The Final Countdown

I have noticed I often take snippets of song titles or snippets from lyrics when I am working on a Blog title. They just seem to pop into my mind with the result of having a catchy start and an ear bug for much of the day. I think this is one reason I do not listen to music when I travel. Also the fact I have no idea how to download music and my earbuds (which I hate using) and earphones plug do not seem to fit into my iPhone. I guess that is what one should expect when trying to save money by purchasing a ‘slightly’ used product. Which is why I am at a countdown of sorts.

My previous Blog discussed packing; I have not yet attempted to make everything fit although I remain confident it will. I am counting down the days – fewer than 30. I am counting on Mozzy – my cat – to be well. I am counting on not going crazy when my youngest daughter arrives from Honduras – recently a hurricane went by there and she is much like that force. To my knowledge she is still planning to join me on my Vietnam leg which will certainly help cut costs other than the actual motorcycle tour – we will have our own guides and probably not share rooms until we reach Hoi An. 

Family here are planning a celebration for my birthday – I am not looking forward to counting candles! Last time we had a cake with many, many candles (50, for my sister) the smoke alarm went off. Perhaps I will request six sparklers. There is not really anything I want – or rather, what I want will not happen. I do not need anything – besides money or free accommodation of course. I am also counting virtual money –  CNY, USD & VND – to work out the various exchange rates into CAD that go along with accommodation and transportation I know I will be using. (My whole budget is based on CAD – readers can now feel sorry for me)

Despite promising myself I would try to not rush about from place to place I have so far booked thirteen hostels and hotels, and that does not include the nine I will stay at during my Vietnam tour! I also have to figure out where I will go for the last six day of my trip. I will also take 8 – 10 trains, one motorcycle, a few subways, some short distance buses and who knows what else. However, even after factoring in three transit days and adding in Hoi An and Hanoi (I love saying those together) plus the six days I need to figure out, I believe my final countdown will still remain at 100CAD (80USD for anyone who does not think in Canadian dollars) per day. I could make it less if I were not springing for three nights close to two sections of the Great Wall at a boutique hotel. My birthday present to myself – they even offered to bake a cake.

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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: getting from there to there 

With 40 days and 40 nights to go before I step on the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver for my flight to Shanghai it was time to work on how I will post my blog. Everyday is time consuming for me, boring for readers if I am just adding padding. Reading the travel blogs of others, usuaally about 3 decades younger than me, I think I have come up with a plan to make the process more enjoyable for me and interesting for readers. 

Post on the same days each week; keep it consistent. It is easier to follow a writing schedule this way. 

Seriously consider at least one day of less writing and more photos.

Work on the money/places/information – perhaps do not imbed it in the text. (I also add bits of nonsense at the end not really thinking if anyone actually reads it).

After about a week or so of several hours nearly daily I finally hashed out my itinerary for roughly the first 25 days of my trip to China and Vietnam. I struggled with how to fit in what I want to see and do within the time constraints of avoiding the National Day holiday. My first itinerary was just too difficult to really enjoy anything, it had me rushing off for the far reaches of Gansu and Northern Shanxi provinces, in Northwest China, before flying to Saigon. Just not practical, even if taking in only one of the provinces. The cost of airfare alone to Saigon was prohibitive.

I finally decided to break my trip into four sections. I will do a much smaller loop for the first ten days, Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, Huangshan, Shanghai. Although I have been to Suzhou and Nanjing there are still places I want to visit. In Suzhou my main goal will be the New Suzhou Museum, known for its simplicity of design. I saw a documentary about the architect, I.M. Pei, and how much this particular project meant to him.

In Nanjing I hope to visit the city wall there, maybe rent a bike and ride on it, we only drove past it when there years ago. One can do so much solo, with children, or even other adults, so much has to be considered. There are so many layers of history in that city to be studied and one visit found me wanting to know more.

Huangshan, Anhui will be a stepping stone to the Huangshan (Yellow Mountains) National Park, where I will spend one night somewhere in the the park – not sure if at the base or partially up a mountain, and, I hope, the ancient villages of Xidi and Hongcun. I am fully aware these might be more along the line of rebuilt villages to bring in the tourists, domestic and foreign, so I can only hope there may be some authenticity.

