Sunday, 31 May 2015

7 days in Tibet

Tibet was certainly one of the amazing trips that I’d gone on to. There were many down sides of this seven days trip but I guess seeing the Tibet, Himalayas and viewing Everest at 5200 meter above sea level made it all worth it. I wouldn't recommend for the shoestring travelers to take on this route because it was simply expensive even with the cheaper deals. It is cheaper if you start your trip from Nepal and towards Tiber rather than the China side. Tibet is an autonomous region within China. They had a long and complicated history together and the last conflict happened in 2008 when the Tibetans did some rioting, which made it more complicated for the foreign travelers to get in. And the complicated it gets between Tibet and China, the more tedious the process for foreign travelers to get in unless you have a big chunk of money lying around. For foreign travelers, we need permits to enter Tibet and we have to go with a tour guide – and all of that cost money. I found the cheapest package but there’s always a catch in spending more money and you would end up saving only a little bit. I was lucky to find another two travelers that were going the same way. The more in a group – the cheaper it is. I guess this trip had cost me about 700 – 800 USD for nine days trip including the two days train ride from Chengdu to Lhasa.

I felt a strange headache when I arrived in Lhasa and I assumed it was the elevation difference or altitude sickness as they call it. And I wasn't fully cured from sore throat and minor cough, which I got in Chengdu. I wasn't in my best condition. I was almost 3500m above sea level and the beauty of Lhasa distracted me from all these sickness. Lhasa is a city and administrative capital of Tibet Autonomous Regions of the People’s Republic of China. It is one of the highest cities in the world. The city has been the religious and administrative capital of Tibet since the mid-17th Century. It contains many culturally significant Tibetan Buddhist sites such as the Potala Palace, Jokhang temple and Norbulingka palaces. I knew nothing about the political side of Tibet when I arrived – the Dalai Lama’s. So I had to learn quickly. On my arrival, the police checked my permits and there was someone waiting for me with my name on the card since I went under a tour. The other two travelers from my tour group arrived this morning by plane. It took a while for the driver to find my reserved hostel – and somehow I had to pay for the driver to my place of stay for 150 Yuan, which was compulsory for the tour. While looking for the place – I had a little view of Tibet but the headache kept on bugging me and it kinda turned off my mood. I checked in my hostel, which was about 2 years old, and I was like the second foreigner to ever check in the hostel. And it was also my first dorm throughout my whole trip. There were only the two of us in a 6-bed dorm. There is a stretch of Halal restaurants nearby, where I had my evening lunch. Tibet has the Muslims Hui for these restaurants.  I just had some little walks and I guess what made the first day interesting was the hostel that I stayed in. They have a great place to hangout at the lobby with big TV set, a pool table and also the typical karaoke room and I just had to mingle around & I end up singing in the karaoke. The Chinese travelers were great fantastic, as they came from all over China for their getaway. My first night in Tibet was a terrible. I was coughing badly throughout my sleep. There were two other people in my room and I guess I kinda annoyed them as I coughed every now and again. I didn't had a good sleep. I also realize that you get tired easily in Tibet. Just by going on a one floor staircase would really took your breath away. I felt tired and my first night kinda sucks in Tibet.

