Oct
28

I think its rather a long time since I blogged anything and there’s probably nobody left here listening but this blog is as much for me in the future to look back upon as it is for everyone else to read so I’ll go ahead anyway! I really haven’t found much that I felt like blogging about since our return to Vietnam, we’ve just been working away and getting angry at the locals for one reason or another every once in awhile. Thankfully its NFL season so it most definitely could be worse =)

Thankfully for the previous two weeks I finally got around to reaching one of my life’s ambitions that I’ve held since being five years old: visiting Japan. Ever since I fired up my old Megadrive and Sonic and heard SEGA blare out of awful 14 inch CRT TV in super tinny sound I’ve wanted to get out to the Land of the Rising Sun. I’ve come close a couple of times; I went to uni to study Japanese and was expecting a year out there in my second year, I dropped out. I was going to be heading there in May and that got stuffed by the Tsunami so this time it was finally on.

I was all prepped and ready to go, doing my last minute packing and charging camera batteries when I decided to check my flight times, one last time. Oh FUCK. I misread the times. I’ve missed my flight to Kuala Lumpur from Ho Chi Minh. Cue MELTDOWN. Multiple curses are thrown out in a stream of profanity and I punch the wardrobe. Seriously pissed off, Linda is trying to calm me down. I finally manage to stop uttering swear words and we start looking into new flights to KL, my flight to Japan is the best part of a day away so as long as I can make it out Ho Chi Minh that night I will be okay. Breathe. This can be sorted. One Hundred and Eighty English Pounds later AirAsia will get me to Kuala Lumpur. Vietnam Airlines policy is to cancel your second flight if you miss the first as they are a bunch of wankers. I vow to never fly with them again.

After flying from HCMC to KL I check into the Concorde Inn near Kuala Lumpur airport to catch some sleep, the room is functional and the next mornings breakfast is of the instantly forgettable buffet variety. I sat with some Americans who offered to pay for my trip, I asked them to pray I didn’t miss any more flights. After that I head back to the LCCT for my flight to Tokyo. Which I thankfully don’t miss.

Arriving in Tokyo I grab my bags as quick as possible (why am I always the last bag off the plane dammit!) and get through customs. I ask the lady which train I need to take to Asakusa, I need to take one and change. I’m on the third to last train out of the airport for the evening. As I’m pulling into the next station a helpful Japanese woman asks me where I’m going as we come off she says to run and get on the train across the platform. I decide to trust her and jump on it; good call its the last train of the evening to Asakusa. If I missed that its a 12,000 yen taxi to the hostel. One hundred pounds. Thank you helpful Japanese lady =)

I got to the hostel rather late but thankfully had the security code to get in and an envelope with my name on and a key inside was waiting on the counter for me. After demolishing the mixed kebab (it was 2am, don’t judge) I picked up on the way to the hostel I got my head down for some sleep.

The next day I lived out a dream I’ve had since my teens when I went through my ultra geek phrase and spent most of my time with Matt Gardner, Richard Harvey, Paul Metcalfe and a host of other geeking out and playing hosts of computer game. That dream was to visit Akhihabara, the area of Tokyo famous for its arcades, electronics shops and palaces full of games. I walked out of the station to be greeted by a SEGA acade. I of course had to get my photo with it. I then spent three or four hours poking around and seeing what was going on. I’d set myself a budget of 5,000 yen (45 quid) to spend on games and etc while there, I could of course have spent rather more but my budget was pretty tight before I missed the flight.

I ended up in a shop called Trader full of wonderful amounts of old games, having a pure geek out, the man behind the counter nicely drew me a map of where to find the other two retro gaming emporiums (Camp which was too expensive and Friends which we will get to shortly). I had a good poke around Trader and found a copy of Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle in Japan) for the Megadrive but I decided to investigate the two other places before spending anything.

Friends was my DREAM retro gaming shop, run by a family, everything lovingly cared for, all kinds of games on all kind of formats, I could have maxed my credit cards then and there. I had a good root around and ended up picking up a copy of Streets of Rage 2 and the soundtrack for my favourite game ever, a 4 disc boxset for Final Fantasy 7. Both were in ridiculously lovely condition, considering the game is 17 years old and the boxiest is around ten years old this was amazing.

On my way back I dropped into Trader and picked up Streets of Rage, a 20 year old game, of course in beautiful condition. The CD boxset was 3,000 yen, Streets of Rage 2 1,000 yen and Streets of Rage 790 yen, 4,790 yen. Just under budget. I could have spent an absolute host more though. We are considering teaching in Japan next year, if I get to go back I think both shops will be seeing plenty of my yen!

Streets of Rage. (Bare Knuckle in Japan). 20 years old. Pristine Condition. Oh Japan.

From Akhihabara I headed back into Tokyo itself and over to the Tokyo Dome for that nights baseball game between the Yomiuri Giants and the Yokohama Baystarts; I love going to sporting events in different countries and a night at the baseball sounded an excellent idea. On my way to the stadium my umbrella snapped in two and was promptly dumped in the trash. Thank god the Giants play in a dome. I got to the ticket counter and blagged myself a student ticket using my medical emergency card from the school I teach at in Vietnam. Awesome.

I headed straight inside to get away from the rather inclement weather and took up my seat a good hour before the first pitch, this allowed me to watch the teams warming up throwing balls that came from a supermarket trolley full. An excellent system. The game itself was pretty good. The Baystars took an early lead and were up 5-0 late in the game, the Giants then hit a grand slam (or a bases loaded homer as I referred to it to an American friend who laughed at me) to make it 5-4 but they couldn’t muster another run, a long hit just falling short of being a homer with the very last hit. Ouch. I must mention the beer girls walking around the stands with a small keg on their back so you can get a draft beer without getting up. Amazing.

Draft beer in your seat. A beautiful concept.

I have to give kudos where it’s due to the Japanese fans, they shouted as the hit went up, sighed as it was caught, expressed dismay at the loss, chuckled and got on with their day. No rage, no depression, no fighting, no lunacy, sports as it is meant to be watched, it’s nice to know it can happen somewhere as it certainly doesn’t these days in England.

The next day was a day of travelling, I got up early and had a wander around the very picturesque Senso-ji temple located around the corner from my hostel, which was unbelievably well cared for, something the temples here in Vietnam could most definitely learn from, some of them are awesome but would looked damn better for a wash and a lick of paint! From there it was down to Tokyo station for something I’d been waiting for since I was a little kid.

The one and only SHINKANSEN, also known as the bullet train, it may not be the fastest train the world (an article I just found says it is number 3, which still ain’t bad considering they began operating in 1964) anymore but it’s by far the coolest looking. I loved looking at pictures of them in my transport books as a child and I most certainly wasnt passing up the chance to travel on one, so I bought my ticket from Tokyo to Nagoya for a little over 12,000 yen, the best part of a hundred quid!

Before getting on I took rather a lot of photos before settling into my seat. There was nobody set next to me for the entire journey so I chilled out with my iPod and a book and flew at over 200mph from Tokyo to Nagoya. Inside the train was lovely with wide comfortable seats and a complete lack of graffiti, chewing gum or anything of the sort. The train of course stopped everywhere on time and had us in Nagoya about one hour and forty-five minutes later. Quick.

