The stories he told about travelling accross land, to India in the 60s are astonishing.
What was it about which astonished u so much
The stories he told about travelling accross land, to India in the 60s are astonishing.
What was it about which astonished u so much
Not a great deal has happened since my last email despite a significant amount of time passing. At the end of my last email I left you at the point of my return to Hanoi from Halong Bay. After my return to Hanoi nothing happened as Ben and I were just trying to secure our visas for China , which turned out to be a lot more hassle than expected.
The first day I went to the Chinese embassy to get my visa I went too late and was not seen. The second day I came earlier waited 2 hours and again was not seen. The third day, Ben, who had been in a serious motorbike accident, which caused him to be in pain when his leg was vertical was kicked out of the embassy, for sitting on a table and raising his leg. We couldn't really understand why he was kicked out. The head of the embassy then came over to me and began trying to take the visa application forms and passports from my hand. I accidentally dropped Ben's and he took it inside and then came out 5 minutes later, announced something in Vietnamese to everyone and threw it on the ground. When I got inside the embassy and handed the passports and application forms the guy looked at a photocopy of Ben's passport and refused to serve me. I then spoke to the head admin guy who refused to speak English to me and explain why he was blacklisted. He also made me fill in the application form again and wait in line for an extra hour. When I finally got to see him again he said (without actually using words), because our Vietnamese visa's were running out the day after he would not give us Chinese visa's. We then extended our Vietnamese visa and I returned for the 4th time. When I got inside I asked Vietnamese women if she could please translate if he refused to speak English to me again. I told her this whole story and she thought now he had no reason to refuse us our visas. When I spoke to him again, I tried to explain to him politely everything that is detailed above but he refused to let me speak. He said I could get my visa but my friend could not because he was dirty.
At this point I was fucking raging but had enough sense not to do anything in the Chinese embassy. I walked outside and waited for Ben to pick me up by bike. 5 minutes later and I decided fuck it. The admin guy came out the courtyard and I beckoned him towards me with hand motions and then proceeded to shout 'Fuck you’, 'Take a fucking step out of your embassy and I'll fucking kick the shit out of you' , ' You dirty fucking diplomatic ass hole' etc...
He walked within 1 meter of me and smiled and then turned his back on me. I then waited 10 minutes and asked another official, who had stepped out of the embassy, if he could please get his boss. His boss came out and I bar-raided him with more insults. At this point the embassy iron door was closed on me. I then started chain smoking and flicking cigarettes over the embassy fence, trying to get the guy to come out. All of the Vietnamese who had seen this chain of events, and had noticed my clenched fists over the last 20 minutes were trying to get me to calm down. It took 4 hours of pool to finally chill me out.
This guy caused me to spend 4 times what it should have cost me to get my Chinese visa. I was then forced to fly to Macao (Special Economic Zone in China ), which requires no visa. Here I was able to get a visa, which was lucky, but equally expensive.
Although the above makes it seem like I only spent 4 days trying to get a Chinese visa the entire scenario lasted about 10 days. During this whole time Nicole, Anne, Ben and myself usually got up about mid afternoon, played some pool (3-4 hours a day), ate some food, went to the Beer Hoi area - which sold a glass of 2% beer for 9p, got a bottle of vodka, and watched DVDs or films almost every night while discussing topics which arose from watching them. One significant thing that happened was that a Viet drove into the side of my bike at full speed. I had gone out on a food and drink run and on the very last turn to the hotel I was staying, a Viet tried to over take me on the right hand side of me (take note; in Vietnam they drive of the right hand side of the road) My bike was at a 30 degree angle when he smashed into the side of my bike, which caused all the drink and food I had, to smash on the road, and for me to be propelled 6-10 foot, over the handlebars of the bike, into a puddle at the side of the road. I stood up and grabbed the guy instantly but was unable to hit him, or say anything. After a few seconds he backed off and jumped on his bike and drove off. I picked up my bike which was superficially damaged but looked pretty bad, and drove the 30 meter's, back to my hotel. I stomped up the stairs and the door to my room flew open as I stood there dripping both blood and Hanoi sewage. Ben looked at me with a wild look of confusion, realised that I had crashed, laughed (as expected) and then slowly but surely became empathic as I was still standing there with the same pissed of Scot's man look that I do so well. The next day I took the bike to be fixed, which only cost $2 which was pretty good.
