Asia, Europe · 56 Days · 126 Moments · August 2017

Tomo and Dan's World Tour

12 October 2017

A whistle stop tour for Tomo. First Covent Garden, then Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards, Downing Street, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and of course big Winston. On the way we simply had to stop for a pint of London Pride!
Home sweet home via the Eurostar!! Feels so good to be back in Blighty - a first for Tomo!

11 October 2017

10 October 2017

Hello Amsterdam for a quick pit stop.

9 October 2017

Some more pics of Den Haag.

7 October 2017

Nice trip to Leiden today. Lovely little and great Herring!

6 October 2017

A great trip to Noordvijk for dinner with the Cooke's. I even tasted the local beer. Pretty good!

5 October 2017

A lovely stay at the cookies and seeing a bit of Den Haag. Beautiful place and great chips!!

4 October 2017

Goodbye Munich, hello Frankfurt for a brief stop before we head on to see our friends the Cooke's in Den Hague and Holland.

3 October 2017

Our last night in Octoberfest and it was more of the same. More german food, more beer and more friendly people! These were two lovely German girls who decided to sit next to us and say Hallo! They both have the travel bug as well and were keen to get to know sone interesting people - apparently they spotted us across the tent and decided we looked interesting!

1 October 2017

More pics of us enjoying the evening. The next day was a complete write off mind.
So after a brief interlude, where we went shopping for some Lederhosen, we are back in our Bavarian finest! They're actually quite comfortable! This time we are trying out some different tents, Hofbrau, Paulaner to name a few. The atmosphere is like nothing I have ever experienced. Everyone is so happy, and there is 0 agro. No aggressive behaviour at all! More pics to come!
Octoberfest!!! Bloody brilliant. I'm not there 2 minutes and I already have a bratwurst in my hand... Soon followed by a stein of Lowenbrau's Octoberfest beer. The atmosphere in the tent is amazing. So basically if you haven't been here before (you need to change that) it's a huge fairground with about 10 to 14 massive beer 'tents' - they are massive and scaffolded well, they look like warehouses. Each tent is from a different brewery. You also have loads of bars, restaurants and souvenirs in amongst all of this. The only problem is that everyone is wearing Lederhosen and we aren't.......

30 September 2017

First things first after we have arrived in Munich is Augustiner Braustuben. A beer hall, my first, but certainly not last, stein of Octoberfest!!

29 September 2017

Ok so our last meal turned out to be the cheapest and best! U Slovanske Lipy is a Zizkov pub down the road from where we were staying. An amazing place with cheap beer and honest, cheap and really tasty food. I had the Pork Neck and Tomo the 'plate of Zizkow, - a dish of oven cooled cheese, chicken, mushrooms, peppers and potatoes highly recommend it here.
Last stop of the day was Charles Bridge lovely but like the rest of Prague hugely crowded - and this is the tail of the season!
Some more pics of the stunning panoramic that you are afforded from the Castle, some rather Game of Thrones esc family crests, the Golden Lane which was originally a set of tiny houses built into the inner walls of the city by the guards, these later became shops and a bustling if small market. These have been recreated rather well and you can pick up some nice souvenirs here as well. My personal souvenir came in the form of a glass of White Wine from the Vineyard as we left the castle. There's a reason he was called 'Good' this Wenceslas chap! Anyway a nice stroll through the Vineyard takes you to the other-side of Charles bridge and the narrowest lane in Prague. After this you can meander to Lennon's Wall, which celebrates Peace. Not sure what the history is behind this but there is a pub nearby called the John Lennon Pub which serves London Pride on tap - not that I had any. Saving that for my return to Blighty.
This morning Tomo took me to the Prague castle. It's supposedly one of the biggest in Europe, except for one thing. Spoiler alert. It isn't a castle. Well not anymore, it used to be but over the past 1000 years the need for the castle walls has somewhat diminished. A really good museum though. You buy a ticket of 3 levels which lets you visit different parts of the 'Castle' I recommend the 'B' ticket as this gives you the Basilica, The Cathedral, the Golden lane and the Palace and is reasonable at 250 kr. A family ticket is 500kr. St Vito's Cathedral is the resting place of a few Saints including Good King Wenceslas who up until now had just been a chap in a Christmas carol! In one of these photos you see a wall with some windows at the end. Well out of the top left hand window two Counts we apparently thrown during a rebellion of land owners. They miraculously survived with only minor injuries. This then lead to what is referred to as the 30 Years War.

