Part V: Almaty to Bishkek and Back – From Bali to Belgium, the Long Planeless Way Home

Planned travel route.

PART V: Almaty to Bishkek and Back

16/03/2016 – From Almaty to Bishkek

The road from Almaty to Bishkek, for me, meant re-entering the Central-Asia I got to know a year earlier and that I love so much. The flat steppe with shepherds and their animals running around the fields. Mountains at the horizon. The initial plan was to skip Almaty and to go straight to Aktau, a place without memories since I hadn’t been there before. But plans sometimes change (read Part IV!), so on Wednesday morning we headed to Bishkek, a place full of memories – maybe the place with the most memories of the whole trip. The area from Turkmenistan to Kazakhstan, where we had spent many months during the first half of 2015, is really special to me. It was a new universe of sometimes nothing, sometimes weird cities, sometimes Aladin-style cities, sometimes the nothing-landscape of the steppe, sometimes high peaks in the unspoilt nature. So while being on the road again around here, from Almaty to Bishkek, I had to think about all the magnificent things we had discovered in this area.

The border crossing went pretty smoothly, despite the fact dat our minibus driver ditched us at the Kyrgyz side of the border and drove away without us. We chartered a taxi, which was okay because the border is only 30 minutes away from Bishkek, and asked him to drop us at the Azerbeijan embassy right away. Since there was no one at the embassy, we called, and the consul told us to come back at 5 p.m.. Enough time to check in in Sakura Guesthouse, and to have some late lunch.

Pic of our first breakfast at Sakura, May 2015.
Throwback: pic of our first breakfast at Sakura, May 2015.

Good old Sakura. The guesthouse where we had spent the most time during the whole trip. It’s the place where we’d met our Israeli friends: Ilan, Manbar, and Omri. The place where Omri made a point out of bringing Ien and me coffee in the morning, simply because we’d asked him if he wanted to do that – life was good from the first day on at Sakura. The place where we’d decided to hike together, and where we departed for our epic Chok-Tal hike with them. It’s the place where we’d met Marthe and Thomas again, after having met them before in Ishkashim and Khorog. It’s the place where we’d met the Dutchies: blond, blonder, and blondest. It’s also the place where a bit later we’d met Lucas. (I remember the first conversation where I was making fun of a guy on Tinder who lied about his age. We’d found this out, because Ien and I had ran into him in Chok-tal a few days earlier.)

Sakura is also the place where we got reunited with Davy who’d had to go back home a few weeks earlier to arrange passport shit. With his old passport copies I had made him a welcome-back-banner – it was good to be all together again. He was even right on time for my b-day. So were Lisa, who we’d met in Khorog, and our Belgian buddy Elisabeth, who we’d met in Ishkashim. Since the pre-b-day-party had ended up being Lucas, Lisa, Joanny, and myself being too enthusiastic about the amber beers at Steinbrau brewery, I kind of had to skip the real party with Ien’s special spaghetti bolognese… oops! Sakura is the place where the next morning, hungover, I had talked to Scott for the first time, this awesome photographer is now also an awesome friend!

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Throwback: welcome-back-banner for Davy last year.

In Sakura we’d met tons of cyclists like Claudia and Johann, but most important of all, it’s the place where we got reunited with Daniele and Simona who we’d already met in Ishkashim. Ow, and also Vali from Ishkashim had stopped by for diner at Sakura all together. Too much incredible people, too much memories, so hanging out at Sakura was emotionally pretty difficult. Especially now I’m really missing my family and friends a lot. It was also in Sakura that I’d started to think about going home by plane if something would’ve gone wrong at this point. It was just too much, too much memories, but now there was an empty Sakura. It was cold outside, cold in the dorm, not the Sakura I knew with people everywhere, sitting and laughing on the terrace.

Not much time to think though at this point: time to go back to the embassy. The consul gave us the application form we had to fill in, an example of the letter we had to write, and the name of the bank where we should do the payment. Deadline: tomorrow at 11 a.m.. Because we’d had to arrange our Kazakh and Chinese visa the last time I was in Bishkek, I knew exactly where to find the photo and copy shops, where to print and write the letters, and where to make passport pics in the right format. We arranged everything in no time, and the next morning I went to the bank for the payment. Time to relax, and of course buy postcards! We kept the tradition alive of cooking at Sakura, and Daniel made a local-style mutton spaghetti bolognese, Ien would’ve been proud!

 

For those of you who just want facts…

1.

Route: from Almaty Backpackers hostel to Almaty Sairan (international) bus station.

Distance: 17 kilometres.

Time: 30 minutes.

Price: 700 Tenge (1,80 euro).

Vehicle: regular taxi.

Capacity: 5 people, 3 passengers and 1 driver.

2.

Route: from Almaty Sairan bus station to Kazakh-Kyrgyz border.

Distance: 212 kilometres.

Time: 3 hours.

Price: 1250 Tenge (3,30 euro).

Vehicle: white minibus.

Capacity: 21 people, full!

3.

Route: from Kazakh-Kyrgyz border (Kyrgyz side) to Azerbaijan embassy.

Distance: 20 kilometres.

Time: 30 minutes.

Price: 1000 Tenge (2,60 euro) (overpriced but we had no Kyrgyz Som yet).

Vehicle: super old car.

Capacity: 5 people, we were 2 passengers and one driver.

 

Other expenses: lunch: 110 Som (1,40 euro), body milk: 350 Som (4,30 euro), passport pic and prints: 110 Som (1,40 euro), grocery store for diner and breakfast: 442 Som (5,50 euro), one night in Sakura guesthouse: 600 Som (7,50 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 7,70 euro transport + 6,90 euro food + 13,20 euro other.

 

17/03/2016 – Bishkek: the Azerbaijan Embassy

Embassy time! And I hoped it would be the last time during this trip… I woke up early for a morning walk to the bank, and Daniel had made breakfast by the time I came back: a good deal! At 11 a.m., as agreed, we went to the consul, and gave him our passports and the required paperwork. “Five days”, he said. “Does that mean the visa is ready on Wednesday”, we asked? “Call on Monday to make sure it’s ready”, he said. Perfect, this guy is working during the holidays! He is really doing us a favour here.

We decided to stay in Bishkek today and tomorrow, and to only head out somewhere else later. We looked for new shoes for Daniel, and then I took him to Steinbrau, the perfect evening activity, in my opinion!

 

For those of you who just want facts…

Expenses of the day: Azerbaijan visa: 20 euro, one night in Sakura Guesthouse: 600 Som (7,50 euro), beer and fries in Steinbrau Brewery: 600 Som (7,50 euro), grocery store for diner: 200 Som (2,50 euro).

Total: 10 euro food + 27,50 euro other.

 

18/03/2016 – Hanging out in Bishkek

Not much going on today. Some more shopping for Daniel, like gloves for the skiing we plan to do in Karakol, and just hanging out in Sierra Coffeebar in town. And for diner we had leftovers! A cheap, but not an exiting day.

 

For those of you who just want facts…

Expenses of the day: lentil soup and coffee in Sierra coffee: 260 Som (3,25 euro), bread and green pepper and snacks for on the minibus: 150 Som (1,90 euro), one night in Sakura Guesthouse: 600 Som (7,50 euro).

Total: 5,15 euro food + 7,50 euro other.

 

19/03/2016 – From Bishkek to Cholpon-Ata

Since it was the first time for Daniel to be in this area I decided he must see Issyk Kul, the second biggest Alpine lake in the world. I love this lake, and I love the mountains surrounding it! Because we don’t carry camping gear anymore, and because it’s low season, I figured it would be better to not go to desolate places to hike, and go to the bigger tourist hot spots like Cholpon-Ata and Karakol instead. We arrived in Cholpon-Ata mid afternoon, and went to the restaurant where we used to go, delicious as always. The weather was really shit, and once we were in the hotel I didn’t want to go out anymore. Rain and fog, no thanks! I wanted to see the lake and the mountains, but now I can’t see anything – sad face. Daniel was so nice to get us some take-away mantis, and we just had a lazy evening.

Our bus from Bishkek to Cholpon-Ata.
Our bus from Bishkek to Cholpon-Ata.

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

1.

Route: from Sakura Guesthouse to Bishkek Western bus station.

Distance: 4 kilometres.

Time: 10 minutes.

Price: 10 Som (0,12 euro).

Vehicle: white minibus aka ‘mashrutka’.

Capacity: 21 people, full.

2.

Route: from Bishkek Western bus station to Cholpon-Ata.

Distance: 261 kilometres.

Time: 4 hours.

Price: 300 Som (3,75 euro).

Vehicle: white minibus.

Capacity: 21 people, full.

 

Other expenses: one night in Kalinda Mini Pansionat: 800 Som (10 euro), lunch: 150 Som (1,80 euro), dinner: 120 Som (1,50 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 3,87 euro transport + 3,30 euro food + 10 euro other.

 

20/03/2016 – From Cholpon-Ata to Karakol

Yesterday we decided that if the weather would be nice this morning, we would go for a hike. So at 7 a.m. I looked through the window, and I saw the sun on my beloved mountains, hooray! Hiking time, Daniel! I didn’t expect much of the hike since we were in a little town, and because we couldn’t go really far anyway. But I was happy to see that the sky was clear. We went towards the hill with an antenna, because I had noticed a road running through the mountains there. Suddenly we ended up in a really nice valley with snow, and a shepherd and his sheep. I couldn’t imagine a better picture! This is a view of Issyk Kul I know. Now the valleys were covered with a little layer of snow, melting bit by bit, which made it even more beautiful. During the hike we went up and down in this valley, crossed a nice river, saw horses, goats, sheep, cows… all the way up to the highest hill of the area for a nice view over the lake. In my opinion, there is no better way to start the day than with hikes like this in the fresh morning air on a sunny day.

Cholpon-Ata hike.
Cholpon-Ata hike.
A bit of snow.
A bit of snow.

Around noon we went back down for a walk on the beach, and enjoyed a well-deserved lunch in Green Pub after. Later we continued to the next town: Karakol! Scotty had told me to go to Nice Hostel, so that’s what we did. And the guy was indeed really nice. It made me wonder how it would be to meet someone unfriendly in a place called ‘Nice Hostel’ – that would be funny! Since it’s Navrus, which means holiday time, we expected to see a lot of people around Issyk Kul, and that’s why we had booked our accommodation online in advance. But there were only another two people in Nice Hostel: Anna and her mother, also very nice people.

Memories around Issyk Kul.
Memories around Issyk Kul.

We had come to Karakol to ski. Yes yes yes. I had no idea it was possible to ski in Karakol and around Bishkek, but I read about it by coincidence a few days earlier, and I think it’s awesome! Skiing in Kyrgyzstan, hell yeah! It will also be Daniel’s first ski experience ever! I think I was more exited than him about that, haha.

So we asked the owner of the hostel about ski possibilities, and he said that today was the last day of the season. Noooo, no ski? He would make a phone call, and ask around. Luckily it was only the official closing today, so the ski lifts and rental places would still be open! Anna told me there was still enough snow to ski, so we were in! The next morning at 9 a.m. the car would pick us up to go to the ski slopes!

 

For those of you who just want facts…

Route: from Cholpon-Ata to Karakol.

Distance: 143 kilometres.

Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Price: 150 Som (1,80 euro).

Vehicle: big car.

Capacity: 7 passengers, 1 driver, full.

 

Other expenses: linch at Green Pub: 400 Som (5 euro), grocery shopping for diner and breakfast: 270 Som (3,30 euro), one night in Nice Hostel: 500 Som (6,25 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 1,80 euro transport + 8,30 euro food + 6,25 euro other.

 

21/03/2016 – Karakol Ski Time!

On the way to the slopes we were driving on a muddy road without any snow nearby, and I was wondering if we would ever get to a place where skiing was actually possible. At some point we turned, and I saw the valley with snow, yay! We chose the cheapest ski gear; crap but good enough for just one day. Daniel skiing, me snowboarding. Oh, how did I miss my own board back home. I was exited to laugh with Daniel falling while skiing – not in a mean way, just part of the game, right? But he managed pretty well. After the first descend he already made pretty nice turns. I took him straight to the longer slope, which was a bit more difficult for him. But after two times or so he managed to descend smoothly. Good job, Daniel! The slopes were good, just some grass that was peeping through here and there, but I didn’t care.

Ski-time!
Ski-time!

The view from the ski lift and while skiing down was absolutely amazing! Again a beautiful day, so we could see the lake, the mountains, and the whole valley. Around noon we hung out at the restaurant on the slope, ate our own lunch, and ordered some coffee and tea while sunbathing. How do I love those outside lunch moments while skiing. It was a great ski day, even though there were just three lifts and limited slopes, it was enough for Daniel’s first experience. Last year I was skiing in Dizin, Iran. This year I skied in Karakol… Where will next year bring me?

