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Old 03-15-2015, 11:14 AM   #501
chopstick
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

After checking out the Black Market, it was about time to head onward to Beijing. Here's an idea of what my schedule looked like during most of the Trans-Siberian part of the trip:




so I went and picked up my train tickets from a railway agent near that Ikea I posted earlier:




and made my way back to the main train station:




to head out to Beijing:




I had another top bunk:




which I was happy about, because people who have top bunks are constantly stepping on the bottom bunk to get to their top bunk. I read that the bottom bunks are preferred, but I don't understand why.
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Old 03-15-2015, 11:24 AM   #502
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

There were a bunch of backpackers on this train, and I met the second and third Americans of the trip as well. They were a young couple from Denver who were sharing the cabin with me and one Mongolian who lived in Canada. It was nice to speak English again for a little while.

Passing east out of UB, we passed the little yurt towns that have sprung up all around the city:



those little circular tents are the yurts. They are immensely popular because they are easy to put up and break down again for travel. These ones are all fairly permanent. The Mongolian guy in our car explained that when Mongolia came out of Communist rule, there were no rules on who owned what land, so people just went out and built fences to claim sections of land for themselves, which led to a lot of property disputes and funky borders.

The Mongolians don't have as much money as the Russians, so the food that you can buy when the train stops does not come from a kiosk. It comes from enterprising Mongolians who push around shopping carts full of food:




Finally saw some camels on the way out of UB:




they were pretty much everywhere after we made our way 15-20 clicks out of the city. Also saw some horses and goats, but mostly camels.

The dining car was super popular during the ride:




even though it was ridiculously expensive, even for train standards. It didn't bother me that much because I knew the Mongolian currency would be worthless outside of Mongolia and I needed to get rid of it anyway. Had dinner with the Mongolian guy from my cabin, which was a good idea because he was able to talk with the staff and get us taken care of pretty well. I bought him a beer for the effort. I also ended up buying a bunch of bottled waters and stuff with what I had left and gave them to my cabinmates.
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Old 03-15-2015, 11:43 AM   #503
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

your recap of the black market is certainly different than the link you provided.

awesome updates, it really is enchanting reading of and seeing all of these places that only exist in books to most.

also, I'd rather be knifed in my sleep than tossed overboard. I guess that's why I asked, the idea of treading water in the middle of a miles-deep ocean with no boat in sight is the stuff of nightmares.
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Old 03-15-2015, 11:45 AM   #504
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

I will try to get one last photo heavy update in before I head down to Panama, but odds are good that the above was the last one for a while. Flights are locked up, so barring me getting down there and discovering something materially wrong, the Pacific crossing is now a confirmed go, and I've got a bunch of logistics stuff to deal with.

Doing something like this where you are out of the country for an extended period of time and visiting multiple other countries via sailing vessel involves stuff like:

- setting travel notifications for your bank and credit card accounts

- activating international service on your cell phone or suspending existing service if you plan to use local SIMs

- getting the proper vaccines and associated paperwork

- researching onward travel requirements for destination countries and getting the right paperwork if you aren't using plane tickets as proof of onward travel

- getting all the long term international travel stuff together (plug adapters for electronics, SIM punch tool to resize SIMs, offline translation apps, verifying your VPN service still works, making sure secondary credit cards and email accounts are functional, etc)

- vetting all your sailing gear (making sure the C02 cartridge in your autoinflating PFD is still good, that your foul weather gear hasn't cracked, that your safety tether is still functional, that your headlamp is working and has extra batteries, etc)

and so on.
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Old 03-15-2015, 04:53 PM   #505
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Thoughts on the "custom of the sea" as it pertains to drawing lots? I've always been fascinated by stories of shipwreck survivors and admire the courage it takes to set out on such journeys, even with modern technology and equipment people still find themselves marooned on life rafts for extended periods of time these days.

Safe travels, great thread.
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Old 03-16-2015, 09:12 PM   #506
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Quote:
Originally Posted by chopstick View Post
This is the State Department Store in UB:

...
<snip/>
Completely misread the first time. For a few seconds, I'm thinking, "What has the Mongolian John Kerry got for sale?"
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Old 03-17-2015, 12:11 AM   #507
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Quote:
Originally Posted by chopstick View Post
my favorite thing with the temples were the prayer wheels:



you are supposed to walk past them and spin them with your hand as you walk past. You can't really see it on those, but most of the ones I saw were much shinier in the center due to constant use.


Quote:
Despite deciding in advance not to buy anything, I still ended up walking out of there with a pair of chopsticks and a badass leather wallet with a very displeased looking genghis khan etched onto to front. I should probably take a photo of that and post it, it's amazing how displeased with you he is.
Does it say BAD MOTHER... on it?
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Old 03-22-2015, 07:23 PM   #508
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Quote:
Originally Posted by HankTheBank View Post
Thoughts on the "custom of the sea" as it pertains to drawing lots? I've always been fascinated by stories of shipwreck survivors and admire the courage it takes to set out on such journeys, even with modern technology and equipment people still find themselves marooned on life rafts for extended periods of time these days.
No thoughts on that. As long as you can get your lifeboat in the water and your ditch kit on board, you are almost certainly going to be fine, barring ridiculous weather. The ditch kit is always going to have some kind of communication device like an EPIRB or a sat phone that will allow someone to know where you are, as well as food, water, and ways to extend both like fishing kits and a watermaker.

