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'No cheap CD's and DVD's'
'I can't breath'
Friday 21st September 2001 Beijing

Passed through the Great wall at about midday on the train from Mongolia to Beijing and actually arrived at Beijing's train station dead on time (3:30 pm) - amazing!!! This is a bit of a turning point for our journey as we are now completely on our own with no tours and guides to show us the way. 11 Days into our journey and we are already half way around the world. Its all been a bit quick and a bit of a blur so far. Time to take stock and plan our route through China. As Sarena is ill I decided that our backpacking plans can wait so booked ourselves into a 2 star hotel right in the centre of Beijing for 4 nights so that she can recover in peace and so I don't keep other people up with my snoring.

The hotel was set right in the middle of some 'Hutongs' (kind of shanty town). Its very rundown but every one is very friendly and we feel completely safe. After we had checked in Sarena decided that she should try and eat again. So we found a very busy restaurant packed with locals and decided that this must be a good recommendation. It was. The food was excellent, Plentiful and very very cheap. For£3 per head we got delicious food that filled us and actually lasted for breakfast and dinner the next day as we couldn't finish it all so took it back to the fridge in our hotel room.

Well I spent all night in the loo's being sick and well you can guess the other, so was not in any mood to enjoy anything that day. Everyone else had a fab day getting of the train and looking at the Great Wall etc.. well yipee for them I felt like s**t and just laid down on my bunk all day.

(this is our group by our train)----

We arrived in Beijing on time and Toby dumped me on some wall looking green and went off to find a tourist place and get a hotel so at least I could be ill in relative comfort! Got ripped off big time by the taxi driver and went into the hotel and were pleasantly surprised, best part was the massive bath! Toby went out to investigate as we seemed to be placed in the old part of the city where all the small alleyways and passages are, and I had a bath but by now was feeling very ill and did not know my arse from my elbow. Somehow we both came to the conclusion that I might feel better if we went out to dinner?? yes looking back it does seem stupid but I was feeling hungry by now. So off we trogged down these little back streets and found a really nice place but ordered far to much food and ended up taking nearly all of it back, unfortunately I started feeling ill again and we ran back to the hotel and the rest is obvious. Well I was having a great start in Beijing, poor old Beena.

Saturday 22nd September 2001 Beijing

Spent practically the whole day at the Forbidden City (its massive). Not much to write about though so you will just have to wait to see the pictures. We met a few of our friends from the train in there. Including the two Americans. And caught a rickshaw back from the Forbidden City to Tianemmen Square which is just a 10 minute walk to our Hotel.

It was planned that everyone on the train should meet up at 8 pm under Mao Portrait in Tianemmen Square so that we could go for a meal and lots of drinks. Amazingly around 20 (ish) of us turned up so we went for a Chinese (obviously) it was pretty bad the food was nasty and expensive but the company was great. Sarena was feeling pretty ill so after the food so we returned to the Hotel whilst everyone else went to seek out some bars. Never mind I hope she gets better soon.

Well woke up feeling a lot better so decided to munch on some of the left over meal we had bought back with us, mmmmmm not a good idea. We later went for a walk to Tiananmen Square and felt really safe walking through all the back streets and main areas. Went to the Forbidden City for the whole day and I listened to Roger Moore on my audio guide which I thought was great apart from when the batteries starting going and Roger started sounding as if he had had one Martini too many. The whole place was fantastic and the clock hall was full of these huge ornamental clocks some as big a single beds covered in jewels and different decorations, I could just waffle on about this place for ages so I won't bore you.. We went back on a rickshaw for the first time and went back to the square and had a McDonalds ( I'm ashamed to say) but once again the hotel room beckoned. Later that evening we were meeting the rest of the group under the picture of Mao for the last time and they were all hungry and wanted dinner, we all went to a restaurant that fitted all 25 of us!! and had some food ( yes even I tried) wasn't really pleased with the food and Toby ended up dragged me back to the hotel again. But the group were a great bunch of people and I felt honoured to meet them all.

Sunday 23rd September 2001 Beijing

A day of organising. Decided to plan our next destination. Xi-an (home of the terracotta warriors). so talked to the hotel about getting a train ticket. They said they would organise some for us (easy this travelling malarkey). So I left it with them saying I wanted the express train (only 13 hours) and also investigated a bus to Simatati - a less touristy and more extreme part of the Great Wall to visit tomorrow.

Spent the rest of the day taking it easy with Sarena and strolling around Beijing and visiting a park.

I started to get very panicky about money. China is very cheap but we only had about £40 worth of Yeung left between us and cash machines are extremely hard to come by in China. So after searching in vain for several hours I gave up and we caught a taxi back to the Hotel. Just as we jumped in a taxi we passed a huge Shopping Mall with loads of banks in it. Bugger. I left Sarena at the Hotel and jumped onto the Metro back to the Shopping Mall and instantly found a functioning cash machine inside. Phew - Now I can relax.

Wandered off to a park today and I found this really nice not being run over by either taxis, bikes, buses, people, rickshaws etc. Beijing is a very busy and loud city so the peace and quiet was great for a couple of hours, but I noticed that even the parks are regimented in the layout of everything and it would have been nice to see something round in shape or wild and unkept.. Bit strange really.

We went for a mooch again around the posh bit of the City and had a Pizza ( yes you can guess what happened to that) the buildings were amazing and this part was spotless with fancy shopping centres.

We are off the the Great Wall tomorrow and I hope I feel better as I haven't kept anything down since Thursday and I'm bloody famished. Poor old Toby I think he's getting a bit fed up with me though he's being very good at not showing it, yet!

Monday 24th September 2001 Beijing

We met up at 7:45am with some Norwegian friends e had et on the train from Mongolia - Kurtz, Harald and Veloi (hope the spellings OK Guys), and caught a run down tourist bus to Simatai. The Journey was nasty. The worst driving we had experienced so far and the bus was so full of fumes that it was very hard to breathe. After three hours on the godforsaken bus we decided to get off at Jinshanling, 9 km from Simatai and walk along the wall the rest off the way to Simatai. Sarena was still very ill so I wasn't too sure if she would make it, but after the first very tough couple of kilometres she perked up finished the walk fine. It was spectacular, the three Norwegians walked on ahead as we went at our own pace, but we managed to finish the walk in four hours and take advantage of a 'Death Slide' that had been constructed at Simatai over a river to the waiting bus. Another awful three hours later and we were back at the Hotel to find our train tickets had arrived. - off to Xi-an tomorrow.

Amazing is the only word to describe this awesome place, I would advise everyone just one visit in their life times. I can't believe I walked as far as I did as the wall consisted of very very steep climbs up treacherous steps that seemed to go on forever, I had to take lots of rests but perked up after a can of coke ( needed the sugar by now!) and found the last half of the walk easier... The views are breathtaking so it was definitely worth the effort even if we were hassled by some Chinese trying to sell us postcards and books. These people are so fit! they walk along on the wall all day and we are not talking about a quick jaunt in the park .... I have never done anything so hard before. At the end of the 4 hr walk we found a death slide had been constructed, I had to go first out of 3 strapping men!! it looked really scary from the top of the mountain down to the bottom (obviously) the actual ride was really good and not pants filling at all. We had a terrible journey home as the minibus driver was just mad, but the worst thing is the smell of fumes everywhere you go, it is very bad.


