Ulan Baatar – Home of the original G Unit

May 25, 2011 Leave a comment

After taking an overnight train from Erlian to Ulan Baataar (the capital of Mongolia) we got set up in our hostel and then went out on the town to see the sights. The sights turned out to be just one

Statue 1

or two

statue 2

statues of Ghengis Khan. Apparently they are trying to revise his memory a little bit and turn him into a real national figure, so dozens and dozens of statues like this have been put up in the last couple of years.

Other than Ghengis Khan (called Chenggis Khaan here) statues, there wasn’t really anything else to recommend Ulan Baataar for. It looks like the Soviets showed up with some concrete moulds and a boatload of concrete powder and went to work. The city really is just concrete soviet apartment block after concrete soviet apartment block, sometimes this is punctuated by the odd glass skyscraper but those are well and truly few and far between.

Mongolian school

Because there wasn’t really much to do in the city itself, we went on a drive to a close by National Park. Overnight the temperature had dropped by at least 30 degrees Celsius so I went from T shirt to two T shirts, a hoodie and a jacket over the top in the space of about 10 hours. Our driver told us that this is normal in Mongolia and the weather changed really really rapidly. Anyway here are some photos of the National Park.

National Park

David freezes to death

Giant rock

After freezing to death we hopped back in the car and drove for an hour or so to a giant (and I do mean giant) statue of Ghengis Khan. The photos really have to be seen to be believed because this is just a huge statue in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Apparently they built the statue as the first part of a huge museum and tourism complex, but no tourists actually came. Ouch. We were the only people at the statue besides a couple of construction workers that seemed to be having lunch in their van.

Super Ghenghis

David v Genghis

And that’s really all there was to see of Ulan Baataar. Off to Irkutsk on the train!

As usual more photos are stored right here.

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Categories: Photos, Ulan Baataar

Sneak Preview 2

May 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Coming up next:

Sure, you could fit in there easily
Damo tries to hide from the Chinese border authorities

Dirt flavour chips
The gang eat soil flavoured chips

Categories: Sneak Preview

David the 8 year old visits Dinosaurs

May 14, 2011 6 comments

Dear Ms. Teacher-lady,

One time I caught a BIG train from Beijing with my friends. It was exciting at first because trains go really fast! But then it got boring and we saw lots of sand and windmills.

Beijing-Erlian Scenery

After a loooooong time (it was so long that I tried to stay awake but I just couldn’t!) we stopped at Erlian station and got to leave the train yay!

I got to sleep in a proper hotel room with my favourite friend Oli and it only cost me $7.10 and I got to sleep in a big bed by myself and everything. But I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited about seeing the dinosaurs that live in Erlian that I had to get up and go for a walk with my friends at night time. It was way past my bedtime but they said it was ok!

Hotel Rooms

Every building was lit up with neon lights and it looked like the future! Not a bad future like when the planeteers had to give up their rings, but a good one like when the ninja turtles finally beat shredder, yay! I tried to take photos but I was so excited that I forgot my camera! How silly! It was really pretty though, they even had a carnival with dodgem cars in the main square!

In the morning we went back to the main square and there was a park next door that had statues of all my favourite dinosaurs! I got my photo taken with every single one and sometimes my friends joined in. Some old man even gave Oli a hat! Old people are weird.

Comradesaurus

Dino statues 1

Dino statues group

Cool old guy

My favourite one was the T Rex though

Raaaaaargh!
Raaaaaargh!

The next day we got in a taxi and went to the Dinosaurs Fairyland museum. They had real dinosaur bones there, as well as statues we could climb. They even had stegosauruses and baby dinosaurs and a t rex head and dinosaur eggs and I saw some dinosaur rocks that looked like a tree! Dinosaurs fairyland is my favourite place ever!

Dinosaurs Fairyland

Erlianasaurus

Damo being eaten

Dino tree

My friends took me to a place called Macro’s to eat lunch because I told them it was lunch time and we have to eat or teacher-lady will get mad. Macro’s is a KFC/Mongolian take-away store that was founded my a Chinese fighter pilot that was brainwashed by the Americans before going back home to his parent’s house to make hamburgers. Or something? I tried to follow the pictures but it was confusing. I hope Macro’s story had a happy ending.

