A Travellerspoint blog

Sichuan NPs, Sichuan-Tibet Highway and a bit of Yunnan

Updates from China

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Hello, hello,

long time no news. But over the next hour and a half I'll be trying to describe roughly one-and-a-half month travel through China and Japan.

So, where was I? Ah, Songpan. Yes, long time ago indeed. Songpan is not much of a happening place, but we were only using it as our hub to go to the Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong national parks in Sichuan. We managed to visit both national parks and they were both of extraordinary beauty. In the picture section you can find a picture of each of the parks. The crystal clear water, the amazing colors, the extreme natural beauty were well worth the trip up north from Chengdu. I've never seen such things in my life before (and probably will not see again). Huanglong is basically one long walk down amazingly colorful pools formed by calcite deposits. Jiuzhaigou is known for its dozens of blue, green and turquoise-colored lakes. Both are well worth a visit anytime you might be anywhere as near as Beijing.

Also, in the pictures section, you can find a picture of the Tibetan welcome. This term requires some explanation. It's not all as colorful and happy as it seems on the photo (you do agree with me, right, it looks colorful and happy?). To be able to visit both parks mentioned above, we decided to hire a taxi driver recommended by us by the restaurant owner in Songpan. She is recommended in the Lonely Planet, so we thought it was kind of a sure bet to ask her for some help. We thought wrong.... The taxi wasn't really a taxi. It was more like a luxury car. Good start, you'd say. Indeed. So far, so good!

We drove to Huanglong, visited the park and wanted to get some food before getting back into the car around 17h00. The driver said he knew a restaurant on the way and surprisingly enough he knew the owner of the restaurant pretty well. Needless to say that the bill turned out to be way higher than expected. Anyway, back in the car, we found out that we were not just Tomas, Alex, myself and the driver. A somewhat underdressed lady had joined us in the car. Squeezed in between Tomas and Alex (I was living the rich life in the leather passenger seat and having my doubts about the mysterious girl that was sitting not too far form me and I could smell the perfume of) she didn't say a word and stared at (or played games on or whatever Chinese girls do with their phone) her phone for the complete journey to Jiuzhaigou.

When we arrived there, the driver did not know the way to the hostel.... Hmmm, thought that the restaurant owner (Sarah) would have explained this, but apparently not. Well, probably she did, but he had other plans with us. I like people that show initiative, but there's a time and place for everything. And when you're tired after a long day in a national park and just arrived in Juizhaigiou, it's just not the right time, nor the right place. Anyway, we saw some party going on, we suspected a traditional wedding. The driver stopped and instead of leading us to the party, he more or less forced us in the building on the opposite side of the road. We were still convinced of the good intentions of the driver and followed him.

What a welcome! The guy left in the picture welcomed us with a friendly smile, some Tibetan rituals and some prayers. We asked him whether his place was the hostel that we were supposed to spend the night in, but he started teaching us prayers, which, of course, we had to repeat a couple of times. After all, what harm could be done by saying some additional prayers. Some things in life you just can't do enough, praying is one of them, at least, according to the welcoming stranger. We had to follow him upstairs to a room where food was waiting for us.

Hmmm, strange. First of all, how did he know we were coming (maybe the driver made a few phone calls on the way. He did indeed. Little did we know who he was calling and what the purpose of these phone calls was.). Secondly, we just had an overpriced meal at on of the driver's good friends' restaurant. We hardly ate, and had a few 'local beers'. Then we did some local dancing and singing with the friendly guy and his supposed brother and sisters. They were 6 or 7 in total. Something must have gone wrong with the implementation of birth control regulations for Tibetans I think.

I'm deviating from the story. So, we're dancing and singing and we get a bit tired. We wanted to go to the hostel. Mr. driver didn't think so. He wanted to stay. We were wondering why. We found out soon enough. The friendly welcoming guy asked us whether we enjoyed our food. We replied that we hardly ate anything as we already had dinner (pointing at the driver with a smile, implying that he had done us a huge favor). The friendly welcoming guy asked us whether we enjoyed our drinks. We replied that it was okay. The friendly welcoming guy asked us whether we enjoyed the dancing and singing. He should have known by the enthusiasm that we put into it, that we were not really in a party mood. Then the friendly welcoming guy asked us whether we wanted to pay 10 euros each.

