close and personal with the main skyline with nothing obscuring the view. We also cheekily climbed hte Jin Mao tower adn looked down over the city from the hotel lobby and toilet.

Barbie, Barbie, Barbie

I´m not gunna lie, the Barbie Museum in Shanghai was my absolute favouritist part of my time in Shanghai! (Don´t get me wrong everything else was great, but barbie just topped it).

The Museum/Shop was a cavern of pink. The spiral staircase was encase with hundreds of barbies dressed in pink. And barbie just dominated everywhere. It wasn´t really much of a Museum,it was a definite shop, but there were barbies from bygone years, barbies dressed in Christian Dior and Coco Chanel classics. (Sorry forthe confuddled nature of this paragraph there was just so much to take in, I can´t quite structure it). Barbies from around the world. A barbie salon. The grown up clothes were all awesome, i definitely wish i could have afforded a 40pound tshirt stating I LOVE KEN, all the grwon up clothes were designed by the brilliant Patricia Field. All the clothes except the Vera Wang Barbie Wedding Dress.

The highlight of the Barbie experience was the Afternoon Tea we indulged. It was a morning of excess as we splurged on a platter of bright pink fair cakes and tea. But it was well worth it. THe cakes looked so pretty and so barbie. It was amazing. We even got to watch a barbie cat walk which was fullof Birthday GIrls who had been treated to a Barbie Birthday. They got to design their own clothes with big bows, big flowers and loads of frills, and then they got to strut their stuff on the catwalk. Oh to be 7 again just for this.

It was a morning where I remembered allmy childhood love for barbie. Bliss.

Hot Pot

We didn´t get back from Hangzhou until late, and we hadn´t eaten, so decided to go for a feast at a hot pot restaurant.

What is a hotpot restaurant_ Well basically you have a hot pot on a stove in the centre of your table and this is filled with stock, once it is boiled you then throw in whatever ingredients you want and eat.

It was delicious.

Big bones (without meat) were trhown into the hotpot to add flavour to the stock. And it wasnt´until we looked over to a nearby table that we realised what the straws on the table were for... drinking the marrow. Beautiful! I didn´t try, I just kept eating hte amazing hotpot!

Lychee. Flavoured. Crisps.

Forgetabout that Walkers competition they were doing before I left home... the CHinese know where its at when it comes to flavours.

Lychee, BLueberry and CUcumber flavour crisps.I imiagine htere were others too,but these are the flavours i tried.

Of course the lychee flavour were the best. Perfectly sweet lychees blended with the salt of crisps.A match made in crisp heaven!

Dragon Boat Festival at Hangzhou

An hour and a half after we got back from the Irish pub watching the football we were awake again. We (Emma, KAth, Dave and I) were getting the early train to Hangzhou for a day trip.

The day was the 28th of June and for the Chinese it was the Dragon Boat Festival Day.

We set off tired, hung over and late for our train. Aftermuch sprinting through the train stations we made it for our train. We all slept on the train.

We arrived and after a minor detour we found our way to the lake where we were anticipating watching Dragon Boats. Except, there weren´t any Dragon Boats. But depite the lack of Dragon Boats on Dragon Boat Day we had a lush day (It´s a bit like Christmas Day without the Christmas).

Hangzhou is a lovely little CHinese city with a traditional feel. The Lake is very Chinese and hte surrounding hills are all very Chinese and there are pagodas and temples popping out of the hillside forests. We had a good full day exploring which was great and after we explored the lake we headed into a bamboo forest. After a steep climb we ended up in a lovely park. We even fell across some Chinese OPera which was quite quaint. We ate the traditional Dragon Boat Day rice snack wrappped in banana leaf (yummy) and tried to drink tea in a tea house but when we discovered the price we decided not to.

Before catching the 9pm train back to Shanghai we made a trip to Carrefour, and thus begins my next post...

Pause

Right, I´m just gunna stop it here. I need to go and buy a warm coat before the shops close and i think the rain has eased off just enuogh to enable me to do this. I´ve also been on for nearly three hours and my eyes are hurting. I may get on again sometime very soon, but i promise to pick up again where I left with more Shanghai snippets, as well as Hong Kong, Macau, Australia and Chile.

