Trip Of A Lifetime

Friday, December 08, 2006

Best Intentions

I had all these intentions to come back to Australia, get myself organised in a day or two and then be back online updating the photos from China and making sure that nothing (and nobody) was neglected.

Unfortunately my intentions have so far not panned out as hoped. Each night at around midnight I wonder where my day went as I haven't achieved half of what I wanted despite having been busy all day! As a result I still don't have all of the China photos on CD and I do't know where the others are. I just ask for patience.

Now... what has been happening since we returned home on Monday? Well! We've caught up with our families on every possible occaision. Friends have visited, including one lovely friend who met us at the airport as he was flying out of Victoria. Babies have been in abundance and crawling on the living room floor. The suitcases have been unpacked (finally!) but the stuff in them is now on the bedroom floor while I try to find time to paint the wardrobe.

Today is set to be 37degrees celcius and I'm planning on staying inside. It's not nice out anyway because we are having major bushfires in Victoria and all of the sky is hazy and grey with it. Thankfully we are not in danger in our neighbourhood, but a lot of people are in a bad way. It doesn't help that we're also drought stricken. It going to be a crap weekend for a lot of people and hopefully Sunday's weather change comes early and brings rain.

Hope a lot of you are enjoying the cold and the snow!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Do I Smell Funny?

Okay, so we only have 4 days left of our travels before touching back down at home in Melbourne and I have to ask the question... Do we smell funny? Think about it. We've been eating nothing but full on Chinese food for the past month and that stuff must be seeping out of our pores by now. I guess what I'm saying is, be prepared. Try not to recoil and if it's still with us after a few days feel free to say something so that we can take steps.

That said, maybe I'll talk a bit about China. It's so hard to describe the place without photos though, thatI'll talk about some experiences. The first is the changes. This place is in such a state of flux it's amazing. Half of Shanghai was built in the last 15 years and everywhere you go there is major building going on. I urge you to come here sooner rather than later. You won't regret it because it's so fascinating, but if you leave it more than 10 years I just don't think it'll be the same.

The other thing I wanted to talk about was the staring. I never expected that people would look at me with much more that a passing glance, but here in China (especially in the countryside) people really bore holes into you with their stares. Adie has been particularly popular with several girls asking to have their photo taken with him and a gaggle of them exclaiming "Wow! He's so good looking." Luckily he's not getting too big an ego.

What else? While here we've also seen something like 15 weddings. Everyone is getting married here and it's such a big deal with both traditional red dresses and western white ones. It's pretty easy to get married here though, you just need three copies of a photo of the two of you together. Take them to the local government office and fill out some paperwork, a couple of minutes later you're married and it's time to organise a big party.

That's all for now. The tv is too loud but we can't turn it down or off because then we'll have to call housekeeping to use the "special" button to turn it up again for us and there's a movie we want to watch. Stay well and we may see you in a couple of days.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Flying Air China

We're currently in Kunming and are still unable to post photos. Sorry. We can continue to let you know what we're getting up to though.

We're still seeing heaps. Today it was the Stone Forest in the Yunan Province. This place is really beautiful with all of these magnificent grey rocks jutting out of the earth.

The food here is still Chinese for every lunch and dinner and for half of our breakfasts. Adie was having a little complain lsat night about wanting anything but Chinese, but I still like it. Last night we had the local dish of 'Over the Bridge Noodles'. We were given a plate of extremely thinly sliced meat, a plate of veg, a bowl of rice noodles and a piping hot (almost boiling!) bowl of soup. It was delicious... and I'm proud to say I'm eating everything with chopsticks!

We had our first internal flight from Chongqing to Kunming yesterday and it all went fine. Some of our group members were a little nervous having never heard of Sichuan Airlines, but it was like any other plane and any other flight. It's actually quite breezy to fly in a group. Someone else dealt with our luggage and we didn't need to be at the airport until 45 minutes before our flight, just enough time to go through security and then get on the plane... where we were stared at once again.

Tomorrow we fly again to Guilin. It's a longer flight, but I have my iPod to keep me company... they don't seat couples together, it's all done aphabetically by first name!

Will write again once we're in Shanghai. Keep looking after yourselves and I'll see you all soon!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Continuing Travels Without Photos

I'll tell you now that it's unlikely that we'll be posting photos of China before we return home because no Internet cafe so far has allowed us to do it. We'll keep trying though.