Macro's

After lunch we went to see a giant statue of two brontosaurus kissing over a road. I was scared at first but then our taxi driver said that the brontosaurus fell asleep a long time ago and they can’t hurt us now! I took some photos but not too many because kissing is gross and it can make you sick!

Kissingsaurus 1

That’s me standing on the road. I hope mum doesn’t see!

Kissingsaurus 2

Kissingsaurus 3

The next day my friends made me catch a different train to a place called Mongolia. I hope that dinosaurs live in Mongolia too!

Bye bye,

David.

PS
Devolution of man

Sneak Preview

May 10, 2011 1 comment

Next week on Phineas Fogg:
Plummeting ratings

What the?

Prepare yourselves

2 Fast 2 Beijing

May 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Im still new at this whole internet writing thing, and I’m not quite sure how to format all of this; so I’m just going to dump a whole lot of words about the rest of our time in Beijing. Let me know if it doesn’t make sense!

Jinshanling – Great Wall

On Tuesday we travelled in a bus about 2.5 – 3 hours out of Beijing to go see the Great Wall at a place called Jinshanling. I’ve been to the Great Wall before at a different site called Badaling (which is the main place tourists go to see the Great Wall), and to be honest it wasn’t really that impressive. The Wall at Badaling has been completely reconstructed to deal with the huge amount of tourists visiting it. Basically it is a lot wider and has very gentle slopes when compared to “real” sections of the wall. it’s also completely full of tourists so it’s hard to get good photos.

The attraction of Jinshanling is that it (apparently) hasn’t seen much reconstruction. The Great Wall was built pretty much entirely on hilltops and mountaintops, so we had to take a cable car up from the parking lot to get to the Wall. It’s two people in each of the cable cars and you both enter at the same time from doors on either side; Mike and I immediately got in and clashed our heads together. A great start to the Great Wall! !(Editor’s note: I’m so sorry I just typed that)Cable Cars at Jinshanling

The hike on the section of the Great Wall we were walking on was 4km each way, and we had 4 hours to do it in; but honestly it was a lot of hard work because we are all super fat the stairs in the wall got pretty close to 90 degrees in places, this might be a bit difficult to see from the photos but it was a lot of work!
Everyone at The Wall

After getting to the end of the “open” section of the Wall we found a sign in incomprehensible chingrish so we decided to keep going. Past this sign the Wall was basically falling apart – and we had to walk on dirt tracks to get around some blocked sections and we couldn’t climb up into any of the turret towers.
No walls at The Wall

Trespassing?
Anyway we only had about 4 hours at the wall so after a while we had to turn around and head back to the cable cars. On the way back I thought it would be a good idea to show my athleticism and peak physical condition by jumping down a flight of stairs on one section of the Wall and landing right on my ass in front of a bunch of Chinese schoolchildren, forever proving that I’m uncoordinated and that white men can’t jump.

Dragon Escalator

To say Damo was looking forward to this is to say that Karl loves his muffins (injokes, yay!) It was a bit of a pain to get to (2 trains and 2 buses), but Anna saved the day a few times due to her fluent mandarin (though some old guy told her that she talked like a “mountain man”). The Dragon Escalator is located at Longqin Gorge (which was about 2 – 3 hours out of Beijing using public transport – travel was a whopping $2.50 each way). Anna didn’t know the Mandarin word for “gorge” so she had to ask for the way to the “big hole”, but we eventually got there.
Dave at the Dragon escalator

Longqin Gorge is basically an elevated lake that’s been dammed and is surrounded on all sides by really steep cliffs with dramatic drops – a few of the cliffs have large Chinese characters carved into them and painted in bright red, which looks pretty neat. Longqin Gorge is also the home of King Kong Temple, so… there’s that.
King Kong Temple

Anyway the escalator is basically 6 separate escalators that take you up the side of a cliff wall, to get to the top of the dam. The escalators have been enclosed in a big yellow dragon that honestly looks pretty amazing – check out the photos. So we went up the Dragon, and got a boat ride around on the lake up the top for 30 or 40 mins, the scenery was great but it was bitterly cold, there was still ice on the water in some places (as well as loads of dead fish). We also saw a guy riding a motorbike on top of a wire suspended about 40 or 50m off the surface of the lake, which is pretty amazing in and of itself, but there was also a guy hanging from the bottom of the motorcycle doing acrobatic stunts which tilts the whole show from amazing to downright ridiculous.

