Hanoi to Hong Kong with Intrepid - 2006

Full details of the intended trip can be found on the Intrepid Website.

Link to Travel Diary (Northern Vietnam).

22nd November - Lang Son

After yesterday's exertions today was a more lazy day. The first half as spent on the boat, cruising up through Halong Bay to a pier at the north end of the bay area where we caught a bus which took us north up to Lang Son about 14km sort of the Chinese border. Along day of travelling about 10 hours in total.

The cruise through Halong Bay was fantastic. During our time in the bay until now the weather had been good but everything was a little hazy we never got a real sharp view of the scenery. After the 2 nights of storms the haze had lifted and everything was crystal clear. We lay on the top deck and I did my first real sun-bathing of the whole trip, beautiful. Halong Bay is stunning and as we travelled north we soon got away from the other tourist boats and their engine noise. Now and again we'd pass a fishing boat (see left) or a woman rowing across the bay. We saw areas that are sectioned off these are shell fish farms and we passed the odd floating village which are built of plastic drums and bamboo and usually include a fish farm.

After the customary tasty lunch of spring rolls, meat, veg and rice and as an extra special treat a plate of crinkle cut chips, we docked and said good-bye to Halong Bay.

The bus ride from Halong Bay to Hang Son took about 5 1/2 hours. The Vietnamese have very low speed limits and the majority of our drivers have strictly adhered to them. So 50mph it is. As we headed north the land became more hilly and in some places mountainous and the life style become more and more agricultural.

It was dark when we arrived in Lang Son. When we got to the hotel we got our usual VIP welcome, the manager rushed out and welcomed us to his hotel and shook everyone by the hand as we entered the hotel. Obviously being used by Intrepid is a big thing for the hotels and they go out of their way to make us feel as welcome and comfortable as possible. In the evening I broke away from the group, after 11 hours together I was getting a feeling of cabin fever, the group is great but I needed a break. I spent about an 90 mins in the internet cafe. Internet is a massive thing in Vietnam every place is always full of locals either playing on-line role-playing games or using Yahoo Chat. I got chatting to a little 16 year old girl who had 5 different Yahoo Chat windows open. She said she chats to people all over the place, friends who go away to work or study and others she just met on-line. She also hangs around the internet so she can meet foreigners and practice her English.

I eat from a stall in the market (see right). I sat down at one that looked busy, the lady gestured to ask if I wanted to eat. She then pointed at the noodles, then some char sui pork and sausage I nodded. She picked out a plate full of noodles and put them in a wire basket. 30 seconds in boiling water and back into the bowl. Chopped meat, spring onion, herbs and then poured the broth over the top. Within a minute I had pork noodle soup. Throw in a can of coke and it cost 60p. Marvellous.

23rd November - Hua Shan

First stop the Chinese border. 14kms then we hit a couple of check points. After about half an hour in total we are at the Vietnamese side of the border at the Friendship Gate hoping for an easy crossing.

Vietnamese customs first. It appears that today the new border crossing buildings are being officially opened. As we come up to the doors a number of officials come out past us. They shout hello, welcome to China. There is a film crew and soon they're pointing the cameras at us. Thankfully the novelty of the westerners passes and we move on to Vietnamese exit control. Next, Chinese entry control, Chinese health control, Chinese security and Chinese customs. Keep showing your passport and keep smiling. All in all a quick crossing. Our last challenge is to find the way out. They have built a massive stage across the exit tunnel with seating for a few hundred in front of it. We eventually find that we can slip down the side, around back stage and out. Welcome to China indeed. We hit the first town to use the cash-point. It's so good to be able to put your card in he wall in a small Chinese town and in English it says Hello Mr Christopher J Lewis and offers me money. The days of having to get loads of cash before you travel and worry about carrying it and changing it on the way are well and truly over. From here it's a bumpy 2 hours to our guesthouse in Hua Shan.

We have lunch which is one of the worse so far. Some of it was tasty, but most was bland and as you often get in Chinese restaurants all the meat was on the bone and had the skin still on. It makes the food greasy and very hard to eat with chop-sticks. In the afternoon we were supposed to take a boat down the river to take in the views and visit some paintings on the rocks which date back over 2000 years. But we weren't allowed on the river because of the officials travelling back from the border ceremony. We eventually set off at 4:30. It was a nice trip, but it was getting a bit dark and a little chilly. The paintings were OK but really just a lot of large red stick men on the rock face. We then had about an hours boat trip back in the dark.

