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Showing posts from 2007

China by Train

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Voit lukea tämän blogin myös suomeksi: Junalla Kiinassa.This blog about travelling in China is our present for you. We would also like to take the opportunity to thank all the people who hosted us in Ulan Batar, Nanjing, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Shunde, and Shenzen. Travelling by train in China is fast and efficient—sometimes even too much so. You can cross the country from North to South, and from West to East in less than two days by express train. We were waiting for a slow, Trans-Siberian -like experience and were surprised by the speed and relatively short distances. On the other hand, we enjoyed Chinese trains most of which are modern and air-conditioned. We didn’t have to sweat nor suffer from dust. You can see detailed photos of all train types and classes in the related photo album: China by Train.

Chinese Life in Fuzhou

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Our first Chinese hospitality exchange experience took us to Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province. It is not easy to find Chinese people among hosts and so we were very grateful to Lee and her roommate Barbara. They welcomed us wholeheartedly and took us to their family. Lee came to meet us at the train station when we arrived. That was actually the first time in one and a half years that somebody did so. Imagine how great it feels when you arrive tired from a 20-hour train trip and somebody is greeting you happily like an old, long awaited friend. These things we have really grown to appreciate when travelling a long time in countries where most of the time we don’t know anyone.

Expatriate Life In Nanjing, China

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Nanjing has a surprisingly lively expat community considering that more internationally appealing Shanghai is just a few hours’ away. But Nanjing has a few advantages: living is cheaper and people are more patient with foreigners. The one and only reason why we stopped in Nanjing was Couch Surfing. People don’t usually come to the city that much for tourism as for a longer stay, for example to learn Chinese or to teach English. All of our hosts and other Couch Surfing people we met were teachers. That seems to be, actually, de facto for foreigners everywhere in China. Somehow expatriates are always polarised by the purpose of their stay. For example in Thailand it was sex tourism.

Palladium-Porcelain-Panda

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Here are some photos of our Palladium-Porcelain-Panda wedding anniversary (the 3rd). You can also watch more photos of our previous wedding anniversaries and wedding.

Travelling to holy and mysterious Tibet

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Travelling to Tibet by the new Qinghai-Tibet railway was awesome and easy. No notorious travel permits were needed. Tibet itself with its mountainous scenery and minority people reminded us of Bolivia, which we love, except that it was way more touristy. Still, at least the train trip was worthwhile. Our train trip started from Lanzhou, China. Originally we had tickets to Golmud only, where we intended to stop, but as we entered the train we discovered that it will go all the way to Lhasa. So we extended our tickets in the train without hassle. No-one asked for any travel permits.

Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China

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Hohhot (Huhehaote in Chinese), is the capital of Inner Mongolia province located beyond the Great Wall in China. Many Chinese asked us why we were going there. According to them, there is nothing and the remote province is populated by "barbarians". Inner Mongolians call themselves Mongolians just like Outer Mongolians.Hohhot proved to be an interesting blend of modern China and Mongolian culture. You can feel the difference right away when you get out of the megalomaniac train station. Nearby streets are full of little eateries where people sit outside. In September the weather was already a bit chilly and people were keeping themselves warm by the fires, wearing jackets and wollen pullovers.

Couch Surfing in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

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After living seven months in a hotel in Cambodia and six months in Thailand, we thought it would be great to try something else for a while: Couch Surfing and Mongolia. Earlier we had used Couch Surfing once in Singapore and enjoyed our stay. We had also tried to join a similar system called Hospitality club when we were travelling in Russia, but unfortunately they refused to accept people like us who don’t possess “an address”, so we ended up joining a more flexible system instead of hostility club.

Vietnam by Bus

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After Cambodia we headed to Hanoi with a stop in Nha Trang for swimming and sea. Sihanouk Ville beaches had really not been beaches as we understand them. The bus ticket was US$ 7 per person from Phnom Penh to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city). Everything went OK until arriving in Vietnam. Bus dropped us before the border and we walked to Vietnam. Our passports were eligible for free 15-day visas. However, we were offered some kind of tickets in a booth labeled quarantine. Saying no thanks and walking through worked like usually with similar border scams. In the Vietnamese bus stop the company told everyone to pay US 1$ more to resume right away, or wait a long time. Everyone decided not to pay and the journey continued almost right after the incident, with a bit irritated customers.

Life in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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We have had a pleasant chance to meet our friends in Cambodia this year. First Bill and Betty came over from the US on their six month tour around China and South-East Asia. Together we explored Phnom Penh and Angkor, and made a virtual tour to Angkor temples. Bill & Betty travel a lot spending around half a year abroad. We met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we both used to live. You can read about Bill’s and Betty’s travels at Bill’s blog. After the first of May came Helena who took care of Santeri when he was a baby. Helena is living in Kuala Lumpur where we celebrated last Christmas with her family. Helena used to live in China for some years, and according to her Phnom Penh is very much alike. She had been travelling in the neighbouring countries but this was her first visit to Cambodia.

Pirate Books: Lonely Planet Cambodia (2007 Enhanced Edition)

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Last time we wrote about travel books. There is one must-read we want to add to the list of our favourites together with Hokkaido Highway Blues and Molvanîa Travel Guide. It is the Lonely Planet of Cambodia, this year’s updated edition. It includes some indispensable, previously unheard of practical tips, and new, exciting places. You simply cannot experience Cambodia fully without this excellent, fixed guide book. Pirate books, such as this one, are readily available in Cambodia. In fact, most of the books are copies sold at reasonable prices. You can buy books from any tourist restaurant where young booksellers cruise with their baskets. Bookshops offer a wider selection, but it is useful to keep in mind that not all of the books with English titles are in English. For Cambodians, it seems to be trendy to have a foreign title together with Khmer content. Western, imported books cost dearly, often over ten times more than pirate books.

