Before setting off on my travels I did lots of research into every little detail. Most of the information I found was pretty helpful, some was too paranoid and some was just ridiculous. When I started looking into shoes it was a bit of a minefield. There were so many specific recommendations about make, type etc. everyone insisted on specific hiking shoes or those weird strappy sandal things that Europeans seem to love to wear ( as well as bum bags, I have never yet found a time when I have wished I had a bum bag/ fanny pack as our American friends call them).
Tag Archives: backpacking
All three of these countries share a similarly dismal past, were ruled by the French a hundred or so years ago and have huge amounts of trauma in living memory. Vietnam was never a particularly powerful country, it was part of China on about four separate occasions, was taken over by France and then dealt with an internal war between the north and south over communism. Because at the time the Americans hated anything even close to having a sickle on it they decided to join the south and bomb the hell out of the border area. The Americans didn’t stop at this as there were sporadic bombings in Cambodia, who I think had been letting the northeners walk down through their land, and blanket bombing in Laos, who as far as I remember had very little to do with anything. Laos is now officially the most bombed country in the world and many areas are scattered with UXO’s (unexploded bomb stuff that kills adults and children regularly, in some provinces as many as one per day).
The Kindle seems to me one of the most essential things in my backpack, for those empty hours or long journeys on the train. The device itself is cheap, small, has long battery life and is hardy. There are so many books available for free that if you choose to read them you will become well versed in classic literature, and that can never be a bad thing, you will also get to read some of the best stories ever written free of charge. Despite thorough use I have charged the Kindle a maximum of four times in three months. A tablet computer does not compare when it comes to readability as the e-ink is essential in the sun when a tablet would only provide you with a white glare.
As a first time backpacker I found it hard to find much useful information online
Hostels can vary between £3 and £8 a night depending on where you are and how touristy the area is. The most expensive place for me was Wuhan as there wasn’t much anticipation for non-Chinese tourist and what was on Hostelworld was very limited. Booking in advance wasn’t particularly necessary however I find it easier to know where I’m heading from the train station. Places such as Fenghuang were heavily geared towards tourism and the local rooms to pay for were a far better deal than the hostel so sometimes it’s worth only booking the hostel for one night then finding something local. I personally get quite moody when I’m carrying my backpack in the heat and so wouldn’t want to deal with looking around whilst carrying it.
When visiting Luoyang in China, which in itself is not a common destination for the western tourist and is mainly only Chinese tourist, we opted for an alternative to the ‘International Youth Hostel’. The hostel we chose (as there was only a choice of two on Hostelworld anyway) was run by a man and his teenage son letting out rooms in their 3 bedroom apartment on the top floor of an apartment block on the edge of the city, accessible only by dirt tracks. It is most definitely more like staying at someone’s house as a guest than in a hostel or hotel.
This has definitely been the best, and deepest, insight I’ve had into Chinese culture so far; into everyday life for the normal person and the effects of propaganda on the public, which, of course, we don’t talk about.
Although not somewhere I would normally choose to go, Moscow was the final port of call before catching the Trans-Siberian. I hadn’t heard much about Russia apart from all the Cold War/Soviet type things, and recently watching the film Farewell (which was very good). After doing a small amount of research about what to do it was hard to find much that wasn’t either Red Square or really far in the outskirts. I found out about a traditional puppet theatre, but this was too far away. As far as art galleries and contemporary exhibitions Moscow seems particularly sparse, favouring lavish independent art collections which will often be European Art.
In feel Moscow is much like a European city, though obviously with Cyrillic rather than Roman alphabet everywhere. The metro is extremely easy to use, just paying for single journeys which can be anywhere in the city, no zones like London. The currency, Roubles roughly translates to 50 to £1. So a metro journey costs roughly 50p. Russians will often neither associate themselves as being Asian or European and class Moscow as being very multicultural, despite what I saw in the city centre which was almost entirely Caucasian faces, especially compared to the multiculturality of London.
After catching international trains in various countries I can now confidently say that the Eurostar is extremely official and well organised. With its own section in St. Pancras and a recognisable logo all over the place, even those with no grasp of English would find the correct train reasonably easily. The same cannot be said for the remainder of the trains we caught.
Since going travelling has become a reality I’ve listened to many people say they also intend to travel, sometimes after saving up for only a few months whilst I have spent the large part of a year saving and still worry about having enough to travel with. There have been many expenses which I didn’t particularly think about beforehand such as insurance and vaccinations so I thought I would write a short budgeting guide which I hope will provide me with everything I need and desire on the first 6 months of my trip. I don’t really know what I will be doing after 6 months so budgeting for that is a complete stab in the dark, as long as I have enough for a flight back to Europe and 2 weeks of living in contingency then I’m satisfied.
Backpack – Controversially I spent £18 on my back pack and it holds 35l. It was reduced from £60 and I don’t intend to be in any climate other than hot and humid so I can (hopefully) get away with this light treat. I plan on making a separate entry on the contents of my backpack but for now I will summarise that including netbook (300) the contents of my backpack costs roughly £500. This is with nothing more specialised than a silk sleep sack, swiss army knife etc.