Just some "almost real-time" comments from my little Helsinki-Moscow-Beijing-somewhere trip
All times are in EEST (GMT+3)
-- MilkBoy aka Michael Wikberg

2005-08-27 04:33:24 - pics
Our and some other photos too

2005-08-20 21:48:36 - Other interesting signs
Damn, why oh why did I not write down all the crazy and/or funny texts found on signs everywhere. Oh well, here are a few that I still remember:
"Downstair and toward back" - Directions to other platforms at Nanjing bus station
"Not for free" - Sign on a café table in Shanghai
"Dangerous! No mishandling!" - Metro emergency brake warning in Shanghai

2005-08-20 21:39:03 - Photos & stuff
Gotta see when I get around to put the photos online. I'll post the URL here. Oh, and FYI the entries with timestamp "00:00:00" were added just now.

2005-08-19 00:00:00 - Home
Yay. Got home safely, thanks to mom and dad who acted as a taxi replacement (taxi in finland is like 10 times more expensive than in china). I slept as a little tired baby the next night =D

2005-08-18 20:30:56 - Finally GPRS again
Right.. We went to the Shanghai airport in the morning. Since we had no reservations, we just hoped that there would be some cancellations or somethin so we could get home. I skipped the Kuala Lumpur trip this time, mostly because I had no money left. We are in Frankfurt waiting for our flight to Helsinki.
I'll fill in entries for the Shanghai part when I've had some sleep at home.

2005-08-18 00:00:00 - Time to go home
Shanghai seems like a very nice city, except for the damn heat and moisture (which are at their worst during Jyly and August, whee). Anyway, all good things comes to an end sometime, and this trip is nearing its end. After checking out from the hotel, we took the metro to the Maglev station. The Maglev is supposed to be the fastest train on earth. Yikes. Travelling at 430km/h was suprisingly smooth tho =)
At the airport, we tried to get some tickets to somewhere in Europe, preferrably Helsinki or Stockholm. Surprise, surprise, the answer was "no ticket". Maybe tomorrow. At the Lufthansa counter we got instructions to come back some 10 minutes before the check-in for theis next flight to Frankfurt closed, the price would be around 750EUR/ticket (AUCH). We did just that, and were informed that 2 seats were available, but before we could book them somebody else had taken them. DOH! After waiting 5 more minutes, we tried again, and the answer was the same, 2 seats available. This time we got them too =)
With as much as 2 minutes till check-in closing time, we were on the way home. After practicing some "russian queuing techniques", we managed to get to the counter just in time. Phew. Next up was filling in a few forms again; customs declaration and departure card. Argh! What are these needed for anyway?
Of course we both got stuck for a while in the security control too, but we still made it in good time (at least a few minutes still to go) to the plane =D
Here comes the best part: we actually had Business Class tickets on the Shanghai-Frankfurt plane, which was a Boeing 747. Awsome! (hopefully they only charged the economy class price though, my Visa account still hasn't been charged.
What fascinated me the most was the 2 hour long trance/house mix by Piet Blank (yes, Blank!!!) specially made for Lufthansa that they played on one of the "radio" channels. So sweet =)
After a beer and a few Jägermeister shots it was time to board the plane to Helsinki. I have to say the Boeing 737-300 (or 737-500) economy class was quite different from the 747 Business class =D Maybe 40 or so passengers which meant the plane was not even near half capacity.

2005-08-17 00:00:00 - Time to do some shopping
Visiting the zoo was a mixed experience. The Chinese were more interested in taking pictures of us than of the animals.. Creepy. Anyway, some of the animals, including the polar bear and the penguins, seemed not to enjoy the heat anymore than we did, and the giant panda we saw was lying on the floor in something that looked more like a hardcore prison cell than a zoo cage.. Poor animals.
Next up was some shopping at the Xiangyang market, which is THE place to buy "real fake stuff" in Shanghai. This is also a great place to train up your bargaining skills. Funny how everybody had "the best prices" and "best quality" tho....