 

For those of you who just want facts…

Route: from Hotel Nice to the ski area and back.

Distance: 13 kilometres go, 26 go and back.

Time: 30 minutes one way.

Price: 350 Som go and back (4,40 euro).

Vehicle: big car.

Capacity: capacity for 6 people, we were just 4 people plus the driver.

 

Other expenses: crappy rental snowboard: 600 Som (7,50 euro), ski-pas: 1550 Som (14 euro), snickers and coffee in the ski restaurant, we had brought our own lunch: 120 Som (1,50 euro), dinner: 96 Som (1,20 euro), one night in Nice Hostel: 500 Som (6,25 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 4,40 euro transport + 2,70 euro food + 27,75 euro other.

 

 

22/03/2016 – From Karakol to Bishkek

Yesterday I tried to call the Azerbaijan embassy, and a guy (not the consul) picked up and told me the consul would call me back. No one called back, so on Tuesday I tried again to make sure we can indeed pick up our documents on Wednesday morning, and catch the train from Bishkek to Aktobe to later continue to Aktau. We hadn’t bought tickets yet, because by now we know that embassy timing is almost never reliable. I tried to call about fifteen times today, and no one picked up the phone. Wednesday morning is one of the few opening times of the embassy, and I was sure that if we would just go things would turn out to be just fine, so we didn’t worry too much.

Minibus from Karakul to Bishkek.
Minibus from Karakul to Bishkek.

Once back in Sakura we were happy to see that we had some company in our dorm room. Later, when he woke up from his afternoon nap, we met Antonio, a long-term world traveller who, as many, had quit his job and comfort zone to explore the world. He had travelled through many African countries, a pretty much unknown continent to me, and told many stories about his adventures there. I’m exited to go there myself after having heard all of his stories.

 

For those of you who just want facts…

Route: from Karakol to Bishkek Western Bus Station.

Distance: 414 kilometres.

Time: 5 hours and 30 minutes.

Price: 350 Som (4,40 euro).

Vehicle: white minibus.

Capacity: 21 people, full.

 

Other expenses: grocery store shopping for the upcoming days: ? Daniel is too lazy to check his excel file. One night in Sakura Guesthouse: 600 Som (7,50 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 4,40 euro transport + ? euro food + 7,50 euro other.

 

 

23/03/2016 – Bishkek: The Azerbaijan Embassy

Wednesday morning. Time to pack everything, and to go to the embassy at 10 a.m.. We hoped we would get our passport back, and that we would be able to go straight from the embassy to the railway station to catch the 12:30 p.m. train, because there is only one on Monday and one on Wednesday from Bishkek to Aktobe. Otherwise we will have to go back to Almaty to catch a train there – not a big detour, but this way would be easier.

Upon arrival at the embassy there were three other men waiting. A good sign that it will open, we thought. But then they told us to not ring the bell (it was already ten, by the way), because the consul hadn’t arrived yet. We thought that was weird. He seemed like a punctual man. After half an hour the guards looked into the offices, and informed us that there was no one there. Hmmm, we knew that technically it were holidays, so maybe the consul had had a party yesterday evening? After a few phone calls the guards informed us that we had to go, and come back tomorrow. Daniel and I waited a little longer, just in case, but when nothing was moving after all, I asked the guards one last time if they were sure that the consul or anyone else wouldn’t show up. We decided to head home.

I was very sad, and thought about doom scenarios. Before we’d had the time to arrange visas, and we just accepted it could take long. We had been arranging visa stuff in Tehran for forever, for example. But now I just wanted to go home as fast as possible, and not be stuck here. I did some research about Navrus in Azerbaijan, and I read that they have the longest official holidays in the whole area. Oh no, imagine the consul forgot about us. Did we misunderstand something? We had been clear that we would collect it this week, right? What if it will only be ready Wednesday next week? Should I just take a plane home then? Another week extra is a long time, I’m not sure if I would be able to do that. Anyway, taking the plane right now is not a good idea since the airport is closed because of the attacks in Brussels. But yeah, they told us to come back tomorrow, so I guess that’s what we will do.

I comforted myself with a burger (250 Som) at Sierra Coffee, and later Antonio made diner.

Comfort food.
Comfort food. (Editor’s note: not the actual burger, I just decided there needed to be a picture.)

 

Total expenses of the day: 3 euro food + 4,40 euro postcards and stamps.

 

 

24/03/2016 – From Bishekek to Almaty

Since Daniel came home late from an evening out with a friend, I let him sleep in and went to the embassy early by myself. I wanted to be the first person to enter as soon as it opened. The moment I arrived the guards came to me, and handed me a paper with the name of the consul and a phone number. I guessed it was his private phone number. They told me to call him right away. So that’s what I did. First time, nothing. Second time, he picked up. “Your visa has been ready for two days already. I’ll be there in one hour so you can pick up your passport”, he said. Two days already! I wish they had picked up the phone before, so we would’ve known. Nothing to do about it. I went home to wake up Daniel, and told him that we could pick up the passports. And around 10:40 a.m., the consul – all cool in his jeans and Italia jacket – showed up. It was clear that it were holidays, but that he had kept working for us. Wow, thank you so much, sir, for coming all the way and open the embassy for us! No need to think about doom scenarios anymore, we could go to Almaty this afternoon. From there there is only a train to Aktau every other day, so we knew we could catch the one of Friday night. Finally we could move again, standing still was really not good for me!

Azerbaijan visa!
Azerbaijan visa!
Azerbaijan visa!
Azerbaijan visa!

And off we went. After a good brunch prepared by kitchen princess Charlie, we were ready to finally say our final goodbyes to the Sakura lady. I won’t see her in a while, I thought. It took a really long time to get to Almaty. Waiting till the minibus was full, a lot of people at the border, traffic jams while entering Almaty… The good news is that this time they didn’t ditch us at the border. Almaty means meeting my friend Rafa, so we had some wine at Dostyk Plaza to end this day of victory.

 

For those of you who just want facts…

1.

Route: from Jibek Jolu ( bus stop close to Sakura) to Bishkek Western Bus Station.

Distance: 4 kilometres.

Time: 10 minutes.

Price: 10 Som (0,12 euro).

Vehicle: white minibus.

Capacity: 21 people, 12 people.

2.

Route: from Bishkek Western bus station to Almaty Sairan international bus station.

Distance: 235 kilometres.

Time: 5 hours.

Price: 400 Som (5 euro).

Vehicle: white minibus.

Capacity:  21 people, full.

3.

Route: from Almaty sairan bus station to Almaty II railway station.

Distance: 9 kilometres.

Time: 45 minutes.

Price:  80 Tenge (0,21 euro).

Vehicle: local city bus.

Capacity: not sure about the capacity, but there were about 30 people on the bus.

4.

Route: Almaty II railway station to Dostyk Plaza.

Distance: 6 kilometres.

Time: 30 minutes.

Price: 600 Tenge (1,60 euro).

Vehicle: taxi.

Capacity: 5 people, it was just us, two people and the driver.

 

Other expenses: hostel: 3000 Tenge (7,90 euro), wine with Rafa: 2000 Tenge (5,30 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 6,93 euro transport + 13,20 euro other.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Planeless Traveller Charlie

 

Part IV: Kunming to Almaty – From Bali to Belgium, the Long Planeless Way Home

Planned travel route.

PART IV: From Kunming to Almaty

09/03/2016 – One full day of rest in Kunming 

If you have read Part I already, you know that we had to book the Chinese train in advance since it tends to sell out quickly. Because everything has gone incredibly smooth so far, we happened to have one full day of rest in the capital of the beautiful province Yunnan. We had calculated that if everything would have gone wrong, we would not have arrived in Kunming any later than the 10th of March, so we had bought tickets to Urumqi for the 10th at 7 p.m.. We now had lots of time to enjoy the not-sitting-on-train-or-bus- life!

The Hump in Kunming is a really cool hostel with a nice bar, lounge, pool table, and outside sitting area on the roof. Although it was much cooler here in Kunming, the rooftop terrace was open and filled with people when we arrived. In the morning people were enjoying breakfast in the morning sun, including myself. I was looking forward to this fresher temperature for a long time. For us it felt like autumn, because we came from hotter places, but it was spring of course, so Kunming was in bloom. Sitting outside wearing long trousers and a jacket, being outside without sweating, being able to enjoy the sun on our skin,… the last time all of this was possible was ages ago. I have been accompanied by burning hot weather since Kazakhstan in July, although I’ve had a few breaks at the fresh Yunnan mountains and the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. For many months the sun was not my best friend. It was the thing that made me sweat day and night, and that burned my skin. It was the thing that made it impossible to enjoy an outside walk during many hours of the day. Humid, hot regions made me walk around with an umbrella to prevent myself from fainting. I thought my body would adapt, but it didn’t. At least now I know that living in South-East Asia would not be for me. You have to love the weather and embrace it to live in the area, otherwise you’d better leave. But now the sun and I, we were friends again. By-by humid air, hello fresh wind! After having spent a day outside my cheeks were burning, but the good kind of burning. The burning from having spent a day outside with some fresh wind. The feeling that I have after a day of skiing in the mountains. Usually my cheeks never burn like this from a good 20 degrees Celsius and some wind – to my norms a normal weather situation. I guess my skin was just not used to it anymore, but it felt good, and I could feel that my body was getting used again to its normal habitat.

Walking to Kunming train station.
Walking to Kunming train station.
Arriving at the railway station.
Arriving at the railway station.

After a good cup of coffee we went outside for a walk to the train station to pick up the train tickets we had booked online. I preferred to pick up our tickets early, because the lines at the ticket offices in China can be long and time-consuming. Now we could go straight to the boarding terminal the day of departure. And believe it or not, but I still knew the way from the hostel to the station by heart. Along the way I bought a pineapple and a typical Chinese water bottle for Daniel that everybody carries around here, filled with hot water and tea. Everywhere in China you can fill your bottle with hot water for free, so I figured Daniel really needed one of these bottles like I have. On the way back from the station we tried some delicious tofu and found a nice market street. Last time I was in Kunming we discovered a cheap and super good place for basic dumplings. Amen, I still knew where it was. DUMMMMMMMMPLIIIIINNNNNGGGGGSSSSSS!!!!! After lunch we walked around the streets of Kunming, and enjoyed the busy but not crowded atmosphere of this relaxed city. Oh, how do I love the electric scooters in China! There is traffic, but not a lot of sound, perfect! A city like Jakarta should use Chinese cities as an example. Private lanes for the ELECTRIC scooters; not that hard to realise, right?

Daniel decided he wanted to go to the hairdresser’s in China, so we found him a local hairdresser to arrange whatever he wanted. New haircut and a new colour, maybe red, why not? ‘Living on the edge’, like Yasmin would say! The result was really nice!

Later on we found the park we wanted to go to. A wonderful place of rest and nature in the city. With people singing and doing aerobics, and black swans. We walked around there for a while till it was dark, and then we tried to decide where we wanted to eat. Too much choice, too many good things, sadly not enough time to eat everything we want to eat in China during this short visit. We picked a restaurant close to the hostel, and ended up with a menu in Chinese only, and staff only speaking Chinese. So we did the classic traveller trick and picked three cheap dished from different pages without knowing what we ordered. The result was a spicy glass noodle soup – a huge bowl: approved! Fried cashew nuts with some green vegetables: approved. And some weird bitter tasting vegetable: approved by Daniel, but not by myself. What a terrible taste! I ended with a filled stomach after a day filled with activities. It was time to get some sleep now.

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

Other expenses:
Two nights in the hostel (we paid everything today): 70 Yuan (5 euro), American breakfast in hostel and coffee: 25 Yuan (3,60 euro), pineapple: 5 Yuan (0,70 euro), shampoo: 23 Yuan (3,30 euro), water bottle for Daniel (present, yeah I am nice sometimes): 30 Yuan (4,30 euro), dumplings: 7 Yuan (1 euro), dinner: 32 Yuan (4,60 euro), new Chinese bracelet (the last one broke in Ko Tao when Davy got beaten up): 35 Yuan (5 euro), overpriced Carlsberg in the park bar: 32 Yuan (4,60 euro).

Total expenses of the day (OMG I have spent way too much today!): 14,50 euro food + 17,60 euro other.

