Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Damage to Wolong Panda Center

We are both pretty sad about the earthquake that has devastated parts of the Sichuan province in China.  We were in that area for about 5-6 weeks last year and really loved Chengdu, Songpan and, of course, Wolong.  The Panda center was very close to the epicenter and had a lot of damage. 

The article reports that:

“The quake killed five staff in the Wolong center and left all the panda houses severely damaged. Of the total 32 panda houses, 14 were destroyed and the others were severely damaged. ”  In addition, 2 Pandas are still missing.

I would guess that the deaths occurred in the staff housing that is adjacent to the Reserve.  We also heard that the nice hotel–not the newly renovated Panda Inn–had collapsed.  We used Internet there almost every night. 

Pretty tragic, we still havent heard what happened in Songpan but Chengdu seemed to fare relatively well.

Remember, you can give money to the earthquake relief fund here or give money to Wolong here

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May 25, 2008 Posted by | China | 3 Comments

Ten of my favorite places on the trip

It was pretty hard to come up with this kind of list but I managed to squeeze it into my busy schedule.  There were definitely other wonderful places (Mae Salong-Thailand, Meung Ngoi-Laos, LiJiang-China) that just barely missed out on the list.

How many years would it have taken to discover all these places if we hadn’t went traveling for so long?

Here they are in chronological order (with a corresponding picture or two):

Koh Jam (Jum), Thailand-This island near Krabi doesn’t have full time electricity and is better off without it.  Great food and an amazing stretch of beach…think ‘quiet time’.

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Koh Jum sunset

Hongsa, Laos-It takes a while to get to dusty Hongsa and there isn’t a lot to do when you get there.  However, it is incredibly peaceful and you can ride an elephant along trails.

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Luang Prabang, Laos-Former colonial town that is a lot of fun to hang out in. Everyone in E Asia passes through Laos eventually.

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Kalaw, Myanmar-Off the beaten track in Burma where you can do hiking or just relax in the hill country.  One of the best bars in Asia (Hi Snack and Drink).  Great Nepali food.

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Hong Kong, China-Absolutely beautiful yet gritty.  Incredible food and excellent shopping.  One of my top 5 cities in the world. 

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Songpan, ChinaOne of the few small towns in China.  Horse trek in the gorgeous Sichuan Province and rest up afterwards at the fun tea houses.

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Wolong, ChinaFreaking Pandas man!  Everyone loves Pandas! 

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One year old Panda

Francie, shifu Wong and shuo yi

Outside of Lhasa, Tibet-Definitely in the running for most stunningly beautiful place on earth. 

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Gili Trawangan (Lombok), Indonesia-Incredible atmosphere with no cars on the small, beautiful island.  Incredible snorkeling right off the beach and a vibrant nightlife.

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Kaikoura, New ZealandThe beautiful coast and unbelievable plush hills were actually remarkable topped off with a small town and lots of seafood.  Seals, whales, dolphins and sheep–oh my!

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November 7, 2007 Posted by | Beach, burma, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, New Zealand, SE Asia, Sichuan, Thailand, Tibet, Travel, Wolong | 11 Comments

Francie’s last set of photos

Francie just got her last set of photos developed and I think they are really fantastic (but maybe I am biased).  It includes pictures from Tibet, Bangkok, Indonesia, and New Zealand.  Below is a subset of the pictures or click here to see all of them. 

Boy in Tibet. He brought the horses on Francie’s horse trek.
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I like to call this one ‘Baby with tin can’. Tibet
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This woman was trying out the binoculars. Unfortunately, we think she was trying to focus on the rock a few feet away from her (at the right of the pic).
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Man prostrating himself in the Barkhor in Tibet.
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Kids taking care of business in Lhasa.
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We think this munchkin was in Bangkok. Francie loves the dogs and they love her.
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Three year old elephant in Ayutthaya, Thailand. While you may not love the fact that he is being taught tricks, keep in mind that his previous job was/would have been in the lumber industry (Thailand ‘freed’ all the elephants from doing manual labor). Regardless, it is a pretty damn cute picture.
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Gili Islands (Lombok), Indonesia
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This is definitely the best picture we have of Rinjani. We are standing on the volcano’s outer cone looking down on the inner volcanic cone.
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Francie and I at the Rinjani Volcano.
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These two pictures are of the large Dusky Dolphin pod (at least 200 dolphins) that showed up when we were whale watching.
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We still have a few Burma and China videos to post.  Does anyone know some good software that rotates MOV videos (I was holding the camera sideways).

November 4, 2007 Posted by | Bangkok, Beach, China, Indonesia, Nature, New Zealand, Photography, Rural, Thailand, Tibet, Travel, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Panda Videos

Here are eight videos of pandas from The Giant Panda Research Center in Wolong, China.  Many of the videos are quite cool-unfortunately, a couple of the videos were shot ‘sideways’.  My bad.

Click on the links below for the videos.  The videos may take a minute or two to download so be patient.

