Self Indulged Online Travel Magazine
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  • March16th

    Feng Huang

    - ARCHIVE: Extracted from Issue 4 of Self Indulged. Check out Issue 4 HERE

    When I told friends at home I would be travelling through China as a backpacker, staying in hostels and yes, carrying a backpack, the most common response was something between horror and pity.

    Backpacking? At your age? Really? Can’t you afford to stay in hotels?

    The truth is, here in China, I wouldn’t want to.

    The hostel network has grown here immensely over the past six years. I was in Beijing in 2005 in a double room with a leaky ‘s’ bend. When we complained about the fact the toilet was leaking all over the floor, the manager kindly fixed it with a plastic bag and a roll of tape….but things have changed a lot and not just in Beijing.

    I’ve now graduated to a ‘flashpacker’(a term I don’t often use but one I seem to have been labelled with) and the hostels in China (as a general rule) have grown to meet the needs of backpackers and flashpackers alike.

    The difference?

    According to the reliable backpacker’s fountain of knowledge, Wikipedia;

    “Flashpacking is a neologism used to refer to an affluent backpacker. Whereas backpacking is traditionally associated with budget travel and destinations that are relatively cheap, flashpacking has an association of more disposable income while traveling and has been defined simply as backpacking with a bigger budget.”

    Flashpackers also tend to be older (in my mid-thirties I definitely fall into that category), carry lots of electrical stuff and lots of chargers to go with that stuff. iPods, iPads, Cameras, laptops the whole kit and caboodle. I carry my camera gear and lots of chargers too. I check into a private room with an ensuite (with the added luxury of a Western toilet – there are some sacrifices I just won’t make), pay between 80 to 200 Yuan for a double room (about $10- $30 Aussie dollars, depending on the province) and spend the money I’m saving on accommodation on all the other great experiences that China has to offer.

    But it’s more than just the savings.

    It’s about meeting other travellers, swapping stories at the bar and learning the best way of getting to a destination/which train to catch/how to get a visa quickly/which restaurant has the best hotpot/how to pronounce Zhangjiajie (ok – I haven’t actually mastered that one yet), all this information is imparted freely and without the bias of a hotel concierge. What’s more, in China, there’s no guarantee that the hotel concierge even speaks English.

    So here in China, luxury may be craved – a hot bath, a roast dinner – but for the next 2 months the benefits of the hostel environment win out over the luxuries I’ve left behind everytime. Besides…the beers are cheaper in the hostels :-)

  • July21st


    Street food in Beijing: I first saw this photo effect a while ago and then more recently a series of fashion images by Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg that were really inspiring.  I’ve been dying to try the effect in some of my travel images and have been capturing them since I arrived in China…and now I’ve finally had chance to do some processing.  The term coined for these animated photos is the ‘Cinemagraph’ but I’m calling mine ‘Gifographs’ becaause it is, after all, just a humble gif. This was taken on the street outside our hostel in Beijing.  The Happy Dragon is down a side street to the North-East of Tiananmen Square, there’s no outdoor area to sit and the beers were expensive so we sat outside on the street in the warm summer air with another traveller from Canada (Hi, Flora!) and ordered cold beers and meat skewers from the guy in the photo. The beers were cold the food was good and cheap and the whole evening cost 75RMB (about  $10 ) for the 3 of us. Gotta love China!

  • June14th

    Zhangjiajie National Park_Sandra Herd

    We’re currently hauled up in China’s beautiful Hallelujah mountains – Zhangjiajie National Park.  The mountains that James Cameron based his Avatar ‘Hallelujah’ mountains on…and the references to Avatar are everywhere.  We arrived on Sunday and are staying in a small hostel right in the middle of the National Park. The entrance fee is 238RMB which, by Chinese standards is quite expensive so by staying in the park we only have to pay the one fee and can stay and take photos as long as we like. The accommodation is fairly basic and mainly full of Chinese tourists, as such the staff don’t speak any English and ordering food from the menu is like dining roulette.

    Ya makes ya choice and takes ya chances!

    There is an English translation but we’re struggling a little bit with it – when we ordered what was written as ‘fried rice’ we got egg noodles and last night we ordered the ‘regular dinner’ which was meant to be a soup dish with rice and then a vegetable and meat stir-fry. We got a soup dish with rice and an egg and tomato stir fry- it all tastes OK , I’m just a little concerned that tonight’s meal may end up being chicken feet…eeeek! Luckily we’ve managed to communicate that the beers need to be kept in the fridge.

    Anyway, we’re hauled up here today because it is wet, wet, wet outside. We had thunderstorms last night so have spent most of today snuggled up with the laptop and the very first series of Doctor Who. Sad, I know but at least we we’re warm and there’s no chance of seeing the peaks when the cloud cover is so thick and low. We’ve booked an extra night here in the hope of some sunshine tomorrow, there’s so much of the park to see and the stone pillars are just stunning, we really don’t want to miss the opportunity now that we’re here.

    The photo above is just a 5 minute walk from the hostel, I’m hoping to get out there for some sunrise shots tomorrow and am praying for the rain to stop. The trails are pretty hairy for someone like me who is terrified of heights and we are so high up…when the trails are wet it’s even worse. The Chinese tourists skip down the rocks like mountain goats, some of them in high heels (the girls, not the men!) I’m frozen to the spot with fear and they’re asking to have their photo taken with me. Renren (the Chinese equivalent of Facebook) must by now have at least 50 photos of me up – hot, sweaty and with a look of terror on my face making the peace sign for their photos…not a good look.

    I’ve zoomed in on the photo so you can see the white railings on the Natural Bridge walk trail, just to give you some idea of the size of these giant monoliths and how high up we are as we walk along the trails.  This is just a tiny section of the park and there’s no way you could see it all in just a few days.  We’re hoping to head over to those white rails tomorrow….lets hope the weather clears.



  • May29th

    Dumbling chef_Chengdu_by Sandra Herd

    Here we are finally in China, Chengdu to be precise.  After the last minute rush to pack up the house and pack up our lives we’re finally here in a cosy hostel, drinking beer for 72 cents a bottle and finding our ‘travel feet’ in a slow but steady fashion.  There has certainly been some culture shock…not so much because we’re in China but more because we’re not used to lugging our luggage around.  I’d forgotten what it was like and it came flooding back pretty quickly as we stuffed our bags into the back of the taxi from the airport and spilled out in a dishevelled mess on our midnight arrival at the hostel.

    That was over a week ago and already it feels like we’ve been away for weeks. We’ve been out to Jiuzhaigou (an eight hour bus trip North of Chengdu) and Huanglong and stayed a night in Songpan before coming back here to the hostel where we started from. We’ve taken a bicycle tour through the manic streets of Chengdu and sampled the steamed dumplings  made by the man in the image above.  Our legs hurt, our backs ache and my camera trigger finger is worn out but we are loving every minute of it…and it’s only just begun.

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