Kuala Lumpur (2009.07.26)

We landed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport Low-Cost carrier Terminal (KLIA LCCT). First we found where we can leave our luggage, and where to exchange money (they also same as in China did not accept Kazahstan tenges here). It was raining outside, so most of us did not want walk around city center. Therefore we decided to eat some breakfast. After that (time was ~6 o’clock) rain was getting lighter and we took a “Skybus” to the city.

First sightseeing object on our plan was Petronas Twin Towers. They are the second largest buildings in the world. On our way we also saw the nice white Old railway station. When we got out of subway we found out that we were already inside Twin Towers. It was still raining a little outside. Though the view to the buildings was impressive.  After that we went to Masjid Jamek mosque. That is one of oldest mosques in Kuala Lumpur. Women were not allowed to go inside without a scarf on the head. Also short pants were not permitted. Though at the entrance you could get cloak to cover yourself. Sultan Abdul Samad Building at Merdeka Square was few blocks away and we went there by foot.  There were no other tourists around, because it has only just now stopped to rain, and it was still only 10 o’clock. After taking some photos and resting legs we went back to subway.

The last object in our plan was Kuala Lumpur Tower which is 5th tallest tower in the world. On streets in lot of places in the city were escalators for pedestrian crossing over street. Very nice feature. At first we though they are not working because the escalators were not moving. But as soon as you got onto one, it automatically started to move. The entrance of KL Tower was on a small hill, and there was a free minibus which took us from the bottom to the top of the hill. Ticket cost 38 RM, and also included a pass to 3 more attractions. A very fast elevator took us to sightseeing level of tower. We walked around it and could see the whole city from top. Lot of buildings had pools on their top. After that we went to use our free attraction tickets. First was F1 simulator. But it was nothing impressive – just some normal PC game with a steering wheel and pedals inside a formula case. The pony ride had a weight limit – only less than 55 kg allowed, so Everita was the only one of us who got to ride the pony. Third attraction was a small zoo. Majority of animals there were all kind of reptiles – lots of snakes, some tortoises.

Petronas towers Mosque Merdeka square View from Kuala Lumpur tower

After that our excursion in Kuala Lumpura has ended. We took monorail back to the bus, which took us to the airport.  Unfortunately the seats were not close to each other. Me and Emīls got places in middle of plane, rest of us together at the tail of plane. This Air-Asia plane was much bigger that previous one. It was scheduled to fly for 14 hours to London. Fortunately seats in this plane was much better. They had more space for legs, back of seats were also higher. Though no display at the back of the chair. I don’t remember much from the flight – I was asleep for most of the time. I even did not notice when they were giving out meal to eat. I woke up only when Emīls woke me up saying that we are landing.

Urumqi – 15/07/2009

Written by Mārtiņš K., translated and details added by Agnese

We are getting up early as we have agreed before – at 7am. The other kupe growls as usual that there should still be time to sleep. They are actually right – we arrive at the destination station 2 hours later than planned.
Improvised policeman set up by army are everywhere in Urumchi/Urumqi city. On the one hand we have a feeling of safety because of the high security, on the other hand, of course, it wouldn’t be nice to get in rougher checks and get fumbled. The most frightening fact to me is that somebody could take away the knife given to me as a present from a friend of mine. Metal detector beeps, but the lady fumbles my pockets and lets go.

The seats on the later train which would be the best according to the schedule (evening) are sold out. So are all places on at least 2 other reasonably good trains and all the sleeping places on all trains today. The best places we could get are soft seats for a train that leaves at about 4pm, therefore we won’t have much time in the city. But it’s better to take this train than wait till tomorrow, so we buy the tickets.

