Flying Solo

I’m on my lonesome now but i’ll do a recap of mine and Julia’s mini adventure in south east asia.
We arrived in bangkok slightly concerned as a state of emergency had been declared on the captial but to be quite honest you would not know anything was going on. We went from temple to temple before heading to khao san road. A huge shock to me and Julia as we’ve been used to being the only westerners around, no one stared at us any more! We had quite a few beverages in the afternoon and  I said to Julia there must be someone we know on this road…sure enough 10 minutes later someone shouted ‘Sophia!’. It was Andrew Pyrah from Lincoln hall (year below) but weirder than that he had bumped in to my brother, also travelling, in halong bay in Vietnam!  us chengs certainly do like to get around…infamous really.
Had some killer cocktails on the street bars and chatted to all sorts of travellers, some are very fresh faced and on a lads do bangkok trip others were very weathered and had obviously stayed in 
the sun for too many years.

We went up to Kanchanaburi and took in the bridge over the river Kwai, we stayed in a bamboo floating raft on the kwai itself, me and julia had a very romantic night in playing the game..’if you were stuck in a bamboo cube…’.  We then took the train up to Namnok, the stunning scenery was in stark contrast to the treatment of the POWs who had actually built the railway.

In a flash (!) we had arrived in cambodia and immediately fell in love with the place. Pnom Penh is fantastic, the lakeside area where the backpackers stay had phenomenal views the whole place is just so chilled out. In my opinion superior to Thailand. We spectacted a cambodian party with interesting singing and dancing even when the rain started they just carried on dancing some semi-naked.
Our sight seeing day was pretty tough going from the Killing Fields to S21, the school converted into a torture area, some 2 million people are thought to have died as a result of the Khmer Rouge regime. I was pretty ignorant until I had got there, but that’s a quarter of the population and when you look around you can see they are still recovering from the atrocity. The poverty is very extreme here. Me and Julia spent quite a lot of the day in silence. I couldn’t believe that the Khmer Rouge still had a seat in the UN up until ’91 or something and only now are the tribunals taking place to bring the persecutors to justice. We finished our day by Watching Killing Field the film…both of us in tears by the end. 
From Cambodia’s low point to their highest; we went to Siem Reap and by sunset we were at the Angkor Wat temples watching one of the most 
stunning sunsets I have ever seen. Both of us had wanted to go there for a number of years and the site itself did not let us down. Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, a city which held 1 million people at the time London had a population of 50,000. Banyon and Ta Phrom, where the jungle has taken 
over and huge trees invade the temple. Lara Croft was also filmed there which we were quite excited by. 
 
For our last night together we splashed out on a couple of Pitchers at Angkor What? the name of which i found hilarious. We realised we were 
pretty drunk by the time we stood up, managed to order ourselves a cambodian bbq and cook ourselves snake and other such delicacies. Slightly emotional as we staggered back and I passed out in our 50p accommodation/shack type thing…Julia proceeded to get rained on as the storm passed over.

She left for Bangkok early in the morning, she’s off to some thai islands for some R&R before going back to uni and living with new housemates 
(who won’t be a touch on her old ones- jokes!) 
As for me (ah you’ll see)  i chilled out, went on the back of a moto for 45mins in the rain to a landmine museum, there are still millions scattering Cambodian countryside. Then I was befriended by 4 lads from 
Manc..who we later established all know spooner (a good mate from uni) and came from his home town. They had been taking the piss out of his best man’s speech around the time he was ringing Kate for tips! 
small world.

I took the boat early in the mornin to Battambang, fantastic journey, although i was bleary eyed  where I’m taking it easy before heading back to the capital and then the beach. soon after that I am heading to Vietnam where I am meeting Wiggy for some more madness.