We arrived in ChongQuin this afternoon after looking at the stone carvings in Dazu. Pretty amazing what people can do.

Before that we were in Chengdu looking at giant pandas (I was able to touch one and have my photo taken) and some stunnign parks and pagodas perched on top of mountains.

We are doing so much it's almost overwhelming but everything is just as good, if not better than what we did before... and we're only half way through! It's also exciting because every day that passes here in China means we're one day closer to home. Win-win!

Friday, November 10, 2006

China Experience

Well, we've been here for about five days now. We have no photos as yet though because although we've been taking them like crazy, we've not had a chance to convert them onto cd so you need to be patient. Hopefully we can do it in China but if not we'll do it at home because we'll be home in less than a month!

We love China! Our guides are great and everything is so interesting. We just got off the 12 hour train from Beijing to Xian and we actually slept alright even though at times I felt a little like I was in a cocktail shaker. Having a shower was a definite priority though as there was only a washroom and you couldn't close the door on that so it was a matter of arriving at the hotel, eating breakfast and then coming to this Internet cafe... $1 for one hour.

We did a lot in Beijing. On day one we saw Tiananmen Square, with it's giant statues of their Olympic mascots and the larger than life picture of Mao. We wandered around the Forbidden City which was fascinating. I watched The Last Emporer before leaving England, so it was really easy for me to imagine the royal families wandering around these grounds. We also went to the Lama Temple where we learnt a bit about Buddhism and saw this hude statue of Buddha that was three stories high!

Our second day was taken up with The Great Wall. We went early to beat the tourists (hehehe) and it was the right decision because there were so many people there when we were coming down that you had to keep stopping to let them pass. Adie made it all the way to the top of the section we were at, I only went about a third of the way. The steps are uneven and blooody steep! It's an amazing place though. At the top Adie made friends with two Chinese guys who walked up in their suits!

Day three was at the summer palace... because everyone needs a holiday house! We saw beautiful gardens, bridges, water, buildings... and in the afternoon we went to the Silk Street Market where if you so much as look at someone's goods, they will shout after you and follow you for an eternity. It was an experience we enjoyed though. Others found it to be a bit too confronting. I don't really mind being called "sexy lady" though.

Yesterday was our final day in Beijing and we went to the Temple of Heaven. I just can't get over how ornate these building are! The culture here is so rich and the people live their lives in much the same way that they have for hundreds of years. We also visited an area of Beijing that is still set up with traditional houses surrunding shared courtyards. We were able to go into a house and look around, meet some pet crickets and a myna bird that kept on saying hello in Chinese. We also went to a kindergarten to meet some of the children.

Now we're in Xian where we will see the Terracotta Warriors, but not before we've eaten lunch. This is because they feed us and feed us and feed us! Everyone I spoke to told me that I would lose weight in China but so far I'm pretty sure that I'm putting it on! Admittedly I have not had a problem with the food and have happily tried everything put in front of me. There's no dairy, except at breakfast for coffee and very little bread but I'm loving the food! I'll have to be careful or I'll be coming home looking like the Happy Buddha!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Switzerland In Photographs

As promised I tried to get the photos online and it looks as thought the computer and I are getting along this morning. Unfortunately there are no photos of Neuchatel because we took those on my camera and as yet I haven't transferred those to CD.

This first photo is of myself and Nutella somewhere near or in Interlaken (I could be very wrong about this location). We'd stopped by the side of the road to take photographs because this place was just beautiful with the lake surrounded by mountains.Another stop was quickly made here because there was a waterfall. We were lucky that there was water at all as recently there had been only a trickle coming down the mountain.This photo was taken after our visit to Trummelbach falls. It's a waterfall trapped inside a mountain and it's an amazing thing to see. Adie took some great photos but you'll have to wait until we're home to see them!Our main target for the day was to take the four cable cars up into the mountains to Schilthorn, a restaurant on one of the higher peaks. After the second cable car we found ourselves in Murren, a beautiful little town, where we stopped for lunch. Gosh these folks have a great view!After lunch with the sparrows, and one giant bird, we took the next two cable cars and found ourselves at Piz Gloria on Schilthorn. You can see the snow capped mountains behind us. Breath-taking. Nutella also gave me a crash course in how glaciers form so it was beautiful and informative. And perhaps I should also mention that it was cold.
Here I am standing on the mountain top with the restaurant behind me. The restaurant actually revolves, so after wandering around and trying not to fall off the mountain, we sent inside for a coffee and a spin.
Did you know that the cows in Switzerland still wear bells! They sound beautiful! This is Bessy, at least that's what I call her. She's a gorgeous cow that we met on our way down from the top of the mountain.
We only walked one section of the mountain and when we arrived at the bottom of it, we had to wait for our cable car. We sat at the tables of a backpackers next to the station. can you believe the view they have? They also have a hot tub that looked as thought it was designed for about 8, but we saw it fill with 12 American and Canadian tourists. They would have frozen their bits and pieces off when they came out of that water!

