A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: jo.kris

Shanghai

EXPO!!!!!!!!!!!

sunny

One of the highlights of Shanghai was the journey there. Despite being warned by Nick and Andrea about traveling by night bus we figured it couldn't be THAT bad. And it wasn't. It was simply one of the most insane journeys that we have encountered on our trip to date. Fortunately we got on where the bus started but the journey still began with some drama; the conductor man tried shifting two girls from there beds and moving them to our seats. This we would have been fine with if it wasn't for the fact these two beds were the top bunks right at the back of the bus which also happened to be next to the toilet. Considering how much normal toilets smell in China we could only despair at what a bus one would be like...!!!

So after some persistence we managed to get our beds. This meant that Kristian was on the top bunk behind me and I was on the bottom one in front. I didn't last here for very long though because about 50 minutes into the journey the lady in the bed next to me started vomiting into a plastic bag (at a time when the bus was stopped and there were no extra people in the aisles) and then proceeded to sit and hold the bag!! I wasn't very impressed with this so jumped up onto the bed in front of Kristian which happened to be the only other free bed on the bus. I sure was glad that I did this!! In traditional Asian fashion the bus stopped every kilometer to pick people up from the side of the road; we kept thinking that they couldn't possibly get anyone else onto the bus but then another 5 people would get on!! In the end there were people all sitting through the aisles incredibly cramped with at least 65 people on this 35 bed bus! I wouldn't have fancied being them for the 12 hour journey! It was a good job the vomiting lady had more plastic bags because there was no way she'd be getting anywhere near the toilet! Kristian awoke in the morning to a man standing over him looking out the window obviously stretching his aching legs.

Eventually we got to Shanghai and strangely had to have our bags scanned when we got off the bus in order to walk onto the street; we'd already had them scanned just before getting on the bus! Fortunately we were right next to a Metro station so we made our journey out to our couchsurfing hosts who lived out in the suburbs. Our sim card wouldn't work because we'd foolishly bought a Qingdao city one so we wound up sitting outside their door (they didn't answer when we knocked) waiting patiently to appear. Means we gave Wes a bit of a shock when he opened the door to put the rubbish out! Once we bought a working Sim we were on our way back into Shanghai to see the sights.

It as SO GOOD to be in a busy city. Shanghai was the first place we have visited on our travels which reminded us of London in anyway and it sure felt good. The crowds were surging on it's most popular shopping street and we just wandered around mesmerized by everyone. The Chinese tourists are unlike any other sort of tourists. We went down to the Bund for a walk along it and just loved it! It was so cool with the old style architecture along there and then the modern day, futuristic city of Pudong on the other side of the water. Such a good juxtaposition. We decided to be real tourists and so took the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel over to Pudong. This was some seriously weird method of transport. It is basically some extravagant light show in a tunnel objectifying things like paradise, hell, molten lava, shooting stars, fish in the ocean. Really a rather surreal experience.

Once at the other side we walked around the strange pedestrian roundabout before heading to the two biggest buildings in China in order to feel miniature! We didn't want to pay to go up it neither did we want to spend $15 each in the bar so we looked out the window of the lift; it was a really cloudy, miserable, rainy day so it wouldn't have been worth the money! None the less the view from our little window was still spectacular. We went next door to the biggest building which looks like a massive bottle opener! Its size sure is impressive at 480m or so and we stood at the bottom feeling like ants, completely in awe. By now it was really rainy so we popped into a mall in order to continue our search for a new bag. We left empty handed, tired and it was raining even more so we went back into the weird tunnel thing. Back on the old side we chilled out with a hot chocolate and figured out what we were going to do with our time in China.

Then we were off to use the internet before trying (and failing) to buy a ticket to Hangzhuo; the office had shut two hours earlier. Oops. It was therefore time to stop being antisocial and head back to the suburbs where our hosts were having an indoor bbq. Everyone was on the drunk side of tipsy and we were understandably tired so excused ourselves to bed around midnight. I think that we had both just dropped off to sleep when a commotion began outside with the very weird and very drunk American girl called Echo. What sort of name is that?! We stayed out of the way until she had left (well had been taken home) before getting up to see if there was anything we could do. The drunk girl's child had been left there (a two year old girl called Lark) and when she and the baby woke up Coryn was left trying to juggle the two of them. I stepped in to help get Lark back to sleep which wasn't too hard. Then finally it was time for us to get some well earned rest on our playroom floor!

We awoke far too early felling nowhere near rested. We had tickets to go to the Expo but first we had to buy these train tickets to leave Shanghai. The man only seemed willing to sell us tickets for 7.50am so it looked like it was going to be another early start! After getting a bus to Expo we finally got there about 12ish. It was so cool! Yes there were a lot of people and there were some insanely long queues but the atmosphere was really good. Fortunately we got to queue jump at the British one with our passports so that saved us 4 hours! It was one of the visually more impressive with all its fibre optic spikes and was certainly focused on greenery/eco stuff which we thought was good for the Chinese considering their pollution issues. We have since heard that due to Expo not only have the factories around Shanghai been turned off but you are only allowed to drive your car on certain days depending on the numbers in your number plate to limit the pollution. Isn't that insane?! Anyways each of the spikes in the British one had a different seed in it and all in all it was a good concept but I feel I would have been disappointed had I waited four hours for it! From here we queued for Ireland which meant we are now planning a holiday there!

