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VPNs, Website Blocks & ‘Climbing the Wall’

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Oh you’re ‘climbing the wall’ – fan qiang – the Chinese journalist commented. I was indeed, I was using a VPN – Virtual Private Network – to ‘climb over the Great Firewall of China.’

China is the most notorious of the countries in the world which spend a great deal of time and energy preventing their citizens from seeing things they shouldn’t on the internet. In China that includes many social media sites and Google (both for Google searching and Google Maps). Assorted news sites are blocked including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and The New York Times. Well the NYT has revealed how extraordinarily wealthy certain important members of the Chinese government have become and we certainly don’t want the average Chinese citizen discovering that, do we? Ditto for The Economist which I like to read every week and which had just published an interesting article about the OBOR – One Belt One Road – project. I’d been telling the Chinese journalist about this article, the project to revitalise the old Silk Road trading routes has been described as a Chinese Marshall Plan, but bigger. It’s expected to run into untold billions of any currency you care to name.

▲ My wall climbing exploits in China were handled by ExpressVPN, which cost me US$99.95 for a one year subscription and generally worked very well. I could work out where I was going with Google Maps, I could keep up with Mr Trump’s latest twitter explosions and mad exploits and I could download The Economist every Friday morning.

At almost every hotel we stayed at in China – and indeed most of the way along our Silk Road trip – Wi-Fi Internet connections were provided and almost always it was free. It wasn’t always that fast which meant you were often uncertain whether your problems were simply due to poor connections and speed or because you’d come up against the Great Firewall.

In Iran, however, where the government is also very keen on blocking websites this was what sometimes appeared on my screen. Message: you ain’t going there. More recently Turkey has also ramped up its internet blocking, they’ve even blocked Wikipedia so once again my VPN came in useful if I wanted to research something about Turkey’s wonderful Greek or Roman historic sites. I’m even using that VPN in London, Google want me to agree to something before I can use Google in England, so I don’t, the VPN connection means I could well be in the USA or somewhere else far away.

VPNs, Website Blocks & ‘Climbing the Wall’

10 August 2017 | Media

Oh you’re ‘climbing the wall’ – fan qiang – the Chinese journalist commented. I was indeed, I was using a VPN – Virtual Private Network – to ‘climb over the Great Firewall of China.’ China is the most notorious of the countries in the world which spend a great deal...

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Electric Bromptons, Brompton Racing, noted Brompton Riders

8 August 2017 | Transport

I’m another enthusiast for those classic British folding bikes, the Brompton. I’ve clearly had mine for a long time, here’s a comparison between my Brompton and two other bikes in my small collection, from nine years ago. The other day I went for a ride on a new Br...

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500 Bicycles Rides in France

6 August 2017 | Media

And it’s in French! Lonely Planet France has just published a guide to 500 great bicycle rides in France. Rides suitable for people from 7 to 77 they claim, whether you want rides with friends or family, by yourself or with your lover – well it is French bicycle ridin...

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Two Great Exhibitions: Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema’s vision of the ancient world & the Russian Revolution

3 August 2017 | Culture

The Leighton House Museum in the London suburb of Kensington (very close to the new Design Museum) has a wonderful exhibit on the art of Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema running until 29 October. It’s ‘the largest exhibition in London since 1913’ on his art and makes an inter...

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Silk Road by MGB – Days 94 to 102 – across Europe to the finish line

24 July 2017 | Places

The final stage of our Silk Road trip felt like it was going to be a race to the finish, we would exit Asia by crossing the Dardanelles from Asian Turkey to European Turkey, enter the European Union as we crossed from Turkey into Bulgaria, then make a quick sprint to ...

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Silk Road by MGB – Days 88 to 94 – Turkey into Europe

23 July 2017 | Places

▲ By Day 88 my Silk Road trip had less than two weeks to run, that morning we’d started in Cappadocia, stopped to visit the huge caravanserai in Sultanhani and paused for lunch in Konya. The Mevlâna Museum, dedicated to Celaleddin Rumi (Sufism, whirling dervishes) is ...

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Silk Road by MGB – Days 84 to 88 in Turkey

21 July 2017 | Places

My 103 day, Silk Road Odyssey from Bangkok to London in an old MGB is all over. ‘Burgundy,’ my 45-year-old car is safely in London and I’m looking for a new home for it, anyone want a well looked after English sports car? Comprehensively overhauled and then used for o...

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How to Land a Plane

20 July 2017 | Media

In Skyfaring - his 2015 best seller on the mystery and magic of flight - BA 747 pilot Mark Vanhoenacker told how he did it. Now in this 64-page addition to the Quercus series of ‘how to do it’ books he tells us how to do it ourselves. Land that is. Taking off is no...

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Silk Road by MGB – Days 76 to 84 in Iran

3 July 2017 | Places

We’re through to Day 92, our last day in Asia, tomorrow we cross the Dardanelles, from Asian to European Turkey and then on into Bulgaria. But more on Turkey shortly, meanwhile here’s a quick summary of Days 86 to 94 in Iran. Tashi was my co-driver on this stage an...

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Silk Road by MGB – Days 76 to 84 in Iran

27 June 2017 | Transport

I’m now in Turkey on Day 88 of my Silk Road with an old British sports car journey and I’ve just posted on how friendly the Iranians were on my trip across that intriguing country, with my daughter Tashi often at the wheel. ◄ And shopping for bread when we stopped ...

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