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Ketto, everyone I've known who travelled for that length of time bought a round the world ticket with open returns. Several longhaul airlines offer these, I know the Australian airline Quantas does them but they can be expensive (although apparently fares to Oz are dropping lately fyi.) Basically you buy a ticket which includes a series of flights: e.g. London-Hong Kong-Sydney-Auckland-San Francsico-New York-London. If you like you can then take shorter domestic fligts from each location. Last I checked they started at about £1000 (no idea in dollars) but that was a while ago. My dad got one a few years ago but his budget is bigger than mine. smile.gif

I don't know anyone who has done this as a package, that is, with accommodation and sightseeing included. Instead people hang out and work (legally or not) at each place for a while, save some money and move on. This kind of travel was so popular amongst young Australians that, as far as I could gather, it was nearly perceived as a national rite of passage, the thinking being that Oz is so far away from anywhere that it made sense to travel for a year or two, rather than for 2 weeks or a month.

All my friends who took out time to travel this way say it changed their lives to some degree. I've never done it myself (I emigrated instead smile.gif ) but I say explore the options and your budget, and go for it. So exciting!

ETA: Found this, might give you ideas?
Ketto -

Star Alliance does a RTW fare, also:

since you live in Canada and Air Canada is one of their partners, the Star Alliance version might be a good one to check out.

I, too, have known several people who've taken a year or two off bought RTW ticket, and done exactly what Sybarite said - stayed in each place for a couple months, worked in different places (Australia and NZ seem to be particularly easy places to find under the table work when you're doing the round the world thing) I've never done it myself either (instead I found a job that paid me to go all over..!) but my friends who've done it also say it was one of the best things they've ever done.

Thanks for the bump!!

I'll be spending a week in and around Amherst, MA around the end of June. Any Busties have advice? Any suggestions for places to stay, eat, drink, spend time? I'm going for a research project, so it won't be all fun and games, but I want to have a bit of fun on the side.
I'll be in Dallas July 30-Aug.1, including at least 1 day (& maybe night) in Austin. Anybody up for getting together/tour guiding?
(BTW, where is the section of the Bust site where you can look up cities & see where other Busties recommend you visit in their cities? I believe it was called "You Go Girl.")
I have a dumb question. We are visiting London next year, and plan to take a train to Brussels and Paris, when going to Brussels and Paris via train will I need my passport? I'm guessing the answer is yes, but I'm really not sure.
DM, your passport is required when arriving and departing an external border of the European Union. By agreement, passports aren't checked at the borders of 22 countries within the EU. UK, Ireland, Romania and Bulgaria don't participate in the agreement. France and Belguim are in the 22 countries that do.
When I was traveling in Europe last year I had my passport checked a few times, within the EU. Once was on a bus from the Czech Republic into Germany- the bus even stopped at the border, it was nighttime, and German cops got on with flashlights. I also recall being checked on trains (but I think that was because I had the Eurail pass, so it served as I.D.). I think it's always good to have it if you're foreign, even if you don't get checked, it's the most legit form of I.D.
Thanks for the info Billy and Edie.
I'll be in San Francisco for a day in the fall checking out grad schools. I'll also be in Portland for a day and Seattle. Any cool stuff to do?
I saw some talk of Montreal/Quebec on here, but am wondering if anyone has been there during the winter? Like December or January? I go to a community college that offers an excellent study abroad program in which you can go to live with a francophone family and attend the Universite de Quebec to study French. I would only be able to go during what they call the "French and Snow" program, however. I don't HATE the cold, but I was wondering just how cold I should expect to be, if I do this!
QUOTE(MadameHooch @ Aug 31 2009, 11:30 AM) *
I saw some talk of Montreal/Quebec on here, but am wondering if anyone has been there during the winter? Like December or January? I go to a community college that offers an excellent study abroad program in which you can go to live with a francophone family and attend the Universite de Quebec to study French. I would only be able to go during what they call the "French and Snow" program, however. I don't HATE the cold, but I was wondering just how cold I should expect to be, if I do this!

I was there for a few days in February a couple of years ago, and it was coooold. As reference point, I'm from Southern Ontario.
There was a bitter wind and at the time the sidewalks on residential streets were also very icy and hard going.
Be prepared to cover up exposed skin during cold snaps (and there will be one), when the wind is up it's really bad.
I am also from southern Ontario, and Quebec City in January is the coldest I have ever been in my LIFE! Beautiful - like, family Christmas movie picturesque - and COLD AS HELL!
Bumped for Epinephrine.