The last day Ben and I spent in Hanoi resulted in a pretty good drinking session. Nicole and Anne were flying back to Paris a couple of hours after us, so we all decided not go to sleep and stay up all night drinking. I as expected out drank everyone. At 5:45am we decided it was about time to pack up our bags, as the taxi that was taking us to the airport was due at 6am. We also had to settle the hotel bill, which had been accumulating for 10 days. With 5 minutes to go we both realised that we had no money and that ATM's were about, but were, we weren't sure. Ben made a dash out the hotel and was back with a few minutes to spare. In the taxi to the airport I fell asleep and woke up a lot more drunk than I previously was. Outside the airport Ben and I sat outside, I more so lay on the ground propped up by my bag, until we were asked to move by airport security. It was at this point I became mute for the first time I on my trip. I was nice and larry and supposedly talking too much, enough so, that Ben told me to shut up. I took this quite literally and completely stopped talking until we arrived in China . This meant the whole process of checking in, boarding, luggage collection etc... was accomplished by sign language and by my ability to stare at everybody’s lips with a look of complete concentration, while managing not to burst into either laughter or sound.
Our flight was from Hanoi , Vietnam , back to Bangkok , Thailand . I didn't particularly want to be back in Bangkok but it was the only possible way in which I could enter China . In Bangkok , Ben and I exchanged $5 to be able to get something eat, which with hindsight was a bad idea. If we hadn't been cheap in Hanoi , and refused to pay the extra 25p for noodles, the subsequent illness could have been avoided - poetic justice if you ask me. We got something to eat in the Bangkok Airport food court. Less than 2 hours after this meal both Ben and I felt unwell, in our opinion we managed to get mild food poisoning because for the next 3-5 days we both felt weak and had stomach cramps. In Bangkok airport we also met a French Canadian who for this email we shall call Bob. Bob talked a lot, he also was slightly annoying, and didn't seem to understand we wanted to be left to ourselves. Taking into account I was still mute, I could not be bothered with Bob's company, when he was speaking French. It turned out Bob was also flying to Macao , so it involved some diplomatic skills to escape from his company. This was not the last of Bob however.
On our arrival in Macao we made our way towards to baggage collection. Now was the time to find a backpacker a little more organised than ourselves. I made a quick scan of the exit at the airport and happened to notice the only other backpacker (other than Bob) and introduced Ben and I. Carlo, the other lone backpacker, was a lot more organised than we were. He had already secured his accommodation in Macao , in a cheap hostel so it was only sensible that we share the taxi to the place, and hope there would be space for Ben and I as well. Getting a taxi in China is fine, getting to where ever you are going, when you speak no Mandarin, and the taxi driver speaks no English may give rise to problems. Carlo however, had the name, address and phone number of the youth hostel, which made the whole thing a lot easier. The taxi drove for about 5 miles until he arrived, at what we thought was the hostel. After the taxi driver allowed us to use his phone and explain to the English speaking hostel owner where we were, the owner was able to come and take us the remaining 50m by foot. The 5 mile taxi journey cost 80 HKD, which is just over $10, expensive, so expensive I almost wanted to leave there and then. Throughout the whole taxi journey both Ben and I were experiencing culture shock. Macao had skyscrapers, designer shops, brand new cars - Lexus's, BMW's, illustrious neon advertisement - not what I wanted to see when I travel, not if I could avoid it.
We arrived at the youth hostel only to find that it was completely full, however, the guy in charge was extremely kind and helpful. He pointed out some hotels which were 'cheap' in the Macao sense of the word. Carlo decided to come with us in search of a hotel, as he wasn't particularly fond of sleeping in a dorm at 60 HKD a night. The second hotel we found was nice and cost us 160 HKD for all 3 of us, with TV and bathroom, Carlo was happy, as were we, we weren't sleeping in the park, which we had already braced our self to sleep in. That night we went out and had a drink and get some food and just wander about this city that doesn't sleep; Macao is synonymous with gambling - 24/7 gambling. The next morning we went out to get something to eat for lunch, and man did my wallet suffer. 180 HKD for a 12 portion meal which allowed us to try a variety of Canton food, all very nice, but damm, I'm on a budget. That was the end of restaurants in Macao , unless they looked ghetto.