I woke up in high spirit of seeing the better side of Tibet. I had to walk 30 minutes to the hostel of the other two travelers in my tour group. And there I met Mary our tour guide for the next two days and the other two travelers Albert from Catalonia and Martyna from Poland. They were a couple traveling the world and on their six months now. Mary is a local Tibetan from the village area somewhere in Shigatse. Our first tour was towards the Barkhour Square towards the Jongkang temple.  For most Tibetans it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. It is in some regards pan-sectarian, but is controlled by the Gelug School. It was my first time walking among the monks of Tibet’s. You can see them praying on the floor. And it was like a pilgrimage center for most Tibetans. So seeing this was interesting as you can see some similarities of the movement prayer to the Islamic Salah prayer. After that we went for the Potala Palace where the Dalai Lama’s had been living all these years. It was certainly beautiful to see the palace with the backdrop of the wonderful sky behind it. The Potala Palace is quite high and to walk up the stairs at this elevation surely in need of break in between. The view from the top was just mesmerizing. Inside the temple– there were many sections that explained on how the ruling works during the Dalai Lama’s era. We didn't had a good explanation from our guide and I’m still trying to understand what’s it all about. After the Potala palace, we went for the Sera monastery, which was a little bit far off, and we had to take the bus to go there. We had our Tibetan lunch first and later went into the temple. Inside the temples are the places where they pray to the past Dalai Lama’s and they have many of these within the temples. What’s interesting for me was the section outside where all the monks gather to have discussion and it was an attraction for the tourists. It was a debate, which was done in a unique way amongst them. By nighttime, it’s more about mingling with the people in my hostel and somehow I ended up wearing a Tibetan costume on the second night along with the other two Chinese tourist. It is weird how I used to travel in hostel and would find people from all around the world would meet up but in this hostel it’s people from all around china meeting up, like it was a foreign land to them. These are the friendliest random Chinese I’d ever met so far during my trip. On my third day in Lhasa, I didn't join the tour-guiding thing because my body felt a little bit off and I just wanted to chill out but it went differently when I had my lunch at the Hui restaurant. A group of people just opposite my table were interested in me. Two guys and a lady. Only one of them can speak minor English and somehow we managed to communicate and I end up following them. They brought me to a guesthouse a bit far off from the center and I found out that the lady was the owner and the two guys were her guests. And they were a band from somewhere in China and looking for a place to perform in Tibet. They had their guitars with them and another guest joins us with his Tabla. We had a great jamming session despite having communication problems. I guess when it comes to music it was just one language. And I end up singing again – that's the only thing I can offer in ‘lost in translation’ world. That evening, the lady in red brought me to see some sightseeing. She drove me to the bridge and hill overseeing Lhasa. I didn't plan to climb the hill but I guess she was so enthusiastic on climbing and I was too ego to back away. And of course it was just tiring to climb at this elevation but simply worth the try. The view of Lhasa was just great. She didn't speak a word of English at all but I guess she was a very delightful person. She brought me to the park and sat down with the locals. She also showed me the Lhasa Bridge before sending me off to my hostel. I love mixing with the Chinese in this hostel especially when there is a person who can communicate a little bit of English and becomes a translator as well. We had some laughs trying to exchange our stories. It was the best night in Lhasa and it was sad that I had to leave the next day. I don't even know their names and they just didn't know that I’m leaving the next morning. They were travelers and that's why they were fun.

My next destinations in Tibet were mostly spent in the car during the day because of the distance that we have to cover to get to our next destinations. It was really touristy long draggy drive within the land of Tibet. There was the guide, the driver, Martyna, Albert and I. This part of the trip kinda sucks actually but the view was mesmerizing. From now onwards, our days would start around 9am and we will drive all the way to the next destination until late evening with only some stops at touristic places for photos and for food. There were even time limits within the so many military checkpoints that we went through. We couldn't simply go too fast because we will end up getting a fine. And the speed limit was really slow. We would stop at some Tibetan temples in Ghatse and some of the roads were just long stretched boring ones. And we were stuck in our seat; only the views of Himalayan Mountains made it better. We arrived in Shigatse about 6pm. We had a bad experience eating at Hui restaurant, which I think they overcharged us. In Shigatse – they also have the 2nd Potala temple, which was the exact replica of the first one, but now it is just like an abandon building. Shigatse was kinda an ugly town and there wasn't much to do there and I guess I just cant wait to go for the base camp the next day.

