Page 5 of Ouaga Travel Blog Posts

Africa » Egypt » Middle Egypt » Asyut April 2nd 2007

Cairo-Asyut Tom Griffithurl='/Videos/2634.html' onclick='dialog("/Videos/2634.html?popped=1","tbvideo",600,600);return false;' Taxi music... Thanks to the anti-government Islamist uprising that happened in this part of the world in the 1990s, Middle Egypt is a largely unexplored section of the country. There hasn't been a major attack on tourists since the awful massacre at Hatshepsut's temple in 1997, and the insurgency against Hosni Mubarak's one-party regime has largely died down, but the authorities aren't taking any chances. They warn tourists off any of the towns between Cairo and Luxor, and in El-Minya, the heart of resistance, any foreigners who dare get off the train are trailed around town by armed police until they leave. Asyut isn't that bad - or so I was told. Yesterday I spent the day getting aro... read more
Dodging Constable Kemal
Atef Mohamed

Africa » Egypt » Lower Egypt » Cairo March 31st 2007

Berlin-Frankfurt-Istanbul-Cairo Tom Griffithurl='/Videos/2635.html' onclick='dialog("/Videos/2635.html?popped=1","tbvideo",600,600);return false;' Whirling Dervish! The first thing that hit me when I arrived in Cairo was the aroma of the place - that peculiarly Middle Eastern blend of perfumes, spices, nuts, apple tobacco, tea leaves, dust, with maybe just a hint of wee. The whole place smells like a Lakemba grocery store. Everywhere apart from my hotel room, that is, which has more of a cat urine odour; probably linked to the fact that when I arrived, I had to shoo a cat out who was sleeping on the bed. The trip over from Berlin began in the smoking compartment of the Intercity train down to Frankfurt, which I knew was going to be fun when the fat guy opposite pulled out a bottle of spirits to share with h... read more
Pyramid of Khafre
Under close guard
Amun, Sun god

Europe » Germany » Berlin » Berlin March 26th 2007

Prague-Hof-Berlin Tom Griffith The German edition of Fawlty Towers is called 'The Crazy Hotel', and features the Dire Straits song Walk Of Life as the theme tune. I know this because me and my old mate David introduced a German to the pleasures of Basil, Sybil and Manuel, and of course we made sure we showed him the best episode of all - The Germans (called, in Germany, The Germans are Coming). It was quite something watching poor old Michi trying to grasp the humour of such comic gems as John Cleese telling the German tourists that they started the war by invading Poland, and then goosestepping around the room like a Nazi. All credit to him, he did find it quite amusing, but I think that there may still be a slight discomfort with ... read more
The Wall
Bayern Bier Hund
Brandenburg Gate

Europe » Czech Republic » Prague March 21st 2007

Birmingham-London-Frankfurt-Prague Tom Griffith And so I find myself catching a fleeting glimpse of Eastern Europe. In one of those unpredictable moments that occasionally crops up when you're on the road, I ended up deciding to flee Germany for a couple of days, and head to the Czech Republic. I woke up from three hours sleeping on a Frankfurt airport floor, and it seemed like a great idea - hell, it was only ten hours to Prague! After travelling on five trains, and snatching myself several meals of yet-more cold meats on bread (is that all they eat in central Europe?), I had changed my opinion a little. Then, after two hours of traipsing around Prague in the sleet to find a hostel in another country where I didn't speak the language, didn't hold no currency, ... read more
Good King Wenceslas looked out...
Jewish Town Hall
Tyn's place

Europe » United Kingdom » England » West Midlands » Birmingham March 19th 2007

You know the nightclub is going to be a corker when the lady taking the money at the door is about 90 years old. I've been in the UK for a week's lightning stopover, visiting my wonderful and completely bonkers family members. After leaving Beijing, I had a marathon 24-hour, plan-bus-plane-bus combo to get me here to deepest, darkest Birmingham, where I was born those 28 years ago. I stayed for a few days with my Nanny Griffith, who is the most energetic and friendly grandma a lad could hope to have, and then a cople of days with my other Nan, who is equally at home drinking beers with the youngsters or knitting by the firesde. Wonderful the pair of them. Saturday night happened to be my cousin's Birmingham stag night (he'd already done a ... read more
Brown Wings
Posing at the Balti

