Wednesday, 10 June 2020

This Departure Lounge... My Coronavirus Travel Plan: Part 3!

Throughout this lockdown period that I have spent in England, the medium of world music has allowed me to discover new places that I will visit once things normalise. Living in China makes the vast majority of Asia, Oceania and the West Coast of the USA accessible, I want to experience some Central & South American destinations, also the Caribbean! Estoy listo ahora!

Colombia, the home of Shakira and Maluma, baby! With my U.S tourist visa good till 2029 I plan to transit in the U.S mainland before taking the medium range flight down to Cartagena, Colombia to begin my South American odyssey. Like San Juan, Puerto Rico, I want to discover 'Viejo Cartagena' to see all of the Spanish colonial buildings, I'm already in love with the fairytale like turrets and winding cobbled lanes. I will find the way to Cartagena's 'Avenida Santander' to be at one with that Caribbean Sea vista! To get my castle fix, I want to get right into the charms of the 'Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas'. After the sunset I know I'll be getting down to some 'Reggaeton' grooves at one of Cartagena's bars because those hombres Colombianos will be set in my sights! I wouldn't just be going to see the culture within the 'Centro Histórico' de Cartagena! ¡Sé lo que anhelo! ¡Se va a poner peligroso! Right now, all I can do is dream on!

After taking a short flight down to the Colombian capital of Bogota, I know that several places deserve to be discovered! At the centre of the action I cannot miss 'Bolivar Square' otherwise known as 'Plaza Mayor', make no mistakes I want to take in all of its extras such as 'Catedral Basílica Primada de Bogotá'. Getting to know some pre-Spanish era architecture and history needs to happen during my time in Bogota! Within Bogota's 'Bolivar Square' I want to pay attention to the regal looking 'Capitolio Nacional'. Taking it to the 'Barrio de la Candeleria' to catch some Colombian city realness, keeping it within 'La Candeleria' it looks like the white washed rose garden courtyard within the 'Museo Botero' looks like a sweet spot? Yes! Real talk, I hadn't thought about Colombia as a viable tourist destination, this period of lockdown due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic has given me time, time to look at different possibilities. The rich colours and history are calling me! Some coffee?

After visiting the United States of America some years after I had worked in Newark, New Jersey, I had never realised how much I had missed the Spanish language! No! Teamed with a foodie documentary that saw three chefs travel from Tijuana, it had me thinking that I need to make tracks over the U.S border in San Diego. Tijuana has had a rough ride, but after a friend from San Diego told me that an opportunity to see Tijuana was possible, the seed had been planted! Mine's a tequila! From Tijuana I aim to visit two more Mexican places, including the capital and a beach option. Keeping it central, I won't trade anything to get a view of Mexico City's 'Zocalo!' Known in Spanish as 'Plaza de la Constitución', I would kill to see the Mexican flag flying high! Capturing some Aztec ruins in the city has to be done, within the Tlatelolco taking in the 'Templo Mayor' and the 'Plaza de las Tres Culturas'. Sure Mex, 'Cuidad' foods will be enjoyed! 

Getting out of Mexico City with my best foot forward, I have my sights set to see the 'Pyramid of the Sun' to bolster my appreciation before the Spanish civilisations. For sure, sites such as the 'Floating Gardens of Xochimilco' will be seen! Yes, I mentioned about the Spanish language being a draw for me to visit Mexico but I want to enjoy and observe all sides of the vast history of this Central American country. Catching a golden tan within the resort town of 'Puerto Vallarta' will set me free, get me to the beach to see those sea views within the 'Zona Romanticá!' It won't just be the scenery I'll be eyeing up! No, me gustan los hombres Mexicanos! Before the nightlife kicks in, I definitely want to take a stroll down the 'Malecon El Puerto Vallarta' to watch the world go by. Staying within the 'Zona Romanticá, I have every faith that I'll play some tricks during my Mexican beach resort in the coming years. Oh, the 'Zona Romanticá is the LGBT heart of Puerto Vallarta! ¡Venga, M!