From this point forward we chose countries with little or no queue including Brunei (where K got really excited for some weird reason) and Cambodia where they had built parts of Angkor Wat and were of course selling things! A real highlight of the day was Afghanistan's pavilion - it made us really want to go there! Shame about these wars...! We both made friends with the passport stampers in Sri Lanka as we shared knowing smiles with the Chinese's inability to queue. It must be really infuriating to be working there. There was a ridiculously long queue for Irag - like at least an hour - but we got into North Korea's quite speedily at least. Here we stood in awe of the videos of the Mass Games which really do look quite spectacular.

We tried to have dinner at Latinos which despite it's name only served Chinese food! After a rather disappointing and average dinner we were devastated to discover the Mexican pavilion had a restaurant inside! Mexico and Chile were the last two we visited but were definitely among the best. We really wished that we could have seen more but we really needed to go home and rest our weary heads/worn out feet!

Posted by jo.kris 07:11 Archived in China Tagged shanghai Comments (1)

Qingdao

China's beer Capital

semi-overcast 21 °C

Our first stop in China was Qingdao (pronounced Ching-d-ooooow) which may look more familiar when written as Tsingtao. Yes this is the town where that World famous Chinese beer comes from. It is a former German port and the beer factory started its days brewing Pilsner before the Japanese got involved. This seems to have done a world of good for the beer; its funny to think that once Tsingtao accounted for 98% of China's exports!!! Think it is a little different now. Strangely though this beer is an exported beer mainly, the Chinese don't really tend to drink it and it is much more expensive than the "local beer" of the province. Anywhoo I digress...

Our first impression when we got off the boat was that it looked a little bit like a shithole! We have come to learn that this is just the way that Chinese cities look when they begin to age which happens before the buildings are even finished/being lived in! This whole country is going to fall down in the next 20-50 years if the architechts are to believed! We jumped in a taxi and made our way towards our host, Andrea's, home at the Ocean University. We were glad for the Chinese characters depicting her address or goodness knows where we would have wound up! We had a lady taxi driver who was literally insane but efficient! She weaved in and out of the traffic with ease and there was only one incident where we could have gone through the windscreen; not bad considering! We eventually found our way to Andrea's building after asking a few people; she was lovely! She's working as an English teacher here but is originally from Texas. Yes she does litter her speech with "y'all" which we found rather endearing. She instantly made us feel comfortable and gave us a choice of plywood beds to sleep on. Yes I did say plywood! One of them even has this little zipper thing which you can open to see it - perhaps it is so you can check it is good quality plywood?! Who would know...

We sat around chatting for a while and then headed up to a restaurant (a Korean one of all places!) although it served Chinese food fortunately. Andrea ordered as the menu was of course in Chinese. We had sweetcorn and pine nuts (TASTY!), a tofu dish (our new best friend) and a Qingdao speciality of fried eggplant (aubergine) and green peppers. This meal was to begin our love affair with aubergine which we are now basically addicted to. I guess there are worse things. By the time we had eaten and were ready to go and see any form of sights it was 3pm so we jumped on a bus and headed back towards town.

First job though was to find a ticket out of there and onto our next destination which would be Shanghai. The trains were sold out for the day we wanted to go and the next day only had the most expensive seats available. So we figured we'd try and find an internet cafe. We asked at a hotel nearby and they told us to get an 8 yuan taxi ride to one. Fortunately she wrote down the characters for wangba (internet) and we managed to spot one near the station without getting a taxi. This was literally about 300 yards from her hotel so she must walk around with her eyes closed. We found here that it would be cheaper to fly so at least that through in an option of travel. INstead of booking that though we thought we would go to a hostel and try to organise a train or bus ticket with them. They weren't very willing to help us to begin with but when we couldn't communicate with the number they had given us (of course they only spoke Chinese..) they decided to help us! With a deposit left with them we were on our way hopeful that we would have a bus sorted...

We wandered around the Old Town until Andrea and her friend Nick came to meet us at the Cathedral. This involved walking through another locals farmers market; highight of this one was the chickens roaming around under our feet. Had to be careful not to trip over one and hurt ourselves. We also had our first experience with a Chinese public toilet. This was in a department store which looked really nice, new and fresh. Its a shame that the same couldn't be said for the toilets! They literally looked as if they had been built 20 years before the rest of the building (impossible considering they were on the fourth floor) and my god the smell! It was quite something special. Don't think that we will be going anywhere for here on in without our scarves!!!

For dinner we went to this little hotpot place which the lady cooked skewers of food for us in a pot of chicken broth in front of us. Not entirely sure what was on these skewers exactly but don't think it was anything near being real meat. Funnily it turned out that Andrea, who is basically vegetarian, had been eating cow stomach! Think it is best just not to ask what it is in these situations....! It wasn't a great meal but it was cheap costing just 1 pound 40p for the two of us...can't complain with that that's for sure!