Y'know, I've never used it, but the Lounge does have a blog function. I know I for one would like to keep up with your adventures!

Thanks, Aural!

So, twelve days ago, I moved to Chongqing, China to study Chinese for a year. I'm in the Modern Chinese program at Southwest University, living in the foreign students dormitory with people from all over the world. There are people here from Vietnam, Lesoto, Korea, Kazakhstan, Tanzania, Japan, Egypt, Thailand, Pakistan, Zambia, Congo, Slovakia, America, Samoa, Micronesia, Brunai,'s really amazing. Most people here speak some English and/or Chinese, so it's pretty easy to communicate with people. My Chinese is still pertty basic, but it's coming along. Along with my Chinese classes, which are from 9 to noon Monday to Friday, I've taken on Kung Fu and Calligraphy as my electives. Haven't started those yet, but I'm stoked.

Chongqing is famous for being one of the hottest cities in China. It was 37 degrees yesterday. Thankfully, it hasn't rained in over a week, so the humidity was bearable. Sometimes the climate here is practically tropical. My skin reacted pretty badly to the humidity and pollution at first, but it seems to be calming down now. And, thankfully, nearly all the buildings and dorm rooms here are equipped with a functioning air conditioner. The one in my dorm works about 50% of the time, which is better than nothing, I guess. We also have a private bathroom with a flush toilet, which I'm quickly realizing is a real luxury here.

I really like the campus. It's quite large and has all the amenities - there are a few cheap restaurants and snack bars, several markets and shops scattered around where we can buy pretty much everything we need, a post office, two libraries, three banks and a hair salon. It's also really beautiful here - there are plenty of trees and they let them grow out a nice big canopy to provide shade during the hot summer months, so the effect is quite lush and exotic. There are gardens and courtyards around the campus with cute little stone tables and stools to sit at. The campus has a fleet of small, open-sided electric buses that ferry people around at a cost of one Yuan per person, or about 17 cents, and zipping around the narrow, winding streets through the dense overgrowth feels like some kind of safari. The surrounding scenery is beautiful, too. Chongqing is surrounded by lumpy, green, mist-shrouded mountains, exactly like in the classical Chinese paintings.

In the next month we'll be having one three-day holiday and one week-long holiday, and I'm thinking of hopping a train to do some sightseeing. People tell me that Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is typically a four- to six-week vacation, so I'm making some travel plans. I've got a friend in Tokyo I really want to see, so that's the priority. There are also loads of students here from Vietnam and Thailand and I'm getting to know some of them, so hopefully by spring I'll have an invitation or two to come visit with them!

Anyway, here are the highlights of my trip so far: on the first day, I woke up to find a spider bigger than my hand on the ceiling above my head. Last weekend I tried Chongqing's famous signature spicy hot pot - tasty, but it's just so much oil! The supermarkets here are amazing and shopping for food to cook at the dorm is actually more fun than eating in restaurants. The dollar goes pretty far here, and I can fill a shopping bag with tasty eats for under five bucks. In the "leisure foods" aisle you can find a variety of potato chips with flavours like blueberry, lemon tea, cucumber, sour fish soup, and "vigorous and refreshing numb and tingly hotpot." Yesterday I ate fresh durian (I'd had durian before, but it's shipped frozen and tastes different), which, for those who haven't tried it, is a truly phenomenal fruit that tastes like a combination of avocado, pineapple, and onions, and has a sinfully rich, buttery texture. Everyone here is super friendly and curious about foreigners, and it's really easy to make friends.

Anyway, that's all I have time for now, but I'll keep posting in here! Most blog sites are blocked in China, but I think I can still access some of the minor ones, so when I get that up and running I'll post a link. Windows Live has a blog function that I might check out.

ETA: I've gone ahead with the Windows Live blog, but I'm gonna be lazy and copy and paste this for my first post. I will be posting some pictures, though, so do check it out. I'll post the address later after I've fixed it up a bit.
Great to hear about your city and settling in experiences Epi! What a wide range of nationalities in one place; that's amazing. Your campus sounds beautiful. I seem to remember that a lot of Chinese travel during the festival, which means journeys and accommodation in China book up fast during that time, fyi.