We arrange two cabs which could take us to museum of minerals. The agreed price is 25yuans for each. Our cab takes us to a wrong place at first – to history or similar museum. After short expounding, we arrive at our proper destination. The first group reports that the museum is closed, however the main object of interest for our astronomers – the huge meteorite – is found exposed next to the museum and we can see it. We take a picture of ourselves and tick off this item from our must-see list.
It’s drizzling small drizzle, but as the temperature of the air is not low there’s no threat of getting soaked. We decide to go to Urumchi Red hill park.
Me, Mārtiņš M and Everita want to go by foot, which we do. Others take a cab. Initially we follow the intuition and hopefully head in the right direction. Of course, it turns out to be wrong. A lady on the street explains that we should go in completely opposite direction.
It is interesting to observe both daily rhythm of local people and local lazybones.
The rain gets more intense and we get a bit wet. On our way to the park we realize that it won’t be possible to get there more or less along azimuth, and to reach the entrance we need to make a detour of several blocks size. In a little while we arrive at the destination.

railway station 4th biggest meteorite in the world City view

When we start walking in the park, the drizzle stops and we get dry very quickly. The park offers very interesting and extensive scenery of the city.

After the walk in the park we get some cash from ATM and bank. The first ATM we notice on our way, works with our bank cards, which seems quite surprising for Agnese as she has read that there might not be more than couple ATMs in this whole city. We continue to supermarket to buy some needed products while Agnese and Mārtiņš M. tries (more or less successfully) to get prepaid SIM card from some Chinese operator.

A bit of stress and a bit more stress about some irresponsibility or something like that, as we thought at that time. We bought also some cognac, which was probably produced or bottled in China.
And then for 15 yuans per each of the 2 cabs we get back to railway station to go further.

At the entrance of railway station there are metal detector checks again. Me and Mārtiņš M are asked to open bags for detailed check. The manual metal detector beeps because of knife that’s attached to my belt under shirt, however as there is camera battery close by in the pocket, they find that and ask to show. Mārtiņš M. was asked if he has a knife or anything like that in the bag. And he honestly shows his knife. I answer without lying that I don’t have knife in the bag. :) I was let go, however problems arise with the knife of Mārtiņš M. It appears that we would have needed to declare or file or similarly note such things. As the train leaves in couple of minutes, there’s no time to discuss about the conflict, and the knife is given away for confiscation voluntarily.

Hangzhou (2009.07.25)

We planned to wake up early so that we would have more time later in Hangzhou before our airplane. But it didn’t work out so well. We arrived in Shanghai South railway station only 7 minutes before the train and missed it. Later we were told that the train also left earlier.  It takes lot of time to get to a train – the station is huge. Luckily we were able to change the tickets for another train that leaves about an hour later. They even gave back 14Yuans as the new tickets were cheaper because of not so good/fast train. In the waiting hall by a complete accident we met a person from Latvia (again). She was working in Shanghai as teacher and also was going by the same train to Hangzhou. The train was pretty comfortable (more or less similar to the train Xian-Beijing) and the ride was very smooth and fast. After an hour (or two) we arrived in Hangzhou.

Our plan was first to leave all our heavy bags in the hostel Anders had reserved for him as he was staying in Hangzhou for the next night.  There was a big line of people waiting for the taxi next to the train station. Taxi cars were coming and going quickly, so it didn’t take much to get two cars for ourselves. We had only address of the hostel written in English, and in Hangzhou only few people understood English, so we pronounced carefully the street name and luckily driver understood where to take us.

Some of us wanted to go for more shopping, but me with Agnese and Anders went to West Lake – Hangzhou most famous scenic sight. The lake was very large. Also there were lots of other tourists walking around, some boats were floating on lake. We decided to walk along the coast for some two hours in the direction of less attractions, south, as the less attractions, the less tourists.  Right at the beginning Agnese scared the hell out of me, by faking pushing me into lake when I was watching water at the edge of lake. Anders commented this as “it never gets old” :).

The path was not only on the ground, but in some places build like bridge over the water, going parallel to the coast of lake. In some places there was a statue of a famous man or an important ruler of Hangzhou.  At one point a Chinese guy approached me and asked something (in Chinese). As I didn’t understood, he showed with gestures that I am tall, and he is short, therefore he wanted to take a photo with me. We stopped a bit near a small pound with lot of colorful fishes (same as in Shanghai) and Agnese fed them with cookies she had with her.

