Some distances and times

Total distance travelled:
39,893 km / 24,788 mi

Total distance travelled on land:
14,117 km / 8,772 mi

Total distance travelled by air:
25,776 km / 16,016 mi

Longest train ride by distance:
Yekaterinburg to Krasnoyarsk – 2287 km / 1,421 mi

Longest train ride by time:
Yekaterinburg to Krasnoyarsk – 32:23 for 2287 km

Slowest train ride:
Ulan Ude to Ulan Baatar, 28:25 for 657 km – 23.12 km/hr / 14.37 mi/hr

Fastest train:
Maglev from Shanghai to airport – 431 km/hr / 268 mi/hr

Fastest long-distance train:
Tokyo to Osaka, 2:30 for 556km – 222.56 km/hr / 138.29 mi/hr

Longest flight:
Osaka to San Francisco – 8673 km / 5,389 mi

Things seen along the way

As we’ve moved along over this journey, I’ve taken pictures of things for posting to the blog. Some of them didn’t make it, for one reason or another. But hating to waste good pictures, I thought I’d throw them into a blog posting for all to experience.

The engine of my plane as I fly down to San Francisco:

The engine of my plane as I fly down to San Francisco

Our British Airways 747 to London:

Our British Airways 747 to London

The women who decided to talk us up at the hotel in London (mother and daughter, quite friendly):

The women who decided to talk us up at the hotel in London

Amy and Nick (and me, but I took the picture) sit in a sushi restaurant in St. Petersburg. Russia has surprisingly good sushi for a country that seems to have very few Japanese:

Amy and Nick in a sushi restaurant in St. Petersburg

Siberia doesn’t have a lot of features. It generally looks like either of the following two pictures. Usually more the former than the latter:

Endless stands of birch trees

A small, nameless Siberian village

And periodically, you do see other trains:

Passing a freight train

The forests often get thicker, too:

Endless stands of trees

Another shot of the Museum of Wooden Buildings. Didn’t post this as I took too many pictures there (was unsure of lighting, etc.):

Down Main Street, USSR, er, Russia

This is a far, far better shot of the Mongolian Embassy in Ulan Ude, Russia. I think I chose the other one because it did look better … at least at the time:

Mongolian Embassy in Ulan Ude

Me at the lake in Mongolia. Wouldn’t want to go swimming in that, though. Probably not the “cleanest” of places, with all the waterfowl and horses:

Chillin' at the lake

Amy catches up on journal- and postcard-writing:

Writing in the ger

We caught a sunset at Hustai National Park. This was before I nearly froze to death:

Sunset at Hustai National Park

A line of rail car bogies sit to one side in the bogie-changing shed in Erlian, China:

Bogies waiting for a new train

Most of you are probably wondering what the toilets in the trains looked like. Here’s an example of the “western” toilets. Never did take one of the squat ones, sadly…

Trail toilet

On the road, especially for this length of time, you periodically have to do laundry. Normally, not an issue. But this is what it looks like after washing out all the sand from Mongolia:

Down Main Street, USSR, er, Russia

We hit a great little restaurant in Beijing for lunch one day, and were served a pot of tea. Make with chrysanthemums. Not exactly normal, but quite tasty:

Chrysanthemum tea

Don’t ask me what kind of store this is. With a name like that, who really cares, anyway?

Valued Squirrel

This is the view from our hotel in Shanghai. As you can see, it was quite hazy there. The humidity was murder:

View from our hotel in Shanghai

It rained a lot in Xian on our first day there. Nice, but wet:

Bell Tower in the rain

Who doesn’t want to go to a Yummy Restaurant?

Yummy Restaurant

We walked around part of Xian’s walls one night. They looked pretty nice:

Valued Squirrel

Our last meal in Xian was at a strange hotpot restaurant, where we had to get someone to translate the freaking menu for us because we couldn’t read it at all. It was pretty tasty, though:

Valued Squirrel

We made a mistake of going to the “Entertainers”, a trio who perform in the lounge of the same name at the Hyatt in Xian. They forever butchered many of my favourite songs…

Be afraid ... very afraid

I meant to post about this. I mean, really, who names their water: “WAHAHA?”

WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

At least you can’t miss the sign to get you to Kowloon (Hong Kong):

Get on the train!

Chinglish isn’t escapable, even at the Chinese/Hong Kong SAR border crossing:

No Flowing Back

One of these is the actual border between China and Hong Kong SAR. I have no idea where the heck it is, as it’s no longer marked:

Somewhere around the Hong Kong border

Somewhere around the Hong Kong border

Somewhere around the Hong Kong border

Somewhere around the Hong Kong border

Rogue vendors are so bad in some areas that private property owners try to keep them out with signs like these:

No Hawking

Ferry traffic!