 

10/03/2016 – From Kunming to Urumqi – The big China crossing 

Today we took it easy. No long walks in the city anymore, just short ones. We had dumplings for breakfast, and later some coffee on the rooftop in the sun – I called it a good morning. Later we went to the market and the Carrefour for some grocery shopping. We bought lots of fruit for on the train to stay healthy. I needed some coffee and socks to survive the ride. In the afternoon we relaxed in the hostel, after we had bought some ice-cream that I spilled on myself while I tried to eat it – ‘as usual’, like Davy would have said. I was able to catch Davy, Yasmin, and my aunt on Skype, which gave me new energy again! Every time I talk to my family or travel buddies I am super happy, because I wish we were together, and hearing their voices and joking around via Skype makes a lot of things better. I can’t believe that the big journey with Davy, Ien, and Yasmin is over already. It went so fast! And now I won’t see Davy for about a year. It’s weird because I saw him almost every single day for the last fourteen months, but now he is in Melbourne. It has only been three weeks since we got separated, so I still don’t realise it fully, I think. It feels as if he is in another city seeing a friend, and we will continue travelling together again soon. But that is not the case. I can’t wait for us to meet again in America when he will move to his dad’s, and I will go cross country. New adventures are already waiting for us.

Waiting for the train to Urumqi.
Waiting for the train to Urumqi.

Daniel and I walked to the train station, passed security two times, and found the line for our train in the big terminal four. A mass of people was already queuing (editor’s note: ja, Charlotte, ik weet het, dat is echt een draak van een woord). We could board the train twenty minutes before departure, and found our hard sleeper beds in wagon number eleven. Since we had discovered there were plugs on these trains to charge the computer and other electronically devices, we watched the movie SNATCH. The lights went out early, around 9 p.m., but we stayed up a bit longer. I was on the lower bed, and my neighbour turned out to be snoring like a huge dinosaur-pig or something. It made me think about how Davy can’t sleep at all when anyone is snoring. If he would’ve been here, he would have gotten out of his mind, and so was I this time. Usually I just fall asleep while listening to my iPod when someone is snoring. But what if you can still hear the noise through the music? I had a terrible night. I woke the guy up several times during the night, but every time he fell asleep again within one minute, so I didn’t have enough time to fall asleep myself before he started snoring again. At 4:30 a.m. I considered the battle lost: even while laying on his side he was snoring super super loudly! I decided to watch a second movie: THE DINOSAUR PROJECT. When the movie was finished, around 6:30 a.m., I decided it was time for him to wake up and for me to finally sleep. During the fist year of travelling I would’ve been too shy to wake up (snoring) people. But times have changed. I know there is nothing you can do about it, sir, but it is my right to sleep too. So I took my torch and woke him up once more. He looked at me and turned around to fall asleep again. I was persistent in my actions and shoved the light in his face, shook him again. Since we could not talk about it, I had to make things clear the hard way. Using sign language I made him understand that this was the moment where he would stay awake and I would sleep. He finally got the message. But two minutes later his wife arrived, and they started to have a nice conversation at 6:35 a.m.. So I had to use my torch again: YOU STOP TALKING, NOW! I mean, I think this is a pretty good deal, no? You sleep from 9 p.m. till 6:30 a.m., and I sleep from 6:30 a.m. till 9 a.m., okay?! They both got the message, finally: you shut up, so I can sleep for a few hours, thank you very much!

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

1.
Route: from Kunming Hostel The Hump to Kunming railway station.

Distance: 3 kilometres.

Time: 45 minutes.

Vehicle: we walked.

Price: free.

2.
Route: from Kunming railway station to Urumqi railway station.

Distance: 4320 kilometres (I asked our wagon responsible).

Distance: 64 hours.

Price: 706 Yuan for ticket + 30 Yuan reservation cost on Ctrip = 736 Yuan (105 euro).

Vehicle: Chinese train operating the route Kunming – Urumqi.

Capacity:
19 wagons: all full of course, this is China.
Wagon 1-2: 1 wagon of staff: 50 people, 1 wagon for goods: 0 people = 50 people; Hard sleeper wagon 3-11: 9 wagons with each capacity for 66 people = 594 people; Soft sleeper wagon 12: 1 wagon with capacity for 36 people = 36 people.
Restaurant wagon 13: 1 wagon capacity for 50 people (everybody has a seat other than restaurant, so counts for 0 people).
Hard seat wagon 14-19: 6 wagons with capacity for 118 people = 708 people.

Total capacity: 1388 people – wow only in China I guess!

Other expenses:
Dumplings: 7 Yuan (1 euro), two coffees in the hostel: 26 Yuan (3,70 euro), potatoes for on the train: 6 Yuan (0,80 euro), ice-cream: 7 Yuan (1 euro), grocery shopping at market for on train: 38 Yuan (5,40 euro), grocery shopping in Carrefour for on train (bottle of Great Wall red wine included, mwuhahahaha): 68 Yuan (9,70 euro), lunch: 12 Yuan (1,70 euro), socks – 10 Yuan (1,40 euro), Nescafe big pack of coffee: 41 Yuan (5,80 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 105 euro transport + 30,50 euro food.

The responsible of our wagon on the Kunming - Urumqi train.
The responsible of our wagon on the Kunming – Urumqi train.

 

11/03/2016 – On the train somewhere in China 

Our first full day on the train. It was not the first time I experienced a really long train ride in China. Together with Yasmin I had gone from Shanghai to Kunming a few months ago, and I remember we had been on the train for two nights. This time we will spend three nights on the train, which is my personal record. But from experience, I knew in advance it would be just fine. There is a lot to do on trains: you can keep yourself busy, you can walk around, go to the restaurant, go to the toilet as much as you want. We have beds, so we can read and sleep and so on. It’s just like staying home for a few rainy days in a row. And we can watch the wonderful landscape through the window, and admire how it is constantly changing. Daniel and I agreed in advance that we would eat one meal a day in the restaurant, so we would have some sort of activity and a proper warm meal going on. The meals seemed pricy, but the portions were huge, and the quality of the food was insane. Such good food! Fresh vegetables, nice tofu, good meat, and nice staff of course. We enjoyed our trips to the restaurant wagon a lot. Today I did a lot of writing and reading, and again we watched a movie before going to bed – our routine for three days. Time passed by so fast, I think I could be on a train for one week in a row without any problems!

Our fellow passengers on the Kunming - Urumqi train.
Our fellow passengers on the Kunming – Urumqi train.
The landscape passing by.
The landscape passing by.
Food, glorious food!
Food, glorious food!

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

Total expenses of the day: 34 Yuan (4,80 euro) for dinner on the train.

 

12/03/2016 – On the train somewhere in China 

Today was the second day on the train. We’ve seen the landscape changing bit by bit. I was especially looking forward to my favourite landscape of Xinjian province. When the train arrived in Wuwei I realised we were there already! The most exiting part of my hitchhiking trip with Davy in July has been in this area. It was also the place where Davy and I had had dinner with two of our drivers. Two young guys going to Wuwei had picked us up somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Xinjiang, and they had insisted to take us for lunch in Wuwei city since we were the first foreigners they had ever met in their life. Even though we were not able to speak to each other – we no Chinese, them no English – we had found our own way to communicate like we had done during the whole hitchhiking adventure in remote areas. Looking through the window, I recognised the landscapes where we had been walking around many months ago. The moon landscape where we had pitched our tent, this time with a little bit of snow. I wish Davy could have been here to see this too. (Although this time of year Davy’s fingers would have probably turned white from the cold, instead of melting away due to the summer’s heat we experienced.) I love this Chinese province. We passed some villages that reminded me of the abandoned village were we had had a barbecue with yet another driver… Good times. I saw it all again from the train, and I said goodbye to one of the highlights of last year’s trip. One day I might come back to walk through the desolate landscapes of Xinjian province again, and to pitch my tent in the middle of nowhere.

Fresh air, and stretching our legs!
Fresh air, and stretching our legs!
One of the many stations we've passed by.
One of the many stations we’ve passed by.
Kunming - Urumqi train: snowy landscape.
Kunming – Urumqi train: snowy landscape.

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

Total expenses of the day: 45 Yuan (6,40 euro) for dinner on the train.

 

13/03/2016 – From Urumqi to Almaty

It was finally time to get out after having been on the train three days. We had prepared ourselves for the cold, so I put on my beloved panda hat that I had gotten from my cousin before this trip. It had previously lost one ear, so now it’s a sad panda hat, actually. Anyway, one last selfie with the responsible of wagon 11, and off we went! Local bus number 44 brought us from the railway station to the international bus station. There were a few big bus stations in the same street, so we asked around and found a terminal that served buses to Kazakhstan only. We expected that the ticket would have been around 30 euro, but it was double that amount. Too bad, but that’s the way it was.

Arrival in Urumqi, pic with our cool wagon dude.
Arrival in Urumqi, pic with our cool wagon dude.
From the railway to the bus station in Urumqi by local bus.
From the railway to the bus station in Urumqi by local bus.

Let’s explore Urumqi! We had about six hours to hang around. I thought that Urumqi, although in the middle of nowhere, would have been like many other Chinese cities: skyscrapers, bling-bling everywhere. But Urumqi was very different. It felt like we were in Central Asia already. Plov, manti, shashlik, flat bread, mosques, … it was all already here, much earlier than I had expected. But it felt good to be back in the good old vibe of Central Asia. The comu-block-athmosphere was certainly present; a grey and not very cosy city. The street food stalls and the many bread sellers did bring the city alive though. Also, and maybe more importantly, it had been since June when I was in Kyrgyzstan that I had seen some snow, and here it finally reappeared: snow! Old snow, so it was a bit dirty, but it was certainly better than nothing.

Urumqi city.
Urumqi city.
A problem with my scooter, haha
A problem with my scooter, haha.

Time for the sleeper bus! I will never forget when Davy and I had taken this kind of bus for the first time. It was from Almaty to Ili. We were shocked! A sleeper bus, we assumed, was just a normal bus with extra large seats. But then we discovered that it was a bus with real beds – SO awesome. The people on the bus were cool, and soon we made some friends again, although we don’t really speak any Russian. We turned to the good old traveller way of communication: mime and basic words you’ve somehow picked up along the road.

Waiting for the bus to leave Urumqi.
Waiting for the bus to leave Urumqi.
Ready for departure.
Ready for departure.
A quiet kid on a 27-hour bus, love it.
A quiet kid on a 27-hour bus, love it.

 

For those of you who just want facts…

1.

Route: Urumqi railway station – Urumqi international bus terminal.

Distance: 3 kilometres.

Time: 15 minutes.

Vehicle: city bus number 44.

Capacity: 10 people, 1 driver.

Price: 1 Yuan (0,15 cent).

2.

Route: Urumqi international bus terminal – Almaty international bus terminal.

Distance: 990 kilometres.

Time:  Departure at 7 p.m. in Urumqi on the 13th, arrival in Almaty at 9 p.m. the 14th. Travel time was 27 hours.

Vehicle: sleeper bus

Capacity: 26 people, 1 driver, full bus, total of 27 people.

Price: 440 Yuan (63 euro).

Other expenses: pita: 6 Yuan, two sweet rolls: 3 yuan each makes 6 Yuan, baggio: 5 Yuan, manti: 6 Yuan, coffee: 16 Yuan, bread with meat: 6 Yuan, bread: 5 Yuan = 50 Yuan in total (7 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 63,15 euro transport + 7 euro food + 37 euro other, the Chinese transit visa.

 

14/03/2016 – Arrival in Almaty

This time the border crossing from China to Kazakhstan didn’t go as smoothly as it had gone the other way around last summer. We stood still for about two hours at night in the middle of nowhere so the driver could sleep, and then it took another three hours or so (or maybe more) to actually get from the parking lot at the border to the Kazakh side. But no panic, we kept account of delays like this in our planning: we calculated that the trip from Urumqi to Almaty should take between 22 and 28 hours, and we did it within 27 hours.

We arrived in Almaty around 9 p.m., and went straight to the Almaty II train station to check for the train tickets to Aktau. We were happy that we were able to purchase tickets for the 10 p.m. train (the next day) pretty quickly. Also we found out that there was some sort of cheap hotel in the train station itself. We checked it out, and decided on taking a crappy dark room for 2500 Tenge before going out for beer and pizza. The pizza part worked out, but the beer part not so much. There unfortunately wasn’t any bar open on this rainy Monday night.

Crazy face on the bus.
Crazy face on the bus.
No pictures at the border, oops!
No pictures at the border, oops!

 

For those of you who just want facts…

Route: Almaty international bus terminal to Almaty II railway station.

Distance: 9 kilometres.

Time: 10 minutes.

Vehicle: shared taxi.

Capacity: 5 people, we were 3 passengers and 1 driver.