After leaving Carlo that afternoon we managed to get accommodation in the youth hostel we had went to originally. As we walked into the dorm, talking amongst ourselves I happened to notice a head on the top bunk, I had just woke someone up. This someone was Carlos, who traveled with us for the next 10 days or so. Carlos was a Spaniard, from San Tiago (Catatonia) to be exact. We got talking, and Carlos seemed to be the sort of guy that Ben and I would get on with really well, which was proved correct in the not too distant future. Carlos asked if we wanted to join him that night in going into some of the casino's, and Ben and I of course accepted. We told Carlos we were just going to go out into town to get some night pictures of Macao , and on our return we could get something to eat and go gambling. The 'getting some night pictures' took us a lot longer than expected. Originally we had seen the sun - which looked gorgeous, and had forced us to run 1-2 miles in order to get some nice pictures. Once darkness fell, time seemed of little significance. The quality of the pictures we were getting were breathe taking, in fact one of my favorite pictures which I've taken since being away was taken this night. The reason the pictures were so beautiful was that all the casino's were competing which each other for the most ostentatious architecture, and intrinsic neon lighting. This resulted in amazing pictures. Ben and I would both stop and take 5 minutes to get a picture perfect, walk 2 meters and think damm, the picture looks even better from this angle. It took us almost 3 hours to walk back. We both remembered about Carlos and hoped he was still waiting for us, he was. That night we went gambling. The original idea was that we would only watch Carlos, followed by only gamble a little, followed by a little more. Carlos enjoyed playing Roulette and Blackjack, but Roulette was the cheaper opinion and thus we played Roulette. He had only been to a Casino a few times, but he had enough practice on the web, he actually did know what he was doing. He also happened to be extremely lucky, and had won every time he had been in a casino. This was to be no exception. Carlos did well enough on the Roulette table to convince me and Ben to play. We lost. It wasn't until my final bet later on in the night that I broke even. I won 64 times my original bet, which gives a rough idea of what I had spent :D The Casino's were all very nice, free water, sandwiches - if I had known earlier I'd have been going there for my 2 meals a day. We spent a good 8 hours in there enjoying ourselves. Carlos was up, I was even and Ben was 20 HKD up until he lost 150ish... On leaving the last casino, Carlos bet on one final thing, and won. I also forgot to mention it was in the casino that Ben and I met Bob again. We had met him in the first hotel and he followed us to the second. I had to tell Carlos, that I had pretended to be mute and to play along. We thought we were getting rid of him but he followed us to the second. It was at this point that Ben suggested I freak him out and just walk up to him and ask him something, so I did. I walked up and asked him if he had a light for my cigarette (yes I've taken up smoking on a part time basis, sorry folks; I did quit again though). He was completely shell shocked, lost for words, motionless. He turned out to be a nice guy after all and found the whole 'me being mute' thing unusual but funny none the less. I had to agree.
After we left the casino, Bob left us and Ben, Carlos and I decided the night was still young, regardless of the fact it was around 4am. We went to the local 7-11, which conveniently didn't close in Macao , and bought some beer, and made our way to the centre of town, which was rather nice, and still filled with some people drinking. We met some fanatical catholic Philippineo guys, who were determined to get me to become a catholic, didn't work needless to say. We were also approached by some lady boys, which surprised us and we were no longer in Thailand . The plural 'it's' got pissed off because the Philippineo guys told us they were lady boys, as if we didn't know. Carlos and I stayed us drinking, while Ben passed out in the most uncomfortable position. About 6-7 am we went back to our beds. The next morning All 3 of us went to the Chinese embassy to sort out our Chinese visa. No problem, although we thought for a long time that we weren't going to be seen that day, but everything worked out. As mentioned in the opening of this email I said that the Hanoi embassy guy had caused me to spent 4 times more than it should have cost me to get my visa... it was because of a reciprocity charge, introduced less than 4 days before I got to Macao. Since the UK government screwed China by stealing Hong Kong, and being that the UK government charges Chinese citizens extra to obtain a UK visa, the Chinese do the same. It cost me 3 times what Ben paid to get the exact same visa. If I had got my visa in Hanoi , I would have paid the same, and would have saved $180 on my flight.
While waiting for our visas, we walked around Macao reservoir, and watched helicopters landing and taking off for Hong Kong every 5 minutes. In the park at the reservoir there was a variety of exercise equipment and cloth models of the animals in the Chinese calendar. Carlos and I couldn't resist the temptation to dry hump the animals in front of every car and pedestrian walking by. Amusing to day the least. The next day we picked up our visas in 5 minutes and wandered about Macao , wasting time, until the bus to the Chinese border, and subsequent bus to Guangzhou were due. We made our way back to the hostel, to pick up our bags and leave, when Ben found a note written in a handwriting he recognised. It was Lauren's. Lauren had left us and went to Indonesia around 3 weeks ago, and here she was, in Macao . We were pretty shocked. Lauren's note said she would be back at 6pm, and told us not to go any where without us. It was already 5:50 pm so we asked Carlos if he wouldn't mind waiting an extra day before we go to China , he had no problem. We caught us with Lauren, and she decided she would like to come with us to the UNESCO national park, which we were planning to go to. The next day Lauren got her Chinese visa done express and we left for the border.
Upon crossing the border into China the first person who spoke to me asked if I wanted to buy marijuana, I said no, and since then no one has asked (Problem will be fixed in less than a week however :D ) We went from the border crossing to Guangzhou , in the nicest bus I've ever been in. Upon on arrival in Guangzhou we found accommodation, and Carlos and I went in search of a massage. Getting a 'real' massage in China in difficult as almost 95% of 'massage parlors' turn out to be noting more than brothels by a different name. We didn't find any massage place, but we did meet a group of Mongolians who made me laugh, as upon greeting us they said 'Welcome to Mongolia '. The next day we wander around Guangzhou , which is filled with black people. The reason for this because Guangzhou has imitations of EVERYTHING. It turns out that many of the black people come to this city to buy imitation goods, to sell in the home country. This is the only place in China I've seen any black people. Most of our time in Guangzhou , was spent looking at shit watches (Dad, I almost bought you a fake Bretling, but I knew you'd never wear it) , trying to get a decent one (as mine got stolen in Laos ). I also went in search of a new hat, as my Rasta hat got lost when I drove home from a swimming pool in Hanoi , in nothing but swim shorts in the pissing rain. All of us left Guangzhou empty handed, but we had been waiting on the bus to Changsha , and we had no real interest in one of China 's endless supply of big cities.