Panda Video 1-One year old pandas roughhousing on some tree stumps.  If you listen closely at the beginning of the video you can hear one of them ‘yelp’.

Panda Video 2-One year old pandas playing and rolling in the grass.

Panda Video 3-One year old pandas. Make sure to note the one dangling in the background.

Panda Video 4-Two year old pandas very high up in one tree. 

Panda Video 5-One year old pandas eating at lunchtime.

Panda Video 6-One year old panda up in a tree and scratching an itch.

Panda Video 7-One year old panda on the slide.

Panda Video 8-Two pandas playing ‘king of the stump’.  I think you can hear one of the pandas growl.

I hope you enjoy the videos.  Click the Panda category on the right to go to the blog posts about working at the Wolong Panda Research Center.

November 3, 2007 Posted by | China, Panda, Travel, Wildlife, Wolong | 2 Comments

More trip photos!

Francie uploaded some more of her pictures to Flickr and I wanted to post some here.  These are from the batch she got developed in Bangkok.  You can see all of them here.

Greg and the one year old Pandas.
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Camping in Tibet.
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5,300 meters up at a glacier in Tibet.
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Me jumping for joy that the hike is over!
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Kids playing in a park in XiÁn.
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Signs in Hong Kong.
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View of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon as we walk down from ‘The Peak’.
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Francie at the main square in Macau.
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Francie screwing around while on the clock at Wolong Panda Research Center.
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Cute Panda pic
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Dried fruits and nuts for sale in the Muslim Quarter–XiÁn, China. I found out that you can only eat so much dried pineapple.
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Two little girls at the Great Mosque in XiÁn, China.
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Slide no workie.
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Figures unearthed from a Tomb in XiÁn, China.
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What this Panda really wants is a Thomas the Train. Balls are boring. 😉
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Suggest your own caption
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Goats in Tibet
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I think I need a thicker coat!
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Ok.  Maybe we will post from Fiji!  Maybe we will just work on that tan!

October 20, 2007 Posted by | China, Hong Kong, Nature, Panda, Photography, Sichuan, Tibet, Travel, Urban, Wildlife, Wolong | 2 Comments

New Photos

Some of my new photos are now up on Flickr.  I still have loads still to upload so stay tuned.  Here are a few favorites:

A Tibetan nomad:
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A serious Lhasa gang:
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Bruno!!!
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Young yak wearing earrings:
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Crocodile Dundee returns:
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Tibetan Nomad kids at Lake Nam-tso:
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Tibetan woman with her horse and foal:
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At Ganden Monastery, prayer flags and solar panels:
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Tomorrow… BALI!

September 19, 2007 Posted by | China, Photography, Tibet, Travel | 5 Comments

Avalanche in Tibet

We have a little time here in Bangkok to try and upload some of our videos so we can post them.

This is our Avalanche in Tibet video.  But first, here is a group photo from our trekker friends.  Thank you Ester for the photo and video.  See their web site link on our blogroll.

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Click here for Avalanche video

 Or not.

September 16, 2007 Posted by | China, Rural, Tibet, Travel | Leave a comment

Pull off tops

A few last tidbits from China…because, how could you ever forget China?

Throughout China they still use the ‘pull off’ tops on their soda cans.  I remember them as a kid from almost 20 years ago.  I thought they got rid of them because of the litter (people would throw them on the ground all the time).  Well, the good ‘ol Coca Cola company (and everyone else) failed to get rid of them in China!  Here is a nice reminder for everyone!

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September 12, 2007 Posted by | China, Misc, Travel | 2 Comments

5 Things I Loved and Hated about China

We have been in China for 4 months and 1 day. Wow, that is pretty amazing espeically becuase it is about half of the total time on our trip so far! However, I am really glad we have spent so much time in the different regions and cities of China. It has been very fulfilling.

For the record we hit the Yunnan Province (Jinghong, Dali, LiJiang), Sichuan Province (Songpan, Wolong, Chengdu) and Tibet (Lhasa and hiking around) as well as these cities: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’An, Chengdu.

I decided to do a 5 things I Loved and Hated about China.

Here are the five things I loved:

1. The People. The Chinese were incredible and blew away any stereotypes or things I had heard about them. They were incredibily friendly and lively (even if a bit loud). We made a number of friends with people thoughout the country and a number of people bought as dinner and hung out and talked with us. We learned a lot about their own opinions about China and abroad. Isn’t that most of what traveling is all about?

Street Food in Beijing

2. The Historical Sites. Wow. China obviously has a lot to offer here from LiJiang and other preserved Chinese towns to The Great Wall and the Teracotta Warriors. Almost every region has some kind of fabulous historical structure. I was truly awed even though we had to miss many places we wanted to go (Pingyao, Hangzhou).

