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28 February 2007 @ 01:22 am
Let me PICK YOUR BRAAAAINS... please  
This week has been madness. By "this week", I actually mean the whole month since I left Melbourne Uni - time is malleable when you're unemployed - but the last ten days or so of this week has been particularly mad.

David has been packed off to Japan and has arrived intact, no exploded bags or missed flights, and has already been to one goth club, three temples, gotten lost several times and been overcharged for very factual peanuts (in a bowl and everything). He swears he's going to update his livejournal, t_r_i_p_e_, but I suspect he won't catch the keyboard bug. He just doesn't have the kind of semicolon-littered internal monologue required to sustain blogging.

I, on the other hand, am now the proud owner of one round-the-world ticket. Leaving just over a month from now.

I have to get everything booked and sorted azzap, but I need recommendations. For everything. Cockroach-free hostels, restaurants, tourist attractions, cheese and mop museums, ways of travelling, sneaky local tips, common methods of theft and bag-snatchery (heh) to look out for, competitive eating competitions, dates of frequent flooding, phrases that mean "I'm gonna smash that pretty face-plate of yours" etc.

I know a lot of you have been to the places I'm going, and I'd seriously appreciate any little tidbits or massive thirty-page essays you might have.

My destinations are as follows: Beijing, the DPRK (!!), Osaka, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, possibly some other European city, New York, San Francisco.

If there's somewhere I absolutely must go, dahlink that's not on that list, put it down and maybe I can squeeze in a side-trip. Particularly in Europe, the travel agent got so excited about my trip that she convinced me to go for a month on the Continent with nothing planned beyond eat, sleep and hit on Irish people in the hostels.

Also, if there's anyone willing to take on the job of designing the website to be set up to find me when I'm kidnapped as a cut-rate chinese bride, give me a yell, I have some ideas in the mauve and mustard range and some animated GIFs of angels flapping their wings ready to go.
Beckamiss_rynn on February 28th, 2007 07:02 am (UTC)
I have a Lonely Planet guide for Paris if you want to borrow it. There's a fantastic little bakery place you NEED to go to for breakfast - the prices are reasonable, and the food is excellent. I can show you wher it is on a map. It's in a little square with another restaurant that you NEED to go to, which is quite expensive but worth every euro.

As for Hamerica, da boys (Jye, Scott, Alex Loke, Ben Leong and Lon) are planning on going up to GenCon again this yeat in August then swinging through at least New York - you might see if there is any chance of catching up with them. Only if you like them, of course. :) Failing that, if you go to San Fran you could try to find M5 Industries and nab yourself a Mythbuster.
Beckamiss_rynn on February 28th, 2007 07:09 am (UTC)
I also have a map of Paris! The bakery place and the restaurant (I think it was called "The Flying Pig") were in "Place du Marche St. Honore" - it is between Avenue de L'Opera and Rue de Rivoli. We stayed in a hotel on the corner of Rue du Marche St. Honore and Rue St. Hyacinthe, which was nice but very expensive.
(no subject) - matcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 07:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rincemaj on February 28th, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - matcha_pocky on March 1st, 2007 05:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rincemaj on March 1st, 2007 01:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rincemaj on March 1st, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Loki Carbislokicarbis on February 28th, 2007 07:18 am (UTC)
How long are you going to be in New York?
Nicole: leafy sea dragonmatcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 07:22 am (UTC)
The grand total of a week. Really splurging there :)
(no subject) - lokicarbis on February 28th, 2007 07:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - matcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 07:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lokicarbis on February 28th, 2007 07:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lokicarbis on February 28th, 2007 07:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
I'm insulted now. - meleah on February 28th, 2007 03:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
don't be insulted! - matcha_pocky on March 1st, 2007 05:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
goratrix: reticentgoratrixx on February 28th, 2007 08:09 am (UTC)
Ah, good to hear the updates, regarding both of you, *and* to know that Mr. Hess now has a livejournal.