We visited HK, Chengdu and Llasa and you've reminded me of the supermarket in Chengdu; all kinds of foodstuffs I had never seen before, amazing spices and an aisle of nothing but green teas. (I have to say though that the public toilets in mainland China defeated me, I'm not that acrobatic.)

Unbelievable. My Windows Live account has just been shut out by the Great Firewall. Thank god I still have access to my Hotmail account. On to plan C, I guess...

And yes, the public toilets are pretty unsettling at first. Everywhere I've been outside of my dorm has had those hole-in-the-floor toilets - even the common toilets in the dorm are like that, only the private ones are flush toilets. Every time I go out I'm reminded of what luxury I have compared to everyone else here.

Oh, I just remembered another highlight of my trip so far: I learned that when the Chinese take pictures, instead of saying cheese, they say "qiezi" (chi-et'zeh), which means eggplant. That is so fucking cute. "Everybody say eggplant!"
I'm enjoying reading this. Your descriptions of what you're seeing are so detailed and evocative, I can really imagine it.
Keep it comin'. I like this. smile.gif
My blog is back in business! Although, sadly, I'm having a hard time uploading pictures to it. In the meantime, I''ll just post them as a photojournal on my Windows Live page. Enjoy!
So awesome to read about your experiences Epi (I have wondered about Chinese attitudes to drinking; it does seem fairly gendered). Your neighbourhood looks beautiful!
What beautiful pictures, Epi! Your friend JiaJia is adorable. I've bookmarked your blog so I can follow your adventures in China. smile.gif
Jesus, it's beautiful.
Holy crap, Epi, it all looks AMAZING. I am so jealous right now.

I cannot wait to be done school so I can go on a trip.
Not really sure what thread this post belongs in, but I'm wrestling with my first real bout of homesickness and I'm feeling pretty bummed right now. Whenever I slip up or commit a social faux pas here, I just feel so awful. I feel like a big, fat, stupid, ugly, rude, clueless foreigner and I have nowhere to hide and nobody to talk to who knows I'm really not an idiot. It's unnerving how quickly a couple of negative thoughts can snowball into a major funk when you're hit with the sudden realization that all the people you know are asleep in bed on the other side of the planet and you're surrounded by strangers who you can't talk to about anything, let alone anything personal. I don't even have the privacy to wallow in depression here in my room. I don't even have the refuge of a hot shower; the hot water's only on a couple hours a day and it's probably run out by now. I just have to sit here doing homework and pretending I don't have a fucking annoying teenaged roommate sitting six feet away from me. The most familiar thing I have for comfort is my music, so I'm losing myself in Joy Division now.

Well, writing helped, and so did Joy Division, but still...ugh. Bad end to an otherwise ok day. Tomorrow I start Kung Fu classes, so I should be feeling better then.
I know this is probably cold comfort, but remember what an amazing thing you're doing. Some people never get the chance to even leave their country and you're on the other side of the world immersing yourself in a whole new way of life. It's terrifying but I think you're amazingly brave and inspiring for doing it.

I do'nt have any great ideas to beat homesickness but if you ever need to come in here and vent, please do. You've always got some support here. smile.gif
Yup, the good, the bad, the ugly, that's what the forum is here for Epi *hugs to you*
TBH I went on a long trip to another country in my early twenties, and it was only in hindsight that the wincing began. You're a lot more sensitive to your surroundings than I was and that's probably a good sign - maybe you're not as clueless as you feel. You're sensitive and that means you're probably a faster learner than most.
Epi, I agree with what sukouyant said: the fact that you are aware of your inadvertent 'faux pas' indicates you are culturally sensitive and people around you will see and appreciate that.

I do know how you feel: I moved to another country across the ocean when I was 19 (and then to another when I was 25) and it felt like there were so many small everyday things to learn about how people interacted differently with each other. You'll get used to taking these on board though and learning how to live in a foreign country, on their terms, is an awesome thing that will stand you well in the future.

But come here and vent too if it helps smile.gif
Thanks guys. That experience drinking with the Chinese was pretty ugly. It only started to sink in afterward just how taboo it is for women to get drunk here, but there's not much I can do now except suppress the memory and move on. I'm feeling better now. I think the depression could be partly due to PMS, actually; I'll know in a day or two...