Our sightseeing the following day was marginally more successful. Having eventually got on a bus headed towards the Beer factory the hostel call us to say that we need to go there NOW in order to get a ticket. We jump in a taxi and arrive there to discover that there are no tickets available with the agent. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh panic....!! But it was okay as a guy from the hostel got a taxi with us to the bus station where we were able to book two tickets for the following evening to Shanghai. Phew! It was cheaper too so that is always nice.

Finally we were in our third taxi of the hour and on our way to the Beer Factory. Considering that it had taken so much effort to get there is was a little bit of a disappointment when we arrived! I guess that that is always the way. The funniest thing was the Chinese tour groups who whizzed through as we were gradually taking our time. I swear that they couldn't have had a chance to take in any of their surroundings; they were just in and out like a punter at his local brothel. The place where this was most apparent was in the tasting section of the tour. We just sat and (Kristian) enjoyed our beers casually, taking our time, and these tour groups would come in like a huge tornado. They'd quickly drink their beer then be gone again in the blink of an eye just leaving a catastropic mess behind with half full glasses abound. You could literally see the tumbleweed blowing past following their departure. The workers would just get the mess cleaned up (super speedily!) and then another tornado would whizz in.

The other highlight of this tour was seeing the machinery packaging up the beer and getting it ready to be sent out to stores. We could have stood for hours watching this but it must be a super boring job for those who work there. I'd imagine that you'd see bottles in your sleep! We had a wander along beer street upon exiting the factory which sold catastrophically priced beer and then got in another taxi because we didn't know where the bus stop we needed was.

Next stop was to be the Lu Xin Park which was located along the seafront. This was a really lovely spot for us to just chill out and formulate a plan for the rest of China; we were even treated to a scrap of blue sky! All the beer had obviously got to Kristian as he chose to spend this time napping on the rocks we were sitting on. With some sort of rough plan in place we headed onwards to what was for us the highlight of Qingdao. We hit up China's equivalent of Blackpool pleasure beach! This was AMAZING! There were actually people TANNING! God forbid that we could be seeing tanned Asians sunning themselves but it was so, our eyes for once were not deceiving us! There were huge groups of men with potbellies and equal amounts of really ripped guys working out at the beach gym! It was just insane. We were fascinated by the groups of men in their speedos grouped around together gambling or playing games or something. The best thing about the whole experience was that they all seemed to be having so much fun: laughing and joking together. This was for us an introduction to another side of China we had not yet experienced thus far and we could truely see the yin and yang of how this country worked.

Our journey back was the other side.....an hour and a half on a packed bus, crawling along at snail speed on a journey which should have taken 30 minutes!!

Posted by jo.kris 19:22 Archived in China Tagged beaches qingdao Comments (0)

South Korea

The land of weird people

0 °C

Our arrival in Korea was a bit of a blur. We got off the ferry from Fukuoka and after discussing where to stay with the Tourist Information centre we discovered there was an overnight ferry to the island of Jeju leaving in 30 minutes! Having confirmed that there was space available we rushed up round the corner to the other ferry terminal in order to make it in time; fortunately we made it before we had even begun to comprehend what we had let ourselves in for. The ferry was 12 hours which is a long time anyway but then you consider that we had been travelling for 20 hours already...

Being the cheapskates that we are we paid for the lowest class of tickets which meant that we didn't have a bed but just a section of floor and a horrible box thing which constitutes a pillow. We were also the only Western people in this room which could potentially have had 200 people in it! Think there were only about 80 though. We struck up some sort of conversation with the Korean guy next to us which was quite limited in that he had very little English skills. This therefore meant there was lots of gesturing and drawing and general arm waving! We established that he was hitchhiking around Korea as he had very little money. Despite this lack on money he jumped up and disappeared when we asked him about what they drink in South Korea. Leaving us feeling somewhat bewildered he swiftly returned with a green bottle full of something called Soju. This is a slightly foul tasting drink which you drink neat; the best way to describe it is probably as a nicer version of vodka. The other highlight of these conversations was that the guy was ridiculously offended by any sight of Kristian's pants and trust me for him they weren't even on show! It was literally just the band around the top of them! PLus he had massive issues with having our money belt round our waists and down our trousers; his reactions of "no, no no" and shielding his eyes were hilarious - not sure if he thought Kristian was just going to whip it out infront of him or what!!

At some point during this another man with no English skills came over and offered for the three of us to go to his house for breakfast in the morning. The Korean guy kindly accepted for us and so our fate was sealed!

Having had about 4 hours sleep max our new friend woke us up just before 6am so that we could go and see the sunrise. Rather bleary eyed and achey we reluctantly headed out onto the deck to see what turned out to be a spectacular sunrise. There is something so much more impressive about the sun rising than there is when it sets; its just a shame we aren't up in time very often to see it!

