Friday, December 31, 2010

How to Travel Flightlessly, Part 2: Luggage

There is one simple principle governing this aspect of traveling: travel lightly. For the most part, I had only a small suitcase and a shoulder bag as shown above. At other times I did have a third piece of luggage: a small backpack. But carrying all three was a bit hard so I ended up giving away some stuff, posting other stuff back home and giving away the backpack. Just the two pieces of baggage was much more manageable. There were many occasions on which I had to run for a train or couldn't find a taxi or bus and had to walk a considerable distance. Being able to walk and carry everything is a big advantage.

You don't need much to travel. Just clothes, toothbrush and toiletries (just the minimum - I used hostel soaps rather than carrying my own), a book to read. I didn't have a towel, just a sarong that I used as a towel when needed. I also had a laptop computer in my shoulder bag. I had one pair of shoes and one pair of sandals, always wearing the shoes when traveling so I could put the sandals in my suitcase. I carried only one, thin jumper and bought a thick jacket once I reached colder temperatures in Russia. I had only a thin jacket until then which was a bit of a pain to carry in Asia where I hardly ever needed it.

I did buy souvenirs as I traveled but posted them home at the first opportunity. That can cost a bit, but not too much, and it's better than carrying them around with you. All my packages - from Australia, Southeast Asia, China, and Russia, arrived safely home.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back in New Zealand

From this:

to this:

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Even though I completed my official mission a few weeks ago when I arrived in the UK, I haven't really stopped traveling because I've been moving around London and visiting family around England. First there was a trip to Norfolk to seek out a reclusive uncle who I've ever met. Despite catching a bus to his remote small village I didn't manage to make contact or find him - perhaps another time. Then there was a trip to Ely to visit another uncle and his family, where I also saw a house that Oliver Cromwell lived in for several years. I also visited Oxford which is city I lived in over ten years ago and revisited some of my old haunts - it was nice to be in a place where I didn't feel lost, for the first time in nearly ten months. I also got to see one of my favourite bands - the Bluetones - in concert and they were fantastic.

All this traveling was pretty difficult because England is going through a cold snap at the moment, with lots of snow, ice, and very cold temperatures. It is tiring getting from A to B when freezing cold and transport is delayed.

The end of my travels, however, is in sight. For tomorrow morning, I board a plane bound for New Zealand, arriving on Tuesday 7 December. I've had enough sight-seeing to last me a long time and am looking forward to relaxing in the warm summer weather.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How to Travel Flightlessly, Part 1: Visas

I thought it would be helpful to put some information here for others who might be thinking about doing a similar trip to mine, starting with the subject of travel visas. Overall, it was fairly easy to get visas on arrival for most countries and fees were not unreasonable. I was using a New Zealand passport throughout and the rules might be different for different nationalities. The rules might also change so it's worth checking before going. The Lonely Planet website has a section containing visa information for each country. Make sure you travel with half a dozen passport-size photos for visas. Here is visa info for the countries I visited in the order I visited them, with emphasis on how long the visas are for and whether you get them on arrival or in advance:

Australia: NZ nationals can travel to Australia without a visa, indefinitely I think. I arrived at Brisbane port and passport officials came onto the boat and checked my passport before I could disembark. The German couple also on board seemed to get through without any trouble.

Indonesia: a one month tourist visa on arrival. I read that these can be got on arrival at ports but this was the one country I arrived into by air.

Malaysia: ninety-day visa on arrival. I got this at the port of Melaka and I've read that they can be got at other ports such as Penang.

Thailand: two-week visa on arrival. This is different from if you arrive by air - in that case, the standard visa is for one month but arriving by land you only get a two-week visa, for what reason I don't know.

Cambodia: ninety-day visa on arrival. There are some scams at the border where officials will take you to an office some way from the border and while they give you a valid visa, you end up paying more than you have to. That's what happened to me but I suspect that if I'd just ignored those officials and gone right to the border I would have got it fine there.

Vietnam: one-month visa in advance. They might be possible to get when arriving at the border but the standard practice seems to be to get it in advance. I got mine while in Phnom Penh, my hotel getting it for me for a reasonable fee and it only took one night between my requesting/ paying for it and it arriving.

