August 31, 2006


(travel notes from the train - don't know what I have with 'vibes' at the moment, but like the word)

Finally, the travel vibe has set in. I'm writing from the Tibet -train - oxygen outlet next to my pillow - and waiting to depart for my next stop: Xi'an.

I've been looking forward to this trip for weeks, but somehow arriving in Beijing didn't feel half as exciting as it usually is to arrive in a new city. Maybe it was anxiety that didn't properly disappear or something when I realized that Beijing was less scary? No idea, but the vibe (travel, in this case) wasn't there.

Somehow this has changed. Strange, as today was a day full of unexpectedness. Or maybe that's exactly why it's changed.

Now it's all good. Meeting new people, packing up things for a new trip, and walking into a huge station not knowing where to go but being sure you'll be in a new place the next day. The kind of stuff that travel is about.

Waiting in the station in Beijing was confusing but loads of fun. Random people who start talking to you, masses of people waiting for the train etc. And this train that I'm on is pretty cool. Too bad I won't be taking it to its destination: Lhasa.

Anyway, I'm expecting this vibe to stick around. Which means I'm heading out to Gansu. More news from there, hopefully?

(postscript, clearly my last question was too early)

Beijing impressions

So, it's 6:30 in the morning and I'm stuck at my hostel. Great start of the day. There's been a mistake in the booking of my tour to the Great Wall so while I'm online trying to figure out how else I can get there before I leave for Xi'an tonight, I might as well update you.

Out of all the Asian cities I've been to, Beijing so far is least appealing to me. It's muggy, chaotic (and although usually I quite like chaos here it doesn't seem to work the same way) and doesn't really seem to have a 'vibe'. Or in any case, I'm not feeling it.

Not to say that I'm not enjoying it here - it is amazing how everything is geared towards 2008... Half of the town is under construction, half of the temples/palaces etc. are up in scaffolding. The sights are still pretty impressive. And I have to admit that I actually like the non-renovated parts of eg. the Forbidden City much better than the gaudy red and gold newly redone buildings.

Yesterday I spent the day with an American friend who has been living her since about three months. I know him from Tokyo, and it was very interesting to hear him about how he is now enjoying life here. In some respects it can be so the same (total inefficiency comes to mind), but it's also clear that even though Tokyo doesn't strike me as a environment-conscious city maybe it is after all. He also showed me around his campus, and I got to talk to a couple of his friends walking around one of the local markets (new toy to make friends on the trains here: mahjong in travel format!) and having a huge meal of Beijing Duck. Yumm.

My hostel is at the beginning of a big hutong, one of the old-city-parts of Beijing. Many people still live here but (in preparation of 2008, of course) apparently they're quite rapidly being torn down and replaced with modern concrete. The morning that I arrived - and couldn't find the hostel - a rikshaw (sp?) ended up taking me here: through proper hutong-early morning life. Quite an introduction to Beijing and China.

Somehow I had vaguely imagined Beijing to be similar to other big Asian cities; maybe not Tokyo but at least Seoul. Every new corner I turn, I'm reminded that it is still a long way off from that. If this city is planning to be ready for the huge event that is the Olympics, or if this city wants to actually physically resemble the number 2 world economy it has a lot of work ahead! One example is the subway system. There used to be only two lines and only recently a third line was finished. On the first two you get a paper ticket which old ladies at the gate tear for you (like museum entrance tickets). When you transfer from one of these to the new line, you hand in your paper ticket for a magnetic ticket (handed to you by an old Chinese lady). And then you proceed to the automatic gates which have magnetic card readers to enter... Within two years there should be 15 lines, should be quite a difference!

Well, I'm off to see how else I can get to the wall. Am leaving for a new city tonight - Xi'an which I'm really looking forward to. Everyone is raving about it, and I'm staying with another friend so it should be a good weekend. More from there!

August 28, 2006


Okay, just quickly as there's a queue but yay, I'm here!

It's hot, dusty, humid, but very cool!

Am surprising myself by being adventurous and walking into food places by myself without understand what in the world I'm eating. And that with jetlag. It should get even better when I've caught up on sleep.

August 26, 2006

Will I ever learn...?

Departing in 18 hours.... and my couch is covered in lots of stuff (books, clothes, miscellaneous) and my backpack is empty.

On the other hand, the meeting that I had been stressing about all week (and just came home from) went really well and no one even noticed that I had been slacking off on stuff. Ha! Unfortunately I do need to finish a few things for that tonight (or at least before take-off).

Oh, and I'm slightly worried about the failure notices that I'm getting from my Beijing hostel... My booking better still exist!

Okay, back to my couch and backpack. Then back to my pc to re-write stuff. Then off to bed!

Winding down

Perfect evening to relax and chill after a very frustrating week:

- coming home exhausted after a long and stressful day to start looking through cooking books and making lists of shopping with a friend;
- back from the market with bags full of food and more friends;
- cooking all evening, while drinking wine and chatting to catch up on each other's lives;
- eating a huge meal of spring rolls, gyoza and more... hmmm, yummm!

Hmm, good night. Now I need to start packing...

August 23, 2006

A relationship post?

Well, it isn't really, for obvious reasons.

But I'm just reflecting about how contradictory people can be (or well, it feels that way to me).

Yes, attention is very nice.
But there is a point when too much attention just becomes totally unsexy and unappealing.

That is all.

August 21, 2006

My favourite hobby (well, one of)

Spending money definitely feels good.

And in preparation of this holiday I've gotten several things which had been on my wish list for quite some time:

- good hiking shoes
- new backpack
and, of course,
- the digital camera

Furthermore, I started listening to some Chinese lessons yesterday - can someone remind me that I'll be okay over there? Man, I knew there was a reason why Chinese has always seemed impossible to me! I guess I'll just take a notepad and pencil and write everything, that should get me around. I hope.