Asia » China » Beijing March 9th 2007

I watched a guy get arrested on my first walk through Tiananmen Square. A man in his 50's was standing on the edge of the square, opposite the Great Hall of the People. He was shouting something (in Chinese, obviously) and about five cops jumped him and bundled him into a van. Another group of cops told the gathering crowd to disperse, but I tried to keep an eye on the poor geezer as he was manhandled into the police vehicle. Concerned, I sidled up to an English-speaking tour guide who was explaining the situation to his charges. 'He was probably saying bad things', he told them. ' They will just take him to the station and ask him some questions'. Yeah, we all know what that means. Ironically, in Chinese, Tiananmen means, 'Gate of Heavenly ... read more
The Great Wall
The Great Hall of the People
Great Wall

Asia » China » Shanxi » Datong March 6th 2007

Depending on whose statistics you manage to get hold of (and the real ones are almost impossible on a Chinese computer, as the internet censors have been at work again), Datong is in the top three most polluted cities in China. Which puts it in the top 20 worldwide. I had heard that the city was pretty grim, but I wasn't exactly sure how dangerously high levels of toxins in the air would present themselves: would there be a grey smog over the place, or would it smell like turps, or would everyone be wearing gas masks? Now, after eight hours here, I can tell you: breathing the air here, my throat feels like someone has run a nail-file up and down it. I seriously feel like I have smoked two packs of ciggies. The fact ... read more
A Buddha, but no cave
Buddha in Cave 3
Little and large

Asia » China » Shanxi » Pingyao March 4th 2007

Okay, here is a quick history lesson on the Chinese Dynasties from 2200BC until the present. Pay attention, as you will be tested when I get back home. First, there's the Xia, the first civilisation by the Yellow River. Then the Shang, who began developing the Chinese writing style. Following on were the Zhou, around the time when Confucius did his thing. Next were the Qin, about 2200 years ago, when the Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall were built. A long period under the Han followed that, when bureaucracy began to flourish. The minor Wei, Jin and Sui dynasties leading in to the Tang, which is known now as China's golden era. Next were the Liao, then the Song, and then another Jin, who were toppled by the Mongol hordes under Genghis Khan. The Khans ... read more
The City Tower
Pingyao kids
The snow begins...

Asia » China » Henan » Luoyang March 2nd 2007

'Laowai, laowai!' Sometimes you can just catch the words being whispered by one adult to another, and sometimes it gets screamed by an excited toddler to their parents. The rough translation is, 'foreigner', but it probably has more of an effect like, 'alien'. Though not strictly an insult, it is often used in a derogatory sense - a bit like 'gringo' in South America. I hadn't heard it until I hit Luoyang. Since then I've had it about twenty times, and my responses have ranged from a cheerful wave to a barely-concealed snarl, depending on my mood and tolerance levels. The reason I heard it so much in Luoyang was because I was the only laowai there, or at least I was the only one I was aware of. And that's hardly surprising: Luoyang doesn't have ... read more
Go Jackie Chan!
Kung fu!
Chinese panel beater

Asia » China » Shaanxi » Hua Shan February 28th 2007

Religion, history and tradition are all inextricably linked in China. Although officially an atheist nation, there is some tolerance of China's indigenous, and imported, religions. You still have to be a professed atheist to join the Communist Party (and therefore get into any position of power), but things are a lot rosier for China's Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists and Christians than they were in the tradition-wrecking days of the Cultural Revolution. Hua Shan, a stunning mountain not far from Xi'an, is one of Taoism's five sacred peaks. Taoism is generally agreed to be China's one true native religion, as Confucianism is considered more of a philosophy, and Buddhism originated in Nepal. I can't tell you much about Taoism, except this: the whole basis of the religion is the tao (the way), and it cannot be expressed in ... read more
Cave temple
East Peak
East Peak after the night's snowfall

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