In SF don't miss Valencia Street and The Castro. And the hilly suburbs. An awesome place, though I'm sure your tour guide is more than adequately informed ;)

Lauradelphaeus on February 28th, 2007 08:36 am (UTC)
I did a Vampire Tour of San Francisco that was laughable but fun. Milan is great - especially the Castello d'Sforzcesco (that is mostly spelled correctly I think). This website rocks because it has a great name Adventurous Wench Travel. Haven't looked at it but I saw some of their stuff on a show.
goratrixgoratrixx on February 28th, 2007 11:10 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh, I did that too!! Was it with the short-ish woman with the crazy sparkly makeup and frizzy hair? It was more like a tour of crazy historical often morbid oddities in the San Francisco area.
(no subject) - matcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 01:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - delphaeus on February 28th, 2007 07:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
aedunaaeduna on February 28th, 2007 09:04 am (UTC)
I've passed the message on to sarahs_voyage, she might have some feedback on Europe.
Mattmongoloidcousin on February 28th, 2007 09:20 am (UTC)

Go to Helsinki... the Fins are fucking CRAZY!

Lots of things to do, people to see, and vodka to consume. And ALL the women are attractive, like ALL of them, it's... spooky.


You can go see these guys, and make me hella jealous. The rage is building even now, just thinking about it. ;-)

\m/ <--- Yes, the secret devil sign.

Nicole: snailmatcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 01:17 pm (UTC)
Fintroll are the crazy metal beer-stein dwarf music, yes?

I'm *just* going to miss the Eurovision song contest. By about three days. My life is hell.

Attractive women, you say. Eh, not for me. I fear straight teeth.
indigoindigo1 on February 28th, 2007 10:54 am (UTC)
it's an awful long time since i went there ('82), and everything else has probably changed, but when in beijing make sure you visit the underground city. they tunnelled out miles and miles of tunnels under central beijing in some weird kind of city-sized bomb shelter thingy. it was strange and creepy and worth a visit. also take the time to do the day trip to badaling (sp?) pass and go climb the great wall. afternoon tea at the beijing hotel was like something out of the british colonial era but i'd guess it's probably been renovated by now. go eat a peking duck dinner somewhere that does the whole thing including the duck-feet soup. get drunk on sickly sweet chinese red wine. and i have no idea if it still exists, but if you get homesick there used to be a genuine aussie pub in the basement of the australian embassy.
Outlier Manlukeii on February 28th, 2007 01:47 pm (UTC)
When I was in Beijing in 2003, I searched and searched and could not find the underground city :(
(no subject) - matcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukeii on February 28th, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukeii on February 28th, 2007 02:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - indigo1 on February 28th, 2007 11:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - indigo1 on February 28th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
indigoindigo1 on February 28th, 2007 11:35 am (UTC)
actually, ignore me. i've just been reading travellers' tales and looking at photos of modern china and i swear it's not the same county i visited...
Nicole: mookiematcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 01:22 pm (UTC)
I am totally going to the underground city. It looks awesome.

Apparently they've been hard at work ripping down everything more than five years old, in honour of the Olympics. Bit of a last chance to see. Maybe even too late for that I think.

I'm pretty sure they'll still have ducks, though, and I intend to eat them :)
(no subject) - indigo1 on March 1st, 2007 01:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
Gregpeachofpain on February 28th, 2007 11:38 am (UTC)
Where to start!

Traveling around the European continent is great fun. I enjoyed doing it the most by train. I used an Interail pass though they are only available to EU residents. Try looking up the Eurail pass and see if that interests you.

Paris. My best tip for Paris would have to be that the Louvre has free entry on the first Sunday of every month. My second would be that if you are going to the Louvre, get there early as the queues can get out of hand. (At least they did when I went on free day.) Be prepared to spend a full day in the Louvre. Walking around Paris is a great way to see things as it is full of surprises just around the corner. The view from the Sacre Coeur is probably the best view of the Paris cityscape.

Berlin. Berlin is fantastic and has quite a similar character to Melbourne. I stayed in the Jetpak City Hostel which was fairly new, quite clean and secure. It was not the liveliest hostel that I've stayed at though if you're looking for a party hostel. It was also near a train station and a moderate walk to the large Zoo trainstation from which you can get to pretty much anywhere in Berlin. The Museum quarter is very good in Berlin and theres a wide range of things to go and see. I visited the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German History Museum) which had an excellent exhibit on the transitions Germany went through in the early 20th century. Check Point Charlie is pretty missable but I'd certainly recommend finding one of the few places where the wall still stands. If you see an odd line of bricks running down through the middle of a road somewhere it is possible that the bricks are marking out where the wall used to be.