Dinner and then the hotel owner unveiled his karaoke equipment. A massive sound system with speakers big enough for a stadium. I made my excuses and headed up to bed to amongst other things catch up with my Travel Diary entries. It was a good job I didn't want an early night, the sound system shock the whole room and the singing was at best bearable and most of it absolutely terrible.

24th November - Liuzhou

A travel day, from Ning Ming to Liuzhou, via Nanning. About 9 hours travelling on public buses.

We headed out to the bus station at about 8am and I wasn't looking forward to the two bus journeys that it was going to take to get us from Ning Ming to Nanning and then on to Liuzhou. Each leg is about 400km so we had a lot of ground to cover. In the past I'd travelled on local buses and it had involved packing 80 people into a bus designed for 40. No air-con, and sometimes livestock travelling on the bus as well. But I was pleasantly surprised when we caught our first bus. Comfy seats, plenty of leg room and seats were allocated so it was one passenger one seat. Once we got out of Ning Ming to thing that struck me is how new and how empty the roads are. Hardly a car in sight. Also for the whole length of the motorway the central reservation has been landscaped. Perfectly tended bushes and flowers, with hundreds of women dotted around keeping them tidy. After 4 hours or so we reached Nanning and had lunch in a KFC style place at the bus station. It was so good, made a great change to all the Asian food we've been having.

After lunch we boarded another bus for another 4 hour journey to Liuzhou, and this bus was 5 star. Instead of the usual two seats either side of the aisle, there were 2 on one side and 1 on the other and each car was like an armchair. Truly luxurious. More prefect empty roads and the journey flew by. I assume the road system is quite new but must've costs millions to develop. The landscape is quite like a land version of Halong Bay. Lots of limestone hills and columns. The road has been cut straight through them. Lots of cutting and the odd tunnel to keep the road as straight as possible.

We reached Liuzhou at about 5pm. First thing we noticed when we got out of the bus was how much colder it was. We crossed the Tropic of Cancer today, but it feels like we crossed into the Arctic Circle. The fleece that I've been carrying for the last month finally got its first outing. China has a very different feel to the other countries we've visited so far. First up it looks a lot much westernised. The concrete and brick houses, a lot more glitzy advertising, more cars, less motorbikes. The attitude of the people seems much different too. Not so many smiles, in fact often no acknowledgement at all. Everyone seems to be doing their own thing oblivious to anyone around them. On the roads it's every man for himself, no filtering of traffic. Queuing seems alien to them. As for expecting thanks or even a smile if you hold a door open for someone, no chance. And no one speaks English at all. I guess it's not helped by the fact that they get no western TV at all.

So how do I find some food in a town where no one speaks English. The menu is in Mandarin and there are no pictures? Luckily Rob and I found the lady and her store as shown on the right. After her speaking some Mandarin and us smiling we decided to treat it like a Mongolian BBQ. We pointed out the beef and then some of the veggies, mushroom, peppers, onion, snap peas etc and left her to it. Sure enough see stir-fried it up for us. Marvellous. Plenty of lovely freshly cooked food and a couple of 660ml beers for 25 Yuan (£1.50).

In the evening we hit the 10 pin bowling alley which kept us and the locals amused for a few hours.

25th November - Liuzhou

Had a bit of a lie-in as we had nothing planned until we were to catch another bus to head further north into the hills at 1pm. I then had an interesting and fun morning. Firstly I decided to get my hair-cut. The was a hair-dressers next to the hotel and Erin said it was OK so I gave it a go. It was fantastic. Again no English so I sort of gestured that I wanted it cut to about 3/4 inch long all over. The guy did it perfectly. But then one of the girls washed my hair for me. Instead of the usual sitting on a chair with your head back into a sink, I was lying flat on my back. She washed my hair and gave me a head massage whilst doing it. I was then moved back into one of the barbers chairs and she dried my hair, giving me another head massage, which proceeded into a neck and shoulder massage. It felt really good. So my quick hair cut eventually took about 3/4 hour and all for 21 Yuan, I gave the girl 25 and got her to keep the change. Obviously no one tips over here because it seemed to have made her week.

