Friday, 6 September 2013

Shanghai & Huangshan

Yu Yuan Gardens
Sorry for the delay between posts, with a combination of a broken laptop screen, rubbish internet and doing so much it’s been hard finding time to edit photos and write the blog. That being said, there really wasn’t much we found to do in Shanghai. Walking around The Bund at night was great, really lively and the skyline was stunning! The rooftop bar in the hostel was also a lot of fun, we met lots of German’s and American’s! We also went to the very picturesque Yu Yuan Gardens where apparently Tom “found tranquillity”!
The Bund

Yellow Mountains
There was much more to do in Huangshan…the Yellow Mountains, which inspired the movie ‘Avatar’ really was stunning, probably our greatest day of the trip so far, or at least on par with the Great Wall. Unfortunately Collette has bad knees so she couldn’t join us. Good thing too as it was hard work! There was more drama with Tom, he left his wallet on the bus which broke down on the way to the gate before we hopped onto another one. Luckily when we got there, even though we don’t speak Chinese and everyone helping spoke no English, the kind fella’s got on their phones and tracked down the wallet. It was brought back with nothing missing and in good time so we could still make a day of it!

We started at the gate with a long bus journey upwards and our ears were already popping. After a cable car up even further, we were above and in the clouds. We had a good 6 or so hours of walking around and getting lost in the mountains, but really there could be worse places to be lost, the views were amazing! If you’ve ever seen Avatar then you can see how this inspired it. Men work walking up and down the mountain carrying building equipment and such all-day slung over their shoulders. You would have to be brave and damned determined to do that full time!

Hongcun Village
The next day we went to a couple of ancient Chinese villages and world heritage sites, Hongcun and Xidi. They were really nice to see for the scenery and the old buildings and layout of the place, but both were ruined by so many tour groups and the locals try too hard to sell you tacky gifts, gets tedious after a while. It was different with the local kids though, all of them love art and you see them all sat around drawing and painting different viewpoints of the village. They love to take photos with us! In fact, since we arrived in China loads of people take photos of us and with us, quite strange! Anyway, this time it was Collette’s turn to lose something…When we called her iPhone, somebody found it and picked up to guide us back to it! The Chinese really are kind!
Xidi Village

I’ll upload some of my pictures to my Flickr page here for anybody to check out, and for friends and family I’ll upload some more of the personal ones to my Facebook page. Next destination…Yangshuo, which I have a funny feeling will be my favourite place in the world so far!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Ní Hăo!! Well this trip was always going to be eventful with Tom involved! We only managed to get as far as our stopover in Thailand before something went wrong…It all started with the Thai green curry at Bangkok Airport, the “best curry” he’d eaten yet! We had 12 or so hours to kill before check in to our connection flight so we went out for a few drinks. Shortly after returning to the airport, Tom had the most horrific food poisoning I think I’ll ever see…poor bloke. Not being well enough to fly, Gemma decided to stay with him and get the next available flight to Beijing. When Simon, Collette and I were looking for our seat on the plane, confused that we couldn't find isle 17 in economy, we were shown towards our ‘free upgrade’ business class seats! Get in!! Finally we could get some proper sleep!

Beijing was mental from the first step we took out of the airport, taxi drivers grabbing us and our bags to get us in their taxi. Luckily we were aware they would be well overcharging us, and we eventually came across an independent driver who took us to our hostel for a reasonable price. They drive like nutters out here! And I thought Italy was bad!

Dragon King Hostel was perfect for our first stop after a long couple of days. The staff were great and spoke very good English, and happy hour daily for BOGOF on their local lager. We met a bunch of other friendly travellers in our few days there, Claus from Finland, Kate and Katherine from Plymouth, a Moroccan guy called Saad, Sophie from Bordeaux, and Bennie from Germany who we’re hoping to meet back up with in Vietnam.

We decided not to do a great deal the day we arrived, just have a wander about and get a feel for the place. I found it very lively and sociable with so much character, there’s always lots happening. Locals sit out on the street and play cards or other Chinese games, such as Mahjong through day and night dragging crowds cheering them on. As soon as night hits even more people come out to play! Small fires being lit on street corners, groups of people dancing, and late night markets are everywhere!