After working at Newark Airport from 2012 for one year, I can call Fiorella Sanchez my sister from Lima, Perú! We have been talking about going to Perú for an age, with such recent life-changing events, there's no better time to start planning that Peruano trip! Meeting for brunch before I flew onto the UK from NYC, we definitely spoke about getting to Perú, ahora mismo! With that trusty U.S visa I reckon it would be wise to transit through America once again before landing into Lima, Perú. What will there be to see in Lima? Getting those 'barrios' once again, we need to get 'Barrio Chino' seen and food consumed! To catch the evening breeze or the mid-afternoon glow, how about let's walk along Lima's 'Malecon de Mira Flores?' Another 'boardwalk?' Yes! Catching some history I'm well up for going underground within the 'Catacumbas' to see what shenanigans went down there before! I wish to see Lima's 'Huaca Pullana!'

Remembering Channel 5s 'Around The World By Train' fronted by 'Sir Tony Robinson', taking the same train from Lima to Cusco will take us ever close to the Andean wonder, 'Machu Picchu'. Satisfying those Peruano cravings I will be grabbing a bottle of Inca Kola before anything else, I miss that Peruano pop! The winding cobbled streets within Cusco's 'San Blas District' will fix those Peruano wishes! 'San Pedro Market' knows that I want to the vibrance of Perú's food culture, tasting everything in sight is what the plan will be! My intolerance for heights isn't something to joke about but I need to see 'Machu Picchu!' Even if I have to chew on a few cocoa leaves to carry me through, I long to take my own photo at this Peruano UNESCO wonder even if I have a panic attack or ten! Making tracks back to Lima before the onward flights, I can't imagine that there'll be much else to do? Honestly, what my Peruano adventure will fully entail, I'm ready for it! Perú, estoy listo para todos ustedes! ¡Si! ¡Vamos! 

Throughout this UK lockdown I cannot lie that I've found many different world music to listen to, one genre definitely makes want to take an 18 hour flight from Shanghai to Havana via Montreal! Cubaton, otherwise known as 'Cuban Reggaeton' has been playing nonstop! Cuba, ¿por qué tu música tiene que ser tan buena? ¡No lo sé! Taking in the aged Spanish-era streets with those vintage American cars in view needs to happen, I'm counting on you, Havana! Calle Obispo, will you be the street for me? I don't do tourist traps! Like a prayer I want to take it to Havana's 'Catedral de San Cristóbal' to find that higher power! I don't smoke but definitely want to try a hand rolled Cuban cigar, get me a glass of Cuban rum with some music going on! This pandemic lockdown period has got me feeling seriously grounded! I'll start my own revolution! The 'Plaza de la Revolución' will be visited to honour Che Guevara! ¡Cuba, llegaré allí! ¡Si!

¿Dónde está la playa? No Varadero o Cayo Coco, estoy hablando de 'Playa del Santa María?' After doing some late night lockdown research, the unspoiled white sandy beach known as 'Playa del Santa María' looked down to earth, no 'Sandals' or 'All-Inclusive' style hotels going on there at all! Only a short drive from Havana, I envisage breaking my up my revolutionary island trip with a few days in the city with a week at the beach. I am already wanting several freshly made rum cocktails and fried Cuban snacks on the beach! Yes, there will be more to see in the city of Havana and I wouldn't rule out any day trips to any Parques Nacionales o sitios de belleza natural, of course! The flight might be mammoth, I won't be able to transit through the United States due to reasons I won't go into, the adventure will make my Cuban trip worth it even more! I will make this third Coronavirus travel plan into a reality!¡Este virus me ha demostrado que el mundo no me esperará! ¡Lo haré realidad! ¡Si!

Colombia, México, Perú y Cuba... ¿Estás listo?

Joseph Harrison 

Thursday, 4 June 2020

2019: Tomb Sweeping, Labor Day & Dragon Boat Festival...

2020 hasn't allowed me to experience any of the long weekend breaks that I used to enjoy in China, right now those festivities aren't acknowledged in England so I'll celebrate 2019s offerings. Take me home, take me back to China! From Nanjing to Guilin with a weekend in Shijiazhuang, 2019s shorter breaks during the first half of the year gave me life for certain! Oh, life?