Boat traffic in Hong Kong Harbour

Our hotel in Kowloon was next to the Avenue of Stars, sort of like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I found a few names I know:

Avenue of Stars in Kowloon

Avenue of Stars in Kowloon

Avenue of Stars in Kowloon

Avenue of Stars in Kowloon

Avenue of Stars in Kowloon

Avenue of Stars in Kowloon

Avenue of Stars in Kowloon

Avenue of Stars in Kowloon

Avenue of Stars in Kowloon

Jackie Chan apparently heavily sponsors California Fitness. He’s probably an owner.

Jackie Chan plugs Hollywood Fitness

Inside our favourite dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong:

Mmmm... dim sum

We had this at a sushi restaurant in Chiba. We thought it was some weird pickled eel. It was eggplant:

It was still tasty

I love pubs

Last night, Amy and I decided to check out some of the local pubs near our hotel. Here’s what we noticed.

  1. Local pubs have a great atmosphere. Some don’t, and you can tell right away — when everyone stares at the “outsiders”.
  2. All food and drink is ordered at the bar. Ain’t no waitstaff.
  3. Guinness comes in two varieties: “Normal” and “Cold”.
  4. Guinness tastes way better in England.
  5. Pubs aren’t as smoky as we’d expected.
  6. Pubs close at 23:00. What the heck is up with that?!
  7. Fish and chips isn’t just a meal — it’s almost a religious experience.

A typical British pub ... and dark

LHR

As Geoff just posted, we are at Heathrow airport paying 1£ for 15 min of time at a very bad internet terminal. It’s like the hunt and peck method is the only way to type – only my thumb and first finger are strong enough to press these keys!

So, this will be short.

We leave at 10am and spend nearly 4 hours en route to St. Petersburg. With any luck, the bages will make it fine and we’ll find the car to the hostel without a problem. And oh yeah, visa registration.

I have to say, my pack is WAY TOO HEAVY!!!!!!! I need to ditch some stuff before leaving st. petersburg! The problem is, I don’t know what to lose. I guess clothes, and maybe my UK power adapter for my ipod. I’ll figure something out!

When we next post, we’ll be in Russia, hopefully not sweating. (It’s been SO HOT in London- inside or out!!!!!!)

On the way to Russia

Why is it that British buildings are so freaking hot?

My bag finally appeared at the hotel last night. Clean underwear is a good thing, indeed. I’ve had it back barely 10 hours and have turned it back to British Airways for our flight to St. Petersburg. Sigh

Britain is a neat country, and I look forward to seeing it again sometime. But for now, the adventure continues.

Keeping it short. This internet kiosk has a really crappy keyboard!

These terminals cause tendonitis! And probably stomach cancer, too!

A little more of London

The first run of business today was food at Paddington Station. As it’s Sunday, not everything was open, and what few things were open weren’t wholly attractive. One thing I have to ask about British cuisine — what’s with all the freaking mayonnaise? Most of the sandwiches really didn’t appeal to me (I’m sure the “cheese and spring onion” is tasty, but it looks like something went bad and is seeking recognition as a sentient organism). I ended up with a fairly tasty pesto pasta salad.

We stopped in Oxford Circus so Amy can stock up on even MORE knitting stuff (I think she might be more obsessed with knitting than I am about trains — but that’s just me) before we found our way to the British Museum (not far away).

Big. REALLY big. Didn’t see much, though, as I realized partway in the door that if I see everything during this trip, I’ll be bored when I’m back here with Alex next time. So I’m seeing enough to whet the appetite and hunger for more. Which won’t be hard. No St. Paul’s Cathedral this time, though that had been a goal of mine. I can live with that.

The Rosetta Stone, anda lot of people crowding around it

Then to Coventry Garden Market. Lots of shopping. I lost Amy there, as she wanted to shop more, and I felt a compelling need to stay out of the stores. I eventually decided to endulge my trainspotting habits and went to check out Waterloo Station. I tell ya — these Brits know how to build train stations. It’s truly a shame that we North Americans have turned our back so much on train travel. It’s not only more efficient, it really is a much better way to get around.

I also made a stop at the Paddington Underground station (Circle/District Line) for a photo — a beautiful station.

We’re back at the internet cafe we hit last night — Amy managed to get a computer that recognizes our cameras, so now there are more images. I’ve only taken a few with my small camera, which is becoming painfully aware that there’s not much here to see. So I’ll work on more pictures to post.

In the meantime, Amy and I are off for dinner. Given that all I’ve eaten is the pasta salad, I need something a tad more filling now.

Tomorrow, we’re off to St. Petersburg for four days. We’re leaving behind the comfort of English-speaking familiarity for the foreignness of the industrialized Second World.

I just hope I have my backpack…

London Style

at the internet cafe

Ah, London. Oxford Street. Covent Garden. Great window shopping everywhere!

