21 September 2009

Eva birthday chocolate cake

Eva birthday cake

Paul Theroux says...

"Overland travel is slow and a great deal more trouble, but it is unconfortable in a way that is completely human and often reassuring."

Recommended lecture, any of his travel books.

19 September 2009

Clarifications

You might be thinking (as I read from a friend) that we are not enjoying the trip, as the last few post about China were negative. Traveling is not only about enjoying things, but mostly discovering things. We have been discovering that most of China cities are unbearable because of pollution, way of driving and lack of respect among others.

However today we did 8 hours of bus to arrive to a 50% Tibetan village at 2600m altitude where, for the first time, we can see the sky and breath some fresh air. Before here we have been discovering most known villages of China, using public transports, being in environments where the mob of Chinese people just suffocates you (and we are not talking about India, where we believe it is much worst). This does not give pleasure of traveling. However at same time you want to discover, you want to feel, you want to visit world heritage sites which are near big cities like Beijing or Xi'an.

We are enjoying the trip and no way to return soon. Just that there are parts of the world where you loose your patience because things are difficult to handle and, in tight budget together with long trips it makes heavy. It is the "and again, and again, and again syndrome".

Another friend wrote yesterday that for most people travel is: way of escape; way of distraction (holidays); way of laziness; way of avoidance (of reality).

Long travel for me is, however, a way of continuous reborn; way of confrontation with the (others) reality; way of getting lost and way of rethinking about life and, a way of true freedom. Enough. And argh, I cannot see the youtube videos of the Portuguese party leaders being joked by commediants... Eva cannot access and update her facebook.

(the picture, if it appears in the blog, it is Chengdu downtown. The weather was fine and it was day. The gray is not fog, it is the pollution).

18 September 2009

Photos from China


Two pandas - eating
Originally uploaded by eva_p
Blogging is more difficult in China because of censorship. You will have to wait for the "spicier" stories for another couple of months, but you can already see some of my photos on flickr (which, miraculously, is not blocked):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/photos-eva/sets/72157622402530708/

I will try to update the photo site whenever possible.

I took this picture today at Chengdu Panda Reserve. We saw a lot of very cute pandas eating and sleeping. Why do we find pandas so cute? Well, they seem to have big eyes and big ears due to their colouring, and they grasp food and objects just like humans.

Pandas

Today we went to see several of those pandas. Yes, they are cute and you just keep staring at them as they eat the bamboo.

17 September 2009

Travel moments of indecision

Today we are in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, near where one year ago there was the huge earthquake that killed 65 thousand people. The hostel where we are is a bit the hub for travellers who come from Xi'an to visit Sichuan or that come to China to go to Tibet. There are dozens of travellers organizing their trips, deciding where to go, trying to find travel colleagues to make the rent of a jeep cheaper, etc.

When I hear all those people my mind came confuse, I don't know where to go, I don't want to loose places to visit but at the same time we cannot go everywhere. But it makes me fell dizzy just to think, should we go to Tibet, should we go to that national park, should we go left, right?

But well, this is life. Anyway what I want more is to get rid of non respectful chinese. They might have a different education, but is quite low in a big majority. Yesterday when we enter our compartment in the train there was a guy sleeping in one of our beds. Seeing our tickets he goes to his bed. But no shame. And the driving skills or lack of them is still making our road crossing a big adventure every time. No car stops, no matter of the color of the light for the pedestrians. Well, we see that chinese pedestrians might be color blind, as they cross in the middle of the crazy traffic in red. Then is the pollution. You can hardly see more than 200m far in the cities, behind is thick gray.

Well, our next stops will be to see pandas tomorrow in a reserve and then to go on the South Tibet highway, which is a road that goes up to more than 4000meters to Tibet. Near the border we will turn South to Yunnan province, as we don't have Tibet permits (which are expensive or a hassle to get).

Well, time to go to sleep. Anyone knows anyone in Hong Kong who can host us for 3 or 4 nights? :-) We should also be trying Couchsurfing again. Let's hope.

15 September 2009

Breakfast

Trial of breakfast western in a chinese hotel: orange juice made with hot water; coffee 3in1 (coffee, milk and sugar); powder cereals; yogurt but there are no spoons.