Shinkansen. Cool.

I was in Nagoya for the F1 race and by the time I arrived I decided not to do a lot with that first night, this trip was already costing me a fortune, a bowl of beef at the beef bowl (see how that works? :P) and a check out of all the happening on the internet later and that was my evening. I made arrangements with an Aussie guy, Adrian, that I’d met at the hostel to get down to the circuit at Suzuka for the Friday practices the next day.

We got up what we thought would be early enough to be at the circuit for first practice and headed back to the beef bowl. From there it was trying and get the correct train tickets in a Japanese train station time. Once we had found the correct office (different lines, different companies, different offices) we came up with our tickets to and from the circuit, for 2,500 yen, still twenty pounds a day but better than the 5,000 the guy in the hostel had told me it would be! From there we took the train 50kms from Nagoya out to Suzuka. The circuit has its own stop and from there is about a fifteen minute walk (or 45 if you spend time wandering around trying to find the ticket collection place like we did – note to Japan more signage would be welcome!). After everything we did eventually make it into the circuit for the last five minutes of FP1.

The nice thing about the Friday of the Grand Prix weekend is that a lot of the ticket holders dont show up so you’re allowed to sit wherever you like which is awesome as you can check out the rest of the corners around the circuit. The Japanese grand prix was by far the most I have seen on a grand prix Friday at any of the seven races I’ve been to yet (GB, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Belgium being the other six) however there was nowhere close to the same numbers wearing F1 merchandise, at other races especially Europe the fans are all togged out in team gear, in Japan most people were wearing their casual get-up!

We had a good look around and saw the action from 130R (which looks way cooler on the TV, its barely a corner in person) and Spoon among others. The possible highlight of my day was going on the Suzuka Circuit Ferris Wheel, its always part of the background shots for the F1 races and has been every F1 game since the year dot, even as far back as Virtua Racing. To go on it and see the circuit from high in the sky was an awesome experience for me and for once it was something in Japan that wasn’t too expensive – 500 yen – a touch over four pounds – very reasonable!

From there it was queueing next to a decidedly weird Japanese guy who kept staring at us and making weird noises while waiting for the train and a cheap bite at McDonalds to finish the day. On that note god bless the 120 yen (one pound) menu, it literally saved me from going bankrupt in Japan, during my time there I consumed more than a few Cheeseburgers, McPorks and many Shaka Shaka chickens. If I do end up teaching out there I feel it might be the polar opposite to my year in Vietnam with zero McDonalds lol!

Day two is qualifying day and with all our train tickets already booked we breezed into the circuit without problems seeing the confused looks on the faces of many in the same situation we had been the previous day, one of the reasons I always head down on the Friday, the second being I’ve paid a fortune for my ticket, I’m damn well getting my moneys worth!!!

I found my actual seats and arranged to meet up with Adrian to head home as we were in different stands, I was quite mad to find out that my grandstand had been labeled as having a TV and one could absolutely not be seen from my seat. I did move around during qualifying so I could see the screen, quali with no TV is utterly pointless – the order of the cars on track has nothing to do with how they are doing so you have no idea. Thankfully not everyone turns up on Saturday and I managed to find a spot. It was a pretty exciting session with Vettel coming out on top again, which was not so exciting for a finale!

Sunday of course is the day of the race, we decided to set off earlier to compensate for the mass of people and managed to get to the circuit without incident. We had some time to kill so we decided to troll the merchandising stands; I’d been deliberating since the Friday if I wanted something Jenson Button or something Kamui Kobayashi and in the end decided to go with Kobayashi as I was at the F1 in Japan. So I picked up a sweet t-shirt in red that wasn’t too much damage to the wallet and changed into it then and there. In a moment of panic after putting it on I though I’d lost my ticket but thankfully I had mistakenly put it in my pocket, which is embarassing but much better than the alternative of my ticket having gone elsewhere!!

After that we decided to head to our seats, thankfully we did so early as at some point we took a wrong turn and found ourselves way over the other side of the track, thankfully all this meant was a good hike around the circuit and still settling in in time for another boring Porsche Cup race where the Garmin car finished about half a lap ahead. Yawn. A portion of steak on a stick later, yes steak, actual quality things to eat at a sports event and not tasteless crap, fancy that, it was time to take my seats and get settled in for the race.

The race was an absolute pleasure and thanks to the American girl KK and her father sat next to me who had a Kangaroo TV I was fully updated on all events in the race that happened out of my view so the TV wasn’t so missed after all! The race was a great one, one of the better ones I’ve been there for in person, a good amount of passing and action and a great viewpoint (apart from the missing TV) to watch it from. Jenson Button came through to win the race in style although Vettel still clinched the championship despite the Englishman’s win.

A victorious Englishman. Huzzah.

After the race in Japan they let you walk the west part of the circuit, from the chicane under the tunnel, through spoon and back down through 130R so I caught up with Adrian and we had a good wander around, taking photos in the best corners and checking out the barriers were Sebastian Buemi had left his mark on them earlier in the day. It was pretty cool to get to walk around the circuit and see that what looks so perfect on TV really isn’t close up. You can still see the paint from old advertisements on the in field and that the tyres for crashing into haven’t been painted in some time despite them looking a brilliant white on the TV. A pretty cool experience.

On the way out the Sebastien Vettel champion t-shirts were already on sale but my wallet couldn’t take one so it was back to the waiting line for the train and back to the hostel, with a pitstop on the way for a few Japanese beers. All in all an awesome F1 weekend.

To save some pennies I had booked the night bus from Nagoya to Tokyo for the Monday night so that gave me all day Monday to have a look around Nagoya; first I took in Nagoya Castle, which is kinda cool but knowing its replica not as cool as it might have been; the original was destroyed! From there I headed down to the world’s largest planetarium, having never been to one I was quite excited, until I found out all the tickets were gone for the day. So I was pretty bummed out as I headed to the Atsuta Shrine, the last thing on my list of places to go in Nagoya. Thankfully the shrine was an oasis of peace; I chilled out, chatted to a few tourists, read my book, watched the koi carp in the pond and fully cheered myself up. Lovely.

In Japan even the nightbuses are cool, on the back of your seat is a visor you can pull down over yourself like some sort of Star Wars character to help you sleep, which of course I did. This was an absolute pleasure, so much so that I nearly missed my get off point when the bus got there 45 minutes AHEAD of schedule. Only in Japan. From there it was back to my hostel with time for a quick nap before meeting up with my friend Ayaka whom I studied my CELTA with in Australia; she’s still living out there but was home visiting family, so it was cool to catch-up. We had some noodles; I forget the kind but they were yummy and had a wander around the Ueno part of town. A pretty cool day.

Darth Nightbus.