Tuesday 25th September 2001 Beijing

The train leaves at 15:22 so not enough time to do anything major so we had a lie in and bought some food for the 14 hour train journey to Xi-an (ancient capital of china). Sarena had a run in with the first unfriendly Chinese person we have met. It was the guy running a local Internet cafe. A spotty fat greasy 18 year old that seemed to live in his pyjamas and play 'Doom' all day. He got very upset because Sarena said that one of his PC's was slow! this was as about exciting as this day got.

We boarded the train, Beijing west train station was very smart - much like an airport, and found ourselves in different cabins. Fortunately a friendly Chinese man offered to swap with me. So we ended up sharing a cabin with a policeman from Xi-an (his name sounded like 'Moarm').

Mooched around for a while until the train left at 3ish so we went to an Internet Cafe and I was given the slowest machine in the whole world, but when I asked for another one the nasty little teenager kept saying he didn't speak English and laughing....Bastard, he knew what I was saying so I started getting angry which seemed to work and was shown to another machine by his mate. We found our train and was pleasantly surprised for a change at how nice it was, even if we were in different cabins. Luckily a lovely man swapped with Toby and we were together again...aaaa. We shared the cabin with a young man called Moan or something and I left him and Toby struggling to have a conversation for half an hour whilst I tucked into a book I had been given, but soon had to remind Tobes that the man he was talking to was not deaf or stupid as he was shouting at the top of his voice very slowly to the poor man....After that exhausting episode Toby slept from 6.00pm untill 5.30 the following morning!!! what is wrong with the man I ask myself? we were accosted by a man on the train who suggested following him to a Hotel which was cheap and cheerful and was right next to the station. We found the Hotel was cheap and very scanky but the beds were clean and the bath was sort of clean, you had to put your shoes on to get to it though as the carpets were black....ugh


Wednesday 26h September 2001 Xian

I slept most of the train trip and woke just before it arrived in Xi-an at 4:30 am. We checked into the first place we could find for two nights as it was clean(ish) and only about £7 per night each. Had a cold shower (not from choice) and decided not to waste the day and find some kind of tour to the Terracotta Warriors. The Hotel did a bus there for £3 each so we jumped on. It ended up being a Chinese tourist bus that not only stopped at the terracotta warriors but 5 other completely shit Chinese tourist spots in the area; the first was a wax work museum about some military leader who convinced the Japanese that china wasn't worth invading. As far as I could make out (as our tour guide spoke no English) he seemed to dissuade the Japs by holding a series of meetings with them in several completely boring meeting rooms. As you can image the wax work scenes were breathtaking!!! - The Chinese loved it though as they all took photos of each other in each meeting room - bizarre. The next stop was a basic museum that was hinged around a ancient tomb they had found with a gold and silver casket. Next we entered a huge building that contained a model of the old Qin Forbidden City that was the heart of Xi-an some 3000 years ago. The model was great. The figures were twice as tall as the City walls and gates. And the ponds and moat around the city featured various models of Ducks, Snakes, Spiders and Stegosaurus's again of random scale. The whole thing was magnificently set off with a dazzling array of fairy lights strewn across the city. Funnily enough we were not allowed to take photo's. We were hustled back on the bus and driven to a hill. This hill is the tomb of Qin Shihuang Ling (the first emperor) it is he who is responsible for the model village we had just visited and the terra-cotta warriors that I was hoping we may glimpse at some point during this crazy day. By all rights this tomb is very impressive, but the Chinese are starting to prove my suspicions that they can turn anything of historical importance into a thoroughfare for cheap plastic crap. I was not proved wrong, although they did seem to harvest delicious looking pomegranates from the emperor's remains. The crafty tour guide now gives us a bonus to the day and stops in a gift shop that sells exactly the same shit that we have been pestered with at the previous 4 stops - ingenious. Finally we got to the Terracotta Warriors and after some lunch we were allowed to enter the museum. 'Harro, Harro, you have one hour and half' was last thing we heard as we scarpered from the rest of the group. Somehow I had now become quite numb and although the terracotta figures where very impressive I could not avail myself to the importance of them in the history of china and some how an hour and a half was more than enough time to view the spectacle. The last stop was actually very pleasant, 'Huaqing Chi' are hot springs that where used as bathing pools during the Tang dynasty. The Chinese had built a delightful garden around the remains of the pools that for the first time gave us a real impression of ancient Chinese history and culture. It was also one of the Japanese meeting places that our first stop was based on. How clever we have travelled all through the ages and back again in one seamless bus journey!!! Hooray that was stop number 6, time to go home... ...'not so fast Mister Jones first we have to show you our delightful range of bland confectionery and minced animal products in our bargain superstore'. Sarena finally gave in and bought some disgusting sweets.

One thing that certainly impressed me today was the pollution. Even out of the hazy smog of Xi-an we were still left gasping for air, and although our tour had finished I was not looking forward to return to the town centre.

Once back at the hotel I immediatley booked a train ticket out of Xi-an to Chengdu (27 hours south) for tomorrow at 22:18 and then decided for the first time to go to a restaurant that is recommended in the Lonely Planet. We made it after the second attempt by taxi after discovering that the Lonely Planets Chinese translation actual took us to the other end of town. Pointing to a map seemed a much better way to direct the tiny little taxis around the town. The restaurant 'Dads Home Cooking' was excellent, this tiny place served really nice tasting food including a plate full of Mashed Potato (much to Sarena's Delight) and Banana and Chocolate Pancakes (much to my delight)

A major decision was made today. Not to visit anymore tourist attractions. From tomorrow we will become proper travellers skilfully avoiding the commercial tourist traps and discovering the more remote and beautiful parts of the world...

Toby booked a mystery tour for us today, we both thought we were just visiting the Terracotta Warriors but had the bonus of seeing 5 other wonderful sites...... at 8.00am we were herded onto a minibus which we shared with non English speaking Chinese and Zoomed off at breakneck speed whilst listening to a torrent of gobbly gook from the tour guide who insisted on using a loud speaker all the time!! We did not have a clue what she was saying or where we were going, we did find the fumes absolutely choking and had to breathe with a hanky over my face for the whole journey. The wax work museum that we went to first was hilarious and I still do not have a clue what we were looking at, but were once again being shouted at by another guide attached to loud speaker.... the rest of our group thought the place was fab and insisted on having photo's of themselves with the wax dummies at every opportunity. 30mins later we were back on the bus waiting with baited breath for our next stop, but no sooner had we got on the bus when he literally went around the corner and stopped again at our next destination - a museum. Well this had a few pottery artefacts and a silver and gold casket that was of some significance, I'm not sure what though? and 30mins later ( you can guess how small these places were) we were off again to an indoor model village of the Emperor Qing's Palace or so we think......obvioiusly in those days the ponds were swarming with giant ducks and dinosaurs and the people were far to big to live in their own buildings. They had ingenuously rigged up a lighting system that looked like Las Vegas so, these ancient Ming dynasty people were pretty damn clever, I had no idea!