2005-08-16 00:00:00 - Shanghai
Whoa. Gotta say I'm impressed by the city. It's full of big and shiny skyscrapers and other strange looking buildings.
We took a taxi from the bus station to the Bund, and went to search for a hostel or hotel to stay at. The Captain Hostel was unfortunately full, so we went to the nearest hotel thet was mentioned in our "bible", the Metropole Hotel. A double room for ~55EUR/night was good enough.
After dumping our stuff at the hotel, we went to check out the Bund and the smallish Jinmao Tower (only 420.5m, the 5th highest building in the world). The view from the observation deck (88th floor) was amazing, although there was some smog so the visibility was kinda limited =/

2005-08-15 07:45:58 - Today's saying
"Please go underpass when out of station", seen at some random train station in northeast China.

2005-08-15 07:40:03 - Nanjing
Phew.. That was an interesting night :-)
Everybody looked very surprised to see europeans on the train, and even the staff made jokes about it. Anyway, we finally got to Nanjing after some 18 hours on the train. Seems like it was one of those "slower" trains :-D
It's very hot here and the weather is sunny.. Gaah..
It turned out to be somewhat problematic to get train tickets to Shanghai, since the station was under construction and we found no signs of a ticket office. Therefore we decided to go to the other train station by taxi and queueing for some 15 min. Smallish mistake. The driver was kinda confused, because she claimed we were at both stations at once :-) A little odd, since they are like 5km apart. A few minutes later we had no taxi and no idea what to do next.
There is also a bus line between Nanjing and Shanghai. A short walk, and 30 seconds at the disk later, we are waiting for the bus.

2005-08-14 15:37:14 - Nice
Our "bible" turned once again out to be well worth the price. "Lonely Planet - China" that is :-D We are going to Nanjing, which is only some 400km from Shanghai. Gotta see if it's possible to get to Shanghai this evening (or night actually), or if we have to wait for a morning train. Better read all about Nanjing just in case :-)
This train is extremely overcrowded, and I'm pretty sure we are the only foreigners here. There is no arrival time marked on the ticket, and the staff does definately not speak english (surprise, surprise). According to the book, the journey should take approx. 11 hours, so we'll be there around 3 in the night :-/ Oh oh...

2005-08-14 09:59:07 - On the way somewhere
We checked out from the hotel and went to see where to go next. There were no more tickets for Shanghai (or Xi'an), but with the help of some guy at the "ticket office for foreigners" we got tickets to some place "4 hours" from Shanghai (tha name is only in chinese). The train leaves in about an hour. There should be local trains from there or something. This waiting hall is a bit crowded, but our backpacks are good substitution for chairs.
I'm slowly starting to dislike this weather. Maybe the summer in Finalnd is the best for me after all :-)
I wonder if it's worth going to Malaysia with all smoke and crap.. Gotta see later on. Still 3 weeks left of my vacation, but the credit card limit might shorten the trip :-P

2005-08-13 16:52:46 - Lovely weather
It's been raining most of the time both today and yesterday.. Anyway, we went on a guided tour to the Red Square, teh Forbidden City and the Great Wall. The tour also included a full chinese lunch at some restaurant and a visit to a jade sculpture factory.
The weather was "ok" until we had climbed the wall some 500 m. Anyway, I got soaking wet and almost slipped at one of the steepest parts :-D Fortunately the wall was the last thing we did before returning to the hotel. To add to the positive experiences, the clothes I washed were still wet. Only a pair of shorts and a souvenirshirt to wear.. Oh well..
This is (probably) the last night in Beijing, but we still don't know where we are going next..

2005-08-12 16:18:00 - Lovely weather
It's been raining almost all day with some nice thunderstorms every now and then. We went out to do some shopping and have lunch (at Pizza Hut) without getting too wet though :-)
We also booked a guided tour to the Great Wall, Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City. A nice chinese lunch "should" be included too. I guess we'll see about tomorrow. The weather forecast says thunderstorms tomorrow too.. Might get some nice pictures ;-)
Just watched a few movies and gonna get a drink at the hotel bar.