Price: 500 Tenge (1,30 euro).

Other expenses: pizza: 1200 Tenge (3,10 euro), green tea: 70 Tenge (0,20 euro), room in Almaty II train station: 2500 Tenge (6,50 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 1,30 euro transport + 3,30 food + 6,50 other.

 

15/03/2016 – One day in Almaty 

My first goal of the day was to meet up with Rafaelle, a French girl I had become friends with last summer when we were in Almaty for about two weeks. The second one was to have some beers and a burger, of course. So after we had checked out of our hotel, we walked down the main pedestrian (yes, Lucas, I looked for that painting of Viktor Tsoj you want so badly, but I didn’t see it anymore) and through the park till we reached The Shakespeare Pub, of which I knew it has draft Efes beer, good food, and WiFi. We pretty much hung out at The Shakespeare Pub the whole afternoon – Gmail and Facebook were not blocked anymore! Because some friends had told me that Aktau is pretty expensive, I had written to some people on Couchsurfing to see if anyone could host us. I was happy to see that some people had replied that we were welcome at their place. And then… then I had a message from a guy informing me that we could not stay at his place, because his family would be over for the holidays. Here is the message I received:

Hi Charlotte! Sorry guys, I can’t host you, cause we celebrate national holidays 19-23 of march. My parents arrive at 16th to my place. But in the city there is hostel, price 2000kzt per night. So if you couldn’t find host I can give the address of this hostel. I think, you must know that 19-23 are not working days, so be prepared for it. Anyway, if you want to meet up I would be so happy. Cheers! 

You see, the first and most important thing to do in Aktau was arranging an Azerbaijan transit visa. Our timing was not the best anyway since we would have only arrived in Aktau on Friday the 18th of March at 7 p.m. – yes, three days on the train from Almaty to Aktau. This meant, so we thought, that we would have been able to arrange the visa only after the weekend. We had already taken peace with the fact that that would’ve caused us a delay of two days. BUT! HOLIDAYS + ARRANGING VISA = ALARM!! I feel like we carry around a holiday-magnet when we have to arrange visas. The Turkmen visa in Tehran: national holiday. The Chinese visa extension in Hong Kong: national holiday of HK. The Myanmar visa in Hong Kong: the Chinese golden week holidays. The Chinese visa in Jakarta: Chinese New Year. The Tajik visa in Tehran: a special annual event. So really; not again! (And yes, despite all the experience, I still keep forgetting to check for this holiday thing. I mean, what’s the chance, right? And why would they shut down everything for a whole week?) The staff from Shakespeare Pub helped me doing some phone calls to the Azerbaijan embassy in Astana (they didn’t pick up the phone in the one in Aktau) and to the Azerbaijan embassy in Bishkek. Behold the facts:

  • There is no Azerbaijan consulate in Almaty. Only in Aktau and Astana.
  • Yes, the embassies in Kazakhstan will be closed for an entire week, so it will be impossible to arrange any paperwork next week.
  • If we would just wait for one week in Aktau – or anywhere else in Kazakhstan – we would be overstaying the Kazakh visa free days, which are only two weeks.
  • There is an Azerbaijan embassy in Bishkek which operates this week. We are not sure for next week.
  • Because of everything, we will have to do a visa run to Kyrgyzstan to renew the two-week Kazakh visa free regime no matter what.
Editor's note: my reaction. (Yes, I also just needed to insert a picture here.)
Editor’s note: my reaction.

The plan now is to go straight to Bishkek, and to try and persuade the consul to do a speed procedure so we would still have the visa this week. If they would happen to refuse to do a speed procedure, then we will have to take the regular processing time of maximum one week into account. The moment however we will receive the visa, we will go to Aktau to put our name on the passenger waiting list for the boat to Baku. (There is only one every week.) So if we’re lucky, we will be in Aktau somewhere next week WITH Azerbaijan visa. If we’re not so lucky, we will be stuck in Bishkek for a whole week, and only arrive in Aktau two weeks from now. I really hope we will not have to wait for a week for a boat, because that would slow us down a lot as well. Let’s see!

By the way, at first I thought it were only Kazakh national holidays, but then we found out it’s actually Nooruz, the famous spring holiday in the whole region from Iran to Kazakhstan. Yeah, I know, spring festivals are cool nonetheless, especially since last year in Samarkand we had missed the events, because we were on the road somewhere in Uzbekistan.

Eventually we decided to not leave for Bishkek right away, because that would have implied that I would not have been able to meet up with Rafaelle (remember my #1 goal of they day?) after she finished work. So we decided to stay one extra night in Almaty, and to go to Bishkek the day after. It was good to see my friend again! We hung out at Mad Murphy’s with her expat friends, and caught up on the gossip of the past months. We had a great night, but it was of course not possible to go wild like during our previous evenings together. Tomorrow we will need to leave early for Bishkek to fix our shit – too bad!

 

For those of you who just want facts…

Expenses: espresso: 200 Tenge (0,50 euro), burger and two beers (editor’s note: the editor thinks she’s being funny again) at The Shakespeare Pub: 5200 Tenge (13,70 euro – ow shit), taxi from Almaty II to new hostel around Dostyk plaza: 500 Tenge (1,30 euro), Mad Murphy’s night out with Rafaelle: one pint and Quaedilla: 3000 Tenge (7,90 euro).

Almaty Backpackers hostel: 3200 Tenge (8,40 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 1,30 euro transport + 22,10 euro food + 8,40 euro other.

 

Written by Planeless Traveller Charlie

Part III: Bangkok to Kunming – From Bali to Belgium, the Long Planeless Way Home

Planned travel route.

PART III: From Bangkok to Kunming

06/03/2016 – From Bangkok Bang Sue railway station to Vientiane Central Station 

This morning around 12 p.m. we arrived in Bangkok. It was a good ride! We had planned to get off at Central Station, but Daniel discovered bang on time that the train was first going to the north of Bangkok, which is close to the Mo Chit bus station where we had to catch the bus to Laos. This was great because it saved us a MRT ticket and a long ride through the big city. From Bang Sue a local accompanied us to the Mo Chit bus terminal during a short but hot 30-minute-walk. Every time again we are happy to see that the bus we want to catch actually exists. We of course have done lots of research about the route back, especially about the parts where we will not be taking the same route as we came by. But even when you have read there must be a bus, and a lot of people told you there will be one, you’re still unsure until the very last moment when you actually have those bus tickets in your hands. Today a friendly lady at the counter helped us out, and we got our tickets to Vientianne. Hooray! The Mo Chit terminal is a really big one with lots of facilities. We stored our luggage, took a well-deserved shower, and (of course!) I ate a ham and cheese sandwich from the SevenEleven – ham is finally available again in this part of the world!

Editor's note: in case anyone was wondering, this is the notorious ham and cheese sandwich. Pic from foodspotting.com.
Editor’s note: in case anyone was wondering, this is the notorious ham and cheese sandwich. Pic from foodspotting.com.

We explored the weekend market and the different parks near Mo Chit. It’s always nice to see how people relax, bike, and have fun with their friends in a park during the weekends – just like I do back home. It reminds me that people everywhere in the world enjoy doing the same things after all. The park was filled with locals, while the market reminded me of how many tourists there are in Bangkok. The market was really big and fully packed. We ate some rice with duck, and I had a cheap water ice-cream as a refreshment because it was (although less humid than in Indonesia) really hot in Bangkok.

Bangkok park walk.
Bangkok park walk.
Weekend market Bangkok.
Weekend market Bangkok.

After walking down the market for a while we decided to look for a place that was less crowded. At the other side of the main road there were some bars and food trucks where we found a cosy place. We enjoyed some live music and two beers each. Around 7 p.m. it was time again to head back to the bus terminal and to catch our 8 p.m. bus to Laos. One last ham and cheese, and off we go! Our bus was a huge double-decker VIP bus with lots of space. Again we were given blankets and a snack box with coffee and cake. VIP busses are so extremely comfortable to travel with! Every time I plan to take a bus, I am always prepared for some crapy vehicle with no space to move, because there is always a chance you will get one of those old local buses, so it’s better to not expect too much. But I have to say, during this trip in general, we have had a lot of extremely comfortable buses so far. It was a good night!

Bus Bangkok - Vientianne.
Ticket bus Bangkok – Vientiane.
Welcome, you come first!
The Bangkok – Vientiane bus: welcome, you come first!
Our bus passed the Thai immigration.
Our bus passed the Thai immigration.

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

Route: from Bangkok Mo Chit terminal to Vientiane Central Bus Terminal.

Distance: I don’t know, because Google Maps doesn’t work in China… (Editor’s note: Google Maps in Belgium says it’s 633 kilometres.)

Time: departure at 8 p.m. the 6th of March, and arrival at 8 a.m. the 7th. Travel time was 12 hours.

Vehicle: State bus. VIP (2 + 1 row).

Capacity: space for 6 people down and 25 people up. Full, 31 people on bus + 1 driver.

Price: 900 THB (22,50 euro).

Other expenses:
two ham and cheese sandwiches: 52 THB (1,30 euro), two beers: 240 THB (6 euro), rice with duck: 50 THB (1,25 euro), food for on the bus: 60 THB (1,50 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 22,50 euro transport + 10,05 euro food.

 

07/03/2016 – From Vientiane to Kunming 

We had planned to meet our friend Jan (we had gotten to know each other in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia) at 9 a.m. at the central bus terminal in Vientiane. We arrived early so we waited for him for about an hour. Upon arrival the taxi drivers were screaming again like crazy at the bus entrance. Every time they do that I am not motivated at all to take any taxi or tuk-tuk whatsoever. While waiting for Jan I saw a local bus passing by with ‘5000 kip northern bus terminal’ and other stops written on it. The perfect solution! This was probably the cheapest way to get to the terminal without having to deal with taxi drivers who try to rip you off. Jan arrived and he agreed to take the local bus, because it was also the end of his travels, which meant: almost out of money. I assumed the ride would take forever (city buses, you know) but it only took thirty minutes to get there. We found the Vientiane-Kunming ticket counter, and purchased the very expensive tickets for the next part of our journey.

Bus life.
Bus life.
Bus Vientiane - Kunming.
Ticket bus Vientiane – Kunming.

We had four hours to kill, so we found ourselves a little restaurant where Jan, Daniel, and I enjoyed some food and an ice coffee. At 1:30 p.m. it was time to get on the bus. At the terminal we bumped into a Japanese friend who we had met on the bus from Bangkok to Laos. So we took some more pictures together before saying goodbye. Jan went back to the centre, and our Japanese friend waited for the bus to Luang Prabang.

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

1.
Route: from Vientiane Central Bus Terminal to Vientiane Northern Bus terminal.

Distance: I don’t know, because Google Maps doesn’t work in China… (Editor’s note: Google Maps in Belgium says it’s 9 kilometres.) I shoud be 700 kilometers, I tried to mesure it on maps.

Time: departure at 9:30 a.m., arrival at 10 a.m.. Travel time was 30 minutes.

Vehicle: local city bus from Isuzu.

Capacity: bus was full, 44 seats, so 44 people on the bus.

Price: 5000 KIP (0,50 euro).

2.
Route: Vientiane Northern Bus Terminal to Kunming.

Distance: I don’t know, because Google Maps doesn’t work in China… (Editor’s note: Google Maps in Belgium thinks you can only do this by plane, so no idea either.)

Time: departure 10 minutes early at 1:50 p.m. the 7th of March, arrival at 9:50 p.m. at Kunming the 8th. Travel time 32 hours – 1 hour of waiting before the border opened, 2 hours to cross border between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.. In total 2 hours break for food and toilet.

Vehicle: Big VIP 2+1 bus from Daewoo.

Capacity: 29 passenger seats. Only 15 passengers + 1 driver.

Price: 730.000 KIP (81 euro).

Other expenses:
lunch and ice coffee in Vientiane bus terminal: 180 THB (4,50 euro) (our friend paid in KIP,  we gave him THB), dinner: 25 Yuan (3,60 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 81,50 euro transport + 8,10 euro food.

 

08/03/2016 – Arrival in Kunming 

Our VIP bus was again super comfortable and not full, so everybody had a lot of extra space. But we already had enough space, you know, so I would have rather had a full bus, to be honest.

Sometimes during long bus journeys the driver only stops every now and then, but this time the driver stopped a lot – short breaks of course – so we could go to the toilet many times. This meant we could drink just as much as we wanted! I was the only lady on the bus, and the guys were fun, although we couldn’t really communicate much since we don’t speak Chinese. There were also two monks who spoke basic English, so they operated as translators every now and then. Time went fast while cruising through the beautiful mountains of Laos and China. The border crossing went smoothly, by the way. After we had crossed the border we had a delicious Chinese breakfast: rice noodle soup. Mmmmmmmmm!