Love love x

Old Shanghai

Old Shanghai is beautifully manicured. The wooden panneled buildings are lovely even if they are filled with tourist shops and Starbucks. WIth rivers running around it really is a peaceful place to peruse for a few hours.

Lambrini Girls can always find it

Every country in the world must have it´s own Lambrini equivalent and Kath tracked down the CHinese equivalent just in time for my arrival. It was solf by the magnum, cost something ridicuoulsy cheap and even had a cork to pop (which was really tough). Amazing. A great way to warm up for the Champions LEague Final.

A cultural evening in Shanghai: the Champions League Final

Kath´s boyfriend is a big Man Utd fan and after an evening of drinking in the flat we all (including Kath´s flatmates) headed out to the good ole Irish pub at 3am to watch the game. It was mentally busy and full of mental football fans. We stayed for the whole game and ended up walking home at 6am when we realised htat the prospect of getting a cab was near impossible. I´ve never watched a CHampions LEague FInal match in a pub before, let a lone a pub in Shanghai. True Chinese culture.

The Best Pancakes yet

Pancakes have made their way quite regulrly into my tummy on this trip so far. All the backpacer places seem to serve them at reasonable prices, so being the pancake queen that I am, i have eaten a fair few hundred of them.

However, Ms Petty created THE most amazing American Style panckaes with Cherries and a home made cherry sauce, all dusted off with a little icing sugar.

I´m craving these pancakes as I type.

Yang´s Fried Dumplings

The best Dumplings in China. Yumm, yumm, yumm!

Papa Beards

Profiteroll with a custard filling... DIVINE.

A quick pop into Marks and Spencers

After a chat in Lijiang with a fellow Brit about Percy Pigs I had an instant craving. Kath announced that there was an MandS in town, and we were there like a shot. With Percy Pig Cravings satisfied we devoured pretty much the entire sample table. Seriously, this is the best M&S in the world they actually offer free samples at an unmanned table - free for all! Before leaving i bought a few pair of knickers (the primark cheapies have not stood up to my backpacking lifestyle). A perfect culturla experience.

Kath´s lush flat

Shanghai has a fabulous skyline, and from Kath´s bedroom window you can see it at all it´s glory. On a clear day or a clear night it is just fabulous. It makes me very jealous.

Shanghai Dreams, 27 - 30 May

The trip to Shanghai was an interesting one. Being cheap skates we decided to go in the hard seats (no sleeper bunks for us this time). It wasn´t too bad and I did get a fair bit of sleep. In fact, it was probably no different to sleeping in an aeroplane.

We arrived at Shanghai train station to be greeted by our host for the next four days, the darling Kath Petty.

She whisked us in a cab to her gorgeous 24th Floor Apartment in central Shanghai. Oh what luxury to be in a real home and not a scummy hostel.

The following posts are short bits about the things we got up to while in Shanghai.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Scream, 25 June 2009

I´ll never forget one of my kids in my swimming classes singing the title of this post. When he sung it it made me actully laugh out loud. Pure Brilliance.

Anyway, nostalgia aside, ice cream or more correctly ice lollies have been a big part of our Chinese experience. Since the discovery that ice lollies cost just 10pence we have indulged every day, and every day we have tried a new flavour. China has a lot to offer in the lolly department. Here are some of the ones we have tried with a rating:

Pea 5/5
Sweetcorn 2/5
Pomegranate 4/5
Lychee 4/5
Purple flavour with purple bits 5/5
Chocolate varieties 3/5
Pineapple 3/5

There have been countless others as well but we weren´t able to identify all of the flavours. No ice cream that we tried has been a disappointment. The sweetcorn flavour only scored a 2, but it is an interesting variety that should be tried, even iff it isn´t one of the best!

The Great Wall of China, 25 May 2009

Literally, this thing does what it says on the tin. It is a wall and it is great.

We chose to head to a less torusity part of the wall in Jinshanling, and fro here we undertook a 10km trek to the next village of Simatai. The walk was incredible. To begin with the wall was in a good state, it definitely wasn´t crumbling and it looked picture perfect. As far as the eye could see, there was wall, wall which followed the steady undulations of the surrounding hillsides. It was incredible to think that 2000 years ago all this stone was broguht out into the rural countryside to build this specatular defence.