28 September 2017

Some more beautiful scenes of Prague at night. The dinner we had (sorry no pics) was sooooo good. Proper Goulash with Potato dumplings really enjoyed it. In a Restaurant in the centre called 'Parlament' - it's opposite the Minstral Cafe which I also recommend!
First stop in Prague after we had dropped our bags off was, rather predictably food!! We found this get local food hall called Lokal! Some tradition Czech fare and a few good beers later and we are back roaming the streets of Prague. If you haven't been you are missing out. The architecture is beautiful, and on a much grander scale than we have previously seen!

27 September 2017

Last night in Krakow and we sat on the square and had a lovely meal - washed down with mead and hot beer which wasn't as bad as it sounds!! Still probably wouldn't order it again mind....
This morning we took the tour of Auschwitz 1 and 2 (Birkenau). I decided not to take too many photos as it didn't seem right. To turn this into a tourist attraction is to cheapen the experience and to do a disservice to what happened here. I really believe this should be a required experience for all children in History lessons so that we never, ever forget what happened. In the current climate of hate that seems to pervade our society it is more important than ever that we remember the past so that we are not doomed to repeat it.

26 September 2017

That night we had traditional polish fare of meat, meat and sourcraut. Yes I loved it.
Oscar Shingler's museum was next - mainly a museum about the occupation than what happened within the walls. All that is preserved is Oscar's office. In it is a monument with all the names he saved.
The next stop is the 'park' Plaszow. This eery place was once converted into one of the first concentration camps. The grey house was the centre of the camp (see the black and white photos). The white placards show about 25 designs for memorials that could be built there for the public to vote on. At one point I say these leaves growing from the floor the colour of blood red, it's almost as if even Nature doesn't want us to forget the blood shed on this very ground.
Ok so our first day in Krakow and we go to the Pharmacy Museum in the Jewish Ghetto. A non jewish run business that enormously helped the jew's confined to the Ghetto in Nazi Krakow. The most interactive museum I have ever been to. It was decked out as a 1940's era pharmacy with everything - spices to herbs to all the drawers and cupboards available to you to experience. It tells the story of life of those in the ghetto. A particularly sombre moment is when you pick up a ringing phone to hear one of the ex workers describe the day the Nazi's came to remove the Jews to the concentration camps. She describes how they would take the babies down an alley and shoot them, 3 at a time with one bullet. I just can't get my head around how human's could be so evil.
Next stop Poland. We travelled to Warsaw for a short 2 hour stop and then on to Krakow. We travelled with Polski bus. Not quite as good as Lux Express (much smaller seats, no coffee, poor wifi) but still ok.

24 September 2017

Some more pics of beautiful Vilnius. Cannot recommend this place highly enough - they even have their own (slightly smaller) version of Cornish pasties! Gotta love this place.
Next was the Holocaust Genocide Museum. A truly harrowing experience but an amazing Museum. Set in the Former KGB headquarters which included the Gestapo and then KGB jail this museum sheds light on the terrible atrocities committed by the first Soviet, then Nazi and finally the second Soviet occupations. The basement of the jail shows the room in which the prisoners were ultimately executed, the wall still has the bullet holes.
This morning I went to the local market to buy dinner for tonight - sooo cheap. And got some amazing wild mushrooms. Check out the awesome mural up the road from us....

23 September 2017

Dinner in Vilnius for some local food at a great local pub. What you see in the pics are called Zepplins - they are doughy dumplings shaped like their namesakes and filled with meat. They have a nice creamy mushroom sauce too!
We have now just arrived in Vilnius and what a city! So charming. From the bohemian graffiti to the old town cobbled streets. There is a huge culture of craft beer here and a definite Germanic influence in the architecture.