Part 1: Armchair Travelling

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Travel literature review We hadn’t read many travel books when we started our own nomad life. Earlier we had been wondering what relevance somebody else’s experiences of some random places on earth had. For us, it was more important to go and see the places by myself. We also considered the detailed descriptions of places and of the beauty of the landscape inherent in travel literature as tedious. During the last three years, we have plunged into this genre and seen that it does have some merit. Many travel writers live, at least during their travels, outside the boring Western, middle-class lifestyle. As it is very rare to stumble upon these lifestyle travelers on the road, books offer a way to reflect one’s own experiences. Still, most of travel literature is far from interesting. The books are dead serious and the genre seems to offer the writers a stage for ego-tripping and pathos with strictly predefined patterns and plots. Ego-tripping A typical and an indeed tedious travel bo…

The Best Travel Books

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Our two favorites in travel literature are Jet Lag’s Molvanîa and Will Ferguson’s Hokkaido Highway Blues. Molvanîa travel guide is an excellent parody of travel guidebooks. Molvanîa is a fictional country, “untouched by modern dentistry” as the books describes. It is, of course, situated in godforsaken East Europe, which is a most convenient base for mythical stories. The book is a rare treasure among travel literature’s usually dead-serious genre.

Boycott Against Air Europa

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Päivi´s backpack received a bit too rough treatment on our flight with Air Europa one year ago, and it broke down. The company promised to refund the damage, as it finally did. But getting the money required dozens of emails, phone calls, and facsimiles. We even had to turn to the European Consumer centre. Here’s the full story why we boycott Air Europa.

Our website has been redesigned

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Our site has been revamped. We changed the navigation bar to the left side where it is easier to use. There you can search blog entries by countries. You will also find information about why we left the rat race and became full-time travellers. The happiness test allows you to measure how happy you are. The test is related to the book La Habanera which we wrote about our new career choice and leaving our country of origin, Finland.

Happiness test

La Habanera in English   |   La Habanera in Hebrew   |   La Habanera in Finnish This test is based on the happiness test that was introduced in our book La Habanera. It is also available on our book website: Nomad and nomadic travel books by Päivi & Santeri Kannisto.

An Orwellian Vision of Air Travel

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As current, fear-driven security procedures increase, travelling by air will be even more difficult than today. It might not be enough to leave all liquids, arms, blades, scissors, and lighters at home as human bodies may pose an even bigger risk for flight security. Bodies can burst into flames, plastic explosives can be swallowed or surgically implanted, and nerve gas agents can be easily hidden in any luggage. Some mighty explosives contain the same material as human body. Imagination is the only limit how those assets can be used as they have to be boarded in any case. If paranoia and fear of death escalates further, the following Orwellian vision might be inescapable. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

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Our friend, who had visited Sihanoukville earlier this year, told us that she is not longing back. Also various travel guides, including Lonely Planet, stated that the city is “charmless” and the beaches are, at its best, “scruffy”. Well, we wanted to see the place with our own eyes before jumping into conclusions. At the end of the day we have to admit that it really is just as advertised. One has to travel to neighboring Vietnam for a sun-bath and a nice swim. But if the lack of beach resorts is left aside, Cambodia has lot to offer: friendly people with a good sense of humour, easy living and reasonable prices.

A Once In A Lifetime Experience

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Sauna And A Plunge Into The Mekong RiverOne of the most memorable days during our travels was definitely the Cambodian-Finnish friendship day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The festivities included sauna bath, a plunge into the nearby River Mekong, and meeting of Santa Claus. Here is a detailed story of the great day when we felt like kings. During the 2.5 years of our travels 3 times around the world we have never experienced such a genuine and unselfish hospitality.

Critical Eye On Tourism

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Tourists returning home from their travels are often reciting familiar, positive mantras which can also be read from any tourist guide book or travel agency’s brochure: the weather was great, beaches brilliant, people friendly and smiling all the time, all the sights bigger and better than anywhere else in the world, and the night life buzzing around the clock. Critique does not have a part in this gospel despite the difficulties encountered. This raises an interesting question: Why is criticism silenced? Let us examine two fundamental factors for this behaviour: 1) travel literature and travel-related discussion forums which encourage marketing, and 2) the common misconception according to which critique is negative.

Temples of Angkor, Cambodia

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The absolute highlight of our travels in South-East Asia has been meeting our friends. First Martijn and Uswa came to see us in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and now Bill and Betty in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Bill and Betty wanted to see the famous temple area of Angkor so we joined the caravan and headed to Siem Reap. The bus ride was slow even though the roads were pretty good. The 225-kilometre-ride took seven hours.

לה הבנרה

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Download free pdf   |   Happiness test   |   In Finnish   |   In English This is a stripped html version of the La Habanera book in Hebrew without layout and photos. The PDF is also freely available for reading and printing the book. Thank you Noam for contributing the translation. For more information, visit Books by Päivi & Santeri Kannisto.
לה הבנרה

הבריחה ממרוץ העכבריםב ע"י פאיבי וסאנטארי

Photos and Feelings from Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Our friends, Betty & Bill came from Vietnam to see us, and we will travel with them for a while.

Are we guests or tourists?

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We have been told a few times in travel-related Internet discussion forums that when we travel outside Finland, we are guests. Therefore we must refrain from expressing any opinions on that country or its people unless our view is positive. Criticism and especially trying to right wrongs is not seen as acceptable behaviour of a guest. Are we guests or tourists?