June 08, 2002

8/6/02 Hong Kong Island, Hong

8/6/02 Hong Kong (Phillip)


Wow, so let me tell you about yesterday. We'll skip the preceding days for now. So I arrive in Hong Kong the night before, and manage to get a hold of my aunt Sandra who's coincidently here. She's with British Airways and one of the loveliest people you'll ever meet. It's very lucky that we're here at the same time since she's only here for two days! Anyway, I negotiate the buses from the airport and while waiting for my bus to my hostel I give her hotel a call. Turns out she's not too far, and we decide that I should crash there. First of all, The Excelsior is a fabulous hotel (not just because it's filled with beautiful BA Crew...). I find the hotel and meet with my aunt. It was so lovely to see a familiar face; I havenít seen my family since New Years! After a late dinner and a drink we wander around the shops until we realize that we're both pretty exhausted.

The following day is when it all gets strange. We get up and set off to do some typical touristy things: The Peak, Harbors and Kowloon. We had a great day with lots of laughs, but I also had to meet a family friend who was working in Hong Kong and China and leaving that evening. We arrange to meet at the Marriott. Oh my gosh! This place is out of this world. Considering that I've been staying in bed-bug-ridden holes-in-the-wall for months, I'm pretty blown away by this place. Gordon takes us up to the Executive Lounge which is filled with lots of businessmen drinking and watching the world cup. Met lots of nice business types as I hob-knobbed around :) Free food and free drinks with a phenomenal view of the bay. Totally cool. Gordon mentions that he might have a place for me to stay if I'd like one, which of course I quickly accept. As he starts filling me in about this place I'm pretty impressed. There were a couple of ground rules, but since it's an amazingly swanky apartment for me to use, how could I resist?

That's not even the end of it. Sandra and I return to her hotel after the game and go to the bar to hang out with some more gorgeous British Airways girls. Could this day get any better? :) So we hung out down there for a few hours before finally crashing to bed, exhausted.

Today we came to the apartment. It's two massive towers of luxury apartments and lots of security. Bit worrying but they let us by without any fuss. Problem is there's a wee code thing and I don't know the code! I have to time it so I follow someone in. Except tonight when I came in with some groceries I mistimed it! Luckily the guards buzzed me in without asking me any questions!

Let me tell you about this apartment though. In the city of tiny cramped spaces, this is the exception. From DVD's to Broadband Internet, this place has it all. I'm on the 45th floor and actually just looked down as a helicopter flew below my eye-line across the bay. The view is killer, you can see all the way across to Kowloon and almost entirely left and right unimpeded. Wow....

Tell you what, I'm not leading the backpacker life right now. I actually only brought a tiny backpack from Bangkok and left my big one in Left Luggage at BK airport. I have a five-hour layover there on the way back. Did I mention my flight routing, Bangkok->HK->Bangkok->HK->London. How backwards is that?

Yesterday I did get my one errand done which was to turn in my passport to get a Chinese visa. I'll get it back on Monday and will probably grab the 30 hour train (bloody expensive) to Beijing either Monday or Tuesday night. Should be there 4 or 5 days then back here. Thinking I'll pop over to Macau since I'm so close anyway. Then a long two days of traveling to get back to London. When I was booking my flights I looked up which movies I could watch on the plane. Looks like I'll be able to see the Brittany Spears movie after all! :) I mean that's not the ONLY reason I took that flight, well, perhaps it was! :)

Back to luxury....

Posted by Admin at 01:58 AM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2002

9/6/02 Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

9/6/02 Kennedy Town, Hong Kong (Phillip)

Since I'm not sleepy yet I thought I'd post, even though today I took a day off. It's weird, because I think to some people taking a day off from this trip seems ironic. I still get the emails thinking that I'm on 'one heck of a holiday'. In some ways that's true, but it's not all easy! Anyway, I spent the day taking advantage of free faaaaaaaaast Internet and got lots of work done. I havenít really done much preparation for Hong Kong, China or South Africa
which is fine. I know what I need to know but I booked a hostel in Beijing today, printed out the Chinese Characters I'll need to show the taxi driver (unlikely to speak or read English) and read about the sights.

In theory I'm going to Beijing tomorrow, my visa for China should be done at 2 and there's a train at 3pm. There's only one train every two days so it's very spur of the moment. But my backup plan is to go to Macau for a couple of days if I can't get on the train (or there's a problem with my visa). Either way works.

