October 2014 - March 2015
  • Day1


    October 1, 2014 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    So in a few hours I will be boarding a plane to Beijing and it's fair to say I'm nervous as hell. It's been 5 months since I booked my flights and this is the first week I've felt nervous. I guess it's only natural considering I'm away from my family and friends for at least 6 months. I know I will be fine once I touch down in Beijing.

    So I thought I'd write my first blog about what I've been up to leading up to the trip. In summary, not a lot. I've been off work for 4 weeks and the plan was to spend that time working on my beach body, catching up with friends and family up and down the country and research as many of the countries as possible so I wouldn't miss out on anything whilst I'm on my trip. Well putting my back out, Japanese man flu and pure laziness put a spanner in the works so I've not done as much as I would have liked. Although in this time I have become a valued customer of Amazon and eBay.

    So I only really started my research a couple weeks ago to find out that China is a heck of a lot bigger than I first thought. Now I knew it was big but not that big. So not only did I discover that I would spend day's travelling I was also arriving at the 2nd busiest time of the year after Chinese New Year. They are having a week long celebration of their 65th communist anniversary and whole of China is on holiday. Google the pictures of China National Day and you see what I have to contend with. Poor planning on my behalf and this has probably set the tone of the trip. Oh well it'll be an experience. That's as far as my planning has gone. I'm just hoping I meet someone on the first day that's super organised and doesn't mind me tagging along.

    Although the lead up to the trip hasn't gone to plan the people I have had a chance to say goodbye to have been amazing. Thank you for all your support and the fun nights out over the last few weeks. I am lucky to have so many amazing people in my life and I have started to question recently why I'm going away to leave this all behind for a few months but I keep going back to when I made this decision...

    ...my quarter life crisis... I think everyone knows that I'm not particularly fond of my profession. Don't get me wrong I don't hate it but it's hard to enjoy a life behind a spreadsheet. Working at Fox was by far the best job I've had to date but I knew it was time to move on after 2 years, whether that was in to another finance job, starting a new career or go travelling. Guess which one I picked. I had just come back from an amazing trip in Cambodia & Vietnam over Christmas and then shortly after I went to Iceland in February and it's fair to say that swayed my decision to go travelling. I have met so many fantastic people and had the best experiences (though sometimes very weird, I'll write these up another time) when I've been away but my trips always felt to short. I didn't want them to end. So I was at a stage in my life where I had no mortgage, I wasn't in a relationship and I had already decided to leave my current job. This opportunity, freedom may never happen again so I popped into STA travels one day whilst I was shopping to get a rough quote. At this point I had no intention of committing to a decision, I was just weighing up the pro's and cons's. I had no idea where I wanted to go in the world but I winged it and before you know it I'm handing over my credit card to the agent. I was committed, there was no turning back and now I find myself a few hours from departure writing this blog. We'll know in 6 months time if this will be a good or bad decision. Even if it doesn't work out I will never regret this decision. You have one life and it's all an experience, good or bad, these experiences help you learn and develop and hopefully become a better person.

    So the next time you hear from me I would have hopefully avoided falling off the Great Wall, not fallen into the Tiger Leaping Gorge and safety negotiated my way to Seoul.

    Bye for now Xx (and sorry for the poor spelling and grammar, I usually work with numbers).

    Link to my rough plan:
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  • Day1

    Heathrow T3

    October 1, 2014 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Just waiting to board the plane and feeling very under prepared. Oh well let's wait and see what happens. I've got a long flight to get up to speed.

  • Day2

    Hong Kong Airport

    October 2, 2014 in Hong Kong ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Safely negotiated my way to the next gate. The 12 hour flight proved very useful. I actually think I know how to get to my hostel when I land without being ripped off.

    I've also discovered I always get nose bleeds on long haul flights (only ever been on 3) so if you fancy a holiday with me it's probably best we don't sit near each other.Read more

  • Day2

    365 Inn, Beijing

    October 2, 2014 in China ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    Oh jesus. I finally made it to my hostel after walking a couple miles because the tube stop I needed to get to was shut. I'm a very tired, sweaty man. I'm desperately trying to unpack so I can sink a beer.

    I've just met 2 of my dorm mates and they seem really nice but they're already going to sleep as it sounds like they've had bigger problems getting to Beijing than me.