After that escapade we went off to a very large mound? we climbed to the top thinking we were going to something special but were greeted to a slab of concrete and a drinks machine, the view would have been spectacular of the surrounding mountains if it weren't for the thick acrid smog that enveloped us. Once again I have no idea what we had just looked at but everyone seemed to be eating pomegranets......stranger and stranger. Next stop was the Terracotta Warriors and I was looking forward to this only to be greeted with yet another torrent of tacky stalls and hundreds of pomegranates, I can't believe how the Chinese turn all their historical sites into a nasty plastic loud speaker hell. Anyway the soldiers were impressive but I was getting tired and one stone man looked the same as the other, terrible heathen of me I know but the ice-cream shop and hot chocolate stall I had seen earlier was calling me.

After the undrinkable hot-chocolate we got on the bus again and taken to some 'Hot Springs' now these were actually very interesting and were set among Tang Dynasty buildings and gardens with lots of secret steps and tunnels. I think we both enjoyed walking around and the air seemed a bit more breathable.

We thought we were now off to the Hotel Scank but had the added bonus of being taken to what I can only think was a very large sweet shop, but also contained dried donkey meat and packets of obscure products that really could not identified, I went looking for some sweets that looked anything like wine gums but ended up with some 'so called' fruit jelly things that were rancid bat at least I tried.

That evening we decided to find an eating establishment that was suggested by the Lonely Planet guide book so off we went in the taxi who dropped us off at a theatre? seems the guide book couldn't spell.... We did find the 'Dads Home Cooking' place after we had been stuck in a traffic jam for 20mins, it was now dark and it was like driving in thick fog, which you could really see in the headlights the smell was terrible, this was the crap coming out of all the hundreds of cars on the road. I can't believe it has been left to get this bad, I can not reiterate enough how bad this place is for pollution, you never see the sky or even down the end of the road and that's in the middle of the day!!!!!!!! But the only good thing was that the restaurant served mashed potato!! I have craved this stuff for days and my stomach digested this with no complaints thank you.

We had decide not to stay here another night as we are now both feeling ill so Toby had booked on the train for the following evening even though we had paid for the 2nd night, both hoping Chengdu will be better and can't wait to see the Panda Sanctuary even though it means another 27hrs on the train..........ugh

Thursday 27th September 2001 Xian

... Went to McDonalds for lunch, after a lie in and a walk through one of the cities parks. Then bought some more food in preparation for the evenings train journey. We are travelling in 'Hard Sleeper' class this time, a lower class than we have been travelling in than before so it could be interesting. Found and boarded the train relatively easily (the hotel was right next to the train station) and found our section of 6 beds sharing with 5 other Chinese! one was a young boy who slept with his mother. They all seemed friendly, even after Sarena deposited a water fall of sprite and peanuts on them from the top bunk. I took a walk around the train to find I was glad we didn't buy hard seat tickets. It was carriages of a mass of Chinese all sleeping and eating off each other. I settled to sleep pretty soon as there wasn't much else to do.

Had a walk around and ate McDonalds which I promptly chucked up again, my stomach still can't digest anything but the most basics of food, I must find more mashed potato, I must find more mashed potato, I must fi.............

Another interesting journey with me on the top bunk of a 3 bunked sleeper which was actually quite high but was still in good ear shot of all the Chinese who constantly gobbed everywhere, they didn't just spit oh no, they would start from down one end of the carriage building a chest full of mucus then by the time they had reached our end of the carriage where the gobbing bin was they would let rip... I don't think I have actually explained as yet that the Chinese culture is for the men (and some women) to constantly deafen everyone with this very endearing but yet useful habit they all have. Needless to say my shoes have stayed very clean thanks to the friendly locals....

Finally went to sleep but dreamt of Slimer from Ghostbusters ????

Friday 28th September 2001 Chengdu

We arrived in Chengdu really early I thought that the journey would take 27 hours but it only took about 17 so we arrived at 15:30. Just before we left the train we met Raphael from London who has been travelling for 11 months. He suggested that we should share a Taxi to the Traffic Hotel that had been recommended to him by several traveller's. It was a good recommendation. The rooms came as triplets so we shared one with Raphael and at under £4 a night each the room was tidy and the communal bathroom and showers very clean (and for once there was hot water). Then we found a local backpackers bar and relaxed on huge sofa's and drank local beer for 20p a bottle and listened to all the traveller's tales, the most common as usual were based around toilets in China.

Arose at the crack of dawn once again as the Chinese do not believe in wasting any daylight hours especially when you have a whole day packed full of interesting things to do, like.......getting dressed and then sitting down again for the whole day. Spent the day looking out of the window at the fantastic scenery of mountains, waterfalls, paddy fields and water buffalo it was just what I needed to see. Later that day a young man called Raphael found us and told us of a fab hotel we should all stay at and that the train trip wasn't 27hrs but 17hrs wa hey!!!

We all got a taxi at about 4.00pm straight to the Traffic Hotel which was like an Oasis in the desert as far as I was concerned and booked ourselves in to a triple sharing with Raphael. The room was clean and had all the things you needed like hot water for your tea and plastic bowls to use for hand washing, the toilets were clean and the showers were great what more do you need? Down stairs in the lobby it had a shop that sold Cadbury's chocolate!! fresh orange juice and loads of useful things like second hand books etc, this place was entirely taken with backpacker so it was great to meet up with new people. Later that evening we went out to a local bar called 'Pauls' which was really relaxed and had Western food, cheap beer along with good conversation with fellow traveller's.

Saturday 29th September 2001 Chengdu

Up early this morning as we are off to see the Panda's. Their feeding time is 8:30 to 10:30 and we wanted to get there before the inevitable hordes of Chinese tourist arrived. The Panda reserve was surprisingly good. We actually managed to see a 9 day old panda and several young cubs, quite a rare sight, but unfortunately we didn't avoid the local tourists. They were growing stronger as Monday is the start of there national week-long holiday in celebration of 54 years of Mao's Peoples Republic of China. Whilst in the Park we met Karen and Louise who we had previously met in Mongolia and departed ways with at Beijing. It seems the route through China that we are taking is a common one with backpackers. We convinced them to book into the Traffic Hotel (which wasn't hard as they were knackered) and that we should do the next leg of the journey, down the Yangtze river, together. After a Mexican lunch we met up with Karen and Louise and booked a ticket from a boat leaving a nearby town (Chongqing) tomorrow evening. Then returned to Pauls Oasis for night of cheap beer and Classic ACDC tracks to the early morning. One Aussie claimed he went to the same school as Angus Young in Melbourne.