From the lake we went back along a street full of souvenir shops. In one alley we went into what seemed a traditional medicine shop. They were selling lots of weird stuff – all kind of roots, grains, and also some dead snakes. In other alley there were lot of food stands. You could buy lot of different types of food, including crayfish that Agnese wanted to eat. There were also some boiled snails which we didn’t try.

When we got back to hostel, Mārtiņš K. and Emīls were asleep and the little room without windows seemed overcrowded of people and bags. Then we said goodbyes to Anders and went to Hangzhou railway station for airport shuttle. We were told that bus leaves from the front of railway station. But it took some time to find out that bus stop was on other side of building that was in front of the railway station.

Our Air-Asia flight was scheduled at 23.20. In the airport people were getting in a line. When the line was for about 40 meters long we decided it is time for us to get in the line also. At check-in they informed us that our printed-out boarding passes were not valid in this airport (because it is small?). So we got almost last places which were left in airplane close to each other – at the very tail of the plane. The seats had a small display at back of them where the information about the flight was shown. You could also rent movies to watch, or order food with them. Though the sitting was not very comfortable for me – there was not much space for legs and it was very hard to get some sleep. Although this was my first flying ever, and I was before told by others that plane will shake very much and everything will be bad, it was not true. Flying was very smooth. During the flight we were given customs cards to fill, where we found out that bringing drugs is punishable with death penalty by Malaysian law. Fortunately none of us uses them.

We landed in Kuala Lumpur around 4:30 am.


– Sorry for delay on article, I’m a lazy writer. ;)

Rise and shine. Early in the morning I woke up when our new Kazakh room-mate was rustling. We told him that we will be arriving in Almaty after 7:00, bet he was not convincible – in his mind it would be at 6:00. Some minutes past 7:00 we arrived in Almaty, station 2.

Our first task was to buy tickets to Ürümqi. Timetable was showing “место нет” meaning – there are no seats. At the information woman said that we should go to pay-box and ask for tickets. Pay-box was opening at 8:00 – little while to wait. Also we were informed that tickets cost about 50% more than expected. After visiting ATM and currency exchange point we felt quite comfortable. :)

Looots of money!

After we bought the tickets we went to put our baggage in storage room. After that we contacted people from couch-surfing community to go to them for a shower. At first we thought about going by taxi. We were told that it is not so expensive (we should not pay more than 1000 tenges for all of us to get to our destination near microdistrict Orbita). But first taxi offered to bring us for 2000 tenges for each car (we needed 2). We were bargaining a little while when at this point woman at storage room intervened and told us how to get to our destination very easy using public transportation. We didn’t mind, it was in our (at least in my :) ) interests to explore this culture by participating in their everyday life – walking same streets, taking same public transportation, meeting people, et cetera. Taxi momentarily dropped his price to 1000 tenges for a car. It was still twice to much and our minds were set to going by bus.

First bus explained that we should go 2 stops and then reseat. We decided to go by foot. Taxi was still there, with friends. All of them were trying to convince to go with them. Now price was dropped to 1000 tenges for both cars. But we were going to our new target – bus stop No98. On the way there it was very interesting to acquaint oneself with their culture on the roads. As well as glancing at beautiful fountains.

At the bus stop we awaited our bus. Conductor was hurrying us up to get into the bus. As we found out later it is custom to do things fast – jump into or out of the bus almost while it is still moving. Conductor also showed us where to get out and where was the park with columns and beautiful fountains. Some public thermometer showed 38­ degree C a while ago. So while waiting our contact persons we were sunbathing, taking photos and lounging near fountain.

Bus 98 Beautiful park Fountains! Fountains!!

We divided into two groups. One group went with let’s say “woman” and the other with “girl” :)
One after another we went to the shower at hers place. Feeling was much better. Woman made some sandwiches and omelette, and some other viands – cheese, sausages, tomatoes, etc. Very, very nice and kind from her.

