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July 23-24: Departure

Because I need to fly to the west, in order to avoid getting up early on the day of flight, causing difficulty to adapt to the time difference, I went to a hostel in Guangzhou one night before, and I tried to delay sleeping and getting up so that when I reach the destination I could directly match the local timetable.

I departed on the evening of July 23, entered mainland China from Hong Kong via Huanggang Port, and then took the Shenzhen Metro to Shenzhen East Station.

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Then took the conventional speed train to Guangzhou and ordered a bowl of noodles at the restaurant of the train station.
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After a night at the hostel in downtown Guangzhou, I went to the airport to take the aeroplane. The new terminal building of Guangzhou Airport No. 2 has just been opened, and its design is almost the same as that of Hong Kong Airport.

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The plane I took was Aeroflot Russian Airlines SU221. It was scheduled to take off at 11:10 and arrive at SVO at 16:20. However, because of the thunderstorm in Guangzhou that day, the airport runway was congested. The final flight was delayed for 40 minutes, arriving at 17:00. I had to transfer to the SU1006 flight that took off at 18:30. The minimum transit time at SVO from terminal F international flight to the terminal D domestic flight was 90 minutes, making the time very urgent. From international to domestic, luggage could not be sent directly to the destination, need to be taken out and re-shipped in SVO. I needed to enter the Russian territory at SVO. I showed the boarding pass to the airline staff to ask to jump the queue. After I retrieved the baggage, I immediately ran from terminal F to the domestic part at the end of terminal D and re-checked the baggage. When I reached the gate, the flight had started to board.

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This domestic line aircraft needed to fly over the foreign Lithuanian airspace. The following is a photo of the Lithuanian and Russian border river.
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The Curonian Spit could be seen before the plane landed.
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Kaliningrad is a dual-use airport for military and civilian use, and many small aircraft were parked.
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The airport had recently expanded in response to the World Cup, the banner of the World Cup was immediately seen after getting off the place.
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The thing not lacking in the airport is the ATMs, which are available for all banks.
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I took the 244э bus to the city centre, and immediately saw a mobile phone shop advertisement with a big communist sign.
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Arrived at the city centre, I saw that the area was quite westernized.
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Overview

My route for this trip is as follows:
Hong Kong → Shenzhen → Guangzhou → Kaliningrad → Yantarny → Svetlogorsk → Zelenogradsk → Rybachy → Morskoye → Nida → Juodkrantė → Klaipeda (3 round-trips to Smiltynė) → Riga → Daugavpils (1 round-trip to Riga – Sigulda) → Riga (1 round-trip to Mazie Kangari, 1 round-trip to Šiauliai, 1 round-trip to Sigulda – Turaida, 1 round-trip to Jūrmala) → Guangzhou → Hong Kong

A total of 22 days, 11 orienteering competitions, 9 beaches, 7 Soviet history museums.

Foreword

After I went to Lithuania to participate in the World Trail Orienteering Championship last year, I did not intend to go again this year because this year’s competition was held in Latvia, and my performance last year was not good. It was estimated that there would not be too much improvement in Latvia with similar terrain.

But just at the end of last year, when the International Orienteering Federation announced this year’s annual calendar, I changed my mind:

Two days before the World Championships in Latvia this year, there was a world ranking event Falco Cup in Klaipėda, Lithuania! This was an adaptation and practice opportunity before the World Championships! World Ranking score would also be counted! This might improve my performance at the World Championships in Latvia. After careful study, the nearest airport with a regular route is a small airport Palanga Airport (PLQ), but there is no reasonable flight with a single transfer from Hong Kong. The second nearest airport is Kaliningrad (Калининград) Khrabrovo Airport (KGD). From Hong Kong, you can take Aeroflot Russian Airlines and transfer at Moscow. Russian airline tickets are famously cheap, tickets to the same destinations are generally about 10% lower than other companies in off-season, and more than 20% in the peak season.

