I started writing this as a way of reassuring my friends and family I was still alive and not in prison.

Always planning the next adventure.

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty April 19th 2012

As the plane landed I felt genuine trepidation. “Why the hell am I in Kazakhstan?!”. This question with the subject changing from time to time to another “stan” was to become a recurring theme of this trip. As I stepped through the plane doors, away from the safety of the BMI flight, I was confronted with sight of what can only be described as a “North Korea-esque” soldier. I felt like getting right back on the plane. Alas this culture shock was short lived. The streets of Almaty are paved with petro-dollars. Once a Soviet backwater, pre-Borat Kazakhstan was best known as Stalin’s destination of choice for troublesome minorities from Germans to Koreans. A gas fuelled boom has transformed the country. I was arriving at an ungodly hour so I booked accommodation and a transfer from ... read more
Hills outside Almaty
Downtown Almaty
Almaty Skyline

Asia » Cambodia » South » Phnom Penh September 1st 2010

I was pretty wrecked as we crossed the border into Cambodia, driving down a pot-holed partially flooded road flanked on both sides by grim looking casinos. Then as the bus stopped for a break the sky was completely filled with colour and I saw one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in my life. You never know what’s literally around the corner when you’re travelling! We arrived at night and the backpacker district is safe but as seedy as they get. The following conversation played out about a 100 times: Tuk-tuk? No Girl? No Boy? No Girl-Boy? No Marijuana? No Cocaine? No Heroin? NO!! It’s strange how quickly you become desensitised to it. The city does have slightly more to offer though (What more could you want you ask!).Thanks to French Urban planning Phnom Penh has ... read more
Grand Palace throne room
Sunset arriving in Cambodia

Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi August 29th 2010

Of all the painful 3rd class trains, 2nd hand Chinese buses and pick-up journeys I've endured Inle to Hanoi was by far the worst. I'm pretty tolerant of sleep deprivation and not eating properly (hence dramatic 2 stone weight loss) but I now realise I do have limits. 48 in transit is my breaking point. I left Inle at 2pm on a bus, arrived in Yangon at 4 am. Spent the entire day in Yangon airport, then flew to Bangkok. Slept on a bench in the airport. Flew to Hanoi that morning and got a minibus to the centre. Driver tried to rip me off by dropping me at a commission paying hostel. Fortunately GPS on iPod is making his job much more difficult and I found my hostel in a few minutes. I then immediately ... read more
Reflection Hue
Sunrise Benidorm
Hoi An at night

Asia » Myanmar August 21st 2010

Wifi hasn’t quite reached Myanmar so I haven’t been able to update the blog. I’ve just written one entry for my visit to the country. (Hence why there are several pages of photos!) While the rest of South-East Asia is gradually turning itself into the new Club Med neighbouring Myanmar remains trapped in a parallel universe. The country's annual number of tourists is lower than an average Bangkok brothel. Once one of the richest countries in the region, Burma was heralded as a model for economic development. Successive attempts at implementing a planned economy squandered all this. Currently the country is classified as one of the UN’s illustrious group of “Least Developed Nations”. It also has the honour of being ranked both the most corrupt country in the world (tied with Somalia) and least economically free ... read more
Fisherman Inlay lake
Shwedagon Pagoda 1

Asia » Thailand » Central Thailand » Bangkok August 16th 2010

1.3 billion people in China and I bump into a friend from UCD on an Air Asia flight! It’s the same guy, Danny, I met in Shanghai. We’ve stopped deliberately meeting up, there’s no point. Everyone backpacking in Asia just ends up doing the same route anyway! From a combination of the Beijing Smog and sleeping under air conditioning units for about a week I ended up getting a pretty bad cold. It feels really strange coughing and sneezing when it’s about 35 degrees. First day in Bangkok I just about made it to the Vietnamese Embassy to apply for a visa, then went to a pharmacy, got some cough bottle and passed out for the rest of the day. Of all the potential ways I thought I’d end up passing out in Bangkok cough bottle ... read more
Grand Palace
Bangkok from Skytrain window