22 September 2017

Last night we sampled some of Riga's lovely cafe and restaurant culture. We had 1kg Pig Knuckle with grey peas - the latter came with the traditional glass of butter milk to wash it down with. In the morning we had a quick look round the market near where we were staying. Some incredible fresh produce here.
Some more photos of Riga's beauty.
A lovely walk around Riga. The old town is really nice here with loads of winding cobbled streets and back alleys with a huge cafe culture.
First stop in Latvia is for some Pelmini - Russian dumplings! They are like little ravioli. Quite nice if a little bland in my opinion. Good beer though...
Goodbye Tallinn and hello Latvia. Our mode of transport this time is via Lux Express coach travel. I highly recommend, free coffee (from a machine!!), really comfortable seats, a complete multi media package like you would get on a plane, charging points and free, fast wifi all for €19 for a 4 and a half hour trip!

21 September 2017

Next is the Hotel Viru. Quite a normal hotel until you reach the 23rd floor - you'll need a guide as it isn't on the elevator! This was the 'secret' floor of the hotel which housed the KGB during Estonia's Soviet occupation. This was the only hotel Tourists could stay in, - for obvious reasons. The statue outside is officially called the mermaid although locals refer to it as the Ear. Both due to it's appearance and relation to the big brother on the 23rd floor. Whilst the hotel was built by Finnish builders to maintain the secrets it held from the locals it seems the KGB were not all that successful at keeping their presence on the down low.
Another day and a another stunning walk around Tallinn old town. Perhaps the most well preserved medieval town of the Baltic states the walls full encompass it with multiple gates. Each wth it's own stories. My favorite was the one called the 'Fat Margaret' which in it's day has been a prison, an armory, a gate tower and now plays host to the Estonian Maritime Museum. Really interesting is the current Viking exhibition on there - if you are into that History stuff...

20 September 2017

We had an amazing dinner tonight at Olde Hansa restaurant. A step back into medieval Tallinn. Highly recommend it!!!
Beautiful Tallinn - really recommend it here!! The old town is breathtaking!
A great way to travel to our next destination Tallinn in Estonia. The ferry was really relaxing and very easy! Really recommend it.

19 September 2017

Our last day on the island and so we went Apple picking. I later made these into an apple crumble for the dessert for the meal I cooked our hosts as a thank you. They had gotten me some Elk, which I roasted with a nice berry sauce I made from the berries we had picked! It's going to be really hard to leave this place....

18 September 2017

So how do we follow the hike? A visit to One of Kyosti's forests on the mainland where their son Perrtu treated us to Sausage cooked on an open fire!!
Today we went for a 6.4km hike in the local National Park 'Etela Konnevesi.' Jaw droopingly beautiful.

17 September 2017

Today started with a bit of wild lingonberry and Blueberry picking and with a walk to the other end of the island. Then to home to relax for the rest of the day before of course more Sauna.

16 September 2017

What a stunning place this is!!!
Some more pics of our walk - the weather turned out really well and we visited the Sabu Sauna - this is a smoke sauna which is heated by a fire inside heating rocks with no chimney. Then after about 24 hours the rocks are hot enough they let the smoke out and allow the fire to die down. This was the origin of the first saunas in Finland. The people would then have sauna like this in there dome shaped houses and afterwards bring back the furniture they had previously taken outside and enjoy a warm home in the harshest of Finnish winters.
The next day was nice and relaxing in our cosy cottage. We went for a nice walk to the end of the Island - was really tempted by all the wild mushrooms but was a bit worried they might be poisonous. Good job i didn't as there are at least 3 deadly species on the island!!

15 September 2017

At last we have arrived at the Island what a beautiful spot this is. Our friends Sinnika and Kyosti own it along with all the buildings, cottage, sauna, summer kitchen, sheds etc. which they have built themselves. Needless to say the first order of business was a Sauna and a dip in the lake - we later found out this was about 10 degrees!!!!

