3 June 1999

I'm Alive!

Hey everyone. This is my first travelogue update from the big wide world. This one comes from Chita. A small city in Russia.

Why am I here? Well, it's a bit of a long story. But basically I got detained for three days at the Russian border post of Zabaikalsk. They did not like the look of my passport. Mine was issued in 1991 and they only have the description for the newer style. Eventually the big kahuna there decided I was a nice looking boy, and could continue on my way. Unfortunately this means I am having to make my way across mother Russia with only my limited Russian knowledge and a bit of pantomime.

Who said this wasn't going to be exciting?

So I'm having a very big adventure. My aim at the moment, is to get to Irkutsk by train (I've just bought a ticket, but the train doesn't leave until tomorrow sometime.) Then to Moscow in time to catch my 9th June flight to London. (it's also when my visa runs out. DOH!)

Mike & Brenda, if you get this before I catch up, then everything is okay. I didn't get sent back to China. Instead I got locked in a cell for three days. :)

I don't quite know what the deal was, but I think the border guards (frontier forces) as they called themselves, wanted me to take a Russian wife. I was a bit freaked out for a couple of days. I almost missed my train out of Zabaikalsk as well. It left from behind the station. Here I am out the front going " boy the train must be here soon. It's meant to leave in 2 minutes..." Duh!

Hong Kong was okay. Huge in the electronics market, but not really a lot cheaper. And no, I didn't manage to pick up a copy of Star Wars first episode while I was there. (only on VCD anyway)

Beijing was pretty choice. The only real tourist thing I did was the Forbidden City. Tiannemen (whatever) square was being rebuilt. I think it's a cunning plan to remove any focus for the tenth anniversary of the Tiannamen square massacre (june 6th 1989) as the excuse given is the renovations are for the 50th anniversary of the Peoples republic.
The rest of the time I cycled around Beijing (huge!) and chatted to people with my (yet again) limited vocabulary.

Had a small scare when leaving Beijing. I had bought a small knife to get rid of a VERY persistent street hawker (10$NZD) and it was detected in the xray machine. It got confiscated possibly because one of the guards wanted it. But when I got onto the train, there was an American with these two huge samurai-type swords. Go figure...

Another kiwi lady had some fun at Zabaikalsk too. She changed her Chinese Yuan to Russian Roubles, but one 10Y (NZD$3.00?) note was a suspected forgery. So she was held for a couple of hours. At least she managed to catch her train though...

That's probably enough for now. I'll try and keep a few progress reports going. Especially between now and London, but it's not easy to find Internet access in Russia. (Can't even find non-carbonated water. 'Nyet bubbles' doesn't seem to work.)

Looking forward to spend a day or two in Irkutsk before catching a plan to Moscow. Still haven't contacted either NZ Embassy in Moscow to see if they will update passport descriptions at Zabaikalsk and travel Insurance in NZ to see if they will pay for the extra expense. (cheap enough though.)

Spot ya-all later.

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