I came across this though, thought it was cool:
~~ Next time you contemplate a diet ~~

A. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the
British or Americans.
B. On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer
heart attacks than the British or Americans.
C. The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks
than the British or Americans.
D. The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer
heart attacks than the British or Americans.

Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. It's speaking English that kills

Tell you what, though, it felt great just to stay still for a day. There was a storm outside my window which I could watch and that was amazing. Looking down on the harbour as it was battered by wind and rain. Even now (it's 12:22am) the view is great. Kowloon is lit up on the far side and every so often a boat passes through the darkness of the water.

So tomorrow I wake up and grab a ferry to Kowloon. Need to track down a couple of travel agents I read about that might be able to discount the train to Beijing. It's a 30 hour train and costs about $150 which I'd like to reduce. Flights are actually only $200 return but that'd be cheating. The train is supposed to be spectacular. Plus I have about 1000 new songs in my arsenal that I can listen to if no one speaks English and we tire of signing! :)

Hong Kong really is an interesting place. I doubt I could live here, the materialism is pretty overwhelming, but I like the hi-tech parts. Even the buses have live TV on flat screen to entertain you. There are escalators that run almost 1km up the side of a mountain to connect that suburb. You can buy anything from vending machines just by using your cell phone in front of it. However, on the downside the place is packed. It's has a higher population per km than anywhere on the planet and this becomes evident just walking down the street. You're continuously bumping into people (physically) and every nook and cranny has a stall set up in it. This actually makes it quite fun for visiting and walking around but I can see how it would become tiresome.

Plus, I think it would be terrible not to be rich in this city. What I mean is that it's really tailored for upper middle class, lots of flashy shops and brand names. I find it quite funny to see how many people aren't carrying bags full of new things they've just bought. There are not many of them!

Hong Kong reminds me quite a lot of Singapore but far more extreme. I suspect Beijing will be a little less flashy. The hostel I'm booked in sounds pretty cool, it sounds like it'll be a good place to be based. I should be back in Hong Kong in less than a week though and then Macau. Macau is kind of like HK except it was Portuguese not British. From what I've read it has a bit more culture but the same materialism (since it's basically one big casino these days!). Should be an interesting couple of weeks!

Posted by Admin at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2002

14/6/02 Beijing, China PDR (Phillip)

Click here for pictures from China


Okay, well before I even start I don't have email. Apparently China thinks my email subversive or something cause I can't get to it in China. Plus the keyboard I'm using hardly works especially the space bar. My apologies.


Okay, well the 30-hour train ride wasn't so bad at all. The HK Beijing route has the best train in the entire fleet, so apart from the speakers blaring weird Chinese music the whole time it wasnít so bad. I did manage to buy a last minute ticket, so I rushed around HK to make it to the station (with my China Visa) on time. I was in the 'Hard Sleeper' carriage. Trains are actually quit expensive here, considering flying was US$100 the train was only $20 cheaper! However, I wanted to travel with the locals and so that's what I did. Ironically there was one Westerner in my cabin, but he had just come down from working in one of the breakaway Soviet republics and wasn't exactly a backpacker! I chatted with him most of the way and I borrowed his China Guide Book.

I figured out that spending 7 days in Beijing was hardly the best use of my time. Reading the book I remembered that there were two non-Beijing sights that I wanted to see in China. South of Beijing there's a city called 'Xi'an' where they uncovered an entire army (7,000) of bigger than life stone warriors. Also, Ian Tilston was quite insistent that I visit the site of the Three Gorges Dam and the Yahtze River. Well, I managed to figure out a way to do all of those in the time I have. It's very rushed and really cuts it close for my flight to London, but I think I can do it.

I arrived in Beijing safely, although it was quite a shock. This city is immense! It takes 7 maps in my book just to cover the downtown area. It's definitely bigger than any city I've been in before. I did manage to find my hostel okay and chatted with some of my roommates about where to go and what to see.

Posted by Admin at 06:54 PM | Comments (0)

13/6/02 Beijing, China PDR (Phillip)

Click here for pictures from China

Incidentally, I managed to figure out a way around the email 'problem' so it's good again. Except I have 27 messages today!