12 September 2017

Suomenlinna Island in Helsinki. An incredible bastion which held the defensive fortifications for Helsinki during many a war. Now mostly defunct it still has the working Boat Yard. This has withstood Swedish and Russian occupation and is now firmly in the hands of its rightful owners the Finns!!

11 September 2017

Ok so maybe this is a bit of a weird post but the public toilets here are really interestingly designed. My favorite bit was the needle disposal hole. How forward thinking these Scandinavians are!!!
Some more cool sites in Helsinki, the student union hall, the library (which we couldn't take many photos of but was magnificent), and a shelter that was built by students in protest against anti-refugee sentiment. What a great way to show people they are welcome! Also the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Helsinki.
This is a fountain statue that Eero explained to us always has a hat put on it on the May day party by students, in his more rebellious days he climbed up to it the night before and placed a communist officers hat onto it!! The next pictures are of the Lutheran Cathedral and the square it is in - on one side is the University buildings (with greek columns representing the arts) and the Parliament buildings (with roman columns representing the law). In the middle is the statue of Tsar Alexander 1st, when he was ruler of Finland, in the days it was part of the Russian empire he made Helsinki a show piece. Pumping loads of money into the City to show the world that Russia had a more modern side. When he died and the subsequent Tsar was unpopular the Finns showed their rebellious nature and built this statue of his predecessor as a polite demonstration against to the current Russian rulers.
Just a quick stop in Kappela Cafe for a beer. Eero (pictured in one of the photos) explained the charming. Story to us about the origins of this cafe. 100s of years ago, when Helsinki was merely fields and hills a Shepard had a flock of sheep. He had a little hit and would offer refreshments to visitors. Over time and as Helsinki grew this became more successful and it is now the thriving cafe we see today. The name Chapel comes from him tending to his flock like a vicar does to their congregation - this was his Chapel. Some also claim his name was Pastor.
Some more pics from our tour of Helsinki.
Next was the stunning 'church in the rock.' Hewed out of 2.5 billion year old bedrock this captivating church took our breath away. Eero is a member of the congregation here and so we escaped the charge on the door as his guest. With all the beautiful Russia Orthodox Churches we have seen with glorious paintings on the inside this Lutheran Church simply let the natural rock do the talking. There's something fitting about a church decorating itself with 'God's creation.'
First full day in Finland and our wonderful friends here have arranged for us to have tour around Helsinki by their friend Eero Blomveld. A wonderful guide and historian who taught us so much. The first stop was The statue of General Mannerheim, who lead the Finns to victory over the mighty Russian empire 3 times. Then the Philharmonic hall which some say resembles a womb - or a sauna depending on your disposition. The hall was closed when we got there but Eero talked his way in explaining that Tomo was a famous Japanese architect who had travelled all the way from Kyoto to see the hall!

10 September 2017

The Allegro train to Helsinki. Amazing space and comfort. With a free meal of my choice from about 5 options including a Serrano Ham omelet and Harissa Meatballs! I went with the more Russian Salmon tartar. Wow - it was incredible for a meal on a train. Mum you'll be pleased to see we also we given some nice warm Finnish Riisepiirakka (rice pies) as well!! I cannot wait to get to Finland :D Oh and theres a great serve yourself coffee and tea section. Don't mind if I do!
Lastly as we board the Underground to Finlandsky Station for our train to Helsinki, this is the novel system they have here. You pay 45 rubles for a token for one travel anywhere in the underground. Very retro. They have their own oyster card as well but what a cool and eco-friendly way of avoiding paper tickets! Bye bye Mother Russia it's been eye opening and I am glad to say my prejudices about this stunning country were largely unfounded. Maybe the politics are not my taste, not to mention the horrific experiences of the LGBT community here, but the people have mostly been very helpful and friendly - a smile and a bit of Russian go a long way. I am reminded of that Billy Joel song Leningrad, I think he had a point you know?! Food's also great - just be adventurous - fish is usually the best option. :)