2005-08-12 10:55:49 - In Beijing, finally
Okay. I'll never again complain that it's hot in Finland. the moisture is incredible too. You start sweating as soon as you go outside. Nice. Additionally it's raining.. Sweet.
Naturally we arrived at the train station that was farthest away from our hotel.. Whee. Apparently taxi is kinda cheap, which is nice since the city is huge. I'm not really convinced about their driving skills... Seems there is nobody following any traffic rules (if there are any) :-)
Our room is not ready yet, so we got offered another room for a few hours, which is kinda silly. We chose to wait so we got a free drink instead.

2005-08-11 22:56:55 - Final night before Beijing
OK. Last night (or the few hours left) on the train before Beijing. I was drinking beer with the other europeans and a few russians. It was quite nice actually. One of the russians spoke english, so he translated everything :-)
We should be in Beijing in some 5 hours or something now (5.20 local time). I'm so much looking forward to a shower. It's been a week since the last time :-D
Anyway, I'm starting to love the chinese food. They make normal meat tast soooo good!
Better get a few hours of sleep now...

2005-08-10 21:49:18 - Finally on the move again
I think we are a few hours late now, because the border stops took longer than 5+5 hours. Forgot to mention that one of the chinese guards said something like "your boy is fat, he eats too much" to the russian guy with a kid who travels in our coupé. Never seen that happen in Europe :-D
Since we now have a chinese restaurant car, we had to check out the food. The menu is quite a bit more impressive than the russian one, and the beer is also better ;-)
No gprs here either, so entries will be delayed :-/
Anyway, it's kinda late (not sure I got the time right, but everybody else have been sleeping for hours already) and I should get some sleep.

2005-08-10 17:31:51 - Chinaaa
We got into China. The train was like 40+C and we sat there for a few hours or something.. Anyway, we are at the border station now. You need to be good at negotiating the prices, otherwise you'll end up paying like 3 or 4 times the price :-)
It helps if you have enough small bills, because if they see you have much money, you won't get a good price.
Nobody seems to know what time the train is supposed to leave, but as long as the personell is still here, we should be safe :-)
There is btw a nice thunderstorm outside, the lightning is kinda strange tho... Mostly staying between the clouds, not like the cloud-to-ground lightning we're used to in Finland.. Pretty cool actually :-)

2005-08-10 09:58:15 - Other tourists
Turned out there are a few other european tourists on the train too. Good to know there are other strange ppl too :-D

2005-08-10 09:54:40 - Real food
Got some kind of pizza wannabe at a shop. Gotta admit it was the best pizza I've had in at least a week :-) (ok, the only one too)
Anyway, cold fanta and some food.. Can't really describe how good it was :-)
We think we have an hour or so here before the train leaves again.. Would kinda suck to be stuck here...

2005-08-10 08:16:19 - Last stop in russia
Okay.. Some official looking ppl took all passports and stuff and apparently told us to get out of the train. We think.

Anyway it's indeed very hot here. First time in many days that gprs works tho. Think it's some chinese operator.

2005-08-10 08:10:29 - Very hot
Aww.. It's like hot in here now.. There has been no airconditioning for many hours, since we are now running on diesel instead of electricity :-(

2005-08-09 12:05:44 - Beer... Again. Hehe.
We got some bread and cookies at the last station (ulan-ude) and now we are drinking beer with the dutch guys again.
We played cards (and had beer) earlier in the restaurant car too though.. Oh well :-) At least we have something to do.
I'm afraid we are starting to smell a bit here.. Like 5th day without any sight of a shower.. Eww..

