A Travellerspoint blog

china

semi-overcast

hello!

A little late but merry christmas and a happy new year! Oh god, its 2007 already. Times ticking and the horrific thought of going back to work soon is playing on my mind...humm...

Currently, Im in Langkawi Island in Malaysia. Its north of Penang Island and just off the border to Thailand. Its a nice tourist resort Island where Im soaking in the sun and relaxing while enjoying many of the delicious local food.

Since Europe, China. Well, it has been a most interesting trip travelling through China. My eyes have been witness to some amazing, beautify, and at times ulgy things. The plan was to travel from Beijing, into Mongolia, then back down western China, and slowly down towards Hong Kong. I very much wanted to see the big cities and also the smaller towns and villages, and the contrasts between them. Unfortunately, as Beijing was very cold, we decided not to visit Mongolia which was a shame as I had been looking forward to visiting the country for a while. Well, theres also the option of resigning and travelling again in the future :) ..

Anyways, what you read and see in the news about China and its exploding development is true. The staggering economic development and resulting changes to the landscape of the cities, the countryside, and its people is simply amazing. Especially evident in the bigger cities, everywhere you look people are busy making money. Skyrises are being built as construction crains dominate the cities. Everyone is talking on their mobile phones while driving in their new car towards the latest shopping centres. Things are changing, buzzing, new, and the sense of freedom of capitalism is infectious. Cities such as Shanghai, Xian, and Beijing are no different than any other bustling metropolitan city anywhere in the world. Considering the 1.4 billion people compared to Australias 20 million, you can get a sense of the immensity and impact of rapid change and the opportunities which it creates for a nation of people who have been suffering for centuries under imperial and ironfisted rule. But the money, as always, is not going to everyone. It is clear that the rich and powerful are becoming increasingly so, while the poor and underprivilaged are being exploited. Even though many are making money, there are still millions of young and able workers from the country sides making their way to the big cities in search of money. Most end up in labour work such as factories making goods which are shipped overseas. Besides the poor, the other thing which was clear to me was that the environment is declining without notice as the persuit of wealth is blinding everyone. The impact of this factories and machines is evident in the constant haze of pollution in many of the cities. I can remember many a days when I would blow my noise and the tissue was littered with black dust and stuff. I could rambling on forever, so I better stop and let the pictures tell the story.

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Beijing. The city is under a facelift for the Olympics in 2008. Streets are cleaned daily by an army of workers using brooms made from bamboo and branchs with leaves . I thought this was very nice considering everything else is modernising so rapidly. Cant beat the efficiently of natural products :) Anyways, the streets here are WIDE, which was surprising and people drive on the right side like america. There are official policemen?? or some big brother man standing guard everywhere to keep people in check. To stop people from jaywalking, causing traffic jams, making trouble.etc.. As you might know spitting is a popular national pasttime here. Its simply amazing the different noises and end product you get from everyone. The government is at least trying to stop people from doing so by placing signs everywhere. But this doesn:t stop most from doing it every few minutes! I know in Shanghai they unsuccessfully tried to put spit bowls ontop of bins so people could spit there instead..everyone just thought it was for cigarette butts... which reminds me..smoking..its beyond control here...Almost all the men, especially young and middle aged here smokes. I think the government must be encouraging them because they must be making billions from taxes! Considering prices start from 20 cents to a little over 1 dollar australian for a packet of local brand smokes, eveyone can afford it.

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street markets. There are still heaps of people looking for bargains here.
While the new rich are shopping in department stores and chain store supermarkets, the poorer are continuing the tradation of shopping in street markets for fresh local produce and goods.

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Tiannamen Square gates which leads into the forbidden city (where the emperor of the last dynasty lived? The square is the scene of the student led protests in humm..1989?? which saw the chinese government order killings and tanks to drive over its people. Anwyays, you can see chairman Mao in the centre. He:s even got a mausoleum with his dead body on display for everyone to worship. Considering he was probably one of the worst dictators ever, killing over 70 millions of his own people (when the country wasnt even in war with another country) i dont: think his picture should be there. How about bruce lee? hes a national hero...but of hong kong. Anyways, Maos face is on the paper currency and everyone thinks hes great because he told them he was. which reminds me, in HOng Kong i tried to change some money i had left over from china, and they said no....because some of it was FAKE..!!! dodgey!

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Great Wall of China. During off peak (which is winter when we travelled), there are over 3000 visitiors to the wall a day. During peak summer season..there are over 30,000 a day!! The section of the wall we climbed seemed to be restored as it was too nice considering the tramping it is getting every day. But viewing the mountains surrounding the wall, its amazing to think what the emperor of the first dynasty thought when he decided to build this wall...i can:t remember how long it is but its long.

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beijing duck (top right). the most famous dish here. You put the duck and other things inside the wrap and dip it in a thick plum? sauce.. delicious.
Food in China was very good. Most of food areas in the bigger department stores and better restaurants were clean and cheap. But you can't be too careful in China..I read in the paper that some dodegy company made fake spirits by mixing them with DDT (that pesticide chemical) and selling them off as real. So even if it looks real..you can never be sure. I:m certain worst things have happened but no one knows.