That night I headed down to the Hard Rock Cafe in Ueno; to satisfy one of my addicitions, as is now obligatory I picked up the pin badge from the rock shop and proceeded inside and had myself a huge plate of ribs and a smooth dark beer. The ribs were an absolutely massive plateful but they were succesfully dealt with. I chilled out for awhile afterwards, checking out the memorabilia and writing my postcards (which I never got round to posting in Japan and still have here, I’m sorry family they will be with you soon(ish)). Despite my girlfriend protestations I have to say I love the HRC, what a place!

Rack of Ribs. Pre-NOMS.

Post-NOMS. Destroyed.

The next day I managed to catch up with Adrian after getting our wires crossed the day before and we headed out to see the Emperor’s Palace Gardens and then onto one of the highlights of my trip: the Studio Ghibli museum (warning to anyone going, you need to buy tickets in advance from a Lawson convenience store, you can’t just turn up) the museum was an absolute delight; I haven’t seen all of the films but the ones I have are wonderful, I think my favourite has to be My Neightbour Totoro; I think it might be because Totoro reminds me of me haha!

Sitting down in a giant Cat bus, getting my pic taken with the Iron Giant (its outside so you can, inside the museum is a no camera zone and the experience was better for it; instead of taking pictures of everything you look at it and enjoy it, in museums from now on I’m going to try to be less camera happy and spend more time enjoying what’s infront of me) and watching the stroboscope (sp?) were among the highlights. I spent some time considering my gift shop purchases for the missus and my sis who are both big fans and bought them both some things I thought they would enjoy! (no Sara I won’t write it here, it’s a surprise :P)

Ghibli. Ghibli. Ghibli.

From there after some train changing mishaps I made it just in time to meet one of my ex-Students from Oz, Izumi, for Sushi, I hadn’t had it yet on the trip but I figured I would save it for when I was with a Japanese friend so I would know what the hell I was eating and wouldn’t get ripped off. We went to an awesome place in Ueno (a lot of things seem to be in that area) and I tried all kinds, crab, tuna, a Japanese fish I forget the name of, some kind of soy-nut like thing, white fish, salmon and all of it had one thing in common: deliciousness. The best part of the restaurant might have been that to work out the price at the end the server had a handheld device that scanned your stack of plates (different colours, different prices) and automatically added up the total. Wow. Awesome. I made him stop before he did it so I could video it!

Wasabi Kicks My Ass.

That night I was sat on my Mac in the hostel common area when who walks in but KK and her father who were sat next to me for the F1 race, what a surreal experience, its a small world no doubt!

After saying goodbye to Izumi it was time for my last sleep in Japan but I wasn’t flying until 11:45PM the next night so I had time for one last stop the next day; the Tokyo National Museum which I caught up with Adrian for and had a good wander around, its bloody massive and well worth the entry price. Some pretty cool samurai swords, armor and all that kind of thing, definitely worth a look if you’re in the vicinity although be warned you could max a credit card and decorate your house in the shop, some of the stuff is beautiful, especially the prints, WOW!

After that it was travel home time. Flight from Japan to Malaysia – 8 hours. 9 and a half hour wait in Kuala Lumpur Airport. 1 hour 40 minute flight and I prepared myself for long passport cues and my bag being last off the plane one more time. Inexplicably it was none of that, I went straight through passport control and my bag was the FIRST ONE off the plane. I scooted out of there and grabbed the last taxi that was waiting and was home within 25 minutes of my landing. I gave Linda her presents and passed out. Zzzzzz.

Now its back to the grindstone and putting the hours in for the cash as we’ve booked to head to America in Jan/Feb, so I can meet the parents, friends and family (don’t worry people – Linda is coming to England in August), if anyone is going to be in the Arizona/Nevada area during that time holler at me, it would be GREAT to catch up =) As it is I have a long long day at work tomorrow and its getting late so I’m going to go shower and knocked out a few Zzzz. I will try to be more regular with the blogging. I promise.

Love and Akhihabara

J. Xx

And incase you weren't aware please do not take movies or pictures up a girls skirt. Thank you and goodnight.

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May
16

So from Shenzhen it was on to the last part of my adventure before returning to Vietnam for three weeks. Hong Kong. During my preparation for my trip Hong Kong was a place that had had me more than a touch worried while looking for accommodation; everywhere seemed to be exceptionally overpriced and/or a dump. Given that I would be carrying all my electronics and plenty of valuables staying in a ropey shithole didn’t have me particularly enthused. Thankfully this problem was solved without problem when Linda’s cousin Laura and her husband Don offered to put me up at their place. An exceptionally kind off I was ecstatic to take up.

I came across the border from Shenzhen via the metro, something akin to being able to take the Tube to another country, which seems faintly ridiculous but Shenzhen and Hong Kong are rather close to each other. From there a few Hong Kong metro rides and a taxi later I found myself at Laura and Don’s place. Wow. They live up on the Peak, one of the nicest (and priciest) parts of HK Real Estate in a gorgeous flat. I had my own room, and ensuite, privacy. Something I hadn’t fully had for 7 weeks. Delightful.

I had no real missions in Hong Kong, there are no Great Walls, no Terracotta Warriors, no Petronas Towers or Taj Mahals. Its just an exceptionally cool modern city where lots of people speak English. I had two things to do on my list; go to the Hard Rock Cafe and go electronics shopping.

Item number one worked out exceptionally well, the Hard Rock Cafe Hong Kong had re-opened just three weeks prior to my arrival, I went down one night and enjoyed a quite enjoyable live band and the local specialty burger, marinaded, covered with ground pork, spring onions and plum sauce. Delicious. I picked up a new pin at the Rock Shop on the Peaks, which had the Peak Tram on it, reminding me of my stay and was rather impressed with the whole experience. Though as the band were on the lights were down and I didn’t get a good look at the memorabilia but you can’t have it all ways!

On my second day in Hong Kong I headed down to the Causeway Bay metro stop and found the mall where the Bose headphone shop was located, since trying out Ken’s (my Mum’s partner) Quiet Comfort 15s when they came to visit I had decided some of my own would improve my life immensely – the amount of children I’ve wanted to cause harm to in the confined spaces of aeroplanes over the years has risen to an inconceivable number! So I found the Bose Store and picked up my own set for HKD$2,580, a touch over 200 pounds and they cost 280 in England. Bargains.

From there I headed upstairs toward a book store and by luck found another branch of the Mac Store I was headed to next. This was excellent news as I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get lost finding the other branch. After some last minute soul searching I went with the 13″ Macbook Pro for $9,088, which worked out at 721 pounds. A lovely 278 saving on the 999 pounds on the UK Macstore. I worship at the altar of Hong Kong’s 0% sales tax. I had the helper guy from the shop find me a few cases for my new baby and managed to convince him to knock 50% off a neoprene one that had had something sat on top of it for some time and had some dents in it. Idiot. By the time I got home there wasn’t a single mark on it. Bwahahahaha. This meant I got a 40 pounds case for 17 by the time he scanned the wrong price tag to confound his error. Win.

My last purchase in Hong Kong came on my final day which was a bright orange watch at the Swatch shop. I love it and have being receiving compliments about it ever since, its absolutely lovely, it came in at 500 HKD, a touch less than 40 pounds, saving me less impressively 2 pounds and fifty pence over the UK store. Still every little counts!