I'm finally going to see some Panda's which is something I've wanted to do for years, and they were not a disappointment. I met a really nice girl called Millie on the mini bus that morning who was travelling all on her own and had some fascinating stories of her journey so far, she had also shaved her head the day before which I thought was really cool and started to get tempted myself..

Anyway we arrived at the Research Centre and off we trogged around this huge place to find ourselves a Panda, when just like that we came across a lone bear sitting eating his breakfast with not a care in the world, I was in completely transfixed ! We then found a couple of baby Panda's who were playing, climbing trees and tumbling everywhere, next door to these was a mother and 2 babies who wouldn't leave poor mum alone for a minute it was absolutely wonderful to see these lovely creatures. The best bit for me was going to the nursery and seeing 2 incubators containing one bear who was only a few weeks old but was the dearest thing you have ever seen, he was the size of a guinea pig but was obviously black and white with little tiny pink feet and a button nose, he was fast asleep with his blanket aaaaaagh!! Then next door to him a woman was sitting with her arm in the incubator holding what looked like just a blanket, but when she picked her hand up underneath was a 9 day old bear all pink and blind looking like a large hairless hamster. What a great day!!

Another great surprise for me was meeting up with Karen and Louise who we had met doing the Trans Siberian journey, they were looking decidedly fed up and were very tired. We told them about our hotel and how great it was and they didn't need telling twice! so we arranged to meet up later that day and organise the boat trip to visit the 3 gorges. Now Raphael had told us how bad this trip was and I had heard from another couple of people how bad this trip was so I wasn't so keen on this idea, but Toby (bless him) really didn't think it could possibly be as bad as all that.....mmmm

Later that day we found another Western Cafe and had lunch, I have to say at this point that my tummy was now in working order and back to it's bottomless pit scenario. 'Carols Cafe sold Mexican food so I ordered Fajitas and onion rings and stuffed potato skins, by god it was the best damn meal ever in the whole entire world but the best bit was the 'Hot Chocolate Fudge Cake with Ice-cream' which we all divulged in!! We went back to 'Pauls' that evening and ended up listening to ACDC with a lovely American man, I say lovely cause he told Toby he thought I was beautiful...hey I've still got the touch even if I look pretty rough.

Sunday 30th September 2001 Chonqing

We had to get up early again as we had a 4 hour bus journey to Chongqing to catch the Yangtze cruiser boat. We had been advised against this tour as it would be packed with Chinese tourists, the toilets were the worst experienced (which is very bad) and the trip around the famous three gorges was pointless as it was impossible to see anything out of the dirty windows. But the route was part of our journey and they are flooding the three gorges in 2009 when the Chinese build the worlds biggest dam so, I though it may be worth the hardships just to at least make a token visit to this dying beauty spot. As expected the bus ride was bad. But we where met in Chongqing by the company we booked the boat tickets through and were subjected to hours of confused and unnecessary organisation, which was not helped by an annoying American who knew just enough Chinese to constantly confuse things further. Thank god we had Karen and Louise for company. We boarded our third class cabin which looked nothing like the picture we had been showed but exactly like the description from Raphael whose advice to skip this trip I ignored, but at least we occupied 4 out of the 8 bunks so had some equality with our fellow Chinese in the cabin. Then I slept (nothing else to do)...

Up again at the crack of dawn to catch a coach taking us to Chonqing where we were to board our wonderful 3 day river cruise. The bus trip was a shambles from beginning to end, the only consolation is when we arrived in Chonqing a young lass was holding a sign with the 3 names of Jeff, Karen and Poby!! well we all thought this was hysterical and fell off the bus only to be herded up and taken to a dodgy looking restaurant that we all refused to eat in. We all just wanted to collect our boat tickets and then wonder off to buy provisions but silly us, forgot that Chinese do NOT do anything easily, so after 1/2hr useless discussion we finally came to the conclusion it was just easier to have some lunch first and get the tickets afterwards. Well we then had to wait for a couple of hours to get our tickets sorted out which wasn't helped by being behind the American man Jeff and his very young girlfriend who had a knack of making things twice as hard for himself ??

We finally get dropped off at the docks and were taken on what felt like a 4 mile excursion with backpacks etc to find our wonderful boat!! We boarded a vehicle of some kind, oh sorry it was our boat silly me....and got taken to our cabin to settle in. The 4 of us were sharing with 4 other Chinese people who seemed very pleasant so we said our goodnights and fell asleep absolutely exhausted.

Monday 1st October 2001 Yangtze

...and slept some more all the Chinese got up at 5 and left the boat to visit some devil town that we had stopped of along the Yangtze we were looking forward to the deserted boat so stayed in bed - most of the day. We had short visit to a small village and the three girls spent the day talking about poo! The weather was bad so you couldn't even see much out of the boat (except more poo that sarenly floats by the boat). Louise discovered a gaggle of American girls in one of the cabins who had hired out the function room on the boat for a private party and invited us. After a few beers and a game of cards we took them up on the offer to find that they only had one Michael Jackson CD and had apparently being dancing to it for the last 5 hours, needless to say their dancing by then left a little to be desired. They were all very nice though and we were offered more places to stay in the States. Finally the entertainment was switched from Michael Jackson to Karen's impressions of Americans and some Chinese Karoke songs. Then it was time for bed as we had to leave the boat for our trip around the famous Gorges and 5:50am

5.00am the whole boat awoke at the same time it reminded me of the Borg from Star Trek who who acted as a collective, 'resistance is futile' and all that shite. They were all going on a little excursion for the day that started at 6.00 in the piffing morning in the pitch black! what the hell they could of seen is anyone's guess. The Chinese lady that shared our cabin was shaking me to get up! for what? I kept asking only to receive a 'stupid bloody tourist' look before she and our fellow cabin companions ran out into the night leaving us to try and grab some more sleep. I couldn't get back to sleep so decided to use the loo, now I had forgot to mention that Karen on the previous evening had gone to investigate the toilets so she could give us all a full report on what we were all going to be subjected to for the journey. She actually came back laughing and explained to us that the room consisted of one long trough with very low partitions and no doors, so basically you all just shat in this trough with nothing hiding your arse other than a sheet of metal that when in the squatting position came no higher than your neck giving you plenty of head room for you to have a chat with your fellow squatters. I won't give a description of the contents of the loo's only to say that all Chinese people are very regular....

Spent the rest of the day eating all of the provisions out of boredom whilst Toby slept but had a treat in store for the evening! Louise had found a gaggle of American girls who were off to do some teaching for a few months and they had hired out a room at the end of the boat for a bit of a disco. The only problem was they only had a Michael Jackson CD constantly repeating for the whole evening! they were all really nice girls, bit dodgy on the old dance floor but extremely friendly.