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Pagoda at the Heavenly Temple i think. It was cold in Beijing. brrr

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summer palace of the emperors

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the jade factory. the sales trick they use is "free try. if we can:t take it out, then its yours for free".... the problem is they don:t tell you how hard they try to pull it out...you should see some of the poor faces of the foriegn ladies who seemed to be under some kind of chinese torture hehehe

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lightweight travelling. Changed bag to a waterproof daypack. Its so good since we move so often. Its got my laptop, camera, sleeping bag, and all the winter gear.

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kids playing around.

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from beijing, we took a 5 hour train ride to Taiyuan. Its half way between beijing and xian (where the terra cotta warriors are). Thats me of course eating a lunch box meal. I think it cost 10 yuan which is about $1.50 aussie. And my hair is getter very ferral.

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There isn:t much of an urban spraw in China as there is in australia. From the land of highrise in beijing, it suddenly changes to rural/industrial.

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veggies grown inside the greenhouses as well. I suspect most of the rice is grown further south as its not so good climate up north for rice growing. can you also image the amount of rice you need to grow to feed 1.4 million people who eat rice almost 3 times a day!?

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food vendors at the train platforms selling hot steam buns and other goodies. Trains in China is a very cheap and efficient form of transport for long distance travel. There are many classes of seats and beds to cater for your budget. Most of the soft seats and soft beds are for tourists and richer folks..the hard seats and hard beds (two tripple bunks in each carriage) are much cheaper and is recommended by me as it will provide you with a much more interesting view of chinese life VERY close up.

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inside of the super deluxe carriages.

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one of the temple gardens outside of Taiyuan. Taiyuan is a busy industrial city. And its very dirty and polluted especially as you travel a little outside of the downtown area. There are huge coal mines and power stations here. Anyways, the lady in the background is selling maps of the gardens for 1 yuan each..which is about 15 aussie cents. Considering there was hardly any tourists or locals there..I would figure she would be lucky to sell even a few a day. Comparing this to the folks in the city who sell coffee at starbucks for over 30 yuan a cup, someones making a lot of money.

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As we caught the bus to the temple gardens we witnessed a number of accidents. Once we passed a big coal truck which crashed and was tipped on its side in the middle of the road. The driver i guess was shovelling the coal off the road and everyone just drove past as if it was a daily happening. People also smoke on buses even if theres NO SMOKING signs. On this bus, we were sitting at the back next to two young couples.. The girl was talking to the guy and suddenly she starts to build up a phlegming noise, opens her knees, and spits on the floor. She then continues her conversation as if nothing happened. You should see the look on muriens eyes! haha. mine looked just as shocked.

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some random guys sitting on the streets

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From Taiyuan we headed to the PingYao. Only two hours bus ride. It was one of the most beautiful country towns in China as it has been preserved with the original architecture and people living there have been there for generations. And it was COLD there too!

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The ancient city is still surround by a wall which takes over 2 hours to walk around. Outside of the walls are signs of changes but at least the inside is kept as it was.

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old man on top of the wall still carrying water by traditional method.

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The youth hostel was inside the ancient city walls and was so cozy. We ended up staying for 6 days i think just to relax and do nothing!

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All houses and the Hostel was tradition houses. So nice and different from others we have been to. oh..did i mention DVDs here in china are cheap..it cost about AU$1 each. And the Youth hostels here range from about AU$5-10 a dorm room and $20 a double.

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PingYao

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another PingYao shot.

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The streets are full of tradition crafts such as paper cutting and textiles and lacquered wooden jewellery boxes.

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old lady.

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I read somewhere that there is about 1 bike for each person in china. So i expected the streets to be full of bikes...but in most big cities and even country towns, the number of bikes was not that many. Cars and trucks seem to dominate. A sign of changing times i guess.

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Solar panels. I did notice that there were quite a few houses/buildings with solar panels. There must be at least a push for these by the government as I doubt many could afford it here privately. I think BHP in NSWs produces a large number of solar panels which are exported to china. I didn:t see any wind turbines though. Hydro is big as well with the 3 gorges dam project. And nuclear is being used. But most of the power generated would be from dirty coal. Most houses and many shops i see also use coal for heating and cooking.

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tragedy. Its a poor dog. As we were walking along the street we saw him trying to hump another female dog. He seemed like he was having a good time but as he inched back a step at a time, he fell into the hole!!
We thought about trying to save him out. But we told the shop owner next to the hole a dog fell in, he didn:t seem at all concerned and said it was ok and he:ll save him later. As we left the shop, i noticed the chinese characters..."dog meat restaurant"....ARrrrrrrrrrrrr....

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in the middle, dog meat stewed in earth cooking pot.
why was that dish translated into english? a foreigner has ordered it before?! i hope not..maybe by accident when there wasn:t english translations so they decided to translate it so they will know what they are ordering next time.. i remember seeing cat as well.

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this is what happens if you get busted buying illegal DVDs. Btw, I walking into this DVD shop at some underground subway tunnel and was just browsing the stuff. Suddenly the staff there asked if i wanted new dvd movies in a low whisper... why not i thought..and she leads me to the back where she suddenly swings open a shelf full of dvds. Its a secret door shelf which lead to a back room full of DODGEY dvds! from tv series to latest movies..all for about AU$1 each!

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From Pingyao we headed further west to Xian. This is the big pagoda.

