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Red Lantern Backpackers

Hutong stays

overcast 15 °C
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Despite the pilot loving the landing so much that he decided to do it twice (those bumps were all part of the runway, weren't they?), it was a pretty great trip into Beijing, and getting met by the driver from the hostel was a bonus.

After exhausting my mandarin vocabulary (well, two words) and then playing the charades-communication with our lovely driver, we were taken to the Red Lantern Hostel in a hutong in Beijing. The main part of Red Lantern is over 300 years old, very impressive with a couple of storeys and balconies and talented carvings everywhere, plus the guy playing guitar while his young son was singing definately added to the atmosphere. Out in our part of the hostel is another tour booking desk/reception/bar/restaurant, a fantastic courtyard complete with water feature and resident duck, and some lovely hosts who are really happy to chew the fat with you and tell you about the hostel, Beijing, and China in general.

Paulette couldn't believe the smog here, she was amazed that you could actually look straight at the sun for a minute without hurting your eyes - in fact, I think the lantern that we set free on Karon Beach last night was actually brighter. You don't really notice it though, cos while you're walking around you're so busy smelling all the food sizzling on streetside stalls, avoiding holes in the pavement, sneaking peeks into other hutongs and shops, and playing chicken with cars as you attempt to cross the road. That was another discovery, crosswalks here just mean that you can cross there, not that the cars have to stop, and considering lanes get made up pretty much according to drivers mood, the best bet is just to shadow a local!

The whole city looks quite different to when I was here in January 08, partly due to the tidying up for the olympics but mostly because its spring - all the dead looking trees are now bright green, the date trees are starting to bud, and there's a really strange phenomenon that looks like snowflakes floating around...apparently its from the trees, it looks like tiny bits of cotton wool, and its absolutely everywhere and sticks to your eyelashes like candy floss!

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After a fantastic feed of hotpot and Tsingtao beer, its back to the hostel for a chat then ready to hit the Beijing subway tomorrow.

Posted by Roam 18.04.2009 07:17 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Relax。。。

South Sea Resort, Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand

sunny 30 °C
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The start of the holidays, and 17 hours in Phuket to relax...

Discovering that the hotel was 1 hour away by taxi from the airport wasn't the ideal way to start off, but then the drive down to Karon Beach was spectacular, a mix of jungle-like scenery, ambitious signage ("Joe's Construction Company" billboard out the front of a shanty town that looks like the cubbys that I built when I was five...) and daredevil drivers made the drive well worthwhile.

Driving feats that we witnessed on the road included the guy who obviously decided that occy straps were too dangerous, so instead he left the tailgate of the ute down and stood on that to hold the load of wood on while his mate drove at 100kph down the winding hillside, and the lady on the motorbike complete with welded metal frame like a sidecar, with a kid sitting on top of the frame, holding his baby sister in his arms....jeez I'd hate to be an ambo in these parts!

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We went through Patong Beach, it looks like a great party town but since we were aiming for a relax, we were pretty happy to find that Karon Beach is a slower paced, almost resort town - resorts lined along a flat, white sand beach with a scattering of markets and restaurants in between - perfect. South Sea Karon Resort was perfect, everything you could want in a place for $66 a night - swim up bar, decent sized pool with perfect temperature water, restaurant opposite the beach to sit and watch the sunset, day spa, great rooms and a balcony with a view to both the ocean and the hills behind - we're coming back!

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We had already fallen in love with Phuket but I'd have to say the clincher was discovering a) that they still have happy hours (not like stingy old Perth with its "oh no we might encourage binge drinking" wipeout of drink specials) and b) the happy hours are not really hours, the drinks are half price for at least three hours at every bar! In addition, we got two massages for the price that you'd pay to drive to a physio in Perth, can't ask for better than that.

So, after combining that health and safety favourite of drinking and swimming, and working our way through a good part of the cocktail menu in the process, it was off through the markets to a streetfront restaurant. Thai Red Curry in Thailand was a must have, and of course, we were served by a shemale which made the whole process much more authentic in my opinion (how do they get their make up so good?!).

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We had to leave for the airport at 5am, so I made sure I set my alarm for 4.30am - too bloody early, and especially when you realise that you haven't actually changed your clock from Perth time, so instead of getting up at 4.30 you actually got up at 3.30am - doh!

Next up...Beijing

Posted by Roam 18.04.2009 06:52 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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