After a bus journey across the Vietnamese border from Nanning, China the bus rolled up to stop in Hanoi. First things first was to find a place to crash whilst I searched for my bike to ride it from Hanoi to Ho chi Minh …

I had the idea back in China but in all honesty never really imagined it would happen! But low and behold my paths crossed with a couple that were doing the same thing and they put me in touch with a South African chap that sold MINSK in various states of health …

Rain stopped play for a while but this was all good in the end as I met some great people and had time to plan a route of attack … and take in Hanoi for all its worth, really great ‘City’ … easily navigated and frenetic with Motorbikes and night markets come dark.

Me my bike and I

A bite to eat in Hanoi … tinniest chairs in the world … knees up-round the head!

Too long in the drift hostel when its raining cats and dogs outside and this is what happens to you! BRUNO!

‘Where is the prison’ …. ‘HERE HERE HERE …’ bad idea shaking this chaps hand he literally would not let go and when I tried walking away he gripped tighter!

HANOI …………………

HAAANNNNNNNNNNNOOOOI ……

Dinner with a delightful local chap … we chatted about times gone by and his family … well I chatted in English and him in Vietnamese … filling in the gaps … he was probably telling me to leave the country now before I get in too deep on my MINSK!

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I have been in China since 15th November and I write this post from Hong Kong due to the fact that FACEBOOK/BLOGS and SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKING in mainland China is very much … BANNED.

In short I have been to Beijing – Xian – Chengdu – Mount Emei – Leshan – Zigong – Tongren – Fenghuang – Huaihua – Kunming – Dali City – Lijiang – Tiger Leaping Gorge – Hong Kong. All in 6 weeks … wowzers.

Every step of the way from top to bottom has been interesting from being scammed quite literally by con-artists (artwork sold to me for hell of a lot more than it was worth, and I am a designer/creative type that should know better … HA!) in Beijing to partying harbour side in Hong Kong on New Years Eve.

I have trekked 2900 metres up Mount Emei and also 2800 metres (at its highest) along the Tiger Leaping Gorge in the Yunan province.

Couch surfed in Zigong. Visited the Pandas in Chengdu. Walked the streets of the Muslim Quarter in a very smoggy Xian. Visted the Grand Buddha in Leshan (massive, carved into the side of a cliff overlooking the water). Got invited by ex-government officials to get involved on a tourism project in Zigong, branding etc. Attended a funeral in Fenghuang (long story, but an incredible insight into the culture). Biked around Kunming. Was invited to dinner with the locals in a very rural little part of Dali City. Trekked the tremendous tiger leaping gorge. Relaxed the legs in lijiang. Flight to Hong Kong and then it all gets a little bit blurry – Christmas and New Years here meant several drinks and a big handful of late nights! Oh and some gambling in Macau!

Now I am heading back to China, Yangshuo to check out the Karst Peaks/mountains along the Li River and then into Vietnam where I will be able to update you all on the days spent back in China!

Now the highlights in pictures:

Hong Kong from The Peak, the city scape around 6.30pm – amazing

The very civilzed que for the MTR in HK

Street food throughout the travels has been the top of the menu – so why change in HK, delightful ‘real’ HK cuisine experience

The Buddha – HK

Dan and Danielle in HK on the funicular in HK – completely see through, floor etc. 

In China and HK they make paper versions of the deceaseds life to burn at the funeral – plasma TVs, cars, Houses, Family etc. to take with them to the after life

Cats for sale in Central HK

Buildings HK – Stanley, buildings were very pretty pastel colours

Macau, the very Portugese styled city square

Macau, Lisboa casino complex

HK – Santa Chun and his get along gang, fun times were had on Christmas Eve

Christmas Day Karaeoke

HK Christmas Day party

Lamma HK – Gardener on this car-free island just a short boat ride from the frenetic city life

HK Lama Island Beach

HK Lamma Island beach side 

New Years Eve in HK 

The Vince Noir of the Tiger Leaping Gorge – Just discovered some new kind of Hair Product and went completely nuts with it …. ‘I GOT A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS’

Me and Tor after an epic climb along the gorge and back with a well deserved ale

Tiger Leaping Gorge China, ME and and a PIg that had been freshly shot and de-haired

Tiger Leaping Gorge China, Eary morning shots from our Guesthouse …. WOWWW!

Tiger Leaping Gorge China, Eary morning shots from our Guesthouse …. WOWWW!

