Trip Start Mar 11, 2010
35Trip End May 01, 2010
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Yesterday I booked flights.
The cheapest flights I could find on the net were over $3000, then, last week Air Asia offered dirt cheap prices to Asia but the tickets had to be booked on line and by today. I could not get my prefered dates and had to search the site for ages but finally found flights that suited me. I booked Perth to KL then to Shenzhen in southern China and return. Total cost was $235 then when I was booking I had to "buy a seat" (go figure) added another $10 per flight. The flights from KL to Shenzhen were $33 each way so I dont care if I dont use them. The difficult part will be getting from there to western China. At this stage I will be looking at train for 2 days to either Urumqi or Kashgar then through the Irkeshtam pass into Kyrgystan cos the Torugart pass will still be snowed in, then on through the "stans". Next job will be to organise itinery then do logistics and apply for all the visas.
Ive got heaps of time to do this cos Im going 11th March 2010 return 1st May 2010, thats 7 1/2 weeks on the road so should give me enough time to do what I want to do.
Today I went to the Chinese Consulate in East Perth to apply for my visa. I expected to get chucked out cos I am over 3 months from my trip but I wanted to check I have everything I need to get the visa. I filled out the form and lined up, about 6th in line. The line moves pretty fast and they took my form and passport and said come back Monday for the visa.It was sooo easy, much easier than the bitch at the Indian Consul last year.
Ive been putting feelers out for a trip to Tibet while Im there. It does not look good at this stage. To go to Tibet I can not do it independantly. You have to book with a tour company cos you need TTB permit and TAR permit and these are only issued via tour companies. I have 2 problems. First I am early in the season so not many travelers around to share the cost and have been quoted $3000US to $5000US for a tour of 12 to 14 days. Second problem is the date I want to go. I should be going somewhere between the 14 and 20 March and this is the aniversary of the uprising of 2008 and they might not issue the permits again like 2009 when they closed Lhasa for a couple of weeks.
Plan A..... Lijiang...tour to Tibet...train to Xian....train to Urumqi...bus to Kashgar cross the border into Kyrgystan approx 1/4 do a lap of Kyrg then fly Bishkek to Tashkent and VOA at Tashkent airport then do a lap of Uzbekistan.
Plan B .. Lijiang...Chengdu..Xian...Golmud...Urumqi... Kashgar then as above
Plan C...China... then come down through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or something similar.
So I go to the Chinese consulate to pick up my passport and visa. You cant pay cash has to be card so I hand over my card and they take $40 then hand over passport with visa. Visa is valid for entry between 18/11/09 and 18/02/10. Great!!! I pointed out to the woman that I dont get to China til 11/03/10, which is clearly stated on the application form. They had to check the form and said to come back in Feb and they refunded my money. They wouldnt give back the form so I will have to fill out a new one but at least I got the photo back. I was hoping to get the visa early so I could start getting other things organised but this will not happen now and will be a mad panic in Feb.
I finally got my Chinese visa a couple of days ago. Cost $40. Easy to get. They did not ask about onward or return travel like most places do they just accepted what I wrote down. Now the job is to try to get TTB permits to go to Tibet. The Chinese Govt have closed Tibet for the last couple of years in March cos they had riots there before the Olympics on the aniversary of the invasion on 14/3. It does not look like I will get to Tibet but I will keep trying. I have sent email to 5 different agencies to see if anyone can get the permits for me. If not I always have Plan B and Plan C to fall back on.
I have found out that I can get Kyrgystan visa in Urumqi without LOI so that should be easy. Uzbek visa does need LOI so I applied to Advantours for visa support but they want me to book a tour or hotels through them and they are over the top expensive so I have changed to Stantours and it will cost $40us for the LOI. Both visas will cost about $100us each. Im going to the bank today to change some more money to US$ while the rate is up again. Rate is over 90c again.
Getting close now just 2 weeks till I leave. There has been some confusion with Stantours in getting my LOI but I think everything is sorted out now. Yesterday I sent the $40us for the LOI and have had confirmation they will apply for it today. It should take about 10-14 days and they will email me a telex number which I have to Quote at Tashkent airport to get visa on arrival (VOA). I might add this can only be done at Tashkent airport and is NOT possible at any of the land borders. The bank charged me $35 to send the $40 and with the exchange rate it cost me $80.56, not bad to send $40