I woke up nice and early today because I knew I had a packed day ahead of me. I hopped on the subway and headed to the famous Tiananmen Square. I think everyone knows about this place; it was the site of the demonstrations in the late eighties. Certainly there's no sign of that now, it's just a massive square in the heart of the city filled with Chinese tourists. At one end you have Mao's Mausoleum (no interest since I did Ho Chi Mihn's and wasn't exactly thrilled). I took the obligatory picture and headed to the North of the square where the Forbidden City is.

The Forbidden City is simply massive; it was the home of the Emperor for 500 years and never were mere mortals allowed in. This all changed when the commies came in and now it's a tourist mecca. The City within a City is actually a series of buildings that the emp used. Basically he'd have up to 7,000 mistresses in there at once, and he had to find a place to house them all! I spent a few hours wandering and listening to the audio tour. The funny thing is that the English audio tour is narrated by none-other than Roger Moore. So I technically got a tour given by James Bond! The tour was very cool. I was very entertained by the signs all over the place reminding the Chinese tourists that the place was burned to the ground numerous times by the evil Anglo French!

As I was finishing the tour I met an American guy, and we were both heading to the summer palace so we negotiated the public transport together. I can't stress how massive this place is; took us about an hour and a half to get to a local tourist attraction, amazing. The summer palace was okay, just another place for the emp to take his girls I think! Lots of great architecture but lots of tourists. My friend and I (don't know his name yet) just kind of wandered around. The day had been pretty exhausting. (By the time I got home I calculated I had walked close to 30km!) We went and found our bus back. We were sitting behind two Chinese girls and he decides that he has to talk to one of them. His opening line was 'I think you're beautiful'! Quite funny, her response was 'I don't speak English'. So he continues complimenting her and she just kind of looks embarrassed.

To help restart the conversation we ask them (by pointing to the Mandarin spelling in our book) how to get to our subway station and she tells us that she's going there too (in English) and she'll show us. We end up chatting in some broken English and between us manage to arrange to meet them for drinks later. It was only at this point that I exchanged names with my friend (Joseph). Typical backpackers!

We end up meeting the girls at Hard Rock Cafe (very Chinese) and chatting away. Their English was actually pretty good but it was just great to talk to such unlikely people. They were our age but from a city south of Shanghai. Their town was very small they said, only 3,000,000 people! This is typical China, in a land of almost a billion people, 3 million is small!

I had already signed up for a tour with my hostel of a remote part of the great wall the following day. The girls however also are going and offer to drive us. Pretty cool so far.

Posted by Admin at 07:16 PM | Comments (0)

13/6/02 Beijing, China

13/6/02 Beijing, China

I just spent 20 minutes typing my journal and stupid computer lost it. I'm not a happy camper! I'll retype it when I get to London.

Posted by Admin at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

13/6/02 Beijing, China

Click here for pictures from China

Okay, Iíll write a shorter version cause I know Iíll forget all this. J and I had already decided that these were City Girls. We were wondering how theyíd dress to climb the great wall. Well, when we meet them theyíre all prettied up in makeup and wearing sandals. Not a good sign. They had rented a car and driver for the day but due to the fact that my book is in English and city names donít translate at all, we had real trouble finding the part of the wall I wanted. There are two parts that the government wants you to visit. Thatís not my style. I wanted to go visit the hard bits. So after bribing farmers to let us walk across their land, we find the great wall. Itís amazing to see it come into sight; itís massive. The only man made thing to be seen from the moon and spreads for 4,000km. The girls only make it up the hill about 1km so we leave them and head off. We rush up about 3km of crumbling wall, really crumbling. I think the reasons that tourists arenít supposed to go here is that itís a sheer drop on one side and thereís no way youíd make it. We climb and climb and climb but eventually reach the watch tower weíre going for. The view is amazing. Really breathtaking. We take lots of pictures and head back to meet the girls.

After getting back to Beijing we head for dinner. The girls are in charge and we have them order for us. Plate, after plate, after plate just start arriving on the table. Some how they didnít hear the word Donít in my sentence. I donít like fish cause a big one appears head tail and all. Ugh, but actually it was so spicy you couldnít taste the fish anyway. There were some pretty exotic dishes on the table. I think the most exotic had to be Donkey. Yup, donkey. It tasted a bit like corned beef but I wouldnít recommend it!