2019s Tomb Sweeping Festival weekend saw me take the high speed train down from Beijing to the Jiangsu provincial city of Nanjing. Meeting my fellow teaching friend, Chris. We hadn't met in person before that weekend but we sure had a fantastic weekend in the city of Nanjing! Taking it to the streets, I was being served some serious Nanjing flashbacks from my first trip to the city a few years previous to that 2019 moment. Never did I imagine that I would be locked down in England one year later in a Coronavirus mess? No way! Scanning some MoBikes allowed us to get into the thick of the holiday weekend, people were out and about just like we were! I wasn't ready to bare all, the Korean Spa experience allowed for some questionable views but I was not complaining! Cocktails and conversations, we enjoyed a few drinks on the first night, the day had us ready to sleep! I felt blessed to be back in NJ! 

Refreshed from our slumber, we boarded a public bus towards Yuejiang Tower to see Nanjing from a higher point. Braving the heights we made it to the top of the tower to see views over the city's sprawling skyline that looked mighty fine, we'd be seeing more views later on that day! Chatting to the max, it was amazing to finally meet Chris after we had spoken for such a long time before that April weekend. We really needed to be thinking about food because those breakfast oats seemed like a while away, making it to the Zifeng Tower complex to try some local cuisine. Being a holiday weekend the waiting time was no joke, using our time wisely we took our seats at the Sky Bar within the InterContinental Nanjing. Pouring it up, the bubbles were amazing! Toasting to a weekend in Beijing before the year was up! Yes! McDonald's saved us! Star Club had us getting mad with it! Making those notes saved from North Korea rain, the dancers loved me with those constant tips! Get it, Nanjing! 

Labor Day 2019 had been extended to five days from the usual three, with that said I thought I would plan a little trip away to Shijiazhuang City within China's Hebei province. Located less than 90 minutes on the high speed train system from Beijing secured a short turnaround because the autumn and winter would bring me some expensive long haul holidays, I had to be cost conscious. During the actual holiday week I fell terribly sick, with an unexplainable illness I found myself bed bound. Thankfully I was able to cancel my trip for that Labor Day 2019 week long holiday. Returning to good health I found myself in Shijiazhuang City for real, I rebooked and got with the programme! Calling my friend, Fiona to help me book a car from my hotel to a very intriguing location. After a problem free journey out of the city, I found the former site of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Xibapo. It was something! 

If Disney Parks did communism that would have been that place deep within Shijiazhuang's Pingshan County. I saw Mao Zedong's former residence and was welcomed to a right royal fanfare, some celebration called for the brass to be played loudly! I was questioned by a young Chinese journalist, I had to voice my support to my LGBT Chinese brothers and sisters! Getting back to the city I enjoyed the rest of the day near to my hotel, getting some wine and snacks because 2019s Eurovision's Grand Final in Tel Aviv still went ahead. On the Sunday I checked Chang'an Park, being the only foreigner in that part of the park caused a frenzy in a really nice way! My Chinese language skills were called upon and then some, people were gracious and intrigued so that was all good! The Hebei Provincial Museum got me out of the humidity, the exhibits were interesting. Before returning to the train station I checked out the Rong Guo Fu Mansion, it was quiet and perfectly formed. 

2016 saw me visit China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to see Guilin's Huangluo Yao long haired ladies and the breathtaking Longsheng rice terraces. During 2019s Dragon Boat Festival I had booked another tour with China Highlights to see the scenic wonders along the Li & Yulong Rivers. Being back in Guilin City had me feeling all kind of nostalgia, I knew where I was going and that counted for something! Meeting Fiona, my travel co-ordinator and friend from China Highlights for dinner was lovely. Enjoying a few local beers that night was just the ticket as the rain poured on down! 2020, this mess is supposed to be a sick joke? Get out! Driving out of the scenic city into the Yangshuo area of the vast Guilin region served me some seriously lush surroundings. Climbing some steep steps gave me the fear, the views were well worth it at the top of the Xianggong Hill. I was pumped to see more ace sights! 