Looking at my three purchases I got all three in HK for less than the price of the Mac in the UK. Score.

Macbook/Phones/Watch

Hong Kong: 721 + 205 + 40 = 966 pounds

UK: 999 + 280 + 42.50 = 1321 pounds and fifty pence.

Total saving of 355 pounds. Wow.

Okay lets move on to otherwise in Hong Kong. On the Tuesday evening Laura arrived home and cooked for us, despite her protestations that she isn’t as good a cook as Linda I can only surmise that chef ability runs in the family, she prepared a delightful salad and pasta for us that were absolutely delicious. My first home cooked meal in rather some time was a rather pleasant event.

The next night she took me out to one of their favourite places in the city, Pawn, where we followed a lovely wild mushroom salad with (for the first time in my life) suckling pig and that was absolutely outstanding though im sure eating all the pork fat wasn’t great for me. Still it was like having posh pork scratchings and who doesn’t love pork scratchings? That was topped off with a delightful sticky toffee pudding although sadly they didn’t have Birds custard on the menu. I’m going to consume gallons of the stuff while I’m home it has to be said.

I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Laura and Don (who I hope to meet sometime soon) for putting me up while I was in Hong Kong and being fantastic hosts. =)

Hong Kong was a great place to end my holiday, it was chilled out, there were no language barrier stresses and I got to chill out and relax. Which was needed when I got to my journey back to Vietnam. My flight from Hong Kong to KL had originally been booked around my flights to Japan and would have worked well with those flights. As it was I ended up with an eight hour wait in Kuala Lumpur from 1am to 9am. Great. I had however decided I would spend the night in the 24/7 McD’s with a couple of milkshakes and the free wi-fi.

Except I arrived to find out that the whole airport was being fumigated from midnight to five pm so I instead had the joyous experience of spending my time out in an awfully humid Malaysian night sweating my tits off along with a few other hundred disgruntled people. Nasty.

Anyway I got through all that, eventuality got a Sausage McMuffin around 5:30am and proceeded to make it to my flight to VN at which time I promptly passed out, awoke in VN, found my baggage walked across the road, found Linda, got a lift to her guesthouse and passed out for six hours while she was at work. I was back in the madhouse that is Vietnam, ridiculous traffic and all.

Love and Macs

J. Xx

May
11

So if anybody is thinking about visiting Shenzhen (and god knows why you would be thinking that) on holiday I can fully advise you not to. There are no interesting tourist sites, the weather is a touch humid and the smog is like most places in China. If however you are going to visit an old friend who lives out there teaching you can indeed have a great time.

I got to spend a week on the couch and a ridiculously great canvas camping bed in my friend Alex’s place and enjoyed it immensely. After a month of solid travelling, sightseeing, people snoring in hostels and all the other bugbears of travelling it was nice to not have any temple’s to see, any gardens to admire or any obnoxious 18 year olds to ignore. Yes, I’m getting old.

Recounting everything that happened in Shenzhen would mostly be a list of restaurants, train journeys and time spent doing very little so I won’t bore with you every intricate detail but just some of the highlights.

One of the nights we went to a massage place, which I had questioned Al about profusely to make sure it was legitimate and not some badly labelled brasshouse. Anyway he was indeed correct and the place was entirely kosher, as long as you don’t count seeing numerous naked Chinese men. Anyway the sauna and heated pools were delightful and we followed them up with a massage.

My masseus practically shit herself when seeing how hairy I was and then proceeded to be a lazy fucker who did very little but watch the TV in the corner of the room. I gave her a shit tip, which she fully deserved. We spent the night sleeping in lazy boys in there and then left the next day. It was a rather different experience and apparently an option many Chinese businessmen take instead of getting a mid-level hotel – sleep on a lazy boy, go to the sauna and get a massage for the same or less. Seems not a bad idea!

My favourite place in Shenzhen however had to be they NYPD. Yes you read that right; the New York Pizza Delivery. Home of absolutely astonishingly good pizza, reasonably priced beer and a take a book leave a book shelf. Fantastic. We went there twice during my time in the city and I could have quite happily gone twice more.

Of course the best bit about it was catching up with someone from home, being able to use the Hartlepool dialect, where words such as “Dut”, “Ding” and “Radge” are all perfectly acceptable in conversation. We caught up about people at home, the price of a pint in our local and how much we could both bloody murder a parmo something rotten. Mmm breaded chickeny goodness.

I met Al’s lovely Chinese girlfriend Faye and many of his fellow teachers in Shenzhen who both surprisingly and unsurprisingly reminded me often of people from HCMC. I guess TEFL teaching takes a special kind of individual?

Anyway I had an excellent time in Shenzhen though I still don’t reccomend you go as a tourist.

Love and Duts

J. Xx

May
02

So after a less than wonderful flight I made it down to Xi’An which I’ve been excited about since I started planning my trip to China; I’ve wanted to see them for a long long time now.

However there was no time for that on the night I arrived, so I settled for delicious food in the Muslim Quarter, a Blizzard from Dairy Queen (don’t know what the whole turning it upside down thing is all about but its cool all the same and a good nights sleep.)

I had made arrangements to catch up with two Canadian guys (Sam and Brendan) to do the Warriors in Beijing but I hadn’t got hold of them so I made arrangements with a couple of people from the hostel, one of whom was rather weird.

Thankfully Sam and Brendan saved me from this reality and I met up with them long before I was due to meet up with the weirdo (who we’ll get back to later).

So after a bit of a carry on finding the Canadians and the bus stop we did eventually get on the bus to the Terracotta Warriors, at a cost of 7 Yuan each way, rather than 110 return with the hostel “organised tour”.

Getting there we went with the order of the pits where the warriors as 3, 2, 1 which was a great decision, pits 2 and 3 are cool but nothing earth shattering but pit 1 is just amazing. The sheer amount of warriors, the detail, how well preserved they are, that every single one is different. Simply stunning.

Took some really excellent photos as well, and just really enjoyed being there. Also picked up a neat 8 inch tall Terracotta Warrior to go alongside my Ganesh that I picked up in Cambodia. Should look awesome together on my shelf back home. Oh yeah and I managed to negotiate the lady down from 80 yuan (8 quid) to 15 yuan (One pound fifty pence) and probably still got ripped off!

After the bus journey back we met up later that night at the “Big Goose Pagoda” for what I’m told is the largest fountain show in Asia. After some excellent noodles it was certainly impressive, especially with the big pagoda in the background giving a wonderful setting.

I had a small nightmare getting back to the city, the bus I’d came on decided it didn’t do the same route on the return journey and I found myself in the opposite corner of the city to where I wanted to be. A 10 Yuan electric scooter ride with a driver who was quite possibly drunk later and I was back where I needed to be.