The trip to the Everest base camp was much interesting but another very long drive during the day with so many irritating checkpoints. Sometimes we have to stop because we were too fast on reaching to the next military checkpoint. This is what you get for the cheapest tour – Long day drive. The drive to the Everest base camp was challenging because we were going further up the hill. The landscape changes from dry mountains to snowy ones. We would drive round and round the mountain and stop at places with beautiful view for great photos. The Yamdron Lake was by far the best lake I’ve ever encountered. The water was just so blue and there were Yaks everywhere. The two cute famous animals here are the mountain dogs and the Yaks. Martyna had these obsession of Yaks she would just simply point out to Yaks whenever she sees one. Sometimes we would stop on each highest peak at every place or mountain and they have some sort of landmark like a bridge or an arch. And these landmarks would be covered with the beautiful colours of Tibetan flags. What keep us going with the long trip was the Himalayan Mountains, which gets closer and closer. There was another artificial lake that we had stop by which almost looked like the Yamdron Lake. When we reached at the foot of the mountain, we had to take another route because the normal route was under construction. We had to take an off-road going up the hills. This was like going through the sandy rocky bumpy ride for more than two hours. It gets tough going on a 4wd but we just had to face it to get there before sunset. We arrived at the base camp just before sunset and there it was – the base camps for the tourists. It was like big tent that can accommodate 8-10 people and they had all these hotel names on them. They were about more than 50 camps all together. The Everest was in sight and it was just simply amazing for me. I was high on life - like 5000 meters high on life. The best view of the Mount Everest is here. The Tibetans called it the Chomolungma (Goddest mountain of moutains). We just had to wander off and feel the Everest within our sight. It was just amazing wonderful experience. The air was really thin and you have to really control your breathing. The weather was cold as we were surrounded with snowy mountains but it was ok – somehow I became energertic just being here. The tents that we stayed – they would cook us food and had like a fireplace in the middle to keep us warn. The were no heaters but we had many layers of thick yak made blankets for sleeping. The next morning, after breakfast – we head in further with a tour bus towards the climbers base camp and it was the furthest that we can go with our permits. Yaks were all over the place and we had to climb the little hill to see the best view of the Everest – the closest that I will ever get to the mountain for now. On the other side of the hill was the climbers base camp. I would estimate about a hundred of them waiting for their turn to climb the highest peak in the world. Everest was just spectacular and it was highest point I had ever been in my life. We had about an hour at the 5200meter peak before we leave for the border town. Before we left the base camp, we visited the temple at the entrance of the base camp and then it was just plain boring drives downhill through the snowy - Rocky Mountains. By this time, it was kinda sad to leave the mountain but in a way it was a relief that the trip was coming to an end because of the fast pace tourist expensive trip. We would spend most of the day traveling and we will reach our destinations just before sunset. Sometimes the view was just too much – maybe it was because we could only see through our windows of our long journey on the 4wd instead of spending time to wonder amongst the Himalayans. The road towards the China border town Zhangmu was really far and long stretched ones. The Himalayas slowly fades away from our sight. We had one last stop for the fantastic view of the Himalaya Mountains. After a 7 hours drive we were almost at the border town destination. The road to Zhangmu was kinda dangerous as it was on the side of the hills. Zhangmu town is unique. This border town is located on the side of the hill and there’s only one-way in and out. Zhangmu has mild and humid subtropical climate, which is a rarity for Tibet. Chinese trucks traveling on the Tibet-Nepal Friendship Highway offload goods at Zhangmu and transfer them to Nepalese trucks. Because it was one way in and out of the town – it would create a massive traffic when someone makes a havoc on the road. Again, it was evening when we reached there and somehow we went through some bad traffic as assumed. There were many lorries coming in from Nepal and we felt the Nepalese vibe somehow. It was nighttime by the time we checked in our hostel and we had our dinner at nearby restaurant. We didn't get to explore the town but I there wasn't much too explore. The next morning we head off early to avoid the traffic towards the border, which was about 30 minutes away. We had to wait until 9am for the immigration office to open. My tourist guide had never been to Nepal before even though she had been sending travellers to the border so many times. We can literally see Nepal from the China side immigration office. According to her, it was just hard for Tibetans to get Chinese passports. In a way, we were happy to leave China because it was just expensive for a shoestring travelers. The political scenario between Tibet and China was always complicated and the Tibetans would always avoid these topics whenever we brought it up. Seeing the Everest base camp was one of the best moments in my life but the permitted tour in Tibet was to quick for a wanderer and how I wished I had more time just to relax while viewing the Himalayan Mountains

