A Travellerspoint blog

The Freezing Baltics

rain 15 °C

Hey gang, sorry for the delay on adding items to the blog so I hope this makes up for some of the last few weeks

Here are some highlights of our trip through the baltics and some pictures

- Arriving in Helsinki from Beijing. A pleasant experience after the hustle and bustle of China, getting some fresh air and not walking through crowds constantly was a bonus!

- Watching Finnish monster rock band "Lordi" win Eurovision while in Tallinn, Estonia. "Hard Rock Hallelujah" was sung by many a person that night. We were lucky enough to watch the coverage with some Finns, a Swede and other random travellers.

- The city of Tallinn was quite nice itself, tight streets in the old town were winding around plenty of churches and old buildings. The old town was also surrounded by walls and had a beautiful square.

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- You have probably heard already but when we were in Riga we fired AK-47's in an ex-soviet bunker. One of the most heart racing experiences of the trip. The noise the gun made was incredible. We weren't supposed to take photos but Liam squeezed this one in when the bloke was putting up the targets.

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- Riga was also a great city, the old town was bigger than in Tallinn and was not just full of restaurants and touristy stuff. This is the view from a church steeple

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- Bobsled track at Sigulda. As you can see there is no snow or ice. In winter you can go down this track in a bobsled with the Latvian bobsled team. In May the only option was to walk down the track.

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- Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. Hundreds of thousands of crosses spread over a couple of hills to commemorate Lithuanians killed or deported to Siberia over the last century. The occupation museum in Latvia was also really interesting showing the influence of the Germans and Soviets and the terrible things that happened.

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Some more random photos......

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On the boat to the Swedish sea fort in Helsinki, as you can see it was about 10 degrees on the windy top deck of the ferry.

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Free bikes that take a coin deposit in Helsinki, kind of like a trolley that you can leave anywhere. Pity they were bright yellow...

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Liam in Riga.

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The former KGB prison. Scary stuff. The Soviets were not very nice.

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There is a small area of Vilnius which has declared itself a seperate republic to Lithuania and has it's own constitution. Some great lines in there.

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At Trakai Castle near Vilnius. Liam in the stocks.

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Here is the castle from outside.

It also seemed that everywhere we went in the Baltics was raining, but that didn't put a damper on seeing the sights

There we go, the Baltics are done. I will be back in a few days to fill you in on Paris, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Posted by hengel 03:30 Archived in Lithuania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Tiananmen Square, the "Mao"soleum and the Forbidden City

sunny

We arrived in Beijing at exactly 7:12 AM on the overnight train from Shanghai and after making our way by subway to Qianmen we finally got our first glimpse of the infamous Tiananmen Square. But at about 7:40 in the morning on a rainy day with backpack in tow, we really didn't give two hoots about the bloody square, all we wanted to do was drop our stuff and get a shower and maybe a nap (Long distance Chinese trains have a habit of waking people at about 5:30 AM with some terrible Kenny G clarinet music or other terrible music).

Later that afternoon we headed back to the Square to see what all the fuss was about. Truth be told, it was an awesome sight. Tiananmen Square was enormous and surrounded by 6 lanes heading south on the west of the square, 3 in both directions south of the square, 6 heading north on the east of the square and north of the square was 6 in both directions. So getting to the square sounds pretty hard, but subways under the road alloy you access, but these shut at 8pm and no one is allowed through, except for the guards patrolling.

Right in the centre is a giant building housing Mao Zedong's pickled body, his very own Mao-soleum (only open between 9.30 and 12 and 2 to 4). But the line is always huge and you can't take bags, bottled water, cameras or other "dangerous items" in the building.

At the very northern end is the Forbidden City, a monster "city" surrounded by moats and giant walls on all sides. It was used by Ming and Qing dynasty emperors to live in and no one was allowed to enter for 500 years, plenty of old buildings and halls to see and visit.

On the Thursday we headed out to the great wall to see if it really was that great. It was really great, we went to the long distance bus station in Beijing in search of the bus to the wall called Simatai. As we walked to the station a group of touts began to follow us with offers to take us to the wall. One managed to get through and Mr. Pei took us to the great wall at Simatai for 100 yuan each.

The drive took about 2.5 hours through some rough terrain, the roads were good but Mr. Pei's car was a shitbox with a maximum speed of 140km/hr although we probably only managed to get up to about 80.

The wall was great, see below for some good pictures!

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This is Michael in the Forbidden City

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Liam in front of the Great Hall of the People, next to Tiananmen Square

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The three of us on top of the Great Wall!

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Liam and Michael sitting on the wall

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Me standing on top of a part of the wall

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The great wall snaking away into the distance

See you later... In Helsinki

Posted by hengel 21:14 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Shanghai Photos

sunny 30 °C

Here are some pictures of Shanghai, click on the pictures to see it bigger!