Kaliningrad is the second place on my travel list (the first is Kinmen, the frontier of the Chinese Civil War), because it is an important military port of Russia, with a warship and submarine museum, and a Russian exclave, surrounded by NATO and is a magical place in geography. In addition, Kaliningrad was the place where Russia occupied only after the Second World War. It had been Königsberg, the capital of East Prussian (Ostpreußen) since ancient times. It was bombarded by the Soviet Union communists during the Second World War and completely destroyed. The residents fled to the German mainland. After the fall, the genocide was carried out. The remaining residents were thoroughly cleaned and the Russians were colonized to rebuild the city. All the original German names were changed to Russian names. Since Kaliningrad was the most important non-freezing port of the Soviet Union in the Baltic Sea, it has great military value. Before the collapse of the Communist Party, it was a closed city, and outsiders were not allowed to enter. In addition, going from Kaliningrad to Klaipėda will pass the Curonian Spit National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with special landscape and ecological value, and its sand dunes are a famous attraction in Lithuania. In view of this, I decided to participate in the selection of the Hong Kong team this year. If I was selected, I would travel to Kaliningrad, go through the whole Curonian Spit, participate in the Falco Cup world ranking event after arriving at Klaipeda, then head to Daugavpils to participate in the World Championships.

I originally purchased an Aeroflot Russian Airline ticket departing from Hong Kong and returning to Hong Kong in May at a cost of about HK$9000. Since the result of the selection had not been announced, I purchased a refundable ticket and, if the selection failed, would refund the ticket and cancel the itinerary. After the successful selection, I re-searched the ticket and found that the ticket from Guangzhou to Guangzhou was only about HK$7000. So I refunded the original ticket, re-purchased the ticket departing from Guangzhou and returning to Guangzhou, and used conventional speed railway to connect Guangzhou and Shenzhen which cost only RMB 23.5 per trip.

FinTrailO 2018

In the past Easter, I went to Turku for FinTrailO 2018. There were 6 races in total: PreO+TempO on 30/3, TempO, PreO 1 and Night TempO on 31/3, PreO 2 on 1/4, and relay on 2/4. However, because I had a full time job at that time, due to holiday constraint, I could only participate in 3 out of the 6 races (and missed the chance of experiencing Finnish ice swimming and sauna at the first day where the PreO+TempO race was held in a local winter swimming club).

I participated in TempO, PreO 1 and Night TempO, i.e. the 3 races on 31/3, where the first two are world ranking events.

On 30/3, the first day of holidays, I flew a daytime flight from Guangzhou to Moscow, then to Helsinki, and took a coach to Turku, and arrived there late night.

On 31/3, I took a bus to Ruissalo and participated the world ranking events.

I didn’t do particularly well, got 61st place out of 105 in TempO and 73rd place out of 108 in PreO, partly because this was literally my first time when I had been to places with snow, and there was difficulty for me to recognise snow-covered terrain.

After the competitions I took a bus back to the city centre. The bus ran on 1-hour interval and was crowded on my return trip.

After having dinner, I joined the night TempO which was not part of the championships. This was the first time I did a TrailO competition at night, and got 40th place out of 62.

The next day, 1/4, I had to go back to airport and take flights back to Moscow and Hong Kong, where I arrived morning 2/4, the last day of the holiday, and slept for the whole afternoon.

Although my standing was not good in the world rankings, the score I got was lower (better) than the previous competitions in Egypt, because the participants were much stronger.

I’m planning to join the competitions either in Lithuania, or the competitions in Czech later this year to complete 6 world ranking races in this year, in order to get a real estimate of my level among the athletes over the world.

Earlier this month, I went to Egypt for the 3rd Egypt International Orienteering Championship (EIOC) in conjunction with 7th Mediterranean Championship in Orienteering (MCO). There were 5 competitions in the whole series, 3 FootO competitions and 2 TrailO competitions.

I departed Hong Kong by Turkish Airlines flight on 29th January to Istanbul and arrived on 30th January, joined the free layover tour and flew to Borg El Arab afterwards, and stayed in Arab Academy of Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AAST).

I met my friends Ezz Edlin, Mohamed Hesham and Omar Gamal from 13th World Scout Youth Forum on the next day and visited Alex for the day.

The competitions began on 1st February with FootO model and PreO in Montazah Palace Gardens. The PreO competition had 23 control points, but I made 2 mistakes in the competition, one about a cliff foot, another was plain careless after a long time in competition where I lost my concentration already. There were 2 time stations originally, but due to misplacement of flags by the organiser, one of them was voided. The top four competitors in PreO got 22 correct with only 1 mistake, and I got the 7th with 11.16 WRE points.