The next day I spent a lot of time cursing my credit card and Air Asia as they wouldn’t allow me to buy my flights for coming back to Vietnam for three weeks in May. Then our friend Mr. Weirdo asked me if I wanted to cycle the city walls. I lied through my teeth and said I wasn’t planning on it but did split a taxi to the airport with him for the following morning. I mean hey if you can save 8 quid while backpacking you do it, but the guy was weird and I didn’t want to spend 3 hours cycling with him. Yes I like cheap more than I dislike weirdos.

From there I met up with Sam and Brendan again to cycle the city walls which was a fun experience all around, aside from the pedal falling off Brendan’s bike. We did manage to get the pedal back on well enough to get the deposit back but apologise in advance to the next rider for it will come off again.

Cycling the city walls was awesome, nice to get some exercise and simply a cool experience. Not something you can do in many places around the world so rather enjoyable. The less said about the crappy bikes the better however. One gear? One freaking gear? This is not the 1930s!!!

From there it was back to the Muslim Quarter for delicious street food. Mmm kebabs. Then came bag packing (bleh), a couple of hours sleep (bleh), the taxi to the airport with Mr. Weirdo (bleh) and the flight to Shenzhen (bleh). Bleh.

Here in Shenzhen I’m staying with a friend from my hometown who is teaching out here, Alex Schofield. Yesterday involved a delicious hot pot cooked by his girlfriend, Fei, and some excellent duck and sweet and sour pork later on. That was sandwiched around a trip to the arcades where I spent rather too much time on the basketball shooting game. Can’t wait to get back to VN and try my new Jordans out!

All travel related news aside I have to give some brief thoughts on the NFL draft; I like what the Bengals did with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton in the first two rounds and thought we had a pretty damn good draft! Have to say the Bills are idiots, get a freaking QB for your fans sake. As always the usual suspects made great picks and the Patriots got a first rounder for next year. If the players and owners could kindly pull their finger out and sort out a labour deal that would be lovely. Oh and I need to get me a Green Bay Packers Randall Cobb jersey ASAP!

How about them Grizzlies. Damn.

Love and Terracotta.
J.Xx

Apr
27

Hello all and welcome back to the blog, I now find myself in Beijing and have had a rather exception four days here before I fly on to Xi’An to see the Terracotta Warriors tomorrow!

There’s a lot to cover so lets get stuck into the thick of it – I arrived really late on Saturday night after waiting over an hour for the take-off of my China Eastern flight from Shanghai to Beijing! We did eventually get airborne however and despite some turbulence, which caused the rude idiots behind me who kept grabbing the chairs infront of them to cover themselves in their drinks – deserved, the flight went off without much hassle.

The extra time spent waiting meant I just made the last airport express train of the night and the last Subway train to my stop before they closed down for the night. I arrived coming on for midnight in the hostel and was soon sound asleep.

I spent most of Sunday slamming my head against a metaphorical table trying to work out how I would get to Xi’an and then on to Shenzhen, I had the May Day holiday with a lot of Chinese familes going home and the Xi’An flower festival to deal with. This left me without the option of the train unless I fancied standing for 14 hours which has never been on my list of things to do!

I ended up with a flight from Beijing to Xi’An with China Eastern and then on to Shenzhen with Hainan Airlines. Here’s hoping for timely take offs this time around! I also ended up in the Shaoyuan Youth Party Hostel as it was the only one with 3 nights available, this would have been my kind of place while touring Australia but on this more sober tour of Asia I reckon I’m going to want to kill half of the population of the hostel!

From there I caught up with a friend of Linda’s, Jeremy, who lives in Beijing, we headed out to a place that serves pretty much anything on a skewer which is great as we all know that good things come on sticks! I did find out that what I’d assumed was some kind of cheap spam like meat on a stick was in fact Lotus, and actually quite delicious but it does help when your company for the night speaks fluent Chinese!

The next day I caught up with an old friend from my Kentucky days, Tom Fearon, who I’ve now had the pleasure of catching up with on three continents. Our first port of call for the day was the Forbidden City where Tom’s crazy Canadian friend Mike met up with to have a good wander around and take a series of ridiculously posed photos which rather bemused the Chinese tourists doing the taking for us.

The Forbidden City was great, though it seems impossibly large as to have been the playground for one man! Apparently any males who worked there were castrated so as to not want to use the Emperors Ladies though I didn’t get that from a history textbook so it may not be completely correct!

We climbed up the hill behind the City and had a good look out on quite a misty day before heading off toward Tiananmen Square for a look around. You can only go and visit Chairman Mao’s Dead Body in the morning and I wouldn’t have fancied cueing for hours and hours anyway so we instead headed on to the Chinese Olympic Park from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Most of you who know me know I’m a huge sports buff and I’ve always had a love for the Olympics, its the only time I will watch sports like boxing, weightlifting and table tennis but there’s something specially about any sport when its the Olympics!

So I had a wonderful time walking round the Water Cube used for the Olympic swimming events and then taking a good poke around the Bird’s Nest itself. Its a magnificent stadium but for some reason inside it feels much smaller than Wembley in London or Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY do, I think it might be the way the roof is done rather than it actually being small but regardless its an amazing design and well worth seeing!

That night I was going to have a quiet one before I ran into an Aussie by the name of Ashley at the hostel who was recruiting for a team for the pub quiz that night at a bar not far away. I do love a good pub quiz and agreed to go along! On the way there we went past the football stadium where Beijing Gouan where playing, this meant the hawkers were out in force and when you can get a a fake jersey for 50 yuan (5 pounds) it would be rude not to.

So I went to the pub quiz wearing the green of Beijing Gouan football team. We had a wonderful time, plenty of banter and laughs. Though I will never be able to explain it or why it was funny I would like to record the legend of the book “Stalin: Your Friend and Mine” as something that was hilarious at that time and place.

We were languishing around the bottom of the order for much of the quiz but smashed the music round at the end with classics such as Black Box – Ride On Time and SNAP! – The Power to drag ourselves up to a respectable fourth out of ten or so teams. A respectable finish we thought!

The next day was exceptionally unproductive for me, I read my book, checked the internet, ate some food and had an excellent lazy day. On the night I met up with Tom, his girlfriend Shaojieng (which I know I have spelt wrong – sorry!), Mike and a girl he works with Hui for Peking Duck in what was once known as Peking.

It was stunning, melt in the mouth duck, we shared a whole duck between five with various accompaniments. I could have quite happily ordered another but it would have been greed and love of the taste rather than hunger. Along with the duck we had Tibet Green Barley beer – a delicious brew! It came to about 130 yuan each, or 16 quid, you wouldnt get a quarter of a duck in England for that. Bargains.

From there we headed across to a bar called “Grinders” which was much classier than the name might suggest – no stripper poles were in evidence and the beer menu was extensive. I tried a couple I haven’t before, Harbin a North-eastern Chinese brew and Preta Bohemia, a nice Portuguese Stout.

Last night I headed to bed looking for some kip before getting up early for the Great Wall early, which was going well until around 4am in the morning a girl in my dorm who I have affectionally given the title: “The Rottweiler” for both looks and personality who can be found boasting across the hostel bar so all can hear that like she had SEX last night – no shit? People do that? Wow. Roll eyes.