China: one-month visa in advance. Again, the standard seems to be not to get these on arrival. There seemed to be plenty of tourist operators and backpacker places in Hanoi that will get them for you for a reasonable fee but they take a long time: mine took about a week.

Mongolia: two-week visa on arrival. Even though I got mine on arrival, I recommend getting it in advance (which is possible). In advance seems to be the standard practice and wanting it on arrival met with surprised officials and negotiations over fees and visa duration.

Russia: one-month visa in advance. This was by far the most difficult visa I had to get. In addition to the application form, you need a detailed itinerary and an invitation from a Russian tour agency. There are tour agencies with websites that will provide these for a fee. I was fortunate in that Kristen already had got these for me when she was getting her's in New Zealand. In China, the Russian consulates in Beijing and Shanghai will not give visas to those who are in China on visas of less than 90 days, i.e. you have to be a Chinese national or living and working there. The Russian consulate in Hong Kong, however, is more flexible and will give visas to travelers so go there or even do what I did and send your passport and forms to someone there who will do it for you (the HK consulate doesn't seem to have a problem with not being there in person) - but remember you need your passport to check into any hotel in China so only send it if you've already checked into a hotel for at least a few days (or alternatively sneak into your girlfriend's room when the staff aren't looking, until your passport comes back!)

Finland: no visa needed. I'm not quite sure what the situation here is. They stamped my passport and there doesn't seem to be any date-limit and no fee to pay. So I think New Zealanders can stay as long as they like so long as they don't work.

The Rest of EU: there were no further passport checks through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, or Netherlands. There was a passport check when I arrived in the UK which surprised me - they are in the EU aren't they? - but there I used my UK passport. I'm not sure if this is going to result in any confusion when I leave but I can't see why it would, which is not to say it won't.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Distance covered

I've made a rough calculation of the distance I've covered, and I do mean rough - I used a pocket atlas and measured distances with a piece of paper.

The distance from Tauranga to Brisbane on the freighter ship I found out was 2654 km. My other travels from Lyttelton to Tauranga and traveling around Australia were about 8,000km. So from Lyttelton to Darwin with the traveling around Australia came to about 10,700km.

From Bali to Beijing, it was 9,000km. The Trans-Mongolian from Beijing to Moscow is 7865km.

From Moscow to Harwich I calculated that I covered about 4,100km.

10,700 + 9000 + 7865 + 4100

The end result? 31,665 kilometres. Since it's a rough calculation, let's call it 32,000 km.

I've just found a computer programme where I can draw lines on a map and measure distances that way so I'll give it a go and see if I can come up with a more accurate calculation.

Good times (and bad)

What a great trip it's been. I’ve been trying to think of what the highlights were and the things that stand out the most are the outdoor adventures: trekking through the Malaysian jungle, walking down into a volcano in Java, and riding a horse through sand-dunes in Mongolia. They didn’t seem enjoyable at the time but afterwards they’ve lingered in my mind; the sense of achievement at the end of them was amazing. There were other highlights too: the freighter trip from NZ, visiting the offices of the Phantom comic in Sydney, having a picnic at Hanging Rock, seeing the Pixies in concert in Melbourne, the amazing scenery of Australia’s red centre, the temples of Angkor Wat, the outdoor food stalls in Hanoi, the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Great Wall of China, swimming in Lake Baikal in Siberia, the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair in Poland, seeing the Third Man locations and the film itself in Vienna, and the Berlin Wall.

It’s pretty clear what the lowlight was: having my wallet stolen in Sumatra. I’ll never forget the sense of helplessness I felt that day. Also bad but not nearly so much, was having Dengue Fever while on the island of Ko Tao in Thailand. The hassles I had trying to get a visa into Russia from China were also terrible. Another lowlight is one that I forgot to write about on this blog: when Kristen and I almost got arrested after setting off fire-crackers in a park in Beijing. What started as fun quickly turned into sheer terror when we were swarmed by security guards, followed by great relief when we got away with it.