It was great fun in Switzerland and that was mostly thanks to having a fantastic guide. Thanks Nutella!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wicked... Is!

It just occured to me that I never posted about our trip to see 'Wicked' a musical based on the lives of the witches of Oz.

Adie and I decided to take his cousing for her birthday a couple of weeks ago. Tobe honest, I wasn't expecting it to be all that good. I'd heard a bad review from someone and it had stuck in my mind.

Well, I don't know what that person was talking about. I found this musical to be brilliant, and a lot of it had to do with the woman playing Elphaba, Idina Menzel. When they decided to bring her out from America to reprise this role they were doing the right thing. Man, can this woman sing! If you're curious and not likely to come to England any time soon, she apparently plays the role of Mimi in the film version of Rent. (But I could be wrong, and I'm sure someone will correct me if I am.)

I loved everything about this musical. The sets were inspired and filled with symbolism. The music was heavy and made you feel. The costumes were interesting and helped define all characters (including chorus). The singing (apart from maybe Adam Garcia who I thought was a little weak compared to the women, but maybe he had a cold). The storyline was witty and clever and had a message... if you were looking for one. The acting was passionate and heartfelt. Oh Fiyero! I could go on and on and on...

All three of us thoroughly enjoyed it. I was the only one of us to cry, but certainly not the only onein the audience. At least I was prepared with my little packet of tissues. The people behind us couldn't stop going on about how fabulous this show was. The people in front of us were uncultured and pointless. They came into the theatre with their hair dyed green and with their child dressed as a witch. I thought, now here are some real fans! Throughout the entire first act they rustled bags of lollies and the husband and wife, obviously too far from each other with their child sitting between them, sent text messages to each other during the performance! These people have no class and no respect for theatre! Thankfully they left during interval. I'm thinking that there was too much depth in the storyline for them to handle.

So, if you get the chance you must see Wicked. Riss and I will be going as soon as it comes to Melbourne (for it had better come to Melbourne!)... anyone else up for it?

A Spoonful Of Nutella

We were lucky last week to do some final European travelling. I spent a few days with my Aunty Namesake in Germany, where we ate too much good food and talked more than I thought was humanly possible (especially with the amount of German I have).

Then I met up with Adie at Heathrow and we flew to Basel to meet a friend of ours who I will call Nutella (due to his insatiable love of the chocolatey stuff!

As was bound to happen at some point in our travels, my bag didn't manage to arrive in Basel with us. BA very kindly gave me some toiletries and a t-shirt (white, no doubt because I was wearing a black bra at the time). I think perhaps they should also consider including a pair of underpants as that is what I really wanted. Thankfully, after 36 hours my bag arrived. I wonder what it did with all that extra time? It could have bought me a souvenir!

Nutella is German but lives and works in Szitzerland, so we got a double deal. We spent our first day in Freiburg checking out the town and then went to Switzerland from there.

Switzerland was just gorgeous. Autumn has come late as so we were lucky enough to see all of the colours... and eventually you will be able to also (when the computer is willing to play ball and actually load the freakin' photos!!!).

We drove around Interlaken (I think) on our way to Schiltorn, a restuarant on top of a 3000 metre mountain top used in the 007 film 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'... or something like that. We had to take four cable cars up to the top and the views were breath-taking. We could see the Eiger and Jungfrau whenever the clouds cleared.

I wish that the photos had worked. :( I'll try again tomorrow. There seems to be more trouble with the computer in the evening than during the day so it may work better then.