As we walked, the wall got less well-kept and there were a few areas that were tricky to pass. We nearly killed ourselves (seriously injured ourselves) at one point. We were at a tower and follwoed the path through the tower expecting it to follow, except the path stopped and it was an eight foot drop to the path below. Naturally, we didn´t double back on ourselves to find the path, nah, we jumped the drop and only just managed to avoid stumbling down the scrubby hillside. Ok, not the best idea, i know!

The walk was by no means easy, it was up and down and up and down the whole way. But the psetacular views of the outlying scenery certainly made up for the super-steep climbs.

It took us about 4 hours to trek the 10 km, and at the end we were greeted with an option of zip wiring back to the village or walking another km. It was a downhill kilometer that would not have hurt, but the zip wire looked like too much fun to miss out.

Unfortunately the zip wire looked better than it actually was. IT was a little on the slow side, but it was a spectaculer way to cruise back down to the valley bottom over a deep blue river.

The Great Wall is definitely the best thing about Beijing. The earlier ranking didn´t include the wall because it was just too graet for comparison. It´s juts incredible and beautiful.

The wall is just magnificent. Where we started

Duck, Duck, Duck, 23-25 May 2009

It´s actually law that when in Beijing one must eat duck for every single evening meal. Well, it isn´t actually law, but it should be.

We ate peking duck on our first night, roasted duck on our second night (i.e. without the trimmings) and peking duck on our third night.

Did we get sick of it? Nah. It was truly scrumptious!

The sauce was a bit bizarro, not the usual plummy or hoisin sauce, the two peking ducks we ate came with a sauce that tasted more like marmite than anything else! But it was still good. And, on the first night we were served apple with our duck which tasted really, really good.

A night at the theatre, 24 May 2009

One of the things that both Emma and I wanted to do in Beijing was to see an acrobatic show. We decided that we would definitely go despite the fact it cost almost a single day´s budget. Simon (the random Brit who I met on the Subway on the way to the Olympic Stadium) cam along too.

When we got to the ticket office, Simon was a bit apprehensive at the cost. And when we came to parting with the cash ourselves we were a little woman. The locely box office lady asked if we were students: ´YES´ i yelped, I flashed my card that isn´t really a student card but a ´youth card´I then threw three hundred kwai at her and took the tickets. It was a bit of a dash as Emma didn´t have her ´ýouth card´ on her, and Simon graduated like five years ago and didn´t even qualify for a ´youth card´. We all sneaked in super'happy that we had got away with paying just ten pounds for brilliant tickets. Sneaky indeed.

The show itself was truly spectacular.

My favourite were the troupe of boys who did amazing routines. A hat juggling routine with 15 boys was hilarious, they made human pyramids, did flips and sumersalts all whilst jugglñing their hats away. Briliant. They closed the show with some specatular moves using poles which they threw themselves around. I just can´t describe it. It was lke watching the lost boys from Hook the movie.

The girls were great also with their plate spinning and hoops and ribbons and diablos.

The show was only an huor, but i could have sat and watched it all night. Truly amazing!.

The sights of Beijing, 23 -26 June

Beijing is a really cool city with lots to see and do. By no stretch of the imagination did I get around all the sights, but out of the things I did manage to see here are my rankings:

1. Summer Palace
Beautiful parklands with beautiful chinese palaces. You can get a bit sick of CHinese Palaces (see Forbidden City) but the palaces here are all different in style so your eyes are alwatyys seeing something new. The pretty park and lake also break up the pagodas, palaces and temples quite nicely.

2. Olympic Stadium
I loved the Olympics last summer, so seeing it all in the flesh was a little bit spine tingling. I bumped into a random Brit on the sumway on the way ther and we ended up exploring Beijing together that day (Emma was in bed with a hangover-still drunk). We both marvelled at the Bird´s Nest and the Pool complex and laughed at the thought of the equivalent in London in 2012,

3. Lama Temple
Home to ´The World´s Largest Statue of the Matreiya carved from as single cedar tree´ (as certified by GUinness Book of records). When you see the plaque announcing the above blurb you do have to roll your eyes a bit and think ´oh yeah... whatever!´ but this is simply spectacular. The tree must have been massive, absolutely massive and the stature is beautiful. The rst of the temple is full of other cool statues of Buddhas and Matreiyas.