Tuesday 2nd October 2001 Yangtze

OK the fun starts now. Western tourists seem to be treated third rate behind Chinese tourists and today proved this. We had to buy an extra ticket to go and see the gorges which costs twice as much as the Chinese pay. Then we were shuffled from group to group as no one seemed to want to be responsible for us. We were finally put on a tin can of a boat and had relatively good seats when we were uprooted once again to 4 shit and separate seats on another boat. We first slopped at the usual tourist trap to walk through stalls selling trinkets and decided to use this opportunity to get on the boat first and claim some decent seats we so we could at least see some of the gorges. We did this, but we where instantly pounced on by all the others on the boat saying we could not sit here, because we were not Chinese!!! they were even climbing the side of the boat to start at us through the windows. We gave a good fight (well at least 5 minutes worth) and then retreated to our original seats. The boat ride took over 8 hours but we did get off at the three lesser gorges to get a decent look. It was pretty but I didn't feel much remorse that they would be flooding it, just a hope that the tourist boats would sink too! Sarena by this time was not chuffed as she would of preferred to take Raphaels advice in the first place. More cards beer and bed.

Mmmm awake at 4.30am today for some bizarre reason, could have been the mice that were fighting under Karens bed that stirred me from my slumber... Yes folks mice (or rats), partied all night drinking with the cockroaches that also shared our cabin.

We were carried by the masses of people off of the boat following gaggles of guides with bright flags and the all to familiar loud speakers! what an absolute fiasco this was turning into, Karen and Louise were like the walking dead and had not said a word since getting up( not so good in the morning). All the groups were once again herded through a tatty little village to find our small touring boat, which we finally found and were told to queue up and wait to get on. Well I might seem I am slagging the Chinese off ( sorry Willy) but these people do NOT no how to queue or do things quietly, they push, shove punch and stamp to get ahead of the person in front and shout about everything!! We got on the boat (first !) and took the front seats, fantastic we thought, we can see some of the Gorges out of this shit pit. But we were taken off this boat for no other reason than we had good seats that should have been occupied by Chinese people even thought we had paid twice what they had..... God we were narked especially when we found ourselves on a full boat with only 4 isle seats left, these were 3 seats deep so we were all miles away from any window and didn't see a darn thing for the next hour. We were dropped off at a tourist trap so we could get off and have a stroll amongst the stalls but also saw the wonderful scenery around us, massive steep cliffs towering into the mist either side of a clear bright blue river that was crystal clear. We then spent 8hrs touring these Gorges only catching a quick glimpse of the wild monkeys that lived on the steep rocks and some caves? we didn't have a clue what the tour guide was saying so couldn't even learn anything about the things we couldn't see!! I was not a happy bunny and was soooo tired but had to listen to this constant stream of loud speaker who never took one breath from the moment we had parked our bums, god I was irritable.

That evening we all had a laugh about just how crap the whole thing was whilst flicking out more cockroaches, it's a good job we are British and can laugh about all this!! We played cards again but with a normal pack after the previous evening's show when we decided to play a game called 'shit face' with a pack of dirty playing cards showing intimate male gender!! Poor old Toby could only play one game especially when we had gathered a crowd at the open door of our cabin...

Wednesday 3rd October 2001 Wuhan

Last day on the boat. We are due to arrive in Wuhan at around 20:00 so spent the day doing nothing. There was hardly any talk of poo either today from the girls. We are all ready to disembark now - an experience that doesn't need repeating. The boat was delayed so we didn't get to Wuhan until 23:00, but we had prearranged a hotel so at least we could get a few hours decent sleep.

Woken up by mice or rats again and spent the day reading and buying packets of strange edible substances from the shop as we had now eaten all the supplies. Couldn't wait to get off the boat today and was so please I had shared the trip with Karen and Louise, I could not have done it without them and their fantastic sense of humour - thanks girls!!

Got to Wuhan at 11ish and got a prearranged minibus to our hotel (also prearranged), and fell into our very nice rooms for a long awaited shower and bed.

Thursday 4th October 2001 Yangshou

Wuhan (the home town of Mao) was quite surprising. The little that part we saw was clean and organised and there was a local market all around the hotel. No one seemed to speak much English so were weren't even pestered as we searched the warrens of stalls looking for gifts for Karen and Louise for their moral support during the last few days on the Yangtze boat trip. We were heading different ways, Karen and Louise were catching a train to Shanghai and we have booked a plane to get us to Yangshou just north west of Hong Kong. Yangshou is the place that I have always said that I MUST go to in China. It is where most of the scenic paintings come from including the willow patterned plates that most below seem to hang somewhere in there homes. The plane trip was great. Only 6 people where on this 737 so for once we weren't squashed between hundreds of Chinese And it only took a hour and a quarter, which is much more preferable to another 20 hour train journey. We felt a bit like it was cheating as it was so easy. But we don't care, we hopefully plan to stay a week in Yangshou and just enjoy the countryside so the plane trip really gave us the feeling of being on holiday. We arrived in Yangshou at about 20:30 found a hostel for £3 each and went and got some food. Yangshou is as beautiful as I had expected, its very touristy but much more relaxed than the other places we have been too. Its only a small village and some parts have been pedestrianised which makes it a joy to wonder round. Can't wait to see it in the daylight...

Got up fairly early so we could go out and buy something for the girls to show our appreciation and to get a birthday present for Karen who was turning 22 very soon. I really liked Wuhan, it was clean and prosperous and had a great market for me to buy our pressies and Toby to buy himself some 'mans pants' as he calls them. Got back to the hotel and wrapped up Karens birthday pressie with writing paper and some red tape I had bought whilst Toby tried on his new pants which were a little on the small side ( imagine your dad in Speedo's, yep you got the idea)

We said our goodbyes after giving them our gifts ( I know Louise was thrilled with the white ankle socks topped with a blue lace frill) very popular with Chinese women!! and were on our way again. We were now going to cheat and catch a plane to Guilin but I think we deserved a treat after the boat trip, so we caught a taxi to the airport which took us on a 40min journey through Wuhan which caught us both by surprise at just how nice this place was. It had a tarmac road all the way and was very similar to being in Greece with lots of open space and small villa's.

We arrived at this fantastic modern airport and waited for 3 hours to board the 737, only 6 people on the flight !! only took an hour and a bit, better that a 20hr train journey. We shared a taxi with another couple from Israel to get to Yangshou so we could split the fair as it cost £40 and arrived in this beautiful part of the world at about 10.30pm very tired and hungry. We found a hostel for £3 each a night in a dormitory room, dropped off our bags and headed out. This place is just fantastic, there are these massive rocks everywhere you look just jutting up in the most bizarre places they are covered in trees and it looks like Thailand, the 'James Bond Island' part. The little streets are full of pubs and bars and shops all selling Western and Chinese food and on the river the fishermen use the Cormorants that just sit on the boats with them, it's the best place so far and we intend to stay here for a week.

Friday 5th October 2001 Yangshou

Time to relax. We spent the day catching up with washing and exploring Yangshou. This is how imagined China to be (minus the tourists) its quite beautiful, clean, quiet(ish) and the pollution is at a level that you can breathe comfortably without choking. I just walked about most of the day taking pictures of the town. Tried a Banana and chocolate pancake!

