I spent some of today along Kent Street, browsing the outdoor adventure shops for sale deals on various items for our upcoming trip to China and Japan. Kathmandu was pretty cheap with up to 50% off the normal price.
- Travel towels – for those situations where our hotel or train doesn't have towels. These pack small and should dry quickly.
- Silk inner sheets – For when we don't trust the hotel or train bedding to be clean. The silk sheets pack much smaller than the cheaper cotton versions.
- Pac-safe small shoulder/hip bag – for securely carrying cameras etc when the daypack must be left behind (eg museums). We found a small (but not particularly secure) shoulder bag very useful during our second trip to Europe.
- Small fold-up speakers – useful for hooking up to the laptop/PDA/mp3 player when I want to share the sound.
Entertainment on the go
While overseas we try to immerse ourselves in the local culture and treat English as the foreign language. Usually CNN/BBC World News is our only English entertainment and it's very limited and repetitive. I especially loathe CNN as being terribly uninformative. How so little news can be packed into a week is beyond my imagination. However, during our last trip to Europe on of the TV stations was showing the American movie Tremors in English. It's a deliberately B-grade horror movie, but it was nice to switch off from foreign languages for a little while and listen to English. Brain rest.
I'm thinking of storing some copies of TV episodes I have on DVD on my Zaurus or Notebook PC (not certain if I will take it) for some ENglish entertainment while in Chinese hotels or trains. Just for a break from a language which I find pretty unpleasant to listen to (Mandarin is common in Sydney). So far I haven't had much success with the Zaurus C3100's included movie player. It plays mpeg-1 format movies of 20+ fps jerkily, even at 320×240 resolution. My video software doesn't permit me to try 15 fps and I haven't downloaded any alternatives. WMV formatted movies are apparently played, but without sight or sound! I will try installing Mplayer as I believe that others have had a lot of success with it. Anyway, that's what the portable speakers are for – earphones restrict the entertainment to a single person at a time.
I'm also looking to buy some lightweight clothes – the Columbia convertible shorts/trousers look good. As our holidays have extended in length we have faced the problem of finding clean clothes for the day. The idea is to carry as little as possible – a month's worth of clothing for two is just impossible – and wash as you go. Laundromat dryers really chew up both coins and time, but clothes hung in hotel rooms just don't want to dry. It's especially bad if your stay in the room is short. Jeans are both heavy and bulky to pack and take forever to dry, as do socks, so lightweight and quick drying alternatives could be very attractive. Fortunately, I don't feel the cold so I can sacrifice some warmth for weight, while B does feel the cold, but her clothes are small and she doesn't perspire much.
The water supply in China is pretty dodgy and trains usually don't have bathing facilities, so I intend to purchase some cleaning wipes. Good for washing hands before eating and after bathroom stops. I saw that Kathmandu sold the wipes (which is where I got the idea) but I'm sure the supermarket with have them cheaper.
I'm doing a lot more research for this trip than ever before. Previously I mostly relied upon guidebooks (usually the Lonely Planet) plus a few Googled web sites. In the case of Europe that has usually been enough, because I have grown up with references to European history and culture. English signage is also pretty good and even local signs can often be guessed at. Japan also presented few problems for me and I have held a long interest in the country and language.
Chinese history is so long and the country so large that I think our holiday there will be much enhanced by a better understanding of the history and culture. I have been reading travellers' tales of the country and watching television documentaries on the history. It's also about searching for clues as to how to make our trip smoother in a country where Western holiday expectations are not always catered for. Finally, I enjoy reading this kind of stuff anyway!