Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

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

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

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 🙂

Tasty Taste

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

Beetles Strike Back

You may remember a little while back in Hong Kong that we saw this large beetle up at the Peak. Kevin Meyer believes it is an Asian Longhorned Beetle but it could also be a regular old Borer Beetle. Here is a picture of it.

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Well, this is another Beetle we saw yesterday hanging out on The Great Wall of China.

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These beetles may also be the ones responsible for trouble in Major League Baseball.

July 11, 2007 Posted by | Beijing, China, Hong Kong, Wildlife | 3 Comments

Graffiti Commentary

Francie and I saw this graffiti on a wall around the Soho district in Hong Kong. I am not sure if it is directed at Hong Kong specifically or at the overall changes in China. This week marks the 10 year anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong and I heard former PM Thatcher being quoted as saying that she never believed (before the handover) that communism and capitalism could exist in the same place. So, this image seems particularly timely…

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The real Chinese flag has four smaller stars around the big star.

June 29, 2007 Posted by | China, Hong Kong | Leave a comment

Travel Notes from Hong Kong

We leave Hong Kong for Macau tomorrow and we wanted to post a few things for anyone doing searches on Hong Kong.

Food

The food in Hong Kong is amazing.  We were staying in Kowloon so most of our recommendations are for the Tsmi Sha Tsui area.

Kanamizu Sushi Bar-Tsmi Sha Tsui (Granville Rd. just North of Nathan). This sushi bar is really good for the price (you can get better sushi). I would really recommend the eel or crab Nigiri that has been blowtorched a bit ($2 USD) and seaweed salad.

Saki is 50 HKD for a bottle.

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Pizza Express-Tsmi Sha Tsui (Ashley Street)–Great Salads and Pizzas. Excellent service. Prices are under 100 HKD.

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Red Ant-Tsmi Sha Tsui (Ashley Street)–Pasta, noodle and rice dishes done in a kind of Asian fusion style.  Very popular with the Hong Kongers.

Munch-Tsmi Sha Tsui (right off of Ashley street)–Organic Pasta and Pizzas.  Really good. 

Happy Garden Noodle and Congee Kitchen-Tsmi Sha Tsui (Canton Rd)–This is in Lonely Planet and the shrimp wonton noodles really are awesome.  This is also cheap eats!

Housing

We stayed at Vincent Guest House (see post below) in Mirador Mansion on Nathan street.  Cost was 180 HKD a night.  A little sketchy but the rooms were nice, but small, on the inside.  Quick access everywhere because of the metro but the hawkers might drive you crazy.  The price included internet and laundry. 

Internet

Cyberpro right near the Star Ferry (next to the McDonalds) is screaming fast.  The room has ac and comfortable chairs.  They also have webcams, headphones, card readers and cd/dvd burners.  This is in Tsmi Sha Tsui.

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong, Travel | 1 Comment

Goodbye Hong Kong!

We love you Hong Kong, and are so sad to be leaving!  We will see you again for sure.  Maybe we will even move to you someday.

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HK Video 

TTFN.

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong | 1 Comment

Mirador Mansion Memories…

Tomorrow morning we take the boat to Macau, and leave behind our slightly sketchy but never dull Kowloon pad.  Thank you Mirador Mansions and Vincent guest house – you have treated us well.

Our 2 meter x 2 meter room:
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The “atrium” of Mirador Mansion:
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This guy was very suspicious of my photography:
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One of many hallways on the ground floor:
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I will not miss the copy handbag/watch and custom tailor hawkers, but other than that I have wonderful memories of Tsim Sha Tsui. What an interesting neighborhood. There is most definitely no other place like it in the world.  🙂

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong, Travel | 1 Comment

Do you like my hat?

As a kid I really like the Dr. Seuss story Go Dog Go!!! (oh wait, I guess it was P. D. Eastman). One thing I thought was funny was the dog that keeps reappearing and asking whether the other dog likes their hat. 

 I got a new hat the other day so I thought I would review the hats that I have used on the trip. 

This is the Gilligan Island look I was sporting on the beaches in Thailand.  Actually, it was Francie’s hat that I stole from her.  It worked well for blocking out the sun while sleeping on the beach.  Francie bought the hat in Bangkok’s Chinatown. I think it cost about $4 USD.

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This is the adventure hat and I bought it in Vientiane.  It cost about $3 USD.

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The adventure hat has now been replaced with the Laoban hat.  Laoban means ‘boss’ in Mandarin.  It cost about $5 in Hong Kong.  Slightly more stylish for our time in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

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It cracks up that I just learned that Go Dog Go!!! was actually written by Eastman and not Dr. Seuss.  I have been wrong all these years…

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong, Laos, Thailand, Travel | 1 Comment

Mandarin Lessons in Hong Kong

On Thursday Greg and I had our last day of a two week Mandarin course we took here in Hong Kong 😦 (you’ve prolly been wondering why we’ve been here so freaking long).  Here is a photo of us, our classmate Nathalie, and Candy, one of our instructors:

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Both Greg and I are very sad the class is over.  It was a great experience.  We took it at the Hong Kong Language Learning Center in Wanchai, which I would highly highly recommend.  They teach both Mandarin and Cantonese, have very flexible course lengths and times, small classes (ours had just 3 people), great materials that are well paced & great instructors.   What I’m really trying to say is… our class like, totally rocked, and we like, totally had an awesome time learning mandarin.

June 22, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong, Travel | Leave a comment