I’ve noticed that the hot item for spring seems to be a flouncy white skirt, hitting just below the knee. If I had my camera handy, I could have nabbed a street shot of five different women on one corner, all wearing near-identical skirts. Pity!

I’m a complete clumsy klutz, so I decided to leave white for more pristine skinny girls. Instead, I picked up a pair of black fishnet and lace legwarmers that look absolutely awesome as armwarmers. (And they weigh next to nothing so they’ll be my one fashionable item in my backpack!)

My nifty arm/legwarmers

But enough about shopping.

Today we started off at The British Museum, mainly to see the Rosetta stone and check out a bit of the Egypt galleries. I’ve been twice before, but it was always good to pop in for a bit.

After the museum, we headed to Covet Garden, where Geoff quickly buggered off, terrified of the prospect of shopping of any kind. Good for me, it left plenty of time to pop into shops like Monsoon, French Connection, and even Urban Outfitters. Lush has even made it’s way to the UK. I guess it’s just not in the USA yet, aside from one or two spots.

My feet (and my wallet) held up pretty well until 4 when I headed back towards the hotel. Around Oxford Circus, I overheard three (obviously gay) men on the train mention that Regent’s Park was quite beautiful, so I spontaneously decided to hop off the train and head there for an hour of sunning and knitting.

Regent\'s Park

All too soon, we are leaving England tomorrow morning first thing, for a 4 hour flight to Russia. And so, the adventure begins!

Baggage update

The backpack is actually here. However, it’s still at Heathrow (or at least was an hour ago) going through customs.

I’m very happy I didn’t pack any foodstuffs aside from the dehydrated soup. A jar of peanut butter might set off import alarms.

The saga goes on. I need a shave. I need a clean shirt. I desperately want clean underwear.

The joys of travel!

The Tale of the Missing Backpack

As I wrote yesterday, my bag is missing. British Airlines didn’t deliver it along with myself to London, England, which has left me a little understocked in the underwear department (among other things).

Now how this happened, I’m not sure. As you might recall, I had made a point of checking with British Airlines when I checked in at San Francisco to make sure that my bag was properly tranferred from Alaska Airlines. They assured me it had, and would be on the flight.

Obviously, it didn’t.

I called British Airlines this morning (and put into a wonderful-sounding queue — the British have a far more pleasant customer service practice than we have in North America, I must say!), and learned that they had found my bag. In San Francisco! It was put on a flight yesterday, and supposedly had touched down this morning, about when I had called. They didn’t know “for certain” that the bag was, in fact, on the plane. Only that it “should” be on the plane. Specifics wouldn’t be known for a couple of hours yet.

So the tale continues, at least until it magically appears in our hotel room.

Which I hope is soon, ‘cuz I really need a shave.

London, and bag gone AWOL

The flight out to London was great. Wow. I love British Airways — amazing service for an airline. So far above anything Air Canada could ever hope to dish out. The food alone was better than most things I’ve cooked in the last little while.

Well, except for one minor little detail. My backpack has gone missing. The bag with all my clothes, toiletries, and various supplies for the next seven weeks.

“Doh” doesn’t quite cut it.

Oddly enough, I was neither surprised nor upset that this happened. Not even annoyed, really. I just accepted that it was an inevitability, and moved on with the day. Mind you, taking the Paddington Express from Heathrow was a little surreal without my belongings.

We’re at the Hilton Metropole. It’s a pretty sweet little hotel — all 8,000 rooms of it. I thought the Chicago Hyatt was big. I think this place dwarfs it several times over. Our room is nice, not huge (though it has two queens), and hopefully comfy. Though after being up for almost 36 hours (save for a couple of cat naps on the plane), you could put me on a slab of concrete and I’d find it wonderful.

Wellington Arch

Did a completely self-guided walking tour through central London, from the Marble Arch to Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar Square to Big Ben to the London Eye to Cleopatra’s Needle before running into Amy (who was off buying yarn) on the Tube. Same car. How freaky is that?

Trafalgar Square

One note on Big Ben… A (strange) dream come true — one I never knew I even had. I never would have imagined that simply hearning the clock strike the hour (six, as it turned out) would be so significant.

My grandmother had a wonderful grandfather clock (my aunt has it now), which plays the Westminster chime. I still can hear the sound of that clock. Today, at 18:00, I heard Big Ben play off the tune, and then strike six times. I’ve seen it before in movies and TV shows, but there’s nothing like hearing the actual strike of the big bell. You can actually feel it.

So far, I like this city. A lot. though it is a babylon, in the truest sense of the origins of the word. There are hundreds of languages, dialects, and accents here. But unlike the biblical Babylon, it seems to work here. It’s a strange, but beautiful mix.

Now if I could just figure out how to get this computer to recognize my camera…