One of the best things about the trip has been the time spent with friends and family. My girlfriend Kristen came to visit while I was in Melbourne and we had great times traveling along the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Siberian Railway routes from Beijing to Moscow. Friends and family I stayed with were my aunt Gerry and David in Montville, my aunt Ulli and cousin Conan in Sydney, Cynthia in Sydney, uncle Tony and Michelle in Canberra, cousin Evan and Jen in Tasmania, Mark and Ella in Adelaide, cousin Sarah and Peter in Saigon, Al in Shanghai, Sophie in Rotterdam, and now James and Mona, and Ethan in London. Then there are the friends I’ve made along the way. I’ve met so many great people, too many to list and some of whose names I’ve forgotten and whose contact details I’ve lost. But I’ll never forget Dewa who helped me in Bengkulu when I had my wallet stolen and whom I’m still in touch with.

I’ve seen enough temples, churches, museums, and galleries to last me for some while. I've had lots of dodgy food, but more great food.

I'm going to keep writing on this blog for a bit longer because I'm going to travel around England for while. Then in early December I'll be returning to New Zealand - but this time I'm flying!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Facts and Figures

I'm intending to write a summing-up of my trip on here but I need a bit more time to rest and recharge before doing that. In the meantime, here are a few facts and figures about my journey.

The entire trip from NZ to UK took me exactly nine months - I left Lyttelton on February 12 and arrived in Harwich on November 12.

The total distance I covered is ?? kilometres (still to be calculated!)

I took a total of 94 trains, buses, and boats to get from NZ to UK: 40 trains, 39 buses, and 15 boats.* Here, I'm counting only rides that involved getting from one place to the next - not counting buses and trains or small boat rides within a city.
* (and one plane)

I visited twenty different countries in the following order:
1. Australia
2. Indonesia
3. Malaysia
4. Thailand
5. Cambodia
6. Vietnam
7. China
8. Mongolia
9. Russia
10. Finland
11. Estonia
12. Latvia
13. Lithuania
14. Poland
15. Slovakia
16. Austria
17. Czech Republic
18. Germany
19. Netherlands
20. England

I visited 80 cities and towns, where 'visited' means staying at least one night in or a few hours looking around (not simply passing through on a bus or train). Want the whole list? Here it is, in order of visiting: Wellington, Napier, Tauranga, Montville, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Launceston, Devonport, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Darwin, Kuta, Denpasar, Ubud, Banyuwangi, Sempol, Probolinggo, Yogyakarta, Jakarta, Kalianda, Bandarlumpung, Danau Ranau, Lewa, Bengkulu, Mukomuko, Bukittingi, Dumai, Melaka, Kuala Tahan, Khota Bharu, Hat Yai, Surat Thani, Ko Samui, Ko Tao, Bangkok, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Tonle Sap Floating Village, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Da Nang, Hue, Vinh, Hanoi, Nanning, Shanghai, Beijing, Ulan Bator, Ulan Ude, Irkutsk, Olkhon Island town (?), Krasnoyask, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Yekaterinburg, Moscow, St Petersburg, Helsinki, Tallinn, Viljandi, Valmiera, Riga, Vilnius, Trakai, Marijampole, Suwalki, Gizycko, Ketrzyn, Olsztyn, Warsaw, Krakow, Bratislava, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Wolfsburg, Rotterdam, Harwich.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Arrival photos

Here is me arriving at Harwich port a few days ago. I wanted to take a photo of me in front of the ferry similar to the picture of me in front of the ship with which I left New Zealand nine months ago, but I couldn't seem to get near the outside of the ferry.

Leaving NZ nine months ago

View of England coming in on the ferry. Nice weather as you can see.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Just arrived!

The ferry has just pulled into Harwich port, which means.......

I did it!

Around the World in Flightless Ways!*

* Or, more accurately for the pedants: Around the world in the sense of going from one side to the other, not all the way around, in mostly flightless ways with the sole exception being one short one-hour plane ride.

Nearly there

Still on board the ferry. Just over an hour to go. I've been feeling queasy but not too bad. How did I get through those ten days at sea at the beginning of my adventure?

Leaving Continental Europe

I've just got on board a ferry called Stena Hollandica and any minute now we'll be leaving the port of the Hook of Holland and heading to Harwich, UK. The trip takes six to seven hours. The water is looking choppy but hopefully I'll be okay.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Great Rivers of the World

Sunset over the Danube in Bratislava.

As I near the end of my journey I’m starting to reflect on the things I’ve seen. These include some of the famous rivers of the world: the Murray in Australia, the Mekong in Cambodia, the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers in China, the Yenisey, Ob, and Volga in Russia, the Vistula in Poland, the Danube in Vienna and Bratislava, the Elbe in Prague, and now the Rhine in Rotterdam.


