Monday, January 29

Candified plums

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
A quick coating of liquid sugar makes these an appealing snack for many Chinese. I tried a few but couldn't really get addicted the way most Chinese seem to be.

Chinese Plums

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
Tons of plums for sale all over the streets.

Outdoor Restaurant

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
I know, it's hard to tell, but this is actually a pretty common place to eat in China. For about 25 cents, you can have a decent soup dish of noodles, onions and other random vegetables and spices. His whole setup is right there, and you can see his coal burning stove over what looks like a 5 gallon tin in the lower left.

Watching the Australian Open

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
Chris and I caught a couple matches out in the sunshine at the Opera House. AmEx set up a huge screen for everyone to enjoy and it made for the perfect spot (next to Rod Lavers Stadium) to watch the final between Federer and Gonzalez. A huge crowd of Chileans showed up to support their countryman and the Swiss were represented as well. A good deal of flag waving and chanting took place.

Local shepard

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
I found Pingyao to be full of great photo opportunites. I caught this shepard with his sheep just inside the city wall leading them towards the field of weeks out next to the highway to feed.

Smoke Break

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
Caught this guy having a little smoke break: For the three days I saw Pingyao, he probably went through 9 packs of cigarettes, hardly leaving his small spot here across from my hostel.


Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
I spent a few days in Pingyao. A small little town about six hours from Beijing, it offers a good look at what an old rural town looks and feels like compared to the modern electric cities that are more traveled.

Out over Hong Kong

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
The skyline of Hong Kong. They have a great light show choreographed to music. Most of the buildings on Hong Kong Island a wired up with neon lights that make the entire skyline dance from this vantage point.

Out on the Great Ocean Road

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
One of the quick stopoffs we made. Can you see the cloud of flies swarming around? I think one of the most annoying parts of traveling in Australia are the flies that have no problem flying right into your eye, your ears, your mouth. You end up looking deranged as you walk down the street with your hands flailing in the air cursing at the flies... I managed to keep my cool long enough for a photo here.

On a mission...

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
The 10-hour drive from Geelong to Sydney, with a pass around Melbourne. This is a about 8 hours in. Can you tell that I'm driving?

Bondi Beach

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
Our first couple of days in Sydney, Chris and I stayed near Bondi Beach. It's really a beautiful beach with loads of cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and beautiful sand.

Melbourne Street Art

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
A walk down the riverfront of Melbourne, you see the local artists out on the sidewalks with the chalk. Here is one such creation.

Friday, December 15

The Great Wall

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
I climbed nine kilometers of the Great Wall today. It was amazing. Perfect weather, perfect atmosphere and a great hike.

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

Bicycle Accident

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
I rented a bicycle in Beijing today and went riding around the city.

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

Inside the Forbidden City...

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck. Starbucks.

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

What happens when you ask a Chinaman to take your photo.

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
Um, yeah. Thanks a lot. It's perfect.

No no, really.

Me? I'm from America.

What's that? Oh, Seattle. Yeah. Anyway, thanks again!


Sunday, December 10

Jack it up

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
Changing tracks. Once you hit the Mongolian-Chinese border, the line ends, and you've got to switch your wheels.

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

Lake Baikal

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
I made it down to Listvyanka today, a small village on the shore of Lake Baikal.

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

Kul Sharif Mosque

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
Kazan is 1001 years old. Incredible. For their 1000th birthday, much renovation was done around the city center and the kremlin and historical centers. Walking around town, though, you can definitely sense its age and power.

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

From Moscow to Kazan, Tartarstan

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
Finally deciding to leave Moscow (since my visa expires Dec 9th), I made a plan to get to China: Kazan to Yekaterinburg to Tomsk to Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude and finally to Harbin, China.

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

Thanksgiving in Moscow

Originally uploaded by gregtaleck.
"Well, we looked." The only Turkey Dinner me and the other Americans could find in Moscow was 1000 rubles, or 40 bucks.

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.