Time passed by, and finally we arrived in Kunming a little before 10 p.m.. Luckily the hostel was still open. The Hump is a super nice hostel in the centre of Kunming that Davy had found for us last time we were in China. We had had a good time here, and I am happy to be back!

The Hump Hostel.
The Hump Hostel.

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

Route: Kunming bus station to The Hump Hostel at JinBi road.

Distance: 15 kilometres.

Time: departure around 10:30 p.m., arrival at 11 p.m.. Travel time 30 minutes.

Vehicle: small old car from old Chinese guy.

Capacity: max. 5 people; 2 passenger plus 1 driver.

Price: 50 Yuan (5,50 euro).

Other expenses: breakfast noodle soup: 8 Yuan (0,90 euro), lunch: 9 Yuan (1 euro), big bottle of water: 3 Yuan (0,30 euro), one LaoLao beer in the hostel: 20 Yuan (2,80 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 5,50 euro transport + 5 euro food.

 

 

Written by Planeless Traveller Charlie

Part II: Johor to Bangkok – From Bali to Belgium, the Long Planeless Way Home

Planned travel route.

PART II: From Johor to Bangkok

4/03/2016 – From Stulang Laut (Johor Bahru, Malaysia) to Padang Besar (Malaysia) 

We only had a short amount of time to catch the train to Hat Yai, because we arrived at 3:30 p.m. by speedboat in Stulang Laut, and that train would leave at 5 p.m. already. I had collected the schedules of the trains in Malaysia when I was in Kuala Lumpur at the end of January, so we knew beforehand that we wanted to catch train number 20, which goes straight from JB Sentral to Hat Yai. Having to take only one train to cross Maysia sounded awesome, and we were afraid that if we would get there too last minute the sleeper wagons would have been already sold out. So we rushed off the boat and through immigration where they took finger scans – we were lucky everything went pretty fast. We immediately hailed a red cab, but the driver asked us 10 dollars. We knew the railway station was just three kilometres away, so we wanted a lower price. He agreed on 10 MYR, which is only 2,50 euro; much better. The cab driver delivered us at the train station in only ten minutes, and we hurried to the counter where there was a line. We also still wanted to grab some food before getting on the train, and it was already 3:45 p.m., so I decided to do this Chinese-style. I’m very sorry, but this was an emergency! I trespassed big time. Sorry lady who’s queuing, I don’t like people doing this either, but I don’t have the time to explain why we really want to catch this particular train. So I reached the counter within one minute, and asked if there were still any tickets available for the 5 p.m. train to Hat Yai. The lady at the counter said: “Yes, but you have to go now.” I replied: “Well, yes, at 5 p.m., right?” She confirmed and added “now”. This made us feel a bit confused. Why did she say NOW while we still had a bit more than an hour? When she handed us our tickets, she again stressed: “You have to go now!” Obeying citizens as we are, we listened to her instructions and went to the gate, even though we were thinking: “But it’s still only 3:50 p.m.” And then suddenly we realised that there is a time difference between Indonesia and Malaysia. It sounds like we are retards, but you have to understand that we had been crossing time zones as if ordering a cup of coffee, which sometimes gets confusing, you know. We asked the ticket guy at the gate: “Sir, is there, like, a time difference with Jakarta?” He looked at us like we were aliens, showed his watch … it was 4:50 p.m.! We were shocked, but also relieved since we had gotten the tickets anyway, and because the train that we wanted to catch so badly was waiting for us. Victory again! Things were going incredibly smooth so far. I mean, we caught the train as planned/hoped, even though we forgot about the time difference. Wow, what a miracle!

Hurry, taxi, we have to catch a train!
Hurry, taxi, we have to catch a train!
On the Malaysian train.
On the Malaysian train.

We had two lower beds which were very comfortable, spacious, and cosy. I was so happy we caught that train! Otherwise we would have had to go to the bus station outside of town. Even a VIP bus would have meant no nice beds. Oh, and the sleeper wagons were not even sold out, there were plenty of empty beds! We read, listened to music, watched the landscape pass by, and sat in the restaurant wagon – typical train life, you know. I had a good sleep!

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

1.
Route: Stulang Laut (port of Johor Bahru) to JB Sentral (main train station of Johor Bahru).

Distance: 3 kilometres.

Time: departure 3:35 p.m., arrival 3:45 p.m., so 10 minutes.

Vehicle: taxi, regular car.

Capacity: 5 people.

Amount of people in car: 2 people + 1 driver.

Price: 10 MYR (2,50 euro).

2.

Route: Jb Sentral (main train station of Johor Bahru) to Padang Besar (Malaysian – Thai border town).

Distance: 844 kilometres.

Time: departure the 4th of March at 5 p.m. – arrival the 5th at 10:20 a.m.. Travel time 17,5 hours.

Vehicle: KTM train nr. 20 Express Peninsular. Superior Night Class.

Capacity:
Buffet coach: 1 wagon, capacity 40 people, 3/4 th full almost the whole time.
Superior sleeper: 4 wagons, capacity of 40 people per wagon, capacity for 160 people in total, there were 60 people in the sleeper wagons in total.
Superior seat: 1 wagon, capacity 36 people, only 15 people sitting there.
Economy seat: 3 wagons, capacity 60 people per wagon, 180 in total. 120 people sitting there.

Price: 78 MYR (19,50 euro).

Other expenses: hamburger and sandwich on the train – 8 MYR (2 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 22 euro transport + 2 euro food.

Ticket from JB Sentral to Padang Besar.
Ticket from JB Sentral to Padang Besar.

 

5/03/2016 – Padang Besar (Malaysia) to Bangkok (Thailand) via Hat Yai (Thailand)

This morning I prepared my porridge for breakfast and read the book I got from my aunt Evelyne: The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. As she had told me, it’s a really good book, and I had almost finished it. I also gathered some information about the border crossing. Once in Hat Yai we had to leave the train, go trough immigration (Me: “Can you please not put the stamp an empty page?”), and wait for the exact same train we had just left to continue the ride. There was scheduled one hour for everyone to cross the border. We met a cool bunch of ladies, made some new friends while waiting till the train was ready, and took the usual selfies! It was also possible to purchase the tickets for Bangkok already, which was good because we still had a lot of Malaysian Ringet left that we could then use instead of Thai Bath.

Waiting for the train at the Malaysian - Thai border.
Waiting for the train at the Malaysian – Thai border.
Ticket from Padang Besar to Hat Yai.
Ticket from Padang Besar to Hat Yai.

Once we arrived at Hat Yai we dropped off our luggage at the store room for 50 THB each, and went to a restaurant for some WiFi, coffee and pad thai. Perfect! Later we went to a nice bazaar, walked around the night market, and enjoyed the temperature which was cooler than in Indonesia. We also treated ourselves to a McFlurry, oops. At 6 p.m. it was time to go back to the railway station, collect our bags, and hop on our train to Bangkok, choo choo!

Daniel trying out some nuts at a Hat Yai bazaar.
Daniel trying out some nuts at a Hat Yai bazaar.
Bye bye, Hat Yai, we are ready for Bangkok!
Bye bye, Hat Yai, we are ready for Bangkok!

This time I had the upper bed without any windows, so I fell asleep quickly after finishing my book. In the morning Daniel and I had delicious porridge again, which this time we had upgraded with cinnamon and raisins. We played backgammon and ate grapes. A relaxing ride. Although I do think that the Thai trains are not my favourite ones. We had to pay for hot water, and I feel it is a basic right to get that for free like on pretty much all the other trains I have ever taken. Also the upper beds without a window to look outside is not super cool. What I did like, however, is that they have buttons to open the doors, washing facilities, and toilets.

The guy from the train making our beds.
The guy from the train making our beds.

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

1.
Route: from Padang Besar railway station to Hat Yai railway station.

Distance: 54 kilometres.

Time: departure at 11:20 a.m., arrival at 12:20 a.m., so travel time one hour.

Vehicle: sitting train.

Capacity: same train as from JB Sentral to Padang Besar, but this time everybody just used the economy seats. About 180 people.

Price: 114 THB (2,85 euro).

2.
Route: from Hat Yai railway station to Bangkok railway station.

Distance: 947 kilometres.

Time: departure at 6:45 p.m., arrival at 12 p.m.. Travel time 17 hours.

Vehicle: sleeper train, State Railway of Thailand.

Capacity:
1 restaurant wagon – capacity 30 people, 15 people sitting there.
4 regular sleeper wagons – capacity for 40 people per wagon. Total capacity 160 people, but 140 people in beds.
1 private couchette wagon – capacity for 24 people, but 20 people in the couchette.
1 staff wagon, 20 people staff.

Price: 855 bath for the lower sleeper (21 euro).

Other expenses:
Pad Thai and black coffee for lunch: 120 THB (3 euro), grapes: 50 THB (1,25 euro), raisins: 35 THB (0,90 euro), koala cookies (editor’s note: <3) big box: 90THB (2,25 euro), water: 14 THB (0,30 euro), vegetables: 30 THB (0,75 euro), luggage drop in train station: 50 THB (1,25 euro), ice cream: 30 THB (0,75 euro), hot water on train 40 THB (1 euro), cold water on train 30 THB (0,75 euro).

Total expenses of the day (Bangkok not included): 23,85 euro transport + 10,95 euro food.

 

 

Written by Planeless Traveller Charlie

Part I: Indonesia – From Bali to Belgium, the Long Planeless Way Home

Planned travel route.

PART I: Indonesia

27/02/2016 – 28/02/2016 – From Denpasar to Surabaya 

It was time to say goodbye… again. In the last month and a half I’ve said goodbye (or ‘see you later’) at the airport many times. First Yasmin left from Kuala Lumpur to go back home, and not even a week later Ien returned as well. Davy and I continued travelling together till Jakarta, but soon it was time for him to start a new chapter: moving to Melbourne to work and live there for a year. I spent the last two weeks in Indonesia with my uncle Alex and cousin Yorick who decided to explore the country together with me. I welcomed them at Jakarta International Airport, and now our roads split again at Bali International Airport.

Daniel, my new travel companion, had recommended me a bus company to go from Bali to Jakarta. He told me to book a ticket with ‘Gunung Harta’ for the trip from Denpasar, Bali, to Surabaya, Java. So that’s what I did. I bought a ticket one day in advance at the ‘Gunung Harta’ office in Jl. Diponegoro no. 53 in Denpasar for 180.000 IDR. It turned out to be an extremely comfortable VIP bus with lots of leg space (editor’s note: Charlotte, you always have lots of leg space), a pillow and a blanket. Perfect! I was also given a bag with three snacks and some water – I love getting snacks on the bus. But there was more… Around 10:30 p.m. the bus stopped for diner for which all passengers had gotten a pink coupon. Wow, this was the first time ever for diner to be included in the bus ticket! I liked that! In the restaurant was a little buffet with rice, noodles, vegetables, a meat soup, and hot tea.

To Ubung bus terminal in Bali.
To Ubung bus terminal in Bali.
From Denpasar to Surabaya with Gunung Harta
From Denpasar to Surabaya with Gunung Harta.

As I write this, Daniel is waiting for me in Jakarta, because we will try to get home together in about a month’s time. Since I was in Jakarta already right before the Chinese New Year, I was able to arrange my Chinese visa before the embassy closed for a week. I must say I am proud I was able to arrange my visa without fake flight reservations or fake hotel bookings this time. Arranging a Chinese visa in Kyrgyzstan in June last year was not that easy and very pricy. The extensions of the visa once we were in China were always trouble as well. Fingers crossed for Daniel’s visa!

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

Route: from Bali (Ubung bus terminal in Denpasar) to Surabaya 1 bus terminal (East-Java).

Distance: 409 kilometres.

Time: departure the 27th of February at 5 p.m. from Bali, arrival the 28th at 5 a.m. at Surabaya bus terminal, so travel time was about 12 hours.

Vehicle: Hino bus (Japanese brand) operated by Gunung Harta Bus Company.

Capacity: 33 passenger seats, 1 driver seat.

Amount of people on the bus: 12 passengers, 1 driver, 1 bus host.

Price: 180.000 IDR (12 euro).

Other expenses:
1,5 litre of water in AlfaMart Ubung: 7500 IDR (0,50 euro), Pop Mie instant noodles on Ferry: 13.000 IDR (0,90 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 12 euro transport + 1,40 euro food.

