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Long route home Our trip all the way home, trying to catch no planes and stay on the ground like civilised people. It's taking us via India all the way to Europe from Japan, the furthest of the Far East...

The road less travelled

CHINA | Saturday, 14 August 2010 | Views [464] | Comments [1]

Getting from place to place has been a constant driver for this trip, as we're always heading off to somewhere new soon.  What's also different is the linear nature of it - as we're not circling like many others are, goodbyes are always final and we take fewer day trips or short hops as we are always pushing for kilometres.  Some of the path is well trodden and some of it is fairly off the beaten track.  It's good to do both though it is fairly depressing watching endless streams of people following the smae currents through Laos/Vietnam/Cambodia/Thailand.  Malaysia is a little different - for some reason it's off most lists and China and Japan are leagues apart.  Almost everywhere we've been has had a well-developed onward route or path to the sights which has made life easy if a little boring at times.

As for the travel itself, we've been on ferries, motorboats and longtails as well as hydrofoils and junks in the water.  On land we've used bullet trains, regular trains, taxis, minivans, bicycles, subways, monorails, motorbikes and lots of buses and coaches.  Train and ferry travel are by far our favourites - slow-paced and relaxing, usually comfortable and they give you a look through windows into other lives.  Sadly, trains have been tricksy in this region - South Asia is not well served.  The best trains were all in Japan with the exception of the Tianjin-Peking express train.  Chinese trains were a riot of noise and smells with plenty of clunking too.  It's particularly sad to note that journeys at the start were covering ground at well over a hundred kph but slowed to a crawl in South Asia where 60kph was fairly quick.  It's clear to us both that having a mass transit and a monorail is a big factor in being considered a proper city.  

Bus travel was largely fairly comfortable too - the roads are mostly pretty good now, though Cambodia has a way to go.  The major issue in buses was the tendency to get them down to about 15 degrees on the inside so one was shivering.  After the idiocy of Indochina and China normal practice has been resumed in Thailand, where people drive on the correct side of the road, or at least they do when they're following the rules.  Road safety is shocking in much of the region - organised chaos dominates.  Honking has been a real hassle, it really loses it's impact if one just drives around constantly leaning on the horn.  Travelling on the back of a motorbike was pretty fun but also very cold when we were wet.  Water travel has been very pleasant for the most part.  We've really enjoyed the peacefulness and gentle nature of it.  It's a great shame the cargo ships didn't work out.  It is a pollution worry though as many smaller boats are using ineffecient outboard motors and travelling half full.  Crossing borders has been very easy and the controls very lax - overall a far more pleasant situation than the airport.

Postal services have been good, much better than feared.  We think all our postcards have arrived and sending parcels has involved some hoop-jumping but nothing too silly.  Internet access has been widely available, especially around tourist areas, and fast - blinding in Japan.  Facebook has problems in China and Vietnam but otherwise everything is available.  We picked up SIM cards in Malaysia and Vietnam and found it hard to run out of credit plus we were bombarded with texts, especially in Nam advertising things.

The money has been most absurd in HK - 3 different banks issuing both coins and notes for the same denominations.  Cambodia has a strange system where dollars come out of ATMs and are most usually spent but local riel come back as change.  Nam is almost totally note-based although there are some coins and one uses telephone numbers - 10,000 for a bread roll with cheese.  Malaysia, Hong Kong and China used secondary demarcations, no-one else did.  The sterling is pony against all of them - but the yen is very strong...

Awards:

Longest journey - 54 hours across three days between Japan and China

Most vomiting witnessed in a single journey - the zigzagging new road to Da Lat

Most lax border - Rach Gia in Southeren Vietnam/Cambodia

Comments

1

keep up with the lists and tell me more about the motorbike travels - perhaps you and roberta can swap pillion tips?

  Chris H Aug 24, 2010 2:57 AM

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