During dinner we were chatting about the differences between the west and east. Somehow I totally forgot how you're never supposed to talk politics in China and did. Not good, my questions regarding Mao, America, Hong Kong and Taiwan were answered but I didn't realize how uncomfortable the girls were getting. They went so far as to close the blind behind them! I dropped it as soon as I realized and profusely apologized, but certainly it showed the kind of fear associated with this stuff. Plus they had already answered everything, but obviously I can't write that here. Not until I'm in London anyway!

After dinner they offer to take us to a local student hang out. This place was exactly like any college coffee house I've ever been in. Lots of kids drinking overpriced coffee on laptops. Very authentic but it show's just how similar students are around the world!

We said our goodbyes and headed home. Phew! Okay, that was pretty rushed, but I think I got the main parts across.

Posted by Admin at 07:54 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2002

16/6/02 Xi'an, China (phillip)

Click here for pictures from China


I like Rule #6

"China is a great sleeping giant. Let her sleep. For when she awakens she will astonish us all."- Napoleon

How true is that? This place is crazy but phenomenal. Once again plans have changed. Joseph ended up taking the same train as me to Xi'an (pronounced Chi-anne) but we were in separate carriages. As I sat down I said hello in Mandarin to my 5 roommates. It looked to be an older Chinese family and they laughed when I said hello. Always a good sign. I sat on a wee chair and got out my book to read but one of the ladies came to talk to me. This is very common that someone will see you and come practice their English. Of all the people I've met outside the tourist industry here, I'm always the first westerner that they've spoken to.

I chat with the lady whose English is decent. It's actually very hard to talk for many hours about nothing. I know, I do it all the time at home, but with the limited words it's always challenging. It helps a lot that I now know the word for Scotland in Mandarin: "Sugaland". When the conversation lulls, the father always seems to give the girl a new topic to keep it going. Meanwhile another girl is always trying to get in on the action (her English is much better). It does seem that all across China, girls are trying to find ways out and that seems to make it easy to meet girls!)

Once in Xi'an we try to get our train tickets for that afternoon. Joe and I are going to different places but we were going to tour the Terracotta Warrior site together before splitting ways. My next destination was Yichang and the 3 Gorges Dam. The problem is that China is suffering from sever flooding right now and the railway line to Yichang is destroyed. So, no Yichang. I did ask about flights, but they're US$100 and I can't justify it for a 3-hour tour of a dam. Pity.

Joe also had trouble since just about everything is booked solid out of here. I end up buying a ticket to Guangzhou, which is at least near Hong Kong and Macau. Unfortunately I couldn't get it until two days later. Joe had a similar problem. No big deal, he was heading first to a mountain a few hours away, so I opted to go there.

The Terracotta Warriors were great. Apart from the Chinese touting it as the universally recognized 8th wonder of the world, it wasn't a let down. We negotiated a local bus to the site with a bunch of Chinese tourists and off we went. It was expensive to get in though; almost US$10. Basically about 20 years ago some farmers digging a well came across, underground, a 7,000 member stone army built approx 3,000 years before. The life-sized figures are all unique and represent exactly how an army would've looked. Amazing stuff. It was actually presented really well too. Way to go China!

Following that we found a bus, (trust me, since no one speaks English and no signs are ever in English, this is tough!), to a little town which I won't even try to spell. Basically the town is the home of the most sacred mountain in China. It's a Daoism thing. Apparently there is a guesthouse about 4km up the mountain. A bit dubiously I followed, it was getting dark. After a lot of pointing and gesturing sleep we did find the place. Passed only Chinese on the way and said Nee-How (hello in Mandarin) to everyone. We joked that we do more for international relations in one day than the UN does in a year! Just about every person would laugh and smile, and some even asked us to be in their pictures! Pretty cool.

We find the guesthouse and decide to ascend the rest of the mountain at 1am. We knew the going would be tough and the heat would make it far more difficult. The Chinese that come here on pilgrimage almost universally ascend overnight. Unfortunately we slept in till 5am!

Boy was the hike tough, but we entertained ourselves by saying nee-how to everyone on the way up. It's amazing how some people are actually too scared (or something) to look at us, but as soon as we say hello they're always friendly. I loved every minute!