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3. The Food. Dim Sum and Buns were expected but some of the spicy Sichuan dishes were pretty incredible and some of the most hot dishes that I have ever had that were still edible. The most unexpected but wonderful food I found was in the Muslim Quarter of Xi’An (showed to us by a local who bought us dinner there). My mouth is watering again…

4. The Geography. The Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces are definitely high on my list to hit again. I really recommend to people thinking of coming to China to take a close look at the Sichuan province (especially north and west Sichuan) while planning your trip. We learned too much too late but it is really beautiful and much more accessible (and cheap) than Tibet–no permits. They have glaciers, mountains, forests and, of course, Pandas. Regardless, there were many other places that we didn’t make it to that we want to see such as Guilan (and regions around it).

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5. The cities. Ok. Let’s just say it–Hong Kong. HK was pretty amazing and I am glad we spent 20+ days there. I have always had a super-strong desire to go there and I wasn’t disappointed. The hills, the water and the food. A wonderful combination. Beijing was also very interesting and the French Concession area of Shanghai was quite cool. Chengdu was a great, green little city that is quite livable.

5a. The Chinglish or funky use of English by the Chinese 🙂

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Ok. Fair is fair and here are 5 Things I Hated about China:

1. Censorship of the Media. I know, I know, an American bitching about no freedom of the press in China. What a surprise? However, during our four months here I really internalized what a big deal this is…I mean, the Chinese government tries so hard to curb all information its citizens see and this has some terrible consequences. All newspapers, newscasts, websites, blog sites (including this one or Ways that Are Dark) are limited, modified or are blocked. Of course, they seem to do this out of fear that there will be some kind of backlash (e.g. T. Square) but the resulting consequence is that people don’t have enough information to react against say, the air pollution problem in Beijing or the child slave labor scandal where kids were making bricks, and beaten for it, while their parents looked for them. This really limits the people’s power to solve some problems for its government. For example, take the Mothers Against Drunk Driving grassroot effort that has done the U.S. government’s job there about addressing drunk driving. Or, the activists role in improving the environment in the U.S. or E.U. Hey, China government–throw yourself a bone!

2. Air Pollution. Oh my god–it is bad. Worse than even Athens on a hot day. It is so bad in Beijing and other places that it has completely affected my views about the environment. If more Chinese people were allowed to travel to the U.S. you would think it would raise some questions for them to be in New York and wonder why the air pollution isn’t worse than it is. No real curbs on air quality are happening here and what will the Chinese people do when it begins to kill millions of people a year (and not just the hundreds of thousands it kills now). All travelers to China wonder about this train wreck and many of us predict that this is the biggest world threat to it’s sovereignty.

(That’s not a cool evening mist she is playing around in!)
Kite Flying at Tiananmen Square

3. Queueing. Ok. Maybe a little less important than air pollution but I cannot possibily express how much this drives me crazy so I will refer you to Francie’s post on the subject. I do want to say that, while I like the monthly practice Queue day that Beijing is having for the Olympics, I have to say it’s not going to work. Hate to be a naysayer but what I have learned is that all hope of queueing goes out the window when a Chinese person really really wants something. The second that one person gets out of the queue–everyone is going to get out of the queue. But it does leave us for that delicious moment when we read the Olympic news story about U.K./German’s reactions and incidents. Yum and fun.

4. Chinese Tour Groups. My eyes turn red with anger while just typing those words. Imagine some of the most rude people you have ever encountered. But, as one person pointed out to me, it is probably not that they are just in a tour group but that they are more of an upper class sort of people. Well, you can take that little flag you walk around with and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine while speeding down the road on your tour bus. Nuff said. The Chinese tour groups were especially offensive in The Jokhang–a religious site for the Tibetans…and while we are on this subject…

5. Treatment of the Tibetans. I was going to say something about this but instead I will just tell this little story. I was at a travel agency, in Lhasa, trying to write with a pen and the ink dried up. So, I grabbed a second pen and tried to use that one. I laughed and looked at the travel agent (who was Tibetan) and he looked at me at laughed and said “Sorry, made in China”.

Ok, that is it. We are about to get on a Bangkok Airways flight to Thailand and I am going crazy with excitement!

September 11, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, Chengdu, China, Hong Kong, Sichuan, Tibet, Travel, Yunnan | 5 Comments

The smell of the Mekong

En-route back to Bangkok Greg and I have a 24-hour stopover in Jinghong, a small town on the Mekong in southern Yunnan province, not too far from the border. As soon as we stepped off the plane the smell of the river, the tropical vegetation, the humidity, and the rich soil hit me and it brought back all these wonderful memories of SE Asia, but Laos in particular, where we spent lots of time on the Mekong as well as many other rivers. Thinking back about all the countries we’ve travelled through I realize just how much I loved being in Laos. Right now it is still not over-run by tourists (as Thailand is in many places) but that’s starting to change as it becomes “discovered” as the special travel destination that it is. So people, go visit Laos now! You will not regret it. However, don’t go with a big list of must-see destinations and sites. Instead, take some good books, ride the slow-moving river boats, eat lots of river fish, and visit some remote villages.

September 11, 2007 Posted by | China, Laos, SE Asia, Travel, Yunnan | 2 Comments