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A Little Trip

We took a couple of days to explore a bit more of Malta. I’ve been around the places you’ll see below before, but there’s always something new to see and capture. It also gave me an opportunity to take my lovely camera out for some exercise! It was awhile since I really took any photos with it and there’s so much to learn. I was contemplating whether to bring my Canon with me on my travels due to the bulkiness but I’m thinking it would be stupid of me not to.

Below you’ll find some photos that I took in Vittoriosa (Birgu) and Valletta. If you come to Malta, make sure to explore the island a bit instead of staying in the usual spots. You might just discover a gem amongst the rubble…oh and a cat or two.

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China – Part IV

Day 3 – Simatai

17.10.11

Our hotel! It was a little creepy and made me think of The Shining on more than one occasion. The hotel was empty apart from our little group.

View from our room. Not bad, right?

Today we trekked 12km along the Gubeikou Pass. It was a mixture between the previous days adventures as it combined trekking both the wall and forested areas. My legs feel absolutely wrecked as do my poor feet. I’ve only just started to gain movement in my toes again (I’m writing this a few hours after ending the trek). My body is seriously cursing me right now.

Anyway, today was brilliant! What an absolutely amazing view the entire way and the autumn colours were stunning. Oranges and reds mixed with green as far as the eye can see. At the very beginning whilst we were climbing up to get to the wall, I was really wondering to myself if I could complete the day. Three of the girls sadly turned back quite early due to the height issues. The majority of the wall was crumbly and narrow with no wall on either side – just sheer drops.

Making our way up to the wall.

When we exited the bus on arrival at the wall we were greeted by the ‘Hello People’. These are women who used to be farmers but now became sellers instead. They choose one person each and walk with you along the wall for the entire journey. It actually sounded a little worrying and annoying but they were really nice people who just want to help as much as they can. Obviously everything comes with a price so they do try to sell something at the end of the trek and trust me, you feel totally obliged to buy from them! I got into a bit of trouble with mine actually because a different Hello Lady came up to me after the trek offering me gifts to buy. Since my Hello Lady had disappeared, I assumed that I had to buy from this woman instead so I took a book about the Great Wall. As soon as my Hello Lady clocked me buying from this other woman, she ran up to me shouting ‘No, no, no, I walked with you!’ I felt awful! She then started shoving chopsticks in my face at a ridiculous price and since I had previously acted out that I didn’t have much money on me, I ‘borrowed’ money from Dave to buy them. This cheered her up a bit and I figured that I owed her in some strange way.

With a few of the Hello Ladies.

Here is a little snippet about my Hello Lady:  Her name was Lu and she was a 30-year-old pretty lady with chin length hair. She couldn’t talk very good English but I did understand that she has two young boys and travels 4 hours a day to get to work. When I say travel I mean walks. It really made me appreciate everything I have. We complain about ridiculous work conditions such as not having the right chair to be sitting at our PC for 8 hours a day, when we should be lucky to have a comfortable and stable job at all.

Lunch time! It’s safe to say that Dave’s feet were wrecked!

and a great way to end the days trek was seeing this…
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China – Part II & III

Badaling
15.10.11
What a day! Our wake up call was at 6:30am…lovely! Mind you, I woke up at 6am by myself.  By 8am we set off for our first big day. Our first trek started at the Badaling section of the wall which is a section that is rarely visited by tourists so we were basically the only ones there. I’m not going to give a full account but I will say this – the steps are deceiving. You turn a corner and find another flight, it was never-ending! Oh and for the entire five hours that we walked for, I think only about fifteen minutes in total of those were on a straight path.

The wind was insane. At one it caught me by surprise and I almost fell but luckily Kim grabbed hold of me. With the wind so bad we had to get as low to the ground as possible. There was a section where there was no wall on either side of us so we ended up going down on our bums which was quite funny.

Our lovely group before the trek began!
We encountered some interesting signs along the way.
Literally having to hold on for fear of the wind blowing me backwards!
The majority of the section that we walked was un-renovated.

The trek was tough but beautiful.
Going down was almost as tough as the upward climb because it was so steep. My poor toes!
I have to say that it was the most challenging experience of my life and it’s only the first day! I ache like crazy which concerns me about tomorrow but hopefully I’ll be fine.
Good night!

Day 2 – Black Dragon National Park

16.10.11 – 06:45am
Just woke up about 15 minutes ago. I’ve been waking up and stretching my legs all night in preparation for the day ahead. Today we’ll be at the Black Dragon National Pool and it’s supposed to be an easier but much longer trek. I just hope that my legs cope!
We’re staying at the Impressions lodge and one thing I’ve noticed since we arrived yesterday is that there’s some kind of thumping sound throughout the lodge. It’s literally going ‘Boom, boom, boom’ all the time like a heartbeat. I think it must be some kind of pump. Anyway, we just had our wake up call so it’s time to get ready.
16:50pm
Day 2 of trekking over! Today was a 10km trek which lasted 5 ½ – 6 hours. The park was beautiful. We trekked through a large amount of forested areas with a few difficulties on the way.  It definitely did not feel as tough as yesterday but it’s still very rewarding to have completed the whole day because I don’t think I’ve ever actually trekked this kind of distance in one go! I’m not as unfit as I thought I was!

We’ve also learned the Chinese hand signs from 1-10 so that we can communicate with the hotel staff a bit easier.

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China – Part I

On the 13th October 2011 I set off with my friend Dave to embark on an adventure.  We went to China to trek sections of the Great Wall around Beijing for six days in aid of a Charity of our choice.

