Days 24 to 27 / Date: 09.11.2015 – 12.11.2015
Day 24 - After much planning the previous day I decided I will fly straight to China. This will cut out a lot of the cold, wet countries in Europe as I head for the sun and warmth of Asia. Today I went to the Chinese Embassy, after navigating the Austrian underground, and with a slightly anxious feeling I went inside the embassy without any idea of what to expect. It looked like a medical waiting room, with people sat around waiting to be called to the counter. I looked at the many application forms and asked to have one in English. The form asked for proof of an onward flight and accommodation through the country as well as the usual country and address details. An hour and a half later I walked up to the large Perspex screen and waited patiently for the lady to acknowledge me. I glanced at her, her at me and after she read through the form she said, “your onward flight is not from China”. I replied with “the form requires proof of onward travel not necessarily out of China.’’ Her response was “only if you work in Austria can you get a visa for China, You must go back to the UK and apply from there”. I argued that you must have tourists that go through Austria and travel to China but she wasn’t having any of it. I tried to calm myself and politely say thank you as I walked off defeated and frustrated. With the morning wasted I tried to enjoy the rest of the day and figure out a new plan.
Day 25 –Today I went in search of a bicycle box, which would allow me to take a bicycle onto a plane. Last night I worked out a new plan and booked a flight to take me straight to Vietnam, missing China completely. Vietnam allows you to get a visa on arrival for 14 days. I saw a bicycle rental shop, very small but busy, and asked if they had any boxes or could point me towards somewhere that did. I was directed towards the main street just a few blocks up, where apparently there were a selection of modern and old bike shops. I found one shop and bought a massive cardboard box which could fit a small family inside. I later found another shop and was able to buy a more manageable sized box, which I wouldn’t have to cut down. My Dad and I took the two boxes to the hotel and, with help from my mum, started to dismantle the bike outside the hotel. I got a bit stressed while doing so, but by 4pm the bike was all packaged up in the boxes and ready. We then decided that we’d leave the bike in the luggage room and go out and explore more of the city.
Day 26 - I spent the day on the hop on and hop off bus enjoying time with my family, looking around at the various sights in the city. In the back of my mind however I couldn’t stop thinking about the flight and bicycle. The day was very enjoyable and I thought about the great help my parents had been getting me sorted with the next phase of my trip. I couldn’t thank them enough. We ended the day with the 3 of us getting a Bratwurst and a beer at a small little food stall at Vienna’s fairground, the Wiener Prater.
Day 27 - Breakfast was the usual affair of cooked breakfasts, cereals and coffee. They had been delicious each morning and always kept you going until about 2pm. I would miss them when I leave the hotel! After finishing up my food I went upstairs and fetched all 6 of my bike bags and loaded 5 of them into the bike box and selected the largest for a carry on. I waited with mum and dad in the foyer for the taxi which would take me to the airport. It arrived at 11am and I said an emotional goodbye to my parents. I told them to enjoy their day, as they were due to fly out later the afternoon. The taxi was a quiet and comfortable ride and I stared out the window appreciating how nice it was not to be riding my bike. We pulled up and, after selecting a trolley, I hauled my bike onto it and walked into the terminal. I was 3 hours early so I pulled out my kindle and killed time. The check-in desk opened promptly 3 hours before the flight and navigating the large box around the narrow barriers to the desk was quite a task. I managed to sluggishly pull up to the desk only to be told to go to the ticket office to have a credit card check, which quickly wiped the smile off my face. The check was quick and I was permitted to go straight to the business class desk as I’d already spent time queued up before. I put the bike on the scales with crossed fingers. The expression on the ticket operator did not fill me with confidence and she opened her mouth to say, “your box is 34 kilograms, it’s too heavy” I felt like I’d just lost a limb! I asked if I could pay for the extra weight, only to find out that you can’t pay for the extra weight because it’s down to what the luggage handlers can lift. I had to take 2 bags out and check them in separately. The ticket lady then looked to her senior member of staff who gave her the ok and she let me on, and quickly I felt the blood rushing back to my face.
It has now been 27 days since I left England, biking through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria in that time. Next stop, Vietnam!
So.....I've arrived in Vietnam! Anyone who is following my journey might have noticed I am no longer in Europe. No, I am not that fast at cycling! Instead I have cut out a section of my trip and flown straight to Asia.
There were a number of reasons. Firstly, I have to admit I was struggling to enjoy cycling in Europe. I thought I would be ok with winter cycling but the truth was, even though I coped with overcast days and cold mornings, because everything was closed and out of season I wasn't meeting many people and with the recent loss of my grandfather it was getting me down. Secondly, the weather in some of the countries I was due to bike through was going to be very cold! As low as -25 °C, which I thought wasn't very safe!
The final reason was due to trouble obtaining visas for some of the countries I was planned on cycling through, such as China. I had planned to cycle through Vietnam eventually so I've just arrived earlier than expected. Vietnam is a great country for cyclists, and I am so glad I made this choice. The weather is beautiful, the people and culture are interesting and I am finally enjoying my biking again. If you ever get a chance to visit here I highly recommend it!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for future updates!