Archive for September, 2006

Quick update from Sibera

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Just a very quick update from an Internet cafe in Irkutsk, basically everything is on track. Weather is still stunning but getting colder, Lake Baikal is about as beautiful and dramatic as you could hope for.

Tonight is my last night in Russia as we cross the border into Mongolia sometime tomorrow morning. Hopefully that’ll not be too much of a pain but we’ll see.

More when I have the chance.

Quick update …

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Six minutes on the timer. Eeek. Everything is running to plan, maybe it here in one piece. No major hassles, although I did almost miss one of my flights.

No time to talk about the places I’ve visited. I’ll add more when I get the chance.

Posted in the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg.

Things I have learned today

Saturday, September 16th, 2006

Today I’ve learned several things, some by experience, others by observation and a few by tuition.

By experience I’ve deduced that holding your farewell leaving do in a pub that stocks extra-strong imported European lager is a pretty bad idea. Regardless of how ‘good’ you think you’re being, cycling around drunkly at one in the morning is never going to provide the best launch to your adventure.

Thus today has been a mixture of hangover, embarassment (“You reek of boose”, said my lift to the airport), more beer (to try and fix the first two), nausea, more embarassment, and a general headache that’s only now subsided. At midnight.

But I’ve had the chance to spend some quality time with people over the last few days, free of the yoke of work (well I am, they’re not). I’ve received some good advice, some heartfelt “don’t die”s and a few tips from people that have trodden some of my path before. For instance, in Hong Kong, I know to take a cable car, visit the large temple and try the food, and always turn down the first two sets of prostitutes they parade out for you.

As a final observation, being in a major airport in the middle of the night is probably one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had, I hope this bodes well.

More when I get the chance.

Posted in a net cafe, in an airport, drunkish, after midnight, on a deadline and without the luxury of a spellcheck. Deal with it.

Tomorrow it begins

Friday, September 15th, 2006

Thirty days, nine time zones, eight cities, six languages (at least), five currencies, four countries, three different alphabets, and me doing a thirteen thousand two hundred and sixty two miles (ish) round trip.

There should be some stuff appearing on the site, but we’ll have to see how it goes. In the meantime I thought I’d share some links that I’ve been using to help.

First up, “The Man in Seat Sixty-One… ” the site mostly responsible for this whole trip. Basically it covers how to travel to anywhere without flying and how to get around by train and ship once you get there. It has a dedicated Trans-Siberian page with pictures of the trains, tips, timetables etc. It’s a fantastic site, more so because it’s not profit driven but done by someone who just has a love of the subject. A good read even if you’re not planning a train journey anywhere and required reading if you are.

I’d like to recommend a travel site with good country or city guides but most of them aren’t great, you can always try Rough Guide or Lonely Planet but they want you to buy the books so the free stuff is patchy at best. Sites like tripadvisor that have user content are only has good as the contributions and I find most of them badly laid out and too full of ads. Late in the planning of the trip I found Wikitravel, pushed down the Google results by all the sites wanting to sell you stuff. It’s exactly what you think it is, a travel guide in wiki format — again only as good as it’s contributors but nicely laid out, ad-free, and it has lots of decent content all licensed under creative commons. It also took me ages to find a site with decent health information for travellers until I found MDtravelhealth.com which is, simply put, excellent.

Shopping wise I picked up a lot of the stuff I’m taking second hand from friends (thanks all) and a fair bit of stuff off ebay or Amazon* (mostly the Marketplace). The rest is from good old fashioned bricks and mortar shops. Bookwise I’ve really liked the Lonely Planet phrasebooks, the Berlitz city guides but my main reference on the trip will be the Lonely Planet Trans-Siberian Railway* book. For travel money I’ll be trying Travelex, I normally go with the Post Office but Travelex seem to have much better rates and I can pick the money up at Stansted Airport meaning I don’t need to lug around a ton of cash while I’m in London.

I think a quick link to all the travel companies and on-line booking services I’ve used is in order, so here goes: EasyJet (flights out), Eurolines (bus to St. Peterburgh), HotelClub* (Guangzhou hotel), Expedia*(Hong Kong hotel), British Airways (flights back) and, of course, Vodkatrain for everything else.

I’ve also found Wikipedia useful for providing me with interesting facts to tell people when they ask where I’m going, and here’s the City Distance Tool I used to get my miles travelled figure at the start of this post. I’ve been using GMail and Writely to ensure that all my travel documentation is only as far away as the nearest ‘net connection.

Finally to keep you occupied until more content appears either read Simon of Space or play with a White Jigsaw.

Have fun everyone.

[Full Disclosure] The links with a ‘*’ are affiliate links and earn me (or Seat61.com in the case of the Trans-Siberian book) money if you buy after clicking through.

September Dawns

Friday, September 1st, 2006

So, it’s September and a fortnight tomorrow I’m off traveling through Russia, Mongolia and China for a month. I’ve a lot to do between now and then so expect posting to be even less frequent than normal.

Over 80 posts during the eight months of the relaunched UnorthodoxY, getting at least a couple of posts a week, is far better than I imagined I’d do. And 28 comments, some of them not from me (thanks guys), almost makes me think I’ve got a readership.

There have been many more half-written posts and vague ideas that never made it, one of them involved taking some pictures of Edinburgh, wandering around and generally being a tourist in my hometown. I’ll probably still do at least a few posts for that sometime in the future, but since Flickr have just added geotagging it does mean I can link you to this interactive map which shows the set of pictures I took for the first post. This set includes one of my favourite pictures out of all that I’ve taken, this one:

swan_edit

Hopefully I’ll manage to check in with a post or two over the next fortnight, after that … well, we’ll see. Remember, you can always check out the links page, the list on there reflects my current Bloglines subscriptions so it changes over time, maybe there’s a new feed that’ll grab your interest and waste your afternoon. Enjoy.