I really hope the pictures come out because it was beautiful up there. The steps were insane, there were chains so that you wouldn't fall back and definitely die! The peak was cool, the views were good but not fabulous. We were unsure if it was smog or cloud cover, it's hard to tell in China.

We did the peak in amazing time, well, the way up was slower, but we pretty much ran the way down as carefully as we could. Passing lots of temples and such on the way. The temples here are very different from Thailand. The differences between Buddhism and Daoism I still don't understand but the gods look very very different.

Bus back to Xi'an and found a hostel. My train to Guangzhou leaves tomorrow; another 20-hour journey on a Chinese train should be fun. It's funny because I remember the Texas Crew road trips seeming terribly long at 20 or 30 hours and nowadays I can do it so easily!

Hope you're all having fun! Next stop is Macau. If you havenít heard of it think of Hong Kong but instead of English colonists it's Portuguese. There'll be lots of churches and such; I hear architecturally it's wonderful (if you ignore the Casinos!). I'm pretty confident about being able to get there on local buses, but worst case I can just grab a train back to Hong Kong and take a ferry across.

Posted by Admin at 02:03 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2002

18/6/02 Hong Kong Island, Hong

18/6/02 Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong (Phillip)

In response to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/asia-pacific/newsid_2047000/2047734.stm where the BBC reported the fire in the Internet Cafe in Beijing. Yes, I was actually in that neighbourhood (student coffee house) but never in that Cafe. 24 died which is tragic, thankfully I was already out of Beijing a day earlier...

Thanks for your concern all.

Post more tomorrow, couldn't get to Macau this afternoon so back in HK. Will go tomorrow.

Posted by Admin at 06:26 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2002

20/6/02 Macau (PhillIip)

20/6/02 Macau (PhillIip)

Well I spent yesterday on the lovely wee island of Macau. Well, technically not an island but a peninsula and two adjoining islands. Macau was actually the first European settlement in Asia. The Portuguese actually landed there ages before the Brits ever hit Hong Kong.

Macau is a gambling mecca, Vegas for Hong Kong. However, beyond the casino's is astounding architecture and a blending of European and Asian cultures I haven't seen elsewhere. The island is obsessed with pastel colors. Even the slums are pastel painted.

I hopped on a boat from Kowloon to Macau. I was kicking myself because I hopped on the expensive one! There was no benefit to getting that one, but I was in a rush and basically caught the wrong one and it cost me HK$50 more! Granted that's around US$4 but since I blew my budget in China that counts (I spent more in 2 weeks there than the past 43 days in Asia!). Got to Macau and went through all the immigration things, no major problems, just idiots working there.

I grabbed a map from information and headed out. The island is only 5 or so km across so it's easy to walk. Mainly I wanted to visit the churches here and graveyard. The churches are exquisite 19th century architecture surrounded by modern buildings. They didn't disappoint. One in particular is the ruins of the St Paul's Cathedral. This one burned down about 100 years ago and all that is left is the facade of the front wall. However, it's totally intact. (check out: http://www.ajfroggie.com/pics/asiapics/Macau-ruins.jpg).

I also wanted to try one dish (I read the guide book a few weeks ago) called Portuguese Chicken, which was brilliant. When checking out the menu they had 'Hot Coke with Ginger', this I HAD to try. It wasn't too bad really, but I think mine had to much ginger cause it almost made me cry. I didn't though, I was tough :)

Got back to my luxury apartment late (had to throw in the world luxury) and reconfirmed flights. I'm flying out tomorrow to Bangkok, then picking up my backpack from the airport, mailing postcards (cheaper than Hong Kong or China) and then hopping back on a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong, then onto London. My best friend John is in London right now so I'm meeting him in two days. Then I have flights to Paris (US$7! London to Paris) on Wednesday to meet my sister. John's also coming over for that weekend so I'll give him a tour of Paris. I swear I've seen everything in Paris 5 times now!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to free food all day tomorrow. The jet lag will kill me so I have to avoid all alcohol and caffeine for the flights :(

Hope you're all safe and smiling.