Now, 10 euros is a lot of money in China. At that time, we didn't know much about Tibetan culture, so maybe for them it was less. We were pretty sure that also for Tibetans, this amount of money that the friendly welcoming guy was asking for, was a fortune. And what did he ask it for? To cut a way too long story short, we ended up paying a third of the money they asked for (you can negotiate everything in China, even the price for a Tibetan welcome) and got in the car. But the story does not end here. We still needed to get to the hostel and we were still depending on the taxi driver to drive us there. We were still accompanied by the girl. The girl that I had not seen smile since the moment I saw her first in the taxi. After a long search, some agitated comments from our side, some phone calls to Sarah (at least he claimed he was calling her), some fake almost-burst-out-in-tears impressions from the driver, we got to the hostel. We checked in. Safe! Tomas and Alex almost threatened to call the police by the time we had to pay for the taxi, but by that time I was already worrying about the Holland vs. Slovenia match. We all got ready for the game and were happy that Holland won.

After the game was finished, we heard some voices outside our room. Turned out to be the taxi driver and the girl. They checked into the room next door. Interesting? Indeed! Especially when 5 minutes later we hear the driver again. Talking to a guy standing half naked in the doorway of the room opposite our room. Then a girl walks out.... Driver turns to me and says: "Just have sex." Without replying to the driver, half realizing why our traveling partner did not have a single smile on her face, I closed the door, went to sleep, and I hoped that I'd wake up and all the above was just a dream..... Now have a look at that Tibetan welcome picture again, you'll be looking at it from a whole different perspective.

Anyway, the national parks were nice. Very nice!

We went back to Chengdu, to go and visit the Grand Buddha in Leshan the day after. The Buddha was Grand and pretty impressive. On to Mt. Emei, one of the four most holy places for Buddhists in China. Little did we know that this mountain was pretty steep, there were way to many stairs to climb and that the extreme temperature would not make things easier. The joking monkeys (see picture) on the way up were quite funny when they stole Alex' bottle of water and threw it in the river, not even seeming to be interested in the content. Anyway, there was a nice monastery halfway where we could spend the night. Hold on, did I just say 'nice' monastery. Sorry, that's what we thought it would be. Turned out to be kind of an overpriced, run down accommodation. The very unfriendly staff knew full well that they were the only accommodation available within reasonable distance. They could basically treat us disrespectful, give a room that was occupied by dead insects that I've never seen before alive, and charge a price that we didn't pay anywhere else in China. The only thing we could do was say 'thank you' in Chinese and go to sleep. Second day we continued our ascend to the top of the mountain. More steps, more sweat and a misty view over the valleys. Back down by bus and some well deserved luxury in the hostel there.

Back to Leshan to start our trip on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway. But not before we went for a traditional hot pot meal (see picture) with some Americans we met on the mountain a few days earlier. One of 'em spoke Chinese and did the ordering part. Hot pot restaurants are common in Sichuan (and the rest of China). The hot pot is in the middle of the table with some kind of soup and everyone dips all sorts of vegetables and meat in there, a bit like fondue. We were pretty intrigued by the cow stomach and the goose intestines. Trust me, it sounds worse than they taste. Some karaoke afterwards and we were ready for the big trip towards Yunnan.