Wow this place looks great in the daylight, the scenery is breathtaking. I spent the day just chilling out whilst Tobes went for a walk then we went out for dinner in Western Street which is packed full of bars and restaurants with loads of Western people milling around.



Saturday 6th October 2001 Yangshou

No relaxing today... as we we are off on our bikes to tour the countryside. We met a Chinese lady called Wendy (her English name) who took us on a tour to her home village 'Moon Village'. We also met up with two Dutch girls, Chantel and Sonnes, and a Swedish couple, Alex and Sandra, in the morning and together we followed Wendy between the mountain peaks and paddy fields to her home. It was great. We wouldn't of been able to find these tracks on our own so felt quite privileged that we could see these rural parts of China.

Cunningly enough at Wendy's Village there is a cave you can explore, entry to which cost an extortionate entrance fee of around £6, but we paid up anyway and went crawling through muddy tunnels, streams and waterfalls in the cave. When we emerged near Wendy's house we found that she had cooked some lunch for us. Perfect, as we had now worked up an appetite.

Wendy's village is called Moon Village because it lies in the shadow of a huge peak that has a hole all the way through it which resembles the moon. This peak happens to be called Moon Hill and is also open to the paying public to climb... so we did... It was pretty high and very tiring but all the time we were followed by three Chinese girls that could not be more than 10 years old with large cases full of coke, water and the obligatory postcards, which they would try to sell at every possible moment. They didn't even seem to draw breath as the skipped along side us as we clambered the steps dripping with sweat and gasping for air.

Next Wendy took us to have a ride down the River Li in some Bamboo boats. This was a welcome relief as we stopped along the river and dived in to cool off. Very Refreshing.

A great day. Just what we wanted out of China.

When we returned to Yangshou we checked into what is probably the cheapest double room in the town (under £2 each per night). It is very very basic room at the 'Good Companions Holiday Inn' but will do us fine for 4 nights whilst we chill out and plan our onward journey to Hong Kong.

Found Matt & Lorna, who we had previously stayed with in the Ger Tent in Mongolia in the same restaurant as us that evening, so arranged to meet up with them the next evening. Tried a banana and chocolate pancake!

We went out for a bike tour in the countryside today with a lovely Chinese lady called Wendy ( her English name) this is what I was hoping to see, lush green paddy fields surrounded with these pinnacles it looked very tropical. We were then taken to Wendy's house on in Moon Hill Village to drop off our bags and have a bit of a sit down before embarking on a tour around a cave. There were six of us in the group who were all really nice so we paid our money stuck on our hard hats and set off for what we thought would be a gentle stroll in this cave, NOT. You would never have been allowed to wonder around this kind of cave in England as you would have needed a degree in Potholing just to get in!!! We had to crawl on our bellies through tiny holes and climb down these huge holes with just a piece of rope to hold on to... we finally got to an underwater lake with a small waterfall which Toby stood underneath and then had to find our way out again. We were all caked in mud from head to toe and exhausted by the time we crawled into the sunlight but thought it was a great adventure. Lunch at Wendy's house which we were all now very grateful for! then off on a quick cycle to Moon Hill, we had to climb this thing and my legs were exhausted by the time we reached the top but the view was worth all the pain. I can't actually explain how much pain I was now in which wasn't helped by watching these 2 young girls who had been following us all the way and back down again, not even breathing hard but laughing and chatting to each other as if they were taking a stroll in the park....... god I am so unfit.

We then cycled to this beautiful river, got into some bamboo boats and taken for a lovely jaunt to a local swimming spot so we could have a quick dip ( I didn't because I saw some fish..)

Fantastic day, really pleased we did this and glad to see the pretty parts of China for a change. Later that evening we met up with all the group and had dinner and a few drinks, end of a good day.

Bumped into Mat and Lorna in a restaurant (caught them watching a movie -Pearl Harbour) and arranged to meet up for dinner the next day.

We were now staying at the 'Good Companion' the room was a bit dodge but after we had spent 3hrs killing the mosquito's it was liveable.


I tried the apple pie........

Sunday 7th October 2001 Yangshou

Chilled!!!, We bought some presents. Checked our email, to discover Karen & Louise have aborted their trip to Hong Kong and will arrive in Yangshou on the 10th. Bought some gifts and generally hung around Yangshou. Met Matt & Lorna for dinner. Continued my scientific study of banana and chocolate pancakes!

Did nowt all day and it was fab!! trundled around the market for a bit looking for gifts. Toby grumbled all day about his pants being too small, he did buy the brief speedo type ones though...... very fetching. We had lunch that evening with Mat and Lorna and I had a vegetable curry and apple crumble which was blinkin delicious.

Monday 8th October 2001 Yangshou

Threw my 'Mans Pants' away (too small)! Continued my scientific study of banana and chocolate pancakes!

We ate all day as we obviously didn't think we would see food this good again and used the Internet to find out the goss.

Tried to ring mum but she had taken my brother out, I was a bit gutted about that.

Tuesday 9th October 2001 Yangshou

Chilled again, Continued my scientific study of banana and chocolate pancakes!

Phoned mum and got to talk this time!! found out that my friend Tina had a baby boy and had named him Max on the previous Thursday, I was absolutely thrilled and rushed off to purchase a pressie for them.

Mum emailed me a picture of herself and Del, Rob, Delphi and Robyn

Wednesday 10th October 2001 Yangshou

Decided we had been too lazy (and eaten too many pancakes) over the last few days so we hired some mountain bikes. Just as we got the bikes Karen & Louise Spotted us (they were having an early morning beer) so we arranged to meet up with them later (they had checked into the same hotel as us) and went exploring... ... the wrong way at first as we found ourselves stuck on the river bank with a puncture on Sarena's bike. So I pushed the bike back into Yangshou where one of the many road side repair men fixed the puncture. We then rode up the river the in the other direction. This was a much better route as we followed tracks along the river through small farmsteads and paddy fields for a couple of hours until we came to 'The Ferryman'. After persistent hassling from the old ferryman and his wife we decided to let him take us on the river not quite knowing where he would take us too or if we could return. The journey was swift, just straight across the river, and expensive, but like suckers we paid him what he asked for as it looked like he was now our only route back to Yangshou. We carried on cycling but were now getting very hot so we stopped to try some weird grapefruit that we pinched from a farm along the way. It wasn't ripe. And turned around to head back to Yangshou. The Ferryman was waiting for us with a big grin. He got Sarena to row the boat back across the river as she had given him several cigarettes. And he still ripped us off as we got to the other side.

As we rode back into Yangshou we met Tom and Lorna whom we had also met in Mongolia. They had just arrived and we discovered that they too had booked into the same hotel. So we arranged to meet up with them for Dinner.


We hired some bikes for the afternoon as we didn't get down to the hire shop until 12ish so got them for half price. We then set off for a trek around the surrounding country side when I heard -SARENA!!!! being screamed at me only to find Karen and Louise running over with huge grins on their faces. I was so pleased to see them again as I had missed our laughs and talking rubbish for a few hours and arranged to meet up that evening for dinner, they were staying at the same place as us.