Pudong City Skyline

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Jinmao Tower

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View of Shanghai from Jinmao

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Maglev Train Top Speed

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Nanjing Road

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More Nanjing Road

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Posted by hengel 20:18 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Shanghai

overcast 22 °C

We arrived in Shanghai in the middle of the May Day holiday week where every man, woman, their kids and their dog either go home or on holiday. It seemed a lot of these people decided to head to Shanghai.

The main sightseeing areas and rampant tourist traps are the Bund, Nanjing rd and the new Pudong area. The first night we went for a walk along the Bund only to be put off by the squillions of people, the thousands selling crap and the stench of urine eminating from the public toilets. The view of Pudong from the Bund was quite spectacular though, amazing new buildings in an area that was only open for development since 1990. It now contains the 4th highest building in the world (see highlights) and the Oriental Pearl Tower. In contrast the Bund is all older european buildings built while trade was rampant in Shanghai.

From here we ventured to Nanjing Road, one of the biggest shopping malls in the world. This also was teeming with people and people selling crap, but much worse than Hong Kong. I could have DVD's, fake shoes, fake bags and rolex's up each arm. As you walk up the street the touts come and ask if you want any of these, we just walk and shake our heads, which mostly leads to them asking if you want a "sexy massage? lady spa?" Funny stuff.

Higlights:
Jinmao Tower
4th tallest building in the world, in the new Pudong area. Great view of sprawling Shanghai and the Oriental Pearl Tower

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
Actually probably not a highlight, this 100m tunnel under the river from the Bund to Pudong contains crazy flashing lights and weird inflated statues

Maglev Train
We hopped on the Magnetic Leviation train to the Shanghai International Airport at a top speed of 430km/hr! Sweet ride and mighty quick.

Posted by hengel 00:51 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Jingdezhen and Baby Lobbies

semi-overcast 33 °C

After the glory of Lushan, and the relative smallness of Jiujiang we headed for Jingdezhen, a small "village" of 2 million people and we even saw one of the world’s largest rivers, the Yangzi. Here is a picture of a street we walked down in Jingdezhen.

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Whilst in Jingdezhen we were looking for an internet cafe down a street not to dissimilar to this one. Upon finding it we were treated to plenty of stares from some of the local kids. After about 30 minutes one of them mustered up the courage to ask us to come and have dinner with them. So we went down some lane with these guys, who turned out to be from the local high school. There were about 12 of these guys crammed around a table, only one or two could speak very little english. Between their little english and Liam's mild chinese we managed to talk to them and answer their questions.

After the meal, which had plates of diced pigs heart and another of sea snails. They asked if we would play basketball with them, mainly because Liam told them I could dunk. I had to prove myself. They then lead us to their school and the basketball court. It was about 8pm at this stage and pretty dark. Someone went and got a ball and I had to dunk it for them. Thankfully it was pretty low because otherwise, my full belly and jeans would not have let my reach the ring.

Once they got their fill of my dunks we played a small game and then went and cleaned up, got a photo and left for our Hotel. That was one of the most interesting nights we have had yet!

The next stop was Quzhou. We divided most of our time there between eating hot pots, getting massages and driving on the wrong side of the road into on-coming traffic. In a taxi we heard about the legendary taxi 0437, the taxi driver pointed him out as the fastest in town. We were desperate to get the chance to ride with him and amazingly, one morning while in need of a taxi we saw #0437 screeching around the corner on two wheels and managed to get him to pull the handbrake and let us in. We fulfilled our dream and sat in with the master.

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After Quzhou we made our way to the site of the famous West Lake in Hangzhou, or as the Chinese refer to it "heaven". I'd be surprised if heaven consisted of thousands of Chinese wearing the same baseball cap, piling out of coaches and following someone with a flag and a megaphone, but the lake is actually quite spectacular.

Given that there are Chinese restaurants scattered around the lake and that you can hire bicycles for a small fee, I would not be at all displeased if I died and had to live in Hangzhou.

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We're currently in Ningbo feeling a little marooned. We had planned to be on an island called Puotoshan today but our attempts to get there yesterday did not come to fruition. We have found ourselves attempting to travel through one of China's busiest holiday periods which began yesterday, and the bus to the ferry terminal came to a shuddering one hour halt in some really sticky traffic jam on the way. After waiting the first hour out, bailing on the Puotoshan trip went from being "not the worst idea ever", to "a taxi to Ningbo please". Things could certainly be worse though. We're staying with one of Liam's students brothers and we have plenty of fake DVD's to get through, as well as mini lobsters (just red river yabbies I assume) to get through down at the local restaurant.

We have been here for about 4 days and had this little beauties every day. Here is a picture of Liam tucking into one...

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Once again tomorrow we will brave the holiday traffic and attempt to head to Shanghai. A few days there and then it's on to Beijing!

Posted by hengel 02:48 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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