My first week of backpacking has been an adventure. I have meet so many people and although I’m doing it solo, so far I’ve not been alone. Its a massive change from my time on ships and I’ve felt so free. Before I left everyone was amazed that I was not nervous or overly excited about going away. To be honest this is because my emotions were very level and although I was excited and nervous, I was just ready to go.
Backpacking is everything I expected it to be and so much more. After 6 months preparing it was time to leave. I felt over prepared and at the same time like I needed so much more. My parents dropped me of at the coach station to get my coach to London and my Dad looked terrified. We said our goodbyes, which are always a little emotional, and I got on my coach to set off on my new adventure. Six hours and 3 coffees later I got to the airport a few hours too early for my flight. This meant I had to wait around with my big backpack before I could check in. After an hour they opened up my check in and I finally got to hand over the backpack and walk around without feeling like I was lifting weights at the gym.
My first flight was with Eastern china airways and it was an 11 hours long flight to Shanghai where I had a 17 hour layover before catching my next flight to Hong Kong. I was what looked like the only British girl on the flight, to be expected as I was flying on a Chinese airplane. The girl sitting next to me spoke good English and it was nice have some on to talk to. I spent most of the flight watching films and trying to get some sleep but because of time differences I knew I would be arriving in Shanghai at 5pm making it better for me to stay awake on the night flight from England.
I had a hotel booked in Shanghai for the night, my only problem was getting there. The taxi’s quoted me a very high price, around 40 British pounds to take me 10 minutes down the road! I was not going to pay this as the hotel had only cost me £9 for the night and if I had to I could just stay in the airport. I walk around and asked a few people taxi prices but found it quite difficult as very few of the workers at the airport spoke English. It was at my final try before giving up that I found a man by the bus station who could speak English at a basic level but he did understand what I wanted and where I was trying to go. The very nice man took me back into the airport and dropped me at a desk with a very different name to my hotel but as it turns out was the desk for the hotel and it offered a free shuttle. As you can imagine I was not that impressed by the booking I had made as when I checked the website and the hotel there was no reference to there being a shuttle or that they offer a free pick up service from the airport.
I was happy to finally arrive at my hotel, called Jingyue 99 Town Shop, although there were problems at the check in as the girl on the desk did not speak English and my translation app was not working. They asked for quite a large deposit for the room and as I was only staying in shanghai for 17 hours I did not want to be left with a lot of Yuan which is the currency there. It took a lot of arguing as the lady would not just hold my passport in place of a deposit but she finally accepted a small payment instead. Over two ours since landing in Shanghai and I was finally in my hotel room and what a strange room it was. The bathroom was located in the left corner of the room with the shower cubical standing like a stone monument in the middle of the room, the bed was large and very comfortable. Unfortunately the room was a bit dirty and the air conditioning woke me up in the middle of the night. At first I thought there was some sort of frog trapped in the fan as every time they moved down it sounded like a frog screaming out. I spent some time inspecting what I could of the air conditioning until I was satisfied that there was no poor little frog or toad stuck in there and that it was just an old machine.
I also had my first experience of people eating family meals on the floor at Jingyue 99. I needed some water and something to eat so I went down to the food shop that had a entrance in the hotels reception. As I walked in I nearly tripped over 5 people, including the receptionist from the hotel. They were sitting on the floor with a hot plate having their dinner. I found this very strange as the shop was open but to get to everything you had to step over the family as they were eating. The shop was very small and the experience was extremely off putting as who wants to step over people to get a packet of crisps and a can of coke?.
I made it through the stop over only just and after a long cramped shuttle ride got back to the airport in plenty of time for my flight to have a two hour delay. My next flight was shorter but on a small crowded plane with a very undercooked cold Chinese meal. The flight got in to Hong Kong and I had just 45 minutes to find my way around and get to my next flight. Everyone working at the airport must have been hungover as I found no one very helpful or in any hurry to serve people. The guy who was working at the check in for my flight quizzed me about my stay in Thailand and what I planned on doing there, as I stood with a big backpack on my back and small one on my front. He asked about how I was leaving Thailand and I showed him my follow on flight that was leaving from Singapore 7 weeks later. The man then told me my flight was to late and I needed an exit from Thailand within 30 days booked. At this point I only had 30 minutes to get to my next flight. I pointed out that I was backpacking and would be catching buses and trains that can only be booked when in Thailand also that I would be crossing over to different country’s before travelling to Singapore. At this the man said he was just asking as I could have problems at the Thai customs when I get there. He then continued to check me in and give me directions to where my flight was now starting to board.
My next flight was also late leaving but we boarded the plane on time. That plane was also small but not full and had a good mix of different races. I was sat next to a nice Canadian man also staying in Chiang Mai, it was nice to have a conversation in English although by that point I think I had lost the ability to make complete sentences.
The flight was easy and had good food. I had the pizza. The views were amazing as we landed in Chiang Mai. It was a clear day making it possible to see all of the city. Seeing Chiang Mai for the first time surprised me as I had not looked at many photos. The city is known as the walled city and I believed it to be a city with in a wall. I guess I had an image of a city surrounded by a giant wall much like an old castle such as the one from the Lord of the Rings film. The city is very spaced out although it’s fairly small compared to England’s city’s. Although not what I was expecting it was a pleasant surprise. Also I was very happy to see many shops I recognized. Most of the people spoke English at the airport and I made it through quickly and easily with my Canadian guide. A short and inexpensive taxi ride later I got dropped off in what at the time felt like a dark alley which turned out to be entrance to my hostel. I was welcomed with a hug by the owner and introduced to four guys who were also staying there. The guys soon invited me to go to see some Thai boxing with them and before an hour had passed I was booked on an elephant ride and white water rafting tour, getting nicely drunk on Chang beer.