Monday, 18 May 2015

Route: Chengdu (China) – Lhassa (Tibet, China) 170415

The longest train ride in my life. 44 hours to be exact. From Chengdu, capital of Sichuan to Lhasa, capital of the autonomous Tibet. Trains depart 8.45pm from Central North Station. Had to buy some food just incase.  The ticket is expensive. It was said that it was fully booked and only can get it by black market. Wanted the hard sleeper but it was full. The soft sleeper – the only choice 1350Yuan to be exact but the cabin is nice. Shared with three other chinese. Have oxygen tap because we are going up the hill. Night time – nothing much to see. Socialising? Im not good in that expecially most chinese don't speak english and cant be bothered to talk like cat & dog. Next day woke up to the beautiful scenary outside. Field mountains with roads. Little towns in between. Again beautiful just looking outside the window. See the changes bit by bit. Sometimes goes inside a cave. This train goes in and out the mountains. The only option is to watch the beautiful scenary or go on bed to sleep/read or whatsoever. Regret didn't get more food like noodle in cup. The next day woke up to the view of himalaya mountains. A little headace maybe from the elevation difference. Snowy mountains. Weird headache but mesmerizing view that cured the pain. Somehow I feel a little too long in the train. The weather is certainly cooler and the train stops – the view just gets better and better. Arrived at Lhasa at 2pm. Hello Tibet!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Chengdu 150415

Chengdu. My hate & love relationship with Chengdu. I stayed the longest so far throughout my trip here for 12 nights, mostly because I had to wait to get the permit for my next trip destination Lhasa, Tibet. What I dislike about Chengdu; Cold, Expensive, Big City, Money, Getting Colder – the coldest I’ve been too, figuring how to go to Tibet – more and more money, the city is too big – so you have to use public transport to go around – more money and China certainly made a big hole from my budget. What I like about Chengdu; people I met (travelers, locals, students, a Malaysian guy), the cheap local food, the Xingjian lamb stick, the food cooked by a Malaysian fellow, the spice of the food, meeting lots & new people and finally the good weather on the final days of my stay. I would say I had a first bad week followed by a good one.

The first thing I did when I arrived in Chengdu was to find a taxicab and showed him the address of my host. It took a while for the taxi driver to figure out where it was – this shows how big the city was; even the taxi drivers didn’t know all the roads in Chengdu city. Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province and it was twice bigger than Kunming. My host lives somewhere in the southwest of Chengdu. Chengdu was structured in circular way with ring roads. Rieneke from the Netherlands has only been in Chengdu for about a month as she is taking Chinese language studies at the southwest university. I also met up with Michael that evening – he approached me on couch surfing for meet up. He was from Sarawak, Malaysia and has been working in Chengdu for a year and half as a kindergarten teacher. He has plans to do a reversal trip from Chengdu to Malaysia by land, once he is done with Chengdu – that’s why he wanted to meet up at first. Michael kinda introduced me Chengdu and the way we should travel around here. The second elevated ring road has a frequent bus that just goes around and from there we can go to outer part of the city. And then we can use the bus on ground level or metro subway to go inner towards the center where everything was. He also showed me the cheap street foods and ‘Hui’ (Muslims in China) food of Chengdu.

On the first week of my stay, I didn't do much sightseeing and I only go outdoors for food and to figure out about Tibet. The weather on the first week was really cold. And it was the first cold weather I encountered for years – so it took me quite some time to adjust and waking up to the cold mornings were hard. Rieneke was busy with classes on weekdays and she was mostly available at night. I went to my first few couch surfing meeting with her. I met a lot of random people whether they were traveling or on a break from traveling (working), locals, and other couch surfers with their hosts from. It was awkward for me at first but once we started talking – we just couldn’t stop. I also introduced Rieneke with Michael and we went for our first hotpot together, which was very spicy experience. Michael introduced us to his colleague Lana from Ukraine and his American friend Hubert. They made dinner at one of the nights - cooking meals from their home country. And it was good and fulfilling one.