I thought that it would be great to document the whole adventure in the same style that it was written in my journal because before I had gone and was trying to research things about the wall etc, I found it really difficult to find any bloggers or writers who had done a similar trek and I really wanted an honest opinion about what I would be getting myself into!

I hope that you’ll find this helpful and enjoyable in some way. It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget as long as I live (well, I hope that’s the case – my memory sucks!) but at least having the trip down on both paper and my blog will keep the memory alive.

I’ll be posting about my trip weekly so it won’t be too much to digest in one go!

The Trip: Trekking The Great Wall of China for six days.

The Charity: Cancer Research UK

Organiser: Charitychallenge.com

Would I recommend this organisation again? Absolutely! If I could afford to, I would book another trip with them. From start to finish they were brilliant – only one problem occurred and that was that my friend and I didn’t receive a vegetarian meal on the return flights to China. We didn’t inquire further into it as we’d forgotten about it when we returned home (or at least I did).

So here we go…

Below: Dave and I just before heading for departure at Malta airport.

14.10.2011 – 6:35pm

I’ve finally lay down after our long journey. I’m in China! I feel like I have to pinch myself to make sure that it’s not just a dream. After over ten months of planning it has finally happened. No backing out.

On seeing the wall for the first time I gave myself two minutes to doubt myself. I vividly remember thinking ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into?’ with my jaw wide open and my head plastered to the van window.

Below: First glimpse

It’s been a long day of travelling. After waking up at 3am on the 13th I’ve had about two hours sleep. I think that it’s been a total of 23 hours since I slept properly and I’m definitely feeling deprived!
Despite having a free day when we arrived at our first lodge, it was still very busy. The first thing we did was to settle into our rooms. The accommodation is basic but fine. The beds are another story altogether. I’ve never felt a mattress quite as hard as the one that I’m lying on now! In fact I’m wondering if there actually is a mattress. The floor might be softer.
After lunch we decided that it would be a good idea to ‘stretch our legs’ by climbing a section of the wall which our lodge was located right next to.
What. A. Climb.
The steps were incredibly steep and high and I hadn’t bothered to bring my trekking poles. Somebody had marked one of the top steps as 1500 but we did go on for about another 200 steps. I am so proud of myself to have made it so far, especially with only 2-3 hours’ sleep.  The upward climb was deceiving though. I would look upwards and it would seem like we couldn’t possibly go any higher…then I get to the top and there’s another upward climb. I had to tell myself just to take one step at a time.
I can’t believe that I haven’t said anything about the views yet! All I can say is that they are out of this world. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. I have never experienced such magnificence on this kind of scale before. Every corner turned is a photo opportunity.
Going back down was tough because my legs had literally turned to jelly – but I made it.
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Vietnam – North to South

The next country on my year-long trip is Vietnam. I have to choose whether to take a long bus ride from Laos (which doesn’t sound too pleasant from reading other people’s experiences) or hopping on a plane which would be much more convenient and apparently is still a great way to travel over as you’ll get to see all the rice paddies from the air! I guess I have some time to consider this.

I’ll start from Hanoi and its surroundings in the North and then down to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) formerly Saigon.

Here are the places I really want to visit:

Ha Long Bay

Source: asthesunrisesoverthemountains.tumblr.com via Simone on Pinterest

Cat Ba Island

Source: amusingplanet.com via Simone on Pinterest

Tam Đảo

Source: pystravel.com via Simone on Pinterest

Ninh Binh

Source: farm4.static.flickr.com via Simone on Pinterest

I’m also really thinking that I need to learn how to ride a bike before next year! Yes, yes, it’s bad I know but it’s something I never quite got the hang of. Maybe the bikes have stabilisers?

Huế

Source: chikvacaciones.com via Simone on Pinterest

Hội An

Source: flickr.com via Simone on Pinterest

Nha Trang

Source: inspirationpix.com via Simone on Pinterest

Mui Ne

Source: theplanetd.com via Simone on Pinterest

Can Tho

Source: Uploaded by user via Simone on Pinterest

Looking forward to some fresh Vietnamese coffee too!

As always advice is welcome and if there’s a place I should visit that I haven’t mentioned (I’m 100% sure there is), feel free to leave me a comment.

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First Stop – Laos

If you’ve been following my blog then you’ll know that my first stop in SE Asia is Laos. Maybe it’s the fact that Laos is the country that I’m particularly looking forward to experiencing. Perhaps I’ll regret starting in Laos and wish that I had left it as the last country I visit in SE Asia…or maybe it’s the best decision? I guess I’ll find out! If any experienced travellers read this, please feel free to leave me tips and advice!

Here is my general route through Laos. I’m really flexible on how long I stay at each place although I’ve read that a couple of days in Vientiane is enough.

Vientiane ► Phonsavan ► Luang Prabang ► Muang Ngoy ►Udomxai ►Luang Namtha ► Muang Sing ► Xieng Kok ► Huay Xai ► Luang Prabang (Slow boat) ► Vietnam!

Just looking at the route is intimidating! I’m so glad that I’ll have a month to do it all (or not all if I decide to stay somewhere for longer on the way).

Here’s a few extra bits of info that I picked up along the way:

Flying in to Vientiane – Fly into Bangkok and from there you take a connecting flight to Wattay International Airport.

Visa – Can be purchased on arrival. 2 passport photos needed and it costs about $30-35. Click here for more details.

For Maltese residents looking for Visa information, you can click here!

Here are a few pictures to keep me inspired (like I would ever stop being) and hopefully inspire you all too!

Source: google.co.uk via Jacoba on Pinterest

Source: 500px.com via Katlyn on Pinterest

Source: wikitravel.org via Ruth on Pinterest

Source: flickr.com via Aml on Pinterest