Anyway she stumbled in, smashed the lights on, flopped around a bit in her drunken state and quickly passed out. She then started snoring, but it was worse, it was like a dying lawnmower, a continuous drone of clanking metal coming from her throat. It was so bad that despite putting in ear plugs I didn’t get another minute of sleep and around 5:30am I gave up, got a shower and sat outside reading my book until it was time for the tour at 7:30am.

Tom joined me for the tour to the Mutianyu part of the wall and unsurprisingly I slept for a good chunk of the 2 hour bus journey out there. Once there we bought our tickets and headed up the cable car to the top on a boiling hot day. Like an idiot I had forgotten my hat and was going to get a pink scalp until a hawker came up selling caps with the Red Star on. For the princely sum of 15 yuan (a quid fifty) I now looked like some kind of Chinese Che Guevara replete with hat and scraggly beard. Awesome.

From there we hiked along 19 towers of the Great Wall in a journey that my calves, quads and hamstrings will not soon forget. We took amazing photos – including some kung fu shots that saw me fall over and smack my head off the wall, discuss the world and everything in it and have a thoroughly enjoyable day out.

The Great Wall is ridiculous in scope and size and it would be as China used 20% of its population of 1.5 million at the time, 300,000 men to build it. Wow. Its simply an incredible achievement and one I’m really glad to have visited on this trip.

To finish the day on a perfect note the way to get down from the wall is to take a toboggan run, no steps and cable cars for myself and Tom. We had a thoroughly good laught careening down the mountainside in a slide on wheeled toboggans, when I get chance to upload the videos to facebook they are rather comic. Including one where I have a minor accident with Tom, that saw me as fault as the driver behind. Tom didn’t get my insurance details thankfully.

After sleeping all the way home I’m about to grab a shower and meet Tom at Hard Rock Cafe Beijing to put the final touches to an amazing visit. Beijing definitely comes reccomended!

Love and Toboggans!

J. Xx

Apr
23

So the next day I was becoming more than a touch bored of Shanghai and
its hawkers and hookers hassling me everytime I walked the streets. So
upon reccomendation I decided to take a day trip to Suzhou, a place
full of canals that calls itself the Venice of the East (I can quash
that one right now) but it promised a little more culture and a little
less westerness so I jumped on it.

After breakfast I found a ticket for the crazy fast Maglev (magnetic
levitation I assume) train out to Suzhou, this took 30 minutes
including a stop to go 85km, the train gets to over 250 km/h in speed.
A rather cool experience it must be said. Upon getting to Suzhou my
first stop was the Suzhou Silk Museum, which if anybody reading this
is thinking of visiting I have one piece of advice for you: Unless you
are some kind of textiles freak don’t bother.

The “museum” takes a good 20 minutes, maybe half an hour if you read
all the signs in English to get around, the only thing I really
enjoyed was seeing the shoes the women who used to have their feet
bound used to wear, so tiny and excessively cruel but interesting to
see an example after reading about similar shoes in the excellent
Memoirs of a Geisha.

From there I headed to the Northern Pagoda, quite an impressive
structure that reminded me a little of Wutai in my all-time favourite
game Final Fantasy 7 on the Playstation. I did not find any summon
materia when I made it to the top however which was a trifle
dissapointing. From there I headed to the beautifully done Suzhou
museum which comes reccomended, not only for being free but packed
with genuinely interesting artifacts, a rather interesting place.

From there I went to what so far in my trip is the best named place in
my trip: The “Humble Adminstrator’s Garden” not the Gallant King, the
Dashing Prince or the Beautiful Princess, no, the Humble Adminstrator.
It was beautiful despite the lackluster weather of the day. With a
cool section full of bonsais and some cool pagodas which had some
awesome names when translated such as the “With Whom Shall I Sit?”
Pagoda and the “Good for Both Families” Pagoda.

At the end of my time in the garden it was raining and me being me I
was coming down some ridiculously slippery steps (great for looks, not
for grip) and absolutely stacked it. Thankfully with only damage to my
pride and a bruised bottom rather than any serious injury!

After a nice 3km walk back to the station I hopped back on the Maglev
and returned to Shanghai in time to spend an evening chilling out and
doing precisely nothing, an absolute pleasure!

The next day was my last full day in Shanghai and time to get done all
the things I had left on my list! This came down to two things, the
first the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Museum, reccomended by a
friend and despite its incredibly boring name its a rather excellent
and interesting visit. The highlights are a 1:500 scale model of
Shanghai which is enlightening; the number of skyscrapers here should
be illegal and the 360 degree Shanghai exhibit was top as well, having
a look round the major sights in, you guessed it, 360 degrees, quite
enjoyable it was.

On the night I had tickets for the acrobats, I was quite excited about
them but I wasn’t prepared for what I would see. Much of what they did
was completely mindblowing, standing on a flat board, while rolling on
a circle, with four glasses on top of board no/1 with board no/2 on
top of the glasses, then four more glasses and another board, all
while balancing on these the guy is flipping things on to his head and
they are staying there. Nuts.

Guys on stils being vaulted into somersaults buy two guys jumping on a
see saw and landing. And plenty plenty more. Everyone in China should
head and see the acrobats if they are here, between them, the F1 and
the lamb at the Mongolian place those are the three highlights of
China so far for me.

From here its on to Beijing for the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and
the Olympics Stadium. Which is all pretty exciting.

And now I have to fly, so adios and see you next time!

Love and Acrobats!

J. Xx

Apr
20

Alright I’ve managed to get on the one free computer thats best, the only mild problem is a dodgy “g” key, much better than a broken space bar! So lets see whats been going on since the F1 race.

Monday is a very short story; I spent most of the day doing my laundry and reading, other than that I went out on the night in the hunt of a Japanese noodle restaurant, after finally locating with the help of some passers by, many of whom tried to get me to take them out for the night I found the place!

I did come close at one point to eating Pizza Hut but I’m glad I didn’t give up! Such great food! I had the Teriyaki Duck Ramen with a side of enoki mushrooms wrapped in beef, which slid down beautifully alongside a tasty Kirin Beer. Genius.

I hate laundry, it was weird having to do it for the first time in over a year, I miss having a maid very much already! It took one wash and three damn drying cycles to get through. What a nightmare.

Tuesday I found a little more motivation to do things; I began the day with awesome dumplings and soup at the awesome breakfast place and then headed off walking in search of the Shanghai Museum. It didn’t seem too long of a walk on the map and without too much getting lost I found it in around 20 minutes. It was an absolutely fascinating collection of stuff; crazy teapots, amazing costumes, old coins, astounding sculptures and all for free. Wonderful.

After that excitment was over I went and sat in the surrounding gardens with my book for half an hour, chilling out and breathing what I was about to call fresh air but checked myself as I don’t think such a thing exists in Shanghai sadly!

From there I decided to have my first Western food in Shanghai, sometimes Subway just calls you! A 6 inch Subway melt and a cookie later I was feeling rather improved. From there I decided to have a look in the Nike store at some Orange basketball shoes I’d been perving on for a few days, they were so Jon you couldn’t begin to describe them.