Paracetamol

After visiting the Terracota warriors and being mislead by a tout to take a slow bus, Eva feels bad. For couple days she has some headache. Overdose of China, she may lack some strength to support the chinese bad education (or "lack of", or "different", whatever you may call it). She asked me to buy Paracetamol but in the pharmacy they did not knew what was it. After a non-sense phone call from the lady in the pharmacy which did not speak any english to someone who speak but could not understand english and after understanding that there was no book (or computer) in the pharmacy where she could look what "paracetamol" is (I had written in a paper), she sells me some headache medicine all written in chinese in the box. After going out the pharmacy I open the box and see it is "Ibuprofen" which Eva specifically said she did not want, and which I specifically said in the pharmacy I did not want. Going back to the hotel and I ask at the reception to check on the internet how to write paracetamol in chinese. The lady in the pharmacy eventually gives me something which says clearly in the box in english "Paracetamol compound". Eva asks me to know the ingredients, as she took already a good dose of Ibuprofen. Back to the reception for translating the chinese from the box... It is a medication for children... Eva cannot anymore from China at that moment. She rests while I go eat at hotel's restaurant. After, I look around for another pharmacy but again the only have the "compound" thing, which is almost no paracetamol but mostly aspirin. Luckily the headache is gone.

Finally in Chengdu (17-Sept) we find a pharmacy where they have simple paracetamol. Eva is happy now.

13 September 2009

No sense

Still in Pingyao, making time for the 00:09 train. When thinking that paying 1.5euros for a beer at the backpackers restaurant/bar is expensive we feel no sense. But in the chinese restaurant around the corner would be 40cents. In the shop maybe 20cents. But we were craving for wester food. Two cheesburgers please. They were good and came with french fries. Yeah, we arrive the backpackers paradise. From youth hostel with snooker table for free paying 10euros for a double room, to this kind of bars were raggae comes after a CD of the Beatles and the full meal costs, for two, always less than 6euros.

In China however the backpackers had its debuts (in Dali) but it is not yet fully in place, or it can't be. Beijing or Shangai will always be more expensive cities where living under 20euros/day/person is difficult.

And here our fights with the net continue. Yesterday google maps worked, I managed to update the map of our trip. But the blogger is always censored and using proxies I cannot do everthing I want. Eva is feeling as a terrorist as she cannot login in facebook, banned in China since July. On the hostel we stayed the internet works a day over two. The day two, they explained, is a penalty because of too much bandwidth used the day before. China.

Eva wants some cookies. A group of chinese is buying them, the women gives them 5 and they pay with a 1yuan bill. Eva shows also a 1yuan bill and she gaves only 2 cookies. With a smile a 3rd one. Well, we know the world is not the same for everyone and that is the reason why we are travelling already for 5 months while a chinese could not even dream about it.

Time to go back to the table where Eva is alone drinking the second euro and half Snow brand beer. Local they say. Probably full of pollution. The fog is thick here, its cold, they start to use charbon to heat the houses. We read that 16 of the 20 most polluted world cities are here, in China.

12 September 2009

Great Wall and Pingyao

The other day we went to the China Wall which, indeed, is an amazing construction. We went to Samatai area of the wall with a pseudo-taxi which drove real chinese way. As far we understood the chinese way means that there ar no rules. The lane in the middle of the road is to center the car, then does not matter if it is continuous or not, you can overpass. Also, you can always make close bends on the oposite side, it will never came a car across. Fortunately it didn't, but Eva called so many names to the driver in french and then said 'no money' if he continues to drive like this and it calm down for 5 minutes. but then it continue. There was an accident somewhere and a few kilometers queue of trucks but he managed to go all the way on the oposite side, like few other cars, until the accident place. It was just a truck who broke one axe of wheels. then he manage to scream to the policeman there (the only one) and make them to move another truck so that we could cross the accident area. Eva swears that she will not take other taxi in China...

Then we come in a night train to Pingyao. We arrived at 5:30 in them morning. There were the common guys trying to offer taxi, but we refused. we did not manage to buy train tickets again because of this parallel system of tickets, so nothing is available apart if you pay a 4euros commision in the hotel (per ticket that costs 9euros). Pingyao is a very nice ancient city, enclosed by walls. In the morning we were almost the only ones walking with the mist. We spend already 2 days here and we are in a lovely hotel with a stone courtyard. Tomorrow night we will move to Xian (night train again).

Sorry for not updating the map, but here not even that proxy thing to go around the censorship works, so no map update.

08 September 2009

Beijing tourists, drivers and censorship

We survived the time enclosed at the hotel. Now, after saying goodbye to Anne and enjoying once more a bit of lack of communication common in communist country, when she try to ask the taxi driver to go somewhere, he reply asking to phone to a chinese person telling the address, this chinese person says is too complicated, then tells Anne that the bus she was told that would leave at 2pm had left at 1pm and to go to the airport terminal 3 where another bus would leave at 4pm. The chinese takes more than 2 minutes to explain the taxi driver where the airport terminal 3 is, or else they discussed the weather.