Now, there's something you need to know (and we should've known before we undertook this part of our trip) about the buses in China: think twice (or more) before you start a trip that solely consists of bus connections. The word 'connections' has quite a different meaning in Chinese by the way. You basically take your trip day by day and hope to find a bus that will take you where you need to go when you need to go there. It was a memorable trip, with lots of difficulties in the bus stations (only reservations possible for the day you show up at the ticket office), some bumpy rides, some big cliffs that the bus drivers seemed not to be impressed by and quite some delays here and there. However, I've seen some of best views in my life there (see pictures, I've got many, many more). The mountains and the different colors green in perfect contrast with the beautiful cloudy blue skies were worth every nuisance mentioned above. Alex and Tomas had to convince me to undertake the trip and we did have difficult frustrating moments, but even despite the altitude (and that therefore not only the views, but also every step we took was breathtaking) I don't regret a single second.

Destination of the trip was Shangri-La, located in the northern part of the Yunnan province. A beautiful town, friendly people, good food, scenic cycling around the lake and just a nice place for strolling around and walk up the hills around the old town centre, visit some temples and relax.

Next stop: Tiger Leaping Gorge. But that's probably gonna be for next time. We're about to take a train back to Tokyo now to spend the last two days we have in Japan in its capital.

Also, next time I'll dedicate some words to how buses let us down again and made us take an 18 hour train. Also, next time, I'll tell you something about our time in Yangshou along the magnificent Li River with its karst mountain scenery.

Talk to you soon (I hope). Until then, enjoy your summer, wherever you may be spending it.

Cheers,

Bram

Posted by almost30 14:33 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Pictures

More pictures have been posted

sunny 28 °C

Hey everyone,

long time no news.... Indeed! But here's some picture to keep you going.

Enjoy!

Bram

ps. I'll soon update the blog, keep checking.....

Posted by almost30 00:03 Archived in China Tagged photography Comments (0)

Terracotta Warriors, Party and Panda's

Xi'an and Chengdu

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Hello everyone,

another post from China, we've arrived in Chengdu yesterday.

Last Tuesday we've been to the Terracotta Warriors close to Xi'an. Booked a trip with an organised tour, something we probably shouldn't have done. We stopped off at a Terracotta Warrior Replica Factory. Very nice, but just not the real thing. Actually, it was just a waste of time and the tourguides could get some commission for any purchases we would do. So that's exactly what we didn't do.... After that unneccesary stop, we arrived at the museum and watched an introduction movie. Then we could have a book signed by the farmer that discovered the warriors while drilling for a well. He looked like a farmer and I think that's where all similarities ended with the 'real' farmer. Anyway, we moved on to see the real warriors and that was actually quite interesting and impressive. Not as good as expected, but still worth seeing. A quick lunch and on the way back again. The tour guide proposed another stop at a 'supermarket', but after a quick crisis meeting with the other tourists on the tour, we decided to overrule the tourguide and ask him politely to drive us back to the hostel. One more landmark that we can tick on the list.

In the evening we would like to party and that's what we did. I was a bit hesitant, but Tomas and Alex convinced me to come with them. So I did. And going out on flip flops is not a good idea. We were kindly refused at the suggested clubs. The waitresses in the only club that did not refuse us access were all wearing a Holland jersey, good start. Wrong! The Chinese kid that drank too much was not impressed by the beautiful orange t-shirts and thought it would be a good idea to throw up in the middle of the club. Nice, especially when wearing flip flops.

Back to the hostel and put some propers shoes on. On to the 1 + 1 club. It was already quite late, but drinks were reasonably priced. Only condition was to order them in ridiculous quantities. But hey, when in Rome..... So we ended up with too many beers that were not chilled. Needless to say, it ended up being a great night, where dancing with a beer on the dancefloor would result in speech from a policeman (including helmet and stick), where the toilets were so disgusting that breathing through your mouth was the only way to survive, where sweaty Chinese guys thought it was a good idea to start hugging the foreigners, where other (nicer) Chinese offered us shots of whisky and where some (young) girls got ridiculously drunk.

Unavoidable hangover and a Drum and Bell Tower later, we took the train to Chengdu. On the train were many Chinese who spoke to us, but without making themselves even slightly understood. Until a recently graduated Chinese girl who studied English came to the rescue. She got us clean bed linen, translated what all the (mostly older male) Chinese were trying to say. We got invited to one of the guys hometowns up north (?) of Beijing, but we kindly refused. We got to Chengdu in time and checked into the hostel. Lunch!