To ensure I make it to the airport in Shanghai to leave on Sep 28th for Saigon I was meticulous when choosing trains for each stretch of this leg of my trip. The only piece of information I have been waiting for is will I make it to the train station from Hongcun to Huangshan. Lots of time still. What I had not considered was that cancelling my first tentative itinerary, to Gansu, would mean my new itinerary would also be wiped out! I am hoping all my effort can be easily rectified and I will once again have my requested trains put in the queue again. I immediately fired off an email to have this done. A similar situation occurred last year – I do wish people would read things! So, waiting with my fingers ready to send my payment for seats and berths.
Thank goodness I do not have to plan my time Vietnam beyond the first three nights in Saigon. I will ask my daughter what I can do there other than have my phone stolen. (That is her story – not mine)

My C3 Canada 150

I find I need to explain my title. C3 refers to the three ocean coasts that touch Canada, the 150 refers to 150 years since the signing of the Constitution in 1867. I hope to stay from the politics of the event while still talking to anyone I meet who is travelling this summer. I had hoped to make it to the Atlantic Ocean during my June/July trip – so far not on my itinerary. Instead I opted to head north. The following is just a taste of the month I spent preparing this trip.

Of Course I Can Get There 

It took some effort, frustration and doggedness to finally sort out my mid-June trip in Canada. One flights, six train trips, and three hostel stays booked – one will be a repeat – but I am set! It does pay to collect reward points whenever possible. What should have totalled over 1200 CAD for all the transportation came to 73.82 CAD – and that is how I manage to travel. I even managed to have Airmiles and Via points left over to build up for other Canadian trips. 

Victoria to Toronto to Kingston: air and train ✈️🚞

Kingston to Toronto to Winnipeg: two trains 🚞🚂

Winnipeg to Churchill to Winnipeg: two trains🚂🚞

Winnipeg to Vancouver: Air🛩

Vancouver to Victoria: ferry (hurray, the ferry!)🛳

Technicality: I did pay for a flight to New York, that stops in Toronto. The airline made some changes so I decided to take them up on their offer to make a major change rather than request a full refund. That one way trip was about $228, paid way back in January! However, when breaking down my month long trip I did not factor that trip into total fare. So, approximates for two flights, six trains $1450+, paid $300. Still an excellent saving.
Where to and what I will do. I will leave Victoria to fly out of Vancouver, fantastic because it means I can take the ferry. I have said this before, leaving the island by boat makes my trips seem like an early start to my adventure. It is unlikely I will take the brand spanking New V2V Empress as it goes to downtown Vancouver. Another time. I am thinking budget all the way. I love that I will have a non-stop, overnight flight. I am hoping I will be relatively refreshed and ready to hit the tracks to Kingston. Another travel must for me when I fly east, land in Toronto, take the train to Kingston. I will take it back mid-July also, then board another train for Winnipeg.
A week of emails and UWinnipeg Hostel has finally been booked.

Definitely no V2V Empress, I did not even get my free trip – it was supposed to be offered at a later date, never happened. Rather disappointed.

Update, it is never a good idea to plan two trips. It seems I am flying out of Victoria, no ferry trip. I also had to re-confirm UWinnipeg Hostel is booked for two different stays. If I am having this much trouble booking at a university in Canada I wonder if it is even feasible to consider universities in some cities in China.

Why Planning Ahead Is Not Micromanaging! 🗓🗒💻📞

I like to plan everything as far ahead of time as possible when it comes getting to where I need to depart from – airports, train stations, ferries, buses – they all need to be got to. So glad I do this as even so close to home things change. I was working on getting to the airport by local transit ($5.00) only to discover the route and buses used have had significant changes. Rather than two buses I will now have to take three, the last is at the McTavish Park ‘n Ride that is basically in the middle of nowhere – fortunately, so long as I work everything out properly, I should be able to catch the last community bus and still get to the airport 1 1/2 hours before departure. So there is absolutely no room for error! I can see making the decision to leave earlier just in case. There is no standing room on the community bus. It carries fewer passengers, no idea what is suggested if there are too many passengers all vying for the last trip.