Sunday, July 30, 2006


I arrived in Guangzhou from Hong Kong and went through customs again in the train station. Then some tourism guy started chatting to me about my hotel and how it had closed. Hmmm. I just ignored him and hopped on the subway. Quite far to my destination Shaiman Island. I came out the subway and staggered around trying to get oriented, eventually dragged the guide book from the bag and pointed at the Chinese characters, and the I was pointed in the right direction. I asked somebody else again and she look terrified at the prospect of the "foreign devil" talking to her!

This island use to be a trading post for the British at one point and has a few old colonial buildings. It is a bit quieter than the rest of the town, with less traffic and more trees. There is an adoption centre on the island and this means a lot of foreigners, mostly Americans, pushing prams about with Chinese kids. Lots of signs up in the shops "Free Baby Stroller!" etc.

I headed into town for a look about, I found a large park and had a stroll through that. It was bigger than I thought, and I popped out a different exit. At least there are signs pointing towards the metro. A good system for getting about. I had a look at the train station and decided I would get my tickets from the travel agent instead of trying here. I wasn't expecting the travel agents to be so busy, it was mobbed everybody is going on holiday it seems. Eventually I managed to procure a sleeping ticket to Guilin.

That night I had a look around the waterfront. This is lit up with lots of neon, not quite Hong Kong style however. Lots of old(ish) people doing ballroom dancing on the esplanade. Or skating, cycling, exercising or walking backwards (I think, they think that it's good for you). I jumped on the ferry and headed across to the other side, quite a lot of bars over here, but not that busy on a Tuesday. A few bands playing some tunes, not very good though. There is even the occasional country yokel type gawping at the female singer.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Hong Kong Phooey

Just an hour boat ride from Macau, and I was in Hong Kong. The metro links the ferry habour to Kowloon, an island south of Hong Kong island. After asking for directions to the metro I ventured forth. I had been told to go down the escalators at Starbucks. After wandering around, my eyes spotted a "OF" between two pillars. The advertising people will be glad that I instantly recognised it as the OF from STARBUCKS COFFEE, freaky!
I popped out at Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) stop, a short walk and I arrived at Mirador Mansion where my guesthouse should be located. I entered the building as a tout asked "Room? Come!" and charged off expecting me to follow, I lingered right and there was a lift, and even a business directory thing on the wall naming my guesthouse. So up to the twelfth floor and there was Cosmic Guesthouse sure enough. Very small room for the price, but it is Hong Kong!
A few blocks down in Chungking Mansion, full of dodgy looking geezers hanging about occasionally trying to sell fake watches etc.

I headed out for a look around. I headed north into the Kowloon harbour area. Here a couple of museums and the waterfront are located. I jumped on the Star Ferry, which goes between Kowloon and Hong Kong proper all day, just a short ride and cheap, only 2.2$HK. Seems like more of a business district over here. Lots of skywalks linking everthing together. I got lost in some giant shopping malls, and had a giant bowl of Laska, which wasn't as good as in Singapore!

Another day I went up to Victoria's Peak on the tram. The tram ride is very steep! But a great view when you get to the top. I got there around dusk, when all the neon starts coming on. Back down at the riverside in Kowloon I saw the 8 o'clock light show, where the lights on the building flash on and off and change colour. Strange seing it on a skyscraper scale.

The World Cup Final was on while I was in Hong Kong so I went over to Lan Kwai Fong to watch the match. Most of the places were packed, with table reservations in place as long as you spent 200$HK/person. I stood outside! It was still really humid at 02:00 and there wasn't that much atmosphere. By halftime I was falling asleep so I went back and watched the rest from the airconditioned comfort of my bed.

Then it was onto mainland China. I decided to jump on the train to Guanzhuo (pronounced more like gwanjo), and escape the traffic. After a bit of hustle and bustle at the train station (okay pushing and shoving!) just to get inside. All luggage is put throw an x-ray machine, although I didn't see anybody actually watching the monitor, but the actual train ride whizzed along smoothly.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


After my passport was heavily scrutinised at customs I was eventually let in. After checking every stamp in my passport, they stamped me in with an expiry date of 01/01/2007. I was only staying three days. When I came out, my luggage has disappeared from the conveyor belt as everybody else had left. Luckily one of the staff had picked if off and I collected it. Then change money, and find the bus. Then get some coins for the bus. Then get lost on the bus ride. I was jammed up the back with my backpack. One of the locals asked me where I was going, it happened a couple of people were going the same way, so I tagged along, jumping on a local bus and getting towards the street I wanted. I found my hotel, hiding in a tea-shop. Just a lift, like an oven, which only stopped at the 3rd floor. Then opens out to a hotel.