We arrived in Changsha ( Canton in ye olden times) early in the morning, and bought our onward train ticket to ...... surprise, surprise; we had yet another day in a big city to waste. It was decided that the first thing we would do was to go and find some coffee to quench Lauren's caffeine needs, and then look for a massage place. We managed to spend 2-3 hours in an expensive hotel drinking a solitary coffee each. It even got to the point that the waitress refused to top our complimentary glass of water. Lauren also came up with the bright idea of putting my hair into cute little bunches. I let her do it and for the rest of the day a wandered about Changsha with them. (How I'm making you proud dad) After coffee, we looked for a massage place and found one after asking and walking by maybe 15 brothels. We had an hour massage and then fell asleep for around 30 minutes afterwards, in a futile attempt to make the day shorter. After wasting some more time doing very little, we looked for a park to sit and chill. We found the park, but there happened to be a car show on, and the place was swarming with people. After having our fill of the brand new Chinese models of cars which we could buy, we walked further into the park and found some seats to relax on. Again Lauren, bless her insight-fullness, decided that I'd look better with mascara, lip gloss, and tear drops under my eye (painted on by mascara). Again, being bored I saw no reason to let her down. I left the park with the previously mentioned with one addition, a huge flower perked on my ear. Man, did I get some crazy looks. We would walk by somebody and 5-10 paces, after they were clear, they would look back, giggle, sneer, or shout hello. I even managed to get an army official, perched on his post, to loose concentration, and give me a sneaky glimpse. Success if you ask me. We ended our night in Changsha , playing kick the waited badminton ....... in a shopping centre which had closed.
In the train from Changsha to ...... Ben got talking to a Chinese woman, who was going to .... as well and offered to be our tour guide for free. When we arrived at .... we got into a ghetto looking taxi with her, and drove for about an hour. Ben was sure we were going to be kidnapped... Inside the taxi, I almost passed out from an over-powering smell of petrol - I'm almost sure I actually did pass out for a few minutes. When we arrived at the UNESCO site, the taxi pulled up to the most atrocious looking hotel I've ever seen in my life. Smack heads from Paisley would have even been shocked. The free tour guide said it was 50 RMB (just over $6) a room, in that shit hole. We all just laughed, picked up our bags and walked down the road. Less than 50 meters away we found a superior place for 40 RMB a night, private bathroom with hot water, TV, comfortable beds. .... turned out to be a disappointment. It cost 250 RMB for a 2 day pass, but because the weather was so bad (bad in the sense that it made seeing the beautiful rock formations, which we went there to see, almost impossible, and impossible to take a good picture. We also managed to pick up another free tour guide, who insisted that he wanted no money, only to practice his English. At first it seemed that it may have been the case, but by the end we were sure it wasn't so. We ended up loosing him 5 times, before we were finally free. We also managed to get a police officer to help us haggle in order to get a room cheaper. The hotel inside the national park claimed 130 RMB was the lowest they would go, but after telling a police officer we planned to stay in a hostel, he took us back to the hotel and we got the room for 100 RMB.
On our return to Changsha , Lauren left us to fly back to London and start her new job (good luck with that Lauren ) She really was in no mood to stop traveling and even got to the point of flicking a coin to decide if she would go home. Later on that night Ben and I left Carlos, who was heading back over towards Ningbo (near Shanghai) and headed for Mt. Lushan, in JiangXi province. We arrived in Lushan, a small no name place, as most visitors to Mt. Lushan go via the larger nearby city, which suited as greatly. The next morning the hotel owner had his friend/taxi driver come round to persuade us to visit the mountain with him. It cost 180 RMB to enter via the main gate, and 40 RMB to enter a small corner of the national park, which he claimed, that we could sneak into the park, if we paid him the 100 RMB he asked for. We told him that we would find the way in ourselves, which he clearly didn't think possible. When we arrived at the park, we paid the 40 RMB and the other taxi driver we went with came with us into the park. We walked around for a few hours and then the taxi drover met his younger brother, who was sneaking a group of Chinese kids into the park. Ben understood enough of the conversation that we decided we would trail them. Sure enough, after climbing up 800m on the side of the mountain we reached concrete paths, which we both knew meant we had reached the inside of the national park. 140 RMB saved, not bad. The guy we followed, and later over took must have been pissed, but it's not like he could do jack shit. The actual climb of the mountain was great fun, we even got to see a cave (which unfortunately had been bricked up) which was used by the Red's in one of the first main conflicts between them and government forces back in the day. The national park turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, as the weather, as usual, wasn't great and made viewing the beautiful scenery (which we saw on posters) impossible. We spent only 1 or 2 days there, and the only 2 things I know remember about the place, was climbing a pagoda, and spending the afternoon fishing with a local. When we were fishing with the local, crowds of Chinese tourists saw us there and all took photo's of us.