On Thursday we took the metro to Beijing Zoo to see the giant panda, they also have polar bears and white tigers which was cool! There didn't seem to be much space for many of them though, especially the rhinos which were cooped up in a room barely as big as them. I don’t think they were very well looked after which was sad. On the plus side though, the metro is so easy to use, easier than the London underground! And it was only 2 Yuan (about 20p) per ticket to get you anywhere you want in the city!

Hou Hai Lake
After the zoo we took a walk around Beihai Park and Hou Hai Lake. Unfortunately it was getting late so we didn't see a lot of Beihai, but managed to see some of the gardens and temples. Hou Hai had a great atmosphere at night, as soon as you arrive the locals get you involved in there ‘hacky sack’ type games! It’s quite a touristy spot with pubs and restaurants around the lake, quite pricey but it was fun to walk around and see all the live music being played.

Lama Temple
Friday was when it started getting hot, nearly 40 degrees :) Not sure what it’s like back home at the moment?? We decided to visit Lama (Yonghe) Temple which is still active and used for Tibetan Buddhism. It was Interesting to see the burning of incense, and there’s the world’s tallest Buddha statue carved from a single piece of wood...Pretty impressive! Gemma and Tom were due to arrive in the afternoon so it was finally time to officially start our trip! Turns out Tom had to go to hospital to treat his illness and he raved about the service! They saw him straight away, gave him the injections and drugs he needed, and he was on his way! To top it off, all of it was half the price he would have paid for his insurance excess! Real peace of mind after all the horror stories you hear about hospital service in South East Asia. After a few drinks we headed off to see the flag lowering at Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen Tower

Great Wall

Great Wall

Saturday was the day for the Great Wall. For me it lived up to all expectations, the views were superb! We went to the Mutianyu section which is further out of Beijing so slightly less busy than other sections, plus the toboggan ride back down was fun ;) Most of this part of the wall has been rebuilt over time but we managed to trek part of the “non-tourist area” for a more authentic experience.

Wangfujing Street Market
After happy hour we all went to the Wangfujing street market when they have the snack stalls…Scorpions, bats, cockroaches and all sorts of other weird bugs on sticks! Tom built up the courage to try the cockroach, followed by Simon and me, not nice!! Maybe I’ll wait to try them again in Cambodia where I hear they dip them in sprinkles!

Hungover from celebrating Sophie’s birthday last night, we choose to have an easy-going last day in Beijing. We went back to the street with the Lama temple to introduce Tom to the stuffed steamed rolls that Simon and I came across, stuffed with either beef and shallot or pork and stuffing with gravy. They were so good! And at 1 Yuan a steal! After Gemma and Collette finished their vegetarian buffet we headed off to Qianmen Street for a bit of shopping in the ancient Chinese street and Hutong neighbourhoods.

I’m writing this post on our first experience of the sleeper train and I’m glad to say it’s a lot nicer than I expected! 'Hard sleepers' are actually quite comfortable! I’ll upload some of my pictures to my Flickr page here for anybody to check out, and for friends and family I’ll upload some more of the personal ones to my Facebook page. Thanks for reading and see you in Shanghai!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Very soon i'll be heading out to China for the first leg of an epic year-long trip around the world. I'll be backpacking with my brother Simon, my two sisters Gemma and Collette, and lastly Gemma's boyfriend and good family friend, Tom. We'll also be joined in Vietnam by another good friend, Jade, venturing with us for just under three months. I'm Dan, 26, from Southampton England. As a photography enthusiast who dreams of travel, experiencing different cultures, meeting new people and trying new things, I really can't explain how excited and privileged I feel to be going on this great adventure...especially after a three year countdown!!

Our rough plan at the moment is to work our way down from China to Indonesia, visiting Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand & Malaysia en route. That will take us up to mid-December, when we'll fly out to Sydney for the Christmas & New Year celebrations. After travelling the East Coast of Australia as well as visiting Uluru and perhaps some of the West Coast, we'd like to fit in a few weeks in New Zealand and the USA before returning home.

I'll be updating this blog with all of our experiences, and my photo's as regularly as possible. It's now only 19 days to go until take off so stay tuned!