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Terra Cotta warriors. Descovered by a farmer in 1971? while digging for a well. Its quite impressive. But considering this army of warriors was only the protection surrounding the tomb of the emperor, you could just imagine what is inside the actual emperors tomb. They know where it is but have decided not to open it.

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There is a big muslim quarter in Xian for some reason. Anyways, heres a local delicacy, its some kind of dessert. quite nice.

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another street stall. Fried meat vegie patty thing in thin crispy wrap.

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not sure if its clear but the kid is wearing pants which has a big gap in the ass region. Even in cold weather, all kids are wearing this type of pants and are exposed to the freezing cold. i never figured exactly why but had an idea. Until one day in shanghai station, when a kid suddently sat down and had a piss in the middle of the ticket queue. No one even looked half interested/shocked except us. So next time you think you stepped on a puddle you suspect is from a leaking roof, think again...

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aahh..getting sleepy..just have to post these pics with less comments..
this one is at shaolin temple..home of the famous kung fu monks.

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fung ku murien. you should see her with num chuckers!

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using chi qong power to focus on throat and bend spears...

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monks training by using fingers and punching tree.. these are the holes left from their hard training apparenlty.

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longman caves... i think this is the most interesting sites in china. better than the great wall and terra cotta warriors. not many tourists come here though which is a shame.

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basically they are carvings of buddas and statues and writings into caves along the river. On the other side are also more carvings and some temples.

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some chinese carp i think.

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city of nanjing. quite a nice city actually. Lots of markets and cheap goodies.

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shanghai. Nice view from jingmao tower..which is the tallest in china.
Shanghai is probably the biggest and busiest city in China. Its the financial capital and definelty feels different from other places in China. There are heaps of shopping streets and big buildings but I found it quite boring, just like any other big city.

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Inside JingMao tower.

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night life is buzzing though. oh, and this is where murien was pickpocketed. she felt something in her jacket pocket and looked around.. and busted this young girl who looked so guilty. But we keep all our stuff inside the jackets so it was ok.

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humm..macdonalds and KFC are also EVERYWHERE in china. So is starbucks and other franchises..

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old shanghai streets.

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new shanghai streets made to look old style for tourists shopping

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the new generation. young, and have more money to spend on clothes, mobile phones, and shopping. Interestingly some local students told me that most students and workers get only about 30 yuan which is about AU$5 for a days work...even though people are getting paid more and becoming richer, there is always going to be people willing to work for less.

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on the same street.

well, from China we headed south to Hong Kong and Macau. But thats for another update. i:m zzzzzzzzzzz..

China as you can see is an interesting place to visit. The country is changing very rapidly, especially for the upcoming Olympics as they want to project a very good image for the world to see. But for me, the picture you see is of a country adopting a new life which does not suit everyone. It seems that the government is changing the cities and lifestyles too quickly, and the people are trying to grow into something they are not. But with time things will change as they are changing now.

The government is strongly pushing nationalism and people are becoming more patriotic. The people are having an unprecedented amount of freedom now compared to any other time in the past. Yet you would expect there to be more concern about the government and its continued dictatorial rule over the country and its people. But this isn:t the case as the rich are too busy making money and dont want to cause trouble while the poor are too busy trying to survive and cannot cause any trouble. So for now, its full steam ahead with economic growth while social, political, and environmental concerns are out the window. For me, Chinas future is uncertain and once development becomes stagnant, many of the underlying problems currently being overlooked because of the strong growth will become evident.

till next time, have fun at work.

phong
p.s. i:m undecided whether to just swim and relax at the beach tomorrow or rent a scooter and ride around the island ;) decisions decisions...

Posted by phong 23:47 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

europe part II

ni how!

A longer update this time as I'm currently relaxing in the beautiful country town of PingYao, China. China has so far been an amazing experience, a land of contrast betwen old and new, rich and poor. but thats for later. Now I'll continue from where I left off.

But first heres a few photos of Mt Fuji from the summit which i found on my video camera. I took the 7pm bus from tokyo and got to Mt. Fuji around 10pm. The night trek would take about 5 hours i think. Its normal to do the night trek as many people want to see the sunrise. BUT>...i had forgotten my torch!!!!! bad move...There was no moonlight that night and it was pretty much pitch dark. The mountain is volcanic so there are plenty of lava/volcanic rocks around. not so good grip, hard to see path and not good boundries which means easy to fall off edge. Well, sounds bad? It was. Only a few falls and a few scratches, otherwise managed to scramble (literally at times on all fours to 'feel' the path up steeper and rockier sections) my way to the top. TIP: don:t forget torch on night treks.

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climbers reaching the top for sunrise. It was COOOOLD..mainly because it was very very windy! brrr...i had to put my sleeping bag inside my jacket as insulation..ahhh..who cares if I looked like the michelin man..i was warm...