Photo credit: Juba Photographer

Sprint and TempO competitions were held on the next day, on 1st February in Arab Academy. The sprint competition was a standard campus orienteering race with flat terrain, 2.9 km long, 10 m climb, and 23 controls. The winning time was 15’16” and I ran 24’23”, got 107 WRE points. After the sprint competition, the TempO competition followed. There were 5 stations with 5 tasks each, 25 tasks in total. I answered them fast in 153 seconds, making 3 mistakes in the process, and got the 2nd with 243 seconds total time with 10.44 WRE points, while the winning time was 178 seconds.

Photo credit: Juba Photographer

Photo credit: Juba Photographer

The day after that, we travelled to El Alamein for the “long” competition. It was the only competition without WRE status. It was held in a closed summer resort with an ISSOM 1:7500 (!!!) map. The terrain was also nearly flat, with only 30 m climb for a 9.7 km course.

After the competition, I went to the World War II Museum in El Alamein.

The final competition was the “middle” WRE competition held in Montazah Palace Garden on 4th February, but it was basically a lengthened sprint race because it was held in a park terrain with 1:5000 ISSOM map, also without much climb. However, I made multiple mistakes in the competition, including the classical sprint mistake of not seeing an impassable barrier in the map, and I got ankle pain in the middle of the race, probably because I didn’t tie my shoe lace properly, and had to sit down and adjust my shoes in the race. Therefore, I didn’t get a good result and got only the base 10 WRE points for completing the race.

The prize ceremony was held immediately after the final race, and I got to the stand once for the second place in TempO.

Photo credit: Juba Photographer

The academy where I stayed was near Abu Qir, a suburb of Alexandria. The only means of transport to the city were commuter train and share taxi (microbus). The train line was Abu Qir – Alexandria, where I couldn’t find anything about it on the web. At the station there were no notices, gates, ticket offices / machines, timetables, etc and the station was unmanned.

I took the train for a round trip to the eastern tram terminal. The train was slow with average speed about 30 km/h and maximum speed about 50 km/h, and the fare was 1.25 L.E (about HK$0.56) without class segregation, and its doors never closed.

Then I took a tram for a few stops and have a pizza, but it was a pity that I couldn’t ride on the double decker tram because that car was women only, but had to ride on the single decker trailers instead. Afterwards I bought a lot of pasta from a local supermarket and took the return train.


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After the competitions, I had one more tourism day before I left Egypt. I visited the pyramids in Giza and also the national museum. However, the organiser was crap. The driver only drove a small private car which could barely fit us, and he didn’t know the fact that he was supposed to pay the entry fees as included in the package and didn’t have enough money. Also, when visiting the pyramid, we fell into a trap where a guide was hard selling attractions all the time.

After visiting the museum and the dinner, the driver drove the other Hong Kong athletes back to Cairo airport first, then me to Borg El Arab airport, and finally brought Ralph (a German athlete) back to Alex. However, after dropping the Hong Kong athletes at Cairo Airport, the driver didn’t know how to get back to the motorway to Alex, and initially he didn’t even trust us orienteers for direction, only after hours inside the city he gave up and followed Ralph’s direction. At that time, the problem was that the driver didn’t know the way, Ralph didn’t have enough mobile data and I didn’t have enough batteries.

On 6th February, I left Egypt and flew back to Istanbul and I visited the city for a day using mainly metros and ferries. I visited two museums in the city, crossed the Bosphorus Bridge and got some souvenirs. Istanbul was a very modern huge city and getting around was very convenient using all kinds of rapid transit, which yields a great contrast with Alex.

Finally, I flew back to Guangzhou and return to Hong Kong by coach on 7th February. After the competitions, I got the 4th in the trail orienteering world ranking, but it did not have reference value because the world ranking list was just initially set up by these two competitions. Only in the next year when there are more competitions the world ranking list will have value.

The final race of Beijing O Week was held outside Beijing, in Linqigu, Yongqing, Langfang. I was told to stay in Yongqing town, and get on a bus for local students to the event.

