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
The day to day account of our travels was posted on a "Psychedelic travellers" WhatsApp group and a "Julia and Ian in China" WeChat group. So postings after October are summaries and reflections. To follow the story in chronological order, work your way back through the archives from March. Why "Psychedelic Travellers"? Because we read Michael Pollan's 2018 book How to change your mind:the new science of psychedelics, and liked the way Pollan likens an acid trip to travelling in an unfamiliar country.