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just before sunrise

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right on sunrise

As I mentioned I've changed plans a little. From Japan, I headed back to europe to visit Murien and her mum's house and farm they are building in the famous Sicilian tourist town of Taormina. For those who have seen the photos of Venice, Taormina has a similar feel and look as it has the small tightly packed houses and is full of tourists. The difference is that it is located on a mountain side on the edge of the coast. The town is old and has a long history dating back to the Greeks who build the famous ampitheather there over 5000 years ago? or was it 3000?? i can:t remember. Anyways, I spent about a month there and meet many interesting local people. I think spending time in a place lets you see more the way the people live and how they do things, and in Italy things are not as they seem. I've always thought it was a rich country with big name cars and fashion, but I found it to be quite the contrary. The Italy you see outside of the big touristy cities like Rome and Venince is poor and feels stagnant. Corruption is rife and things seem to be unorganised and done half heartedly. For example, there are heaps of houses which are half built and are left like that for years or even forever. The money the government spends for the services usually ends up in other peoples pockets and things are a sham. I also noticed that they are in general very lazy people, and tend to leave things overlook things. They also like to use their hands a lot when speaking. I think you know what i mean. Humm...being very negative hey..but at least the food is good. :)

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view of the beaches from the city of Taormina. Its one of the biggest tourist town in Sicily and is know as the pearl of the meditteranean. There is a lot of rich folks around and most tourists are mid to older age.

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little alleyways everywhere you go.

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shops.

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taormina. you can see another small town at the top of the mountain, its called Castlemola.

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small coastal towns.

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lava everywhere on Mt. Edna.

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helping the local kids put away a boat for storage during winter.

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this is the country house Muriens mum is building. Its about 15 minutes drive from taormina. As you can see, im hard at work lifting heavy rocks!

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thats me and thomas, an Irish wwoofer, building bamboo roofing for the patio.

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chicken house. took i think 3 days to build. it was finished with wooden and plastic roofing.

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view of Mt. Etna with snow. the view to the left is the coastline. It would have to be one of the most spectacular views I've seen from any window.

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night view with lava coming out of Mt. Etna. Its the red line near the top right. The smoke and ash from the eruptions forced the airport to close.

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Mt. Etna Market.

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The beginning of the week from hell. OLIVE picking...OLIVE crushing...OLIVES..the bain of my existence

From Sicily, we went to Barcelona. Barcelona is a very vibrant city. People here like to party and they eat dinner later than the Italians!

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the city itself is very widespread but has not many tall buildings. The layout is in a gridlike format.

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some funny thing at Park Guell. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi, the famous architect.

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another Gaudi thing

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another Gaudi design, the Sacred Familia. It began over a hundred years ago and is still being contructed. Its a huge cathedral. They predict that it will be completed by 2020.

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its pretty impressive.

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re-enactment of my 'tree branch in the face' incident. btw, thats Rita, a wwoofer from Hong Kong who wwoofed at muriens mums place.

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pimping up for the mongolian visit...its not mine of course!

Well, the next stop was the beautiful country town of Lepanges, about 3.5 hours train from Paris. We stayed at Muriens former wwoofing hosts for about 3 weeks. They are a most wonderful family of 3, Stephen, Anja, and their daugther Alina. They are a German family but have moved across the border and are living a simple lifestyle. So far, this farm has probably been the most self-sustaining. They have solar power, wood buring stove/oven heating system for cooking, heating and hot water, all the fruit and veggies from their organic garden, make their own yogurt, cheese, jam, sourdough bread, pasta, dried fruits and so on... They hardly buy anything from the shop and theres hardly any rubbish or plastic in their bin at all. I think in the 3 weeks we were there, they didn:t even fill up 1/4 of a garbage bag. Anyways, I was chopping wood, weeding, planting, cutting trees down, burning branches, pruning, berry picking, and picking and juicing apples most of the time.

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their old stone house. formerly a glass factory apparenlty. You can see the solar panels on the roof. Btw, France produces I think all or most of its energy from nuclear power, and Italy does not generate any power at all! They just buy it from the French!

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The house when they brought it was basically falling apart. Stephen does not work and spends most of his time rebuilding it. As you can see the inside is like a big barn. They have chickens, gooses, and sheep.

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Alina, guess she's never seen an asian before?! haha..kidding. i think she was just playing games

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the compost toilet. its basically a bucket inside which gets emptied every morning or when its full. Humm..i would have to say that while its clean, organic (they turn it into compost for the fruit trees), and very environmentally friendly, it has to be the worst toilet system ever. For pissing, its easy cos you just find a nice tree in the backyard. For crapping, this is where the compost toilet comes in and becomes a little tricky. The catch is, you cannot piss in it cos the urine is smelly... Which means making sure you piss outside before you have a crap inside. I'm not sure about others but if I'm crapping, I need to piss at the same time, even if i already took a piss outside...humm....it was a very painful and very difficult skill to learn. Any accidents I hear you ask? no comment.

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the trailer we stayed in. It was very nice and had a wood heater inside.

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picking apples. we had tonnes of em.

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We spent a week cutting and juicing the apples. Also made apple jam, dried apples, apple crumble, apple pie, apple salad...

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growing some grass things to eat. you can see the homemade jam in the back. they are sweet and delicious.

From Lepanges to luxemborg, belgium and germany.

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luxemborg. Interesting place. The population isn:t that big but it just felt like a small city of germany or belgium and not its own country. There:s nothing really distinct about it.

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inside of a church

Belgium. Brussles, home of the EU parliament. I think its one of the most underrated places in Europe to visit. The old buildings are as nice as any i:ve seen. Anyways, I dont]: know why I dont: have photos of it but I do have some nice ones of Brugge, an old city a few hours from Brussles. For me, this small touristy town has the most beautiful buildings in Europe.