and then there were two

We spent three days cruising down the Yangtze river, we found a brilliant group of fellow travellers (we were on a Chinese tourist boat) including Aussies, canadians and belgiuns. The cruise itself was very good, it’s the Chinese tourism that really grated on us. They are incapable of separating themselves from the tour group, they take buses for what is a 5 minute walk and the guides feel the need to talk the entire time through megaphones in incredible shrill mandarin!!! The scenery along the way was beautiful, including the three gorges, but we couldn’t help thinking how much more impressive it would have looked before the building of the dam, the water level has risen 250m. The dam itself is quite a feat although the Chinese seem to gloss over the negative impact the dam has created.
 One cheap flight later we were in Shanghai, the largest city in China. At our hostel we met a rather stereotypical, I’m ashamed to say, essex lad called Alan. He suggested that a bunch of us from the hostel should go to an all you can drink bar for 100y (8quid). Not wanting to sound too eager we joined up with them later and took full advantage of the free bar. The bar itself had a impressive view over the banks of the Yangtze. Needless to say the night ended rather messily… especially for two of us (Kate*ahem*julia). When
our heads stopped spinning we went to the french concession and the Old town the following day. Kate and I had cocktails on the 87th floor of the Jinmao tower, which really hit our wallets hard.  Next stop was Guilin and
Yangshao. The picturesque town where the hills are like humps…for want of a better description. We enjoyed bamboo rafting down the river, cycling and visiting a cave which had a natural mud bath and springs. We also fitted in some KTV (karaoke) in our own private room with friends. Kate and Julia had a rather sensual massage too.
After a very uncomfortable night bus we arrived in Guanzhou, where we still are. It’s the Cantonese area so I am in my element. Yesterday I managed to order some dim sum with my very small amount of Cantonese. Kate
finally had some char siu buns which she’d been waiting for for nearly 6 weeks. We have stuffed ourselves silly. This morning we said goodbye to Kate, she’s in Hong Kong for a few days before flying home Tuesday.
We were very sad to see her go, if a bit bleary eyed and hungover. But the three of us have had an awesome adventure together and now Kate has to grow up and start working!  Now we’re down to two…next stop Thailand!
Love to one and all. Keep the updates coming and thank you for your emails, it’s been great hearing what you’re up to.

“One World, One Dream”

 Once we negotiated the Mongolian boarder and Julia almost got Wild Swans confiscated! we entered into China and hit the capital, Beijing. And wow, what a few days.

The vibe as soon as we got there was phenomenal. Olympic banners everywhere, thousands of volunteers in blue tops scattered all over the city. Backpacks on, we sampled the metro, the only one where you’re relieved to get on the train because it’s so well air conditioned! We eased ourselves into Beijing easily walking by night to Tienanmen Square. It was our first sample of the smog.. it’s so oppressive the light is reflected back so it never gets truly dark at night.  Next morning, we headed to the Olympic village to try and get us some tickets, wheelers and dealers everywhere. Americans, Scousers, Cockneys and even an Essex boy. I managed to 
nab me a free fencing ticket and got to go near the Birds nest and the Cube. 
At the Forbidden City, we were plagued with Chinese asking to take our photograph, especially of Julia and Kate; they love the blondes. Those were the ones that asked, others just faced their lens in our direction and 
snapped away. I believe they have some hideous photos of us that they will probably show all the family…

First event we saw was boxing, we started on the beer (even Kate) and got our loutish voices out, supporting any country from Tajikistan to Mongolia. Ireland was also boxing, so we went to join the fans when Nevin was 
up. The banter was fantastic, shouting ‘Ji-ao John Joe’ and ‘Come on you boy in blue’. An irish victory inevitably led to an irish fuelled celebration; off to Paddy O’Sheas it was. Drinks were flowing! We made it back to our hostel for 7.  Our networking meant rowing tickets for the next day so we got to see GB 4’s win their heat, who were to go on to get the gold. We like to think the 3 of us personally contributed to their success. Our last day in Beijing, it tipped it down but we got to the wall!

It’s great to be at the games, especially with GBR doing so well. London 2012 will have a lot to live up to.

Xi’an was the next stop, with only one day the girls went off to the Terracotta Warriors. Chongqing was next, having travelled half the distance of China in less than 40 hours we were exhausted. This is another typical Chinese city, very few foreigners. They are all very interested in us at the clubs, Julia made a lot of friends with the locals. The girls hit the podium and in return got a whole host of free drinks. Amongst the Chinese pop music there is also English classics including 5ive and Robbie Williams!  
Now we’re off down the Yangtze so see what’s left of the three gorges!