    I eventually got my beer and it was only a quid for a huge bottle. I wasn't going to drink much on this trip to stay within my budget but for a quid it's cheaper than water!
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  • Day3


    October 3, 2014 in China ⋅ 🌫 17 °C

    Just had breakfast with some really nice people from Costa Rica (David and Tatiana). I didn't really get a chance to meet anyone on the first night and it was my biggest worry about this whole trip but it's amazing how a simple question like... How long have you been in Beijing? kicks off a conversation.

    So it's happening again David is introducing me to everyone as Richard which is not the first time this has happened to me in my life. I had an incident when I worked at Tui where someone called me Richard. I was only going to work there for a couple weeks so I thought what the heck I'll be Richard. I ended up being there for 9 months! I might just introduce myself as Richard throughout the entirety of my trip to save confusion.

    Annoyingly I've already lost my e-reader during breakfast. I wanted to shed some weight from my bag but I didn't want to lose that. At least it was that and nothing more expensive or important. Just annoying. At least now I'll be more careful about my stuff.

    So I've spent the day walking around Beijing. As expected it's mega busy as China is on holiday. But living and working in London has me well prepared. I'm able to spot a gap and bypass a bunch of people and can use the shoulder barge when needed.

    Random observation: Chinese women love to rock a one coloured velvet tracksuit. Girls from Stevenage would fit in well around here.

    I decided not to go into the Forbidden City as it was far too busy (I'll post pics when I can find a computer) and in all honesty I probably wouldn't have appreciated enough to wait to get in. It's so busy that I'm playing a game called spot the foreigner and it's proving tough. Though I'm fitting in with taking stupid photos of things with no significant relevance.

    I bought a "lava" drink today (I'll post the video later). I was walking in one of the many Houtong's (I really hope there is a Chinese Wu-Tan tribute called the Houtang Clan) and saw loads of people watch this man serve a smokey, florescent orange drink through a hole in the wall. For £1 who wouldn't want one? It tasted OK but I'm fearing for my life. No idea what made it bubble and smoke like that and whatever it is I hope it doesn't kill me. This could be my last blog.

    Another random observation: Chinese people love a selfie. But very annoyingly they like to stop on the street to take one. I've accidently photo bombed a few whilst walking into them.

    I'm still alive. But who knows for how long. So it's only been a day but I'm a bit unimpressed by Beijing. I said to many people before I left that I'm not that into sightseeing and went away to immerse myself and experience the places I visit. But Beijing just feels like a place to take pretty pictures. I don't think that view will change anytime soon but hopefully hiking the "wild" Great Wall in Jinkou will change my mind.
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  • Day4

    Beijing, China (if you didn't know)

    October 4, 2014 in China ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    So I found my kindle. The kind staff at 355 gave it to me when I waltzed in after my day of sightseeing. Probably gave it back when they realised it was a poor man's kindle, a nook, yeah I've not heard of it either.

    I've lost this device 3 times now but always comes back to me.
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  • Day4

    Beijing, China (again)

    October 4, 2014 in China ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    So I met up with David for a drink and he was already at the hostel bar with his new dorm mate from NZ. OK this is the start of a trend but I don't remember anyone's names. I'm just going to call them by their country.

    Anyway this guy from NZ turns out to be a Newcastle fan which is great as they are the only team worse than Liverpool (currently, I'm hoping we can turn things around). The reason being his dad is from Scotland. Yeah I was confused too. So he also supports Rangers. Seriously? How can it get any worse than that?

    So boys being boys there was a bit of footy banter then suddenly there's something poking me in face. Thank God it was a pen and nothing more sinister. And before you know it I have two drawings of a dick on my face. I was attacked by a (very attractive) Danish girl. One of the many drawbacks being bald is your susceptible to pen rape. She was a good sport and let me draw something back. And I actually think my penis looked better (I'll try to get a picture from NZ guy). There were so many Danes in this place. Before we knew they were Danes, NZ guy thought they were British. Probably because they looked like chavs and we're off their face. Bloody racist!

    Anyway we ended up talking to some other people at the bar and played 21 which I got wrong everytime. I'm an accountant people! How does someone like me get a job in that profession?