Posted by Admin at 12:38 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2002

>6/27/02 Versailles, France (Phillip)

>6/27/02 Versailles, France (Phillip)
>Let me tell you about the fun time I had getting
>here and to catch my
>$7 flight! I was running really late getting from
>the center of
>London to the airport. But I thought I had given
>myself enough time
>to get me there an hour before take off. I was
>wrong... trains were
>running late and slow. I eventually got accross on
>the tube to the
>train station I needed for Luton.
>Well, such as luck would have it, the trains were
>running late. When
>I was sitting in the station I recalculated how long
>it was going to
>take and panic set in. I realized that I would make
>it to the train
>station near the airport only 15 minutes before
>departure! Not
>good... There was nothing I could do except sit on
>the train and pray
>for a delay! When I finally got to the airports
>train train station
>it was 10 minutes before departure. I ran off the
>train, pretty much
>alreqdy resigned to mising my flight, and ran to
>find a taxi (the
>free bus was empty so it wouldve had to wait for all
>the passengers
>from the train). Luckily a taxi appeared of nowhere
>and I flagged it
>down. Frantically I said "Airport departures fast!",
>but the driver
>turned around and asked if I had ordered the taxi.
>So i lied..... He
>took me to the airport where I jumped out and ran as
>fast as I could
>still praying for delays... Of course there were
>queues and no line
>for the Paris flight (it was now 8:45 and my flight
>left at 8:50!). I
>ran to custo,er service and he casually asked me to
>wait. Watching
>the time tick by I did. Eventually he sends me over
>to an empty line
>and says that shell help me.
>Again the lady was very calm, eerily in fact, but
>then I found out
>why, my plane hqd been delayed by 2 hours and so I
>could still get
>on! I thanked God and retreated to departures.
>THats not even half the story though! MeaNZhile;
>unbeknownst to the
>passengers. The airport ter,inal in Paris was
>closing! There was an
>identical flight to Paris leaving at the same time
>mine was supposed
>to (it was delayed from a couple of hours prior). So
>they patiently
>waited (flic says she was trying to look as pregnant
>as possible)
>until everyone had deboarded and finally were
>informed that was the
>last flight and the terminal was closing. The later
>flight (mine) was
>Unfortunately that wasnt true. I did try to phone my
>mum to let her
>know my plane was delayed but her phone was
>constantly busy. So i
>gave up and sat down. Chatted with some of the other
>passengers, most were panicing becuase by the time
>we arrived public
>transport in Paris Airport would be finished.
>Anyway, we finally board about 2 hours late. Easyjet
>has open
>boarding meaning you just grab any seat you want. I
>managed to lose
>the lady I was talking to in Departures; she wasnt
>so nice, and
>spotted a georgous girl and sat next to her (dont
>even act surprised,
>you know me better than that :) So I chat to her and
>first she seems
>nice. But then I realize that she seems to hate
>everything, America,
>England, babies, flying etc.... its still an amusing
>flight though.
>By the time we finally arrive in Paris, the terminal
>is closed. The
>wee bus from the plane drops us at immigration
>except there's noone
>there! The french start banging and yelling and my
>friend translates.
>I suppose its all that post-world cup anger built up
>in this
>country :) Some police finally arrive and let us
>through to an empty
>terminal. and no sign of felicity.
>Well, I already knew I had forgotten to bring her
>number, so as my
>fellow passengers fight for taxi's or a place to
>sleep I find an ATM
>and get cash. Except of course phones here dont take
>cash! My friend
>(never got her name, oops) offers me her phone card
>but eventually we
>get my credit card to work and i phone my mum. No
>answer, not good.
>It was after midnight in London so I knew she hqd to
>be there and I
>kept calling. Eventually I get her and get flic's
>number. My mm tells
>me that everyone had been told that the flight was
>cancelled! Called
>Flic and we decide its eqsier for me to get a taxi
>(she lives about
>50km from the airport). I have my french friend, who
>I appreciated at
>this point, explain to the driver where to take me
>and I say goodbye
>to her and off I go. Finally arriving around 2am!
>Long day!
>Well thats 5 countries i've been in in less than a
>week! Thinking of
>going to belguim tomorrow for a day. John arrives
>tomorrow night so
>I'll show him Paris this weekend. I just hope his
>flight is better
>than mine!