4. Mao
So, that is Lenin, Ho Chi Minh and Mao all ticked off my list of dead communist leaders that I have seen. He looks somewhat Halloween Pumpkin'like (too much orange filter on his lighting). One thing really annoyed me here, yuo could pay the equivalent of a pound to place a plastic flower by his picture inside the mausoleum. Every other person mus have paid to lay a flower, a little bit ridiculous really, given that they probably use the same flowers every day. What a scam! Does anyone know where I need to go to find Stalin?

5. Tiennemen Square
A site of great historical significance. We watched the lowering of the flag in the evening and it was rammed. Not much more to say about it.

6. Pearl Market
Great if you have lots of money to spend on expensive pearl rings. rubbish if you go hoping to find a cheapy pearl ring. Other than pearls the market has lots of watches, electronic gadgets, silk kimonos and general touristy crap. You can´t walk half a step without someone screaming in you ear ´Watchy, watchy, watchy´. Unless you have lots of money to spend on fabulous rings, this place is hell.

7. Forbidden City
The first few courtyards of the Forbidden CIty are nice. Very chinesey, very palatial, beautiful courtyards. By the time you reach the fourth courtyard it is so incredibly boring! Seriously dull. Althought the very last courtyard has some funky trees and a cool rockery.

Beijing is a cool place to just wander around. There is no point doing everything but some things can definitely be given the slip.

I´ve made an enemy, 22 June 2009

We are on the train to Beijing and I´ve just made an enemy. She is the stupid idiot woman (who looks like a man) on the bottom bunk (i´m on the top bunk) who won´t let me stash my rucksack under her bunk. She has one carrier bag under there, there is loads of room for my bag, and it wouldn´t even have to touch her stupid little bag. We had a bit of verbal fight. No idea what she said to me. The kind lady in the next berth along allwoed me to put my bag under her bunk. I can see the stupid idiot woman from my bunk.

I just went to the toilet. We exchanged really good, proper wicked evils.

I feel so sorry for babies in China, 22 June 2009

I thought I was seeing things when I first saw it in Yuanyang. When I saw in again in Kunming I hoped it was a local thing. But as i travel further around CHina it becomes clear to me that it is a National thing... Crotchless babygrows.

Babies in CHina don´t wear nappies. Toddlers everywhere run around wearing crotchless babygrows, crotchless cargo pants, crotchless jeans.

They are encouraged by their parents to go when they need to go, so it is not uncommon at all to see a baby squatting to wee or poo in the middle of the street. And, of course, with the crotchless fashion, there is no need to fiddle with buttons, flies or pants... oh no, you just go. Crazy!


Since writing this post in my diary I also saw an increible sight in Shanghai where a toddler was weeing in the door of Esprit (clothes store) into a plastic bag like those you put fruit in at the super market... Culture difference indeed!

Terracotta Warriors, 22 June 2009

A lot of people come away from the Terracotta Warriors completely underwhelmed. To those people I ask you this, ´What did you expect?´

I thought the army of warriors was amazing. In all admittance if you follwed the numercal ordering assigned to the pits by the site managers you would be disappointed, but by some strange fluke we happened to view the warrior pits in the best order! Listen carefully... 2, 3, 1. Pit number 1 is by far the spectavle of the site. Hundreds of hand made terracotta soldiers side by side, built over 2000 years ago. Pit number 3 is not impressive by size, but this one contains horses and slightly different warrior styles. Pit Number 2 is pretty rubbish, it is essentially a big tin of broken biscuits. In this pit you can see odd arms, legs, sandals and horse bridles, but nothing in tact, and consequently, nothing of particular splendour. So my word of advice to you, save pit number one till last and visit pit number two first. It´s the way to go!

Also check out the photo exhibition of all the World Heritage sights. Incredible photos of the world´s most incredible places.

My verdict: well worth the stop in Xian, it´s bloody awesome!