National Week starts tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to another week of exploring and adventuring around the city! They have so many holidays here, it's hilarious. I've been in school under a month and I've already had two vacations. I was hoping to check out Chengdu this week, but my passport is with the police until my residence permit is processed, so I probably won't be able to do much travelling. I hear it's possible to travel around in China without a passport, but it's not a good idea. Chongqing is a big city, though - I'm sure I'll be able to stay occupied!

ETA: PMS theory confirmed. God, and they say it's just a myth...
Epi, fyi we stayed here when we went to Chengdu, in probably their most expensive room which was private and had a balcony. Food wasn't great but the bar/cafe area was friendly without being hectic and our room was nice (w/ shower and toilet). It's also a stone's throw from a historical street and temple with lots of restaurants nearby.

Don't worry too much about the night out; better to run into that taboo earlier rather than later, and you weren't to know.
Thanks for the link, Sybarite! That place looks super cute and the prices are really reasonable. Did you check out the traditional teahouses when you were in Chengdu? I hear it's famous for them, and I'm a huge sucker for all things traditional, antique and vintage.

Today was a good day. Finally got to relax after a long, long week - we've been making up classes on the weekends for the ones we miss over the holidays, and we'd done 6 or 7 days in a row. Then one of my Chinese friends treated my roommate and I to Chongqing hotpot again. Aside from the alarming quantities of oil it involves, I'm really digging the hotpot here. The locals are so proud of it we could probably stay here all year without ever spending a penny on food because everyone is always offering to take us to try the famous Chongqing hotpot. Although I'm a big fan of spicy food, I still prefer the much lighter, seafood-rich Hong Kong style hot pot because the broth has no oil and you get to mix your own dipping sauce out of all kinds of ingredients. I really love the simplicity, variety, and free-for-all social atmosphere of hotpot. My favourite things are the yam noodles - the texture is just so thick and chewy and satisfying. I really love biting into a big juicy, crunchy bundle of enoki mushrooms, too. Also tried long, thin strips of cucumber - so refreshing. I was super jealous watching my non-vegetarian friends eat beef tendon - it always looks so good.

Plans have started materializing for the National Week holiday. We still haven't been to Beifangjie, Chongqing's downtown district, so one of our Chinese friends has offered to take us on Saturday. Sunday is my birthday, and the same friend who took us to dinner tonight will be taking us to see the Dazu rock carvings, a famous UNESCO world heritage site. I'm also hoping to climb another mountain - I have to get as much exercise as possible to work off all the damn hotpot people keep feeding me! The season abruptly changed from summer to fall about a week ago and the temperature dropped overnight from the high 30s to the low 20s, so exploring the city is much more appealing now. I also really want to go and get some nice photos of the campus, too - I still can't believe how gorgeous it is here. It's got everything - 20-foot-high bamboo, weird exotic trees with trunks like twisted ropes and creepy tendrils and vines coming off of them everywhere, koi ponds, statues of various famous communists, courtyards, tea gardens, backstreets and staircases rambling through the overgrowth...

After mucking around for a while on different sites I've discovered that Facebook actually loads photos faster than anything else I've used, and it suits my purposes much more neatly, so check out my pictures here.

My friend B (the art major) introduced me to one of his classmates the other day, and this weekend she took me to a big art show at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, one of China's best art schools. It was absolutely amazing. The entire campus was covered in art; I'd taken dozens of pictures before we even got to the show, which was huge. It would take days to see the whole thing. Check the pics!
Thanks so much for sharing your photos, epi...I've long had a fascination with China, but know it only from the novels and Chinese movies I've devoured over the years. (Weren't you the one I was discussing The Good Earth with in our Reader thread?)

Lately I've been learning some very basic characters and their fascinating to me, especially when I see that the character for "to want" is made up of the signs for western woman or the character for "good" is made of a woman and child under a roof. I can only imagine what it must feel like to walk through modern cities that are really ancient and steeped in a culture that gave so many brilliant inventions and technological advances to the rest of the world.

I'm really crazy about traditional Chinese handicrafts...the knot work, the paper lanterns and masks, the tiger-faced shoes, the embroidery, the demon-faced caps that protect little babies from evil, the silk and woven fabrics...

