Monday, January 29
Friday, December 15
We passed through 31 watch towers, all in various states of disrepair and renovation. Half way through, we stopped for a picnic lunch and soaked in the surrounding country side.
This section of the Wall is at Simatai, built around 600 years ago, and takes about 3 hours to reach from central Beijing. The best part was going in the off season, to a remote section, our minibus of 10 tourists were the only ones we saw all day long. We really had the Wall to ourselves.
Wednesday, December 13
I think it was the most dangerous thing I've done all year.
Every road is packed with bikers and cars and buses and trucks. I luckily made it unscathed on the roads but just had one accident.
I made it up to the Temple of Heaven, parked my bike, toured the Park and Temples for a couple of hours and returned to get my bike to grab some lunch, feeling the emptiness of my stomach. I got out of the park and back to the "bicycle parking lot", not unlike the one in the photo, and found my bike blocked by two others. I grabbed the first one and slid it out of the way.
Then, as I grabbed the second, the handle bar of the bike blocking mine got snagged on the spokes of the wheel of the bike next to it. Not seeing this, I still pulled it out, twisting the front wheel of the other bike.
Yeah, I think you know what happened next.
Thump.... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thuuuuuump... ThuThuThump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thum Thum Thum Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thump... Thuuuuump... Thump... Thump..Th... Th ThumThuThump.
Must have been fifteen seconds for all of them to come tumbling, crashing down, wheels spinning, handle bars twisted together. I could only just stand there and stare in wild disbelief of what had just happened on this crisp, clear afternoon.
With my stomach growling for lunch, I whisked my bike out and onto the sidewalk in half a second and was pedaling away as fast as I could, looking only over my shoulder once, with the brief thought "Maybe I should take a photo of this..."
Tuesday, December 12
Sad, I know. Actually, the entire Palace Museum (the official name of the Forbidden City) is a bit of a let down. It's one of the highlights of visiting Beijing, but, because if its forbiddenness, you enter expecting more than what you get.
I made it there early today, arriving at 10 o'clock to try to beat the crowd.
However, after about thirty minutes of being trampled by other tourists, cut off by other tourists, my photos being blocked by other tourists, tourist souvenirs being thrust in my face, I could no longer try to imagine this place without tourists.
Monday, December 11
No no, really.
Me? I'm from America.
What's that? Oh, Seattle. Yeah. Anyway, thanks again!
Sunday, December 10
Here you can see the car next to us being lifted up to remove their bogeys and replace them with ones for the Chinese narrow gauge.
The whole process took us about five hours at the Chinese border, both with customs and immigration and then changing wheels.
Friday, December 8
Here's one of the ferry docks. Completely frozen over. One week ago and I would have been able to reach a small island to the north, but now there is too much ice up there for the ferries to be running.
Baikal is huge. It contains 20 percent of the worlds unfrozen fresh water, and, volume-wise, is larger than all of the American Great Lakes combined. It's also the worlds deepest lake at 1620 meters at its deepest.
I spent just the afternoon here today, walking along the shore, stopping for some coffee, then some lunch, before catching a minibus back to Irkutsk. I'd really love to return in the summertime and do some trekking around the shoreline.
Tuesday, November 28
The Tartarstan people are very proud of their capital, culture, and history. I can’t tell you how many people I met here who were adamant that Kazan and Tartarstan was the best of Russia; and everything else was a waste of time!
sense its age and power.
Monday, November 27
The train left Moscow for Kazan from the Kazansky Vokzal (station), and my friend Sarah (whom I met in Tallinn as well) came along to see me off in the Russian tradition. We met Andrew from Ukraine there who was with a lady he met only 15 minutes before on the Metro also going in my direction and we shared some beers and stories before I departed.
I slept in the "platscart" Wagon #1, seat 24. The platscart is the open carriage where about 50 people all sleep in little divisions of 6 people in 3 bunkbeds. Only the older man sleeping across from me spoke a little English. And with my little Russian phrasebook we had a nice evening and morning trying to converse.
The oddest part was being awoken at seven in the morning by the bright lights of the carriage and a mix of Justin Timberlake, Madonna, and Eminem on the radio in the wagon. Maybe the carriage stewardess was a fan? Maybe that's the only station they can get here? Maybe they just like American pop in the morning. I have no idea...
Thursday, November 23
Sorry, but I don't trust the Russians enough to make me a Turkey dinner that's worth that much. We ended up at an American bar & grill and I had a Turkey Club with fries instead, and watched the Miami Dolphins beat Detroit. Not too bad of a Turkey Day.