 

 

28/02/2016 – From Surabaya to Bandung 

I arrived in Surabaya at 4 a.m. Bali time, 5am Java time. I had to ask the driver to drop me at the Gunung Harta office, so I could walk from there to the train station. Since the bus was not full the chance of finding an English speaking person was very poor, so no one could help me with my request. I ended up having to get off at the Surabaya bus terminal and face the screaming taxi drivers. No offence, but I’m so done with taxi drivers already screaming at you in the door opening of the bus: “Lady you want taxi, taxi taxi taxi. Lady you want taxi, taxi taxi taxi. Lady you want taxi, taxi taxi taxi. Lady you want taxi, taxi taxi taxi. Lady you want taxi, taxi taxi taxi. Lady you want taxi, taxi taxi taxi.” Give me a break guys, it’s five in the morning, stop screaming. I took my bag and walked to the shops to decide what I should do. I had to catch the 8 a.m. train to Bandung, so there was not enough time to wait for the first local bus, and without map or smartphone it would have been hard to find out whether the railway station was within walking distance or not. So I decided to take a taxi with meter after all. It was a good 30-minute-drive (indeed too far to walk!), and it cost me 70.000 IDR! The good news is that I arrived at the Surabaya Guneng railway station around 6 a.m., and that there were still economy tickets available. A ticket for the 8:15 a.m. train to Kiaracondong (Bandung) was only 100.000 IDR. Imagine, just 30.000 IDR more than the taxi, and this was a 16-hour-train ride!

On the train from Surabaya to Bandung.
On the train from Surabaya to Bandung.
ticket
Ticket Surabaya – Bandung.

Why was I going to Bandung first instead of to Jakarta straight away, you ask? Remember Daniele and Simona from BeCycling, the Italians who are cycling around the world? We had met them in the Tajik Wakhan valley in April, and at the end of June we had cycled together around the Issyk Kul lake. A few weeks later we had met again in Almaty, but that was the last time we had seen each other, even though our travel routes had been kind of similar. We just missed each other in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. Luckily we were now able to meet in Bandung!

The train to Bandung left at 8:15 a.m., exactly as scheduled. I had already taken one train in Indonesia before to get from Jakarta (Gambir Station) to Yogyakarta. Although I had bought the tickets one week in advance back then, the cheap tickets had already been sold out, so I had to buy the more expensive but also more comfortable Executive Class tickets for 320.000 IDR. But actually, after the hard seat-experiences in China and Mongolia, I know I was lucky that I had to go with the expensive tickets. This time though, no matter how much I hate it, I dealt with the hard seat of the Ekonomi Class. (But imagine my poor uncle on those seats during his two-weeks vacation… I’m happy I didn’t put him through that!) I have to say that the hard seats of the Indonesian Ekonomi Class were even less comfortable than the ones in China. Like in Mongolia it was just a bench with no individual seats. There was no table, but luckily there were plugs, so I could watch movies on my computer and write a bit. Two lucky breaks: the train wasn’t full, so everybody had more space, and it was a day-train, so it was possible to read and admire the landscape.

As scheduled I arrived around 11:20 p.m. at the Bandung station where Dony from the Warm Showers Community of Bandung picked me up. Warm Showers is like Couchsurfing but then for cyclist. Daniele and Simona try to use it as much as possible so they don’t have to spend every night in their tent. I finally saw my friends again at a really cozy courtyard! We talked till late at night…

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

1.
Route: From Surabaya bus terminal to Surabaya Guneng railway station.

Distance: 12 kilometres.

Vehicle: Regular taxi, 5 seats.

Capacity: 1 driver and 1 passenger.

Travel time: from 5:30 a.m. till 6 a.m., about 30 minutes.

Price: 70.000 IDR (4,70 euro).

2.
Route: From Surabaya Guneng to Kiaracondong (Bandung).

Distance: 700 kilometres.

Time: from 8:15 a.m. till 11:25 p.m., about 15 hours.

Vehicle: Kereta Api (Indonesian railway company) ekonomi class train named Pasundan.

Capacity: 7 wagons with sitting space. Not full, about 50 people per wagon. No sleeper space.

Price: 100.000 IDR (6,70 euro)

Other expenses:
cookies and chocolate bread from supermarket Surabaya: 20.000 IDR (1,30 euro), pillow on train (some extra comfort won’t hurt); 5000 IDR (0,30 euro), nasi goring from train kitchen for lunch: 20.000 IDR (1,30 euro), coffee: 6000 IDR (0,40 euro), PopMie instant noodles: 7000 IDR (0,50 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 11,40 euro transport + 3,50 euro food + 0,30 euro other.

 

29/02/2016 – Bandung 

The cycling community in Indonesia is very united. Everybody knows everyone. The 108 cycling community of Bandung come together on a daily basis at the place where I was hosted. People walked in and out the courtyard all day, and we made a lot of new friends. Sharing travel stories, playing cards, playing music, drinking beers, we had a good time all together. We didn’t see much of Bandung city, but if  these people are representative for the incredible hospitality of the people of Bandung, then I know for sure I love the place. We got some delicious martabak, the sweet and the salty one, and pretty much ate local treats all day long. Daniele and Simona will be cycling till Bali, and the plan is to catch a flight from there to Darwin. From Darwin they would like to cycle through the central Australian desert via Uluru to reach Melbourne and finally settle down for a bit in Sydney. In Melbourne they will be able to catch up with Davy!

daniele simona

For those of you who just want facts… 

No transport today other then walking.

Other expenses:
buffet self service: 14.000 (0,90 euro), conditioner: 20.000 (1,30 euro).

Total expenses of the day: nothing on transport + 0,90 euro food + 1,30 euro other.

 

1/03/2016 – From Bandung to Jakarta 

I was sad our roads went into different directions again, but I’m happy I will meet Daniele and Simona again around the beginning of 2017 when we all plan to travel America. I hope their travels in Australia will be good, because the Australian dessert is going to be tough. Al the best my friends, we’ll stay in touch as usual!

Dony dropped me at the Bandung main train station, and I managed to get a ticket for the 11:50 a.m. train to Gambir, Jakarta. This train is executive class only, so I again had a comfortable ride waiting for me. Dirty, busy Jakarta, I’m coming!

bandung - jakarta
Getting on the train from Bandung to Jakarta.

As usual I took the transjakarta, the bus system that operates as a metro in the city, to get to the hostel. As mentioned before, Daniel was waiting for me in Jakarta, and we catched up. Although we felt pretty lazy we decided to go for an evening walk in Old Batavia and grab some street food. After an hour or so we already went back to the hostel to catch some sleep.

Transjakarta.
Transjakarta.

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

1.
Route: from Bandung main train station to Jakarta Gambir station.

Distance: 166 kilometres.

Vehicle: Kereta Api (Indonesian railway company) executive class train named Argo Parahyangan.

Capacity: 7 wagons, 30 people per wagon. Not full. No sleeper space.

Travel time: departure 11:50 a.m., arrival 14:57 p.m., travel time about 3 hours.

Price: 100.000 IDR (6,70 euro)

2.
Route: from Gambir train station to Teduh hostel at Kota station.

Distance: 5.4 kilometres

Time: 30 minutes.

Vehicle: Transjakarta accordeon city bus

Capacity: rush hour, 100 people on the bus.

Price: 3500 IDR (0,20 eurocents).

Other expenses:
Chips: 6000 IDR (0,40 euro), MacDonalds: 30.000 IDR (2 euro), dinner: 20.000 IDR (1,30 euro), ice-cream: 14.000 IDR (0,90 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 6,90 euro transport + 4,60 euro food.

 

2/03/2016 – From Jakarta (Tanjung Priok) to Kijang

Today was the day of the big boat ride. If something would’ve gone wrong, it wouldn’t have been fun since there is only one boat a week from Jakarta to the Northern Indonesian Islands. It was also the day Daniel could pick up his Chinese visa, and around 9:30 a.m. I received a message that he had gotten it, victory! If he wouldn’t have received the transit visa today, we would have had to spend some time in Laos to try get one there. Which would’ve meant getting home later, something we don’t want by any means.

Yesterday night I checked already for the trains in China since I noticed they tend to sell out fast. And I was shocked. The dates that fitted our schedule were all sold out already, except for 10th of March. So we decided we really had to book the Kunming-Urumqi train asap! The minute Daniel collected his passport he gave me green light to book the train. We got two comfortable hard sleeper tickets for our 64-hour-long Chinese train ride. Later that morning we figured out what route to take after having crossed China, and gathered some information about the Kazakh train route and the Caspian Sea ferry.

But now more importantly: Indah time! Indah is our Jakarta based friend who we met via Couchsurfing, and at who Davy and I stayed for about ten days. We became really close, so no way I would’ve left Jakarta before having hung out a bit more with her. Since Inda’s brother lives on Bintan Island, the island where we arrived on the 4th early in the morning, she gave him a call to ask about a bunch of practical stuff. How do we get from the port of Kijang to the port of Tanjung Pinang on the other side of the island? What about the ferry to Johor? Later I got a phone call from Indah saying her brother would pick us up at the port of Kijang. “But there is something else,” she said, “after having heard my beloved nephews on the phone I want to come with you guys on the boat.” So at 10:55 p.m., only five minutes before the scheduled departure of the boat, I saw her walking out of the terminal towards the ship. She did it! She got a ticket, and we travelled together during this long journey. After a beer on the deck I decided it was time to get some rest. The boat left with a delay of three hours, around 2 a.m..

Three friends on a boat.
Three friends on a boat.
relaxing
Relaxing on the boat.

 

For those who just want facts… 

1.
Route: from Kota (Teduh Hostel) to Tanjung Priok (port of Jakarta).

Distance: 15 kilometres.

Time: 1,30 hours.

Vehicle: Transjakarta accordeon city bus.

Amount of people on the bus: an average of 40 people.

Price: 3500 IDR (0,20 eurocents).

2.
Route: from Tanjung Priok (port of Jakarta) to Tanjung Kiang (Bintan Island).

Distance: 930 kilometres.

Time: departure 2 a.m. (the 3rd of March already) and arrival 8 a.m. (the 4th of March), so 30 hours.

Vehicle: Boat named Dorolonda

Capacity: 500+

Amount of people on the boat: 300 passengers, crew 132 people.

Price: 340.000 IDR (22,60 euro).

Other expenses: milk for breakfast: 5000 IDR (0,30 euro), mie goreng for lunch: 15.000 IDR (1 euro), carrefour grocery shopping (for diner and for travel): 150.000 IDR (10 euro), beer: 65.000 IDR (4,30 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 22,80 euro transport + 11,30 euro food + 4,30 euro other.

 

3/03/2016 – A day somewhere at sea between Tanjuk Priok and Kijang 

Today we were one full day on the boat. Last time, on the boat from Batam to Jakarta, Davy and I just slept and read and ate. But because Indah was there we now had someone to tell us what the announcements in Indonesian were all about. So we found out there was a movie theatre and enjoyed a movie in the afternoon. We played cards, watched the sunset, and at night there was even a band playing at the restaurant! We had a good time although we happened to have picked a spot on the boat where it was too hot to sleep. Luckily the showers were refreshing.

Sunrise on the boat.
Sunrise on the boat.
Only blue.
Only blue.
Daniel playing domino with the bros.
Daniel playing domino with the bros.

 

For those of you who just want facts…

Other expenses: ice cream: 20.000 (1,30 euro), movie theatre: 15.000 (1 euro).

 

4/03/2016 – From Tanjung Kijang (Indonesia) to Stulang Laut (Johor Bahru – Malaysia) 

Inda’s brother picked us up at the port and brought us to Tanjung Pinang on the other side of the island. He showed us where to buy the ferry tickets to cross to Malaysia, and we said goodbye to Indah. She is a good friend and I will miss her! Not much to do in Tanjung Pinang, but we had to stretch our legs, so we walked around town and on the promenade near the sea side. We found an outdoor gym to exercise while watching the port. And then it was time to get on the next boat. Last time I took a speed boat was to get to Ko Tao in Thailand, and I (like many others) had gotten sea sick. Since then I have not especially been looking forward to boat rides anymore. I survived this one though, yay!

Fitness!
Fitness!
High waves splashing on the window.
High waves splashing on the window.
Arrival on Bintan Island.
Arrival on Bintan Island.

 

For those of you who just want facts… 

1.
Route: Tanjung Kiang (Bintan Island) to Tanjung Pinang.

Distance: 22 kilometres.

Time: 30 minutes by car.

Vehicle: Regular car.

Capacity: 5 people.

Amount of people in car: 4 people.

Price: / (Indah’s brother picked us up!)