Figuring out the Tibet trip was like a roller coaster. I searched it online before but it was just too expensive because foreigners must have permits to enter Tibet. And in order to get permits – we must go with a tour. From the Internet it showed that the cost was about USD1000 for seven days trip until the border of China – Nepal. I decided to figure it out once I’m. I went to Lazybones hostel, which was recommended by Michael, and somehow from the packages that they offer – it seemed to be out of my budget. It is cheaper if you have a big group go with but I don't have that. So, they told me to email the Mix hostel if there any groups that I can join with. The respond was good as there were a couple going there soon – and I can join them but I need to decide as quick as possible whether to join them or not, so they can do my permit with the limited time. I went to Mix Hostel, which was located at the north side of Chengdu to get more details. If I joined the couple, the cost for each of us will be 3000 Yuan excluding accommodation and food. I also need to get the 2day train ticket from Chengdu to Lhasa. I guess that was the cheapest price for the last minute limited time that I had left. The train ticket to Lhasa is sold out according to organizer of the trip at mix hostel but somehow they can get it black market (what is that suppose to mean). I was 50 – 50 on going, because it will make big hole out of my budget but on the other hand, I really wanted to make my way through Nepal by land and this was the only route to do so. While figuring out and deciding whether to take the Tibet route or not, I met a lot of exciting travellers at Mix hostel. There were three bicycle travelers and by coincident they met up at Mix Hostel – an Aussie guy cycling from Europe to Australia, another Aussie guy cycling the opposite way and a French guy who is cycling towards Mongolia. I’ve even met up with a traveler who has been traveling for 14 years.

My 2nd week was so much better because the sun was out. I’ve also decided to take the Tibet route but I was unprepared for the weather in the hills of Tibet. Luckily, I met a local, Amy at a couch surfing meeting and we talked about my Tibet route. According to her it’s freezing cold at Tibet. She helped me out to get cheap winter clothes from an NGO and 2nd hand hiking shoes.  Thank you for that Amy. I’ve also moved to stay with Michael on the 2nd week. I’m the first person he ever hosted on couch surfing. Michael loves food. Somehow he managed to get me cooking my favorite ‘Ayam Masak Merah’. I never really cooked for people before and my last cooking was about two years ago – and Michael really wanted to learn a Malay dish. All in all it turned out good and I’m glad that they enjoyed it. With the days that I had left before the Tibet trip, I went to explore the Chengdu city – like Kuanzhai alley, Jinli Street, Tianfu Square and some monastery. And during the night I would spend my time with Michael, Lana & sometimes Hubert – we even went for a typical Chinese Karaoke TV on one of the nights. That somas up my time in Chengdu and I was time to move on for the Tibet trip by taking the 42 hours train ride to Lhasa!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Route: Kunming (China) – Chengdu (China) 040415

Train departs 7.45pm. 17hours train ride. Last minute ticket bought two days earlier. Hard sleeper middle bed 426 Yuan. Hard sleeper have 6 beds in one cabin. Soft Sleeper has 4 beds in one cabin. Lowest bed is the most stable because of the low point of gravity but during the day time people from the upper beds would sit on it and you may not get the extra sleep that you wanted. Middle bed was the best for me. The upper bed doesn't have space even to sit properly – only to sleep at you have to climb up and it take skills to do this but it's the cheapest among the three beds. As always – the cabin or the train was full of Chinese and I just don't want to make the effort to communicate because the chances that we can understand each other are really low. Only communicated to makes sure where is my bed and whether on the right train or stop by showing the train ticket. Bought food earlier from Carrefour. Just need to sleep and wake up next day. By this time, can sleep peacefully on the train comparing the first few rides. 12.30pm next day Chengdu. Almost 17hours.

Kunming 030415

I underestimated China. I didn't really prepare or read anything about my next location Kunming, China. The South East Asia Indo China route was really backpacker’s heaven. I knew this once I arrived in China. I don't speak or read any Chinese or mandarin language or characters. And they certainly don't speak English. When I first arrived in Kunming at 12 noon – I was lost in translation. My host Anna is working and only available at 6pm. I had no Yuan money at all and was hungry. I tried to communicate with the Chinese but we end up being like a chicken and duck talking. I was happy to see a hijab Chinese woman and so I asked her that I was hungry and was looking for food. That didn't go well because she just doesn't understand me. So – my next step was looking for an ATM to withdraw some cash and I just took a taxi to go straight to the mosque at Zhengyi Road. It was far off form the south bus station and the taxi fare cost me 45 Yuan. Somehow – Kunming is a big city and I don't like big cities. I would prefer walk able distance city. Usually I would Google my way round whenever I get Wi-Fi but in China they seemed to blocked Google and Facebook. I used most of my stuff on Google and somehow all the blocking doesn't help.