Lunch. The stall from last night wasn't set up so I had to try somewhere else. I took pot luck on a restaurant it looked quite busy and the food I could see looked good. But no English, no pictures. I have got a few food things written down on a piece of paper and I endeavoured to get some dumpling and some fried noodle. I soon got across that I wanted dumplings but I think they do a lot of different types and the girl kept talking in Mandarin and getting more and more animated. The Chinese it seems get very het up very quickly. So I just pointed randomly at something on the menu to calm her down. Then I ordered the noodle and I could use the one piece of Chinese I do know. Chow Mein! She didn't even try asking me what sort I wanted this time. In England if someone come in to a restaurant who couldn't speak English I sure the waitress would've been more helpful than she was. Anyway I got fried pork dumplings and beef fried noodle, so all's well that ends well. I couldn't eat anymore than half of it though the meal was enough to feed a family of four for a week. I can see why the Chinese are a lot bigger than the Vietnamese.

Today's bus wasn't so nice as yesterdays but it was still comfortable. About 5 hours and we got to our guesthouse. Here it's really cold. Must be low single figures. And we're in a flimsy wooden house with no heating. It's bloody freezing.

26th November - Chengyang

Today we spent the whole day in Chengyang, which is described as 'undoubtedly one of the most special places in China'. We are stayingin a traditional wooden guesthouse on the bank of the river next to one of the many wind and rain bridges in Sanjiang County. The bridges are built entirely in pegged cedar, and it is said that there is not a single nail used in their construction. It's like stepping a hundred years back in time!

On the left is the bridge next to the guesthouse. The bridge seem to have special significance in the area. In the past they were religious places but now they are just meeting places where the old men sit around and put the world to rights. "Chengyang Bridge was built in 1916, and it is the best one among the wind and rain bridges in Dong stockade villages. At present, it is the largest wind and rain bridge also it is the crystal of Dong people's wisdom; it is one of the artistic precious things of Chinese wood architecture."

We walked around 6 villages all of which were in the valley and every bridge over the river was as elaborate as this. The villages themselves are all built from wood too with decorative eaves and little balconies, it's just like you would imagine London in 1665, except for the satellite dishes!

Each village has its own Drum Tower. It's like the village hall and is where meetings are held and houses a big drum which is used to summon everyone or warn of danger, which in these parts is usually a fire.

Nowadays especially in the cold weather the Drum Towers area a congregation point for the villages elders. They sit around the fire, smoking and drinking tea. Both tea and tobacco are grown locally. I was told that for 1 Yuan you can buy enough tobacco to smoke for a whole week. No wonder 90% of males in the area are smokers. But the old guys seemed to be doing OK on it.

In these parts they have a nice little trade going on. For a small donation (10 Yuan minimum) towards the up keep of a particular bridge or drum tower you can have your name carved into a stone tablet, leave your mark for eternity. So if you're ever in the Chengyang area and see 'Chrissy Lew - Devon' carved into a few of the tablets in the area then that's me. In the afternoon we went to a Cultural Show. We actually arrived 30 minutes late because they had moved to their winter timetable, but as usual with this sort of thing it becomes very samey very quickly so arriving late was for me a good thing.

There were dressed in traditional costume and playing some traditional bamboo pipes and mandolin type things and singing and dancing. We also did a dancing thing where they banged huge pieces of bamboo together and you had to step in between them in time. After we headed back and sat around playing games. They put a big pot with burning logs under the table so we kept warm as long as we didn't leave the table.

The Wu family served us up some great food and we called a night early, under the duvet is a great place to be.

And the best news of the whole day I see that West Ham won at the weekend. And Arsenal lost ;-) I don't think I should mention the Ashes. I got an email from Dave and he says he's copping a hell of a lot of stick in Melbourne, but at least he has had the bragging rights for the last 18 months. I hope it's still a live series when I get there for the Boxing Day Test Match.

27th November - To Longji

Another travel day and we're heading higher and even colder. Our destination Longji Terraces 1916m above sea-level. Described as a must see destination for any International visitor.

After the bus journeys a couple of days ago things could only go down hill and today's trip was more like I expect a bus journey to be when I'm back-packing. The bus was rickety, it was built for 22 and at times we had up to 30 plus all of our back-packs and the road was under construction and in many places it looked like they had only started yesterday. It seems the bus carries everything, passengers, letters, parcels anything that you want. We kept stopping and someone would run out and either collect something or put something on the bus.

The first leg before lunch was about 50kms but took about 3 1/2 hours. After a hurried lunch at the bus station we caught another bus. This time made for 15 and there were 22 of us squashed in.