We left Lushan on train and headed for somewhere halfway between Lushan and Fuzhou, in Fujian province, which turned out to be Stungchan. The train I was on was the worst train I've ever been on. It was worse than a pack of sardines. There was no where Ben or I could place of bags, we couldn't even stand comfortably. Every inch of the train was filled with people, live stock, bags and rubbish. I spent the first 4 hours cramped on my bag in a half squat, half standing position. Every time the trolley with drinks and foods passed by, everyone had to move out of the way of the roaring beast. The train staff had decided the best and most efficient manner to pass everyone, was to shout and continue pushing the trolley at the constant speed of too fast. If you didn't move, you got hit. At some point in the journey, I saw a small child of only 3 or 4, being carried by it's mother to the toilet, as it had scald marks all over it's side, from the spilling of a instant noddle, caused by the maniac train staff, no doubt. The last 4 hours of the journey I was gifted with a minute toddler's chair, which I could barely sit on. Throughout the whole journey I constantly had to stand and sit down, as not to loose the feeling in the concerned muscles. The second I got off the train I was bloody relieved.
Stungchan had little to offer the Chinese traveler, people on the train even seemed amazed we were getting of the train at such a place. The only thing nearby was a cave, which we didn't even bother entering because it cost 40 RMB. By this point I was already sick of the Chinese tourism board trying to cash in on every little thing. The cave it's self was nestled into the side of a mountain, which was free to enter, and at this Ben and I decided just to wonder about in the mountain, even though it had concreted paths. A quarter of the way up the mountain we met 2 kids aged 14 and 9. The 14 year old kid was brilliant.He goes to the mountain to gather stones which look pretty, in order to sell them. He seemed to take great pride in 'maintaining' the mountain as he picked up every piece of rubbish along the way. He had been acting as our guide, and had been taking us to see the sights on the mountain, so when he stopped to gather some rocks, Ben and I joined in. We spent almost an hour smashing rocks against other rocks, to see if any had the crystallisation's, which he was looking for. He seemed very grateful for this. At the peak of the mountain we met his friends, who were all of about the same age. The whole way back down the mountain Ben spoke to them and I tried as hard as I could. On the bottom the offered to take us back to the main village on their bicycles. What an experience. To pay the children back for the wonderful hospitality, Ben and I bought them all a drink (which was more expensive than a taxi drive home, like that mattered). All 10 of us then made our way to the bus station which would take us back to Stungchan. They all waited with us in the station until the bus came. Before we left we got someone to take some photos and then entered the bus. When the bus left they were all outside waving and saying goodbye, which was really nice. We arrived back at Stungchan and decided to waste some time playing pool. After 20 games we left the pool place and met a really friendly 17 year old kid. He invited us back to his work place for some tea. After walked some 20 minutes we arrived at a garage. There we sat with him and his friend and drank our tea. On the way back to the train station he asked if we wanted something to eat, by asked I mean he invited us, and being as it's impolite to refuse we joined him. We got some beer and kind of forced him into chugging it in glasses. After 1 beer he was drunk as could be imagined. When we tried to pay for all 3 of us he absolutely refused, it got to the point that the restaurant owner said the bill could be settled in the morning, which we slightly assumed meant the meal was free. We made our way back to the train station with haste as our train was leaving soon, very soon, so soon that when we actually got their we had to run and jump onto the moving train. Even up until the time of me writing this email, Ben and I have never missed any mode of transport, but we have came too close some times.
Ben and I had been bracing ourselves for another Lushan - Stungchan train, but once aboard it was clear we would have a seat, possibly even 2 each! The journey to Fuzhou was as enjoyable as a comfortable night train could be. We arrived in Fuzhou early the next morning and were both mocking the Chinese passengers who were desperately running about. If we had known before hand why there was a mad rush, we may have joined in. We seemed to have arrived at a bad time (1st of October is national day, and week long holiday) and in consequence, after having gone to over 15 hotels which are all fully booked, we went and chilled with some homeless and then went to an Internet place to try and get some sleep. Instead of sleeping we decided that we would just go to Taiwan , travel down the west of the island, chill in the south, and then take a ferry back over a week or so later. After some breakfast, we got a taxi to take us to the port only to find out that the ferry is only for Chinese nationals, and that if we wanted to go we would have to fly. That put an end to Taiwan. Instead we drank some beer and slept at the port for a while. I definitely got the impression the small store and the only one around, hadn't seen many foreigner's what so ever. No more Taiwan meant no more Fuzhou so we hoped on a bus to get away from yet another big city, as fast as possible. We arrived in Xiaman some 12 hours later and almost immediately discovered it wasn't quite such a small and charming town as we were told, with accommodation starting at 250Y a night, which is far above our budget. In consequence, we spent a night in a McDonald's, waiting for train towards Guang Zhou at 4pm, to then continue on towards Guanxi and then Guizhou provinces which seem appealing unlike the horrible cities which we've graced with our presence.
