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Month 3 Roundup

November 12, 2013

IMG_3743Baby pandas learning to crawl. Panda Research Base in Chengdu, China.


Days on the road: 91

Distance traveled: 4528.58 miles / 7288.04 km

  • by plane – 1092.49 miles / 1758.19 km
  • by train – 2532.3 miles / 4075.34 km
  • by bus – 734.39 miles / 1181.8 km
  • by boat – 2.2 miles / 3.54 km
  • by car – 167.2 miles / 269.08 km

Number of beds: 18

Countries visited:  Japan, China

Items lost: 1.5

  • Jenia’s T-shirt – in a huff and puff to wear as many items as possible to meet the 15 kilo requirement on our flight from Tokyo to Shanghai (I know! 15 kilos total between the carry on and the checked luggage – $20 fee for every kilo over!) Jenia lost a t shirt.
  • We left a bag with groceries on a long distance bus, but got it back when we boarded the same bus back 5 days later.. luck!

Items ditched: 5

  • See previous about 15 kilo luggage restriction. Regular size conditioner, a button down shirt, a blouse, and a scarf for Jenia, Japan book.

Items acquired: 12

  • Holy shopping muse! Presents don’t count, otherwise a few more to add to the list. A small backpack to use as a day pack, several pouches to sort cords and electronics, an iphone waterproof case, a zipper pouch for documents and wallets to wear during travel (Sergey), a scarf and 2 t shirts, 1 tank for Jenia, and a tank and a button down for Sergey.

Postcards sent: 11  (from China)

Hanging out with student monksSergey hanging out with Monks outside a monastery in Tagong valley in Western Sichuan province of China (previously Tibet)
_MG_8449Jenia having some fun with Minnie and Pleasant Goat in Kunming, China.


IMG_4046Stone Guard outside the Hongchungping Temple where we overnighted on our 2 night, 3 day climb of Mt. Emei. Stairs, stairs, and more stairs — 54 km worth to the top of Mt. Emei, China.

We have been on the road – moving around – city to city to village to mountain to country, by land, air and sea – for 3 full months. We are tired. But excited – for all more that is to come. First though we are both ready for some rest. It comes out in various ways, from general crankiness to full on – no more “climbing this hill for the temple and the beautiful view of the lake”.  Which actually has resulted in pretty neat days of just hanging out, eating “Western” food, and having a few beers (or in the case of recent excursion in Kunming, China – a glass of white wine for Jenia and a Bulliet Rye (a double) for Sergey.

taxiColorTaxi cabs wheezing around Tokyo, Japan.

With just a week left of hardcore travel through China and then a few days in Bangkok, we are heading to the island of Ko Lanta to lay on the beach, drink some pina coladas, swim,  learn how to dive (???!!!), and for Sergey, at least, get some much needed uninterrupted “me alone with the internet” time.  Jenia is straight up looking forward to Thailand – everyone, from people we know who’ve been there to the travel blog to travel books, say that its pretty much vacation (and life) paradise.

Sunny – if you pick the right coast depending on the season – beautiful, with jungles and beaches, smiley people and delicious food. Its supposed to be easy, too. Which for all the wonderful things you can say about Russia and China, those two countries aren’t. And much easier on the budget – and who are we kidding, much more familiar – than Korea and Japan. In all, anticipation couldn’t be higher. Which Sergey really, really does not like. No expectations, no assumptions – no disappointments. There is no way to know what’s awaiting us around the corner, etc.

We’ll see how it turns out – but its safe bet that Jenia will continue to have expectations for places we go, because she can’t not research, and Sergey will continue to resist having any. And so off we go!

_MG_7635Hunting for turtles by the Pudong embankment. Shanghai, China.


But enough about the future – what about month three?

_MG_8404Vicious monkeys will steal your food, and if you protest they will scratch and bite. But it’s all part of the adventure, right?! Mt. Emei, China.

We have found our travel rhythm! We’ve worked hard, fought hard (sometimes) and have arrived at a place where we are good. Jenia is superstitious, so she would say – don’t count your chickens before they hatch. We are only a fourth of the way through. But month three was definitely way easier on our relationship than first two.

_MG_8064Riding the chairlift to the top of Paoma Shan in Kangding, China

Our month three was full of China, but we have also spent six days in Japan. Come to think of it, with past and especially current political unease between the two, it’s rather unusual combo. However, the contrast gave us more more insight into two cultures, from everyday living to peoples’ perceptions of one another.

China surprised us in so many ways! When we first left, while we were escaping Chinese “Golden Week”, where entire country travels locally. However, we are back! We visited Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu, Kanding, Tagong, Mt. Emei, Kunming, Guilin, Yangshuo and Guangzhou. It was fast but we had a few days to relax in Chengdu and visit a tea house. We actually went there few times, Jenia loved the lady who ran it.

We were fortunate enough to have a couple of contacts in China, which had tremendously with understanding the culture and the menus alike. Dasha, Sergey’s friend from High School in Moscow, was kind enough to host us in Wuhan, as we stayed on the university campus. Shanshan, a contact we acquired from Jenia’s mom, showed us around Chengdu. And Sukie, who we met through Couchsurfing, who spend a couple days with us exploring Kunming.

IMG_3870Everyone loves a good wedding picture. Newlyweds by Mt Yala, Tagong, China. 

Travel continues to challenge our assumptions and expectations (ahem, see above about Thailand). Before leaving for this trip, Jenia was just a little petrified of how difficult China was going to be. Turns out, not true! In fact, people are the nicest in China. English or no english, they will try to help and provide for you. One moment you will be shoved to the side by a mean middle-aged lady on the bus, another you will be treated like the best friend by a group of people you’ve never met before. On the train, with no common language, people would offer us their phone numbers and giving tips on where to go in the cities we visited as well as food. They will thank you for visiting their country. They will come up to you in public transport, at tourist attractions and just talk, curious about where you are from, and where have you been in China. Once in a while you will be grabbed by the hand by a lady and photographed with, more often Jenia than Sergey. Seriously, China’s people blew our expectations out of the water.


IMG_4362“Love supermarket” where grandparents and parents exchange vitals and contact info for their children to find mates in Kunming. Old people hangin’ in Kunming, China. 

Speaking of superstitious — in Japan and in China people might not be religious on the whole, but they sure are superstitious. There are all sorts of rituals to ensure good health and good business, beauty, love, etc – climb through this hole, rub the belly of this statue, buy this amulet, if X happens, you must do Y.  We have been direct beneficiaries of this once, when our host in Japan made a good business deal – success in business, means we celebrate with good dinner! Thank you, it was delicious! 🙂

Lastly – you know whats super cool? Listening to audio books about the country while traveling in it. At least we really enjoy it. China Road by Rob Gifford (I can just hear the narrator now!) was our companion as we traversed this great country and it was really great to get more historical and social context, as well as, compare our own experiences to those of Gifford’s who traveled the country by road in 2006.


IMG_4524Sunrise over Tagong, China and Yangshuo, China.

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