This time the roads were much better. We headed upwards the bus hair-pinned up the side of the mountain. About an hour up and up with some great views and sheer drops for our viewing.

Once we reached to bus terminus, we still had a 30 walk further up the mountain to our guesthouse. There were little old ladies with baskets offering to carry our bags up for us. A few took up their offer but felt really guilty giving their bags to 60 year old ladies who was bent double to carry. There were also some Emperors seat type things. A chair sat on two large bamboo poles on which you could be carried up the mountain but no one dared hire one of those, pity I'd have loved to see them in action.

Once we reached the top the views were stunning. All the hills around were covered in terraces. All used to grow rice. The area was first cultivated in the 13th century and it took 400 years to build all the terracing that we could now see. Because of the steepness of the mountains each terrace is very narrow and practically inaccessible. We went out for a 2 hour walk to the imaginatively named View Point 1 and View Point 2. The views were great but by the time we had reached the second one the mist had dropped and the terraces had all but disappeared.

We headed back and by the time we got back the damp in the air and the sheer cold really started to bite on the fingers. It's even colder up here than in Chengyang. Thank God we have heating in our rooms here.

We sat in my room and went back over my photos, the thoughts of lying on the deck of the boat sun-bathing in Halong Bay seem so distant.

28th November - Longji

We've two nights in cold, cold Longji and today we went for a hike up and across the rice paddies to a neighbouring village for lunch and then headed back. It's actually perfect weather for hiking, The terrain is very up and down and we worked up quite a sweat. It took about 3 hours to get to the village, all the way we were trailed by the local ladies in their traditional costumes, partly trying to sell us stuff and partly to ensure we did come to their village so that we would be eating (and paying for) their food. In this area they only do one harvest of rice a year and the season is from March till October so for the other half of the year the ladies do some handicrafts and hang around the tourists. The area is quite touristy for somewhere in the middle of no where and the government as invested quite a bit of money to improve the paths around the paddies. I think it's a show piece for them to the outside world although the majority of tourists at this time of year seem to be Chinese.

Lunch was cooked in a very basic 'kitchen' in woks on two wood fires. When we eventually got it (not easy cooking for 9 in two woks) we had, pumpkin, fried potatoes, pork with green stuff, pork with different green stuff, pork with more green stuff, green stuff with garlic and green stuff omelette. It actually tasted quite good except for the usual problem in China, the pork had been cut up bones and all so every mouthful of meat was pot luck.

29th November - To Yangshuo

We timed our stay in Longji perfectly, today we woke up to find it had rained overnight and the clouds were still very low. So not only could you see nothing but it was also very slippery under foot. Not good trekking weather. But it didn't worry us as we're out of here. After a 30 minute walk down from the village to the bus top we were off. In the photo on the left you can see Phil with the old lady who carried his bag down for him and in the background the 'Emperor's Chairs' which again no one used.

The roads down was hair-pin after hair-pin but we soon reached the valley below. It was then another 2 buses, via Guilin to get to Yangshuo. The drive was spectacular. All the way the road was flanked by limestone pillars much the same as in Halong Bay. Miles after miles ands thousands of pillars, amazing.

Yangshuo is quite a touristy town it is the stopping off point to and from Hong Kong when heading to the Guilin area and Western China. Lots of western style bars, menus in English, arts and craft shops and a KFC! We checked out the night market where there are stall after stall of stir-fry restaurants. All displaying their raw ingredients ready to be cooked up. Check out the photo in the gallery of the dog!

In the evening we went Cormorant Fishing. We took a boat out on to the Li River to where a 'local celebrity' cormorant fisherman (picture in gallery) was at work with his birds. He has a spotlight on the front of the raft and the cormorants follow the raft diving and surfacing, catching fish. The cormorants necks are tied so they can't swallow the fish, they bring them to the boat and the fisherman gets them to cough them up into the basket. It was great to watch. We were told that fish are still caught this way. The guy does tourist work from 8:30 till 11:30 then does his real fishing work until 4:30am. It's now the dry season and not good for fishing but in high season the birds catch baskets of fish up to about a foot in length. I really enjoyed watch the cormorants at work and I think this was one of the high-lights of the trip so far!

Some videos from the cormorant fishing.

Cormorants diving for fish.

Cormorants diving alongside the raft.

Cormorant coughing up the fish.