As an example...

Cheruchan wrote a post recently about a political debate that we attended last week.

Very interesting actually, but she describes it much better than I could in my current chaotic state of mind.

However, besides reflecting on the issues that were discussed, it did make me think again about another possibility for putting some more direction back into my life: joining a political party.

I've thought about it before, and after having been talked to enthusiastically by some people of the local Labour party the idea is back in my head.

I'm still in doubt though - on the one hand it seems like a good opportunity to get to know this type of organization, build up a network, be involved in something in the community etc. And all of those are things I am looking for. On the other hand, it seems too opportunist to only join because of the networking opportunities and I'm not sure if there is any party that I can agree with for almost all of their arguments which is something that I do think is necessary.

At least it's giving me something to think about. Especially with elections coming up at the end of November this would be a good time to join if I want to actually do something. Unfortunately - as a friend pointed out - this will mostly involve being one of those annoying people handing out unwanted flyers when you're out shopping. Hmm.

August 20, 2006


Restless - that's how I would describe the state that my life has been in for the past year.

By now it's starting to become a drag. Yes, I'm travelling and doing fun stuff but there's always this thing around making me unable to focus on anything. And it comes down to the fact that I still don't have a proper job.

It's a no-win situation though: when I try to concentrate on jobhunting things I get obsessed and it's on my mind too much. When I try to cut down, relax and take my mind of it, I start feeling guilty about relaxing.


I've decided over the last week or so that things need to change. I can't be doing this much longer so I either need to give up and be happy with the job I have (not an option) or try to work out a different strategy which will get me inspired again to also be putting in some effort in other things than jobhunting, like some sort of volunteer work maybe. And slowly work towards something different. Anything different.

Then again, saying that things need to change is probably creating a problem in itself...

Coincidentally, the pages of my agenda run out on Sunday. Excellent timing, as it looks like I won't need it until mid-October again (holiday and work travel straight afterwards). Hopefully by that time I'll have a bit more clarity in my head again as well.

Why do I need to make these things into such huge problems? Why can't I just be happy with the relative luxury of having a good life as it is?

August 18, 2006

Lift-off (well, almost)

Woohoo! After being patient for a few months it looks like I'll get to see a proper rocket/satellite launch in a few weeks.

Unfortunately I'll arrive just a few days after a planned launch of a manned mission which would have been even more exciting but for now I'm on the schedule to see a live launch in the steppe of Kazakhstan.


August 16, 2006

Dutch hills

When I started out this blog, I was quite intent on making it a blog with something more than just recounting Tokyo-adventures and the quirks of Japan and in general my life. Over the past 1,5 years I think I've pretty much given up on that!

I might make a new attempt but for now I'll stick to travel for a while. This year is turning out to be a pretty good year as far as travel is concerned so I should be able to add some more things.

My latest travel adventure: three days hiking in the eastern part of the Netherlands!

I sometimes forget how pretty my own country is. My mum and I went to the area of Nijmegen and - surprisingly - it's really hilly and not flat at all! Included in the weekend was a rivercrossing by ferry, lovely pancakes at an outdoor cafe, great food in a small village and some historical education: the National Liberation Museum and the following day a visit to a Canadian cemetery. These last two were actually very impressive.

Unfortunately no real pictures as I've been lazy and haven't got a camera yet (but am looking!).

August 07, 2006


The sites where I'm spending my office time at (while everyone else's on holiday):

Man in seat 61
Lonely Planet
More Chinese trains
Chinese flights
More Chinese flights

Did I mention yet that I'm very excited?

August 04, 2006

Decision Time

After much contemplating, considering, re-considering, talking, thinking, reading I finally made up my mind about the upcoming China trip.

I'm leaving in three weeks, for a short three weeks in the country. Woohoo! I am ridiculously excited about it. In a way, it really is a first proper travelling trip, in a country that I have never been to before and that I do not speak the language of. Am very much looking forward to it, although it's also pretty scary...

By pulling the trip forward it means that my friend won't be able to come along. Unfortunate, but in the end I didn't see a way of going later in the year.

It also means that I have more flexibility in deciding the routing. The first few days of this week were spent frantically trying to find out how I could enter Kazachstan from China, what trains I could take, what visas I would need, if it would be better going to KZ via Kyrgyzstan, etc etc.

My employer - or rather, the Russian authorities - vetoed this plan. Apparently there is no way for me to enter my work location for late September via an alternative route so there is no use in me going all the way there by myself. Bummer. I guess I'll have to be content with another decadent trip to Moscow later in September.

Although, to be honest, I was having quite a bit of trouble trying to convince myself that this would really be a trip I am capable off. I am sure that once you hit the road you discover unexpected sides of yourself. But maybe I should discover those in a different place than the 'stans - it does sound pretty sketchy...

It did trigger a definite interest to travel the Silk Route at one point in the next few years though. It sounds like an amazing and fascinating journey...

So for now, I might be incorporating the beginning of this trip (if you would travel the Route westward). A vague first itinerary would take me past the following cities:

Beijing -> Pingyao -> Xi'an -> Lanzhou -> Xiahe -> Jiayuguan -> Dunhuang and fly back (from Jiayuguan) to Nanjing -> Shanghai.

Hmm, putting it down like this makes it look like a bit much for 19 days... I will probably decide in Xi'an which way to go (south towards Shanghai or west towards Gansu) so I do still have time to improve on this.

For now, I'm on my way out for a night of sushi and Johnny Depp. What more could a girl ask for?

P.S. I am considering going onwards from Dunhuang to Turpan, Urumqi and possibly Kashgar. But I think this time frame really is too short for that, and that I would need some more travelling experience to tackle Xinjiang - no matter how amazing it sounds?