2.
Route: Tanjung Pinang to Tanjung Staling Laut (Johor Bahru Malaysia).

Distance: 100 kilometers.

Time: departure at 12:30 p.m. and arrival at 3:30 p.m..

Vehicle: speedboat.

Capacity: 80 people.

Amount of people on boat: 72 passengers + 1 captain.

Price: 300.000 IDR (20 euro).

Other expenses: ice coffee: 10.000 IDR (0,60 euro), and mie goreng: 14.000 IDR (0,90 euro).

Total expenses of the day: 20 euro transport + 1,50 euro food.

 

 

Written by Planeless Traveller Charlie

A Little D Tour

image

After visiting the Long-neck Tribes near Loikaw in Myanmar, our plan was to go south to ‘the Golden Rock’, a buddhist site that has a large gold painted rock with a pagoda on top.

We got ready for a short four-hour ride through the mountains, since it’s only 212 kilometres to Taungoo, where we’d take a connecting bus to Bago, a city north east of Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon.

But things turned out differently. Upon departure the very shabby and clearly retired bus took off north instead of south. We gave it some time before annoying the buspeople with our retarded questions about the direction we were heading in, even though we were sure we were actually on the right bus.

I kept tracking our route on Google Maps, and at the next crossroad – where we thought the bus would finally take the road going south again – we went on driving northwise. We asked if were indeed on the bus to Taungoo, and they reassure us that, yes, we are. The bus did however keep driving to the north at a very low speed. We decided to just bare the unknown.

You should know that roads in Myanmar are not anything like what we know from our rich countries. Driving any faster then 50 or 60km/h basically isn’t possible on many roads. Also, many roads are only one lane for all traffic, so vehicles have to go off road all the time to let the opposing car or bus pass.

So we kept on driving, and driving. At this point we were almost back at the place where we came from to begin with, Inle Lake. The little detour has now reached a mere 165km. Finally, the bus took on a new direction, and we were so happy about it. We drove back towards the capital city Naypyitaw, which is more south from where we were. So that was good! From here on we kept driving straight down south. Hours and hours passed. Finally, around 9 am, we reached our destination, Taungoo. What was meant to be a 3- to 4-hour 212 kilometre-long drive, turned out to be a 490 kilometre-, 13-hour-drive. Talking about a detour! Upon arrival we asked why oh why they took such a long detour if a much shorter distance would have been possible. What we knew already got confirmed: many roads are simply closed because of the very bad contidion they are in.

We got off the bus, and within minutes we were on our connectiong bus to Bago, ready for the next ride!

 

The original route on Google Maps.
The original route on Google Maps.
The detour route.
The detour route.

 

Written by Planeless Traveller Davy

Local Transportation – Mongolia

20150827_134557

The first night in Mongolia, Yasmin and I stayed in a cool hostel. It was one of those hostels full of backpackers, long and short term tourists, new arrivals and people that had already spent some more time in this country. In other words, the best hostel you can immagine to gather a lot of information in a short amount of time. And as planeless, low-budget travellers, we were specifically interested in how to get around without booking expensive tours and/or hiring a private car and driver. All we wanted to know is how we could travel using local busses.

 

Sorry, we can not effort a private car like this little feller
Sorry, we cannot afford a private car like this little fella.

 

We have never been this disapointed. Not one, but really not a single traveller in the whole hostel had even tried to use a local bus to get around. They had all heard – just like us – that the local transportation system in Mongolia is pure shit. ‘The roads are bad’, ‘the busses only leave after hours and hours of waiting’, ‘the busses are too full’, ‘everything stinks’, … whatever.

 

The roads are not always high quality indeed
The roads are not always high quality, indeed.

 

Well. If we would always listen to other people’s opinions, we would first of all have never left for this trip, we would also never have visited Iran or Turkmenistan or any other country in Centrale Azia, we wouldn’t have hitchhiked through the Pamir, or ever eat local food in local restaurants, we wouldn’t walk on the street nor take taxis nor make friends nor ever be alone nor … Basically, much written on this blog would have never happened if we wouldn’t be as stuborn as we are. 

Well then. To the internet! But also in this instance, there was not much to be found about the local transportation system, and what we did find was clearly outdated. To the locals! But our best local buddy, Edi, uses cars to get around, so he could not tell us that much more either.

 

Even locals use there on car
Even locals don’t use local transportation.

 

After a bit of research and with the conformation of Edi, we figured out the what and the where and the when of a busstation. So first thing the next morning, we headed to Dragon station. By local bus, of course.

 

Dragon bus station
Dragon bus station.

 

We only waited for a bus for five minutes, but the station itself is located outside of the city centre, so it took us over half an hour to arrive at ‘Dragon Vokzal’.  Once at the station, we bought a ticket for the bus. They told us what time the bus would leave. So we left our bag in the bus. We chilled a bit. We hung around. When departure time was comming closer, we entered the bus and sat down on our reserved seat. And… the bus left. Well alright, maybe fourty-five minutes late. But this was easy!

 

The bus. There was even Wif
The bus.

 

And you know, we were prepared for the worst! Tourists told us that the bus ride to Mürün would take us two days, the internet told us it would take twenty hours. But twelve, yes one-two, T W E L V E, hours later they woke us up. We had just arrived at our destination. Say what? We figured we had a good driver, were just lucky (although our bus did hit a horse on the way. Uhu!) or that the road had been paved recently. But still. Twelve hours it was. So that was cool. (By the way, the last guess seemed right.)

 

Horseriding in Mongolia. You have to try it at least once!
Horseriding in Mongolia. You have to try it at least once!

 

Some details from inside the bus
Some details from inside the bus.

 

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Romantic decorations.

 

Pimped steering wheel
Pimped steering wheel.

 

Pimped thing
Pimped gearshift.

 

This is just one example, and I could give you more. We took several other busses to several other locations, and we only have good things to say about it. Mongolia’s transportation system is not shitty at all. I guess it used to be and that the reputation survived, but all I can say is that things have changed. In a very good way.

 

Written by Planeless Traveller Ien

The Mysterious World of Bus Windows

Turkmenistan

While going through all the pictures on my iPad (yeah, the storage was full again) I realised I have a secret passion for photographing bus windows. The people behind the windows, the reflection, the movement, … it’s just one mysterious world. Here are some shots I captured during the last ten months on the road.

 

China: Michael Jackson bus in Lanzhou
China: Michael Jackson bus in Lanzhou.

 

Kazakhstan - China: the steppe
Kazakhstan – China: the steppe.

 

China: the driver of the Michael Jackson bus
China: the driver of the Michael Jackson bus.

 

Bosnia: school bus
Bosnia: school bus.

 

Iran: only God VIP bus
Iran: only God VIP bus.

 

Iran: why Iran air seat covers in a bus?
Iran: why are there Iran Air seat covers in a bus?

 

Iran: the donut bus in Mashad... Mmmm!
Iran: the donut bus in Mashad… Mmmm!

 

Iran: snowy bus from Mashad to the Turkmen border
Iran: snowy bus from Mashad to the Turkmen border.

 

Iran: the same snowy bus to the Turkmen border, a few hours later
Iran: the same snowy bus to the Turkmen border, a few hours later.

 

Kazakhstan to China: comfortable sleeper bus, view on the steppe
Kazakhstan to China: comfortable sleeper bus, view on the steppe.

 

Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan.

 

Turkey: Touring in Cappadocia
Turkey: Touring in Cappadocia.

 

China: trespassing a bus while hitchhiking
China: trespassing a bus while hitchhiking.

 

China
China.

 

China: the bus driver of the local bus to the Chengdu panda's
China: the bus driver of the local bus to the Chengdu pandas.

 

China: Davy on the bus from Beijing to Erenhot
China: Davy on the bus from Beijing to Erenhot.

 

 

Pics by Planeless Traveller Charlie.

 

 

Bus Stops Around the Issyk Kul

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During our epic 800 km bike tour from Bishkek, all the way around the Issyk Kul lake, and back, we noticed something rather special: beautifully decorated bus stops. Since we left Belgium seven months ago, we hadn’t noticed anything special about any bus stops before. But those bus stops… Wow! They caught our eyes right away! So enjoy our selection out of the more then one hundred stops we’ve seen along the way…

 

* The ‘national-Kyrgyz-symbols’ bus stops *

The yurt and the kalpak, two famous Kyrgyz symbols
The yurt and the Kalpak (white hat on the right), two famous Kyrgyz symbols

 

The yurt, a typical portable round tent used by nomads in Central Asia, can be seen in every green space all around the country. Families going for some chilling time outdoors set up their yurt or rent one that’s already there. It’s wonderfull to see how the city folks go the the countryside with some sort of nostalgia for the nomadic times (which was not even such a long time ago) when the majority of the population was living in harmony with nature and using this specific kind of housing. When you take a look at the Kyrgyz flag, you see the wooden crown on the top of the yurt represented on it. The yurt is to be found all over the place in the country… and yes, also in the form of a bus stop!

 

Yurt bus stop
Yurt bus stop

 

The Kalpak, a tall hat worn by men, is another thing that can be seen all around Kyrgyzstan. Especially during festivities (like we noticed on the 9th of May, Independence Day) are all the men in town, young and old, wearing a Kalpak. They are proud about this national symbol. Americans have their baseball cap, and Kyrgyz have their Kalpak. It keeps them warm in winter, and provides them with some shade in the summer. No better way to wait for the bus than in a Kalpak bus stop!

 

The Kalpak
The Kalpak

 

* Multicolored mosaic style bus stops *

Why just have plain and boring bus stops if you can decorate them instead?! It makes waiting for a bus so much more enjoyable, doesn’t it?

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The mountains are determining for the Kyrgyz landscape, and make the country what it is. The most favorite place of all Kyrgyz is for sure the famous Issyk Kul. This huge beautiful lake is surrounded by mountains, has the best beaches, the most amazing sunsets,… In short: it’s the pride of the country. The place to be for a holiday! And everything that’s cool must be turned into a bus stop.

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* Minimalistic white *

Even though this one is not as colourful as the previous stops, it is nonetheless pretty in its own simplistic way. So we figured that this stop with white reliefs is also worth mentioning.

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Written by the Planeless Travellers

 

Private Bus Companies: Turkey vs. Iran

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It might have escaped you yourself, but we are pretty sure that Busworld has in fact noticed that we haven’t yet written anything about the many bus rides we’ve taken in Turkey. There is a simple explanation for this lacuna: taking the bus in Turkey is a peace of cake! We decided to wait with writing anything, so we would later on be able to compare our experiences in Turkey with a comparable country. We picked Iran. Iran and Turkey: two really big countries with more or less the same density of population. The game is on!

Watching 'the voice Turkey' in the Pammukale bus therminal in Istanbul (Kadikoy)
Watching ‘the voice Turkey’ in the Pammukale bus therminal in Istanbul (Kadikoy)

 

Here it Comes: Turkey vs. Iran – Private Bus Companies!

1. Buying the tickets

When you arrive at the bus station in Turkey, everybody shouts and screams to get your attention. They lure you to choose for their company, ’cause competition is very high and prices are really low. In Iran, things are different. There is just a guy standing in the doorway of a bus while screaming his destination. Imagine a sheep screaming: “Isfahaaaaaaaaannnnn”, or a goat bleating: “Tèhran, Tèhran, Tèhran”  – let your imagination go wild, because that’s kind of how it sounds like. Although the Iranian way works perfectly fine as well, we guess we were kind of overwhelmed by it. Also, we preferred the well-organized Turkish style – meaning: not being dragged on a bus while it’s already driving.

TURKEY 2/3  vs.  IRAN 1/3

Turkey gets 2/3 because the screaming Turkish ticket sellers can be very tiring as well. If  you manage to find your company of preference in advance in Turkey, you can also buy your tickets at their office somewhere in the city center. A free shuttle will then bring you to the main bus terminal, which is nice. 1/3 goes to Iran. Buying tickets online is cheaper in Iran. However, you do need an Iranian debit card, which is convenient if you have made some local friends, but not so convenient if you’re traveling fast.

Davy with the nice ticket seller in Diyarbakir, we got a free sandwich (again!)
Davy with the nice ticket seller in Diyarbakir, we got a free sandwich (again!)

 

2. Punctuality 

This one is really easy: buses in Turkey are ALWAYS on schedule. They arrive on time and they leave on time. Buses in Iran come and go whenever it suites them. They arrive almost on time, but then it takes another hour to actually leave the terminal. The bus will just be standing there while they are trying to sell the remaining empty seats – which usually works. So, don’t worry and take your time to drink another coffee.