In Guang Zhou we arrived in Guilin, where we were attacked by a horde of touts which was excessively depressing. We wanted to go to the 'Dragon Rice Terraces', however we had heard that there was yet again an entrance ticket. In consequence, we got a few beers, started drinking on the street and shouting 'Where are you going?' to every Chinese person which was staring at us (it's what they keep on telling us in order to get us to ride on their bus/car/motorcycle), which meant almost everyone. After a while, people started avoiding us, except for this one homeless person which turned out to not be homeless but from Sichuan, and who we talked with for an hour or so, bought him a beer and he gave us hope on China again. Really kind man and who flaunted the merits of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, and also told us to go to the dragon terraces as it wasn't too expensive and worth it. We went following his advice and were glad we did so. It is home to some truly sublime scenery. During the bus trip to terraces, Ben struck up both conversation and a friendship with a local. He took us out for something to eat, bought us food, and even asked if we had money, while holding 200 RMB in his hand. This sort of hospitality is ridiculous, to offer to travelers you just met almost 15 quid, while you are not blessed with huge finances really touched me. We got a motorbike up to the entrance of the 'park' where touts were all asking for over 100 RMB a night for accommodation. This resulted in Ben and I walking into the rice fields, clambering around with our backpacks on, falling into rice field water irrigation channels, before finally finding a place we could sleep. We dropped our bags and prepared a small area to sleep in, after plugging all the snake holes around. After we had found our nights accommodation we made our way into town, only after Ben had shouted at a paraplegic, for being lazy and getting carried up the rice fields by carrier. The village was really nice and the views were beautiful. I never knew that rice fields could be so awe inspiring. After some food we discovered that accommodation wasn't as expensive as we first imagined. We got a place fairly cheap and then had to climb around the rice field in the dark. Thankfully we had done the same journey 6 times already, so we knew where we were going. The next day we made our way along the long walk to the next village in the 'park'. After endless hours of walking, and randomly mounting a horse, Ben and I met some locals who were working there fields, and before we knew it we were in the field helping them collect rice. They seemed really happy for this gesture and again before we knew it we were both carrying sacks of rice back to their respective village. Carrying sacks of rice is not the easiest thing to do when your ascending and descending hills on a regular basis. After an hours walk we reached a pool where we all got in and washed, before making the final ascent to the village. The family which we had helped fed and sheltered us that night, and we all got extremely drunk on some alcohol which comes in a sterile plastic bag, which was added to a huge glass container which had circular objects inside. I told Ben about the 'eating is cheating' policy when you drink, and after he was drunk he ate rice to try and combat the drunkenness. Didn't work. He spewed and the next morning the villagers where all making noises as if being sick and laughing with Ben.
The next day we arrived back at the main town of Guilin, where we bought a pet chick. The most appropriate name we could think of was Shaoshi "小拭", which literally means little shit. Appropriate to say the least. The next 5 days we travelled about with her, with her incessant tweeting, shitting and huge appetite. It was brilliant to have her, although she was difficult to travel with as she didn't like buses. The Chinese seemed to really find it cute that we had her with us and that we would let her run around the dinning table, getting into a mess and letting her drink beer. She really did think we were both her parents and would run around our feet whenever we walked. During the night she would also leave her make shift bed and tweet until either one of us picked her up and slept with her under our arm. We eventually gave her to a nice family we met in a small rural village.
From Guilin we headed towards Kali, in Guizhou province. (Somewhere along the way we were on a bus that took 8 hours to do 100 km) It's important to know that for around 4 weeks now we have travelled China with a convenient little atlas which shows China in a greatly appreciated detail. In the atlas the 'small' towns which we were passing through by bus, weren't so small, so we flicked our decision coin, which always knows best, and as usual did. We got off the bus and a random place called Leishan, and we were glad we did so. We met a really nice restaurant owner in Leshan who set us up with a nice hotel for a good price, 30Y, against the rules of the PSB (Public Security Bureau) as foreigners can't stay in such places, instead of the 80Y+ hotels around. We ate in his restaurant the next morning only after buying fishing equipment and fireworks. He suggested we visit an autonomous region nearby which has a beautiful traditional village, so after our meal we went to this village, the village of Leishan.