30th November - Yangshuo

Another active day. This time cycling and hiking up a mountain. We hired bikes and went touring around the back roads in the Yangshuo area. Some decent roads, some dirt tracks and some areas that were barely tracks at all. My mountain bike did me good service although I think my bum will suffer a bit tomorrow.

The ride was fun. Through rice fields, mandarin orchards, over rivers and through between the hundreds of limestone pillars of various sizes.

The main aim of our day was to go to and climb Moon Hill. The picture on the left shows moon hill with the archway.

Time to get off the bikes and start climbing. It was steep and hard going. In all 880 steps and some bits that were just inclines without steps. And all the way we were each followed by our own little old lady carrying a cool box so that we could buy a drink when we got to the top. I didn't play completely fair and raced off ahead, the poor old girl following me was struggling. After about 300 steps she was saying, 'We stop, we stop, 5 minutes'. But she made it to the top with us and I duly bought a Coke from her 20 Yuan, where it would cost about 8 at the bottom. It was good fun chatting to her on the way up. Must be in her 40s somewhere and learnt English from the tourist she chases up the mountain. Her English was broken but good enough to communicate. Bloody hard work though climbing up and down the mountain with a cool box all for less than £1 profit.

1st December - To Hong Kong

Spent a lazy day hanging around in Yangshuo, a bit of window shopping, a bit of sitting by the river, generally chilling out. I then treated myself to a KFC at about 4:30pm before we headed off to the station. The KFC was pretty much as you get in the UK, but with the meal you get a very thin plastic glove. All the locals eat the KFC with their hands, but all of them wear the glove to either keep the grease off their hands or the dirt from their hands off their food. Me I just eat the Zinger Burger dirt and all and then wipe the grease off on my jeans ;-)

We headed off to Guilin to catch the overnight (14 hour) sleeper train to Hong Kong.

Warning: I'm about to go off on one of my rants so you may want to skip to the end of today's entry!

I won't be sorry to be leaving China. The scenery is spectacular but a bit like going to Paris it would be great were it not for the locals. The Chinese in general, and the men in particular, are the most rude, inconsiderate, impolite people I have ever met, the French included! A few examples. When we were in Vietnam there was a lot more traffic but it flowed much better because they filtered, let others into the queues etc, in China two cars can cause gridlock with both not giving an inch. A guy walking down the street will hold up a stream of traffic by walking well away from the kerb oblivious to (and not giving a damn about) the trouble he's causing, rather keeping to the side and letting cars pass. Queuing, forget it. We reached the station and it was a mad scrum to get into the ticketing hall. Worse of all on the way down from Longji we were on a mini-bus and the floor was full of baskets and stuff. An old guy at the back of the bus was trying to get off. Of course no one moved any of their baskets for him, but he was scrambling OK and about to make it to the front. Then a younger guy who must have seen the old guy trying to get off just jumped on the bus and pushed past, knocking the old guy to the side. Surely the letting others off before boarding policy is basic common sense not just politeness?

At first I just thought the complete lack of consideration for others was an anti-Westerner thing, but they all treat each other in exactly the same way. It's so against everything I was brought up to believe. Opening doors for others, saying after you, queuing, all the basic things that make the world a nice place. I can give as good as I get and more when fighting my way to the front of a queue and a couple of guys did catch a couple of quite good elbows from me, but I it really gets me when I see others getting knocked around. I really can not see myself ever living in China.

Rant over.

2nd December - Hong Kong

14 hours later we arrived in Hong Kong. It journey was OK. We were in triple-decker bunks so 6 to a cabin. Most of the group went off to the restaurant car and drank the night away, I crashed out at 10pm when the lights when out and got a decent amount of sleep before they all came crashing back at about 5am! So in the morning I was annoyingly bright and breezy with everyone else as hung-over as hell. Marvellous!

We hit Hong Kong mid-afternoon, I quickly checked in and then headed out in search of a bar showing the cricket. I found an Aussie bar and you can not believe how good it was to see some real beer and a sports listing for the weekend. After 2 weeks in China I needed a bit of normality.

We went out for dinner in the Temple Street Night Market and said our good-byes. A couple of us then headed down to watch Arsenal beat Spurs through an off-side goal and 2 very dodgy penalties and then went across to Soho on the Island for a decent night out which was fun but bloody expensive, most drinks are about £4 or £5 each!