Turned out to be an interesting lunch. Chicken paws... Or duck paws? Or something in between. It had the nails still on there and the thing in between the paws for swimming (how do you call that in English?). We tried one and that was it. Very nice, but just not my cup of (Chinese local jasmine) tea. Ah well, live and learn. That's become one of hour catch phrases this trip. I'l come back a very intelligent guy, I guess.....

Today, we visisted the Panda reserve just 10 km north of Chengdu. Nice, nice, nice. Very cute, very playful, very lazy and very much bamboo. Great to see so many panda's in one day and walk around in a nice park where they have there different homes. But they are lazy, very lazy. Learned today that they can only get little energy out of all the kilos of bamboo the eat. Just enough to can be bothered to try to mate only once a year..... No wonder they're an endangered species. Jokes aside, they should not die out, they're too nice and the younger ones are too cute.

Tomorrow, we're trying to catch an early bus to Songpan (for anyone who's interested, so they can look up where it is) to visit one (or maybe two) national park(s). Will keep you up to date on all the magnificent views we've experienced. Just check out http://www.jiuzhai.com/language/english/index.html and you know what I mean..... I'm looking forward to go there, hope you're looking forward to reading up about me going there.

Bram

Posted by almost30 04:32 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Pictures

Random selection of last month

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Hello, Hello,

just to let you know that I posted some pictures on the blog (http://almost30.travellerspoint.com/ and then check the Photography section on the right hand side).

Things are still good here, terracotta army was impressive.

Enjoy!

Bram

Posted by almost30 03:00 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (4)

Kathmandu, Great Wall and Holland at the World Cup

From Nepal to China....

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Hey everyone,

long time no news.

Can't say we've been very busy the last 3 weeks, so that's not really an excuse. Been quite lazy actually. After trekking in Pokhara, we stayed there for a couple of more days and then moved on to Kathmandu. An 8 hour busride in quite some high temperatures, a flat tyre, and some annoying travellers behind us in the bus made it quite an exhausting journey. But we shouldn't complain. Some people spend (over) 8 hours per day in the office these days. Guess we should praise ourselves lucky, and we do! Every day still!

Kathmandu! Relaxed a bit and prepared for the kick off of the World Cup (with capital letters indeed). I think I mentioned this before, but the Nepalese are crazy about football (so are the Chinese by the way, but I'll get back to that later). Walked around Thamel (tourist area) a lot, had some cocktails during the various happy hours and started a quick course in juggling. Don't get too excited about this, it basically came down to Tomas and I trying in the garden of our guest house until Tomas dropped one of the balls into a 10 meter deep well..... Guess someon needs a little more practice ;-) So, we got some extra balls and we're still trying.... Last day in Kathmadu we booked a taxi and did some sightseeing around the area. Sunset in Nagarkot, walk around in Bhaktapur and some (more) burning bodies at one of the local temples. It's still strange to see, I'll probably never get used to it, but somehow I got drawn to the ritual they performed. But then there's the smell, the smell of.... Well, it's the way the Buddhists honour their dead and I guess it's what you're used to.

After a lot of hassle with www.expedia.ie (don't use them, I actually wonder why we did, but at least take my advice, so the hassle wasn't for nothing ;-)) and Air China we got on the plane to China on the 12th of June. From Kathmandu to Lhasa (so we still saw Tibet a bit (and the Mount Everest from the plane)) and then on to Chengdu and Beijing. It was too much of a hassle to get from Nepal to Tibet, so we're gonna try again from China.