24/6/02 London, Jolly Old England (Phillip)

Well, I survived a crazy day of flying. Hopped on an early morning flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok. Collected my bag from luggage storage there (I've been traveling for the past month with a small backpack, much preferred!). The final England world cup game was that day so I watched it along with a few thousand spread through Bangkok Airport. One thing I've noticed about the Asian take on the World Cup is that they simply like goals. Rarely do they actually shout for only one team, when England scored the airport leapt in enjoyment, however, when Brazil scored the airport leapt in enjoyment! Flew back to Hong Kong before stepping on a plane to London's Heathrow airport. It was almost 40 hours of flying but I managed to get two or three meals on every plane and stole just about every magazine on each airline! I figured I might be up all night reading (I can rarely sleep on planes) so I thought I should stock up.

When I finally arrived in Heathrow it was wonderful to see my mum waiting for me. She was actually only a few hours off a plane from Seattle but was in great spirits. It was definitely nice to be home...

Coincidently my best friend, John Plauche, was over working for a law firm in London. So Saturday was spent meeting him at Royal Henley Woman's regatta. Quite an exclusive and high society thing in Britain and a great thing to show John (ex-rower). My mum is one of the umpires so I was all dressed up (we had rushed home after the airport so I could change) and hang out with Britain's riches. When John showed up we wandered around chatting before getting in my mother's launch to follow the races.

I finally got exhausted around 6 in the afternoon (2am Hong Kong time) and we headed home. 12 hours of sleep and I was back again to meet John at his place in Chelsea. I've seen just about all of the uk's sights a thousand times (every time a friend of mine is over from the States I give them the tour of Britain) so John and I decided to try and go somewhere different. Leed's Castle was our choice, however, Britain's rail system had other ideas. Lines were closed and the train we needed wasn't running. We opted for the Royal Museum instead. Museums in the uk are free and so I was quite happy with this plan :) The Museum is packed with stolen riches from countries past. Looking at the loot it's amazing there's anything left out there! Seems like every tomb in Egypt has been raided and the mummies brought here! I mean did you know the top of the Parthenon is actually in London??? It's a brilliant museum though.

We spent the day chatting about the past 6 months in both of our lives and shooting down each other's ideas of happiness and success. John's definitely the person I turn to for realistic advice. I've now got about 20 ideas of what to do after I finish in December. They range from the UN or British Army of Engineers (rebuilding the telecommunications infrastructure of damaged countries) to becoming a pilot to returning to Austin. Too many options I'm afraid, but John's great at bringing me back to reality: "you don't have an army bone in your body". So my options have been cut in half. Actually the preferred route long term now is to get an MBA over the next two years (while working of course, those things cost money) and then enroll in law school specializing in Intellectual Property law. That way I could use my technical background but get to stay on the cutting edge of technology without it being my life.

After the museum we headed out to the country. John was pretty amazed at the English countryside (we only went as far as Hamstead Heath, but he's not to know :) Finally I got home last night right as exhaustion was setting in and hung out with my mum.

Today's Monday and I'm just taking it easy today. Unpacking my bags and going through the other clothes I left here in December. It's like Christmas because I've been wearing the same selection of clothing since January! I'm trying to figure out my next step. Basically I think I'm going to go into London tomorrow and talk to some courier companies. They offer flights for as low as $50 anywhere in the world, but in exchange you sell your luggage space to them. That way they can get packages in the absolute minimum amount of time and I get a cheap flight. If I can get flights to South Africa
for less than $100 then I'll head off there for a month, otherwise I've worked out some great ways to see Europe on a budget. The current plan is to take a ferry from the North of Scotland to Iceland, hang out there, connect to another ferry to Denmark, continue to norway, through Sweden, into Finland
and take a train to St Petersburg Russia. I have to meet John again in Eastern Europe in September, so I can travel from Moscow through a selection of Eastern European countries without stepping on a plane (saving money!). Obviously anywhere in Scandinavia is terribly expensive so by combining it with Eastern Europe I can break even in the end.

In two days I fly off to Paris/Versailles to meet my sister and then both of us fly to Scotland the following week. John is actually coming to Paris next weekend to meet me so I'll get to show him the sights of Paris which I'm not as burned out on yet! Plus he gets to meet my new brother-in-law, which is nice. Hopefully my morning-sickness prone sister doesn't throw up on him! :)

Hope you're all having a safe and fun time out there. If anyone's got some free time coming up and you want to see Eastern/Northern Europe let me know!

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