Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Greg and I just got back from an incredible 3-day hike through the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Northern Yunnan. The hike follows cliffs and mountains above the Yangze river, through a section where it has cut a deep canyon between some really big mountains. End to end the trail takes 2-3 days to hike and passes through several small villages, which, conveniently have guesthouses and cafes, so no need to carry a tent, sleeping bag, or much food! I cannot recommend this hike enough to anyone travelling through the Yunnan province. The trail is well marked, you don’t need a guide, the guesthouses along the way all have very nice rooms, and the scenery is amazing. Oh, and in case you lack the stamina for those switchbacks, there are many guys that walk up and down with their horses just in case you want to catch a lift!

Here is a photo from the first village we stayed in:
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The name “Tiger Leaping Gorge” comes from an old legend that says a tiger leapt across the river at a certain spot. How cool! Why can’t we have names like that in the US? In Washington we’re stuck with places like “Steven’s pass” and “Mount Daniel”. I think we need to start up some of these so called “legends” so that our future generations have some better material to work with.

Here is “Greg the Explorer”:
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Some dramatic later afternoon sun on the mountains:
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In this village, they like to grow a little corn:
Holy Corn Cobs!

Section of the river towards the end of the Gorge:
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I have never been afraid of a river until this hike. If you fell in this section you would surely die:
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This photo shows just how jagged the surrounding mountains are:
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And now we’re off to Hong Kong.  Greg’s gonna go to the dentist, I’m gonna get some film developed, and we’re both gonna do lots of shopping.  yay!  Later.

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May 29, 2007 Posted by | China, Photography, Travel, Yunnan | 5 Comments

And now a note from the Chairman

Francie and I are much better now, except that I seem to have lost a tooth. Well, it is actually a crown from a tooth (if its not one thing its another). So, it looks like we may reorganize our trip a little so that we head straight to Hong Kong. I actually have the crown with me still so hopefully, my dentist says, someone can just recement that little sucker on there. It is all very, very ‘exciting’ and needs to be done right away—anyone know of a good, english speaking dentist in Hong Kong? Too bad it happened right after we left Bangkok.

We have also had a problem finding good Mandarin classes so we may camp out in Hong Kong and Macau and take some classes there (and get my tooth fixed).

But the show must go on!!! We were walking around the new LiJiang the other day and were reminded of the Chairman!

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Mao ZeDong, for all the little kids out there, is the most influential figure in more-recent Chinese history. One of the main people responsible for the Communist revolution and for the Cultural Revolution. Andy Warhol even loved him (did you know that Warhol had Mao wallpaper? ).

We picked up several of Mao’s ‘Little Red Books’ from the cultural revolution…of course I bought them in, one might say, a free market where I bargained the people down to about $2 a book. A little bit of communist history, coming home to the states. Don’t worry my friends, I have extras!

Mao's Little Red Book

May 23, 2007 Posted by | China, Travel | 1 Comment

Welcome to the Sick House

Wondering why Greg and I haven’t posted for 2 days? It’s cause we haven’t left our room for 2 days! Well, not entirely accurate, Greg bravely left a few times to find food and drink. I tried to leave yesterday but ending up running back because I was afraid of hurling in public.

How did we get to this point? About 5 days ago Greg came down with a cold, then 3 days later I came down with the same + food poisoning. You’re probably wondering what I ate that made me sick. It was a cup of HOT CHOCOLATE from a CAFE. I think it is funny that after almost 5 months of travel, after all the sketchy meals we’ve eaten & all the street food, that it is a little cup of hot cocoa that gets me. It just goes to show that no matter how careful you are about food & drink, you can’t always protect yourself.

The good news is that we both left the room this morning, Greg’s coughing has subsided, and I ate a whole salad and drank a whole glass of apple juice and I don’t think I’m going to barf! Yay!!! Life is good. After another couple days of rest hopefully our ‘travelling’ will recommence. That’s the happs from China. Whoever you are out there reading this, I hope you have a loverly day… & remember, any day that you don’t throw up is a good one…

May 22, 2007 Posted by | China, Travel, Yunnan | 4 Comments

Lijiang

Greg and I are now in a lovely little town called Lijiang. We planned to leave today or tomorrow to go on a multi-day hike at the nearby Tiger Leaping Gorge, but Greg has come down with a nasty cold, poor guy. So we’re delaying the hike a few days and just chilling.