Possibly some other European city. If you are going to be in Berlin then some other travel options that I would recommend are:

Copenhagen. The Danes are great and this city has everything (except cheap drinks). Culture, night life, quirky Danes, not quite as many bicycles as Amsterdam, this is worth a visit.

Stockholm. If you head north from Germany to Denmark then why not keep going up to Stockholm. This was the most beautiful city that I've visited in my travels. The people are very friendly and the city has a wonderful waterfront.

Poland. Particularly Krakow but there are other places worth visiting. I found the Poles to be quite friendly and accommodating even though language will be an issue here. Your money will take you a long long way in Poland so you can really enjoy yourself.

Continued below due to the 4300 character length limit on posts.
Nicolematcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 01:41 pm (UTC)
Wow! Thankissimo!

You've got me leaning towards Copenhagen now. I kind of wanted to go to Denmark before, because y'know, Legoland, but people have been saying nothing but good things about the place. I do speak a few words of Polish (my mother was Polish) but I suspect being able to say "The kitten is on the hammer" won't get me far :)

Thanks for reminding me of the Guggenheim, I would've forgotten and I would've been sad :) Also, I think you've just picked out the birthday destination for my brother (he lives in SF) - Alcatraaaz :)

You know if anything pops into your mind, say, at three in the morning, feel free to tack it on :)
Gregpeachofpain on February 28th, 2007 11:38 am (UTC)

Off to the Americas!

New York. Only a week? You'll barely have time to see half of Manhattan in that time but that's just okay because you'll have a ball anyway. The most memorable thing that I did there was to go up to the observation deck of the Empire State building, just make sure you go on a clear day. The subway in NY is of limited use. It's great for going up or down town but be prepared to walk as there aren't really any trains that go across town. Walking is always my favourite way to see a city anyway so this didn't bother me. Central Park is a must see and a lot of the Museums are on the streets that border either the west or east sides of the park. Famous museums to go see I guess are the Natural History (of recent movie fame) and the Guggenheim Museum (modern art museum). Internet cafes are almost non existent in NY so you'll probably need to use internet access provided at your hostel. I stayed at the Chelsea International Hostel in the Chelsea district which was good but nothing special. I picked it mainly because it was near the Aikikai dojo there and there are a lot of hostels in NY so I'd suggest deciding which attractions you want to visit and finding a hostel near them.

San Francisco. I enjoyed San Francisco enough to stay an extra day. Alcatraz is a must see and a good half day trip. Walking around the streets is a good way to find roads that look almost recognisable from movies but to get around the city properly you'll probably need to use the bus and train system. There is the San Francisco train system which is mainly underground plus BART which provides train transport to the outer areas around SF. The stations aren't everywhere so you'll need to look up bus routes if your hostel isn't near a station. I stayed at the Green Tortoise hostel which was pretty fun. It's in Chinatown which is a pretty dirty neighborhood but the hostel itself was fantastic. The first night I was there they had a live band, the next night free dinner, the night after was some other activity. I'd definitely recommend it.

I did all my hostel booking through hostelworld which I found pretty good and certainly the feedback about each hostel on there gives you a fair idea of what you're walking into. I could probably write more but that's enough for now. Let me know if there are specific things you'd like to know about some cities.
Outlier Manlukeii on February 28th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
From Beijing you could make a day trip to Datong to see the Buddhist caves there - some amazing human history carved into the side of a cliff face.

The Lama Temple Complex is amazing - very large as it was formerly a palace. It houses a Buddha statue made out of one big piece of sandalwood. The wood is a beautiful golden brown which actually makes it much more gorgeous than the thousands of gold statues throughout China.

Assuming you aren't long in China and therefore not likely to suffer Temple burnout like I started to, I also suggest The Temple of Heaven Park. Beautiful grounds full of wonderful sites, including things such as a door that only one man has ever passed through (make sure you find it, it's part of The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests), and The Echo Wall.

The best time to see Tianamen Square is at the Flag Raising Ceremony - get there good and early as even the locals turn out in force for this. It happens every morning at dawn, and after watching the EXTREMELY well choreographed marching, make sure you watch a group of normal soldiers marching to compare.

In the Forbidden City, make sure you look around carefully. I found an area near where most of the tourists were deciding was the end, and it contained some of the most amazing things in the whole 'city'. Look for a sign pointing the way to the Jewellery Hall. There were these fantastic blocks of jade that had intricate scenes carved into them, and a few other odds and ends left of the wealth of an Empire. There was hardly anyone in this area.