    So as I mentioned before I'm terrible with names so this paragraph will only be descriptive. In this group we joined, was an English girl who enforced every single drinking rule. There was no grey area. So much so I kept calling her games master and I no longer know her real name. I'm not well versed with Harry Potter but this girl looked liked Hermione and the personality was fitting. This is what every drinking game needs otherwise there is utter chaos. Anyway we played a few rounds and moved onto ring of fire. All in all a really fun evening but can't remember anyone's name so breakfast could be awkward.
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  • Day4

    Dongzhimen Bus Station to Xizhazi

    October 4, 2014 in China ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    I'm still alive after the lava drink. The alcohol last night probably killed off any potential life threatening diseases. Oh and I manged to scrub the penis off my face with ease. I might be a little tired today but at least I don't have a giant red nob on my cheek.

    So I've just got on the bus which I'm hoping will take me to a place called Huairou. Then grab a taxi onto a little village to stay for the night so I can hike the "wild" Great Wall at Jiankou in time for sunrise.

    I've heard a lot about bus scams where someone who looks like a conductor asks you to get off the bus ensuring you it's your stop but ends up being the wrong stop and then you having to use their friends taxi at an extortionate cost.

    Luckily I have GPS so I know when I need to get off. Let's see what happens.

    Oh I'm the only foreigner on the bus. I was hoping someone else would make the same journey as me. Let's hope there's at least one person who can speak English at the village. All I've got to go on is the information I took off a forum.
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  • Day4


    October 4, 2014 in China ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    Call off the search party. I made it to the village I'm going to start my hike from and found a guesthouse to kip for the night.

    I'll take this blog back to when I got to Huairou. I managed not to get scammed on the bus and got off the right stop. As soon as the door opened I was immediately surrounded by taxi drivers wanting to take me to the Great Wall. Taxi meters aren't used around here so you have to negotiate the price which is always interesting when both parties don't understand each other.

    Anyway I spoke to one guy and he started off at 200 yuan. I knew 100 was probably right so I said 50. He had no idea what I was saying but the clever man pulled out a notepad and pen and I wrote down my offer. His response was dollars? I said no, yuan and was met with a loud laugh. He came back to 200. I said no way but knew 50 was too low so wrote down 100 again it was a straight now and he still stuck to 200. I didn't want to go any higher until he came back with an improved offer. So we went back and forth, neither of us budging. By this time we've gathered a crowd. There was one women who new a little English and was being annoying saying that 200 was a good offer. I then decided to walk and he offered 180. Still not good enough but I was happy to go 150 max so I wrote it down. He said no so I walked. He then calls me back and accepts much to this women's displeasure. Oh if only I could have taken a picture of this women's screwed up face. In hindsight 150 was probably too much. But we're talking pounds here. I wasn't going to lose any sleep.

    So I got in a taxi and sent my coordinates for Bill to kick arse in case the worse should happen. But all was fine and it was an amazing drive to the village. It was very scenic driving through the mountainous region and the little villages along the way. It was raining so we drove through the clouds. It got a little scary as we were getting towards the village. Visibility dropped and the road got narrower. A wrong move by the taxi driver and we would have gone off the edge. Thankfully we made it in one piece. 150 didn't seem to bad now.

    We got to the gates of the village where I needed to pay to enter so this was as far as the taxi would take me. I was fortunate enough that there was a lady at the gates who owned a guesthouse. I was actually looking for a different guesthouse which I read about online but out of pure convenience and not to look rude I took her up on her offer. The room was basic but all I needed was a place to sleep for the night. This lady didn't speak a word of English but there were some other Chinese people staying at the guesthouse and one knew a few words of English and welcomed me. She told me she had been to London and we started reeling off every famous landmark we knew. Standard. After we exhausted our limited knowledge of landmarks she said what I was doing was really dangerous as it had been raining for 2 days. Ah great, as if I wasn't nervous already. So I unpacked, but I was starving and also needed to get some supplies for the next day. This women that spoke a bit of English was no where to be seen. Damn! Before I left the UK I downloaded a translator and lucky for me there was a girl working in the restaurant who had the Chinese equivalent of the app. So we pretty much communicated in text and it worked better than I could ever have imagined. I found out there were no shops near the village so no chance of getting supplies for the hike but I did eat at the restaurant and the girl said she would make me breakfast in the morning and some snacks for the road. The only drawback was it wouldn't be ready until 7 and I wanted to leave at 5 to reach the tower in time for sunrise. So I went to bed with the intention of leaving on an empty stomach at 5 but as you'll read in my next blog that wasn't the case.
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