We were soon docked and since we were going with this man for breakfast we had to wait for his car. We were completely clueless as to what we were going to do or where we were going to stay on the island so we weren't entirely sure that this was the best idea but we had no way of communicating this without seeeming entirely ungrateful. Kristian managed to find a name of a guesthouse at least and get a map of the island from the "information" centre so we felt a little more at ease.

Having waited at least an hour for this car/van contraption we were on our way to the man's house. The man didn't speak any English which was fair enough but he also didn't seem very happy to be hosting us! It was very strange. He had invited us but we really felt like we were intruding. He made no effort to communicate with us at all nor did he smile at all. It would appear that the Koreans aren't really very smiley people. None the less he gave us a breakfast of instant noodles and kimchee which is this slightly foul tasting chilli cabbage stuff. As you can propbably tell I wasn't much of a fan but the Koreans love it and eat it with anything and everythign no matter what time of day it is! The man then kindly drove us to where the guesthouse was so we were very thankful to him. Still no smile!

The lady at the hostel was equally strange. She had a good grasp of English but it felt like she was just being nice because she had to be. It really felt as if she was laughing at us and not with us and it felt like she had a really dark motive behind her. Can't really explain it was just a feeling. We were too exhausted to try and find somewhere else when we discovered that they only had single sex dorms which was a massive inconvenience for us considering that all our clothes and toiletries are in one bag! We also only have one alarm clock so Kristian had to borrow one... This seperate rooms business would have been okay if the people in either room didn't get massively offended if either of us went into the room of the wrong gender! Kristian was full on accused of being in the wrong place by one man because I was with him - he demanded to see his key and everything before going on to scream at him to take his shoes off. Because that is really what you are thinking about when you are carrying almost 30kgs of luggage and take one step into a room to put a bag down.

We spent this afternoon at the beach but not the one which they had told us was the "best beach". Somehow the lady at the bus station sent us off in the wrong direction so we wound up on the other side of the island but at a lovely little beach where everyone seemed to be having a whale of a time. Strangely the Koreans bathe in the sea fully dressed and with umbrellas; they are obviously afraid of the sun!! We also went into a shop to have a look for a bat and ball to play with and after a minute the lady from the shop started full on shouting at us in Korean and was pointing at the door. Not altogether sure what we did to offend her but she really rattled us with her meaness. The next day we made it to the "best beach" which was by far not as good as the one we had been to by accident! At least we had some sort of opportunity to top up our tans.

Overall we didn't feel entirely satisfied with our visit to Jeju; not only this but I left with a cold and feeling like poo. For some strange reason accross Asia they like to wash pavements and steps at obscure times of day so when we were leaving the hostel I managed to fall down their steps. That was fun as the huuuuuge bruise on my chin is there to prove!! This was while trying to get to the most unhelpful taxi in the World. The driver could obviously see me struggling with all of our bags, however, instead of getting out to help me he drove the car further away for no reason!! Idiot...

We flew back to the mainland instead of ferrying it - for a whole 4 pounds more!! If we'd taken a higher class on the ferry then it would've been more expensive than flying! The journey took a whole 35 minutes; by the time we were up in the air it was time to land again! We booked into a hostel in Busan - which fortunately had a room that we could share - and moped around for the rest of the day to get over this cold thing. The highlight of Busan was some people pushing past us to get onto the metro and then laughing at us. People here really are mean!!

The next day we were on a 3 hour speedy train to Seoul where we were going to stay with Seon-ju. When we rang her she asked where the station was which had us slightly raise our eyebrows but she was soon with us! We met her around the Universal symbol of Mcdonalds and jumped in a taxi for the very short journey to her place. It actually seemed much longer than it was due to the taxi; the station was actually just a five minute walk away! It was really nice to be staying in a home and have a room with space! Its the little things in life...

Seon-ju took us out for an amazing meal which was restored our faith in Korean food. We were all full to bursting and then the man brought another plate of meat to eat!! We took it away in a box and had it for breakfast the following day although we were still full from dinner! The next day was probably definately our best day in South Korea!! Two of Seon-ju's students took us out and about around Seoul to see the National Museum. They seemed to be thrilled about this, or not, because they don't really like museums! Seon-ju was set that they should take us there though...bless them. After spending more than enough time at the museum we headed towards the palace which happens to be closed on a Tuesday. Talk about bad luck! The girls were so cute though as despite living in Seoul for their whole lives they seemed to be clueless about navigating the city and the metro; christ knows how they are going to survive when they get to the UK!!!

Instead we walked along the square heading to the gate and had the opportunity to dress up in traditional Korean dress. Kristian got told off by the lady for jumping in it; fortunately we managed to get one of the best jumping photos of the trip! The girls explained to us how most Koreans are terrified of foreigners which kinda explained a few things to us..goodness knows why we are so terrifying and inspire people to laugh all the time! After the square we took a bus to a market area which was super cool but everything was tres expensive. We graffiti'd our names on the wall along with everyone else so we left our mark on Seoul! Woop woop.