The Summer Palace makes for a nice contrast to the Forbidden City, full of beautiful gardens, but still plenty of temples, a rock maze and a canal area.

Make a day trip to the Great Wall, I went for the Jinshanling section of the wall - much less touristy, and a fabulous 10km hike along the wall to Simatai. If you are up to the walk, it's well worth doing it this way instead of at the more popular sections (IMO)

If you still have time in Beijing, Prince Gong's Palace is worth a quick peek. Fairly modest in size and has a few interesting things to see.

Try and get to a show in Beijing - they often have tourist versions of their 'Operas' with subtitles! A little LED screen near the stage. Although most of the time, ignoring the dialogue and just watching the action is fine. If you can though, try and get to a KungFu show - much more interesting than the Opera.

You must have Peking Duck while you're there, even if Melbourne restaurants do tend to make it better. ;)

Tip on bargaining in China - Whatever they start at, counter-offer with 1/4 and don't pay more than 1/2. Also, don't ask the price if you don't think you'll buy it - asking the price means they will keep bargaining with you until you *do* buy it, even by chasing you down the start and grabbing you.

I also absolutely loved Chengdu in China, so if you are considering an extra stop here, ask me for more info on Chengdu. The thing is, China is just so worth a trip in itself, so it's hard to recommend just one area.
Nicolematcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 02:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Beijing
It's funny, actually. I wasn't really planning on spending any time in China, I was just going there because you have to to get to the DPRK. I'll only be there four days before I leave for Korea, then I'll be there again for about a week after I get back, so not much chance of leaving the Beijing area.

Do I need to book to go to the forbidden city? Anything other than the opera I'd need to book for in advance? Is it easy to get organised day-trips etc or did you just strike out on your own?

It's lucky you told me about the bargaining style, because my usual bargaining technique is to ask the price of something I don't really want, snort when they give it, then ask about something else, etc, until I reach the thing I really want and they're nervous I'm not going to buy anything :) Hilarity might have ensued :)
Re: Beijing - lukeii on February 28th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Beijing - kitling on March 1st, 2007 12:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Beijing - matcha_pocky on February 28th, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Beijing - lukeii on February 28th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Quentinblack_pawn on February 28th, 2007 09:34 pm (UTC)
Ok...your other European city might want to be Prague perhaps? The wackiest thing I remember in Europe was the [a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedlec_Ossuary">Ossuary</a> at Kutna Hora, an hour outside Prague. Eastern European trains are interesting for short journeys too.

In Paris, try and stay in the Latin Quarter. It has Rue Mouftard which is lined with eateries and stalls and if worst comes to worst, a fresh produce market, this is the university district so actually the prices aren't so bad. Just off that rue is my favourite restaurant in the world, La Truffiere which I highly recommend for your one 'fancy' Paris meal. You might not be able to afford more than one.

Which comes to my strong point, Beijing. That city changed a great deal between 1997 when I first visited and 2006 when I last did. The Forbidden City is worth taking a walk through but more interesting things involve Taijiquan in Beihu park at dawn, you could go for Beijing Duck but really it's no better in Beijing than you get at the little place above the corner of lil' Bourke and Russell.

There is a big four story market in Beijing that has essentially replaced the old outdoors Silk Road markets near the embassies, it's worth a look if you want to buy counterfeit or just random Chinese things. DVDs are available nearby also.

Beijing wouldn't be my first choice for places in China to go but it isn't bad. I'll have a look for my itinery for last time I was there.

Oh, I also have an LP for Western Europe that might save you a bit of luggage space, since you're only going to the major cities anyway.
Quentinblack_pawn on February 28th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
Bah, too stuck on e2 [softlinks].
(no subject) - matcha_pocky on March 1st, 2007 05:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - black_pawn on March 1st, 2007 07:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - peachofpain on March 1st, 2007 10:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
indigoindigo1 on February 28th, 2007 11:18 pm (UTC)
ps: new york. don't stay at the YMCA near central station. the pipes of the heating system thump and make noise all bloody night.
iwasdamnborediwasdamnbored on March 31st, 2007 12:33 pm (UTC)
hello Nicole! it's Saskia! i added you to my friends list. just letting you know. muahaha. xoxoxox