If you don't have time to get the lifeboat in the water, you are probably going to just die well before anyone needs to draw lots for anything. Boats sink pretty slowly, but if the keel falls off your vessel or you smash into a container going 10kts then you may not have time.

It's pretty safe out there as long as you aren't a dumbass and make poor decisions, especially poor decisions related to weather.



Quote:
Originally Posted by pig4bill View Post
Does it say BAD MOTHER... on it?




Flying to Panama on Wednesday morning, so likely no more photo updates for a while. I'll see about checking in after I get to French Polynesia, probably around the end of May. No clue where I'll be June-August, probably either somewhere in Southeast Asia or around there if not on a sailboat. Will head to Turkey at the end of August, then sail to the Caribbean. Back in the USA late November or early December.

let us go go go!




Spoiler:
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Old 03-22-2015, 07:28 PM   #509
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Quote:
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can't wait to see the russian train trip (though I can't imagine the windows will be much better) and what the inside of a container ship looks like. Thanks again.
I said this 4 months ago and now the cliffhanger will extend another unknown period of time. =( Such is life. Good luck on your next voyage though!
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Old 03-22-2015, 07:43 PM   #510
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

You got the Russian train trip portion!

Since you've been waiting so long, here are a few from the container ship.

This was taken during a tour of the engine room:



That's a propeller shaft. As you can see, it's like 3 feet across. Absolutely enormous. It was very, very noisy in there, even with the noise cancelling ear protectors they gave us.


This is the view from my cabin, looking back over the aft section of the ship:




Here is when about 60-70 dolphins showed up in the middle of nowhere and started goofing around with us for a while:




You can only see about 8 of them there, but every single water disturbance marks a dolphin. That was pretty sweet.
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Old 03-22-2015, 07:46 PM   #511
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Nice teaser!
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Old 03-22-2015, 09:46 PM   #512
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

omg amazing! thanks!
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Old 04-11-2015, 02:06 PM   #513
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Sailed into Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador today. Leisurely 12 day passage down from Colon, Panama. Thru the Canal, then the Pearl Islands.

Saw a bunch of whales, dolphins, turtles, even a hammerhead shark. Caught some fish to eat including a mahi and an awesome spotted mackerel with bright yellow spots.

Will hang out here and Quito for about two weeks, then sail across the Pacific to the Marquesas after reprovisioning. May fly over to the Galapagos for a couple of days as well since we are skipping them on the way across due to high fees.

Photos when I get a decent connection.
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Old 04-11-2015, 04:43 PM   #514
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Fees for which? Is there a port there?
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Old 04-11-2015, 10:42 PM   #515
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

The fees are levied by the government on vessels in Galapagos waters. A bunch of different fees, some are environmental which are fine but some are just lol money grab fees with environmental excuses. The fees to cruise more than a single island are pretty outrageous.

What was not outrageous was the $1.90 I paid tonight for a huge fresh squeezed passionfruit smoothie. Also picked up a half dozen chocolate bread rolls for $0.75! Ecuador uses the U.S. Dollar as their currency, even better. Taxis are like $1-2, it's super cheap here. Best score so far is a big pack of raspberries for $2 that would cost like $10 in the US.

Six of us went out to dinner tonight at one of the nicer restaurants and the total bill was $74.

Been reading a lot about Quito, should be pretty sweet. Can get there for $9 on an 8 hour bus ride... or just take a $45 flight over the Andes.
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Old 04-12-2015, 11:34 PM   #516
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Environmental fees on a sailboat sounds pretty funny.
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Old 06-01-2015, 05:41 PM   #517
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Hey guys - made it safely (mostly) across the Pacific after about a month at sea and checked into the Marquesas on the 26th. Ended up flying back to the USA a couple of days ago for some family stuff that came up while enroute, so had to skip the second boat I lined up for the Marquesas onward.

Will be in the USA for a few weeks/months before heading back out again so should be able to update with some sweet photos relatively soon. The internet speed in the USA is so sick!

The passage itself was great with a few bad spots I'll describe later. We managed to catch a ton of fish thanks to following tips from one of de captain's books. Saw the usual infinite dolphins, a bunch of whales, turtles, etc. Even saw a nice sized hammerhead on the surface who kindly did not eat us.
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Old 06-01-2015, 06:20 PM   #518
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail



There's the teaser. Sailing in to Hiva Oa, an island in the Marquesas.
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Old 06-01-2015, 10:01 PM   #519
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

welcome back chop...looking forward to the update.
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Old 06-02-2015, 03:20 AM   #520
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Looking forward to the update, hope the family stuff isn't too serious.
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Old 06-02-2015, 10:05 AM   #521
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

Good to hear you are all right, Chop.

Curious--when you buy air tickets with such short notice (and possibly one way), how badly do you get crushed by the fare. I always wonder if there is some reasonable solution if you need a ticket asap.

