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Beijing

I arrived in the capital amidst a feeling of elation. I’d enjoyed my relaxing time in Pingyao and had regained some energy in order to be ready for what the third most populous city in the world had to throw at me. I knew there were a few things I wanted to see when I arrived there: the Forbidden City, the Olympic Village, and the Great Wall (though I’d already seen it back in Jiayuguan, I wanted to see the more recognisable and lesser preserved wall). I had about a week in mind for the huge city, and so had no real rush to see anything on my first couple of days. My first day was spent pottering around Beihai park which is just to the north west of the Forbidden City. Not only did I feel myself relaxing as I … Read more…

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Ancient Cities: Xi’an to Pingyao

After an excruciatingly long train journey from Dunhuang I finally arrived in Xi’an around 7am. I was tired, cranky, and in no mood for talking; I just wanted to get to my hostel, have some breakfast, and have a free day of relaxation. I intended on staying in Xi’an for maybe a week, then moving on to a smaller city called Pingyao, which lies between Xi’an and Beijing and is one of the oldest and best preserved walled cities in the country. Now, given that Xi’an is a giant, sprawling city with its own walled old city, I thought that the contrast between a more modern city and its ancient counterpart would be interesting enough (and would break up my journey to Beijing). Xi’an is in two parts really: you have the old city, which is within the ancient wall … Read more…

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Following the Silk Road

My journey from Chengdu took me northwest towards the Gobi desert, following the silk road through Gansu province towards the edge of civilised China. I’d decided on this route after realising that both financial and time constraints would play a larger part than they had done in India or Nepal; you can only apply for a 30 day visa in China and, though this can be extended, I doubt they’d let me extend it more than a couple of times and I feared they’d think I was taking the piss. My first stop on the Silk Road, after a horrific 21hr train ride I had to endure sat up straight, was a dirty little city called Lanzhou that was built around the banks of the yellow river (which of course isn’t yellow, but more the light brown colour of sand). … Read more…

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Ni Hao!

Ni Hao! Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, home of the Giant Panda, and the birthplace of one of China’s most delectable meals: the hot pot, is without a doubt one of my favourite cities so far. Within 5 minutes of leaving the airport my somewhat tired self was awoken by the glare of neon lights adorning the downtown buildings. Skyscrapers of size I’d not seen before were towering into the black of night, red lights flashing above followed by a dazzling light display flowing down the exterior. It was 10pm yet people were flocking the streets; businessmen, families, couples, people with shopping bags, and not just ordinary shopping bags, we’re talking Prada, Armani, Gucci; the sort of shopping bags that belong in the finest of the finest cities in the world. I don’t think it was the obvious wealth … Read more…

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The Prisoner of Kathmandu

My final two weeks in Nepal were probably the worst two weeks of entire my trip so far- so what happened? Well, after my time living in a Monastery I needed some much needed R&R, which I found in Pokhara. After that I headed back to Kathmandu with a view of sorting my Chinese visa out; this proved to be a major ball ache. Not only did I need to fly to China (I hate flying, but the roads through Tibet were still closed at this point), but I needed to book a month or so worth of hostels etc for the visa application; I barely know where I’ll be a week’s at a time never mind a month ahead! The application required that I book both my ticket into China and out of China, so I booked my ticket to … Read more…

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Living With Monks: 3 Weeks in a Buddhist Monastery

Two of the reasons I came to Nepal were to trek and volunteer and, seeing as I’d already done the trekking part, it was time to get involved in some volunteer work. Through a friend of a friend who I’d met in Agra and later Varanasi, I was put in touch with some nice volunteer leaders who quickly got me set up at a monastery on the outskirts of Kathmandu; here I would be teaching or, as the case may be, attempting to teach, Monks. I’d met many Monks whilst in Dharamsala, and whilst there I had a go at teaching some older Tibetan Monks a bit of English, which you can read more about here , but the prospect of teaching younger Monks, some of which we named ‘Monkeys’, was a different situation altogether; I found it both exciting and … Read more…

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Annapurna Circuit Part 2: Thorung La Pass to Birethanti

Eager to get down the western slopes of the pass, I made no time for messing about. The walk from Thorung Phedi to the marking of the pass, though short, was difficult to say the least; not only was it a steep hike all the way up, but the lack of visibility and the biting cold just made the whole thing tiring so, keen on getting some rest, I picked up pace on the way down. I noticed straight away how the landscape once again changed, but on this side the area was open. I could see mountains many miles ahead of me, towering over the now sandy coloured slopes, and could even see the settlement I’d be staying in: Muktinath. The ground was now dusty and full of loose rocks but, unlike the cold and fog that plagued the … Read more…

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Annapurna Circuit Part 1: Besisahar to Thorung La Pass

As said in a previous post, trekking was something that I definitely wanted to do whilst in Nepal so, after deciding on the Annapurna Circuit, I bought my permits (costing $40 total) and sourced some much needed gear. I’m not going to bore you with a checklist of what you need to buy, you’re not idiots, and if you really want one, there are plenty of other blogs out there with endless lists of things you will and won’t need. However, I will mention that, as a Diabetic, I took precautions in the form of a spare pen and an extra supply of strips, just in case I were to lose any. I also made sure I had at least one bar of chocolate in my pocket each day (the only sweet things you can find on the trail). Before … Read more…

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Entering Nepal: A Few Days in Kathmandu

I left India a little disheartened. I didn’t want to leave the country I’d spent months in, travelling around, meeting amazing people, and seeing things I’ll never forget (for good and bad reasons), but by this point I was already halfway towards Kathmandu. I’d already crossed the Nepalese border, paid the $100 for a 3 month visa, and witnessed the start of the monsoon season- yes, it had rained ever since crossing the border; the scorching heat of Varanasi and India was well and truly behind me. Winding along, following rivers on roads barely wide enough for a single coach, let alone two trying to race, we made our way higher and higher into lower lying mountains before dropping down into Kathmandu valley. Now, I’d always thought that Kathmandu was a single city area which made the capital of the … Read more…

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Diabetes in India: Food and Supplies

This topic is probably going to be split into a few posts as there’s too much to cover in one, so I’ll just cover food and supplies briefly in this post. So, if you read my blog you will know that way before I left on my adventures I wrote a post about the issues of travelling with diabetes; which included Supply Worries, appointment worries, and general diabetic woes that could be made worse abroad. All in all, most of what I worried about was complete nonsense as India isn’t the third world developing country that the media seems to portray it as. Yes, of course there are parts of India that are underdeveloped, but these aren’t generally the sort of places a traveller would go to (a journalist perhaps, but not a traveller). So, what did I learn in India … Read more…