TURKEY 3/3  vs.  IRAN 0/3

We like to travel without stress, so we do have to mention that we once had to run to catch the bus in Turkey, while in Iran, we were more relaxed since we knew that we would still make it on time.

Welcome in the bus... Read the text on the door of this Iranian bus
Welcome in the bus … Read the text on the door of this Iranian bus

 

3. To VIP or not VIP, that’s the question

Basically, in Turkey it was not necessary to take a VIP bus. All the buses were comfy enough, whilst providing the passengers with plenty of cookies (see our bus-cookie post!) and coffee or tea. So because of the outstanding quality of the standard buses, we don’t have any experience taking the VIP bus in Turkey. In Iran, on the other hand, you should ALWAYS consider whether or not it is worth to spend two extra dollars. Standard buses are crowded and the seats are narrow. There are not always drinks or beverages available. Once in a while they offer you ONE drink and ONE cookie. Also, temperature varies from very cold to very hot. We wish you good luck if you’re planning to spend the night on one of those! Iranian VIP buses, however, are more expensive, but for an overnight trip definitely worth the money. To give you an idea: the VIP Buses have 2 + 1 seats, you can almost lay down completely, there is free water during the whole ride, and you get a goodie bag with sweets.

TURKEY ?/3  vs.  IRAN 3/3

Note that there is a big difference between the VIP buses from the different companies – sorry don’t ask for the names, our Farsi is not the best.

 

VIP bus
VIP bus

4. Inside of the bus

As a woman, you can choose whether you want to sit next to a man or not in Turkey. That was no big deal for us: Ien and Charlotte were sitting together while Davy was sitting next to the lucky stranger who would be able to enjoy his ‘fab’ company for the whole ride. The further we were traveling eastwards, the more apparent religion became, and the more we found out that this man/woman thing was an issue. This implies that, for example, in the east of Turkey, it is not common to be sitting next to to a strange woman or man who is not related to you, and that such a thing is absolutely not done anywhere in Iran. As tourists, we witnessed several theatrical performances of the whole reorganization of a bus. With ‘reorganization’, we mean one big chaos where everybody was hopping from one place to another, bumping in to each other, crawling over each other… and those who seemed to have nothing to do with this happening also suddenly joined the chaos with shouting and screaming. All of this was just to prevent that one man and one woman who did not know each other had to sit next to one another. You know… it’s one of these things that you laugh with afterwards, but it’s kind of annoying when you haven’t had your coffee yet.

TURKEY 2/3  vs.  IRAN 1/3

 

And the winner is… TURKEY!

Written by Planeless Travellers

 

The Urgench-Khiva Trolley Bus

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There is the possibility to take a cab from Urgench to Kiva for only 3000 sum (0.75 dollar) per person. This cab-ride takes about 20 minutes. But what about the trolley bus?! We haven’t been on a trolley bus in ages… Look at those shiny cables, hanging in the air… It will take us 1 hour and 30 minutes, it will probably be sweaty and crowded, but it’s more adventurous then a cab, and it only costs 1000 sum per person… So let’s have a trolley day!

The crowd in the bus, a girl looking at us.

 

Written by Planeless Travellers

Women and Public Transport in Iran

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Whenever you tell people you’ll be visiting Iran soon, you immediately get an overload of contradictory information. Those who haven’t ever been into the country almost beg you not to go there. They say things like: “It’s dangerous.” If you then ask about whatever happened, or about where they’ve gotten this information from, they can’t provide you with an answer. Basically, they just assume it’s dangerous. On the other hand, whenever you meet people who have actually been there, they tell you it’s an amazing country with amazing people, and with stunning nature and, yes… women do wear jeans. So… let’s see and find out how we feel about it ourselves.

 

Women and public transport in Iran

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Our first day in Iran: we are ready to take the Teheran metro, and we are exited to discover this unknown city. Suddenly, we see that all the women are going to the train’s rear end… Now we remember: in Iran, women are obliged to sit in the back of the train. So we walk to the ‘women only’ section, but we do feel a bit weird about this. Although this part is more spacious, and – we guess – we should be grateful for this, it is something that is strange for us, Belgian women as we are.

The bus from the women side
The bus from the women’s side

We step out once we have arrived, and immediately, the guys tell us that there was a woman in their wagon. Apparently, women enter the ‘men’s wagon’ to take a stand against this segregation. From then on, we decided to join our male travel buddies in the more crowded men’s sections in the front, in order to support these women.

The bus from the men side
The bus from the men’s side

After Teheran, we visited Kashan, with a short stop in Qom. In Kashan, we frequently used public buses, and we decided there as well to not to sit in the back. Next was Esfahan.

The next part will be written in first person only, because this is my (Charlotte) personal opinion.

Waiting for the bus
Waiting for the bus

“Ien and I accidentally walked on the bus trough the door in the back, and soon I realized there was a separation in the middle of the bus. The others stepped on via the front door. To be separated like this was a strange experience. Davy even took a picture of Ien and me sitting in the back, because he too felt weird about this. Then I started thinking about Rosa Parks… During the racial segregation in the USA in the 50’s, Parks decided to not to give up her seat in the colored section at the back of the bus, even tough the bus driver asked her to do so. The white section was full, so this way, a white passenger was able to sit down. This public protest of her became a symbol of the civil rights movement, and she became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. That said, even though what is happening in Iran is within a different context, I decided to never sit in the back off any vehicle again when I’m obliged to. I don’t know if my actions will change anything concerning the woman’s rights in this country. I don’t even know if woman here mind to sit in the back of the bus. But it does make me feel better, and I think it’s my right to sit wherever I want.”

Written by Charlie, because je suis

 

Varna to Istanbul… Metro Plus Bus Company Will Take Us

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The last time Charlotte was in Bulgaria, she took a bus from Sofia to Istanbul. She kept on bragging about this amazing bus she took where everybody had their own tv-screen, where lots of free food was available, and where they offer you coffee and tea. She said it was like being on an airplane while being able to have all the goodies, and with a descent view. If only she still remembered the name of that bus company…

Our Metro bus
Our Metro bus

When we decided that we would go from Varna to Istanbul by bus, we had two options: Nishikli Travel or Metro plus bus company. Both companies would leave for Istanbul at 10.30 am. Since a ticket with Metro bus plus was 50 lei instead of 60 lei with Nishikli, we chose to go with the former. Not much later, while reading her Istanbul travel guide, Charlotte found the luggage voucher of that Perfect Bus she took last time. And yes, lucky bitches as we are, she then travelled with Metro as well. Yummy snacks and free coffee, here we come!!

Coffee and sweets for everybody
Coffee and sweets for everybody

So… the next day, the bus arrived (in time!!) and we could immediately see that every seat indeed had its own screen. Awesome! The driver attached vouchers on the backpacks (this did not happen in any bus before) and we were ready for the ride. After only a few minutes, the nice hostess offered us coffee and tea (we could even choose between different types of coffee) and a bit later, she walked around with a basket… and there they were… ‘Do you prefer sweet or salty, madam?‘ This was going to be a perfect ride.

Playing games
Playing games

It was time to start exploring our screens with the Simroll software. There was music, television, movies, games and even internet. The television was not really working and neither was the internet, but the music and the games were great. We listened to classical music while sleeping a bit – we were not in the mood for traditional Balkan songs, sorry – and we played solitaire and other old-school games. Too bad the movies were not in English, so we could not understand them…

Our nice hostess taking care of us in the almost empty bus
Our nice hostess taking care of us in the almost empty bus

In between the entertainment, we stared outside and enjoyed looking at the beautiful landscape. As time past by, there was more coffee, water, cola,… I’m telling you: nine hours on a bus like this is fun 🙂 Why would you even consider to take a plane? It was just like Charlotte told us, but in advance, we could hardly believe it: during this bus ride, we had a great hostess making our life as comfortable as possible, entertainment screens and – most important of all – an amazing view all the way from Varna to Istanbul.

Written by Planeless Travellers

On the road in Eastern Europe

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BlaBlaCar

The carpooling system called BlaBlaCar works extremely well if your ride shows up at the right time and the right place. We’ve had a really good BlaBlaCar experience before with an Italian guy living in Germany, who brought us from München to Spittal in Austria. But this time, we waited for three hours in Ljubljana for a ride to Zagreb, and the car never showed up. Shit happens, but no stress, the bus station was not far away. Already only half an hour later we were on our way to Croatia.

Thanks for the drive from München to Spittal
Thanks for the drive from München to Spittal

 

Hitchhiking

First of all, we are three people with huge backpacks, so we never expected that hitchhiking would be a legitimate option. But when you find out that you can’t reach your destination by bus before 9pm, you start to reconsider your options –  and we were wanting to try hitchhiking at least once. That’s why we decided to take a bus from Konjic to Mostar and to start our first hitchhike experience.

Who can bring us to Trebinje?
Always smiling

It was a challenge. We found a car that brought us from Mostar to Buna, from Buna to Stolac, from Stolac to Ljubinje, from Ljubinje to Trebinje, and from Trebinje to Tuli. We don’t want to be ungrateful towards the nun that dropped us in Tuli, but with all good intentions, it didn’t really work out for us. In Tuli, 7km from the border with Montenegro, we waited for four hours for a ride to Herceg Novi. Only one guy stopped and offered us a ride to the border, but at that point we weren’t familiar with ‘The Border Issue’ yet, so we didn’t go with his offer. We later realized that people didn’t want to take us with them because they were afraid that we didn’t have the necessary local documents, or that we were smugglers, or because they just knew that the border police would be a pain in the ass.

Who want's to take us there?
Who want’s to take us there?

That said, time was ticking, so we decided to walk (6,5km) to the next village. We knew the late night bus was stopping there. In Grab, the last village before the border (don’t tell us you never heard about Grab, guys :-p), we waited another four hours for the bus to come. Boring? Noooot! There are always locals around who want to socialize. And socializing wouldn’t be socializing without wine of course. You know.

Grab here we come
Grab here we come

We finally made it to Herceg Novi where we took a local bus to Kamenari. Upon arrival, we took the ferry to Lepetane where our host Dominique fetched us with a cab. At 10pm we finally arrived in Tivat where we enjoyed some refreshments; merci Dodo!

Train

Trains are cheap in  Eastern Europe, but not particularly quick. Just to give you an idea: travelling from Podgorica to Belgrade (417km) would take you 7h45 by car (average: 53,8 km/h), 10h by bus (average: 41,7 km/h) and 17h by train (average: 24 km/h).

Daydream
Daydream

Of course we chose to take the train (yes, we knew in advance how long it would take, no we’re not crazy, hey guys, don’t forget time is not an issue for us :-)) This gave us plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful countryside of Montenegro and Serbia… Oh darn, it was a night train. But again, there are always locals around who want to socialize. It also meant we had some spare time to read a book and to finally catch up some sleep. It never felt like 17 hours.

Belgrade here we come
Belgrade here we come


On the seventh day God created… THE BUS!

When BlaBlaCar is not there for us
of course there will be a bus

Short wait in the Ljubljana bus therminal
Short wait in the Ljubljana bus therminal

From Ljubljana to Zagreb, from Zagreb to Split
the bus did it

Beautiful ride from Zagreb to Split
Beautiful ride from Zagreb to Split

When for a night or two Konjic is your home
you will reach Sarajevo and Mostar by bus alone

Destroyed buildings in Mostar
Destroyed buildings in Mostar

Hangovered in a bus on a ‘~^+%>>€+^%<€’-road
it wasn’t smart to pour the Rakija in our throat
Because of that, our plans of visiting Kotor and Cetinje fell true
so taking the bus straight from Tivat to Podgorica was the only thing we could do

Local bus from Tivat to Kotor. Longest 6km ever! Check out the old school ticket machine...
Local bus from Tivat to Kotor. Longest 6km ever! Check out the old school ticket machine…

Only ten kilometers from Novi Sad away
a trip to Karlovci vinyards will make your day

Pull-ups in the bus from Novi Sad to Karlovci

When in the morning in Belgrade, you have to run to still catch your bus
at the border between Serbia and Bulgaria, it will cause a lot of fuss

Waiting for a long time at the Serbian-Bulgarian border
Waiting for a long time at the Serbian-Bulgarian border

Next in line is a overcrowded crapy night bus from Sofia to Bucharest

Luckily, upon arrival the coffee that our host Paul served was the best

If your bus to Varna is coming all the way from Prague
don’t expect it to be on time
If you’re sick of this rime
enjoy our bus story about the way from Bucharest to Istanbul with a glass of wine

Total spent on transport from Bad Kleinkirchheim to Istanbul: 189 euro pp. Taxi, metro, tram, bus, everything included!

Written by Planeless Travellers