Blog Archives

Kowloon Walled City, Kawasaki

Reproduction of Kowloon Walled City at Anata-no-warehouse, Kawasaki

I first heard of Hong Kong’s old Kowloon Walled City in William Gibson’s Idoru (which is a great novel if you’re interested in sci-fi & Japan), which features a virtual reality community based on it.

Reproduction of Kowloon Walled City at Anata-no-warehouse, Kawasaki

A lawless, ramshackle, and insanely densely populated corner of Hong Kong,

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Life in Beijing: catching the bullet train

Chinese CRH bullet train

You’re woken up by the sound of an old man violently expectorating in the hutong alleyway outside, cringing during the pause while he holds his mouthful of phlegm for a second or two between noisily bringing it up and noisily depositing it on the floor with typically exaggerated sound effects.

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Chinese Visa Extensions in Leshan and Kaifeng

If you’re in China on a tourist (L) visa and want to get more time in the country without having to go down to Hong Kong for a new visa, you may be able to extend your existing visa at a Public Security Bureau office.

The extension rules officially require you to have several thousand dollars in a Chinese bank account –

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Life in Beijing: the Street Barber of Shilipu

Pop-up street barber in Beijing

I was just going through some old photos and found this one of a pop-up street barber near my old place in Beijing. There isn’t much of a travel blog post I can write to go with it, but it shows a side of Beijing (and China) quite different from the grandeur of the Forbidden City or the Greatness of The Wall.

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My Failed Tibet Trip: Permits, Solo Travel, Getting Stuck in Xining, and the Amdo Route from Xining To Chengdu

A mosque in Xining

Cold, tired, and hungry, I finally dropped my bags and plonked myself down on the bed; all I had to do now was go out for food and then shower & sleep, before getting up next day to take the world’s highest train across the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa.

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Life in Beijing: Airpocalypse Now

One night while living in Beijing I coughed and hacked and spluttered all night long, with an itching and burning in my throat that nothing would alleviate.

I didn’t sleep much that night, and when I finally did wake up in the morning, shattered, I awoke to the horrifying sight of blood flecks across my pillow.

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(How NOT to) Go to Guizhou: the Hidden Beauty of China

“Go to Guizhou, the Hidden Beauty of China,” the TV advised me.

“No thanks mate – I already did, and it was kinda shit,” I replied.

I was sat in my Airbnb in Taipei, doing some work with the TV on in the background,

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A Stroll in Chongqing: City of Bridges and Spices, Phlegm and Trash

Historical courtyard in Chongqing

Why are you even here? This wasn’t the plan at all. You were supposed to be in Tibet.

A chaotic street scene in Chongqing

Crossing the road, you tuck in behind the old bloke bent under the weight of an enormous load of empty plastic bottles as a concrete mixer rumbles by,

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Overland Routes from China to Southeast Asia

If you’re looking to travel overland from China to SE Asia (or vice versa) you have three main route options: Guangxi province to Vietnam, Yunnan province to Vietnam, and Yunnan to Laos (and Thailand); a fourth potential route is Yunnan to Myanmar,

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Leshan: Big Brawl at the Big Buddha

The huge stone Buddha of Leshan

The Great Buddha of Leshan in China‘s Sichuan province is one of the largest statues in the world, 71 metres tall, and the largest stone Buddha. It can easily be visited as a day-trip from the nearby city of Chengdu, especially since the opening of the high speed rail line connecting the two cities;

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The Great Firewall of China, and why you need a VPN

If you’re visiting China, the Great Wall is likely to be somewhere near the top of your list of priorities; but the Great Wall of China isn’t the only wall you’re going to come across – you’re also going to have to deal with the Great Firewall of China.

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How to Visit the Great Wall of China from Beijing

You know, you can see it for miles. It goes on for miles over the hills and everything; but so does the M6. D’you know what I mean? You can see that for miles… and you go, “great,” and that does a job – you can drive on that!”…“It’s the Alright Wall of China” –

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Ghost In The Shell: chasing ghosts in Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

This week saw the release of Ghost In The Shell, a live action Hollywood remake of the classic (1995) Japanese anime movie (itself based on the original manga by Masamune Shirow). The casting of Scarlet Johansson in the lead role caused some controversy (as her character –

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Beijing to Chengdu in the autumn holiday: 27 hours in a tin of sardines!

Obviously, the train was packed. It was the autumn holidays, when the whole of China travels home to see family, and the only tickets available had been for the hard seat carriages – these carriages do have numbered individual seats (‘hard’ meaning non-reclining, because there are so many packed in),

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A useful backdoor route from Chengdu to Yunnan (Panzhihua to Lijiang bus)

Note: since this post was written, bullet train routes have opened from Chengdu to Kunming (6 hours, via Guiyang) and Kunming to Dali (2 hours), so the Panzhihua-Lijiang shortcut isn’t the major time-saver it used to be. It is still the most direct route though, and remains the best option if budget is your main priority

If you’re in China and planning to go from Chengdu to Yunnan overland (but don’t plan on doing the awesome-looking but quite involved backdoor route through the Tibetan Kham region),

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Down the Yangtze by hydrofoil through the Three Gorges

“The man made scenery of the Yangtze is spectacularly grim.”
– Michael Palin, Full Circle, 1997

Marco Polo must’ve been pissed off by this point. It’s ‘orrible; it’s horrible. It’s a place to visit in a submarine this,

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Hotpot Carnage in Chongqing

We got off the bus at some shithole bus station in a grim city that felt about two decades behind Beijing, under a smothering blanket of dirty brown smog so thick we couldn’t even see the tops of the faceless concrete blocks lining the hillsides. So this was Chongqing,

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An action-packed first overland run through China

I’d been to Hong Kong & Macau the year before, but when we arrived in Beijing at the end of our Trans-Siberian journey, it was my first time in mainland China (and for my two companions too). Mike and Ross had flights booked back to England from Shanghai two weeks later,

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A Beijing Bender

Beijing’s a city I’ve been to a whole bunch of times, including a spell living there for a few months in autumn / winter of 2013, so I’ve come to know the place pretty well and have plenty of memories there.

But it was that very first weekend I ever spent in mainland China that stands out the most from all the time I spent in Beijing;

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The Beijing Teahouse Scam (trolling the trolls)

Introducing the Beijing Teahouse Scam:

“So, how about going for tea?” she suggested.

“Sounds good,” I replied, “but actually, I think I’d prefer a coffee right now.”

“Oh… but, coffee is too strong for us Chinese, we can’t drink it,” she bullshitted (all evidence to the contrary).

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