Biking along the Yulong River gave me effortless views of the green karst shaped peaks, those up close and personal beauty spots had me feeling like I was in some kind of Chinese paradise! As the day afternoon heated up some more it was time to visit the ancient Fuli Village, I was schooled how to make a Chinese paper fan by some seriously talented craftsmen and women, they knew their art very well! I bought a gorgeous cherry blossom fan, I gave it to my friends daughter as a present because she loved the pink flowers. The rain had fallen the previous day along the Li River, arriving at the nearby Xingping Village, the boat ride wasn't going to happen but the view that resembles the 20 RMB note had me transfixed. The crowds were getting maddening, I needed some rest! Spending the night within the tourist streets close to Yangshuo's West Street had me chilled out. I had no budget, I didn't get crazy! Boarding my Beijing bound flight at the right time, I dodged the rainstorm!

2020, Don't Even Try Me! 

Joseph Harrison 

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

This Departure Lounge... My Coronavirus Travel Plan: Part 2!

Right now the world is currently in a COVID-19 mess, I need to look forward to life after this awful time has passed. Back with another instalment, I will continue detailing my Coronavirus travel plan, serving new places for the win! Returning to the USA needs to happen with currently nine years left on my ten year visa, Chicago! Russia knows that I'm ready for its Siberian train! 

Keeping it real, I cannot stress how lovely my comeback trip to the USA was in December 2019. After my North Korean trip I had to apply for a tourist visa, new regulations meant that I was no longer eligible for the ESTA program! Secured and safe, I was stamped into Newark, USA where I spent seven days in the tri-state area rediscovering my placement year haunts. Yes, Philly! Fast forward to present day, the USA is currently experiencing the harshest figures within the country in some serious times! Things were so smooth for a reason, nothing lasts forever! Anyway, when this stinking storm has past I pledge an allegiance to revisit the USA! Taking in the 'Windy City' I want to get all up into Chicago! Intrigued by its hardened past and south-side realness, I will most definitely be taking in Boys Town and the Downtown! Staying close, I want to embrace the 'Motor City! We've got 'one shot' at life! Detroit! 

'Rollin' On The River' there's no doubt in my mind that I'll see myself exploring New Orleans once again! Paying attention to the voodoo and cemeteries that featured in Disney's Princess and the Frog, I needed more time in 2012 but the rain poured and then some! Taking in a dark place, I'm very intrigued to visit one of the nearby former plantations to take time to pay attention to what happened during slavery, also to see the grandeur and to pay my respects to the toil. Going further north along the Mississippi River to Memphis, make no mistake, I'll be taking a stroll down Beale Street but that'll only be after my visit to Graceland! Walkin' in Memphis! Who will I be meeting in St. Louis, Miss Judy? Taking in that Missouri city will have to do before making it up to Minneapolis before flying back to China! I'll do my best to get down to Atlanta and Miami, that's what will keep me busy whilst I have this US tourist visa. West Coast, I will find you! Serving all kinds of crazy I'll get up to SF! 

The category will be Thailand! I have spent two Christmases back to back in the UK, once its safe to travel I will make sure my holiday is spent in the land of Siam. My parents went recently, they won't let it go that I haven't been, that will change! Flying into Bangkok with Thai Airways I plan to seek adventure during the day at the temples and gardens, taking it to the water to experience the floating markets. Once the night has come I will be out and about, getting up to all of my usual antics. It's no secret that Thailand has a relaxed view towards the LGBT community with its Buddhist principles teaching parents to love their LGBT because it's the right thing to do! Yes, those cabaret shows will be frequented and drinks will be consumed! The street food! Yes, I am looking forward to trying all of those street-side snacks! Within close proximity from the Chinese Mainland, it is the same time as flying from England to Turkey!

Taking it to the beach I would love to visit Krabi, taking in the old town will be one thing to execute! Getting by beach isn't something that I usually do but with such stunningly perfect views I want to visit Railay Beach! Not going to lie, the views look immense! Living my Bond Girl fantasy I want to enjoy that beach quick-time! Flying up north to Chiang Mai needs to happen, at the moment it's in the earliest stages of planning but I sense something will amaze me there! Getting a photo with the ladies who are from the Karen Long Neck Tribe will need to be done in Chiang Mai! The elephants better be treated right, I would love to see some! Thailand will be stunning, I need to keep calm and carry on before Thai Airways gets me over to the land of Siam! Phuket might be on the cards, even if I don't get there I am sure that I'll have a wholesome experience. Right now, the views are not heavenly but with a lot of faith and perseverance I know that life will bounce back! Oh, yes Thailand!

