Got the Chinese visa, now what?

An assortment of travel books.

The many travel books we're using.

Yesterday was a pretty exciting day. We finally picked up our Chinese visa. It was a fairly straightforward process: On Tuesday, after waiting in a hot line for an hour, we dropped off our forms and two 2x2inch photos and four days later, we returned, paid the pleasant official $100 and I picked up both our passports. Done.

Given that we’re looking to spend a considerable amount of time in China, I was pretty relieved to actually have the official visa in my passport. Throughout the week, we joked that if China turned us down our new focus would be India for a month. But with it now official, India will have to wait until our next trip.

Planning a four-month adventure has been (and will be) a test of my planning and logistics skills. Designing an itinerary for this trek is an amazing challenge. When we first started talking about going on this trip we looked at a map and tried to figure out where we wanted to visit. I must admit, many of the names and places were completely foreign to me, save the major capitals. Many areas are still confusing such as the multitude of islands and beaches in Thailand.

However, we started with a clear goal in mind: in four months we would travel from Shanghai to Sydney. What sort of scenic route we took to travel this distance was yet to be determined.

There are many packaged group tours for China and Southeast Asia. Such groups are clearly organized and they can usually guarantee that you’ll safely see all of the sights you probably wanted to see in the first place.

However, we weren’t really looking for structure and I really didn’t want to pay someone to tour me around for a long period of time. You’re also never too sure of what kind of group of people you’ll be forced to spend your time with. I’m not entirely opposed to organized tours, I often find they’re a great way to be introduced to a city, but we wanted more flexibility. With that said, I’ve always found organized tour guidebooks and materials to be a handy resource for planning a trek as they follow a pretty tried-and-true travel route.

So with an emphasis on flexibility, the plan is to book as little as possible and see where we end up. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t have a route planned, but as it stands, the only hotel we actually have booked is in Shanghai where we are slated to spend five nights.

From Shanghai, the route is as follows:

China:
Beijing, Pingyao (Well preserved ancient city), Xi’an (Terracotta Warriors), Chengdu (Pandas!), Guilin/Yangshoe (Gorgeous scenery)

Vietnam:
Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue?, Hoi An (For tailor-made suits), Nha Trang (beaches), Saigon, Mekong Delta (maybe)

Cambodia:
Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

Thailand
Bangkok, beaches

At this point we will fly to Australia. I’m really not sure how or from where, but I’m looking for the cheapest way possible. Right now it seems my best option is flying AirAsia from Malaysia to the Gold Coast in Australia where I want to see the Great Barrier Reef.

After touring Queensland, we’ll head south to visit family in Newcastle then on to Sydney where our trip comes to an end.

Shanghai to Sydney in four months. No problem.

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If you have any suggestions about places to go (or to avoid), stay, eat or flyiing AirAsia, please please please let me know! Thanks.

Breaking News: Announcing the Launch of Four-Month Asia Australia Trip

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OTTAWA – After concluding a series of intense discussions and negotiations, Darcy Knoll and his wife Sara announced they will be launching a 107-day two-continent journey starting Sept. 5, 2011.

“From Asia to Australia in just over 100 days. It will be an adventure,” said Knoll at a press conference late Monday.

Darcy and his gorgeous wife Sara will leave Ottawa for Toronto where they will depart for Shanghai (via New York and LA) on Labour Day. The couple will not return to Canada until just before Christmas 2011.

To coincide with this significant announcement, the couple also told reporters that they plan to keep a blog account of the triumphs, pitfalls, tastes, and sights of their journey.

For Sara, this will be her first major blogging venture although she has already amassed a significant following of fans awaiting her debut.

“The public has demanded this,” she told reporters. “And I plan to deliver.”

Her new blog can be found at www.saraparkes.ca. Darcy’s blog will run through his highly-acclaimed Internet platform www.darcyknoll.ca. The couple said more details of their trip would be released throughout July and August.

Although the couple publicly kept details of this trip under wraps, industry insiders said they knew an announcement was coming for quite some time. Inadvertent Tweets and Facebook messages from well-wishing friends unaware of the news embargo only heightened the speculation. The rumour mill took off dramatically two weeks ago when Darcy relaunched his blog with a cryptic post hinting at a major announcement to come.

The couple’s cat, Audrey, could not be reached for comment. Sources said she would release a statement at a later date.

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Lining the sky

Looking back at Manhattan

Taken from Brooklyn Bridge.

I was listening to the radio early, early this morning and this story caught my ear. It seems some developers in New York are looking to grow a monster building right smack dab in the centre of Manhattan, near Penn station I believe. It’s slated to be 67 stories high, 1,190ft (363m) tall. Wow.

Yet, before any giant apes start salivating at the prospect of climbing this beast, the folks at the Empire State Building are looking to ruin the fun.

“It will take away from our skyline,” runs their argument, fearing the giant building could distract from a quintessential New York postcard view of, er, the Empire State Building.

A fair point. The city’s skyline is indeed stunning, an endless metropolitan expanse. It is a mix of the historical and modern. Would a new building desecrate this artificial scenery? Perhaps, but at the same time, when I think of New York, I think of a city that is constantly moving, growing.

In the end, the decision is best left up to New Yorkers. I look forward to seeing where this goes.

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Oh, as for the above photo? I travelled to New York in 2007 and took this shot standing on the Brooklyn Bridge.