9 September 2017

Goodbye St. Petersburg, what an amazing place. Last night so we had a cocktail in a nice bar before sampling our first vodka in Russia - ironically we were given Absolute - a Swedish vodka!! Still we drunk it the Russian way with a pickled onion chaser. You smell the Vodka first, then drink it, hold your breath and eat the onion, then breathe out. Na Zdoro-v'ye! (to health!). While I was sat at the bar with Tomo a lovely bloke named Varden said hello, he was living in Finland but is from St. Petersburg. He asked me how I was finding Russia and I told him how different it was to what I had expected. A really nice guy and we shared stories over the booze. This book is a must read if you are ever in St. Petersburg - The White Russian by Tom Bradby. A wonderfully atmospheric murder mystery/thriller set in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg. A great way to get a feel of the place - great ending to the book too!
More pictures of the Hermitage, you know you have too much Art when it lines the halls of the Museum!!! But can you ever have too much Art....?
The astounding Winter Palace which has now been turned into the Hermitage Art Museum. It has in total over 3 million pieces of Art - a fraction of which are on show. It is just vast, 3 floors of incredible beauty and luxury, and that is just the Palace itself!! The art is incredible in that it spans from Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome through Mongolian Russia and all the way to Rembrandt! The most eclectic museum I have ever seen, part Art, part History, part Palace museum. Just wow!!! Come to St. Petersburg, nay Russia, just to see this.
A nice walk along the river Neva. What a beautiful day.

8 September 2017

It just goes on and on. Now in Palace Square with the Alexandra Column and the Winter Palace - more on that tomorrow!
What a stunning city the architecture is just amazing. There are loads of canals running through the city giving it a rather venetian feel. For photos to come!
We have arrived in St. Petersburg, beautiful city at first glance. The train journey was great and really comfortable. Can't wait to get stuck into another city!!!
Bye bye Moscow (but not before a trip to the majestic State History Museum and an encounter with a wolf stalking pigeons around red square). The train to St Petersburg is a mere 4 hours so should a sinch - especially with the spacious luxury leather seats and free lunch on board (including free alcohol!) Take note British Rail, oh and it left on time, as has every train we have been on since Beijing.

7 September 2017

In the afternoon we went to The beautiful Kolomenskoyie Park and the All Russian Exhibition Centre which was sadly mostly under reservation.
So this morning was all about the Lenin Mausoleum - eery and moving, St. Basil's Cathedral - underwhelming inside compared to outside and the State Tretyakov Gallery - full of some awe-inspiring Russian Masters.

6 September 2017

Tonight we relaxed at the Sunduny Bathhouse - the oldest Russian Public Sauna in Moscow. The pics are not mine as for obvious reasons we weren't allowed to take pics inside. Expensive but a great experience!!!
More of Kiyevskay Station.
Maybe my favourite! Kiyevskaya. All of these are mosaic!
Now Arbatskaya station. Beautiful, AGAIN!
Now for a spot of Georgian Food for lunch at a great spot called Dukhan Chito-Ra. We had wonderful Kinkali (dumplings), shish kebab and a spicy soup. Great rustic food.
Ok next is Elktrozavodskaya Station. Wow again!!!
Ok so this is a little different. A flea market within a miniature (actually it's massive) size Kremlin replica! Really cool. The watch is my latest acquisition, a Soviet era (made in the 1970s) Paketa (pronounced Raketa) watch. The Cyrillic words are the cities that tell what time it is where... Really bloody cool!!!
Next is Partizanskaya Station and a chance for us to got to a flea market nearby.... what a statue btw - it seems every single station is made almost entirely of Marble! Oh and as we got on the train to leave the station - an art gallery in the actually train! Random.
Ok so a new day and Tomo tells me we are just going on the metro today - I was slightly confused until of course our first stop... WOW!!! I took a lot of photos so will group them by station to try and do it justice. This one is Ploshchad Revolyutsii Station.

