London to Hong Kong Part 9 – “Harbin”

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Leaving the farm stay

Our time had come to an end and though I couldn’t wait to continue the journey, I felt somewhat nostalgic when I realised that I would probably never see Vladimir again.

We left at approximately 9am and made our way back to Irkutsk. Vladimir dropped us off at our next destination and he urged the boys to come visit him when they were bigger. I hope they do. I hope they will one day trace the steps we took on this trip and reconnect with Vladimir.

Things to do in Irkutsk with little time

We arrived at a quaint little unit that I found the night before scrolling through Airbnb. It is close to the tram and quite central for a decent price. We paid $72AUD for the night, but you can get it cheaper. The host were extremely accommodating and will help you out with anything you need!

With only had half a day that evening to check out Irkutsk. We had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets of Irkutsk. I wanted to look for a Russian hat or even some warmer boots that were typically Siberian. We found the
central market in Irkutsk. Lots of produce and meat, which were able to purchase or our next rain journey. Just on the outside of the building though were more shops and small clothing markets.

I found a pair of Siberian boots that seemed to be the fashion and I didn’t waste any time in switching to these. I fitted right in with the locals!

                                                     My Siberian boots

That evening we had dinner at an Argentine Steakhouse and had an early night because the next day we woke up before the crack of dawn (mind you dawn isn’t until at least 9am). I wanted to catch an Uber from the unit to the station, but the argument was that traffic could be bad and it would make us late. Also, we had a tram around the corner of the place and it was more reliable. I didn’t win this argument and so we walked to the tram stop and made our way to the Irkutsk station.

On the tram very early and it’s cold

Waiting at Irkutsk station for our train

now awaiting to board the train

 

Irkutsk to Harbin

We were back on the train, this time for a two-day journey to Harbin. We knew what to expect and this brought about a sense of familiarity and confidence.

 

Goodbye Russia!

We finally arrived to our last Russian town called Zabaykalsk, which is the border town between Russia and Manzhouli, China. Zabaykalsk/Manzhouli is one of the three direct connections between Russian and Chinese Railways.  We had a 6 hour stop over here, so that the train could change over to accommodate to Chinese railway lines.

Zabaykalsk is a small town, with hardly any trees and no high buildings. We walked around and found ourselves in rundown, dry, dusty, pathless streets with dogs in every house barking at us. It wasn’t THE place to spend 6 hours in transit, but it was still very pleasant because the people in the corner shops were extremely friendly. We bought a Bilash for a snack, which is like an empanada with meat inside.

25 minute journey

                               

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Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh Part 10 – “Sapa day 3”

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This morning has been a chill out day. The boys have basically been backpacking with us all this time and I think they have needed some playtime and interaction with other children. They played darts and snooker with Conner (a 12 year old boy from Hong Kong, originally from Africa) who was also staying at the same hotel with his parents. The rest of the morning was spent letting them run around the main square and play ball with some local children – particularly a little boy and his older sister. We let them run around and kept our distance from them, as I think they are also sick of hearing us tell them “don’t do that, don’t touch that, be quiet”. I also enjoyed playing ball with the cute little boy who would have only been 2 years old. I had some random guy come up to me and steal a selfie photo with him. It was totally weird as he slobbered me with a kiss as took the photo! 😱  I guess people do things differently here 😂  Continue reading

Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh Part 9 – “Sapa day 2”

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Today we woke up at 7am and had no plans for the day until we realised that there is a tour to Bac Ha markets, which only occurs every Sunday. A quick word with the hotel and a sudden decision to leave with the group, we were quickly on our way.

bac-haIt was a long way to Bac Ha. We hadn’t even left Sapa when Mr 4 decided he needed to go to the toilet. Lucky for us the bus stopped to pick up a group from another hotel so that was easy – phew!
Unfortunately our luck didn’t last too long as down the windy road towards Lao Cai, Mr 3 decides that he too needs to go to the toilet. I hold off from saying anything to anyone as I realise there is absolutely no where to stop. He insists he needs to go, so after about 20 minutes of telling him to wait, I ask the tour guide when the next stop will be as we need a toilet stop. Without expecting to stop for another 10 minutes at least, the tour guide says something in Vietnamese to the driver and the driver brings the mini bus to a sudden halt, parks the bus in the middle of the windy road. Cars are beeping, trucks are honking. He looks at me and pointing to the side of the road says in his broken English – “ok, go!”  I wasn’t expecting this, and I am now feeling embarrassed. I grab Mr 3 and we squat on the side of the road having to take everything off, in case he dirties his pants. I didn’t take any paper, but thankfully some kind person gives me some paper. Continue reading

Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh Part 8 – “Sapa day 1”

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We arrived into Lao cai at 5.30am and were awaited by a driver with our names on it. The drive up to Sapa was a long and windy road. The boys were sick most of the journey up, hence it wasn’t the most pleasant bus ride.
We arrived at our hotel and the boys were knackered so we let them sleep in until around 9.30am at which point we started to think about what to do for the rest of the day.

We ended up getting in touch with our new Spanish friends and going out with one of the Muong ladies who took us on a tour to her village, which didn’t end up being her village but just A village – Lao Chai.

We walked down the mountain for ages and ages. It took at least 2 hours if not more! Unfortunately it has been quite foggy and so the view has been limited.

Travelling with kids when doing long hikes can be tiresome as one ends up having to carry them either because they’re tired or to try and walk a little faster.

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