2005-08-08 12:11:23 - Beer, vodka & food
We had dinner in the restaurant car together with the other europeans (yeah, all 3 of them) on this train. We had some "chicken tabaka" or whatever and a few beers. Awsome to have some real food for a change. The restaurant was supposed to close at "about nine", but I think they were happy that we stayed there to about 10. Not like they would have something else to do on this train anyway.
After the dinner we all went to our coupé to drink some vodka. In this case "some" meant all the vodka. Luckily we stopped at a station so we could buy some beer there :-)
Unfortunately we got a fourth passenger from that station. She looked kinda shocked when she saw 5 ppl drinking, and probably making quite some noise, so we just went to the smoking area to continue.
No hangover or now, which is strange. I'm not complaining though. Gonna have some bread and instant soup now.

2005-08-07 15:08:52 - Tourists and beer
Instant soup and baby food rocks! Went to the restaurant with the dutch guys and our danish "coupé mate". The menu is awsome! A few different kinds of "expensive" food, one kind of wine and even two kinds of beer!
We went to buy some coke and beer at the station and almost missed the train :-D All of a sudden the personnel just started gesturing and screaming as the train was already moving. But we got our beer and made it for the train. I think we are running about 2 hours late right now (which apparently is very common).

2005-08-06 19:28:52 - Books and stuff
Hmm, should have brought more books.. First one almost finished already :-(
Hopefully someone is willing to trade books or something..

2005-08-06 19:25:02 - More tourists
Got another tourist here, he's from Denmark. Tortilla chips rock btw!

2005-08-06 15:43:44 - Survived the first night :-)
Mmm.. Lots of people selling stuff, mostly beer and fruits, at all stations. Hehe.
There are at least two other "tourists" (as in not chinese or russain) on this train :-) Two guys from Amsterdam, also going to Beijing. GPRS seems to work in random spots, which is nice.

2005-08-05 23:03:33 - On the way to Beijing
Oh oh.. Hopefully we will survive 143 hours in this train.. Nobody speaks _any_ english :-D

2005-08-05 22:53:22 - On the train :-)
Phew. Got on the train. We are as far away from the restaurant car as possible.. Blah..
The so called beds are about as hard as granite :-/ Very comfy...

We picked up some random sandwiches at some smallish shop (which could have been a sauna because of the heat).. Hopefullu they have some good filling...

2005-08-05 22:16:40 - At the train station
My sister wanted to have "blinis" to eat, but the stand near the station was, surprise surprise, closed. Our only hope now is that they serve blinis on the train.

We are now just waiting for information on which track the train leaver from.. Getting kinda boring..
Oh, and I want one of those magic "reduced weight of the contents" bags!

2005-08-05 22:10:53 - Stamps
After having a few beers we went to get stamps for our post cards. All post offices were of course closed at that time.. DOH!
Despite the disappointment, we went to buy a few more souvenirs, and happened to ask if there was any other place we could get stamps. The answer was of course "no". A friendly American (probably) however had just bought some stamps and was willing to sell them. Fortunately, he had exactly as many stamps as we needed :-D

2005-08-05 22:04:46 - Whee.. GPRS again :-)
Seems I'm online again. Unfortunately the IP changes quite often.. Doh..

2005-08-05 17:28:18 - Connection not available
Damn GPRS does not work anymore.. Strange.. Anyway, we finally found the "travel agency".. And guess where it was? 50 fscking meters from the train station!! Gaah.. Anyway, we got our tickets for Beijing. All is well :-)

After leaving bags at the luggage storage, we went to buy some souvenirs and have a final meal at the mac. It's hot here, so we might need more beer.

2005-08-04 22:47:04 - Toilets
Mmm.. One thing about Russian toilets is that the toilet paper is more like industrial grade sandpaper than anything else.. In other words just like in the Clint Eastwood joke..
Another thing is that you need to use real force to flush :-)

2005-08-04 22:36:52 - CRAZY!!!
The fsckin Crazy Frog is everywhere.. Gaah.. Can't even eat a bbq steak without listening to the raped songs..