We had a proper sorting out day the next day which involved posting home 10kg of stuff home which cost a whole 15 squids!! We couldn't believe it... After our lazy day we went for a walk up the hill to the Namsan tower. We were cheapskates so didn't pay to go up the tower but the views were pretty spectacular over Seoul none the less. We made it up in time to catch the sunset and see it all lit up which was cool. This is the "love spot of Soeul" where everyone buys padlocks and attaches them to the railings. Pretty different idea and since Seon-ju had left us we thought that we should join the crowds in doing it too! So now our love is sealed by padlocks looking out over Seoul - haha how cheesy huh?

Seon-ju asked us to leave on Friday so we managed to book a ferry to Qingdao on the Saturday as there wasn't one on Friday. We spent Thursday at the DMZ area which was fairly interesting. It was a serious hassle getting there as we didn't want to do a super expensive tour to be able to see it. The woman at the train station in the information centre was a hassle which meant that we missed a train; that would have been fine if there wasn't only one train an hour! The lady had originally told us there were only two trains a day but then somehow there were more so it was really quite frustrating. Anyways we ran for the train, missed it and then had to wait an hour for the next one! Misson...

When we eventually got there we paid 9000 won for a tour to the Dmz which was in comparision to the 77000 it would have cost us from Seoul! Bit of a difference. The tour took us to an observation area where we could look over into North Korea. Kristian almost had our camera take off us for taking photos not behind the photo line - the soldier deleted any such photos! After this little peer over we were taken to a tunnel which was discovered by the South Koreans in the late 70s. It was obviously a tunnel which had been dug by the North which would have been used to invade the South again. Was pretty crazy walking down into the tunnel and along it it was pretty nippy being underground! Here we also watched the worst documentary imagineable!! The voice over was this really excessively dramatic American guy with the background music being all dum dum dum. It was truely cringworthy but we did learn that the DMZ was an area destined to be "peaceful". I have to wonder if the North Koreans would have to say i

Posted by jo.kris 22:11 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Singapore

A little bit of Luxury :-)

sunny 35 °C
View Travels 2010 on jo.kris's travel map.

Sorry its just boring writing again couldn't be bothered to upload the photos - here's the photo link just in case you need a refresh! http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=7200286&l=c1dcbf6010&id=274704963

We were at the airport with plenty of time to spare so we made ourselves comfortable. It was while waiting at the gate that we saw the funniest thing of the trip so far. There was an Asian lady in her late 50s early 60s sitting opposite us who was wearing a jumper and stripey tight things. This was all well and good except that the tights were see through at the top and her jumper wasn't long enough so everyone could see her little lacy white thong underneath! You could see people chuckling everywhere behind her but it certainly wasn't very attractive when she bent down to pick up her bag!

This put us in a good mood for our long flight even better was that we were able to watch three films in a row! Was a relief to land in Singapore but by this stage it was 10.20pm local time since the flight had been delayed. We got a taxi shuttle to our hostel which seemed nice enough and then had a wander around the area. There wasn't much going on through in the direction we had gone so we returned to the hostel to rest our sleepy heads. So sleepy in fact that we both fell asleep fully clothes - I was even still wearing my bag over my shoulder!

With our tummies rumbling after a very unsatisfying breakfast of dry toast we decided to wander to Little India. i am unsure if it was that we didn't find the main area or if it was too early but it was quite frankly disappointing. The highlight however, has to be the "Mustafa Centre" where they sold everything you could imagine. It was like a TK Maxx on a much bigger, Asian scaled; we just liked it for ti name!

We were really hot an uncomfortable so headed back towards the hostel to grab our bags. The five minute walk to the MRT station was quite painful and felt very long but good practice for us to get used to carrying our bags again! The lady at the hostel had been really wrong about where we had to go so we were thankful that we asked at the station. We had to get the train to Dhoby Ghott and then from there catch a bus to the hotel. The tickets for the underground are made of plastic instead of paper and you pay a $1 refundable deposit for then; that's certainly one way to cut down on rubbish! The stations seem much quieter than London so I can't see it working at home...

The bus journey was simple and this train-bus combo worked much smoother than it had done in Sydney! It did help that we really couldn't miss the hotel; it is huge!! Certainly an impressive piece of architecture and very dominating of the surrounding skyline. We didn't get too many funny looks inside the building but that may have been because there were so many people just there to stare in amazement. The lady at reception did seem quite baffled when she asked about our luggage and we pointed to our backs, not altogether sure how she could have missed their presence though!

Our room was in Tower 3 on the 29th floor - so just about in the middle!! It was a good tower to be in too because it was the one with direct access to the swimming pool at the top. At least we wouldn't have to walk through the hotel lobby in our swim wear!! The room wasn't as good as we had expected for the price but it was nice enough plus it did have a pretty swish bathroom. What was impressive though was that the TV had my name on it when we turned it on!! the view from our window was of a construction site but beyond that we could at least see the sea and all of the big boats waiting around the port.

By this stage we were starving (the dry toast hadn't really been substantial in the morning) so we ventured back outside to battle the humidity in search of Chinatown. We got a bus to Esplanade which was literally just over the bridge but we couldn't find the food court or the MRT. As is the way everyone kept pointing us in different directions when we asked directions too; always helpful! Eventually we found a lady who said it would be easier to just walk to Chinatown and there would be loads of food there so walk we did. It was a walk which took us past the Parliament building which is basically just a hunk of concrete plonked on a piece of grass - bit different to our Houses of Parliament!!