The view from our room at the guesthouse in TLG, China

Me and my pipe, TLG China

Kicking back with the trendies and shiz, TLG China

Watefall enroute through TLG China

Getting all at one with nature amongst the Bamboo in the Gorge

Tor TLG China, love this shot

Buffalo, TLG China

Locals walking along the TLG China

Me and Toros posing like intrepid travelers alongside the Gorge

Me reaching the peak 🙂

Epic, TLG China

More views TLG China

Rural wife in Dali City, China

Rural life in Dali City, China

Snow Pea crops, Dali City, China

Jeremy from the land of the Dutch being attacked by a nipper in Dali City with silly string

Rural Life Dali City, China

Rural Life Dali City, China

Working – well a couple of shovel loads for some snaps anyway 🙂

Snow Pea fields, Dali City, China

Trev, Paul, Tony and Dan, Dali City China

Paul, Dali City China

Rural Life, Dali City, China

Rural Life, Dali City, China 

An adventure around Dali City on two wheels

My comrades Jeremy and Toros on Bikes

Parklife, the older guys in the parks fly kites hundreds of metres up in the sky as a pastime – Kunming, Yunan Province, China

Baby in the park –  Kunming, China

Hostel World – Pool and table tennis, mother licker! Cloudland, Kunming China

Ladies on the street, Kunming, China

Some very rare naked Lady Art – Kunming, China

Graphics on some signs around Kunming – ‘NO SPITTING’ (if you didn’t guess)

Train Station, Kunming

Hot Pot, Kunming

Just Hot – a brand I found in Kunming, amazing cake, hilarious company ethics (well the translation from Chinese to English) ‘Delicious food. If you do not like the delicious food – that does not like the life. Who can deny that she is not happiness’ WOW?

Child eating sugar coated fruit in Kunming Park

Me and Chris saying fare well after a few days hanging out

Biking Kunming

‘I LOVE CHINA’ – Ironic image of a minority girl on the streets in Kunming

This little fella was in a cage outside of a shop in Fenghuan – more precisely a restaurant. Dinner for some ‘lucky’ diner, poor little fella. He so wanted to escape!

Fenghuan from my Hotel window. Beautiful location!

Cliff Richard, Fenghuan China

I visited Hiroshima and stayed for a couple of days to take in the `A-bomb Dome` and the Peace museum followed by Miyajima island. I will admit that my knowledge on this was foggy at best before visiting and learning in depth the affects and devistation the attomic bomb caused to Hiroshima and the surrounding area was a real eye-opener, shocking!

A lighter note in the evening was taken on board in the form of karaeoke with some Japanese businessmen and a norwegian named Thore. Very random little bar where you pay 3,000 yen and you are entitled to eat sing and get merry until the hostess turfs you out at closing time, around 2.00am .

After a couple of very deep (though none the less interesting) days, I head to a little island called Naoshima. Renowned for its art and creativity (and apparently one of a few islands in the area that have inspired some anime artists). I will sum this place up quite simply, chillaxed!!! Amazing little island with architecture and art that has really got my mind ticking again, sharp clean concrete forms with neons at night illuminating buildings everywhere. Super quiet at night and still very traditional, a great mix! The idea behind each individual artwork was to make them individual/site specific and to work organically with the nature around them.

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A-bomb Dome and Peace memorial taken from inside the peace museum. Lots of Japanese schools visted throughout the day as it is obviously a major part of history here in Japan (and of course world over).

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Miyajima, Amazing view at night of the Tori Gate in the sea

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Karaeoke, spot Thore?! Loving life!

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Naoshima Baths, more naked times though this time inside of a building that was a work of art in itself and once inside it only gets better, random art everywhere (notice elephant). The whole place is an art installation.

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Park Beach, a piece of art that the three of us made – me, Ayaka and Yuri. Met the girls randomly and decided that I would join them for the day to make it all the more interesting, fusing art with Japanese culture.

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Park Beach, finally a picture where I have got the timer spot on. These pieces moved in the wind or indeed when you start posing against them. They work on a pivot system.

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Park Beach, this piece was outside of the gift shop. To make the shots more interesting I got the girls to interact with the art.

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Park Beach,another piece of art that had a highly reflective glass, not mirrored but close to

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Chichu Art Museum,amazing space that turned nature and the time of day into a piece of art by James Tyrrell

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Chichu Art Museum, View from the rear of the buildings across the other islands

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Cafe Saya – Even lunch was creative on this island

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Naoshima Port, Trying to get all arty farty and using the girls as my muses

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Bye bye girls, at the port as they had to head back to their home towns of Fukuoka and Nagaro

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Naoshima Port, One of many pieces of art that turn into neon heaven at night. Love the vibrancy of this place at night and the colours littered amongst natural beauty. Reallly is an amazing juxtaposition of art and nature.

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Naoshima Bath at night, right next to where I was staying. I stayed at a place called the Little Plum, nice place with `cool` staff and tune selection in there restaurant/cafe area – itunes, you have to love the wonders of apple.

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One of 6 different housing projects on the island

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Another of the housing projects - made entirely from recycled materials including driftwood and shop signs.