I’ve just arrived here and will stay two nights. I’m feeling pretty excited at the thought that I’m almost at the end of my journey. After Rotterdam, I’ll go to a nearby town on the coast with the strange name of Hook of Holland from where there is a ferry over to Harwich in the UK. Upon arrival in Harwich - probably on November 12 - I will have completed my goal: NZ to UK without flying!* Keep reading the blog!

* (almost)

I stayed in a hostel in Rotterdam that was inside these strange cube-shaped buildings.

A door in the city's central library that I was too scared to go through. Good thing there's a warning.


9 November
I decided to do some more spontaneous traveling, heading west from Berlin towards the Netherlands (where I’m going to get a ferry to the UK) but not knowing quite where I was going to stop. Looking at a map, I chose Wolfsburg firstly because it looked like a small town and I wanted to see some of small-town Germany and secondly because it had a cool name. When I got here I discovered it is not a small town but in fact an industrial centre where the Volkswagon car-making plant is. From the train station I could see the front of the plant and apparently it stretches for three miles behind.

Finding a place to stay was an ordeal. There was an information centre at the railway station and they helpfully booked me into a place they said was ‘not really a hostel but something similar’ and then they showed me what bus to catch to get there. The bus dropped me off in a pretty remote street and finally I found the right place but I’m still not sure what it was. Part of it looked like a school, other parts like low-rent apartments, and other parts like a government institution. There was a sign saying guest house but there was no one there at reception. I found a man who worked in the place in some capacity - I don’t know what - and he phoned a few people for me but with no luck. So I had to catch the bus back into the main town and walk to Wolfsburg’s sole hostel, which is what I should’ve done at the start.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Checkpoint Charlie

Given that I was writing about communism in my last blog entry it seems fitting that I've now come to Berlin which was of course divided between the capitalist West and the Soviet East. I'm staying in a hostel that is two minutes' walk from where the Berlin Wall once was and about five minutes walk from Checkpoint Charlie which was the most famous gateway between the two sections of the city. Near the checkpoint there is a long section of display boards which give a pretty detailed history of the wall. It was put up by the (USSR-controlled) East German government in 1961 to stop its inhabitants from fleeing to the west - over two million had done so since the end of the Second World War when East Germany came under Soviet control. From then until its fall in 1989, several hundred people were shot trying to make the crossing, while many others managed to succeed.

I sat in a cafe right near the checkpoint and watched tourists having their photos taken with fake guards, and had a coffee while contemplating the rise and fall of communism. I know this is hardly the deepest of insights in political theory but it keeps occurring to me that if only they hadn't been so repressive, it might have worked.

Part of the preserved Berlin Wall

Sunday, November 7, 2010


November 5

In coming to Prague, I’ve returned to former communist territory. In fact, Vienna was the first place I’d been to since leaving Thailand for Cambodia that haven’t had a communist past (except for my brief visit to Helsinki, although some might argue that Finland has a communist past and present too). Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic are all former communist countries. Perhaps I should say ‘former or current’ communist countries since China (and Vietnam) are still in theory communist, however China to me seemed so capitalist that it is more accurate to describe it as formerly but no longer communist. It’s been interesting traveling through the countries that had a go at the great social experiment of the twentieth century. Without exception the experiment was a failure and those countries today are trying to catch up with lost time. The only one that is really flourishing today seems to be China and that’s probably because it has gone for capitalism with more enthusiasm than the rest. As can be seen in the picture, the Czechs’ experience with communism is not looked back upon with any fondness. I didn’t actually visit the museum because I’ve had enough of seeing similar places in other countries.