Off we cycled in the wrong direction and ended up by the side of a river very hot and bothered not having a clue where we were going. After a good snipe at each other both saying it was the other ones fault we decided to back track only to find I had a puncture. Poor old Tobes pushed my bike back down the road (not all the way to Yangshou as he has stated) and got a roadside repair man to mend my tire and then set off again in a better frame of mind....

We found a little lane that took us away from the main tourist trap which turned out to be a really good bike ride, apart from the searing heat and only half a bottle of water between us!! god we are really dim. We found ourselves all alone for a change and cycled for ages through lush rice fields and orchards of these massive fruits that looked like very large grapefruits. After stuffing one in my bag we found ourselves coming to a dead end with only a ferryman and his wife who insisted on taking us over to the other side of the river, well we had nowhere else to go so on we hopped. I gave the old man half my packet of cigarettes as a gesture but he still ripped us off with the fare - cheeky blighter. We them cycled around for a bit up hill and down dell absolutely sweating buckets so we sat down to eat our fruit, gasping by now which took my 10mins just to get into it only to find it was as dry as a bone - it wasn't ripe, that serves me right for nicking it.

We then headed back to the waiting ferryman who had quite a few other passengers with him by now, so on we boarded. He offered me the pole to have a go so I thought 'hey why not should be a good photo opportunity', but the cheeky sod sat down and I ended up rowing what felt like the titanic all the way to the other side!! worst thing is he still charged us when I didn't see a penny pass between him and the other passengers.

We headed back and bumped into Tom and Lorna who are a fab couple we met before on the Trans Siberian - blinkin weird how we all keep meeting up. The 6 of us met for dinner that evening and had dinner at 'Lisa's Cafe' they were having a BBQ with all you could eat, which turned out to be not alot...

Thursday 11th October 2001 Yangshou

Felt very strange in the morning, but managed to meet up with Karen & Louise to visit a Park and a neighbouring Hotels Swimming pool before emptying the contents of my stomach (from both ends). Bugger, we were meant to catch a sleeper bus to Guangzhou tonight, but cancelled it, which was kind of a bonus as it is Karens birthday tomorrow so we can stay and celebrate it with her.

Our poor Toby woke up feeling a bit dodge today so after packing our bags and stuffing them in the girls room we all set off down for some breakfast / lunch We were setting off for Hong Kong in the evening so decided to spend the day together like the fantastic four on another adventure....and then trogged of to the Water Garden. Karen and I were having a spiffing time and couldn't understand the grey palor and general lack of enthusiasm coming from Toby and Louise? seems they were both feeling pretty rough, Toby hadn't muttered a word for the last hour..

I found a spider in a tree the size of a small housing estate which I pointed out to my fellow non sicky and waited patiently to show the other 2 who has disappeared to the lavs again. I don't think Louise was very impressed as she had a huge fear of the little critters - oops

We then had a fantastic idea to go and use the local posh hotels swimming pool for the afternoon. Off we ran like little ferrets back to our hotel room to gather our swimming attire and sun block and set off for the 'Posh Hotel'. Now this place was designed for your Saga holiday people with bags of money so we really didn't think they would let us in, but obviously our puppy dog eyes did the trick and with in minutes we had claimed our place in the sun. Apart from 2 other people we were the only peeps using this wonderful pool so we frolicked and sunbathed for a few hours whilst Toby sat very quietly in the shade.

When we decided to get back to our hotel I collected Toby only to find him in great distress and looking like a warmed up bowl of porridge so I carried him back and put him to bed. I then cancelled the bus trip for that day and told them I would be booking again when Toby was feeling better. I didn't get a refund unfortunately but she said I would get a good discount when I re-book...thanks.

Anyway the good news was we were going to still be in Yangshou for Karens birthday !!! yipeeeee we were really happy and planned for a day of fun. (sorry Tobes)

Friday 12th October 2001 Yangshou

Happy Birthday Karen! I stayed in bed most of the day whilst Sarena went out with Karen. Louise was also ill so stayed in her room. We think it was either a small tummy bug or too much sun. Anyway I was feeling a lot better by the evening so we all got together with Tome and Laura for Dinner.

Not only is China so incredible small that we keep running into the same people. But tonight proved the world to be minuscule. I soon discovered over dinner that Tom had gone to Brunel University the same time as Deon, This was a place I often stayed at during my placement year at Sealife as a convenient stop off when travelling between various sealife centres. Tom was able to share many experiences at Brunel of which I had also been a party too. He had even witnessed our band performance at the universities Christmas ball. And has promised to send me the picture of Dan Kaufmans Bare Ass!!!

Unfortunately I was not well enough to continue my scientific study of banana and chocolate pancakes! so I can now present my findings into the best 4 places to get a banana and chocolate pancake in yangshou:

1. No Name Cafe (Condensed milk is optional)
2. The Blue Lotus
3. Cafe under the moon (just because you can eat it on the balcony)
4. Minnie Maos (but only if you like 'em stodgy)

We went out for some breakfast leaving the sick person in bed and Karen opened her present from us, she liked the gift but thought the hand made card I had done of her in the toilets/ trough was fab. We then decided to go and get our hair cut... yep just for a laugh Karen had decided on having her hair dyed blonde ( she has brown hair) and Louise was going to get hers cut short, whilst I hadn't a clue what I was going to have done. The first salon didn't have any hair dye so we found another one who did and settled down to discuss what exactly we thought we were doing and was this really a good idea! I had now decided on having some blonde streaks which I thought was very brave of me considering the 80''s looking salon we were in.

They dry washed our hair and gave me a head massage whilst setting about cutting and colouring the other two. Louise's hair seemed to take minutes to do whilst Karen had now been put in one of those old fashioned head steamer things much to our amusement, as it was a sweltering day and Karen had turned a bright shade of red. I had my streaks applied and was quite pleased with the outcome even if they did not have a clue how to dry curly hair, so we all exited the salon with Louise looking like a little elfin pixie - it suited her very much, Karen didn't have the blonde hair she was hoping but more of a lighter shade of brown/blonde with gold bits in - that looked really nice as well, my streaks looked great but because they had insisted on blow-drying my hair I came our looking like Don King. We all rushed back to the sick man to show him the outcome and found him still in bed but feeling a lot better.

Louise then went and had a lie down as she was starting to feel rough, I was sure it was the sun? So Karen and I went down to have a massage thinking it would relax and rejuvenate .......... how wrong we were, it was like being put through a meat grinder very slowly. We were in the same room together and were both grunting and screaming with the sheer pain of it until I got the fit of giggles and ended up with the both of us crying with laughter.

We then went for some lunch and Karen got given a piece of chocolate cake on the house because I told them it was her birthday, mmmm I think we should use this again. Later that evening we collected Toby, Louise, Tom and Laura and went out for dinner where much to everyone's surprise Toby found out that Tom new a friend of his, Deon. Seems they had been to University together!! what a small world.