Lijiang is straight out of a movie set. I didn’t know places like this really existed.
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I mean for bejeezus sake, here is a kid in the street playing with some numchucks!
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The main park in town has a beautiful lake. It is even more beautiful when the clouds aren’t hiding the giant snow covered mountain in the background.
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Some rainy days prevented mucho picture taking, but hopefully we’ll have some more up on flickr soon. Hope all is well in other parts of the world. Have a good day everyone!

May 20, 2007 Posted by | China, Photography, Travel, Yunnan | 7 Comments

Dali

The last 4 days, Greg & Francie have had their introduction to China in a small mountain town called Dali (northwest of Kunming in the Yunnan province). It is cold and rainy here, reminding us of our native Seattle and inducing post traumatic stress episodes from all those seattle winters we’ve endured. Just kidding, actually, we just need to get acclimated is all. We’ve been in the tropics at 90+ degrees for 4 months and aren’t used to even a cool 75 degree breeze.

Its time for a picture! This is the west gate into the old city of Dali:

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One cool thing about Dali is that all the rain & snow melt from the mountains runs through the town in a little “stream”. I’m not sure why they did it this way, but it sure looks & sounds cool:
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Despite being in the mountains, we haven’t had any outdoor adventures yet, as its been pouring down rain since we arrived. This has freed us up however, to take some mandarin classes and spend our days studying in a wonderful coffee shop called Cafe de Jack. It sounds crazy that someone from Seattle would travel to a small town in China and find themselves sipping delicious cappuccinos, but that is just the way we roll.

Here is a photo of Francie in Jack’s studying our new Mandarin language book:
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Speaking of delicious things, the food that we’ve experienced so far in China has been amazing. In the space of 3 days we’ve eaten everything from dim sum to tibetan food to grilled cheese sandwiches and it is all sooo yummy! Here is a photo of the gentleman working the steamer at the steamed bun shop we ate at for lunch today:
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Are you perhaps wondering what a ‘steamed bun’ looks like? It’s your lucky day!
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Tomorrow we take a bus to another small mountain town called Lijiang, 160km to the north. Hopefully it’ll clear up while we’re there so we can actually see some of the amazing scenery.

Xai Jian peeps!
-Francie & Greg

May 17, 2007 Posted by | China, Photography, Travel, Yunnan | 5 Comments

Ni hao!

Ni hao ma? Wo hen hao. Wo hui shuo Zhangwen yidianr. Wo jiao Francie. Ni jiao shenme mingzi? Wo de Xiansheng, ta jiao Greg. Zhangwen hen hao. Xie xie, zai jian!

May 16, 2007 Posted by | Travel | 2 Comments

The Banyan Tree Hotel

Francie and I had a great time at the Banyan Tree hotel. It was super duper nice, especially after living in the equivalent of a dorm room for months. Here was our room at the Banyan Tree

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They try to be all five star-ish but they loved us anyway despite our backpacks.
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Nice view from our window.
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This was also a place we ate in the hotel with a pond containing lots of goldfish and nice turtles who spoke french.
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We also ate lots of great food (Italian, Dim Sum, French) but Vertigo, on top of the 60 floor hotel, had an incredible view and the bar was amazing…but they shouldn’t let people drink that high in the sky. Here is a slightly dark picture of the bar area.
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Tomorrow we will try and post a little on China.

May 15, 2007 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

We are in China now!

Two days ago Francie and I got on a plane from Bangkok and flew to Jinghong (in the Yunnan province of China). In Jinghong we caught an 11 hour overnight bus (a ‘sleeper’) to Kunming and then at 6am we took a five hour bus ride to Dali, China.

Dali is beautiful and way up in the mountains. This is a nice little hipster town that reminds us a lot of Seattle. Right now Dali is cold and rainy.

We started taking Mandarin lessons yesterday. Our plan was to take 3 weeks of lessons here but we may spread the lessons out across several cities. We are armed with ‘Learn Chinese in your car’ CDs that we got put on the iPod in Thailand, an intro to Mandarin book, and an hour a day of instruction that we take with a couple from Switzerland. Francie is, of course, blowing everyone away!

