Travels

Gili Trawangan

This summer has been very different to our last few. For a start, we didn’t return to the UK or US and we only went away for 10 days (hard life). We decided to head for Bali after sitting through numerous sickening stories about sunshine, indulgence and speedos.

After the long journey to DPS airport in Bali via train, metro, Beijing and Kuala Lumpa we arrived and spent the first night at Pelangi Bali Hotel & Spa, in Seminyak Beach.

The next morning we were up at 6am to be collected for our fast boat journey to Gili Trawangan. Again, we had heard about Gili T (I can use that term as I have been!) from a few friends and we were attracted to the thought of a peaceful desert island. After 2 hours in a minibus we arrived at Padong Harbour where we waited for about an hour to board the boat. The boat had a capacity of about 50 people and had the usual boat amenities like sponge cake, a car stereo pumping out love songs and a work experience guy who would take over the wheel whilst the captain was on the phone ordering lunch for his return. The speed of the boat meant that our voyage was a little rough! Luckily our stomachs managed to remain intact, but the small screaming child at the back was more than happy to show us what he had enjoyed for breakfast. An hour and forty minutes later we cruised into the harbour and couldn’t have been happier with our surroundings. The ‘Central’ area, as it is known, was a backpacker’s paradise with bars and shops lining the streets. This however meant that despite it only being mid-day there were already a few drunk, sunburnt people stumbling around.

We had booked this holiday back in May, as we heard that booking early was essential due to the holidays and the size of the island. We had searched all the usual places to find accommodation (booking.com, expedia, tripadvisor, airbnb) and we finally selected what looked like a hidden gem in the north of the island. With 6 cottages around a pool and a few minutes walk to the beach, Eden Cottages was a perfect retreat. A charm of the island is that it is motor-free (no cars, trucks or motorbikes), so to get to our cottage we used a horse and cart, locally called a cidomo. It was great to not be surrounded by cars and motor bikes but apparently the locals get frustrated with the huge deposits made by the horses on most of the roads and paths, as well as the dust they create. We found the ride in quite surreal, the sound of hooves and jingling bells is quite a contrast to the city streets of Tianjin.

The cottage was everything we hoped for, clean, comfortable and quiet. The staff was unobtrusive and helpful when needed. Amenities provided were basic; breakfast included (Mrs T adored the banana pancakes) and drinks for purchase. This encouraged us to get out each day and see what the island had to offer. After a day or two we settled into the routine of breakfast, beach, lunch, pool, siesta, dinner, Jack Bauer and sleep. It is fair to say that this was exactly what we needed.

There is a lot more we could say about Gili T but I will leave it to the pictures to showcase the island. Would I recommend Gili T? Yes, for sure. It caters to all: from quiet eco villas and posh resorts, to hostels above reggae bars and tattoo parlours. If you asked us where to stay we wouldn’t hesitate in pointing you to the north of the island, it is an escape from the high street (though only a 30 minute walk) and offers lovely beaches with stunning sunset views and some phenomenal restaurants (Wilson’s Retreat: we love you and your cheeky chocolate pudding).

Out and about the island:

Eden Cottages:

 

Gili Cooking School:

Sunset and dinner at Wilson’s Retreat:

-Mr T

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Beijing, China, Tianjin, Travels

Tianjin to Beijing International Airport (PEK)

After nearly a year living in Tianjin we are still exploring the best way to get up to Beijing for a flight.

As far as we are aware the 3 main options are:

Private car

Cost: 600 RMB (one way)

Travel time: 1 hour 40 min (off peak), 2 – 2 hours 30 minutes (peak, depending on traffic)

Positives: door to door service, ease of taking luggage) air conditioned vehicle, friendly driver (a wave at the terminal). Return journey is ideal after a long flight.

Negatives: price, very high in comparison to other options and price has risen 100 since we arrived this year.

Bus

Cost: 80 RMB (one way, per person)

Travel time: 2 – 2 hours 30 minutes depending on traffic. Information and timetable can be found here: Tianjin to PEK bus details

Positives: cost, dropped directly at the terminal

Negatives: travel time can be long and frustrating stuck in traffic

Train

Bullet Train to Beijing/Subway line 4 (3 stops to Xuanwumen), transfer at line 2 (8 stops to Dongzhimen), Board Airport Express (Terminal 3, followed by Terminal 2)

Cost: 54.5 + 2 + 25 = 81.5 RMB (one way, per person)

Travel time: 2 hours 15 minutes from Tianjin Zhan to Terminal 2

Positives: cost, not restricted to bus timetable (last bus is 18:30), subway trains are very frequent

Negatives: subway is always very busy, however at peak times it can be unbearable, some would say dangerous; not ideal for traveling with luggage, weather (very hot and humid in the summertime)

 

Today we tried out the bullet train/subway/airport express as we are traveling with little luggage and had a late flight. It was ok but not overly enjoyable. I think the bus is generally the best option depending on the time of your flight. We generally opt for a money saving choice on the way out but almost always indulge in being collected by Mr Fu. It is nice to be met at arrivals and whisked back to your doorstep within a couple of hours.