Couchsurfing rollz! Couchsurfing rollz!!

After that we decided not to go to the observatory and nearby lake as it seemed to be very expensive. Instead we would be going to museum of music instruments. On the way there we enjoyed waterworks and flower gardens. Unfortunately museum is closed on Mondays. After quick chat with guard we went on. Clouds began to gather and it looked like there will be a thunderstorm soon. Indeed after a short while rain was starting to fall. We decided to go into some coffee for a lunch. Not all of us were so fortunate to get such a large meal at their couchsurfing place… :) Everyone ordered what they want. Me, Anders and Everita only beer and snacks. Unfortunately after a meal there was some misunderstanding about the the prices we had to pay. After 20 minutes and loud discussion situation was more or less solved. I don’t like to participate on such events, so I didn’t.

At that time the Sun was no more shining, it was warm and it was not raining. We decided to go to Kok-tobe by cable-way to watch the city from above. Up there was lot of commercial stuff. Not really interested in. But overall very nice and clean. We were walking around, taking some pictures, visiting mini zoo (free).

TV tower Pretty deer girl The Beatles in Almaty Down from Kok-Tobe

Slowly not hurrying anywhere we decided to go to the train station by foot. Everyone was worn-out. Some took a nap. Some recovered by eating something. After a while Agnese notices that we can go to the train and there is attendant who speaks only Chinese. The train is nice, made by Chinese plastics. The attendant is checking our body temperatures by some infrared thermometer. Everything is OK. Again, we need to fill up some papers for Chinese border. Soon after that we go to sleep.


We arrived in Moscow around 12:00. Weather was nice – it was cloudy, not hot, and it was not raining.
First we went to train station to get information about possibility to buy ticket Almaty-Urumqi. We were told that we should try central railroad booking office. After that we went with metro to Cosmonautics museum. Riding with metro was very fast and easy way to get to destination.
We spent about 2 hours in museum. We saw space suit that belonged to third guy on the Moon as well as stuffed Belka and Strelka – real or Chinese fake – don’t know ;). Also there was 1:1 model of living quarter of Mir space station. Also lot of other models and parts of various man made space objects.

Moscow metro Museum of Cosmonautics Top of museum of Cosmonautics Lunokhod - Moon rover Buran - Russian shuttle

After museum we went back to metro to ride to central railroad ticket booking office. Bureaucracy was great, we were sent from one responsible person to another. At least they realized that they can only try to reserve tickets, but not to order them. Computer showed information that there were no seats available. It meant for us only one thing – we will need to buy tickets in Almaty railway station.
Outside station we had quick lunch, some ordered kebabs, some took salads or other food. After that again to metro to go to museum of Matryoshka. It was quite a walk from metro to museum, carrying baggage full of heavy food. Some time after passing by monument of Pushkin, we spotted a street named “шведский тупик” which means “Swedish deadend” and of course, took a photo of Anders under the streetname. Sadly we arrived late at the museum and managed just to take a quick look into souvenir shop full of various sized matryoshkas. Museum was closing (open till 18:00).

Lunch Swedish dead-end Matryoshkas

Next stop – Red Square. Little bit of walking and there we were. Just settled down in the lawn near some flowers across the memorial of unknown warrior for a rest and enjoyment of view, when Russian militia came and sent us and others like us away. Then we divided in two groups – one who watch over the baggage while other walk around and explore Red Square. The roadway of Red Square was not red. And Kremlin was closed (closed on Thursdays). Saint Basil’s Cathedral had just taken last tourist group, we missed it. We walked around the Kremlin wall to quest how large area Kremlin takes up. And then the second group took the tour similar to first one. Although we didn’t manage to see these two objects from inside, it still seemed that we have seen much in this one day without any stress or haste.
Rested in another lawn we took a metro to our station where we stepped into a train that will take us to Almaty.

Kremlin star St. Basil's Cathedral Walk around Kremlin Rest near Kremlin Train to Almaty