UNFORTUNATELY, China blocks all WordPress blogs so we are trying to find some ways around this problem (like this website we are using right now).

May 14, 2007 Posted by | Travel | Leave a comment

The Water Festival in Myanmar

I finally have photos to aid me in my attempt to describe the undescribeable – the insane Thingyan holiday, aka “the water festival” in Myanmar.

First a little background:

  • Thingyan is the name of the Burmese new year holiday.
  • It’s celebrated over the course of 5 days in April according to the Buddhist calendar.
  • It’s the most important public holiday in Myanmar.
  • It coincides with the both the peak of the dry/hot season and the beginning of kiddies summer vacation from school.
  • In the past, it was a traditional part of the festival to sprinkle water into a silver bowl, to metaphorically “wash away ones sins” before the beginning of the new year. This has morphed into an all out water fight involving buckets, hoses, and water guns that persists through all 5 days, hence the modern name “Water festival”.
  • For more info, check out the Thingyan wikipedia entry.

Now some more specifics about the “water” part. Here are a few typical street scenes during the festival. This is what it looked like everywhere in Yangon and Mandalay over the five days of the festival:

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Everywhere, and i mean EVERYWHERE, there are people in the street with the buckets and hoses just waiting for someone to walk or drive by. From my observations, no one is exempt except for monks. Women, young children, the elderly, a car with a window rolled down, everyone gets a bucket of water poured on them if they are out in public. Foreigners are especially popular to douse. It appeared to me that anyone who spots a foreigner coming (such as greg & i) informs everyone else nearby so they can have their water spraying implement ready and/or begin an active pursuit of the targets. There are no exceptions, for example, if you’re holding a camera, which made it challenging to get photos of the action!

Clustered around town are sponsored “hose stations”; a stage facing the street with a dozens of hoses for partakers to use:
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Lots of folks, especially teenagers and young adults, pile into trucks and jeeps and drive slowly around town getting repeatedly soaked with water and throwing their own buckets at random people they pass (such as Greg & I). In the areas with high concentrations of hose stations there are also crowds of people dancing in the street amidst the spraying water.

The night before the start of the festival, Greg and purchased some water guns so we could participate. Here is an action sequence of Greg engaging with some partakers:
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We realized later that compared to the buckets and hoses we were up against we were way outgunned.

This is one way to participate if you don’t want to get wet!
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This kid wanted to look cool while getting sprayed with hoses:
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Looking back, the water festival was an amazing experience, a lot of fun, and a great way to interact with the locals. There were some downsides however… As much fun as it was I would actually recommend to prospective visitors to Myanmar to avoid it unless it is something you definitely want to experience. During the festival everything shuts down – the markets, many restaurants and shops, transportation in and out of town… so you can get stuck in Mandalay or Yangon for the full 5 days unless you take a flight, which still run on schedule but fill up in advance. The water fight continues for the full 5 days of the festival which means that you cannot leave your guesthouse or hotel without getting soaked, and lets just say that the water used is not clear or clean. You will feel trapped in your room at some point because you don’t want to get your last dry t-shirt soaking wet. You may even go hungry because you can’t get to the restaurant down the street without being sprayed with a hose! That said however, it was so hot there that the water felt good and generally our clothes dried quickly. And wow, where else you can go in the world and be able to throw buckets of water on anyone, anywhere without violating any social norms and/or getting arrested? 🙂

May 10, 2007 Posted by | Myanmar, Photography, SE Asia, Travel | 5 Comments

Haha! Fun with search terms

This blog provides us with information on how people get to our web site, so if someone uses google to search for a certain set of words (e.g. ‘travel around asia for a year’) then we see a list of those words and can guess how they got to our blog.

Today, someone used the search term of “how to tell family we eloped”. I find that very funny. Good luck you two.

On the topic of blog stats, Francie added this interesting widget (bottom right of the ‘About’ section) that has a world map of where people are hitting our site from–right now you can see Simon and Olivier in South Africa, Sarah and Simon in London, Shea from Malaysia and lots and lots of people from Seattle, Texas and CA.

May 9, 2007 Posted by | Misc | 2 Comments