What time is it? Kebab o´Clock , 21 June 2009

Whodda thunked it... I go to China, and, while dining on traditional local cuisine, a nice juicy kebab is placed before me.

It was a good kebab too, none of those rubbishy ones that you get on City Road.

Xian has a big Arabic Quarter, and this seriously is THE place to eat.

After dining on a traditional kebab we tried an interesting deep fried concotion (which was a tad greasy), followed by a rice pudding desert (a bit bland but also kinda interesting) and topped off with a fig doughnut-type-thing (the best doughtnut-type-thing ever invented).

China really is all about the food!

Made in China, 21 June 2009

Everything, the whole world over is Made in China. That is just a fact of life. And it shouldn´t really come as a surprise to see certain shops selling certain Made in China products. No, I´m not talking about the millions of shops selling sex toys that are EVERYWHERE, nope, the MAde in China shop that really tickled my pickle was the Pertol Pump shop. Just to clarify, when i say Petrol Pump shop, i do indeed mean a shop that sells petrol pumps, as in the ones you find at Shell or Tesco. China is crazy and I love it.

A strange sight to behold. 21 June 2009

So, there we were walking to the Big Goose Pagoda in Xian. We were ambling along the streets checking out the new city around us when we see the most ridiculouly incredible sight ever...

... a street sweeper.

But this is not just an ordinary street sweeper, this one is chinese. And so, as it drives along it emits a souund to warn all those around it that it is coming near. But not just any sound.. oh no, this street sweeper plays Celine Dion´s classic ´My Heart Will Go On´. BUt not the lyrical version that we all know and hate... oh no... it plays out a tinny stylophone-esque rendition. Only in China!

Trains in China, 29 June 2009

It´s been a while since I had a good long train journey. I took one in ´Nam and one in Thailand, but I haven´t done any big train rides like we did in India for ages, in fact since India! I´m currently on the train from Chengdu to Xian. I don´t like Chinese trains as much as Indian trains. These are really nice and clean, with crisp white sheets and pillows, carpets, even eletrical sockets! We are travelling second class, but it may as well be first class. I shouldn´t be complaining, but give me a bit of India-dirty-grubby-trains and switch off the muzac!

The BIGGEST Buddha in the World, 20 June 2009

Oh yeah, I´ve seen it, the world´s biggest buddha. That´s a bloody big thing that i can tick off the list.

What more is there to say... It is big, REALLY BIG. 71 meters tall to be precise, which is HUGE!

Sichuan Food, 20 June 2009

Sichuan cusine is famous for its hot, hot, HOT flavours. We only tried the true local Sichuan flavours once. Believe me, once was enough.

We actually tried it by accident. Before going into the BHudda complex at Leshan we grabbed what we thought would be a quick snack of noodles. How wrong we were.

These noodles were not hot, no, they were more than hot and they burned. Both of our mouths were tingling like nothing we had ever experienced before, ever. It was such an insane sensation. We had to throw most of the noodles away.

Thrirty minutes after the initial mouthfuls our mouths weres till tingling.

Sichuan food is quite simply hot beyond pleasant.

I have since found out that the hot ingredient in sichuan cooking is not actually chillie but sichuan pepper, hence the strange tingling sensation that you experience when yuo eat it.

When in China, make Sushi... of course(!) 19 May 2009

Let´s face it, the only reason Emma and I chose to take a Japanese cooking class was simply because we both fancied some sushi. We could have hawked out a Japanese restaurant in China, and could probably have eaten out for cheaper than it cost to participate in the class... but... that would not have been half as fun.

Now, let´s explain why you can learn to make sushi in china. Well, we stayed at Sim´s Cozy Guest House - a great hostel in Chengdu - run by a Malaysian guy and his Japanese wife. Maki (the lovely Japanese lady) teaches sushi rolling to guests who are interested. Incidentally, in the last year we were only the second people to ask to do the cooking class. Mental! Surely everyone in the world would want to learn to make sushi while visiting China!

Learning the art of rolling sushi certainly took some practice, but we had a mammoth bowl of rice, lots of sheets of seaweed and a whole load of fillings that we could experiment with.