I really hope you keep letting us in on your traveling stories; I, for one, am dying to hear everything!
Ok, I've finally put another post on my blog and I've got two more started that I hope to post this week. I'm keeping busy with studying and haven't been too diligent about blogging or Busting lately, but I'll try to get on top of things!

Koffeewitch, I remember discussing The Good Earth with you! We probably went over this already, but did you read Wild Swans by Jung Chang? Totally amazing book, even for people who aren't fascinated by China like we are. It blew my mind.
It's time I started making travel plans for the spring holiday, and with so many options I'm kind of at a loss. I'm definitely planning on going to Japan to visit a good friend in Tokyo. I also might check out Hangzhou and Hong Kong, or maybe Taiwan. And I've always wanted to go to Thailand and Viet Nam. I'm scared to start planning because there are so many things I want to do and I know I can't do them all. Anyone have any suggestions? Things I absolutely must see/do while I'm in Asia? Travel tips? What should I do in Japan besides eat sushi and try to find those fabled porno vending machines and used panty stores?

Until the holidays come around I'm going to try to make better use of my weekends here to see some more of the surrounding area - Chongqing, Sichuan, maybe Yunnan. I'm planning on checking out Chengdu next weekend. Sybarite, since you've been there, what do you recommend?
Our main reason for visiting Chengdu was to see the pandas there, but we also caught some traditional Chinese theatre and the place we stayed in (that I linked to before) was right next to a traditional Chinese monastery (I think; it was surrounded by a kind of traditional village, touristy but we hadn't seen anything like it before). There's also a moon bear sanctuary outside the city which was heartbreaking, but it was good to see the work they do. For us it was our only visit to a mainland Chinese city, so in a way our experience was more generic. We never quite figured out the restaurants I'm afraid, but stumbled across some great sichuan food anyway. Sorry I can't be more help!

My other half knows SE Asia far better than I and he rates Cambodia, especially Angkor Wat. He stayed in Siem Reap and visited the temples from there; I might be able to find the guesthouse he stayed in for you. He also liked the capital, Phnom Penh. He really liked Laos as well. My sister also travelled SE Asia and had great things to say about Laos too. She was less taken by Vietnam, but that could be because they got lost while there which was tricky.

Don't forget the cat cafes in Tokyo! I think if I went to Japan I'd want to take one of those amazing trains north, maybe to Kyoto, and see some traditional buildings and temples. I would love to visit Tokyo too, I just imagine it as a kind of super pop culture city.
Also, are you able to get to Llasa? I would definitely recommend it: absolutely extraordinary.
Thanks for the tips. How was the panda experience? I'm kind of curious but I'm afraid I'd be paying some company a lot of money to watch their poor miserable pandas rot in a cage. Zoos make me sad. I read about one panda place on Wikitravel and it sounded so comical: "Fees are as follows: look at a panda, 70 Y. Hold a baby panda, 1100 Y. Stand next to an adult panda, 500 Y." Oh, China. You are so funny sometimes.

I've been thinking about going to Tibet, but was wondering if it might be troublesome with travel times, altitude sickness, political sensitivity etc. How did you get there? I've heard there are places in western Sichuan, bordering on Tibet, that retained a lot of the traditional Tibetan culture after the Chinese took over Tibet. I'm going to look into that, for sure.

I totally love visiting temples and I'm making those a priority for sure. The fact that the ones I read about in Chengdu all seem to have tea houses and vegetarian restaurants operating out of them is a huge bonus, as I'm vegetarian and sometimes I get tired of having to be so careful when ordering food in Chinese. Chengdu is also supposed to have good nightlife , including some gay bars, so between the temples, vegetarian cuisine, world-famous tea culture and some queer nightlife I'm all set to have a wicked time over there. For the sake of preserving funds for my future travels (especially Japan - I expect that'll be a shock to my system after getting used to the easy living here in China!) I'll probably just find a cheap youth hostel to stay in; hopefully they're not total fleabags.

I've heard Tokyo never sleeps; I think when I go there I'm going to drink tons of coffee and stay up all night a couple times just walking around and absorbing it all. I've always wanted to go to Japan - I'm super, super excited just thinking about it. The history, the food, the scenery, the art, the food, the architecture, the fashion, the cultural quirks, that juxtaposition of hypermodernism with rigid traditionalism, the food...oh my god. So excited.
I am learning such interesting things about China & such! Yea!
Seeing the pandas was sweet but unsettling, because as you say, they are effectively kept for people to gawp at. They seem comfortable though and have a lot a room to wander around; they're not restricted to the indoors. Watching the people watching the pandas was interesting: a lot of people are just obsessed. Also, it is exactly as you describe: for an extra fee you get to hold one and get your picture taken. A few people did this and they looked really moved by it--I think pandas are cute (and lazy) but the level of adoration is bananas.

