Thursday, 17 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

So much to say, so little time, so to summarise-

Since we have left the home comfort of Shanghai we have
Seen a 71m Buddha carved into a cliff
Been photographed by more Chinese Tourists than the Buddha has been
Seen the Terracotta Warriors
Learnt Chinese, from 'get lost' to 'I'm a poor student'
Climbed to 3070m only to find we were still in the cloud and had visibility of about 20m
Stayed in a Monastery
Been sick
Cycled through incredible karst landscape through rice paddies and orange groves
Taken a bamboo raft down the Li River
Travelled over night in both soft and hard sleeper (after the cockroaches, snoring and cigarette smoke in hard sleeper I relented and allowed one journey in soft and I can confirm it was lovely)
Enjoyed the sunshine in Dali
We are currently looking forward to turning all our train videos into a film (yes Suzannah makes a guest appearace singing in Dutch), looking at our photos, having clean underwear every day and, most of all, telling you about all of the above.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The case for eating vegetarian in Mongolia

This is slightly belated as we have left the subzero temperatures long behind and I write this in my t shirt having eaten breakfast outside. But Mongolia was one of our highlights- here goes:

We took a 9 day tour to the west of Ulaan Baatar- sleeping in yurts and travelling in a van. Off roading in lava fields is a rather bumpy experience, but we still managed to survive up to 5 hours a day. There was the odd hairy moment as we slid down icy hills etc...

We stayed in yurts, mainly with nomadic families. They move every 3/6 months in search of new grazing for their hoses/ yaks/ goats/ sheep. It was easy to see why- the ground was barren and, where there was vegetation, is was dry and brown.

We’d already had snow and some impressive icicles in Russia. However when we arrived in Mongolia the cold went up a level. As we left for China at 6.30am it was -25°C. Some days it was sunny and got above freezing, but we did have frozen water bottles inside our yurt overnight. Thermal leggings every day- thanks Trish.

Food in Mongolia was one of my fears of the trip- which mainly proved unfounded but we did have one rather scary incident. We passed a restaurant, but when we went in the stove wasn't lit so they couldn't feed us. It was, however, the last restaurant for a few hours, so we called in at the family next door. The porch had a carcass of an ambiguous species hanging up, with a bucket of sheep legs next to it (complete with hair and feet- this seems to be normal). These sights didn't prepare us for the overwhelming smell of mutton that hit us as we stepped inside. The smell coincided with our view of a goat's head next to the cooking pot.

We sat on the sofa shaking while a cup of mare's milk was passed round (vile- a bit like drinking sour cream). Thankfully we had hired a guide and managed to communicate that we wanted to be vegetarian, so the goat's head nightmare was over. We went outside to milk the mares while our rice and potato were cooking over the fire.

The Mongolian scenery was stunning- lots of snow and plains surrounded by steep mountains. We rode ponies to a volcanic crater, trotting for miles over lumps of lava. The view from the top was spectacular- with snowy hills stretching to the horizon. We ached a little the next day though... The highlight of the trip has to be the White Lake, which at this time of year is completely frozen. The cracking ice echoing in the hills makes the lake sound as if it is singing. We devised some ice games such as bowling with lumps of ice. We also found a Mongolian boy with a rather flat basketball and had a game of three on three. The resulting bruises were a sight to behold.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Suzannah at the Great Wall

Greetings from the Great Wall of China

On the Great Wall

What an extraordinary undertaking to build this wall. Iconic.

Sunday, 29 November 2009


This detail is from the Kremlin in Moscow.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Sunset in Suzdal

A picture for the discerning eye. The domes of this Russian church give its location away.

Travelling companions

Also in Suzdal in Russia, Rebecca and Suzannah were glad to leave these travelling companions behind. They just gossiped and chattered all the time - like a bunch of mother hens.