Staying at home I was introduced to Channel 5s 'Around The World By Train' fronted by 'Sir Tony Robinson'. During the fifth episode of the second series, Robinson took the Trans Siberian Express from Vladivostok, Russia westbound to Moscow, Russia. Being away from China, my visits to the far northeast corner of the country reminded me of the scenes shown in Vladivostok. I live for its San Francisco qualities, once I can fly I will be free to visit Russia and beyond! Leaving Vladivostok, Robinson headed westbound towards Khabarovsk to find that the city limits used to belong to China, some shady business dealt! From that station he spent two days on the train, the dining car looked very opulent with a very tasty looking menu being offered! For me, vodka would be the only drink consumed, I'd be toasting to Mother Rossiya as the train made its way into Europe's slice of Siberia! Get me on that train, get me a vodka! The Russian standard!

Getting off the train as Robinson did, I ultimately plan to visit Yekaterinburg to see 'The Church on the Blood'. Regardless of the past, the godlike image of the former Russian Royal Family looked like some kind of masterpiece. I want to catch a glimpse of Princess Anastasia's image! Moving ever closer to the nations capital, I would find the best parts of the train to enjoy the views. From my China trains, I have every faith that the journey will be smooth but for sure, one heck of an experience! Pulling into Moscow, I want to see Red Square with all of its sights and then a seat at the Bolshoi! Choosing the summer holiday I'll hopefully be afforded, I would love to take the high speed train up to St. Petersburg before jetting back to China for work! Those palatial wonders look amazing and the visa for Russia can be so tricky to secure I want to make sure I cover everything within one defiant swoop! The runway for now is me walking to the kitchen, I'll get my ass to Россия! Yes R!

I can't even go dancing, but getting on a plane to Australia will happen! When the world is ready I will be good to go down under once again! I had the immense opportunity to visit Sydney, Australia some years ago. My auntie, Denise was living there during her 'Working Holiday Visa' year, my paternal grandparents took us around the world to see her in Australia! Being 10 hours away from Australia once I'm back in China it would be an absolute travesty for me to miss out on Straylia! I plan on jetting into Darwin via Sydney with Qantas, spending a day or two where those unwelcome British vessels arrived. Boarding the Ghan train at whatever cost, this dark time during 2020 means all the stops needs to be put out! Taking in all the necessary Northern Territory sights, I want to use the Ghan train as my 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' to make it! After Corona's 2020 I will sure need the wisdom of Australia's Uluru! Hey, Ozzz!

Learning more about Indigenous Australia will be absolutely invaluable! The Ghan will take me down to the city of Adelaide, that's where I hope to spend a day in the city. Flying high I would live to experience a few days in the Australian city of Melbourne, to experience that Manchester looking place down under, the former British colonial city will give me life for sure! After that I plan to escape to Manly near Sydney for a day or two! Sydney as an adult will be nothing like the first time once the sun goes down! Darlinghurst, let's go out? Yes! Brisbane, maybe? I might indulge some of that 'surfers paradise' life for a few days. The red centre is more important to me! Miss Rona, get out of my way! I have nothing more to say, 2020 cannot go to waste! Rona, don't make a scene, don't worry because without any hesitation I'll be handy! With 2020s thinking space and character building moments, I know that my travel plan will be everything in real life motion. World, I need you! I miss you!

Live My Life?

Joseph Harrison 

Monday, 1 June 2020

2020: Coronavirus Has Changed My World: Part 2!

Real talk, Miss Rona has taken my last piece of sanity! Here in June 2020, I have been home in England since early February due to the world pandemic altering my plans and then some! Straight up, I am done with 2020! As lockdowns ease and we find our temporary 'new normal', I want to look at how the world around me has coped. UK has been soft! 英国, 你疯了吗? 我的天! 

As the UK locked down it was astonishing to see how the public went into meltdown, how would we survive without McDonalds and KFC? I experienced seven weeks during early 2020 in lockdown in Beijing, China to find that the already strong mobile payment and food delivery industry was ready to brave a pandemic situation! No benefits system would fill the pockets of local Chinese people who had lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus lockdowns, across the country those unemployed citizens took up food delivery jobs without hesitation! During my Beijing transitional period I wasn't hungry, paying through WeChatPay I was fine to order my daily meals to my hotel room on my mobile phone app without needing to use any cash! With the exception of Hubei McDonalds locations, food delivery workers picked up thousands of orders without any closures needed at all! China took the wheel! Come on through 外卖!