When the boatride was over we went into the “Cave of 1000 Flowers” which is an artificial cave filed with artificial flowers and the absolute worst dioramas I have ever seen. I don’t want to say that this was my favourite bit, but… the crappy dioramas were my favourite bit. After exiting the Cave of Tinsel and Store Bought Stuffed Animals we caught a toboggan down to the base of the Great Dragon. I crashed my toboggan into Damo’s because I was busy taking glamour myspace shots of myself and not paying attention. I’m so embarrassed…
Giant deer or tiny man?

Temple of Heaven – old people + circular mound

We slept in a bit on Thursday and went to the Temple of Heaven, which is a large Temple and park complex in Beijing. The most impressive thing was hundreds of old people exercising and dancing. I fully realise how stupid that sounds, but they were playing all of these balance games and really putting us to shame. It doesn’t really come across that well in the photos though…

The Altar for Good Harvests (the centrepiece of the Temple of Heaven) is in the exact same style as the Forbidden City (down to the paint job) except round, so it wasn’t really that interesting to be honest. The personal highlight was when I made everyone walk for about 20 mins to get to the Circular Mound that was marked on the map of the Temple of Heaven. The Circular Mound was even less impressive than it sounds and here’s a great photo of me looking super enthused about the whole situation.
Circular Mound Yay!

On the way back to the hostel we found an underground shopping centre that only stocked “counterculture” clothes right around the corner from the hostel. Of course, being China, everything was fake so it was kind of neat to see stickers for “Veirns” instead of “Vans” – also does this make it more or less punk? Ugh, subcultural dilemmas…

The only reason I bring this up s because I finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of buying a Che Guevara style Communist cap. I was already foiled at a Communities for Communities trivia night and auction (I mistakenly bought a Resident Evil hat instead – an easy mistake to make).

Olympic Park + Loius Vutton 

Friday was our last full day in Beijing and we decided to go see the Olympic Park, which is basically the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Water Cube. It was pretty neat and we took a whole bunch of photos of ourselves doing goofy things + I saw a guy walking around in a Bugs Bunny suit for no reason, so that was exciting. One thing I didn’t realise is that there are a concrete walking paths all around the Bird’s Nest Stadium that “extend” the idea of it being a Bird’s Nest – they intertwine and intersect each other at odd angles and it gives the whole place a pretty unique look.
My, what a nice hat you have

After the Olympic Park we just walked around Beijing and did some shopping and general touristy-stuff. We found the Beijing equivalent of Newtown – the only difference was that instead of 50 thai food restaurants it had 50 guitar shops, and someone had renamed the Enmore Theatre into Mao’s Livehouse, weird. I bought a flagrantly logo-ed Loius Vutton belt off some street vendor for about $2.10 to replace my old (and shamefully un-logo-ed) belt; between the new belt and the hat I left Beijing much more stylish than I entered it.

Anyway, I’m putting photos up on a Photobucket page here for everyone to look at if some people just can’t get enough. Obviously there’s a lot more photos up there than what will be appearing over here. It takes a long time to go through and organise and name all the photos, so if you come across ones that aren’t labelled, just leave a comment here and I’ll try and get to it.

Categories: Beijing, Photos

Beijing

May 2, 2011 1 comment

Made it to Beijing last night in one piece. After getting ripped off by the taxi driver, I made it to the hostel at about 3am. International travelling is fantastic!

We walked around the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square for the whole day before going into a little restaurant at about 3pm and eating pretty much everything on the menu. You can only enter the Forbidden City at a specific point, and you can only enter Tiananmen Square from a specific point so we spent about 2 hours trying to enter both places and failing miserably. All the guards yell at Anna in Mandarin when her dumb white entourage does something stupid, which is pretty funny to watch.

Anyway here are some photos, one of me posing in front of the Gate of Eternal Peace and Harmony, and one of me trying to copy Beijing graffiti:

Forbidden City

Graffiti posing

Categories: Beijing, Photos

Baby steps

April 30, 2011 1 comment

Ok I’ve spruced up the place a bit and added some nice photos: Future City USA and Teddy Roosevelt as a monster from Where the Wild Things Are, so I think I’m getting the hang of this a little bit.

I also added some links on the right to websites that some of my travelling companions are updating as we go along. This seems kind of stupid because won’t we all be just writing about the same things? Hmmmm…