Chinatown began just after we crossed the river and once again we felt as if we were in the wrong place. We gave up searching so settled in a restaurant for some food. The waiter didn't speak any English but hovered around us even after we had ordered which was somewhat irritating so we moved to a table inside. Our noodles and sweet and sour chicken were really tasty though and very much appreciated by our rumbling tummies.

It wasn't until we left here and walked round a couple of corners that we discovered the real Chinatown with stalls and food places everywhere; it is a good job that we had enjoyed our lunch otherwise we would have been fuming I imagine!! We meandered our way through the stalls and shops attempting to find a camera case and some sunglasses; we succeeded in the latter at least! This sightseeing/shopping turned out to be somewhat tiring and we figured we probably ought to be making the most of this pool at the hotel since it was costing us so much money! We didn't fancy the walk back again as it probably would have meant we got lost once more in the concrete jungle so we once more negotiated the MRT/bus journey.

We went for an explore around the hotel once we made it back there. Its going to be spectacularly impressive once everything is finished and all the shops are actually open. Don't think we'd be touching it with a barge pole then though because it will be super uber expensivo!! Looks like there is going to be a ridiculously massive Chanel and Gucci stores though...be good for window shopping! We were still completely in awe even without everything open/ We weren't dressed well even to have a nose around the casino so we figured it was about time we experienced the pool; after all this was the reason we were there in the first place! The view was somewhat breathtaking and begged us to question why we hadn't just been there all day long looking out over Chinatown!

Kristian was beyond excited about getting into the water so we didn't hang around too long at the poolside. The water was really refreshing after being so clammy all day and just the most perfect temperature. The view from the edge of the pool was fantastic. You could see for miles out over Marina Bay and then the city beyond so we spent a while tracking our path through the skyscrapers and into Chinatown. The view from poolside was even better as although you couldn't see directly below you just saw the edge of the pool looking like it was dropping off into oblivion. The whole complex really is a rather impressive concept (well will be when finished!).

We stayed in the pool for quite some time just admiring the landscape before popping out for a light refreshment of beer and mango juice. Then just as we were drying off we got back into watch the sunset over Singapore. We were both rather peckish once more and definitely looked like shriveled grapes (it had been more than 2 hours!) so we figured it was probably about time to leave. We had dinner at one of the food stalls in the shopping complex which was surprisingly yummy. I had roasted chicken, green vegetables and noodle while Kristian had a whole array of dishes in a tray; was like a seriously sophisticated TV dinner!

After realising that we had to pay to watch anything on the TV and the wifi was a gobsmacking $15 per hour (it was free at the hostel the night before) we though we would go back up to the pool to have a look over Singapore at night. It was even more impressive at this time with the whole city lit up so brightly. So much light pollution though that there wasn't a star in the sky! The pool shut at 10pm and we were among the last to leave...surprise surprise! After a rendition of night fever in the lift lobby with its flashing lights we headed back to our room; basically everything including the bars and "nightclubs" shut at 10pm and it was too much effort to head back into town.

We got up early in order to make one final use of the pool; it was about all that had been included free with our room! The breakfast here was extortionate so we were dreaming merrily of the inadequate and free breakfast from the day before! And they say you get what you pay for...not so sure anymore!

We also had a visit up to the skypark included (but this was only as an opening offer - in the future guests even have to pay for this - but we only got to go up once and also a photo experience. Utilising these though was exceptionally hard as it would appear different departments within the hotel don't communicate with one another. After waiting in line for our tickets we found out that only one of the people could issue our ticket but even she seemed a little confused about what we were doing because we didn't have an itinerary. Eventually she sent us on our way informing us the photo experience was at the top. Up there the photographer again mentioned this itinerary from the concierge and that the photo had to be done downstairs in the shop. Obviously the concierge had mentioned nothing about an itinerary when we had asked the night before! Anyways it was good to see the view from here at the end of the building as it meant that we had a 360 degree view from the sea to the city which was pretty cool and just about worth the hassle. We went back down to finally get this photo done (there was no way we were missing out on something free from this place!) and Kristian decided to push me off the building in it - pretty amusing. When we came to check out we discovered we had been charged for the photo. The guy at reception was adamant that the photo wasn't included in the package. We argued our point and he went off to discover (thankfully) that we were right. Fortunately storing our bags was much less of a palaver and we were ready to find food, after all it had been a busy and stressful morning. We're thinking we'll stick to hostels and guesthouses in the future!

This time we walked over the bridge to esplanade where everything was closed! After asking numerous people we eventually found a food court. The place where we ate was very efficient and the lady kept shouting us to "continue order". Neither of us really knew what we ate that day as a result but it certainly was tasty.

After lunch we did some more wandering this time in search of an internet cafe; everywhere has wifi but internet cafes are few and far between. On the way to what we hoped would finally be somewhere we picked up some really tasty ice cream waffle things which we finished just in time. Yes all we do on our trip is eat!!