So I tried them on and gave in, they seemed to fit really nicely and I gave over my Mastercard and they took 749 Yuan off it (Around 68 quid). I put them on and headed home to the hostel. They started to get tight and uncomfortable but I figured they would begin to wear in.

So later that night I put them on as I headed in search of Hongkou Football Stadium for the AFC Asian Champions League match between FC Shenhua Shanghai and Sydney FC. I found the stadium with no problem and was immediately accosted by a tout. 60Y (5.50) seemed pretty reasonable so I went with that, for a ticket on the halfway line in the upper tier.

The game was a quality back and forth affair though the locals as you may gleaned from the title of this post didn’t enjoy the final scoreline much. Shenhua went 1-0 up early in the first half but Sydney pulled even seconds before the halftime whistle went.

Shenhua came out meaning business in the second and regained the leag when a Sydney defender nodded a peach of a header into the corner of his own net. Sydney however were not to be denied and a beautiful chest down and half volley from their tall, balding centre forward evened things up. A tense affair followed and looked to be heading towards a draw until Sydney found themselves in the box in injury time and slotted home an extremely late winner.

The final whistle went and this cause the crazy Shenhua fan infront of me to take his jacket off, remove his Shenhua shirt and throw it from the stands while screaming before putting his jacket back on and continuing his screamin. All the while his friend looked on mortified as the surrounding people pointed and stared at the madman. That guy was worth the 60Y entry fee on his own. Genius and a great game to go with it. Score.

From there I headed home and found the Nike’s becoming worse and worse, it felt like my little toe on my right foot had no circulation which wasnt a positive. I resolved to stuff them with socks that night and hoped the leather would begin to break.

I woke up this morning and hoped they would be better but when I put them on they seemed worse if anything. I decided, without much hope it would work, that I would take them back to the Nike Store, in hope of an exchange if not a refund.

So I marched into the Nike Store, looking mildly angry, and preceded to tell the sales assistant they didn’t fit and I wanted a refund. He looked at them, told me they were used and that I wasn’t getting a refund. Shit.

I decided to get angrier, started ranting and asked to see the manager. The shift manager came over and through the employee said no. I asked to see the manager and started shouting louder. I did not want useless if beautiful shoes. I was told to wait ten minutes.

The store manager with much better English arrived, he proceeded to try and tell me much the same thin. At this point I went to most of the shop can hear me volume and he gave in and proceeded to tell me that I could exchange them but that I would not be welcome back. Fine by me I fly to Beijing in a few days.

After trying on quite a few more pairs of sneakers I walked round the shop around a million times in a pair of black Air Jordans, not my colours but wider in the foot, they will take a little of wearing in but after having them on the last few hours my circulation has not seen any problems so I’m rather happy! Jon 1-0 Nike China. Yay.

And here I am in the midst of another quiet day, think I might head to Ajisen Ramen again later and thats about all my plans!

Love and Air Jordan

J. Xx

Apr
17

After arriving into Hangzhou airport at a ridiculous time I was confronted with the prospect of a 3 hour bus ride to Shanghai itself and then finding a taxi at silly o clock in the morning. During this process I was rather mad at myself for not paying the extra 90 quid to fly into Shanghai but the next day I was back with my opinion that money is more valuable than time when backpacking!

I got to bed at around 4am that night and woke up at 9am the next day to head to the F1 for Friday Practice. Thankfully a Chinese guy in my room, who asked me to call him Kimi (yes, as in Raikkonen) was also heading to the F1 which made finding an amazing Chinese breakfast (Pork Dumplings and Hundun Pork Soup) for just over a quid and negotiating the Chinese Subway system to the circuit a cinch.

In fairness to Shanghai everything was really well set out and most things also in English. I think I could have got there eventually lol.

Once at the circuit Friday was a free day to sit wherever you want so after spending ten minutes in line collecting my tickets we moved around a few seats; the pit straight, one side of the hairpin on the back straight, the bottom of the hairpin and into my grandstand.

My seats were pretty good and I was quite happy with them for my money! The day was quite short as the Chinese GP has only the F1 and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia – a few more support races would have been welcome.

After making it back on the Subway I headed out in search of a noodle restaurant the Lonely Planet reccomended and with Kimi’s directions I found it without problem! I had noodle soup with fried chili pork and a ‘Suntory” beer, which wasn’t all that great, the noodles were spot on though, think I am heading back there tonight in fact!!

After that it was bedtime, catching up on the sleep I’d missed the night before after finishin Lou Holtz’s autobiography, a great read, read it cover to cover in less than 2 days, will keep it with me – I’ve been American Football literature starved in HCMC – and read it again later in the trip!

Saturday saw another join our group, Sean, an English lad, we went back to the same place for breakfast, had to have the amazing dumplings again but tried the beef soup instead of the pork, absolutely amazing!!

From there it was qualifying day the day was pretty normal until qualifyin, I read a 150 pages of my John Grisham in the gaps and sat around waiting for quali. Which turned out to be a rather exciting session, unsurprisingly Vettel was on pole but somehow Mark Webber had got himself in 18th and Nick Heidfeld was down in 16th. Two Toro Rossos and a Force India made the top ten, a rather topsy turvy grid was a good prospect before Sunday’s race.

That night myself and Sean headed out in search of a Mongolian rplace listed in the lnoely planet: Uighur Restaurant, and I’m so glad that we did. Some of the finest food I’ve had in Asia; A huge chunk of Mutton that came whole and was carved up, on the bone, off the bone, just ridiculously succulent meat, SO delicious! Accompanied with a traditional bread and sesame chicken and a beer it was sheer delight. The total cost came in at less than a tenner each to top it off. Perfection.

From there we headed down the Bund to see the old buildings and admire the skyline in the city centre, after taking a few great pictures it was time to turn in before the big race today!

It was an early wake up this morning and to the F1 circuit after another delicious breakfast at the same place, which is going to become a regular until I leave Shanghai on Friday I reckon!

Once we got to the circuit the Porsche Carrera Cup race was an interesting diversion for half an hour and then it looked like it was going to be a two and a half hour reading session until the race, which would have been fine if it came to it.

Five minutes into me opening the John Grisham I’ve started an American family and their friend sat down next to me and even gave me some of their KFC they’d brought in with them. I chatted motor racing and life with them while mocking the ridiculous “entertainment” put on to fill the time until race and the time passed really quickly!

The race started and a miracle happened: both the McLarens nailed Vettel into turn one and he wouldn’t be allowed to waltz away to another easy victory. Joy.

From there an absolutely engrossing race unfolded, with shit tonnes of passing and some amazing performances. Mark Webber rode the balls off his Red Bull from 18th up to third. Lewis Hamilton nailed Vettel late in the race to take the victory and there were countless wonderful performances including Nico Robserg and the always entertaining Kamui Kobyashi who was his usual active balls to the wall self.

After pounding out the applause I was ready to head to the misery of the subway lines when my new found friends, Mark, Stacy, their son Fielding and their friend George offered to drop me off at the East Nanjing road station in their car, an offer I gratefully accepted to avoid hours in the Subway system; the roads were pretty empty and I was back in my hostel less than an hour after the race was over!