Beijing is a great city. The best metro network I've seen in my life, great food (even though my stomach again did not fully agree, might be because of the things they have on the menu here: the Ox penis is definitely one we still need to try), nice people (we can't really communicate in words, but that's not always necessary, far from), various touristic attractions, cheap living and lots of expats (we met a great bunch of friends of a friend that were more partying and watching the World Cup then studying Chinese). We were welcomed by Wieteke (friend of mine from Holland who works/studies there) and she was basically our tour guide for the 9 days we were there. We visited temples, enjoyed happy hours (again), did a 10 km hike at the Great Wall, visited the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and walked around in the park around the impressive Summer Palace (I definitely wouldn't have mind to be an emperor in ancient China).

In the meantime the World Cup got on the way and we gathered an impressive army of expats (including Tomas and Alex (who joined us in Beijing)) that was prepared to wear Orange (indeed, a capital 'O') during the games. We watched the games at Paddy O'Shea's, and yes it is an Irish bar. Good atmosphere, lots of cheering for the right team and YES, we made it to the second round. Tip: if you do not yet own some orange piece of clothing in your wardrobe, get one, you won't regret it when the world colours Orange on the 11th of July. Anyway, we qualified and will probably be eliminated by New Zealand in the second round (go kiwis). Italy, Germany and especially France have made this World Cup already now to a great succes. A big thank you to all the Anelkas in this world. And to Jovanovic.

Yes, I do elaborate quite a lot on the WC, but it's just that you can't miss it in China. On the metro (that fabulous metro), in restaurants, on the street, everywhere you see the WC coming back in one way or another. Imagine what it would have been like if they would have qualified..... I'll come back here in 4 years time. In those 4 years I'd like to ask the Chinese government to install more 'western' toilets in the public toilets (every 300 meter in Beijning). As you might have wondered so far, is there nothing wrong with this country? Yep, it's the toilets! And also the sound the Chinese peolpe make before they think it's necessary to spit on the floor. I guess it's the fashion to actually try to scare the tourists by making a lot of noise at a very unexpected moment and then try to spit just next to them.... They're all very good at it, but I'm blending in.... One day it will backfire to them ;-)

Yesterday we left Beijing and started our journey south. Arrived in Xi'an today and did some cycling (in 35 degrees, yes it's still hot) on the city walls before we will visit the terracotta warriors tomorrow. Then on to Chengdu on Wednesday to visit a great National Park and see some Panda's (capital 'P').

Next time I'll tell you about the Ox, the warriors and the Panda. Until then, keep thinking of your next holidays!

Cheers,

Bram

Posted by almost30 20:11 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Trekking around Pokhara

Sunrise, Mountaintops and Volleyball

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Namaste,

yesterday, we came back from a 5-day trekking trip through the mountains around Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal. Organised our trip with a really nice Nepalese guy, who arranged all the permits for us, while we were having some last beers on the lakeside.

Trekking was really cool. Quite tiring, some days glad that we reached our destination, but all in all it was a really great experience. Witnissed a really spectacular sunrise on the 3rd morning. We got up at 4.30 am to climb around 500 meters in 20 minutes. Arrived at Pun Hill just in time to see the sun rise over snowy mountaintops, better known as the fishtail (because of its shape, guess what it looks like).

On the evening of the first day, we found our way to a local party, which turned out to be a festival that was already ongoing for several days (since the celebration of the birthday of Buddha). During the day they play basketball and volleyball and in the evening the have a party on the pitch they used during the day for the games. Pretty impressive soundsystem and a bottle of local wine (that was offered by one of the guys that organised the festival) made this the first real party we had on our trip so far. One of the least expected places, but still.... Quite good party, music was unexpectedly good and also the wine was quite tasty. Just a shame that the inbalance in guys and girls seems to be a universal phenomenon.

Anyway, next day, the organisers asked for a donation for the festival and we gave him some rupees. He was very happy and insisted that we stayed to watch one of the volleyball games that was scheduled for that day. And so we did. After a long wait, a couple of announcements about the foreigners from Holland and the Netherlands (think the Nepalese know more about the political situation in Belgium than we do ;-)) and the hand out of a lucky scarf, we finally got to see some volleyball. Very impressive level. We said goodbye to the people form Ulleri (where the festival was held) and continued our way. Little did we know that people actually walked for days to attend the festival. Guess that's the luck you need to have while travelling. Coming across some unexpected experiences that make the trip even more special than it already is.

