Friday, 29 May 2009

"Dude, there are Chinese people everywhere..." - Beijing (Day 01)

An interesting awakening to the Republic Firewall of China - is banned. A curtain to freedom of information pre-Olympics to stop any bad press (I suppose that is one way to do it...) and in order to blog you need to register with the Authorities. I'm just going to avoid a public flogging by uploading my blog retrospectively when I leave the country and head in to the democracy of Vietnam... No, wait. Hmm. I've also managed to find myself in one of the suckiest Internet cafe; I can't plug my camera in to upload any photos. You have been spared the spam of Facebook notifications from me for another day!

I made my flight on the second attempt. Those that have been unfortunate enough to have travelled with me can vouch for my ability to pretty much fall asleep before take off and wake up on landing. Best efforts so far has been London to Los Angeles to John's relief I'm sure. I was doing so well on the no spewing front but the ultimate test is usually on the landing: Cecilia fail. Woohoo to empty stomach and a second breakfast!

First thought that went through my head when I arrived in Beijing: "Dude, there are Chinese people everywhere...".

Rather than taking a taxi chez Ollie's bachelor pad in Wudaoku, I braved the airport train interline for ¥25 (1 GBP = ¥11.22). I was doing so well on the subway as all the signs are now foreigner friendly until I realised all those 'helpful' people had sent me to the wrong station. The airport subway map conveniently misses out chucks of stations, one so which happens to be 'Wudaoku'! D'oh. So I did hop in a taxi for a grand total of three roads 'round the block'. These are not ordinary roads mind you; these are Beijing super-sized roads with up to five lanes. They are death defying to cross, best conducted with your eyes closed and a 'just do it' head on... Whats the worse that can happen, right?

After a shower, what is now turning in to a three a day habit, I headed out to Beijing Station to prebook my sleeper train to Xi'an. Beijingers love their Chicken, KFCs are everywhere. No. I'm not going to succumb to globalised fast food chains (as she writes sipping on a bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino...) but low and behold I find a 'Kungfu'; Chinese food, fast! They definitely have the formula right in that store and I am sure it wasn't intended but its genius any how; I had to climb six flights of stairs to get to my food - Fat nations take note. Homely mince pork and rice, chicken soup with a whole chicken thigh, a plate of vegetable and a drink for ¥35!

Xi'an train ticket was purchased with no problems from an English speaker at counter 10... and then 2. We had to move as the ticket seller next to him was really loud. She wasn't just loud. Angry loud. Whilst I was getting my ticket some local women interjected as to which bunk I should book; curse her if it turns out to be shit. I went for a bimble around Tiananmen Square that even McNay would be proud of. When you look on the road map of Beijing, everything looks just a few roads away. Technically yes, but take whatever time guesstimation you had of how long it takes and throw it out. Tiananmen Dong to Fuxingmen (indeed my favourite station name, Fu-xing-men, get it? Oh Nevermind.) is only four stops away on a straight road; an HOUR it took me. I even some how walked pass Fuxingman, its on a straight road dammit and ended up at Nanlishilu; one station after.

Looking around I'm pretty sure communism advocated bad fashion and that has since yet to be beaten out by capitalism. Just look at what Mao wore for Pete's sakes. Its... Its the exposed pop socks, frilly tops, tacky bling on crop trousers with laces... Oh I can carry on with the list of crimes against humanity, Considering they have authorities for everything, what about a fashion police, eh?

My eyes are still adjusting to the multitude of yellow faces and they're pretty much at my height as well. I just can't help it though, when I walk in to a place and I see all these eyes gauping at this foreign looking me thats slightly chunkier that the average China girl with thanks to my diet of cheese, potatos and Starbucks; I instantly pan the room panicky searching for a white face to connect with. Yes I'm awful.

UPLOADED: 25/08/09

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Badger That

So apparently when I was in that torture shop called a 'hospital', not only was I drugged to the eye balls on morphine and other sweet top shelf IV stash, I seem to have OD-ed on what seem to be the 'chill pill'.

Picture this: I finish off my last week at work and spend a hazy hung over weekend back in Aberdeen to return back to Londonshire with two weeks before departure. I had contemplated about packing (ok, by my old standards this is stretching, so this is odd for me). With less than week to go, I casually cascade to the Chinese Embassy to sort out my final visa (dude, not a sweat) and why not, lets order my rucksack (seriously?!).

Bag was to arrive on the Friday; it didn't happen. Visa was to be picked up too, I some how forgot (!!). Bank Holiday weekend arrived, to which I thought about booking the rest of the accommodation, but I thought so long and hard that I had no energy left to actually do it. (Did I also get a lobotomy in hospital that I did not know of because something is definately not right here...) 

Tuesday afternoon with ONE working day to go before I fly and there is still no sign of a proper 'Cecilia style-eques' panic over 'B-admin' (what the hell is going on?). Just as I opened the door to leave the house to pick up my passport, on the phone at the same time giving the rucksack suppliers a right royal bollocking; the delivery guy appears at my door. Oh. Well, the bollocking was well deserved and I'm sure there were at least a few learning points that for the company in question to erm... use to 'move forward' with there customer service. Free consultancy. Miraculously by Tuesday evening I had my passport, a rucksack, booked whatever I needed and even drew up a packing lists (wahey there is progress!), yet still no motivation to pack. (Someone call a doctor...)

By magic in less than three hours, my packing was sorted on Wednesday afternoon (Paul, what was that you were saying about me needing to pack past midnight?! I think you lose...). Everything fell in to place (baring the distractions of watching the final few episodes of Gilmore Girls and Facebook chat!). Returning home in the late evening peering through one eye, after one too many Long Island Ice Teas, my packing was done. How in Gawds name...

In the midst of being placid and disorganised as hell, my years of obsessive compulsive anal retentiveness (yes I can see you nodding) managed to subliminally overcome making a total doo-doo of the lack of prep and packing. The organised freak is overpowering and its evilness overwhelms any desire to go 'meh'. Above all, I don't even know it! Its unreal. I feel jipped. Panicking was part of the fun. I've been robbed...

So guess what, I compensated by panicking about the lack of panicking! I've just spent the last blog complainingly about being too laid back... I feel like I am me again! Somethings, somehow, never changes. This is going to one long road of discovery. All I have to do now is make sure I get on that plane in... oh, 8 hours.

Badger that.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The route so far...

The 90 day trek is as follows:

BeijingXi’anShanghaiHong KongGuangzhouNanningHanoiHa Long BayHueDa LatHo Chi MinhPhnom PenhSiem ReapBangkokPenangKuala LumpurSingaporeMelbourneSydney San FranciscoLas VegasGrand Canyon Santa FeSan AntonioHoustonNew OrleansMemphisNashvilleWashington DCPhiladelphiaNew York and finally home in time to iron a shirt and start work!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Here's To A Journey

Cecilia had a ruptured appendix. In her drugged up state she woddled in to a travel agent and booked a round the world ticket. With 90 days, armed with just a backpack and her usual wits and charms - Here's to a journey. Your comments, adoration and insults are much needed to fuel encouragement to write in those few sober hours each day.