Jiang came to stay with us as a HelpX volunteer in February 2018. Jiang grew up in Xinjiang province, near the far Western border with Kazakhstan, where his parents had a pear farm. He currently works as an IT consultant and goes where the work takes him. After helping us build a garden fence, Jiang made me a potting bench with the scrap wood from the old fence. That’s what he’s doing in the photo, working outside in the rain and snow! When it was his turn to cook, he went off to Chinatown and found a new friend Shirly, and together, they cooked us a feast. Jiang gave us our first lessons in Mandarin and he found us a student, Anqi, to continue as our teacher. Anqi has invited us to stay with her family in Zhengzhou and we’ll have plenty more to say about Anqi and her family. We hope to spend a few days in Beijing with Shirly, who is an English teacher there. We also hope to meet up with Jiang who has opened so many doors for us.
Organising this trip has been a full-time job over the past month. The visa requirements for China prevent us from just turning up and wandering about. They want our precise itinerary from London and back to London, and every address where we plan to stay in China. So here’s the plan, with all international journeys and accommodation booked.
24th July London to Cologne- stay overnight in Cologne
25th July Cologne to Lubeck – stay 3 nights in a yacht
29th July Ferry to Helsinki
30th July Three days in Helsinki (a flat above a sex shop!)
3rd August Ferry to St Petersburg
4th August Three days in St Petersburg
7th August Train to Moscow and train to Beijing via Mongolia
13th August 4 nights in Beijing
17th August We've booked a very cheap room in Zhengzhou although we have been invited to stay with a friend's family. If we use their address for the visa we have to ask them to provide a whole lot of documentation which we did not want to trouble them with. I'll write about our Chinese friends in a separate blog post.
27th August Train to Chengdu and a week there (just a provisional booking for the visa)
4th September Lost Garden Guest House, Kunming
18th September Fly from Kunming to Perth, Western Australia
12th October Fly home to London
My next blog will be about Chinese friends who are helping us prepare for the trip
Ian is 86 and I'm 69. We decided to go to Western Australia for a family birthday, a wedding and a music festival in late September/early October 2018. I really wanted to go all the way overland, and there are freight and cruise ships that go from Singapore to Freemantle. It's also possible to get as far as Bali, taking a ferry to Jakarta and bus and train from Jakarta to Bali. But I just can't find any ships on that route for the dates we want. Also, when I researched freight ships a few years ago, I found that none of them would take passengers over 75 years old. So we'll probably fly from Singapore.
Our last big trip was to Australia and New Zealand in 2010-11. In New Zealand we enjoyed WWOOFING, particularly with Mike and Thelma at Sanctuary Sounds . Now we're registered as hosts with HelpX and are inviting young people from China to come and teach us about their language and culture.