However, the organiser bus was late and I didn’t arrive on time, which made me start last instead of first as originally arranged.

The race was held in conjunction with China Open, which had many classes including competition classes and non-competition classes.

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My performance in this race was the best among the 5, probably because there was no climb in the race (the terrain was completely flat).

Map

The open classes came after our elite race, and there was a cultural exchange session afterwards. However, I had to go immediately after the race because I was taking a flight from Beijing that night, and it would take approximately 6 hours there back to Beijing Airport.

As the organiser bus was not ready to depart at that time, I walked 2 km back to the county road and caught a rural coach from Yongqing to Langfang, had lunch there and took a train back to Beijing.

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There were many kinds of trains from Langfang to Beijing, from the most luxurious high-speed G train to the slowest non-air-conditioned “green car”, but the slow train was not available at my time of travel, so I had to take an air-conditioned conventional train to Beijing.

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After arriving Beijing, I took the metro line 2 (ring line) to Dongzhimen, but I didn’t took the airport express because it was so damn expensive (CNY 25). Instead, I took a bus 850 Express, which travelled on the motorway to airport and cost only CNY 2 to the nearest stop from airport.

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After reaching the airport, I returned my transport card and dumped my luggage in order to meet weight restriction. I took the flight KA975 (sold as CA6523) to Hong Kong, which was the last flight to Hong Kong on that day and ended my journey just after midnight.

The WRE score was published later, but I got only the base score in both sprint and middle race, because the international elites were so damn fast and I could in no way run near their speed.

For the middle race, it was my first WRE done in FootO middle/long because in previous years I couldn’t even finish the middle AOC race in Hong Kong before qualification was introduced to the race.

For the sprint race, my score decreased every WRE race in these years, and now I got only the base score in the WRE. Although there would be a WRE race in December in China also, I was not joining that race because that race was also a local ranking event, and I had to enter my local class (M21) to get local ranking score instead of WRE class.

For the whole trip, there were two places I missed. The first was Mutianyu Great Wall, which I found it out a day after leaving Huairou, and it was too far away to return there from the city. The second was not realising I could arrange the journey to stay at Langfang rather than Yongqing, in order to take the “green car” slow train from Beijing to Langfang.

The races themselves were great, especially the middle race was the highest-quality middle race I’d ever been to, but the logistics was crap. Notices were late, important information was missing from bulletins, start lists were wrong, and the time limit was not mentioned and entered wrongly, etc. When compared to the World Championships in Lithuania I’d been to this year, although the race information was OK, there were a lot of delays and many technical problems occurred, including missing units, flag misplacement, which would be disastrous if happened on a FootO race.

The trip was my first trip as a “sport tourist”, and I’m looking forward to more upcoming trips next year. The place that I want to visit most is Kinmen, because as a Chinese, I want to understand more about the Cold War in the past, where Kinmen was the frontier between the Free World and Communism World (Bamboo Curtain), but now the peace bridge between mainland and Taiwan, keeping China as a whole. I originally would like to go there in early 2018, but as the event calendar shows that there will be a sprint WRE in Kinmen in October by Chinese Taipei, I am going to postpone that trip to become another sports tourism trip. I hope I can get a higher score next year, more than the base score of 10.

The sprint WRE race was held in the Old Summer Palace (圆明园). The terrain was mainly open, but there were impassable bodies of water separating various areas requiring the use of bridges between.

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Race 4 map

At the beginning of the race, I couldn’t match the map and the terrain quickly and wasted a lot of time, and there were some little hills in the middle of the course where I couldn’t get on quickly and need time to recognise the shape. Also, the red line from 13 to 14 covered the path symbol on the map which confused me when I was a path there.

I completed the race in 30 minutes and 30 seconds, still over double the winning time 14 minutes and 54 seconds, and couldn’t get more than 10 WRE score in this race.

However, in this race, 2 competitors missed a control and got disqualified.

After the race, the international elites visited the Summer Palace (颐和园), but we didn’t go there and visited the Beijing Zoo.