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actually this is one of brussles, with a waffle van! man this guy knows how to make a waffle...deeelicious...

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some square in brugge

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nice buildings like this...in brugge

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and this! love it!

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the most wonderful museum ever, the chocolate museum. The ticket counter had free chocolate. I took some before I bought the tickets..hehe..then when I bought the tickets, I took some more. Dropped one on the ground by 'accident', I was devastated and they saw my sad face and offered me some more.. hehe
anyways, belgium is famous for its chocolates. I asked the guy doing the demonstrations on making chocolate as to how you can tell what good chocolate is...his reply, 'if its belgium, then its good'.

To Berlin, Germany. I didn:t like Berlin as much as I thought. The city, while interesting with all the markets, was very quiet and lifeless. There is a lot of history here with Hitler and the war, and it seems that much of that history and the burden of its legacy is still not only part of the city but part of people living here.

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Berlin Wall in Germany

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The Christmas markets in Berlin. There are over 50 of them in the city. Its very nice and has heaps of interesting little stores.

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more christmas markets.

Well, thats it for Europe. A most fascinting continent to visit with all the different countries, cultures and history. I like most the old buildings and houses in Belgium, the small streets and alleyways in Italy, and the beautiful scenary and mountains in Austria and Switzerland.

next time i:ll update on china.
till then, have fun at work! :)

phong

Posted by phong 21:04 Archived in Italy Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Japan

konichiwa!

Im currently in Brussels, Belgium, and scumming free wifi internet off someone :)

Anyways, a lot has happened since I left canada and there has been some changes of plans. I was in Japan for a month or so and then headed to Sicily in Italy for another month. From there I stayed in Barcelona, then France, Luxemburg, and now Brussels. As Im too lazy to sort my photos Ill have to update in short spurts. So heres a short update for my time in Japan.

Japan. I think its my 5th time here. Its always fun to visit but this time it was different as I wwoofed here and got to see it from a different persepective. Everyone thinks Japan is polluted with sky scrapers and traffic, which is true, but outside of the big cities such as tokyo and Osaka, country Japan is 60% forest and much more green than most countries. The type of farming they practice is also very interesting espeically when compared to Canada. In Japan, being self sufficient is important and they grow a lot more different varieties of vegetables. The biggest difference is that they grow grains, mainly rice.

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rice me up!

Meet up with Marc in Tokyo. He was on his last leg of his trip from the World Cup in Germany. Seems like he was having heaps of fun. So after the big city rush I headed to my first farm, Saito Evolution Farm. A retired biology teacher who is really funny and speaks broken english between skulling whiskey and chain smoking all day everyday.

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Helped him build this outdoor tub. Notice the ducklings, ducks, cigarette, and whisky..hehe

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he has heaps of chickens, turkey, ducks, quails and other game birds like pigeons. All organic grain feed and delicious.

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stayed in a seperate house for guests. Very comfortable.

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good bugs on his crops.

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tip; also stomp on your gloves before putting them on, even if spiders arent poisonous in Japan.

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murien, another wwoofer from italy peeling and deworming corn.

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popcorn for the chickens

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they had 4 puppy beagles.

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he:s got an incubator for the eggs. works good and he cross breeds them to get good stock apparently

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after chickens in Canada, I had a go at cutting duck. Thats his son who visits him once a while.

The next farm was a natural farm. I only stayed there for 10 days but it was the most interesting of all the farms I have stayed at.
The host is the CEO and owner of a company in Tokyo. He basically got feed up with life in tokyo and decided to start natural farming. He has plans to start a farming school to help children from big cities with problems by teaching them via farming.

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That house in the back is a very traditional Japanese house, cost over 1 million dollars.

Anyways, work at the farm was hard. We would wake up at 5.45am, have breakfast, then start working at 7ish till lunch and then after lunch till total darkness. As it was a natural farm, there was no power tools or machines, chemicals, or even compost. Everything was done by hand tools which involved time and effort. Some wwoofers leave after a day but he says the hard work is part of natural farming and it helps us to understand the value of hard work and makes us appreciate much more the food we eat and the environment around us.

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breakfast

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dinner! As you can see, the food is good. All from the garden. Simple yet the most tasty meals ive ever had. brown rice with roasted chestnuts, miso soup with mushrooms and buckwheat noodles, potato balls, soya beans, spinach, fish sashimi, eggplant and beans, mash potatoes, some seaweed thingy, tofu, and some other things.

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Natural farming. As you can see its pretty much like a mess. They don:t weed that much and grow everything everywhere. But even without compost and fertilizer, everything grows well. They have 21 farms around the area they live and grow almost everything from rice, potatoes, onions, fruits, nuts, beans, to hemp!

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gobou. some japanese root vegetable. they found this one 1 year after it was suspose to be harvested...but it grew to twice the normal size..

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chestnuts..yum

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japanese daikon radish. very delicious in miso soup.

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no power machines allowed so even the sorting of the rice from good to bad quality is done by traditional methods and by hand.

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brown rice. thumbs up from me.

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lost a few kilos only i think. have a few more to go..

well thats it for now. i:ll update later. have fun!
btw, if anyones interested in natural farming, the food we eat, and the impact on people and the environment, have a read of this book; the one straw revolution (by masanobu fukuoka). You can get it from eden seeds in australia. I think its www.edenseeds.com.au.
Its my favorite book and even though it was written 30 or 40 years ago, the message in it is very interesting.

till next time, sayonara!