Today we went to visit the forbidden city (check wikipedia for details). It was nice apart of having some thousands too much of tourists, tourists groups with guides with speakers (even if it was not allowed to use the speakers). Amazing to know that the ex-emperor of china lived there until 1924, completely enclosed in a city within a city.

We still survive going around in bicycle. Like in Korea, turn right on a red light is allowed, but the difference with Korea is that here they do not stop, will be there a person crossing on pedestrian green light or not. They just horn and go around in front of you.

Well, I think I stop here. This internet place is coin operated, every 6 minutes a new coin (10cents of euro each). Too much work.

Ah, prices in Beijing are from chinese friendly to tourist traps. Yesterday we entered a tourist trap asking 8yuan (80euro cents) for a bowl of rice. We went out (max price is 1yuan). Then we found a really chinese dumpling restaurant where the whole meal including 2 plates of dumplings, two soups and a big beer cost 16yuan...

07 September 2009

Blogger censored in China!

Well, I found it out when reading posts via Google Reader (all of you should use it) and there were no images. When I tried to read the original posts I just found that we do not have access to blogger. Ok, I went around using a anonymous surfing page (which might well pick my password, but hopefully not) and configured blogger to accept posts via email. This is a test, hopefully it will get posted.

We are now enjoying Beijing, we met our friend Anne from Geneva, we ate Beijing duck, we were conditioned to the block of our hotel during 15hours (since 17:00 yesterday afternoon until this morning, 9:00) while there was a practise for the China National day, which will be 1st of October. It means they blocked all main roads in the center and if you would go out, you could not get it. We went to see the checkpoints and even residents had really trouble to pass (unless you had a car=money, which made things easier). The police was very clear when we asked and politely said (in the same words, in two different control points) that once you get out, in order to re-enter the block it is necessary that someone from hotel management to come and pick us up at the control point... Well we did not see the people from the youth hostel where we are to do this (they had warned us in a bad english communicate that there would me "traffic management" and orally said we could not even leave the hostel), so we did not try to get out.

Beijing is, however, very nice and beautiful. Yesterday while strolling in a park dozens of people in big and small groups where dancing, singing, playing instruments, just have fun them selves. Very enjoyable.

Well, lets hope this gets through the censorchip and appears to you, my friends! :-)

02 September 2009

South Korea - Seoul

During our trip in South Korea, we went to Seoul twice. The first time in the middle of the trip, when we sorted out visas for China and visited some very nice museums.
One of them was the national contemporary art museum, where we saw Paik Nam June's work "the more the better": in the middle, a huge TV tower, and around, a spiral ramp going up, displaying his works of small square plates like these:
And this is how the whole thing looks like:

Our second visit to Seoul was to organise the ferry tickets to China, buy a guidebook for China, and just relax, like in the Olympic Park where we spent the afternoon of the first September day:

What else about Seoul? Huge city, fascinating but tiring, lots of neons, lots of people in the streets, young couples going to motels to spend their Sunday afternoon, shops and shops and shops and people buying and buying and buying, lots of restaurants and western-style coffee-chains....

Preparing China

Today we bought the Lonely Planet China, new edition, which is a "calhamaco" (portuguese) of thousand pages. We discussed a lot about buying this one, or the old edition (half price) or just print the chapters we wanted. After not finding where to print 300 pages on double face and double page per sheet, we decided for the book. And seeing the with the Olympics alot changed, better to have an edition post-Olympics.

Also we exchange our read books with One Man's Bible from Gao Xingjian, Literature Nobel Prize, exhilated in France. His books are not authorized in China, so we will have to hide it a bit on the backpack. Just as for the Lonely Planet because it lacks to say Taiwan is China.

Last Monday we bought the ferry tickets for tomorrow. It will be a 15hour navigation to Qindao, where we will catch a 5.5hour train to Beijing. Willing to buy Business class tickets, the lady in the port told us that it's men/women separated, so we upgraded to Royal class. It means we get a cabin just for us. Also in the boat, apart from eating, we can sing karaoke and go to public bath and sauna.

In Beijing, Saturday, we will meet our friend Anne, from Geneva (well, she is from South Africa, but as most of our friends, there is origin place and living place... actually, she lives in France with Giovanni, Italian boyfriend).

The Renminbi values about a tenth of a Euro, at 9.71 yuan/euro.

Our plan is to travel South along the East coast of China and go at same point to HongKong and then continue West direction of Vietname or Tibet.