Browse Month

June 2017

Bound for Beijing

A few years ago, China introduced the so called 72 hours VISA to increase tourism. There are som limits within these VISA’s, for example that you can’t leave the province , but you don’t need or have time to in 72 hours anyway. China is a massive country and as you probably know the largest by population with 1,4 billion people (until India will pass them in about 10 years). They are also the 3rd largest country when it comes to area, so it’s pretty obvious that 3 days in this country is not enough at all. But, I rather have 3 % of something than 100 % of nothing.

China and Beijing is fun, different and interesting. For example, you can’t use services like Google, Facebook or Instagram – they are all blocked (if you don’t surf via a VPN server in another country). Which makes it even funnier to go here because you can’t just use Google Maps and find everything. You actually have to use your brain a lot more and also ask people – which don’t speak any English at all. When people say that Chinese can’t speak English, I always thought it was exaggerated – but it’s actually true. Most of them don’t know a single word of English, not even the young ones.

Besides that, it was surprisingly developed and civilized in many ways and I must say enjoyed walking around in Beijing. And if you like to walk, you can walk a lot. It’s big! So mostly you will probably go by metro, which is super easy and fast. It’s impressive how good infrastructure these mega-cities have, but I guess they would not function without them.

I went to the two major attractions in Beijing; the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. I mean, when in Beijing you MUST visit the Wall! Let’s start with the Forbidden city. An impressive architecture and small little “city” in the centre of Beijing. This was home to different Emperors way back, and the reason it’s called forbidden is because no one could enter without permission without the Emperor himself. A cool attraction in many ways, but Chinese tourists are noisy, take a lot of space and also point with their selfie-sticks EVERYWHERE!

So, to what’s probably more interesting for the most of you; the Great Wall – and trust me – it’s GREAT! 21 000 kilometers and in average 8 meters high. It’s massive and also very beautiful and impressive where it’s lying in the mountains. However, it took hundres of years to build, more than a million men died in the process and the wall didn’t really fill it’s planned function. The Chinese built it for defense against tribes from the north, Mongolia. But it didn’t work, so let’s all hope Trump will not build a wall against Mexico, because that’s ain’t gonna work.

If you look at the pictures you see no other people and I’ve unfortunately not skills enough to photoshop them away, so believe it or not, but there were almost NO people there! Sounds unbelievable, right? I agree and totally understand you. The thing is, there are different parts of the wall you can go for a visit. Most people go to a place called Badaling, said to be very scenic but extremely crowded as well. I went to a place which took 3 hour by car to get there, and then a 3 hour hike on the wall to get to the top and these views and it was worth it – breathtaking but pretty hard in the warm weather. I guess there were around 5-7 people there spread out on 6 kilometers, so even xenophobes can go there.

So, this was just a scratch on the surface of China. It’s the fastest growing economy in the world and it opens a new Starbucks every 23rd hour and Beijing is, I guess with Shanghai, probably the most modern cities. I would also like to go to the countryside and Tibet, but time will tell if I’ll ever get there. Anyways, the three days I spent in Beijing were awesome!

 

Hanging around in Hong Kong

Weather is a big part of traveling. It definitely can make the difference between good and bad experiences of a country or city. Everything is funnier, more relaxed, easier and more beautiful in good weather or at least not rain. I’ve planned the entire trip after the weather to be honest, trying to be in the different parts of the world when the weather is good and dry and so far I’ve been extremely lucky with only a few rainy afternoons in Colombia, besides that pretty much only excellent weather. However, there was one stop that was impossible to time with the weather; Hong Kong.

The big cities in Asia are usually good stops for a few days, and now I will raid three of them in two weeks starting with Hong Kong. I had pretty high expectations on Hong Kong before going here. A big modern international city, surrounded by ocean and small mountains or hills – sounds like I can like it! And liked it I did, but I was very unlucky with the weather. June is the start of the monsoon and typhoon season, so it can be perfect weather – or the straight opposite which I had pretty much for 3,5 days except from one afternoon that was dry. So I couldn’t really do all the things I wanted to do like going to the beach and hiking in the hills. I could not do much at all besides work out and sit in cafés and restaurants, really depressing to be honest, but  since I’ve been lucky so far on the trip I try not to think of it too much. And also, it could have been worse: a few days before I arrived there was a big typhoon hitting Hong Kong, so this was just the “afterparty” of the weather Gods.

So I can’t really give a good justified sentence of this city, but I for sure can see it’s potential. The fact that it’s a very international city is also something I like, you meet people from all over the world but mainly from China. But this is not the real China, it’s more western in many ways for example when it comes to the English skills. It’s clean, modern, safe, big and I would say beautiful even though it’s mostly a concrete jungle but the water and hills add contrast to it all. One more thing, almost 8 million people are living here so the density is really high, but it’s impressive how smooth the city flows and the infrastructure is amazing with the metro. Despite all this, the weather could not really justify a very good stay here.

What also ruined the stay here a little bit was the accommodation. It was by far the worst on the entire trip so far. Hong Kong has the highest real estate prices in the world, which means expensive hotels and in my case a SHITTY hostel. But what doesn’t kills you makes you stronger. After this I decided to spend a little more on accommodation at my next destination, which is also a big city – very big.

Kindness in Kazakhstan

There is one area in the world I think most people are not very familiar with, including me, and that is Central Asia – or also known as the Stan-countries. Stan means land or nation. Kazak means wander or adventure. Not very surprisingly Kazakhstan means land of adventure and I guess that fits me quite well. Just like Athens, this will be a short stop with just a transit of 20 hours. But you know what they say; it’s not about the quantity but the quality! So even though this was a short stop, it was full of impressions and only very good ones.

I got here with yet a night flight and I managed to get a few hours of sleep and woke up 15 minutes before landing when the lights was turned on – and I’m glad I woke up then. I flew to Almaty, not the capital but the biggest city in Kazakhstan, which is located right next to a mighty mountain range which we flew right next to before landing. Blue skies and an amazing view. Since Kazakhstan has removed the VISA for a lot of countries, the migrations went really fast and after quick breakfast at the airport I took a taxi to a park in the city, just to walk around, relax and enjoy the weather. I really wanted to go up in the mountains, but it was a little too far and expensive going there by taxi, so the plan was just to stay in the city – but usually things don’t go as planned.

Suddenly a man who was out jogging approached me, speaking only Russian, but he was very curious and I understood that he invited me to his nearby home for lunch – so of course I joined. His kids could speak a little bit of English, so we got to understand each other a little bit better. After lunch we jumped in his car and he took me up in the mountains to some different scenic locations and I was very grateful for the hospitality. He even bought all the food even though I insisted on paying – which I eventually did on the last meal before he drove me back to the airport in the evening.

We really had one thing in common; an active and sporty lifestyle. He was an Iron Man competitor (triathlon) and also did lots of skiing, climbing and hiking so even though we could not speak very much on the entire day, we showed each other pictures and could get an understanding of each others lives. Almaty seemed like a very nice city to live in. A modern and wealthy big city with a population of 1,5 million people living there. Kazakhstan are big in oil and gas and they are also the biggest exporter of uranium, so there are great job opportunities here. At the same time it offers lots of recreational possibilities and people seemed very sporty and healthy. A likable place!

I don’t know if I’ll ever return though. After this big trip of mine, I’ve set a few travel goals (for example climbing Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain in South America) but besides that I think that the majority of my travels will go to the United States. Speaking of the United States, only a few more stops and I’m there and I really can’t wait!