Posted by phong 13:14 Archived in Japan Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Canada

sunny 35 °C

hello !

finally a chance to update my blog! i'm doing well, my funds are looking a little low but I have no intentions of heading back to work just yet :) Even if I head back early, i think rather than working for centrelink i'll have it work for me for a while hehehe...

Well, I've been in Canada for over 2 months now but unfortunately will be heading to tokyo tommorrow. Canada has been the most wonderful experience. Its people are so warm and friendly. I really do mean that. The service is unbelievable compared to europe/london and even in australia. Everyones really talkative and fun to be around.

The initial plan was to WWOOF my way accross from vancouver to the east coast (toronto). First stop was the town of Nelson (9 hours drive from vancouver). Was planning to ride there but got sidetracked into a sea kayaking trip with a local outdoor fanatic and a hardcore french climbing/mountaineering. Just saw his ad at the backpackers and he wanted some people to go with him cos it'll be cheaper. How could i pass up on an adventure like this! So off we went to the way backcountry town (population 50?) of Lund. The area we paddled is called Desolation Sound. Its world famous apparently and its just so beautiful. We spent 5 days on the water and carried all the food, tent, and water with us in the kayaks. As I mentioned, these hardcore dudes are hardcore. We did about 7 hours of paddling each day. Just drove me insane especially when we were going against the current. I just tagged along the back and paddled like a mad man trying to keep up. I guess the dragon boating paided off.

Anyways here are some pics.

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Desolation Sound.

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Florian, the french guy. He studies alavanche engineering or something.

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Owen, the local canadian. There are sea lions? or BIG seals in the water sleeping on their backs with fins in the air. Wildlife is adbundant in the area include whales (which we luckily didn't get close to..). Only the seals came close, about 5 meters and constantly trailing behind us. Just curious i guess as there aren't that many people out there.

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cold shower under waterfall.. and yes it hurts. I lasted about 2 seconds i think.

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fun?

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attempting to cook brownies.. he's got the whole oven setup and even comes with a bloody themometer!!!!

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heaps of OYSTERS!!! ... but there was RED TIDE which is a type of alge infection or something which makes your red and puffed up and does funny things to your immune system. We ate heaps and had double sized fingers the next day...crazy..i stopped eating.

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Well, after that little adventure I headed to Nelson to meet Anh and started WWOOFIng. Didn't know what to expect but it turned out to be the most intereting 2 months of my life. As a background, Nelson is the artisic/hippiest/most organic town in Canada. The people here are sooooo different from anywhere! Everyone is a character and has interesting stories to tell. The whole Kootney area (which includes Nelson) has a short but steep history of Indians, Dukoborhs, loggers, miners, hippies, draft dodgers from the US, and immigrants from all over the world. For your information the Dukoborhs(of Russian decent) are the fundamentalist group/sect which stripped naked and burned down their property to protest godless government in Western Canada. Humm... We ended up staying in the Nelson area for the whole time we were in Canada.

Anyways here's the first host family.

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Host Ric and Cher. Lovely family. Ric is a physic and does astrology and brain gym. Cher was a former teacher at a Waldorf school (their lucky kids got to go to waldorf!). Which might be why their son who lives with them was living in Japan for i think 3 years as a monk. He's studying accupunture and chinese medicine now. Which minds me, i had accupunture here. Didn't feel much difference as it was just a general tune up apparenlty.

Also as you can see, Ric is a great cook. They are vegetarians and everything they eat is organic. Its expensive to eat organic anywhere but in Nelson, many people are like minded so there are lots of local organic produce which makes it cheaper. Did i mention it tastes heaps better and is better for you than chemicals? :)

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My favorite view from the dinning window.

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well as you can see, it was pretty good going as our first place to 'work'... we spent 4-5 hours a day just clearing forest, buring rubbish, tending to their vegetable gardens and some odd jobs.

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we built that rock wall, potatoe tower and the retaining wall for that pathway.

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this is sierra their dog. they also have a 22 year old cat. Unfortunatley their dog got run over by a truck recently. But around here, everyone has dogs! why!? because it stops bears and kyoties from getting too close.

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they took us up to the kootenay glaciers and I saw my first bear...from a car i'm glad to say.

Next place was at Sam and Lyn's place. We call it the 'funny farm' cos things here are different but they are amazing and funny people! They have a huge chunk of land..i think 120 acres as their parents used to run a dairy farm there. They've been together for 15 years but just got married 3 weeks before we started there.

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Thats Sam and Lyn. Sam's a logger/surveyor. He basically hikes up mountains all day and comes home tired as hell. But he's got millions of stories about "when i was a young guy...the ocean was only up to my knees....". He also does furniture repairs and staining. Lyn works in a nursury and does glass window part time. They are both into things like Qi Gong healing and are very open to wacky weird stuff like the coral castle in florida and talking to plants and animals and stuff.

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took that old truck up the mountains to fetch a load of rocks.. and here's what we built..

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a rock wall!

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we also built the 5 garden beds...its now growing really well with some vegies ready to eat. Previously it was a meter high grass! took us 2 weeks to dig and build all that stuff.