Restaurants closed their doors to dine in customers, bolstered by an established e-commerce industry, those whose didn't want to cook throughout the Chinese lockdown were able to get their delivery meal fix. In the UK, we neither have mobile payment systems like AliPay or WeChatPay, turning to contactless payment has forced people to become entirely cashless in a society that still sees people not cave into the modern ways of paying for things. Will ApplePay become the next big thing? Back to those delivery companies in the United Kingdom, would it have taken to get furloughed staff into food delivery posts to assist restaurants and fast food outlets who were open for delivery? Instead of allowing people to stay at home in that respect, those furloughed individuals could have helped in the community to distribute medication and food shopping to shielded people like those delivery workers did in China? The lockdown effort in China was strong, but businesses continued! 

As I made my best efforts to forge on with my professional transition from Beijing to my new city, my lockdown friend, Cyndi had chosen to fly back to the United States of America to fix her head. Little did I know I would be following in her footsteps, back in our home country's we weren't ready for one nation to throw their toys out of their adult sized prams! The UK remained calm for the first few weeks of the lockdown, key workers made their way to work without hassle but on the other side of the pond a certain few citizens were feeling some kind of way, triggered maybe? Yes! As those 'stars and stripes' became visible on the news bulletins, me and Cyndi corresponding in shear disbelief as people demanded their country would be reopened because individuals wanted their prom or a haircut but their health wasn't any concern of theirs! Yes, Miss Rona would snatch lives, she knew who to attack! UK, stay at home! 

As I poured another 'quarantini' during the height of the UK lockdown, it was utterly earth-shattering to see countless UK citizens flout the rules of the Coronavirus 'stay at home' order. The message had been given to us by Boris Johnson one way or another, with one hour of exercise people started to take those civil liberties a little too far! Coronavirus was ought to get those who lounged around in parks, we had been given the opportunity to have a walk not have a stupid picnic, choices! Wales told us to 'sling our hook' otherwise in 'Nessa style' we'd have our faces broken! Go to the beach or stay at home? Most of the UK public knew how to abide by the rules but some really made a mockery of those 'social distancing' rules! If that was supposed to be a sign of democracy, I was witnessing a mockery! Black lives do matter, what carnage would break out at the end of May into early June turned the western world upside down! The world already has issues, Miss Rona don't stir the pot! 

With people locked down within their four walls, mother nature got to work and she went in hard! Venice cleaned up its canals, apparently dolphins returned for a little swim? Air travel was not on the agenda, the ozone layer went to work to patch itself back up! In Llandudno, Wales, the streets had been invaded by goats as they commandeered those streets back! The lions in South Africa knew it was safe as they slumbered in the middle of the roads. Bison ran wild once again in Poland, the world rejoiced in some mad way whilst Miss Rona massacred populations on a worldwide level! Getting back into the world remains my main priority, locked down at home in England had me reevaluating what I truly wanted out of life, it wasn't just the animals who were taking their territory back! People needed to stay home, allowing nature to take back what was rightfully theirs! Mother Nature has taken her world back! 

Will I get back to my life in China? Will things be like they were before? It's been like a mouthful of sour candy, 2020 is driving me super psycho during this lockdown period. Feeling completely grounded it was like a miracle when Wuhan's initial 76 day period of lockdown was lifted! It won't be instant but I'm plotting my comeback to the Mainland of China! Miss Rona, ain't nobody going to stop me from making those 'Before Corona' moves! 2019s successes had me blinded, 2020 gave me a false start with a thud that found myself touching down at Manchester Airport during February of that year! This is why I don't have time for these fools who disregard 'social distancing' in all outside settings because I actually have an international existence that I have a duty to pick up! Like the bisons and goats running free, I'm ready to take back what is mine and fly high once again! Miss Rona, I give you full permission to strike down those trifling ass individuals who aren't listening to those rules! Go!