The scenery on the way was great. We walked along riversides, found our way through jungle tracks, were amazed by forests (?) of rhododendron, walked together with horses on (too) narrow paths, saw gardens where corn plants need to disguise the weed plants they grow, met a friendly guy from England (and not many other tourists, thank god), drank some really nice masala tea, enjoyed a yak steak, spent about 4 hours in a magnificent riverside hot spring and had a taxiride back with a driver who managed to change his tyre in about 2 minutes. Impressive experiences, going trekking was definitely one of the best ideas on the trip so far......

After 5 days of trekking and quite some interesting stories from Anil (our guide) we are back in Pokhara now, where we relax a bit and enjoy the sun and the lake. Tomorrow we'll try to catch a bus to Kathmandu, our last stop in Nepal before trying to get into Tibet. Wish us luck!

Next post will hopefully be from Lhasa.

Bram

Posted by almost30 10:02 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

Beatiful Nepal

Bye bye India

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Hi all,

yesterday we left India. As you might have notice in the undertone of my previous posts, India wasn't just cool, easy, relaxed and hassle free. Actually, it was far from that. Nevertheless, the 3 1/2 week we spend there were a great experience. Heat wave in India is really hot (read in Nepal Times yesterday that dozens of people have died in Rajasthan) but quite an experience. The food didn't always get accepted as Western food, but the Inidan tea (Chai) is really good. The people are not always that friendly, but I'd also be doing anything for money if I were in their position.

Anyway, we left India. An 8 hour trainride from Varanasi to Ghorakhpur where we stayed the night and got to chat with two Korean girls that just returned from Pokhara, Nepal, the place we had as first destination in mind. They recommended a travel agency for trekking where we just inquired for a 5 day trekking. They also mentioned some restaurants and guest houses that they found were okay. As we don't have the Lonely Planet of Nepal (why don't we have the LP of Nepal?), this info was pretty useful.

Next morning we took a taxi to the border, where a friendly guy helped us through all the procedures for exiting India and entering Nepal. First thing we see on the other side of the border, a dustbin..... Typical! We obtained a bus ticket for the 8 hour trip to Pokhara and prepared for an interesting trip. Lots of green, nice hills and mountains, much more women in the street (think gender equality is higher on the agenda here then in India) and a drop of rain here and there. Crazy bus driver, lot's of almost collisions, but we arrived safely and in one pice in Pokhara. Checked into our hotel and ordered ourselves a well deserved steak and Everest beer for the enormous amount of 5 euro, of which half was for the beverage. I love this country ;-)

As mentioned be, we're doing some inquiries for trekking today and try to leave tomorrow morning for some good views of the Annapurna. The city is nice, the weather is much cooler than in India (still around 30 degrees), the food is good and the people are friendly. A big contrast with India, it definitely is, and it puts all experiences in India in a different perspective. An interesting trip so far.

Also, the Nepalese are crazy about football and some of them are even sad that Van Nistelrooy is notgoing to the world cup this year. Also, friendlies are shown on tv here and WC schedules are practically found in every bar. Reassuring for the start on the 11th of June, although Lhasa, Tibet, might not be the best time to try to catch a glimp of the opening match. Our Nepalese visa expires on the 12th of June and hopefully we'll be in Tibet by then, fingers crossed that we get there without to much trouble.....

Next post will cover our trekking experiences (leeches are apparently very active these days, but if that's the only thing, I guess we'll manage) and maybe even some meditation session stories. On the other hand, a steak and a cold beer get me quite relaxed as well, in some sort of trance even. We'll see, we'll keep you posted.

Cheers,

Bram

Posted by almost30 13:48 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

Last day in India

Really looking forward to Nepal

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Hey everyone,

another update from India. The last update from India. And I'm quite releived to be able to write this. India's been great. But it's also been hot, dirty, spicy, dusty and dude heavy. Looking forward to some green, some mountains, different culturee and different cuisine.