Asia » Hong Kong August 5th 2010

Nearly all the people may be Chinese but you know straight away you’re back in the empire when you see orderly queues at the bus stops. You haven’t really experienced Hong Kong as a backpacker until you’ve stayed in Chungking Mansions. Located in an area otherwise filled with nice hotels and shopping malls the building is basically a glorified asylum centre filled with cheap guesthouses, hostels and restaurants from every corner of the globe. Paying $10 US a night in one of the world’s most expensive cities, you get what you pay for. It’s definitely an experience staying there. On the bright side there were no rats in my hostel. It’s estimated people for about 120 different countries passed through the building’s grotty doors in the past year alone. Time magazine named it one of the ... read more
Shaolin Monks
Bank of China
Old town centre Macau

Asia » China » Shanghai August 2nd 2010

Beijing is littered with signs of China’s imperial past. In contrast everything in Shanghai points boldly towards China’s future as a global hyperpower. The city’s benefited massively from the economic reforms of the 90s and has become china’s financial centre. This year it’s hosting the World Expo, announcing its arrival on the world stage in the same way Beijing did with the Olympics. Again unlike Beijing the sky’s not clogged with pollution and there’s an overall sense of the city is still completely liveable. In many ways Shanghai is coping with hosting this major international event than Beijing does on an average day. I hadn’t realised what a big deal the Expo was and by the time I arrived it seemed all the trains in and out of Shanghai had been booked weeks in advance. I ... read more
Chinese Pavilion
Old town
UK Pavilion up close

Asia » China » Beijing July 30th 2010

I considered taking the easy option and getting the direct train from UB to Beijing but I couldn’t resist one last budget border crossing adventure. First step was a hard sleeper to Zamyn-Uud on the Chinese-Mongolia border. As soon as you get off the train there are dozens of taxi drivers shouting at you offering to take you across the border. It could not be easier. The border crossing was really quick and the Chinese border staff were the friendliest I’ve seen in the world. Having said that they were performing random checks on laptops. If they’d checked mine and found the facebook unblocking software I’d downloaded I’m not quite so sure how friendly they’d have been. I was a bit anoxious about just arriving in a town in China on the edge of Inner Mongolia ... read more
Temple of Heaven 1
Unrestored Great Wall
National Stadium

Asia » Mongolia » Ulaanbaatar July 27th 2010

Getting to Ulan-Bator was one hell of an experience! It was too late to book a direct train ticket to UB so I had to take a slightly longer route. I was incredibly lucky though there was a Mongolian guy staying in my hostel who spoke perfect English, Mongolian & Russian. I just followed him the entire way! Part one of the trip was a night train to Ulan-Ude. I went for platzcart again since it was totally fine the last time. Huge mistake! The last train I was on was a Firmenny train so even 3rd class is a reasonable (and air-conditioned) standard. None of the windows were open this train was like an oven. Approximately 2 minutes in the carriage and I was ready to be hosed down with disinfectant. I now completely understand ... read more
Sunrise Platzcart
Courtyard Palace

Europe » Russia » Siberia » Irkutsk July 24th 2010

I booked my ticket to Irkutsk in advance with an English travel agent. I'm sure I was ripped off on commission but by the time I got to Russia the train was booked out so it actually worked out pretty well. I travelled by 3rd class platzcart because it was about half price. It's effectively an open carriage with 60 bunks. I went into it with the attitude that it probably won't kill me. I wrote most of this on my iTouch while on the train. Day 1 Covered in sweat freak heat wave about to die.37 degrees! Not a single backpacker in sight! Oh dear god. It's been 10 minutes and already I desperately need a shower! Assuming all foreigners are complete idiots a Russian woman made my bed! Nice! Day 2 Air-conditioning does work ... read more
 Baikal Shore
Creche/My Seat
Smoked Fish Baikal

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