5 September 2017

What a fantastic and bizarre shopping centre. Old world decadence with Melons in the Fountain!!! The most beautiful place I have ever shopped. It's called GUM or in Cyrillic it looks like 'ryM.'
Red Square, the Kremlin, St. Basil's Cathedral and more!! So so beautiful. I really recommend this place.
Moscow!!! Wow. First thoughts are that we are blown away by this place, so many more photos to share but just wow. This place is so beautiful! If, like me you haven't come to Moscow yet then change this!!! Book your tickets and visas, you won't be disappointed!
Done!!! Wow 72 hours on a train. Really great experience and I recommend it to anyone who likes to relax. Great way to catch up on some reading or even do a dissertation - no internet Facebook distractions!!! Food was expensive for russia but still affordable, and there is cold beer (at about £5 a pint though) available. If you are going to do this here are some tips; bring some food - bread, sausage and cheese did use well, pot noodles, cans of ale - this way you don't have to worry about having a warm beer, and loads of reading books/suduko/cards etc. Beautiful scenery - I'm starting to fall in love with this country! We stayed in First Class but the second class seems much the same just bunk beds so 4 to a room instead of 2.

2 September 2017

Okay so the longest leg now. 72 hours on a train from Irkutsk to Moscow! Wish is luck!!

1 September 2017

What an amazing and random restaurant to go to for my bday meal! Soviet era kitsch, but great food. Although the 'starter' was blended vegetables and tasted like something my nephew Max might eat. I thing the Russian waiter may have been playing a joke on us there. That being said the Borsch (beetroot soup), Saguldai (wrong spelling but basically a cured Fish - Omul, salad) and venison dish were all amazing. Highly recommend it - name to follow....
Irkutsk is a charming city. Really recommend it. Beautiful churches.
Just checked in at the Ibis and they knocked on my door five minutes later saying they noticed it was my birthday and gave me this!! How lovely and thoughtful!!! What a lovely way to start the special day. Now into Irkutsk for some sightseeing!!

31 August 2017

Lake Baikal is beautiful!!! We are staying in the small fishing village of Litvyanka. The smoked fish you can see is the Omul, native to Baikal and I believe nowhere else. Interesting fact, Lake Baikal is the deepest Lake in the world!

29 August 2017

Ok so another 24 hour journey today from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to Irkutsk, Russia - always wanted to go here ever since I saw it on the Risk map! The journey was amazing - not quite the on suite room we had on the Chinese train but the views more than made up for it. The customs was terrifying - one group of girls almost got thrown off for being Brazilian on the Mongolian side and then on the Russian side an elderly Man and his Daughter were thrown off for having a Visa for the wrong date. These guys don't kid around!! If you ever do this make sure you play it safe with the visas!!!

27 August 2017

On our last day in the homestay we go to a lake and see some camels as well as visiting a Sacred Mountain. We see a lamb being skinned as a gift to Munkh and his family and eventually return to the chap from the first night's Ger. He has invited us back to continue the drinking. 2 bottles of Vodka and a few bowls of Airag later we are slightly pissed. Goodnight Mongolia!!

26 August 2017

That night we have a Mongolian BBQ which uses stones heat in the fire to cook lamb. Delicious!!
Next we learn how to make fresh butter (by heating milk and causing it to bubble - the crust is the butter), yoghurt and dried yoghurt which is like cheese.
A poignant moment. I hike up to the nearest peak and place 7 stones their in memory of my Grandad whose funeral was yesterday. Munkh tells me this is a funeral tradition older than Mongolia itself and is in worship to the sky. The idea is to place the stones as close to the Sky so that your loved one is closer to where they will go. It's seven stones for the stars of the big dipper which guides the way to the North Star. Allowing them to know where they are going. Will miss you Grandadxxx
Great so our big day involves Horse-riding!! Was awesome until Tomo's horse decided to run off. Luckily Munkh had the reigns but it was enough to cut our ride a bit short. A bit too risky!! Instead Tomo and I hearded the sheep and goats to the watering hole.
The next morning we wake up late to Munkh making us a big lunch. We have much to do today he says!! So lunch is Mongolian Fried Noodles and is delicious.

