Not blocked in Bangkok

I’m sitting here at Bangkok airport taking advantage of the free wifi. Interestingly this blog isn’t blocked here like it is in China so I’m not having to go the Posterous route.  A two hour layover and then onto another flight to Hong Kong. Once there it will be full on, so it’s fortunate that we all got some good sleep on our overnight flight.

Hong Kong will be interesting to revisit. It’s a bit like Shanghai, difficult to appreciate during the day due to pollution but magnificnet at night when the lights transform the city. Visiting the peak is a must do, but this time I’ll make sure we catch the Peak tram up rather than the double decker bus that takes the winding journey around the mountainside. Not a good feeling whn you’re sleep deprived!

I’ce got a HP mini PC with me on this trip. Much easier to carry around and I’m getting used to the smaller interface. Handy really – I could become converted!

Check in with you again when I find me some access! (wherever that may be??)

Going off the grid- China here I come!

Tomorrow I leave for an 18 day trip to China with the students from my school. I did this trip last year so I am well aware of what I am in for. Lots of trekking, bike riding and scaling that incredible wall. We start with a day in Hong Kong, then travel on an overnight train to Guilin to the village of Ping An where we stay and hike through the rice terrace fields that surround this area. Arduous stuff it is, lots and lots of uneven stairs but amazing scenery. This year we are there later in the year so I will be interested to see the changing landscape due to seasonal change.

We leave the rice terrace fields and travel to Yangshou for the bike riding part of the journey through the neighbouring villages. This is far and away my favourite part of the trip. The haunting karst mountains that surround this area are surreal. Yangshou is such an inviting township. Friendly people and a sensational night market. The Li River is a working river and it is a wonderful experience for our students to immerse themselves in the traditional lifestyle of the Chinese people.

After a few days in Yangshou we fly to Xian where we visit the Terracotta Warrior army that Emperor Qin commissioned be built to protect him in the afterlife. It is one of those experiences where you have to pinch yourself to convince yourself that you are really there. On the same day we scale Mt. Huashan and stay at a hotel at the top of the mountain. I can tell you, this is tough going, but you feel an incredible sense of satisfaction that you have achieved the climb. I know it’s going to be like labour. I’m OK with it now, but it will all come rushing back at me once I see the scale of the mountain once again!

We return to Xian and ride bikes around the city wall that surrounds the city. A fun day, then off on a sleeper train to Beijing where we visit Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Hutong traditional homes. Then it’s off to Si Ma Tai and Jinshanling where we tackle the wall. Back to Beijing, the Summer palace and markets for last minute shopping before we head back to Melbourne!

I’m wondering how I am going to go being off the grid for three weeks. This will be the longest period of time I’ve had away from the network since I started writing this blog so it’s going to be interesting for me. I wonder if I’ll show any signs of withdrawal. Restless fingers, tracking eyes, internet envy of those with iphones with internet access! I’m taking the laptop and will avail myself of internet access when I can, but realistically it’s going to be pretty spasmodic. It may do me good!

If you want to see how things are going check in every now and then and see if I’ve managed to get anthing posted. This blog is blocked in China so I’m going to be using Posterous to post updates. It worked for me in Shanghai so it should be fine once again.               

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China beckons

Last year I visited China with another teacher and 16 fantastic students from my school. I’ve just found out recently that I will be returning to do the same trip in late October/ November. The trip was run by World Expeditions and was pretty arduous – I never knew there were that many stone steps in China. They were everywhere; from the rice terrace fields, to Mt. Huoshan to the Great Wall. The experience was life changing – China is a truly wonderful place with lovely people. Negotiating deals in the markets was one of my favourite pursuits – if you did it with a smile and a bit of a laugh you seemed to be able to strike some pretty good bargains (at least I thought so anyway!!)

I managed to lose not one but two cameras while I was over there; one on a sleeper train and one at the Summer Palace – no such thing as lost property when you visit places like the Summer Palace. Imagine this scenario: you happen to leave a camera that belongs to your fellow teacher hanging on a hook in a toilet (because you thought it would be a better place than the floor!) You leave the toilet block and walk away. Ten minutes have passed and you see a tranquil scene that you think is a great photo opportunity. You reach for camera and realise it is not there. Remember hook in toilet. Run, yes, run, back to toilet but camera is gone. Return to fellow teacher and report bad news. On return to Australia visit camera store and purchase new camera for fellow teacher rather than risk prospect of never being spoken to again!!

Thanks goodness fellow teacher took photos and sent them to me – a very good camera woman too I might add! This is one of my favourite pictures from the Yangshou region; the Karst mountains are hauntingly beautiful  – I look forward very much to retuning there later in the year. And of course, you couldn’t be there for 18 days without visiting the Great Wall. Truly a wondrous sight.