We flew to Llasa from Chengdu, having acquired a tourist visa there. Even arriving at the airport was stunning; the air is so clear and you're just surrounded by the Himalayas. There's a high-altitude train that goes there too which sounds kind of awesome (but is apparently very busy and books up in advance). We both got a degree of altitude sickness; my dude had it worse than I did and was laid out for almost a day, so it is a real factor. It made me lethargic and climbing stairs was hard, but otherwise I was okay. You can get canisters of oxygen but they really only stop you getting dizzy. I was conscious that it is essentially a pilgrimage destination, and didn't want to appear disrespectful, but the Tibetans were just lovely, warm and welcoming. There were some Westerners around and (increasingly apparently) Han Chinese too. If you can manage it I would really recommend you go. We stayed in a great, Tibetan owned place.

FWIW, the guesthouse we stayed in was actually primarily a hostel; I just got princessy and wanted our own loo so we got a room.
So I'm in a teahouse inChengdu now, sipping jasmine tea and eating tomato fried eggs. When we arrived at the station on friday a couple of people approached us to advertise their hostel, and it turned out to be the same place you stayed at, Sybarite! The place is a dream - we're staying in a 4 bed dorm but nobody else is there, and we've got a private bathroom, too. One thing about Chengdu is that it's a damn confusing city - we're continually lost here, but it's just part of the adventure now. We went shopping at a really cool market yesterday - after getting lost on the way to the temple - and then we checked out the gay bar. Sichuan opera tonight!
I'm back, safe and sound. Chengdu was awesome! I'm pretty sure I'll be making another trip there in the next few months. Just wrote a blog post about it; go check it out for details! I'll be editing up my photos and putting them on FB this afternoon, too. I'll post a link for you guys.
First things first: Chengdu pics!

So I've started to get my plans figured out for spring festival. I'm on vacation from the 6th of January to the 20th of February, and I'm planning on seeing a few people and places in China and Japan. The New Year falls on February 1st, and my friend B has invited the roommate and I to spend it at his place in Xuzhou, a smaller, less fashionable city in northern Jiangsu province. I'm really excited to go somewhere less polished and touristy and see China from a local perspective. I'm planning on spending two weeks checking out Xuzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai and Hangzhou, which are all within a few hours from each other by train. Hopefully I can convince B to hop a train with us and spend a few days travelling. During the other four weeks I plan to see Beijing, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and my friend's hometown in Sichuan whose name I can't remember. Here's the basic skeleton of my itinerary:

Week 1-2: Possibly spend the first few days of the vacation visiting my friend in Sichuan. Then fly to Japan and visit with my friend in Tokyo. I might decide to hop a train and see some more of Japan if I feel I've got the time (and the money).
Week 3: Fly to Beijing and spend a week there. A very good friend of my family is from Beijing and she's told me I'm more than welcome to visit with her family there.
Week 4-5: Take a train to Xuzhou, which is apparently the midpoint on the railroad between Beijing and Shanghai. Spend Chinese New Year celebrating and scarfing homemade dumplings with B, his family and my roommate. Explore Xuzhou for a few days and then take a train to Suzhou, which is supposed to be a beautiful city to visit, and which is conveniently situated right between Xuzhou and Shanghai. Spend a couple days in Suzhou and then on to Shanghai. I haven't figured out exactly when and from where would be the most convenient, but if I can I'll squeeze in a trip to Hangzhou, which is quite close and is supposed to be stunningly gorgeous - they call it the Venice of China.
Week 6: From Shanghai, take a train south to Shenzhen, which is much cheaper to travel to than Hong Kong, which is apparently spitting distance away. If Shenzhen looks cool I might spend the day there. Then I'll take a bus or something to Hong Kong and spend a week gorging myself on seafood, dim sum and tofu pudding. I might meet up with one of my dad's colleagues, who used to be a foreign correspondent in China for a while and now lives in Hong Kong doing various interesting things. Then I fly back to Chongqing from wherever I can get a cheap ticket; I don't know much about air fares from Shenzhen, but that's the most likely option.

