The Long Journey Q1-17

Happy New Year! It’s 2017.

Dear friends, ex-colleagues,

Can you imagine that? Barely one year ago, we started this blog. And we also begun to place our quarterly newsletter here instead of sending the PDF file out to you. What was the original intent? Well to be terribly honest, it was to drive some readership traffic to this blog in its infancy. LOL.

So what’s up?

Finally did a road trip in Thailand (driving that is). Now that was a real milestone, which means…we’ll do this all over the rest of the country as well! And a new corner of Korea has been touched – Busan! We can almost compare the two cities (Seoul & Busan) to Tokyo vs Osaka. Perhaps not a fair comparison to some, but that’s our 2 cents! And rushing out this post today, we have just returned from the biting cold of Harbin 3 days ago! Fingers still twitching…

Read our latest newsletter here: The Long Journey Q1-2017.

It’s time to make some travel resolutions for 2017. What will yours be? For us, we intend to:

  • Touch Petra, Jordan
  • Walk arond Havana, Cuba
  • Do a drive around Hua Hin

Wish us luck (please?). For now this will do, as we cannot commit too much since these are already ambitious touch points. We are looking forward to a travel filled 2017! Hope you will too!

Special report: burrrr! It’s cold!!

Finally managed to get access to free wifi that we can connect back out to the world. Surprisingly, not able to do so in Harbin though we were at the Kempinski, but instead able to write this from Yabuli ski resort in literally the middle of nowhere!! Sorry folks, could not read your posts and comment on them as we usually do…

How has it been so far?

If you are thinking we “gate crashed” something again. Well, eh nope. As you recall we are off to see the ice and snow sculptures here in frigid north eastern China.

We are sort of early for the annual Harbin snow and ice festival. It officially opens on 5th January next year, but we get “previews” ahead of the opening. Actually what happened is we get to see the ‘work in progress’….ie they are still putting the sculptures in place even as we toured the park.

So far, we’ve only visited the snow sculptures. Best viewed in the day, it is fabulous! Here are some pictures of how they look plus some of the other sights we’ve been privilege to be part of. Woohoo! And the temperature is now -27°C, considered a normal winter’s morning here!

The ice sculptures will come later this week and best viewed at night with all the illumination coming on. Hopefully we can share a little preview too if the free wifi works!

Hope everyone’s had a swell Christmas!

We are one, marching on!

Sing with us – “We are one, marching on…towards the gate that leads us to the jet plane, flying out across the sea, radiant with energy, plant our flag on the land far beyond…”

Yeeesiree!

It’s finally here. We are at the airport firing off this post before getting disconnected for almost 8 days. Going where we are headed, it’s highly likely that we cannot obtain access to free wifi (we are too cheap to buy). At least spotty wifi anyway…we’d be lucky to check in on our instagram account to see if we are still clocking more followers! LOL.

Harbin. The last frontier. eh no? nah. let’s not start that way.

Harbin. Frontier lands of nomads and herdsmen you’d think. Not true.

Take three. And action!

Harbin. Part of the super region historically named Manchuria, its meaning in Manchurian is “a place for drying fishing nets” if you look up Wikipedia. Hmmm…one word with two syllables translates into that much? Really? Anyway, this city grew from a small village (what’s new) because of the railway. In the 19th century, the rapidly declining Ching dynasty of China had been steadily losing influence to the Russians here, who brought the “metal road 铁路” to northeastern China.

That should explain why in the coming days we shall see quite some remnants of Russian culture and architectural influence while in the city. But our aim is not to buy Chinese made matryoshka dolls (we bought already in Russia), but to see the fabulous sculptures at the annual Ice festival! Mel will be lining his camera bag with heat pads to keep the camera and power banks at a reasonably toasty 10-15°C, so that battery life does not drain off quick. In the open, -20°C or lower can be expected! Hope to be able to update you while we are on the road.

Well, Mel sprouted a large red pimple on his nose just yesterday and Santa has asked him to guide the Air China sleigh tonight!

Cheers! Auf wiedersehen! Sayonara! Ciao! Tot ziens! 再见!

PS: okay, you need to start the singing at the beginning of the post with the gusto and rhyme like here. Mel recalled this was rehearsed so many times before he got commissioned waaaaay back!

And now, back to your regular programme of scheduled posts.

Harbin Ice festival here we come!

Ice ice babaaay! Yeah. Time to work out the journeys for 2017. You know corporates run budgeting processes around this period too…and so do we. As we wipe our hands dry from the travel handprinting we have completed so far for 2016, it is with a sense of excitement to commence the plans for 2017.

So many places, so little time/money…

Therefore, it was mandated that the burn rate be taken slow from the start of the year, 2017 that is. And we start with taking a packaged tour to the frigid northeast of China at the end of 2016!! A land of snow and ice, there is a world renown ice sculpture festival held in the city of Harbin every year. We wrote about it as an option earlier this year (read here). Having read from fellow travelers about their independent travel experiences earlier this year, we decided it would be both more economical and prudent to have someone escort us around.

Harbin Ice festival.jpgThe package sells for S$1,828pp for an 8D/7N journey. That’s after a S$70 ‘discount’ if you call it that at all. Meals are catered throughout, and there are still some optional activities to choose from.

Sold! Time to rummage through the wardrobe for our winter wear…

The Ice Festival Harbin

The ice festival in Harbin is an annual event. Normally held from early January till end of February, it started from 1963. From a supposed traditional ice lantern show, it has grown to be a spectacular sculpturing from international participants.

Yet another bucket list item to check off.

Unfortunately taking this trip will coincide in terms of timing with the Aurora Borealis adventure we seek. Cannot be at two places at the same time without running out of annual leave or budget!

If we were to go, it will have to be at least 3-4 days specifically at the festival grounds to give sufficient time to enjoy the beautiful spectacle in all of its splendour. While skiing may not be the intention (we last skied in Innsbruck in 2004), it will be certainly interesting to check out the city that had so much Russian influence during the late 19th century and 1900s.

Hmm, we can also tag in a couple of days in Beijing to view the traditional sights (Forbidden palace, Temple of heaven, Ming Great wall) in snow covered conditions! Just hope that smog does not smother the experience!