Headless horseplay: goating around in Kyrgyzstan 

(A slightly-delayed post from the summer…be warned it’s a little long!)

Two weeks in Kyrgyzstan, a small, mountainous, partially “democratic” ex-Soviet republic in Central Asia – this land of soaring peaks and stunning green-carpeted vistas was the antidote to our city-hopping in Uzbekistan. Two weeks turned out to be not nearly long enough to explore properly as there are lots of places to go to, and travelling around is quite slow and frustrating. There is almost no public transport – between popular places there are shared taxis and minibuses, but as soon as you leave the most central highways, you’re utterly reliant on hitchhiking. More prepared travellers than us arranged car hire, and on balance this would have been a great idea, though apparently there are very few cars available to hire so you must book far ahead. Plus, the number of crashed-up car wrecks we passed on the side of the road suggests it’s not the safest place to drive… However, once we had managed to get to each place we wanted to visit, we had a fantastic time! (more…)

A weekend in Qingdao 

After two weeks in Beijing, with language classes in the morning and sight-seeing in the afternoon, we were ready to move on. Beijing was a great place for settling into China, a thriving, bustling city with some beautiful places (highlights including the lake and bridges of the Summer Palace, the Lama temple, renting a boat in Beihai park, and the 798 art district) and much delicious food (including the legendary Beijing roast duck which we sampled on out last night) – but we were excited to take our first sleeper train on Friday night to Qingdao to stay for a weekend with my friend Max who lives there, teaching English.  (more…)