Whew. I'll be so broke and exhausted after all this. But I'm so excited! I'll have my Chinese friends help me buy my plane tickets online this week. Even though I'd traveled before and I've been living in China for over three months now, it wasn't until my trip to Chengdu this weekend when I really got a taste of the freedom of arriving in a new city with nothing but a small backpack, carrying nothing but the absolute essentials, with no obligations except to enjoy yourself, spiked with the exhilarating challenge of having to figure out how to function, survive and get around all by yourself. As clumsily as we handled it, newbies that we are, I felt more free and independent during that trip last weekend than I've ever felt in my life. I suppose that's the travel bug I'm feeling rolleyes.gif Also, as I'm sure you all know, I don't get along so well with my roommate. So I've decided that, except for the Xuzhou-Suzhou-Hangzhou-Shanghai trip, I won't be travelling with her. It'll be my first time travelling solo. I'm a bit nervous, but mostly just super excited!
I am posting this in most of the threads here because this is a serious issue that does need attention.
Please everyone click the link and sign the petition.

"Corrective Rape" is a term used to describe when a male rapes a lesbian with the aim of 'turning' her heterosexual! This heinous crime is prolific in South Africa, especially in the "townships". Most of the victims are tortured, grievously assaulted and sometimes murdered! The South African government and justice system are failing the victims of Corrective Rape by letting the perpetrators out on ridiculously low bail, and taking literally years to bring the court-cases to a conclusion. In the meantime the victims have to live with seeing and being taunted and threatened by their rapists every day, as do those who help the victims!

In the last 10 years:
*31 lesbian women have been murdered because of their sexuality
*More than 10 lesbians a week are raped or gang raped in Cape Town alone
*150 women are raped every day in South Africa
*For every 25 men accused of rape in South Africa, 24 walk free

This is very serious and people of the world need to come together and stop this injustice from continuing to happen.
Sparkledust, while I acknowledge the seriousness of the issue you're posting and agree that it needs attention, posting it in the relevant threads (like the Feminist Outrage thread, which you seem to have found) will do just fine. Running around posting stuff anywhere and everywhere is not a good way to get yourself taken seriously here.


So my travel plans have gone sideways, as they will do. Oh well. I plan on having an awesome time anyway. My Japan trip got shortened due to prohibitively expensive tickets during the time I wanted to leave and now I'll have to cancel it altogether because the trip back would have cost me three times what it cost to get there. Those flights to and from Japan would have eaten up almost my entire budget for the month, and while I'm not new to living on a shoestring, being broke in a foreign country makes me very nervous. So I'm sad about that. But I'll be keeping an eye on ticket prices and when I see an opportunity I'll jump on it, even if it means skipping some classes.

So, my new plan is to take a train to Xi'an this week (whenever I can get that plane ticket to Japan cancelled and can be sure I'll get the money back - ugh), spend a few days there, and then take a train to Beijing and spend a week with a close family friend's brother. She's insisting I stay with them, so I guess I don't need to feel guilty and reluctant to accept their hospitality. I hope it goes smoothly. On the 30th I'll take another long-distance train to Xuzhou (which, as it happens, is the hometown of my friend's parents!), spend New Year's with B and his family (and my roommate, who'll be joining us there), and what follows after that will probably be fairly spontaneous. I'm still looking at ticket prices for Japan and if I can find something cheap by then I may make another stab at it. I have always wanted to go to Japan and I'm not going to let the opportunity pass me by when I'm already so close!

In all likelihood, Japan will still be too expensive, so I'll probably end up going to Shenzhen and Hong Kong for a few days and then heading back toward Chongqing. I may tack on a visit to my friend in Sichuan at the end if I can manage it. We shall see.

Just a couple days left in my safe haven here before I go out alone. I'm kinda nervous. I know it won't be flawless and the mishaps will be a part of the experience, but hopefully nothing really major goes wrong. At least I know there are people I can call if I have trouble.