So once I got settled it was getting dark, so I popped out for a look around. First impressions is that there is a lot of beef jerky everywhere. Seems to be shops selling all sorts of variations on every corner. I opted for some salted codfish for dinner with potatoes and eggs. Lots of eggs, not much fish or potatoes it turned out.

Lots of museums here, so I had a look around a few of them. The Maritime museum had lots of ship models, including a chinese vessel with large boulders on tall logs with hinges for dropping down and smashing enemy ships. A formidable looking weapon. Also a model of a large 7 story Chinese war ship which was supposed to "shock and awe" the enemy into submission. Apparently it wasn't actually much use in war, just looked good!

Macau used to be a Portugese colony, granted after fending off the pirates, so there is some influece noticeable in the architecture especially around the city square, with the paved wiggly lines in a piazza-type setting. I heard a few people speaking some sort of Portuguese language, with some English thrown in. Although apparently the population is now 95% Chinese. There is a F3 race course round the city, similar to Monaco. I ended up walking round it, not by choice, but because I couldn't find a way to get off the road as it is walled in. I just wanted to cross the island. Some landfills are in operation which created Fishermans Wharf, which seems kinda tacky, with faux Roman ampi-theatre and strange mascots in spring costumes. Also a landfill area is NAPE, which if filled with tower blocks, pubs and restaurants. Apparently the north of Macua is the worlds most densely populated area.

I had a look at the F3 museum and the wine museum the next day. It was only 2quid for a pass to the top 6 museums, so not epensive. I then had a look at St. Pauls Ruins which as you may have guessed doesn't have much left, just the front facade of the old church. A small crypt houses some religous art at the back.

At night time the casino lights come on, and the rich people come out to throw their money away. I headed down to Casino Lisboa, the most famous casino on the island, to watch the action unfold. But it wasn't that exciting. I guess most of the big money, is won and lost in private rooms, don't want to mingle with the riff-raff such as myself. The other problem was I didn't have a clue about how the games worked, who had won or lost. Some strange card games. At least I just about understand roulette. Not exactly fast-paced though. I headed off to the a new casino the American owned Sands casino. With hundreds of slot machines lining the walls. Here in Macau the call them "Hungry Tiges", with jackpots heading into the millions of Patacas. Needless to say I didn't win anything.

I had a spot of Nasi Goreng Indonesian style served in bamboo, and for something local a portuguese egg tart, yummy. Next stop is the short hop over to Hong Kong.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

And more cycling!

Sukothai - Tak 70km

Quite an isolated ride in some sections, not much about. Tak is a small river side market town. Had a nice dinner of duck, need the energy! I saw some more of the World Cup on the TV. Off to bed.

Tak - Thoen 95km

More long rides, as the options for stopping around are limited. I suspect they aren't many hotels in Thoen either. I found one (the one?) they seemed to have quite a lot of cyclists as there is nowhere else to stay. I had an attached "cycling room" for storing the bike. I checked the net and there is tour groups that go through here. I had chicken curry, which was mostly bones. And my banana roti wasn't great either. Next stop Lampang.

Thoen - Lampang 90km

Ouch my legs hurt. I have a rest day here in Lampang and get a massage where lots of bones snap and crackle. There is a few nice riverside restaurant with some bands. I had a beer, and then went back to the hotel by 9pm and zonked out.

Lampang - Chiang Mai 110km

A final big push and back to Chiang Mai. An early start was in order, and I managed to get out of bed! Done a quick 40km, before breakfast. Unfortunately I ended going in a rather circutious route to get on the main road. Stopped off at a service station for some noodle power. Gah, a few hills give me problems, but mostly its the relentess rotating as the distance slowly drops away. I decided to take a small detour through Lamphun, as the road is quieter than the superhighway. I've cycled a few time between Lamphun and Chiang Mai so I was back on familiar territory for the last 30km. Or I would of been if I hadn't taken a wrong turn. Anyway I eventually get back to Chiang Mai, and head for a late lunch at Mike's Burgers. Yummy!

Off to Bangkok now. Just need to sell my bike. A couple of hours before I need to leave somebody buys my bike, yah! Get back about half price for the actual bike.
I did 2529km total in 4 months or so. Now I'm going to Bangkok for two knee transplants :)

Sleeper train down to Bangkok and head off to Banglamphu. I headed into town for lunch, at the rather posh Siam Paragon. Still a food hall, but a touch more upmarket than Chiang Mai. Like the porsche and lamborgini showrooms on the 2nd floor (umm, how to you get the cars out??)

I have a shave at the barbers, hey I want my chin back!
I pick up a copy of Lonely Planet China for the astronomical price of 1300baht (Around 20quid)

I get a taxi to the airport and crawl through the Bangkok traffic. Plenty of time to check-in. Next stop Macau!