I went home feeling a little frayed around the edges now.....

Saturday 13th October 2001 Guangzhou

We all met again for breakfast, but spent the rest of the day sitting around as it was now to hot and humid to do much. Sarena had rebooked our sleeper bus to Guangzhou which left at 8 pm. This journey was quite interesting as we had not yet travelled by this form of transport. It wasn't bad except for the fact that the term 'sleeper' must break several laws under the trades description act (not that china would have this act). The state of the roads combined with the drivers lack of ability to drive, the length of the beds (designed for shorter Chinese) and the overhead speaker blasting out poor quality sound effects from cheap Chinese horror movies would actually bring someone out of a coma rather than precipitate any kind of sleep.

Spent the day dossing and playing cards until we went to catch the 8.00pm sleeper bus to Guangshou which didn't turn up to 9.00pm. I new by now not to expect much from China's transport but I really don't know how they called it a sleeper, the beds were tiny and they kept the TV blasting out (we had a speaker over our heads) until 11.00pm but even then the roads are so bumpy you just have to hang on for dear life!!

Spent the rest of the night with white knuckles and gritted teeth as the urge to kill the driver and hijack the bus was beginning to overwhelm me

Sunday 14th October 2001 Hong Kong

We arrived in Guangzhou at 5 in the morning and got a taxi to a posh hotel (white Swan). They didn't let us in the main doors but said we could buy a ferry ticket to Hong Kong from their travel office in the basement which didn't open until 8:30. Sarena got told off for falling asleep on one of there couches, but we got tickets very easily and they even provided a free car ride to the ferry terminal. We caught the jet catermeran at 10:00 and arrived in Hong Kong by about 12:30. (Took 1.5 hours to get through customs though). We knew Hong Kong was expensive, but where still shocked by the price of everything. We hunted down the shabbiest cheapest accommodation we could find and ended up staying at Chungking Mansions in Kowloon in a converted bathroom for around £16 per night. It happened to be in a perfect location though, just opposite Hong Kong Island. Realising that HK will blow a massive hole in our budget I immediately searched the city for the cheapest and earliest flight to Kathmandu (Nepal) - found one for 8 am on the16th.

Hong Kong is an amazing place (especially at night). definitely worth a visit if you can afford it. Its the kind of place that I wouldn't mind working in for a while.

We fell off the bus at 5.00am not having a clue what we were to do now until Toby had the bright idea of getting a taxi to a hotel where they had a booking office for the boat trip to Hong Kong. The ticket office ended up being in a luxury hotel where we rested our tired bones waiting for the office to open, I got told off for slouching by a security guard that's how posh it was.

They provided a bus to the ferry terminal and we found ourselves on a luxury Catermeran in 1st class headed for HK. About 2 hours later we arrived in what looked the busiest most crammed in island I have ever seen, but very spectacular. It took ages to get through customs but when we eventually did we found ourselves in a shopping complex that just shone with wealth. We caught a taxi to Chungking Mansions - the name did not describe the place accurately, and settled ourselves into our converted bathroom. I was surprised at how many Indian people there were, it seems they all ran these apartments in Chungking Mansions like bedsits in England.

I saw my first proper sized cockroach and was mighty impressed at the shear size and speed of the thing! it was blinkin huge.

We treated ourselves by going to a TGI Fridays for dinner and had our first glass of wine since leaving England - cold glass of Chardonnay, my god it was good and Karen and Louise if your reading this - na na na na na, I did have a glass for you though..

Monday 15th October 2001 Hong Kong

got up later than we wanted but moved from our converted bathroom to a slightly cheaper dormitory (£14 per night) in Chungking Mansions. Then caught the Metro to the centre to emerge right opposite 'Marks and Spencers' - bugger. Got sucked inside and spent a fortune on some 'Mens Boxer Shorts' to replace my 'Mans Pants' and Sarena bought some Percy Pigs and Salt &Vinegar Crisps and a bra-less support vest thingamajig!

We then headed for the tram to the top of Victoria Peak. I would of liked to explored the southern side of HK Island as it has some beaches, but we did not have enough time. As we arrived at the top of the Victoria we got a little disorientated as the tram station had many signs directing you to the various tourist traps in the building (e.g madame tussads & Ripleys believe it or not) but not one sign should us the way out of this building.

We eventually found an exit and a deserted road to the very top of the peak (obviously no one else found the way out of the building). At the top we discovered amazing views of both sides of the island and well kept (and deserted) gardens full of wildlife.

We caught the ferry back to Kowloon and decided to try one of the Indian Restaurants within Chungking Mansions. Very nice.

We met a brummie who was staying in our dormitory that evening, I can't remember his name (Steve I Think) but he too seemed to have difficulty remembering simple things like his own name and the conversation he had with us 20 seconds ago. This made for an amusing (but somewhat laborious) evening, until luckily he decided to go to sleep. This was fortunate as we had to get up at 3am to catch a night bus to the airport.

Can't believe how expensive it is here!!

We caught the metro over to Hong Kong island and bumped into a Marks & Spencers - there is a god. I ran in with Toby dragging behind to have a look around and purchased a top, Percy Pig sweets ( my favourite ) and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, whilst Toby bought some proper pants.

We then caught a tram taking us to the top of Victoria Peak and had a trog up to Victoria Gardens to have a look around, it was very beautiful but very humid The views were fantastic but soon found our way back to the tram for our steep decent and then caught a ferry back to Kowloon for dinner. We ate in a restaurant called the Deli Club in the Chungking Mansions as we heard it was quite cheap compared to the millions of pounds you spent everywhere else for food.

We then checked into a dorm room which was a bit cheaper and found ourselves sharing with a very strange man called Steve who was sat on his bed in a T-shirt and briefs with long straggly hair.... he kept this on for the rest of the evening. We tried to converse with him but found it very hard going, his memory span was like a gold fish.


Tuesday 16th October 2001 Hong Kong

Up at for and a bus arrived at the stop outside Chungking Mansions almost the same time as we did. Hong Kong now has a new airport several islands away from their famous one squeezed between the sky scrapers. The bus took an hour and we arrived at the very smart airport with two hours to spare before our flight to Kathmandu (via Bangkok). The flight to Bangkok was delayed slightly which was a bit of a worry as we only had 40 minutes to transfer to a plane to Kathmandu.

I didn't need to worry though as we boarded our plane to Kathmandu which landed at 12:30 pm... we were now in Nepal...

3.00am we dragged ourselves to the bus stop to get us to the airport for a flight to Nepal, this took about an hour. We arrived at the huge Airport in plenty of time so just sat around for a couple of hours before embarking on our next adventure flying with Thai Airlines. The flight was great and the service and food was so much better than with British Airways, we even got to watch the movie 'Cats and Dogs'.

We stopped in Bangkok to transfer planes and then were off again for our next step of the journey to Kathmandu.



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