As I was walking along the street on the way back from the centre of Fukuoka, some completely random and kind Japanese people invited me and a couple other guys to a little bbq/grille they were having outside of the barber shop they owned. We ate all types of food – from octopus to dried squid, and sipped fine Sake and whisky!

All I can say is the kindness of the people in Japan is outstanding and I believe that you would be hard pushed to find another such nation like this. Japanese people have surpassed any country I have visited before for hospitality and generosity! Amazing.

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I hopped on the bullet train to Fukuoka hoping to catch a glimpse of some Sumo Wrestlers in their pre-tournament practice sessions. Found out where the practice was on arrival and got up at 6.00am to go watch them.

Turned out that no one else had the same idea, or you were not allowed to enter the practice area and I just did anyway … in short just me and the Sumo wrestlers who were training for the big tournament here on 15th November (day I leave for China).

It was a very intimate setting and the place was very steamy with sweat and testosterone! So interesting to watch them training – there were two skinny guys who were just starting out and they looked in a bad way physically, cuts and bruises all over and looked to be in pain. A brute strength sport and some tremendously large moobs, certainly a great opportunity I had to get up really close to one of the oldest traditional sports in Japan.

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Kyoto has been beautiful and a great base to see lots of things including Nara National Park and Arashiyama District in Kyoto where there are monkeys up in the mountains! One of the little babies even jumped onto my hairy legs and climbed upto my waist – probably thought I was its mum due to the amount of hair I have on my legs.

Biking around and into the rural areas is so so much nicer than the touristy areas with loads of tacky gifts and tourist driven food markets etc.

Nara was delightful, wooden temples everywhere and gorgeous scenery littered with deer.

Now I journey south to the islands of Japan.

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Arashiyama, Kyoto

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Arashiyama, `Monkey Mountain`

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Baseball, Arashiyama Area near the river. The kids swarmed around me and all wanted their picture taken.

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Nara National Park, this woman was painting with a calligraphy brush – earlier in the day I went to a calligraphy school and made the ink that you paint/write with. Apparently it will be ready to use in 3-6 months and until then it must stay in the box… so it will be at the bottom of my backpack for some time – hopefully it lasts the journey.

Arrived in Kyoto and had a wee mooch around the area to try and find some local spots to eat as oppposed to tourist traps, and wham bam thank you ram-en – I found just that!

Then trekked around the city, again I walked further than one would normally call sensible. I visited the Njo-Jo Castle and the Gardens were beautiful and then went to a special Imperial Palace open day – again gardens were stunning. One thing that intrigued me were the Japanese tourists and the elderly folks trendy dress and futuristic accessories!

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Njo-jo Castle, Looking across at some of the living quarters

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Nj0-jo Castle, Untitled

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Imperial Palace Tourist – distracted by this trendy/futuristic woman

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Imperial Palace Garden

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Child wearing a SNOOD – Even from a young age the peace sign is already being used, that and a great display of a fashionable Snood.

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Geisha, Gion – They were running fast, see you later alli-geisha!

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Amazing Ramen in Kyoto – Down a side street only western person in there. Perfect!

This mother crusher pushes some heat. I knew they were fast but this … wow! For those of you contemplating jumping in front of a train this little baby will do the job well!

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On the trip back to catch the bullet train down to Kyoto I stopped off at Tenzan Onsen, which is a very traditional natural hot spring complex. I paid went in and sauntered down stairs through a lavish wooden interior where I arrived in the ‘Mens’ bathing area. Popped on a pair of trunks and went to walk through to the garden littered with natural springs … ‘no no no’ I hear from the little lady cleaning the pathways around the spring ‘you must take trunk off’. So that I did – naked as the day I was born out in nature bathing in hot springs.

Just as well that there was one other western guy with a ratio of body hair not disimilar to that of a gibbon!

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One of the many hotsprings in the garden

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Met this guy and his friend in the baths – he had amazing tattoos (all over) Although in many Onsen they will not allow you in if you have a tattoo – here they MUST do! Check out his blog at http://detroit13.exblog.jp

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Inside restaurant area

The baths are very very hot and vary in heat, depending on whether they were mixed with cold water or not. The bath that was not, I could not even pop my foot into for longer than 5 seconds (I counted in pain)

Woke up at the break of dawn and had a quick shower and then trekked up the mountain to get a perfect view across the mountains/hills/lake to Fuji. Amazing and breathtaking. I was listening to Takk – Sigur Ros on my ipod whilst taking the shots to really put me in the mood! 🙂

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Mount Fuji View at 6.15am

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Early morning Yukata – like pyjamas not to be mistaken for Kimono

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`Japanese Gran` very kind lady at my Ryokan – Moto-Hakone Guest House