25 August 2017

But wait! Before we go to bed a 4x4 rolls up and a man jumps out. He has an excited exchange with Munkh, who then informs us that we have been invited to another Ger for a Pony Gelding part. We will drink Airag (fermented Horse milk) and Vodka! We get there in about 25mins driving in the dark. We are greeted with Mongolian folk songs and some amazing hospitality. One of the most special experiences I have ever had. We in turn sang and gave speeches and of course drank a lot of Airag and Vodka. The Airag is like a sour alcoholic milk - its an acquired taste!!
Before we sleep we have a nice Mongolian Noodle Soup made with dried beef that Munkh has done on his balcony! With this are the left over Dumplings from lunch!
After driving through the most amazing countryside including a scary drive through a river, 7 hours later we finally arrive at the Ger. We find out we are staying with Munk's cousins and they have given us their Ger to use. Its beautiful and we are humbled to be staying here. Time to sleep!
So we are now on our way to the Nomadic Homestay and our Guide, Munkh takes us off road into the steppe. All is going well until we reach a check point. A policeman informs us that we have just passed through an area of foot and mouth infection and he cannot allow us to proceed further due to the risk of contaminating the wildlife and thus peoples livelihoods. After an hours wait we are told that we can proceed but by a different and much longer route. We are sprayed with disinfectant and allowed on our way. Phew!!

24 August 2017

Just an incredible statue here. Chinngis Khaan in all his glory. This mammoth statue is about 40 meters tall I think and made out of Stainless steel so it will never rust. The sun just glints off it in the most amazing way. We climbed up to the neck of the horse for an awesome panoramic view. This was built by Mongolian former Japanese Sumo Champion turned entrepreneur who is now the very popular President of Mongolia. It was built in the spot where a young Chinngis (Temugin at the time) found a horse whip - a good omen of things to come. He is positioned so he gazes towards his home in the East.
An incredible drive through Terelj National Park stopping off at Turtle Rock and even driving through the river Terelj. Such a beautiful park of slightly marred by so much tourist constructions that are being built there. What a shame.
This morning we went to the Black Market in Ulaanbator. Cool experience and I wish I had more space in my luggage. You can literally get everything here from antiques to cooking stoves. Theres a big section for horse supplies and also for the Shaman to buy their costumes from!

23 August 2017

Just some more pics of Ulaan Bator. We went to Chingis (thats the real way of saying Ghengis) Square and then on to a folk music and dance show in which we got to see the Mongolian Throat Singing - where they make 2 different sounds at once. Its amazing!!!
Ok so that was an experience. We arrive at the beautiful restaurant carriage and sit down. Knowing we only have about $10 in Yuan to spend we ask for the menu - the waiter makes the action to 'eat.' We nod. He then delivers us some bread, butter and jam, followed by an omelet and some tea. I ask him how much and show him our money and he simply nods. Ok we think so we tuck in. He comes back and I ask for the bill. He asks for 200 yuan - twice what we have! I show him our money again and he, again nods, takes what we have and leaves! Now either we have over paid and been done like tourists (the guide books hint the price he quoted us was normal), or we have massively underpaid and the waiter has just waved the debt!!! I'll let you know if they make us do the washing up....

22 August 2017

So after a 6 hour wait in Erlian a border town between China and Mongolia in which our passports were taken for an hour at a time on 2 occasions for the various checks and new 'train wheels' were put on the train (the tracks are different in Mongolia) we finally rolled on into Mongolia. It's beautiful if a tad barren. But I guess that's why they call it the plains. So far we have seen goats, sheep, wild horses and camels!! A few more hours to go now and we'll be in Ulaan Bator, the capital of Mongolia.
Breathtaking scenery and a nice dinner in the train restaurant!!!
Our first leg of the trans-mongolian railway!!! Amazing cabin with a shower and toilet. Totally weren't expecting that! Just set off out of Beijing and within 15 minutes we see the most amazing scenery..