Happy travels!

-Mr & Mrs T

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Beijing, China, Tianjin

In Search of……

When we moved into our apartment we decided that we only wanted it to be partially furnished, we asked the landlord to provide only a bed and a TV.  This was mostly as we would rather have our cat damage our own property rather than anyone else’s, as well as just wanting to really make it our own.  That said we have been doing a lot of shopping in the last few weeks.  And as we are getting a bit older and starting to think it would be good if the things we buy last a bit longer it has not been a one-stop Ikea shop to fill this place, though today we hit the jackpot there!  We have often discounted the rugs at as Ikea as we thought they were too expensive to be from Ikea.  Today we had a long look at them and found a few that we really liked (and all were more affordable than the Muji rug we have been pining after).  We decided to wait on it, but then as we passed though the ‘As Is’ department, we saw the rug we had liked for 60% off, all due to a small sticker and a few creases.  In the spirit of saving money we went for it and are so pleased!  It fits in the budget and leaves a bit extra for our dining table and chairs.

In Tianjin there are two choices for furniture (as far as we know, please comment if you know of other places!): Ikea and Macalline.  Macalline being 5 floors of anything you could ever want when building or furnishing a home.  It can be a bit overwhelming as it is so big (with many of the same pieces repeated again and again), but we were lucky to find a sofa and chair that we really love.   Besides simply trying to find the right furniture we are weighing in the cost.

So we extended our search to Beijing, just looking the internet there was nothing that jumped out, but I kept coming across Gao Bei Dian.  It is quite a way out from the city centre but definitely worth the trip.  The 500m walk from the subway station was less than convincing as all that could be seen were car showrooms and construction sites, we were worried we had wasted a day in the sweltering summer heat, until we stumbled upon our first furniture shop.  Which just happened to have a table we had been looking at online!  We found all sorts of shops: beautiful showrooms with antiques and modern pieces, tiny spaces with tables piled a top each other, and small boutiques with elegant displays.  It seems as though we had found the physcial stores for all the TaoBao shops we have been browsing the last few months. Despite finding what we had originally wanted we are now plagued with having to choose between several fantastic choices, and we are even considering the money saving option of an Ikea table.

Besides simply trying to find the right furniture we are weighing in the cost.  We recognise that unique, quality furniture is going to have a higher price tag, however we are trying to be sensible and not break the bank.  The last two days we have walked over 37,000 steps in search of… hopefully ten days on the beach can help us come to a decision.

 - Mr and Mrs T

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Tianjin

Lights Out

We went to a shopping mall to watch this:

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For those of you who have never seen this group of dancers:

After waiting for an hour this is what we got:

Yes, those are glow sticks taped to his suit (it wasn’t even dark!!!).

Mr. T

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China

Tianjin TEDA F.C.

When we arrived in China I made it my personal mission to go to a few Chinese Super League games.

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After much searching on the internet I managed to find a fixture list and information about tickets (40 – 60 RMB, no allocated seats). Tianjin TEDA play their home games at the Olympic Stadium, which was built for the Olympic games and has a capacity of 60,000.

So, a few of us went off to our first game. What were we expecting? In terms of football probably a level similar to the English Championship or League 1 and a crowd of maybe two or three thousand.

What we found was a crowd of about ten thousand with a large group of ‘super fans’ with flags, drums, banners and a wide range of Chinese insults….perfect! At one match there were a few hundred away fans, however Shanghai traveled with about 4!

The football was interesting. There appeared to be a real lack of effort for long periods of time and it was as if tackling was banned. There were a few highlights including two missed penalties and a huge roar from the crowd every time a corner was awarded, which reminded me of playing in tournaments as a youngster where a point was awarded for a corner. Despite a lack of action in the match it was very entertaining watching the supporters shouting, arguing, staring blankly into space and sleeping!

Tianjin are currently 7th in the league at the half way point with their next home game on the 30th July (I wonder if Mrs T would like tickets as an anniversary gift?!).

Fixtures can be found here: Tianjin TEDA FC Fixtures and Results

It is definitely worth a visit and with Ao Cheng only a 5 minute walk away beverages can be consumed before or after the game!

See you at the next match!

Mr. T

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Tianjin

Saturday Market

The first weekend we woke up in our new place we looked out the window to see the street full of hustle and bustle. We of course went to investigate and to our surprise the specialty of the market was, birds! Mostly pigeons, and all the fixins you would need, cages, feed…very interesting. By two or three in the afternoon the street is completely empty.

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I woke up this morning to see it as busy as ever and had to do a quick post. Definitely one of the best parts of our new place is watching the city below, we never tire of it!

It has been a week of adventures and exploring, more posts coming soon!
-Mrs T

1:30 in the afternoon and quiet as anything!

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