We figured that the Russian queuing system is essentially that if you can fit in between two other persons, you are allowed to take that place :-D
To get our train tickets for Beijing we need to find some travel agency somewhere here.. The address is partially readable on the reservation confirmation, but the name of the agency is unknown :-/ Well.. 24 hours to sort that out...
Now we'll check out the hotel night club :->

2005-08-04 14:27:02 - Hot hot hot
Back at the hotel. We need another beer to avoid severe dehydration.. It was very hard to choose from all the available beers (Baltika and Tuborg).. Doh..

2005-08-04 12:34:19 - More on beer
Starij Melnik is apparently as anonymous as the Baltika no.7.. No "interesting" beer so far :-/

2005-08-04 12:30:42 - Authentic Russian food
After seeing the Kreml and its surroundings we needed food. What better place is there to start the culynary expedition than MacDonald's :-D
Oh well.. After the extraordinary meal, the next thing to do is, of course, to get a beer.
The sun is shining and we are surrounded by tourists, mostly Russians though...

2005-08-04 09:25:00 - English
The good news is that most signs and instructions are written in "English" too.. The bad news is that they are written in "English".
Maybe I should try the "Roast Chicken served under spicy shirt".. That is probably chicken with the chefs sweaty shirt or something :-)
And maybe room service could bring some "nats"..

2005-08-04 09:14:52 - In Moscow
We had no idea which way to go from the station, so we just went with the flow. It turned out to be a good choice, since we after some walking found a subway station.
Turned out we were only one stop from our hotel. Nice.
The hotel, Hotel Russia, is like huge :-D I probably need a map to find the exit...

2005-08-04 00:09:14 - Time for some sleep
Mm.. The restaurant car was actually a "real restaurant".. Not a "bar" like we are used to in Finland. We had some sandwiches and beer. The beer (Baltica no.7) was not very special imho.. Gotta try something else next time.

Now we should try to get some sleep, because we'll be in Moscow in 7 hours.

2005-08-03 22:14:06 - So far so well
Apparently we got through the customs without any greater problems. Which was nice. Why cant everybody speak some understandable language? Pointing and nodding has worked quite well so far tho..

Gotta check out the restaurant car. Hope they have some good food :-)

2005-08-03 21:01:09 - Last stop in Finland
At Vainikkala now. Next stop will be at the Russian side of the border...
Hopefully we got all the paperwork filled out correctly :-/
The Russian customs are said to be quite thorough.. As if the visa and passport were not enough, two more papers had to be filled out. Sigh..

2005-08-03 17:53:02 - On the train :-)
Right.. The train departed some 10 minutes ago.. Now we are being treated with some russian folk music :-D

Interesting smell here.. Like some 80's flashback or something..
It's getting warm here.. Already missing my airconditioned office :-/

2005-08-03 14:18:11 - Everything ready.. hopefully
Mmkay... Looks like I'm ready to go. Bought an extra battery for my phone (not that I think there will be any network coverage for most of the trip from Moscow to Beijing) just in case.
Feeling quite tired now, so hopefully there won't be any problems sleeping on the train tonight ;)

Also bought "Lonely Planet - China" (yeah, really did), and "Digital Fortress" and "Deception Point" by Dan Brown. Hope they are as entertaining as The Da Vinchi Code and Angels & Demons =)

2005-08-03 10:34:35 - Ooof..
Sleeping the last night before a trip, once again, turned out to be very difficult. The feeling now is almost like having a hangover =/

With some 7 hours before the train to Moscow leaves, I still need to buy some stuff..
Shopping -->

2005-08-02 22:16:08 - Packing my stuff
This gotta be the most stressful part of going on a trip.. What things do I need, what could be useful, what not to take with me.. gaaaah

Maybe my passport and the clothes I wear tomorrow would be enough ;P

2005-08-02 19:20:25 - Blog up and running
The blog is now "ready to use". Hopefully I get to write something here during the trip, which btw begins tomorrow..
Gotta go pack some stuff now =)

©2005 Michael Wikberg