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thats me watching the world cup while they were at work..heheh..just taking a break..

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thats me again?! can you see a trend?? its like working at centrelink, but i don't get paid here.

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well...sam decided to take us to the radio tower to see nelson from the top of the mountain. we got lost. why? cos the logging roads got deactivated and we spent an hour tromping on snow without knowing where we were going...

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but got there...well worth the hike.

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here's sam cleaning out his creek water filter. he spent like 30K building this creek waterline like 30 years ago. the water going to his tape from here is soft and delicious!

but....while he was cleaning the filter..i kept on looking around for bears cos it was perfect bear country....perfect place for one to hang around...and surely enough..there's one just meters above us and heading parallel to us!@#$#@

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if you look right in the middle of the picture..and a bit to the left, you'll see two eyes..thats the beast which made me piss my pants. It then started going downhill and at that stage I started crapping myself. Bear Tip: make lots of noise..it works.

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yep..bear tracks.

Next place was in Winlaw, about 40 minutes from nelson. This place was really special...it was INFESTED with mossies! OMG! )#(R$#()@*$R i've still got scares from them!
Anyways, Bonnie and Richard lives here as well as richards mom joyce. They were the first farm to have animals, include a donkey, cow, sheep, geese, laying and meat chickens. Of course its all organically raised and super tasty!

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tasks included moving the lawn, fetching eggs, feeding chickens, weeding the garden, waking up at 5.30am! to chase back the stupid cow which jumped the fence (zzzzzzzzzzz), shovling loads and loads of shit from the barn...man that stunk like crazy...and the mossies .... it was really the only time when i thought "why am i doing this..!@?". But looking back on it now, it was quite fun.

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here's bonnie. she's a real character! p.s. replace real with weird. heheh..but she's nice.
unfortunately richard is very ill but it was good to help them out for a while.

Tulaberry farm! this place is amazing. Judi and Alex are the most amazing people i've meet in terms of their positive energy and atitude towards everything. They are both former nurses but have gone into semi retirement. But they are real go-getters. Up bright and early and work non-stop till night. Alex works as a contractor in Vancouver and usually isn't around that much so its basically judi running the farm.

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They have laying chickens, hundreds and hundreds of meat chickens, a hugh veggie patch, apparently the only certified organic raspberry patch in the province, strawberries, fruit orchard, cows, and an awesome swimming hole!

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buckets of strawberries and hiding between the corn.

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these are the baby broiler (meat) chickens.

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humm...gutting chicken was a whole new experience. didn't know there was so much effort into one chicken. But these organic grain feed free range chickens taste declicious!

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thats alex on the right.

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the comment is a lie.

Finally we visited bryce and julie-ann's farm. Don't have many pics as they haven't been downloaded/resized...or maybe i'm getting too lazy...

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this place is also in Winlaw...land of the mossies! had to sleep with gloves on as well!

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view from outside our trailer we were in.

stagnant pond = mossie breeding ground!

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reminds me of nepal..ah..

well. thats it for canada..i'm off to tokyo tomorrow and a new adventure awaits. i'm hoping to walk around shikoku island. might take me 2-3 months. but might do some wwoofing until the weather cools down a bit. its summer here in canada and will be too in japan.

until next time..which might be a long time cos my brothers got the camera and laptop and heading to new york.

phong

Posted by phong 18:56 Archived in Canada Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

London and Europe

Hello!

Its been a while since I last updated.

I'm doing great and enjoying many new experiences. I'm currently in the country town of Nelson, Canada. Nelson is the marijuana capital of Canada (I didn't know that until i got here). Its a real hippy town with heaps of hippy people everywhere :). But its an awesome place. Most things here are fairly similar to Australia in terms of prices but there are heaps of oraganic food which is great.

I'm wwoofing (willing workers on organic farms) here at the moment. You basically volunteer working about 5 hours a day 5 days a week on an organic farm. In return you get meals and accommodation. But the best thing is living with the locals and experiencing their way of life. Its been such an experience so far. Maybe its because of the town Nelson as there are lots of interesting characters here. As I said this place is full of hippies. Everyone here is into organic stuff, astrology, psychic readings, chinese medicine, accupunture, etc.. so you can imagine the conversations are interesting. Humm…I’ll talk about Canada a bit later but for now I’ll retrace my steps back to London and Europe.

Well, coming from Nepal to London was a bit of a shock. I still miss Nepal as it was a beautiful place with such great people. As poor as the locals were, they seem happy and content with living day by day on hard work and a full stomach.

London. Not quite what I had expected. Of course there were hundreds of old and impressive buildings, but the people in central London were not quite ‘locals’. I figure about 80% were foreigners, either working there or a majority as tourists. When you go to a shop or restaurant the people serving you seems to be all workers from Europe. The service is pretty crap, and everyone seems to be busy worrying about their own lives. And everything is expensive. Compounded by our crappy exchange rate, staying in London is just way too expensive. Oh I meet up with my brother as well in London so it was good to see him.

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The famous London Marathon. It was pouring rain that day, like every other day in London. In the background is Big Ben.

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The Rosetta Stone inside the British Museum. I think it’s the same text in Hieroglyphics, Latin and Greek. This lead to Hieroglyphics being deciphered. The British Museum is just gigantic and full of interesting stuff. And its free and jammed packed with tourists. Actually the whole of London is full of interesting buildings and Museums.