Brilliant, a great day out, now for five days of actually exploring Shanghai!

p.s. the keyboard im typing on is a bit rubbish, especially the “G” key, any and all spelling errors are the keyboards fault and not my own!

Love and Kobayashi

J. Xx

Apr
13

I spent Monday being a Mallrat which I rather enjoyed and then did something very similar on Tuesday. I got up at ridiculous o clock to go stand in line and queue for tickets to go up the Petronas Towers (The Worlds Tallest Twin Towers as I was informed far too many times). After 3 and a half hours of waiting I get to the front to find out they are sold out for the day but I can buy tickets for tomorrow. I can live with that so I purchase my tickets and head into the adjacent Suria KLCC Mall. I expected to spend an hour or maybe even two there. Oops.

I spent an hour in Kinokuniya, god I love a good book shop, ended up leaving with a copy of Edge Magazine, USA Today’s NFL Draft 2011 magazine, the first book in a fantasy series Linda recommended to me and Larry Bird’s autobiography, all for the very reasonable sum of 125 ringgits (27 pounds). Possibly not things a traveller NEEDS but I’ve been doing excellently with regards to my set budgets for the trip so I thought I might treat myself. Travelling and not being a borderline alcoholic as I was in Australia is making the way much easier on my wallet, its rather refreshing.

From there I had a good wander round the mall and ended up at the cinema, I only wanted to see how much seeing a film might cost but when informed it would be 9 ringits, less than two quid, well it would have been rude not to really wouldn’t it? I went in for the director of 300’s latest: Sucker Punch, and it was rather an oddity, the special effects were unreal and the ladies pretty but it was all rather odd. From there I spent a little more time in the mall, grabbing a Subway before heading back for a quiet night.

Today I got up lateish FINALLY after 5 days of early mornings to head over to the Towers in time for my start time of 12:15pm, we watched the obligatory Petronas video and headed up to the skybridge on level 41 and I clicked my camera on: disaster! My battery was dead, I had two more in my bag downstairs and didn’t expect them to let me go back down for them but they did and I got on with the tour. From the top on level 86 and on the Skybridge is a phenomenal place to be, the Skybridge is kinda scary as save for a bit of metal you are above thin air. Being as high up as the 86th floor is stunning, buildings probably shouldn’t be that big in all fairness!

Got some lovely photos and took in the great views before heading off to the cinema again, for the cheap cheap price I decided to do a little catching up; I have banned going to the cinema in Vietnam from my life! This time I settled in for World Invasion Los Angeles, in the Premiere class of the cinema, which meant a massive chair that lounged back and was super comfy – 12 ringgits and the film was top as well. All action all the way, great stuff.

After that it was time for one of my favourite experiences in any city which has one: Hard Rock Cafe! The KL one was but a short train ride away and after I found it hiding around a corner I was happy to be there. Dining alone can often be a little miserable but being surrounded by Gwen Stefani’s bra and Jimmy Page’s jacket made the experience rather more pleasurable. Combining that with an open faced Sirloin Sandwich and a beyond beautiful pint of Hoegaarden was the icing on the cake. I happily took my time and pondered with myself, realising that this was my twelfth worldwide Hard Rock Cafe, beautiful and with more to come before the end of this trip. As is my new tradition I picked up a cool HRC pin at the shop on my way out before coming back here and chilling out for the evening, having an interesting chat with a Spanish guy named Pedro and uploading a shit tonne of photos to facebook! A good day indeed!

With that though I need some sleep before I fly to Shanghai tomorrow so I’ll wish all good night!

Love and Hoegaarden

J. Xx

Apr
11

So Friday morning on a veritable lack of sleep I came into the airport in Kuala Lumpur, smelling less than my best and less conscious than that! Through a headache I vaguely remember a bus and a train and ending up at the hostel in Chinatown. After flinging my backpack in the room and taking a shower I felt much more human again and decided it was time to head off to the F1 for Friday Practice.

Thankfully I found a Dutch guy, William, in my room heading the same way; so we headed off, to KL Sentral and for the cheap sum of 69 Ringits (15 pounds) we secured our transport to the track for 3 days, we should have considered why it was so cheap and heeded the warnings of the American who said he’d done as we had last year and regretted it, we decided he was some rich tosser and paid little notice of him. Oops.

On Friday it wasn’t so bad, transport to the track (50km outside of KL) took around two and a half hours and about two to get back. Not the end of the world. Friday was a chilled out affair, we scouted out our seats, my grandstand tickets were awesome, Williams 30 ringit tickets had no right to be as good as they were on the grass under the palm trees for the measly eight pounds he paid for them!!

My tiredness caught up with me toward the end of Practice 2 and I dozed for part of the session, 2 hours sleep in around 40 was catching up with me!! I got back to the hostel at around 6:30 and proceeded to do nothing but sleep until Saturday morning.

Heading to the track took a little over two hours, not so bad! Qualifying was rather exciting despite the fact we couldnt read the “large” screen to see who was where, zooming all the way with my camera and then zooming all the way in on the photo let us find out who lost out in each session. Kobayashi was the highlight of the day, superb exploits from the Sauber driver. Getting back took around 3 and a half hours. Grr.

Getting to the track on Sunday caused little problem, again a little over two hours, although we did set off rather too early, arriving at 11:30am for a race at 4:00pm, still we got to watch the GT cars race, including a ridiculous turned up Fiat 500 Abarth GT competing in the same race as Ferraris and Porsches – I wanted to say alongside but the only time that occurred was during its being lapped. Still great novelty value however!

After plenty of book reading and chatter between myself and two friends from Vietnam; Spencer and Emmy as well as a couple of packets of Chips Ahoy (cookies, with a ridiculous and excellent brand name) it was time for the main event.

The start was exciting regardless of the lack of collisions, the Renaults nailed the first corner and Webber lost out big time. I won’t bore with a long dragged out description of the race – if you care about F1 you’ve already read the BBC report but it was a great race. Webber’s move round the outside of Massa was beautiful and seeing Alonso pit for a new front wing was the highlight of the race! Heidfeld and Kobayashi put in the drives of the day and Button showed his ability to not kill a tyre makes him superior to Hamilton when tyre wear is a problem!

Getting home was a nightmare, we got on the bus, drover for an hour and a half and ended up back outside the circuit, how that happened I’m not sure. Thankfully I had my book and memories of an excellent race to get me through the four and a bit hour journey back to the hostel.

Oh during the time at the race I bought a really smart Lotus Racing polo shirt in British Racing Green which will cause my friends Richard and Lloyd a laugh, but its well smart and not emblazoned with a million sponsors logos so it might just be wearable in public! Huzzah!

Today I spent a day being a lazy man, in the mall, in Starbucks, with a frappucino and a book along with a pizza at Papa Johns and a sandwich at Subway. Twas rather fun to be a Mallrat. Snoochie Boochies!

Love and Heidfeld!

J. Xx