Leishan was a nice traditional village, and there weren't too many tourists there either which was a good thing to say the least. Ben and I filled our 2 days there by relaxing and just wandering around the quiet village. There wasn't much to see other than rice fields and old wooden houses, but the atmosphere was appreciated by us. We did kind of ruin that atmosphere one of the nights as we where setting fireworks off in the middle of town and throwing several fire crackers which sounded like gun shots. We terrorised the town for a single night, and I even managed to set a police car alarm off because the bang was so loud. Before leaving we spoke to a very friendly girl who worked in the hotel we where staying and she recommended several places for us to visit in Sichaun which beats lonely planet hands down.
On our arrival back in Leshan we went back to visit the restaurant owner and then set off to Kali. Kali really wasn't the nicest of places I've been to in China. We made our way straight down to the train station and bought our ticket to Kunming in the Yunnan province. Now this train station is the weirdest train station I've ever been to in China. We bought our tickets, we waited for our train, we asked when the train would be here several time and then asked again only to find out that the train had come and been. Usually in China, that's it, you've missed your train, but here they took us back down to the ticket office where they altered our ticket and told us when our new train would be here. We went out got something to eat and came back to wait on the train. The only reason we didn't miss it again was because they knew us by now and came over and told us our train was here. No announcement, no nothing. Like we would know when our train was going to arrive. In the end we got the later train, which was a godsend, as the earlier trains are always packed as for some reason the Chinese don't prefer the overnight train. We love them though, it saves us on accommodation.
In the train as usual it was difficult to find a free seat (the Chinese love to monopolise 2-3 seats for each person) and as per fucking usual we had to wake someone up. And yet again, as per usual they don't want to let us sit. We always get the seat though, we paid for our ticket and I'm getting my seat mentality kicks in fairly fast. After a while we had 3 seats between us both but Ben decided the rail used for the baggage would be more comfortable and he spent the rest of the journey up there sleeping uncomfortably. Kunming as with most big Chinese city lacks anything of character, but they can contain character's . We found a pleasant and cheap youth hostel and no sooner had we paid for the room that we met Phillip, a badass traveler from Quebec. We chilled with Phillip for the 2 days we were in Kunming and he gave me so much information on Pakistan and Nepal (for which I'm very grateful of man). In Kunming we didn't do much except find out that it takes a week to get a visa extension in Kunming, and 20 minutes in Dali, which is only 150km away. Other than that we just walked around, bought some clothes, drank and talked with Phillip. Phillip was essential in helping to convert Ben into the idea of fucking the idea of going home and just traveling more. 2-1 helps make difficult decisions :D
On to Dali was the next logical move as our visa was expiring in 1-2 days, and being that its 70$ a day fine if you over stay, we went with a day to spare. Dali was alright, way way to commercial though, with nothing but renovated shells of once old building to look at. The only thing we found worth doing was climbing a water reservoir thing, which was home to the most badass spiders I ever seen. They freaked me out. We got our visa in the 20 minutes but it nullified my dual entry visa for China, which means no more entering China again... shame... not really. Dali is one of those 'must see' places in China, which has nothing to see, we only went there to get the visa and after that was done we left to go to the 'Tiger Leaping Gorge' further up north in Yunnan. The bus was a disaster. The played music at full blast and neither of us could sleep. When the bus stopped for a while Ben and I jumped out to stretch our legs. As soon as we got out we were greeted by the smell of a long, not too long, forgotten friend. Green! Just 5 metres from us there was a plantation of dope. Ben and I jumped the wall and began stripping the plants of all their glory. We filled up my whole backpack with the free green and jumped back on the bus satisfied with our day. The music had also stopped, not like either of us could sleep, we had weed for the first time in China. At 3am the bus dropped us off in a town and after wandering about for an hour we found the way into the park. Being that we entered at 5am we didn't have to pay the entrance fee, which is exactly why we entered at that time. After another 30 minutes of walking and backtracking over a 10 metre wall after climbing up a tree, to collect our bags, which we dumped in a school football field, we walked down a long and boring road with no lights. Around 6am we found a hotel and after scaling the fence and waking the confused owner up and asking for a room for 3 hours, we had our bed. At 9am we set off to walk to 20km up a trail which went up and down and up and down and up and down. It killed us both. We stopped after doing around 8km and got something to eat from a stall which sold drinks, food and dope. Then back to the walking in the rain. The views were pretty nice, we were walking in the deepest gorge in the world but the Chinese weather made visibility poor (we didn't even know we were supposed to see snow covered mountain). On the way back down the mountain we just gave up on the track and raced down the side of the mountain trying desperately to make sure we were in time for our bus to Lijiang. once reaching the bottom we stopped a minivan and asked it to take us back to our hotel so we could pick up our bags and then find the bus station. It turned out that the minivan was going to Lijiang and at a very reasonable rate so we just took that. The whole journey Ben and I were absolutely frozen and absolutely drenched. The first thing we did on our arrival in Lijiang was to go for a luke warm shower until we heated up enough to turn it into a hot shower.