The worlds aviation industry had been shot from the sky, masses of passenger aircrafts were being repurposed for cargo flights from their respected country's to China for PPE missions. Cabin crew donned their masks, boarding repatriation flights to bring back citizens who had been displaced whilst on their holidays as Miss Rona struck her deadly virus! National airlines took to the skies to bring back large quantities of 'Personal Protective Equipment' from China to the four corners of the globe, with the pandemic as the priority things have had to change a lot! People moaning that they had missed out on their holidays, 2021 would give them their chances to rescheduled Rona ruined plans! Airlines remain at the brink of collapse, surely people's jobs are more important than a one weeks package holiday to Greece for a summer week in 2020? I'm making my Coronavirus travel plan, this departure lounge of dreams! 

Coronavirus has changed my world, its locked me down and ripped me away from a lifestyle that I quite frankly took for granted! Yes, the lockdown in the United Kingdom has been soft, people continue to not listen to quarantine and 'social distancing' rules. I didn't want to come home, I didn't want a world pandemic to break out, all I can do is make those tracks back to China to rebuild my working life once again! The world has changed, masks will need to be worn at the disgust of some but if that gets those embassies and visa centres reopened I will sashay away in the middle of the night. Creating my plan, I have been afforded perspective during this world pandemic moment. From an e-commerce point, the UK needs to fix up and diversify for its life! I'm done with this Corona chat, I want to get back to my Asian life! 2020 continues to be one almighty lesson, allowing me to appreciate the blessed life in China. Miss Rona, get your coat because its curtains for you, B!

Trifling Ass Miss Rona! 

Joseph Harrison 

This Departure Lounge... My Coronavirus Travel Plan: Part 1!

If life resembled a departure lounge things would be pretty shambolic, with cancellations and mounting chaotic situations. With doubt growing due to the worldwide COVID-19 lockdown that has altered our lives! 2020 needs a slap in the face, the only thing that keeps has been the thought of future travel plans that will be in the near future! Corona, I need my life back!

2018s Chinese New Year saw me wading through some hectic sights in China's Xiamen City, taking things into another stratosphere for 2019 I went over to the Korean Peninsula to some select North Korean cities. Somewhere in the pipeline a proposed CNY 2020 trip was in the works to the Philippines with my friend Chanel. I had already had my marching orders to visit the former Spanish archipelago country, those Filipino-American friends had captured my heart and soul with their warm smiles and kind hearts, I had no choice but to have more fun in the Philippines. Life happened, I secured a new job in a different city and Chanel had her own enterprises that continue to flourish, a red light flashed! Aside from life, the more that I looked into the Filipino delights that awaited me in Manila and beyond amazed me! Fate was pushing me into another direction, after NYE 2020 I would be saying 'Salamat!' Pero, no! I cannot!

Through my pre-Philippines exploration I will seek adventure around Rizal Park along the Manila Bay, on my way I will get lost within the ruins of Intramuros, taking a Jeepney ride because I just want to! I already know what I want, yes those drop dead gorgeous Filipino men will be on my radar, I know I'll be under one serious spell! Taking the bus down to Batangas County within the wider Manila area, I will find the colonial town of Taal. I will do my best to find the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours, known as the largest church both in the Philippines and in Asia! Taking a flight over to Puerta Princesa for some city views and sights away from Manila, I know something beautiful and real will find me. Through the correct means I plan to take transport up to El Nido, island-hopping as if my life depended upon it, I know those paradise like views will make everything seem like a bad dream. One truth is that the world is a dark place right now, I want to look forwards! Pipili ako ng Pilipinas!

Back in Beijing, China during my extended hotel residency, I watched as the world started to change, I still had travel on the brain if nothing else I held that close to my heart. I challenged myself, looking out of the box for my travel choices I looked towards the African continent. Being an aviation geek I had become familiar with Ethiopian Airlines large expansion into Mainland China, with many African colleagues I had heard nothing but rave reviews. Seeking something different for 2020/2021, Ethiopia looked like a royal choice. Teaming with Amarhic tones and religious wonders, I looked towards Addis Abada to start my Ethiopian trip. With a supercool monastery in Lalibela, I will see where the Coptic Christian's make their prayers. The coffee culture in Ethiopia had me paying attention during that pre-lockdown time, I had to keep the faith because the world would be ready. I will see Africa when the time's right!