We spent quite a while in the internet cafe trying to sort bits and pieces out. The guy in the booth next us was a very interesting fellow; he was probably in his mid to late 50s, very chubby and of Singaporean heritage. For the whole time we were there (about 2 and a half hours) he sat very blatantly trying to find a male prostitute on chat rooms and websites with graphic images!!! He was being very obvious considering that homosexuality is still illegal in Singapore. His desperation was very clear as he was typing things like "When can we meet...one hour?...I need to see your naked body...anyone want to be paid for sex." Haha. It was a very surreal moment for us and we had to try so very hard not to burst out laughing.

From the internet cafe we headed back to the hotel in order to catch the bus to KL. It was a 27 seater bus with two people working on it and just the two of us as passengers! Not sure how cost effective that would have been really..! We past smoothly through immigration, had spaghetti bolognaise for dinner and arrived in KL early. The journey took less than 5 hours but they dropped us off somewhere strange where we eventually found our way to a taxi. We bought a taxi coupon and found a taxi but the driver didn't know where the lodge was that we were staying. After discussing with another driver he was determined that he would find it so off we went; it turned out that the road was off a road which he drives down multiple times a day! Pretty funny but now it was nearing 11pm and it had been a very long day so we took our sleepy heads straight off to bed in preparation for an early start.

Posted by jo.kris 05:04 Archived in Singapore Tagged skylines Comments (0)

Sydney

Rain rain go away...

rain 0 °C
View Travels 2010 on jo.kris's travel map.

Once we got off the plane and out of the airport we had to get a train to Sydney. Getting the train appeared to be relatively easy and it seemed that the stop we had to get off at was the final stop. This appearence was wrong as the train didn't seem to come to an end anywhere; the station names were also not very easy to spot. It worked on a loop of the centre before heading out to the suburbs; we didn't realise this until we had stopped at 'central' twice andwere on our way out of town! We got off at the next station before we were any further out of town and eventually made it to the right place. Finding the bus was much easier except that the bus driver was inexplicably rude and had a serios attitude problem. When we asked him if he could tell us when we were near our stop he very bluntly said 'no' and then that he won't do that because we will fight with him if he were to forget. so instead we askedhow far it was/how long would it take and very politely asked if he did remember then could he let us know - to this his reply was that he didn't know the street...as if! All in all he was aggressive and rude and not just to us but to a number of other passangers who got on the bus. We therefore spent the bus journey eagle eyed and trying to read the street names - not an easy feat in the dark! When we eventually spotted Stuart Street (having asked numerous passengers along the way) webtried asking the busbdriver again if this was where we should get off - this was a waste ofbreath so we just got off and walked down the steet.

After all the hassle with the public transport it certainly was a relief to finally be there! Phillipa greeted us at the door and showed us around. We enjoyed a dinner of risotto with her and Liam where Liam declared that we were going to the pub. With some of Liam's homebrew in Kristian's belly and freshly showered we were ready to go so Phillipa gave us a lift to Lane Cove.

We met Liam's friend at a Sport's bar which doubled up as a betting shop! Liam hadn't been able to withdraw any money at the ATM as he only had $2; having arrived at this bar we suddenly understood why! We onle stayed for a few drinks but long enough to learn the rules of Rugby leage - not that I can remember them now!

Kristian failed to get up and watch the football in the middle of the night which meant that we locked Liam out! Its a good job he was able to watch it in his room or I think he may have been somewhat disappointed! We were up fairly early and has a morning of attempting to sort things out before catching a bus into the city. Once we were there it was time for more sorting out, this time at Trailfinders. The lady was really nice and helpful (albeit evry minature) and we managed to book our flight to/from Sri Lanka - at least now we have a connection to get our flight home woop woop. She was't able to provide much light on the china to India problem though which was frustrating.

By the time that we were finished with this we were super dooooper hungry so we headed to a food court and enjoyed our first Asian dish of the teip. Why we weren't making the most of Western food I really don't know...!!!

With our tummies full it was time to be tourists once again so we headed straight to the Opera House. We decided against going to see something due to expense and instead opted to take a guided tour. We had a while to wait so took some photos on the stairs (as you have to!) before it was time for it to start. The first part of the tour was a photo where they would superimpose us onto the steps/theatre etc etc. As the background was green and I was wearing my green raincoat (as it was still bloody raining) we decided to have some fun and make me a floating head! Didn't buy the photos though...

In order to hear out tour guide we had to wear wireless headphone things - clever idea but we looked like fools! we were unsure to start with if the tour was going to be worth the money as the guide started by explaining the posters about what was one...fortunately it got better though. We learn about how the Opera House had come to exist, about the architect and how he has been unfairly treated by the Australian Government. We also had the opportunity to go inside two of the theatres which meant we got to see a stage being put together but also the Sydney Symphonic Orchestra practising. This was wicked as it meant that we were able to experience the acoustics of the venue for ourselves and they were indeed rather spectacular! All in all we felt very satisfied with the tour and were glad we'd paid the money to do it.