Spend the last two days in Varanasi in quite a rich hotel with pool, restaurant, bar and internet. Varanasi is one of the holiest places in Hindu religion. People basically come here to die so that their bodies can be burned on the riverbanks of the Ganges. And yes, we've seen the rituals in action and yes, it's quite an experience on an empty stomach at 6 o'clock in th morning...... Tomas couldn't get enough and went back there, on his own, with almost fatal consequenses. But he survived, he got the pictyure he wanted and didn't have to go to "the office" to pay a 200 rupees fine.

Went back to the river yesterday evening and witnissed a daily ritual again. Lots of people, lots of music that is quite difficult to appreciate if you're not in some kind of spiritual state of mind (which I haven't managed to get into over the last 4 weeks). But the buddhists on the bnoat next to us seemed to be interested and filmed the spectacle to improve their own rituas at home I think.

A nice last anecdote from India is the hide and seek mission that we successfully accomplished the day we arrived in Varanasi. Basically, we tried to avoid dodgy tuk tuk drivers that came up to us as soon as we got out of the train station. One of 'em was not very sober and that was the one that we definitely tried to avoid..... And so it happened, right? Nope! Well, we found another tuk tuk, but as soon as we got in, the driver got out and mister 'poor me another drink' stepped in. Seemed like it was his first ride in a tuk tuk and he seemed to have difficulties with the first gear. Every tuk tuk driver in India gets a commission from hotels where they drop off their passengers, so we tried to avoid that (as this commission will be included in the rate for your room). We told the guy to drop us off at the tv tower, not far from the hotel that we wanted to go to, and so it happened. However, instead of the tuk tuk driver getting back to his English beer & wine shop, he and his side kick just lingered around and kept asking which hotel we wanted to go to. We pretend to be waiting fro friends to pick us up, Tomas pretends to call our imaginary friends and we hide in a reaturant around the corner. We waited, had a drink and sent Tomas out for a mission to check whether the coast was clear. Tuk tuk was still there, but the restaurant happened to have two exits from the garden (I know, it sounds a bit like James Bond, but it really was a coincidence). So, in the end we get away, walk to the hotel, decided not to speak to each other during the walk to avoid any more attention from the always friendly and helpfull tuk tuk drivers, or rikshaw drivers, or taxi drivers, or whatever other drivers....... Mission accomplished!!!!

Life in India is not easy, everything seems to be difficult, everyone wants your rupees and hardly anyone is genuinely friendly. Guess that's the way it is, and I guess I need to accept it, it's just not that easy.....

Looking forward to Nepal and our quest to cross the border with Tibet from there. Will keep you posted. Until then, keep posting comments.

Cheers,

Bram

Posted by almost30 11:50 Archived in India Comments (2)

Travelling East

Taj Mahal and other sights

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Hello, hello,

almost two weeks since the last post. Here we are again! Still in India, but leaving in a couple of days. It's been good here but I'm glad that we're leaving. I had a good taste of of the country (the heat, the dust, the (lack of) hygiene, the food, the people), but the last couple of days I start to look forzqrd to Nepal more and more.

A day after the last post, Dan joined us in Pushkar and we've been discovering the last few stops in Rajasthan with the three of us. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is a big city with a nice palace and a couple of other nice things to see. We had a walk in the pink city (old city centre) and came across the first slumdog millionaires. Sheru, as always, provide the beers and we had a nice time enjoying the fireworks for the numerous weddings that were ongoing.

A couple of days later we visited the Taj Mahal. Very impressive, very nice, very much worth the price we paid, even though it was around 35 times the price for Indian people. They do it a lot, discriminate on price, but I see where they come from and 15 euros for such a magnificent building is still okay, right? Unfortunately, my stomach was not as impressed as the rest of my body (my stomach has not been impressed by a lot of things in India, especially not the lack of hygiene). There are toilets in the gardens of the Taj Mahal, but I didn't manage to reach them..... Sorry for throwing up so close to world heritage, tried not to, but I didn't manage.