Learning about a former Italian colony close to the 'Horn of Africa' I just had to know more! I had vaguely heard of Eritrea before I quit the United Kingdom, that Eritrean reference was due to the burgeoning community that was building in England. Being within a short flight from Addis Ababa, I looked into the possibility of taking a flight to the Eritrean capital, Asmara. With itineraries readily available from Young Pioneer Tours, the North Korean style African country could become a reality, certain visas had to be sourced. Taking in the capital Asmara, that tour also made short stops in Keren and Massawa. Something Ottoman Empire would be waiting for me! I definitely look forward to soaking in the former Italian culture, to see the former European style buildings because I'm a sucker for anything colonial. From the confides of my then China hotel room, I had big plans for the future even though the world was changing fast! Africa looked amazing! Ethiopian will help me!

After my Spanish weekend to Benidorm, Alicante and Altea was cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19 I looked towards revisiting something Portuguese after my comeback trip to Newark's Ironbound District. Putting things into perspective I looked towards flying into Lisbon with the intent to see where the Ferry Street nature all started. During my early lockdown research period I found out about the rail network from Lisbon to neighbouring towns. With easy access I plan to split my time outside of Lisbon to visit Sintra, Cascais and Setúbal. I once shared a flat with a lovely Portuguese girl called 'Filipa' who hailed from Cascais, she told me a lot about her beautiful fishing beach town. I can trust my Portuguese friend from Lisbon to see what's worth seeing, Inês could you help me out? Spain needs to happen, I'll make it happen! Finding myself back in Europe during 2020 wasn't part of the initial plan. It'll work out!

Through my extra time back home I delved further as to how I could get from Lisbon to Madrid, during my previous Spanish trips I had never chosen to visit the capital but with the mounting exposure coming from the Spanish capital before its lockdown gave me some ideas. By plane or train I will be able to make it from Lisbon to Madrid! To recreate my cancelled Spanish weekend, after Madrid I plan to visit Alicante, Altea and Benidorm for a raucous and culture filled few days. With a lengthy summer holiday on the cards I definitely want to recreate my cancelled Jet2 flight I plan to fly from Alicante to Birmingham to try again, my weekend to Sheffield had to be abandoned due to the impending UK lockdown in March 2020, that I will go back and do! Getting to the Kelham Island Museum was what I wanted to do, I'll make that happen and I'll have my Yorkshire cream tea for sure! I will snatch views of the rolling fields and find some redbrick Sheffield terrace houses. Yes!

Into the early stages of the UK lockdown I revisited one of the countries that has caught my attention. Kazakhstan had me transfixed by its post Soviet charms, governed by a leader who changed the name of the second city to his surname, that had me sold! Astana and Nur Sultan had me sold, it was something different! Teamed with places in-between Astana and Nur Sultan showed me Lake Balkhash, of course I found a worthy itinerary with a reputable tour agency. Knowing full well that my extended involuntary stay in England wouldn't have a clear end date, I kept my post-Coronavirus plan close with every intent to bounce back into the world whenever soonest! I definitely think that being grounded within the lockdown in the UK has been a sobering experience, I keep hold that I have these plans that I will slay. Kazakhstan attracted me so, I had met some Kazakh people when I went to China's Xinjiang region. Yes!

Captured above is the ancient Uzbek settlement of Bukhara, through my research surrounding the Kazakh tour I saw a place called Turkestan that intrigued me so. Looking closer I saw that over the borderline from Kazakhstan, Bukhara in Uzbekistan oozed much more Silk Road Arabian realness! Through my time listening to world music on YouTube, I found a music video by Hulkar Abdullaeva called 'Khiva'. Hulkar's 'Khiva' music video took me on a tour through ancient Bukhara, more so her music of a 'Turkic' nature has reminded me of my time spent in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region! I need those minarets and opulent domes back in my life, an eastern promise will do me the world of good! Along with Bukhara, the tour would also take me to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital would show me something more and act as a larger hub to fly back to China from. No world pandemic could put out my fire, travel will set me free! Miss Rona, I have places to discover, it's time for you to sashay away!

No Mistakes!

Joseph Harrison