3rd December - Hong Kong

Last night turned into a pretty big night and I didn't make it in till about 5am, so this morning was a write-off. In the afternoon I headed down to the harbour. Firstly hit the Tourist Information for a few ideas of how to spend the next few days and then caught the Star Ferry across to the Island. Then sticking to the well worn tourist track, I headed up to the peak on the Peak Tram.

In the evening Temple Street for dinner again and more football. Same ol' West Ham, totally dominated Everton and lost 2-0, good to see things haven't change so much since I've been away.

4th December - Hong Kong

A day of wandering and shopping. Flower Market, Gold Fish Market, Electronics Market, Ladies Market, Jade Market and Temple Street NIght Market. Bought some Christmas presents that will probably cost more to post home than they did to buy and I'm sure I could have got them cheaper but I hate the whole haggling business. So they quote a price I just stand there and umm and argh they keep dropping the price and when they reach a sensible level I say yes and move on.

The highlight of the day for me though was 10 minutes in the evening. No, not what you're thinking ;-) But the light show on the river. Described as the biggest permanent light show in the world. Spot lights, lasers, lights on all the buildings all flashing on and off in time with music being played all around the river area. Took someone long time to sort that lot out.

Hong Kong Tourist Board 'A Symphony of Lights' web-site.

Symphony of Lights video 1

Symphony of Lights video 2

Symphony of Lights video 3

5th December - Hong Kong

Guess where I've been today ...

Disneyland, Hong Kong. Never been to a Disney Park before so I thought why not. The weather's perfect at about 21 degrees, The Ashes game looked like fizzling out to a boring draw and I fancy a real get away from it all day before I leave Asia tomorrow and hit Sydney. OK the Ashes prediction was a little out but I didn't know that this morning, but as the only bar showing the game is an Aussie bar I was better off out of it!

Disney has it's own little branch line off of the regular MTR (tube) system with it's own Mickey Trains which made me smile before I'd even reached the park. With it's Mickey shaped windows and Mickey overhead hand holds and statues of the characters in the carriages and the comfiest tube seat I've ever sat on it was great.

The park was a little smaller than I expected but still plenty to do for a day out and with the park being quite quiet I got to do most things with very little queuing.. It's split into 4 areas. Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, FantasyLand and Adventureland. I did a few of the rides, Space Mountain the only real rollercoaster which was like the Black Hole at Alton Towers, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters where you ride along along shoot Zorg and his evil helpers with a laser gun and The Jungle River Cruise where we get squirted with water for various reasons. As you can see I got myself photographed with a few of the characters, basically the ones I didn't have to queue up to be with. It was good each one had a 'cast member' accompanying them to take a picture for you. All people who work at Disney are called Cast Members down to the lady who cleans the toilets and all seem to be on drugs! They're all so happy and friendly, I think what ever they're on the Chinese should be given some ;-)

The high-lights of the day, and if you're ever in Hong Kong you should go along just for these two shows, were Mickey's PhilHarMagic and the Festival of the Lion King. The PhilHarMagic is a 3D cinema film thing, which runs through some of Disney's characters. 3D cinema has certainly moved on, it was fantastic. Things really flow towards you, as if you could touch them, was fun watching the kids reaching out and trying to grab stuff. The funniest part was a water effect where as the water flow towards us we were actually squirted with water. The Festival of the Lion King was a fully fledged West End type show lasting 30 minutes. The highlights of the Lion King. Huge cast, great costumes and giant carnival type floats. Fire jugglers, acrobats, gymnastics and they sang all the best Lion King songs. I thought it was better than the West End version.

Lion King video 1 Lion King video 2

6th December - Hong Kong

My last day in Asia, and I spent it wrapping Christmas presents, packing my bags and at the Post Office spending about £30 to post home the Christmas present parcel. The guys in the Post Office were really helpful and made the job of getting everything in to as small a box as possible and getting the best deal for posting as painless as possible.

In the afternoon I headed off to the airport. Whoa, all journeys should be this easy. Taxi from the hotel to the Airport express, 10 mins. Check-in at the station, 5 mins. Train to the airport, 15 mins. Already check-in I headed to the security checks. This took about 20 mins. In less than an hour I had gone from my hotel to the departure lounge, amazing. An in the departure lounge free wi-fi, which was useful as I had got there do early having allowed the sort of time I would've required to get through all the crap at a UK airport.

Plane left on time for the 9 hour flight to Sydney.

Link to Travel Diary (Sydney).