When i say we had lots of rice, i really mean it. If you were serving a curry or something similar there would probably have been enough rice in the bowl to serve 15 people! 15 very hungry people.

I have made sushi before, it wass a very amateur attempt one summer afternoon with Ms Perri Lewis. We created make-shift bamboo mats out of kitchen foil. I learnt today that by using the correct implements, you create much better sushi rolls. I think we also used microwavable basmati rice that day also (not recomended!).

Under the expert supervision of Maki, who showed us how to spread the rice thinly and evenly, without crushing the short grains and who ensured that we learnt the corrext way to roll the rolls, we quickly became experts.

2 hours later we had before us more sushi that you have ever seen in your life. Seriously, we had 4 gargantuan plates each of which was crammed with sushi rolls. Please note, we had turned a bowl of rice of approximately 20 portions (we had to get more mid way through the lesson) into sushi rolls. Imagine. It was pure bliss on 4 plate.

We finished the class at 6pm, dinner time. We found a tucked away corner in the restaurant and started to devour. After thirty minutes of leisurely eating we were beginning to slow - and, there was still loads left on the plates to eat. We slowed the pace right down. We reclined in our seats and the top button of my trousers had to be un-done.

Between the two of us we managed to of the four plates. It was hard work, but it was sooooo good.

Once we had regained the ability to move we wandered through the bar and restaurant sharing the sushi with other guests and staff members. Everyone loved it, and we made lots of friends.

To anyone who has ever said ´Sushi just isn´t filling´, I can truly attest that you are all WRONG.

Well, it certainly has been a while... 17 May 2009

Friends, family and fans please accept my deepest apologies for being so tardy with my blog of late. I believe it is almost a month since i last informed you that I was about to partake in a Sushi Cooking Class. And i know that you have all been refreshing your web browsers every thirty seconds in anticipation of my next post. Well, wait no longer... it´s here. Well, it will be when I start typing. This is going to be blogging sesh of epic proportions.

Enjoy x

p.s. it is raining in Santiago so I am not being a loser sat on the internet when i could be adventuring.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

So I was going to catch up on my blog in the airport... 3 June 2009

Free internet in the airport, WOOHOO! Except, you are limited to 15 minutes, I was going to flaunt that little rule, but the internet stations don't have chairs to sit at, which first of all makes typing really difficult (bad ergonomics) and secondly, I seem to have my sea legs on today and I feel very nauseous and rocky by just standing at this computer station. Sea legs? Yes, sea legs. I've clearly ridden Hong Kong's Star Ferry far too many times in the last 4 days and it's all caught up on me. So, I guess, you will all have to wait with baited (bated?) breath for more posting until I reach Oztralia.

Love, love and peace. x

Panic at the Airport, 3 June 2009

So I left Kowloon at 10am this morning. I set off a fair bit earlier than was necesary in order for me to have ample time to spend in the airport before heading to Singapore and then Perth.

The bus delivered me to the airport at exactly 11am and by 11.15 I had found the Cathay Pacific check in desk (I had walked round the ENTIRE airport before finding it!).

As I checked in, Cherry - the very lovely customer service girl - informed me that my flight from Singapore to Perth departed while I was still somewhere in the sky between Hong Kong and Singapore. Errr? How? What? Shit!

Tears filled my eyes. It has been 9 months since I last saw Gwil and naturally I have been very excited in the run up to this flight.

So how did this happen? Well the flight that I was originally booked onto had been cancelled, but I had automatically been switched to a later flight leaving from Hong Kong. But of course, STA had not informed me of the flight cancellation, and so of course I was going to miss my connection.

Cherry kindly told me that the flight to Perth that I was scheduled to be on, was the last flight of the day and that if I flew to Singapore they would put me up in a hotel for the night and put me in the first available seat to Perth TOMORROW!

Tears again. For the last 48 hours I've been counting down to my reunion with Gwil. An extra 12-24 hours was not cool! Definitely not cool.

But then Cherry struck gold and found me a seat on a direct flight to Perth leaving at 15:00 from Hong Kong airport. I would get there two hours earlier than anticipated as well which was a bonus.

Tears brushed away, I took my boarding pass and headed to Burger King to spend my last few Hong Kong dollars.