Some Travel Notes

Travel related ideas, views, and news

Travel and Kexit: what the UK’s exit from the EU may mean for travellers

Presently, as I write this from China, I feel distant from the politics of the UK. But even with all the websites that are blocked by the Great Fire Wall, including the BBC’s, it is difficult to not get drawn into everything surrounding the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, which for some reason has been given a strange name, a very unimaginative amalgamation consisting of the first two letters of Britain and the word exit.

I don’t know who devised this word, but it is of the type that someone would think of without much thought, half-drunk, over a beer, on a Friday night in some bar somewhere in the UK. Whoever was responsible for this word, must never have imagined that it would eventually be entered into the Oxford English Dictionary.

This is without reference to its etymology being incorrect. That’s right, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that it is not even so accurate a word, if we take into account the fact that it is not only Great Britain’s exit from the European Union that is on the cards, rather that of the United Kingdom.

UK passport

A 2017 issued United Kingdom passport

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Phnom Penh: The Indian Transportation Takeover

It was a late arrival at the small Phnom Penh airport on the outskirts of the atmospheric city, ever bustling with street-food, motorbikes and people busy under the dim street-lighting and the warm, humid, night sky. We got into our 1980s Jaguar, began discussing with the driver about Sinn Sissamouth, Ros Serey Sothea and the other great singers and musicians of pre-war Cambodia. It felt good to be back in a country I’ve been to many times since my first visit in 2004.

Jaguar in Cambodia

Vintage Jag outside the Pavilion, Phnom Penh

But this time there was something different about the streets. And it was only a year since our previous visit. My first thought was that we’d boarded the wrong flight and ended up in Delhi. Of course ignoring the Khmer language and the drivers on the right-side of the road.

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Plastic, Plastic: Plastic and Travel

There is little reason to write too much about the massive burden that plastic in all its forms is placing on our planet; everyone knows this, it’s that we have become so reliant on this damaging material, that knowing how to stop using so much of it is one of the greatest challenges presented to the modern world.

At home in a familiar environment we have a certain amount of control over how and when we use plastic, and how we dispose of it, but when travelling, reducing plastic usage or finding ways to best recycle what we do use can be a difficult task.

And it all starts when you board your flight.

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Do you want to know the best way to travel like a local?

It might seem obvious, but to some maybe not so. You may not speak the language. The subway map may not be as thoughtfully laid out like the Tube map Harry Beck masterpiece of 1931. The bus system may not be as slick as the one in your home town. If you own a car, and you live in the sticks, you may not even be used to using it back home.

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Stop making nice places famous.

“Shit, busy would be an understatement. But the article said it was pristine and peaceful.” Every traveller has muttered words to that effect. Should it not occur to us that we went there, because of the guidebook, or that travel site we stumbled upon. AND so did all the others.

The LP effect. This often useful publication has been known for the influence it exerts on certain businesses and particular destinations. Recommend one cafe in Goa, and that cafe becomes the place to go for the average visitor. Suggest one beach over another, and that becomes the preferred beach for the masses, no matter if just over the headland there is an even more picturesque, and of course quieter stretch. Travel in India, and see that if a cafe has been recommended by the LP, you’ll see signs all over the business exterior shouting about it. You may also find that other enterprises have opened up with the same name, knowing full well that any recommendation in the LP would boost their takings hugely. Such is the influence travel writers can have.

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In Beijing and looking for the best place to swim… how does 6 hours by train to WARM blue seas sound?

Until recently, I lived in Beijing, and during the hot summers, I would search for a pool where I could cool off. Sure, some Beijingers swim in the Liangma river, but I only ever skated on it in the winter.

My first experience of a Beijing pool went like this. I found a public swimming pool that was recommended online, and so after a hour of getting lost I arrived with high expectations. I was met with a grimy pool, people spitting everywhere, not only in the dedicated spit boxes on the sides of the pool. The place was packed with loud kids leaping around, and the changing rooms stank of stale urine. I longed for the time when I lived in Bangkok and I could just jump on a bus and a short ferry to a Thai island for the weekend. I missed those days, and I still do.

However, what I didn’t realise was that, Dalian 大连, a beachside city in relatively close Liaoning province, not only has great beaches, but also has summer sea temperatures that are very close to what you’d find in Thailand. If you don’t believe me, see the following.

Dalian sea is very warm

Dalian’s summer sea temperature is almost the same as Thailand

Koh Yao sea temperature

The sea temperature in Thailand is high, but only marginally higher than Dalian in the summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: seatemperature.org August 6th 2018.

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Dalian’s Oktoberfest inspired beer festival is coming, but why the popularity of German beer in China?

Dalian Beer Festival 2018 starts on 26th July 2018 and runs for approximately 12 days. If you are reading this from outside of China and have never visited, your experience of Chinese drinking culture may be restricted to the world famous Tsingtao beer. In fact Tsingtao or 青岛  – Qingdao – as is actually written in pinyin (the official system for Romanisation of Chinese characters), comes from the city of Qingdao on the east coast of China. It is no coincidence that Qingdao was occupied by Germany from the late 19th to the early 20th century. Presumably because the occupying Germans found the local 白酒 baijiu, rice whiskey, a little too potent, in 1903 they established  the Germania Brewery. This later became the Tsingtao Brewery.

If you are familiar, you’ll know that Tsingtao beer does not taste like a typical German beer. It is in its simplest form a light, refreshing lager, that is typical of mainstream beers throughout Asia. It’s around 4% abv. In China, alcohol content of beer is usually given as an exceeding or equals to rather than an exact figure. Sometimes, it can feel like a kind of beer lottery.

Dalian Beer Festival 2018

The tents of Dalian’s 2018 Beer Festival are up, but not yet filled with beer, July 2018

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重庆 Chongqing: the most fascinating Chinese city you’ve possibly never heard of

There was a certain feeling of certainty as I woke up that morning and recalled peering through the hot steam the night before, sound of chatter and banter and mouthwatering aromas almost beyond the realm of human detection. I got up as usual, took a shower, drew a hole in the steam on the bathroom mirror, brushed my teeth, and went down for breakfast. But so far nothing. Not the breakfast, this was plentiful. But my stomach wasn’t showing anything, any sign of trouble that is. You might wonder why that morning I was expecting stomach trouble.

Chongqing street scene

A typical Chongqing street

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Vang Vieng: from one problem traveller to another

Humidity was building in the night sky, the tall coconut trees starting to sway dramatically, signalling a storm on its way. “I wish I’d come here 10 years ago”, I said as the last of the Chang beer dripped from the bottle whilst I lay in my hammock precariously strapped between the uprights of my 100 baht-a-night (£1.50 at the time) rickety beach bungalow. “Yeah man, me too”, replied my newly met travel mate, shouting over from his adjacent bungalow, in-between strums on his beat-up travel guitar.

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Change in Beijing’s hutongs 胡同

Beijing. A fascinating city, one that is thoroughly enjoyable to live in. But pollution can get even the most hardy of resident down, and like any big city, it can be overwhelmingly busy and hectic at times. Unsurprising for a city in excess of 21 million residents. But what arguably gives Beijing an edge over other similar sized cities, is being able to escape to the relative tranquility of the hutong areas. For those who are unfamiliar,

Rickshaw hutong Beijing

A 三轮车 san lun che rickshaw driver in a typical hutong

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Some Travel Notes 2018 All rights reserved