21 August 2017

Some great food at the local Muslim - Chinese restaurant and we bumped into this huge group of Older People doing tai chi, dancing and generally socializing. So healthy to see an older generation still hanging out in street corners!!!
Wow wow wow!!! The most amazing experience. The Great Wall of China. Truly awe inspiring and one of the best things I have ever seen. It's worth coming to China just to see this. Absolutely awesome. The toboggan ride down was fun too!
Some more photos of the wall etc..

20 August 2017

Back to Hotel now for great food at the local Szechwan restaurant 'Dama Home Cooking.' By local I mean LOCAL! Heads turned to look at the strange white ginger guy as I came into the restaurant. Not dissimilar to a pub in Devon to be honest. The food was amazing and all for about 8 pounds including two big beers! Love this place. The dishes if you are interested are Cabbage cooked in (a lot) of pork fat, Kung Pao Chicken, Fried Rice and Spicy Beef Noodle Soup.
Beautiful back streets and a lake filled with blossoming Lotus Flowers. So lovely.
Next was the Bell and Drum Tower were we managed to catch the last Drum show of the day. Basically back in the day the drum tower was effectively Beijing's clock and told everyone what the time was on the hour etc.
The rest of brunch was a little more 'normal.' Noodles and dumplings - really recommend! Also some other stuff from the market.
Breakfast today. Scorpions. Why not. Actually quite tasty. Didn't try any more and in no way do I regret that.

19 August 2017

Lastly a drink in Panda Brewery, a micro brewery in Beijing! Awesome Honey Ale with about 20 choices on tap some of which are brewed on site. Highly recommend. We then went for a walk in the dark back streets to try to find 'The Distillery' a local speakeasy. Sadly it was closed - or so a local told me. It was so hidden I never found the entrance. The night ended interestingly with a Chinese tuk tuk ride home. Bless him he got lost about 4 times and when he did get us there it was through watching the sat nav on his phone whilst he held it in one hand, driving with the other. Not too dissimilar to Korean taxi drivers on Jeju then.
Now time for some Beijing nightlife. Now I thought Korean Bbqs were chilled out, providing you with the slices of meet to cook yourselves, the Chinese apparently don't even bother to cut the meet off the bone (although in actual fact they do this later after you have had a go your self). So this is Tan Hua Lamb Bbq. It's an entire leg of Lamb spit roasted over coals which you cut (with these special elongated knives and forks) whilst it cooks. They have these 3 dips to go with it, cumin powder, soy and chili and a tomato relish. Right up my street!
Sadly the Forbidden Temple was sold out - you need to get here early or book online due to the huuuuge crowds. I have more pics of the entrance to it which is worth a visit in itself but will have to see if we can get back here tomorrow!
In the footsteps of history. Tiananmen Square. You would never know this was the site of one of the most iconic and tragic moments of the 20th Century. There is no mention of it anywhere but the security points and bag checks (think airport rather than concerts) you need to pass through in order to get there hint at the regime not having forgotten it themselves..
A lovely walk in the backstreets of Beijing. The more I see the more I am taken by this this place. The architecture is stunning. From the Temple of Heaven you walk north east to Tiananmen Square and this is what is in between!
The Temple of Heaven. So peaceful, if a bit busy. Rows and rows of pine trees in the centre of Bustling Beijing!

18 August 2017

Beijing at Night
Amazing first meal in Beijing. Bianyifang Peking Duck Restaurant! When in Beijing.....
Hotel Spring Valleys. East meets west, buts its quite charming especially the frescos!!!
Just waiting for a taxi at the railway station and it's heeeeaving! Looking forward to trying to circumnavigate this in a few days time to catch our train to Mongolia....
So today is the beginning of our World Tour! Really excited and a little nervous. Cannot wait to arrive in Beijing and start the trip. Am in Osaka Kansai airport waiting to board our flight. Bon Voyage!!!