It was still a rainy day as we were walking through the Rocks so we tried to go into the Museum of Contemporary Arts. Unfortunately they could only shelter us from the weather for ten minutes as they were closing so we were back out in the rain once more. We considered going up the tower for dinner but blanched at the cost so instead we wound up in Nando's at a Mall food court. By this stage we were feeling quite tired due to aimless walking around to we joined another grumpy bus driver on the journey home to continue our search for flights.

We headed into town a bit earlier on the Friday with the intention of walking over the bridge. Fortunately the bus driver was actually helpful and told us where was best to get off. We almost fell over sideways when he helped us! The problem when we did get off was that we couldn't actually see the bridge anywhere - surprising considering the sheer size of the thing! We asked a guy and followed him towards it; we had thought that he was walking a dog but when the dog went off in the opposite direction 5 minutes later we realised perhaps this wasn't the case!

Near the bridge we found a post office whichwas a relief as we were carrying our Winter clothing to send home. Once we had managed to get this posted off by seamail (hopefully it will turn up sometime in the next 3 months..) we were finally ready to walk over the bridge. This was a fairly uneventful experience but an enjoyble one nonetheless. That is with the exception of the horrible spinach and ricotta pastry thing that Kristain was eating.

Once over we headed straight down to Circular Quay to catch a ferry to Taronga Zoo. Somehow we had managed to miss one by two minutes so had a half hour wait in yet more rain for another one; and people say it rains a lot in the UK!!!

The ferry didn't take too long to get there and we arrived in time to catch the giraffe talk. Their girafes certainly seemed to have some personality as they werte nudging the keeper and trying to get the branches they weren't being offered! Pretty funny indeed. Taronga Zoo really is in a spectacular setting with the waer and the iconic Sydeny landmarks as a backdrop. they also have the cutest baby elephants which are so tiny and playful that we honestly could have stood adoring them for hours on end. However, we did move on and got lucky as we caught feeding time for the lions, the penguin talk and saw gorillas up really close showing off their bums!!

Having seen most of the big animals and witnessed two very crazy sealions jumping around like maniacs we headed into the Australian section which was the real reason we had even come to the zoo. Miraculaously we were in time for yet another talk - this time about koalas. This was good as it meant some of them were awake - not bad considering that the are animals which sleep 20 hours a day! They also had a really cool section which you could walk through amongest kangaroos, wallabies and emus which was a good Australian animal experience. We managed somehow to find the time to see yet more Australian animals - this time a wombat and platypus before walking through the reptile section. By this stage it was almost closing time at the soo and we had managed to spend 4 hours there. Not altogether sure where all that time had gone!! At least we could say we'd got value for money...

For some reason we decided to skip down the hill back to the ferry which meant some funny loooks from those driving past in cars. The ferry was buseir going back and once back at the Quay we headed straight for the bus stop.

Back at the house there were lots of us for dinner as it was Tess's last night before flying home to South Africa. As usual I turned out to be the difficult one as lamb shanks were on the menu so Liam had to cook a lone chicken breast for me :-). we both enjoyed our meals though all the more becuse in the back of our minds we knew it would be our last homecooked Western meal for quite some time.

Bill gave us a lift into Sydney on Saturday morning where we had a wander around the Rocks market. The highlight of this was some wonderfully refreshing homemade lemonade - yum! With our fill of market we headed back to Circular Quay, this time to catch a ferry to Manly. When we arrived in Manly we couldn't believe how many people there were! Quite a shell shock after 6 weeks of New Zealand. Our tummies were grumbling once more by this stage so we queued for ages to get some fish and chips; they were worth the wait though. We ate them while being serenaded by a guitarist playing Spanish sounding versions of Metallica and Stairway to Heave - very surreal! From here we headed down onto the beach to soak in the atmosphere and watch the crazy people surfing.

Somehow this nice relaxing moment turned into a sand fight with both of us rolling around in the sand. I thought I may have won after putting sand down Kristian's pants but he had the last laugh by rubbing my hair in it which I had previously somehow managed to keep out of the sand. Amazingly the sand didn't seem to be as offensive as it normally is when sunbathing but we did get it everywhere.

It was a beautiful day which was a pleasant break from all the bloody rain so we went in search of ice cream. I chose to have Caramel Crunch and White Chocolate Caramel which complimented each other beautifully unlike Kristian's Jaffa/Rum and Raisin combo!! They were both stupidly sickly so he was defeated by his ice cream - there is a first for everything! All the sightseeing of the previous days had super dooper tired us out so we felt it was time to head towards home. Stupidly we managed to miss a bus by five minutes and being the weekend this meant that we had an hour to wait until the next one...we were lucky though as we hadn't realised this would be the last bus of the night!

It was hard to believe that it was time for us to leave Sydney already. It was also sad to be leaving Philippa as staying with them very much reminded us of being at home and staying with Nip and Sue; we are craving their spaghetti bolognaise haha. The morning passed uber quickly as it tends to do when packing (don"t we know it!) but Liam cooked us a scrumptious lunch before Phillipa and Bill took us to the airport....

Posted by jo.kris 07:11 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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