Well I’m still in Beijing, though I leave tonight on a 40 hour train to Urumq1. It’s a long way but at least I managed to get sleeper tickets; there was only seats left for the next 10 days so I waited until 7pm when the tickets for 11 days in advance went on sale. By 2 minutes past 7 there were only bottom bunks left, I assume travel agents who know people working at the station snap up tickets before they go on sale to the public. Anyway, I got a ticket and will leave Beijing at 6:36 tonight. In 2 days I’ll arrive in Urumq1, site of the massive ri0ts last Ju1y 5. I’ve heard from another tourist who went there that there is still no internet access, domestic and international text messages are still blocked and you can’t make an international phone call. It’s almost 2 months since the troubles and from everything I’ve heard things are peaceful but communications may be locked down until after the 6Oth anniversary of the founding of China on 0ctober 1st. It’s hard to believe for people who haven’t been to China or haven’t opened their eyes while here that the government has such complete control.
Earlier in the week I headed to Dalian to catch up with some friends who live up there. It took me 11 hours in a bus with minimal air-conditioning to get there and I spent my time hanging out with them as much as possible. There didn’t seem to be many must see sights but it seemed like a very liveable city with a cosmopolitan feel to it. Lots of Russians apparently come to the beaches there though I doubted that they would be up to Australian standards. There’s also a big Korean population though my search for Sujeonggwa, our favourite drink while in Korea, wasn’t successful. Apart from a bit of wandering I spent most of the 2 days my friends were at work sheltering in the air-conditioning and watching movies online. Being able to go to the cinema for quality (as opposed to Hollywood) movies is something I really miss while travelling so it was nice to have time to do that.
Back in Beijing I moved out of my apartment to a cheap hotel near my friend’s bar, picked up our Tajik visas and tried to pack all my stuff into the 2-3 bags I have with me. I’m not quite sure how it happens but my bags are always bursting full, even when I haven’t bought anything much. Some of it is because I was planning on sending a package of stuff to Brett’s place but couldn’t. Apparently they frown upon posting massive Uyghur daggers. We’ll try again in Kashgar or from Kyrgyzstan.
From Urumq1 I splurged on a flight to avoid another 24 hours on the train to Kasghar. I’ll get in a few days before Brett and will try to find some people to share a car across the Torugart Pass in to Kyrgyzstan. We’re both looking forward to hitting countries number 20 and 21 that we’ve visited together and to seeing something new. At the moment we have no idea when Brett is headed back to work but we’ll adjust plans accordingly.
Tags: Beijing, Dalian
Apologies to anyone who was waiting with bated breath for my weekly update last week but I’ve been a little tardy. Mainly because there’s not a lot in my day to day life at the moment that warrants blog space. I’ve been going to class, taking care of visas and passports and watching a lot of Desperate Housewives. By now I seem to know people at the German embassy by name and I ran into a familiar couple at the translation place. In the morning on my way to class I always seem to walk behind the same lady as she takes her dog out for a walk. Following the big balled bulldog as he waddles down the street I realise that maybe this is what normal life might be like. Routine. Knowing what next Wednesday has in store for you. It’s what I wanted this break but I’ve had enough, 2 weeks of settled life seems to have satiated that curiosity and now I’m looking forward to moving out at the end of the lease, heading to Dalian and exploring a bit before taking the train across to Kashgar to meet Brett again.
We’re off to Kyrgyzstan first (and we have the visas to prove it). Next up is Tajikistan but I’m still working on getting those visas. They needed a letter from our embassy saying that, like our passport states, we are American/Australian. So off I toddled to the respective embassies and I have the letters but have to wait until my Chinese visa is extended before I can hand in the Tajik application. This time I jumped through the ridiculous hoops and opened a bank account. To extend a tourist visa for 1 month they needed me to open a bank account at the Bank of China and deposit 25,000 kuai (US$3,675). It’s a useless account, I can’t take money out anywhere but Beijing and it can only be closed in Beijing. Just perfect for someone who’s travelling around the country, as I will be again as soon as these visas are taken care of.
In other news facebook is still blocked and I was told by a teacher at my school that Central Asia is “about the same” as China so why am I bothering to go there? When I asked if Japan and China are “about the same” he said I had misunderstood his point. My Chinese may not be perfect but I know ignorance and arrogance when I see it. My usual teacher is great so hopefully I won’t have to sit through another class with this schmuck.
Tags: Beijing, China