Jijaing, similar to Dali, is a must see, with nothing much to see. We stayed a day and the next day we got a bus to Lugu Lake. Lugu Lake the first day we we there was nice, but not as nice as we had been led on to beleive. We went and got out our fishing rods and such and spent the day perched on the side of the lake, catching nothing, and drinking beer. Later on in the day though the sky cleared up and the lake really did look beautiful. The day after we were supposed to catch a bus Sichaun province, but our hotel owner had given us wrong information. She had said the bus was at 3pm, when infact it was at 1pm, so this made us have to spent another day in Lugu. This extra day was not spoiled and was one of the best days in a while. After discovering we couldn't get the bus we took a walk down a road, jumped a fence and noticed a fishing boat which looked abandoned. We of course 'borrowed' the boat for the remainder of the day and rowed to a small island in the middle of the lake. (We refused to pay the 60 RMB per person there and back) The 'rowing' part was hilarious. We were both utterly useless at the start because we were only using one oar in the middle and one in the back as a fin/oar. It took us a while to get the hang of it and even at that it was exhausting work, and how it caused me to get even more blisters and my already beaten hands. In the middle of the lake we took a breather and we both surprised by how truely beautiful it looked in nice weather, and most importantly and clear blue sky. 2 hours later and maybe 3km's we reached the island. We docked our boat and were instatly greeted by the only dope plant on the island. Again we stripped it off its leaves and head off further into the island. We happened to have a dog as our guide who lead us up some stairs to a Tibetan monestry. Usually people only visit the island in a mass known as 'tour group' so the monks looked a little confused by our presense, but seemed equally happy, by the fact I was playing around with their dog. The way back to the shore was not fun, Ben was high, I was slightly high, neither wanted to row. About a quarter of the way back we noticed another boat approaching us. Ben couldn't resist from starting and we both knew they were coming for us. The boat had an old man and a young guy - the owner of the boat and he looked really, really pissed. They tied their boat to ours and after 10 minutes of us trying to help them drag us back, they told us to stop and let them pull us back in. When we arrived at the shore lines the young guy was demanding 1500 RMB for stealing his boat, as he wasn't able to go fishing, and had spent all day looking for his boat. We played the fool and after 15 minutes of us saying we don't understand and the price falling to 700 RMB, we took a gamble and said 'we all go to the police and sort this out' and this the price became 200 RMB. I gave him 66 and said that's all we had, if it wasn't enough we go to the police. Now the Chinese never want to be involved with the police so we knew he would take the 66 RMB. Having used the boat for 4 hours we thought that was an acceptable price as we damm well knew he wasn't going fishing at 3pm and that we had paid his days wages, whether he was even going to work that afternoon or not. We went back to our hotel and ended up talking to some locals around a camp fire and then ended up at a huge barbecue with crowds of Chinese signing and drinking. The table next to us were completely gone, and the men kept coming one by one to say cheers with us, before gulping a glass of beer. They ended up taking pictures of us and we returned the compliments.
The next afternoon we got the bus at 1pm and arrived in Xichang in Sichaun province around 9pm. Since then we've had something to eat and then decided that instead of sleeping in a hotel, we could pay the 2 RMB an hour for the Internet and I could finish this damm email. It's now 4:30am, and in 1 hours time the bus station open and we can get a bus further up north in Sichaun.
Finally finished yet another long and semi-interesting email,
Not entirely looking forward to the next,
But until that that one,
Epilogue on China - 10 days left to change my mind. Doubtful to say the least
So far I have very mixed feelings about China, it's overdeveloped and polluted...the big cities are atrocious...they all have the same depressing concrete feel to them. Going to see the classic landscapes and beautiful sceneries also fails, as the Chinese government seems to have a knack at forcing you to pay exorbitant prices (250Y+) to enter their national parks, where you get to mingle with a horde of fluttering Chinese tourists (Just like Japanese tourists, but with less flashy cameras), walk seemingly endless arrays of stairs, all this to reach spots which should have, could have been beautiful, but where you see nothing due to bad weather and/or hideous tourist installations. I feel that China has truly been ruined and will never be the same as it was 20 years ago, and it will only get worse. However, the Chinese people remain as hospital as ever and there still remains some places which the influx of tourism has not yet spoiled. This romantic idea that the poor rural China, or China in the past was better, is selfish but also as a traveler is equally true. Considering China is communist, you see nothing but capitalism and commercialism in every one of it's cities, and in the rural area's, I don't believe they care about the government, or the 'glory' of China, they care about themselves, their children, their neighbors and their village. Outside of this, with no money, greater China can't have a huge amount of significance to them. This is why I wish China was smaller on it was more manageable to visit these rural places where what I believe China was, still remains.
Howie87, this information would be much better off in a blog than on the forums. The forums are more of a discussion platform, whereas this is more of a one way stream of information. Great information, don't get me wrong, it just isn't very well suited to the forum!
My bad. Sorry