I'm going to try to avoid the tourist stuff more this time. It'll be hard, because sometimes the tourist stuff sounds so cool. But it's always more expensive than it's worth. I'm perfectly happy to just walk around and take in the sights and eat cheap street food, so I should just stick with that. I hear the university campuses can be cool, too. I plan to check out Beijing University while I'm there.
Any Busties have experience booking hotels and hostels online? My Chinese is still not so good and I find it really difficult on the phone. Normally I'd just walk in, but Spring Festival is crazy and a lot of the hotels fill up, and I don't want to gamble on a place to sleep, so I need to be able to reserve a room ahead of time. Sites like, and, where you can just select the days you want to stay and book them online, look too good to be true - are they? Do hotels and hostels register with these sites somehow so they can keep up with the online bookings, or will I just end up paying money and showing up there to find that they never received my booking?

I ended up cancelling my trip to Xi'an because I couldn't book a hotel. I couldn't get through to the hostel I wanted to stay at on the phone and all the trains to Xi'an arrived at night - there was no way I was going if it meant wandering around at 10 o'clock at night trying to find a place to stay. No biggie - I was mostly going there for convenience anyway, because it's right in between Chongqing and Beijing and I'd rather break the trip in half and see some sights on the way than spend a full 25-30 hours on the train. Turns out plane tickets from Chongqing to Beijing are quite affordable - a two-hour flight to Beijing is just 100 RMB (15 CAD) more than the cost of a grueling all-day train ride, so there's no need to put myself through that!

So I'll probably be in Beijing for ten days. I want to check out some of the must-see tourist stuff (the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Mao's enbalmed corpse, the Hutongs), but I'm really going to try to keep it cheap and low-key and stay away from the tourist traps as much as possible. I really want to see some art and hear some live music. I wonder what their cafe scene's like. Even unhip, uncultured, blue-collar Chongqing has several decent cafes, so Beijing must have tons. I hear there's an artist village in one of the outer districts where you can spend an afternoon just wandering from gallery to gallery, and that sounds awesome. I'm also going to check out the markets - a city like Beijing must have some incredible markets. Nothing makes me happier than walking through an enormous, crowded market full of bizarre and wonderful foods!

So that family friend whose brother I'm staying with in Beijing? It turns out their parents are from Xuzhou! What a small world. My friend B nearly choked when I told him. They live in Beijing, too, in a military retirees compound near my friend's brother's place, so I'll be seeing them for sure. I've actually met them once before, but at the time I didn't speak any Mandarin, and they have no English at all, so we could only communicate with smiles and hand gestures. They seemed very sweet. They're really interesting people, too - they were professional entertainers for the communist troops during the Cultural Revolution. I can't wait to hear some of their stories.

So on the 30th I'll take a train from Beijing to Xuzhou and join my roommate at B's place. Chinese New Year is on Feb 3rd, so we'll probably be spending about a week in Xuzhou. Hopefully we'll be able to convince B to come to Hangzhou or Suzhou with us. If not...I suppose we'll go anyway. My roommate is going to Taiwan on the 10th, and I think I'll head south to Shenzhen. It sounds like an awesome city, and it's close enough to Hong Kong that I can make day trips there. Flights from Shenzhen to Chongqing are super cheap, so I'll just fly back around the 18th or 19th and relax for a few days before starting class again. As long I can figure out places to sleep in Hangzhou/Suzhou and Shenzhen it should all be a go!
I'm leaving for Beijing in a couple of hours. By the time I went back to the site to buy the plane tickets the price had nearly doubled, and was continuing to climb even as I watched the screen. So I broke down and bought a train ticket - a slow one, as all the high-speed trains were booked up. I was lucky to get a ticket at all, really. So I'll be on the train for 31 hours. I've got snacks and homework, and I've only slept about 10 hours in the past 3 days, so I hope to sleep through as much of it as possible. Gonna go buy some oranges for the trip so I don't get scurvy and die. I'll be Busting from Beijing in a few days!
Wooo, go epi! I can't wait to hear about your adventures in Beijing.
I made it to beijing! the train ride was intense, but a worthy cultural experience. it was interesting racing through miles and miles of poor farming communities with their traditional brick courtyard homes all the way here. not much in the way of scenery - it was all prairie. although i don't know if that's what they call it. my friends parents have gleefully fussed over my every need since i stepped in the door, and for once communication isn't an issue because i'm basically studying beijing chinese, so there's no unfamiliar accent making my life difficult like there was in Sichuan and Chongqing. i'm going to see the great wall tomorrow!
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