In fact I’m getting a bit weary of historical museums, churches, and art galleries so I’m trying to find more unusual places to visit. In Vienna there was a Museum of Globes which included a globe from the 1500s - New Zealand was absent of course. In Prague I visited the Franz Kafka Museum one of the highlights of which was a windy corridor file cabinets and I also visited a Toy Museum. Below is a tin toy from the late nineteenth century which surprised me with its gruesome violence.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Two funny signs in Vienna

If you want some bad planning, these guys are competent at it:

Not sure what type of business this was:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vienna: The Third Man

One of the themes of my travels has been visiting locations of some of my favourite films. First there was Hanging Rock north of Melbourne, featured in - of course - Picnic at Hanging Rock. Then there was the particular spot of Angkor Wat in Cambodia from In The Mood For Love. Now in Vienna I’ve visited a couple of locations from The Third Man. I saw Harry Lime’s apartment, as posted on this blog yesterday. Today I visited Zentralfreidhof, the central cemetery of Vienna and looked for the spot where the unforgettable final shot of The Third Man was filmed. That final shot can be seen here (although it doesn’t make much sense if you haven’t seen the rest of the film):

The cemetery is enormous - I read somewhere that over two million people are buried there. I was expecting it to be quiet but by chance I happened to visit on the day that Austrians honour the dead by visiting gravesites, so there were quite a lot of people there. I thought I’d be able to find the right spot because of some references in the film - in particular a distinctive statue of an angel with a bowed head - and some research I’d done beforehand. The searching of gravestones looking for the exact one brought to mind another classic movie scene: the one in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly when the character Tuco is running around a massive US civil war cemetery looking for the name that has gold buried in it. (That location - in Spain I think - should also be on my list!) I wasn’t running but after a while my head was spinning with gravestones like in that sequence. Like Tuco, I went in random directions rather than searching more systematically:

After nearly and hour and a half of wandering around I was nearly about to give up but suddenly I found the distinctive gravestone, which can be glimpsed in the film:

It’s impossible to know for sure just which pathway the shot in The Third Man is filmed because there’s nothing very distinctive in it, but I’m pretty sure I found the right one. It’s changed quite a bit since 1948. The trees have been replaced with smaller ones and some buildings have been constructed on the right. My timing was pretty good: the shadows from the trees are similar to those in the film and the falling leaves in both the film and my photo show that they were both done in autumn.

I thought about trying to recreate the final shot but I didn’t have actors to play Holly and Anna. I considered asking some strangers to play the parts but thought better of it. I did, however, make a small movie that lasts the same length of time as the final shot of the movie. So just imagine Alida Valli and Joseph Cotton are there, some zither music on the soundtrack, and that it is in black and white and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s almost identical:

[dammit, it won't upload. will try again later]

Later that afternoon I saw the film itself in a cinema. The cinema shows it two or three times a week and has done for years. There's quite Third Man industry in Vienna. As well as regular screenings of the film, there is a museum devoted to the it (which I didn't get to see because it is only open on Saturdays) and a few walking tours of some of the locations (which I didn't do because I preferred to hunt them out myself).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Harry Lime's former apartment

One of the highlights of Vienna so far was when I found Josefsplatz square. It is in a popular tourist area and while most people were looking at a giant statue of some old emperor, or a show of dancing Spanish horses, or museums and concerts about some guy called Mozart who composed music, they were missing the real highlight of the area: the apartment of Harry Lime from the film The Third Man, which is either the second- or third-best film ever made. (The first is Once Upon A Time In America, while Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Third Man vie for second.) It's easy to tell which building it is because of the distinctive statues outside the doors. Here's a photo I took from the same angle of a still from the movie. Unfortunately the building was covered with scaffolding which prevents it from being seen clearly but here are a few other photos showing some detail.

Josefsplatz 5

Friday, October 29, 2010

Warsaw, Kracow, and Bratislava

I didn't spend too long in Warsaw. Maybe I was just unlucky but everything seemed difficult - places were hard to find and get to, information hard to come by. I did however go to a football match between Warsaw and Krakow which the home team won 3-0. The city has a beautiful old town (I'm starting to weary of cobbled old towns now, it seems every European city has one) even though it is fake - Warsaw was destroyed during the war so they rebuilt it and made it look old.

Krakow was much easier to get around and find things to do in. I took a couple of walking tours and went into some historic salt mines that are now used for tourism only and they contain salt sculptures, some of them made by the miners who worked there.

I came to Bratislava by a night train, arriving this morning. Another old town with cobble-stones. The Slovaks seem an unpleasant and unhelpful people (or perhaps it's just Bratislavans), so I'm leaving for Vienna tomorrow.

Monument of Warsaw Rising in WW2

Salt Mine sculpture

Clock tower in Kracow's Market Square