It was only two nights in Kunming. Anna – a Housman ship doctor and her husband Dan – and engineer at the airport hosted me for the stay in Kunming. They were from the southern part of the Yunnan province and just got married last year. Anna made me dinner, once arrived at their home and they also helped me out for my train ticket to my next location Chengdu. I went alone to the train station before I met them but even after an hour there, I just could not figure out how to buy the tickets.  It was weird how tight the security was at the train station as it was as tight as the security that usually you get at the airport. Even entering the train station I had to put my bag through the scanner. Anna & Dan went with me to the train station again that night and I found out from Anna that there exactly last year there was a massacre targeted against civilians, left 29 civilians and 4 perpetrators dead with more than 140 others injured.

At around 9:20 pm local time, a group of eight knife-wielding men and women attacked passengers at the city's railway station. Both male and female attackers were seen to pull out long-bladed knives and proceed to stab and slash passengers. At the scene, police killed four assailants  and captured one injured female. In the afternoon of 3 March, police announced that the six-man two-woman group had been neutralized after the arrest of three remaining suspects.

It was going to be the Chinese holiday & Easter this coming weekend and there was just so many people getting the tickets. I was lucky to get a hard sleeper for 426-Yuan middle hard sleeper for 17hours train ride.

I went out as early 7.45am for the two mornings that I had in Kunming, as Anna & Dan had to work. My offline map was the best thing in China – I just needed to mark where I’m going and just take the bus that Anna/Dan recommended me to take an as soon as I’m nearby the marked places on my offline map – I would get off on the next stop. The bus drivers were all ladies and that is something new for me seeing them in the busses pushing their way through the traffic. To get around with busses and subway was about 2Yuan every ride and you just need to know which bus number to take.  I went for the Green Lake, which was established in the 17th century on the west side of the Wuhua Mountain and is sometimes described as a "Jade in Kunming". I was amazed by the different type of exercises they did just in this park – taici, racket dancing, fan dancing and other sorts of workout dancing. It was just nice to watch and see how they feel the dance & music. I spent half a day at Green Lake just discovering and wondering around the place. Anna said I just missed the Seagulls migration. The seagulls from Siberia would come to Kunming because of the weather. As soon as I’m done – I walk towards the Zhengyi Road. This is like the main business center – it was like a typical modern shopping complexes area. I was looking for food because the mosque was there. Nearby Zhengyi road you’ll discover a market where they sell puppies at the street. Kunming is a really clean place.

What I love about Kunming is that it was kinda easy to find food. I thought it was a country of pork-eating people but there was this Hui race – a Chinese Muslims from NiangXi and they are spreading around China. And the food was just great and almost similar to Malaysian food – rice and portions of food to choose from. The only problem I had was eating with chopsticks. I found three different mosques in the center of Kunming and certainly they have great food. They would have a food court and stalls just in front or below of the mosque and it was the cheap. There were even halal stalls if you look carefully around Kunming – and it was great fast food. I was even at the Friday prayers by coincidence and it was really cute seeing the Chinese Muslims majority praying – this is something really rare for me.

Kunming is a big city for a backpacker. This city I walked around the most just getting from one place to another – an average of 20kms per day and by the third day my feed were just tired and having blisters. The last day in Kunming – I spent at Daguan Park. Kunming was also known for the beautiful flowers that they have. The weather was just perfect for Seagulls and flowers. Daguan Park was more of Entertainment Park. There were so many primary school students from different schools at Daguan Park. The view here was simply beautiful as you can see the hills and the sea/lake. They even have a theme park with roller coaster, fair wheel and bumper cars but I just walked around.