Safe travels.
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Old 06-03-2015, 09:04 PM   #522
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

chopstick,

Glad to hear it went relatively well and you're back safe. Looking forward to tales from the tropics.
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Old 06-03-2015, 10:58 PM   #523
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

The phrase 'a month at sea' is pretty intense when you actually consider the reality of a month at sea.
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Old 07-01-2015, 08:56 PM   #524
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

RigCT - I haven't bought a roundtrip airline ticket in years, only one way tickets. Whether or not you get crushed on the fare for buying last minute like any US domestic carrier does depends on the airline. Some follow the US model of increasing prices until the day of departure, some don't.


Let's get an update in here.

When we last left off, we were traveling across the Gobi desert from Ulan Bataar, Mongolia to Beijing, China.

Eventually we got to the Chinese border, and the train stopped for a few hours due to the difference in tracks. We all had to stay in the cars this time, which was fine. It was the middle of the night, and lasted a few hours. Most of the photos I took of the process didn't come out very well, but you can get an idea of what it was like from this one:




That was another one of our cars. What happened was that the train pulled off to an alternate track, then they took 2-3 cars in at a time to this large building where they did the swap. Each swap took around 30-40 minutes or so, and the folks doing the swaps were hustling. We stayed on the cars the entire time.

After our cars were outfitted for the Chinese tracks, it was light out and after getting blasted with the Chinese national anthem, it was time to look out the window and see what China was all about. I was expecting it to look... I don't know what I was expecting it to look like, but not like this:




Clean water? Scenic valleys and mountains?! Wow, this is great!

Unfortunately, the closer we got to Beijing, the more...




things became. Lots and lots of this. Lots of polluted rivers with garbage floating along. Lots of trash just strewn all over the tracks and surrounding countryside. The scene from the first photo slowly but surely became the scene from the second as the train choo chooed along toward the capital. We passed one river with people standing in the river fishing, and the river was the color of rust, with an enormous factory dumping who knows what out of large pipes directly into the river while lots of trash just floated by.

Beijing is a sprawling mass of humanity. Over 21 million people, 3rd largest city in the world. Well over 3,000 years old. It's massive. Tons of high rises everywhere, including lots of apartment buildings. People everywhere. Dirt everywhere. Pollution everywhere.

The pollution in Beijing is legendary. Most of the things I had read about Beijing were believable, but I didn't believe that the air was actually brown. It is. Brown and thick. When I got off the train, the air quality was noticeably different. It was instantly more difficult to breathe, and I could feel myself breathing pollution. Not pleasant. The sky was not blue. It was indeed brown, as I had read. I was instantly a little sadder, and I have no idea how people can live there and breathe that stuff every day. Literally the only time I got sick during the entire trip around the world was here, and it was 100% because of the air.

Having slept on a train or in hostels for the last few weeks, I decided to step up my game and booked myself into the Beijing Crowne Plaza. The walk from the train station didn't look that bad, so I decided to hoof it on over and see some of the city in the process. After about 30 minutes, I made my way here:




and was very happy to check in to a fairly sweet hotel room. It was also nice to see a little English again:




I had ordered a SIM card and a China-specific VPN. The package for the SIM arrived the next morning, so I was with internet as well. VPN is a 100% necessity in China, as they block Google, Gmail, etc. Interestingly, my phone was able to get to the blocked sites with no problem and no VPN, but the laptop didn't connect to them without the VPN up and running.
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Old 07-01-2015, 09:10 PM   #525
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Re: chopstick goes for a sail

After settling in, I was hungry as only someone who has been traveling by train for days can be. The hotel was in Wangfujing and one of the reasons I had picked it was because of the Wangfujing Night Market. The Night Market is a series of food stall of interesting foods, most of which are skewered on long sticks and then deep fried to order.

Here's a view:




All kinds of goodies there. Note that guy has a starfish in his bag. Lots of regular chunks of meats, then other cooler stuff like the baby sharks in front of the woman's right arm. Next to those are fish on one side and sea urchins on the other.

Here's a better look at those 3:




Octopus and squid were both super popular, lots of people eating both:




I crushed some squid very quickly.

The section that draws the most interest is this one:




The blobby things in the upper left are silkworm larvae. I was going to eat one until every review I read said that they tasted like eating dirt, so I decided to learn from those who had gone before and skipped them. The lower left are crickets. I'd had them before so skipped them as well. The big dudes in the middle are scorpions, as are the little dudes on the two trays in the bottom right. Those I had not had before, so I got a skewer of the little dudes. Can't say they tasted like much. Pretty much just tasted like the oil they were cooked in. Pretty crunchy. The body disintegrates in your mouth pretty fast, then you are sitting there chewing the legs which take forever to chew into something you can swallow without choking.

Here's a closeup of that meal:




All of the big scorpions were dead, but about 25% of the little scorpions were still alive and squirming around on the stick.

I also had some of these eggs:




Not sure what kind of eggs they were. The claim was quail, but I don't know if I buy that. They were soft and good.

I also had a little set of durian cakes which were bonkers. No photo there, just imagine tiny cupcakes without frosting. Durian has a pretty controversial reputation, but the durian cupcakes were amazing.
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