My friend Eric was leaving that night, and the next race would be held in Linqigu in Yongqing County, Langfang, Hebei. The teacher told me to stay in Yongqing and get on a coach carrying local students to the race. There were multiple modes of transport from Beijing to Yongqing. Direct coaches were available from Muxiyuan, but it was relatively expensive (CNY 20) with few departures per day. Alternatively, one might use any method to get to Langfang city first (including various kinds of trains from the most luxurious high-speed trains exclusively for the rich to the slowest green cars affordable by everyone) and transfer to a rural coach which departed every 20 minutes there, but the service ended at 18:00 so I couldn’t use that method.

In recent years, an inter-provincial bus route “Yongqing Express” was introduced. That route was Beijing bus route 828, from Yongdingmen via Gu’an to Yongqing, which travelled on motorway between Beijing and Gu’an. I took that bus to Yongqing and it took 2 hours from Beijing to Yongqing, and it was the cheapest costing only CNY 9.8 if paid by card. The bus was also very full, with all seats taken at the terminus already, with most passengers getting off in Gu’an.

Sprint race continued in Qinglonghu Park in conjunction with Beijing Students Orienteering Championships. After breakfast, we took a Fangshan taxi to the park. There were many participants in multiple classes in that race.

Race 3 map

I made minor mistakes and finished the race in 28 minutes and 36 seconds, while the winning time was 13 minutes and 46 seconds.

After the race, we took a bus to Fengtai Dongdajie where we would be staying the following night.

After the middle distance race, we had a rest day. As there were no attractions in Fangshan, we went back to the city. We originally wanted to visit the Military Museum, but it was closed for renovation. We then visited the Capital Museum. It is a large museum with multiple floors, with free entry.

We then went to Wangfujing, where I visited 7 years before as part of a family trip. However, it was uninteresting and we left after having lunch there.
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We visited Beijing Working People’s Cultural Palace afterwards. It is a popular place for wedding photos.


We then returned to Fangshan Liangxiang by metro and had dinner there.

The only middle-distance race in the series was held on day 4 in Qinglonghu Forest Park, which was a world ranking event.

The hotel I was staying was near the long-distance bus station. I first took an express bus to Fangshan to meet my friend Eric Wong, and caught a taxi to the event centre.

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Qinglonghu Forest Park was a new place which wasn’t even on any maps I found. It is located in the region of the map below.

Qinglonghu Forest Park

The course was 6.5 km long and 270 m climb, which was much longer than middle-distance races in Hong Kong. However, the road network was extensive and straight lines were possible in many places, which meant that the general runnability was very high.
race 2 map

However, at the very beginning of the race, from 1 to 2, I already made a mistake getting lost after missing a road junction, which cost me 7 minutes. Also, as I didn’t have the physical fitness for running hills, I used about 88.5 minutes to complete the race, while the winning time was about 34 minutes, which meant I could only get the minimum score of 10 in the world ranking.

The split analysis showed my base time (speed index) was 226% and about 13.5 minutes mistake, which meant that even if I avoided the mistakes and performed better, I still needed about 75 minutes to run it, which could not gain me any useful score. Therefore, I would not go any middle/long WRE further because I didn’t have the physical fitness required for that, and concentrate on sprint and Trail-O where I still could perform better.

After the race, I and Eric took a bus back to Liangxiang, where we would stay for the coming two nights. There were no taxis around the event centre because there was very rural with few people outside the race.

Beijing O Week – Day 3

Day 3 was designated as the sightseeing day. I visited Nanluoguxiang, Tian’anmen, Zhongshan Park and China Railway Museum in order.

As I stayed at a hotel in Nanluoguxiang the preceding night, Nanluoguxiang was the first place I visited. It is an old walled village from ancient times, with residents and schools inside.


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Afterwards, I visited Tian’anmen. Here is a standard photo taken there:

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Then I went to Zhongshan Park:

Finally, I visited China Railway Museum. It introduced the railway history from Qing Dynasty to modern times, railway technologies, and also the life of overseas workers. There was also a mock CRH EMU driving cab, and 3-D models of various railways in China, including the Qinghai-Tibet Railway which passes between lots of mountains on the Tibetan Plateau, with the spot heights of the mountains marked on the model.

Afterwards, I went to the hotel I booked with mistake before, which was near Friendship Hospital.

It was the highest-class hotel among the 7 I stayed, and it was an international hotel with very expensive rate. However, Ctrip offered me a huge discount on that.