Next morning first time on the train (all good things come to an end, so did our time with Sheru). Very smooth ride, some breakfast was included, pretty good experience. The bus connection aftrewards wasn't as impressive. A little annoying tout tried to deviate us from our way to the offcial tourist agency and almost succeeded, almost. Tuk tuk ride to bus station was alright, but bus stations are not what you expect them to be here. They basically market places, where also buses arrice and depart, try to imagine the scene. Finally, we got on the bus. I recommend everyone to try a busride in India. Not too often though, we've had 3 so far, and they seem to get worse and worse.....

Kama Sutra temples in Khajurao were als worth seeing before we settled in Panna national park to go on a tiger safari. Didn't see any tigers. Lots of peacocks, kingfishers, antilopes and summer deers though. Wasn't really what I was hoping for, but still a good experience.

Stayed in former royal stables last night and I think the mosquito's confused me with the horses that used to be staying there. Hope the Malarone will do its job. In contrast to the royal stables, we also stayed one night in some sort of a prison cell in Chitrakoot. Nice little town along a holy river, friendly manager, but not much comfort there.

At the moment we're in Allahabad where we will take a train to Varanasi later today. You'll hear more about this next time!

Take care, more news to come from Nepal!

Bram

Posted by almost30 10:56 Archived in India Comments (1)

Greetings from Rajasthan

First post from India

sunny 35 °C
View Summer 2010 on almost30's travel map.

Hey everyone,

here it is! The long-awaited first post from India.

Arrival at Delhi went according to plan, the airport pick-up service was not there and the taxi driver tried directly tried to send us to a 'perfectly genuine' travel agency to plan our trip through Rajasthan. We preferred checking in at the hotel first after a night with not so much sleep on the plane.

A 'friend' of the hotel (who later turned out to be the biggest jerk we've seen so far and we've seen quite a few) would show us another travel agency and yet again we didn't really feel like being treated by official tour guides. After a day in Delhi with a tuk tuk driver who got fined by the police, promised us monkeys (after all, he told us, it was monkey Tuesday, guess that must be the only day they don't come out) and refused to bring us to the official tourist office that was mentioned in the Lonely Planet, we ended up in the agency of Rocky. He promised us the world, we ended up with a taxi and driver for 14 days. Sheru, the driver, is quite a cool guy, although he’s got some strange stories involving goats, black magic, gay men, Japanese girls and Norway.

Road trip started with Mandawa, known for its Havelis (or Favelis, as Tomas called them, maybe his mind’s in Brazil), then Bikaner (fort and rat temple in Deshnok), Jaisalmer (the golden city), Jodhpur (the blue city), Ranakpur (mesmerizing temple and monkies) and now in Pushkar.

Highlights of the trip so far:

• The camel ride from Jaisalmer, sleeping in a sandstorm and then without shower on to our next hotel
• The chaos, heat and dust in Delhi (and basically in all other places we visited) were quite impressive
• The start of the trip where Sheru shows up with a cool box and asks us how many beers we want him to buy for the trip
• What cricket can do to a country where it’s too hot to play a real sport like football
• Temple (Ranakpur) with 1444 different and unique pillars
• How it feels to be rich and famous (many people (mostly pretty good looking guys between 14 and 20, Tomas?) want to take a picture with us in it and shake our hands. Some of them don’t even want money.
• Lack of hygiene (not sure whether that’s a highlight, think my stomach disagrees)
• Pushy priest in Pushkar (where we are now) who ‘hunt in packs’ and don’t let go until you give a ‘donation’
• The ability of men and animals to live happily alongside each other. Not sure who’s happier, the animals or the people.

Will be back shortly! Until then, enjoy your time wherever you are, we’re doing the same!

Bram & Tomas

Posted by almost30 19:56 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

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