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Lords Cricket Ground. The home of Cricket. Went on a 2.5 hour tour of the ground and the best part was the guide. He was a real pompous pom! Talks and acts exactly like those rich dudes from the olden days. It was great just listening to him talk.

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Madam Tausaude.

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Tower of London. One of my favourite sites in London. It’s the old castle where King Henry or someone used to live.

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The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Place. Zzzz… it was raining in London almost all the time when we were there. No wonder why doctors in England tell their patients to go to Spain or Australia to get some sun ?

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View of London from St Pauls Cathedral. You can see the Thames rivers and London Eye in the background.

Well, thats some pictures from London. I like the city. Its clean and there’s heaps to explore. Would’ve liked to explore a bit more of the countryside thought as the city was a bit boring after a few days. Actually I remember catching the train to the airport and there was this big redhead hooligan guy who was soo drunk standing infront of me next to the doorway. He had a six pack of extra large cans of beer and was skulling it while whobbling around in the train. He started rambling to me about how crap England is and how its full of idiots like him. Then he started singing Jerusalem which I found pretty funny because he kept on forgetting the words. Ahh..this is the England I wanted to see! ?

Well, things are just too expensive there. I mean getting lunch is like $15 minimum. Its really crazy. I’ll go back when I’m a millionaire.

After spending a fortune in London, we started our 20 days European Experience with Contiki tours. It’s a bus tour company for 18-35 year olds. Basically it’s a party bus. Highly recommended as it was a blast meeting new friends while traveling across a heap of countries and cultures. In Europe each country is steeped in history and amazing culture. Because we spent only a few days in each country, there was so much to take in and the 20 days felt like 2 months. Here’s a few pictures of some of the places we went to.

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Here’s the Contiki Gang. About half are Australians. There were others from New Zealand, Canada, USA, Malaysia, South African, Japan, and the Philippines.

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First stop was France. Eiffel Tower during the Day. The view from the top is not bad as well. In France there must be a restriction on building height because most buildings around Paris is not that big. There was however a separate area where the commerce centre with big buildings were located but it’s a bit outside of the downtown area. This is similar to London where the financial district is a bit outside of the main downtown area.
Actually I didn’t really see many skyscrapers in Europe.

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Eiffel Tower at night

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Heard of the Hunchback of Notre Dame? This is the Notre Dame Church.

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Snails…tasted quite good actually.

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French countryside.

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Crazy Parking! This happens in many European countries but seems to be worst in France. Apparently due to limited parking space in the city, people park bumper to bumper. To get out they just bump each other out. Its crazy. Theres BMWs and Mercedes getting bumped out and stuff, its crazy.

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Country town of Oingt. My Favorite country town in France. Thats my brother. He quit his job as well to travel. Which is good because working is overrated. hahah

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Beaujoleas wine region.

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Mediterranean Seaside town of Nice.

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Monte Carlo, Monaco. Outside the Palace Casino. Flashy cars of the rich and famous.

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Monte Carlo.

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I think this is Florence, Italy.

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St Peters Basilica, Vatican City. I think this is the smallest country in the world. Its within Italy. Its where the Pope resides and the balcony in the picture is where he gives his speeches and stuff.

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Inside St Peters. It’s the biggest Church in the world I think. Amazing place. The Sistine Chapel and the artwork in all the buildings is spectacular.

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This is the castle at the end of the secret passage from within Vatican City.

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Venice, Italy. This is my favorite place in Italy. Full of Gondalos and tiny back streets with interesting little shops.

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Venice again.

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Some Church in Italy.

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Florence.

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Everyones seen the Colosseum from the outside, but here’s what it looks like inside.

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The Parthenon.

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The Spanish Steps.

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Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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Gelati. Its soo good. Humm..the pizzas were nice too but I found the pasta average.

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View of the tiny country of Liechtenstein.

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Our tour guide Greg. Our driver, Derek actually puked on the bus while he was driving. Haha.. he had food poisioning the night before and looked really crook in the morning. So while he was driving on the freeway he suddenly puked… he’s actually from Scotland and is one funny dude with his strong accent which I don’t think anyone on the bus understood.

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Germany’s famous beer halls. That’s a 1 litre stein and some tasty pork knuckle.

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Switzerland. My favorite country in Europe. Its such a picturesque place. Small quite towns with spectacular mountains everywhere.

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Mountains in Switzerland which inspired the shape of the toblerone chocolate.

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Paraguilding in Austria. My second favorite country in Europe but definetly my most memorable moment. Amazing views while soaring like a bird. I wish I could do this in Nepal.

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Swarovski Crystal, Austria. This is the biggest Crystal Wall in the world..can’t remember how long it is but it extends further than shown in the picture.

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This cheese maker in Amsterdam was stoned when giving us the talk.. he couldn’t stop giggling.

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Marijuana lolly pop. Walk into maccas and there’s stoned people. Its legal here and its a crazy city. The red light district was also an eye opener.

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Everyone rides a bike here. Maybe because the country is just flat as a pancake.

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Can’t forget the clogs when in Amsterdam.

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Some random pic at some aquarium.

OK that’s its for now. I’ll update with photos of Canada next time. Till then, take care!

Posted by phong 21:03 Archived in England Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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