I didn't get to see Dan before I leave as my train would depart 7.45 pm as he was stuck in the traffic getting back home. Anna sent me to the subway for me to get to the train station.  Thank you Anna & Dan for letting me stay. We had great conversations and it was one of the intellectual ones I had so far. Thank you again!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Route: Luang Prabang (Laos) - Kunming (China) 010415

Leave Vonchampa Guesthouse at 6.30am. Motortaxi pickup to the bus station 10k kipp.Bought the ticket the day before 490k kipp at was said the trip is for 24 hours. Bus to China - company from China - full with chinese or maybe some from Laos but felt like i was the only foreigner. First come first serve system for the beds. its either the couple be or the single. Lucky got the single for myself. The trick - there is always three single beds and three upper beds - the front single bed usually for drivers. so get there first and just sit and ignore everyone else unless they have proof it is their seat. The roads in Laos before the border was really bad in condition. It was under construction and hilly mountainous road. So imagine, they were like fixing or taring the roads and its like one way. So they had to close one side of the road and had to wait for the cars from the opposite direction to come. So, there were many stops like this. and there was just so many dusty sand dirt. many stops for toilets in the bushes and the ladies would just do the toilet in the bushes too. It was a boring ride. Chinese people in this bus are just not friendly or they are just simply shy to communicate. Didn't eat much too because they only stop at the places they want too. Only had cookies and bread for the whole trip. And of course along the way pick ups to fill up the bus. Arrived border at 5pm Check out from Laos 10k kipp. China immigration was so modern. Not many questions but may times the bags have to go through the bag scan. After entering China - some people leaves and new passengers come in. A stop by the police custom. Its kinda tight the military/police in China. sleep throughout the night. China time plus one hour from Laos. Woke up about 5am because the bus had some problem - stopped inside of the tunnel - Doing the fixing of the bus for two hours. In the morning - just cant sleep because everyone just talks loud. Arrived at Kunming Bus station at noon. Total travel trip 28hours. Longest trip I had been on. Crazy! Dusty! Dirt! Very Long Journey! Hungry! No communication with anyone! Welcome to China!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Luang Prabang. Kuang Xi 310315

My trip in Luang Prabang was short and just a detour. Initially I just wanted to go straight from Hanoi to China after receiving my Chinese Visa but somehow the guy that couchsurfed with at ‘Vietnam Says Hello’ – Liam convinced me to go to Laos. He just arrived from Laos.  Why not? and I would tick another country in my list. The only problem was the bus would take up to 22 – 24 hours. I’ve never been on a train/bus ride more than 20 hours before. By distance it should not take more than 20 hours but because of the hilly mountain roads and the border crossings that would add up to the long journey.

I’ve arrived at Luang Prabang around 7pm and I met some new Japanese friends from Fukuoka and one of them Shuya was sharing a couple seat with me, which lasted for us to be next to each other for 24 hours. My main motive in Luang Prabang is just to see one of the greatest waterfalls in South East Asia and I convinced the Japanese guys to come along. They said they didn't know about the waterfalls. They were just heading to Luang Prabang and Vientiane the day after as they are almost to an end of their South East Asia month trip. So, we kinda teamed up to look for a place to stay for the night. We found a guesthouse next to the Mekong River for 80k kipp per night for two people. I shared the room with Shuya. The room was okay but the wi fi was really bad. I tried looking for Halal food here from what I have researched but it was not there. The only place that I can find was kinda far away from my place. But there was so many vegetarians food here – they are vegetarian friendly and the night market has good foods too. They would do sandwiches in a baguette – like the Subway sandwiches and it was good enough for me. And I ate a lot of that and the coconut food.

We went for the Kuang Xi waterfalls the next morning and it was about an hour away. The owner of the guesthouse also owns a Tuk Tuk and would charge us 50k Kipp per person one-way to the Kuang Xi waterfalls. I love waterfalls or nature stuff and I’ve been to a few in my country and I would say the view was breathtaking with the blue water and levels of waterfalls. By far this is the best one in Asia I’ve been too so far. And of course I just had to swim here. There are levels of waterfalls that you could go to and you could choose where to swim except for the top one which was restricted. They also had bears in the park– so be careful.

Besides that – the Mekong river was great to see and of course the temples which I didn't go too. The only transport to cross the river was the local long boats for the locals to cross, If you stay at the riverside, everything is in walking distance. I kinda like this place and would like to come back again someday. It is laid back, touristic – friendly and even though there was no halal food around there vegetarian food was really good especially at the night market. The Japanese guys only stayed for a night. I spent two nights here and the 3rd day I had to leave early at 6.30am for my bus ride to Kunming, China. 28hours bus ride!!!