A Travellerspoint blog

January 26-27, 2019, Don Khong, Laos


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I was relieved the two Koreans didn't follow me to the next island like I thought they might. I might have been called upon to be some kind of mediator over who knows what problem may have come up overnight.

The ticket I bought included transfers to Don Khong, or so I thought.

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Once I got to the dock after a boat, bus and broken motorcycle ride, the ferry man wanted more money. No way, I demanded the money that I already paid for the ferry back. He gave it to me, but when he realized how serious I was about walking, he suddenly dropped his extra fee. Not today scam man. You get nothing from me. NOTHING. And so, I just grabbed a giant beer and two donuts and started off beside the river.

I knew there was a bridge somewhere around there, and I was determined to find it. I walked through countless brilliant green rice fields, even in the driest of dry seasons. I took a lot of rice photos for Jeremy again, he says he doesn't need anymore now. Haha.
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I walked until finally I saw the big giant bridge. It was at that point that my audiobook came to an end and a Kathleen Edwards album began to play. I sang at the top of my lungs all the way across. I had never been so happy to see any concrete structure in my life before.
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As soon as I got across, I waved down a nice looking old German man on a scooter. He told me he was a photojournalist taking photos of obscure temples for some magazine. I was surprised anyone could still make money doing that. I promised him a beer at dinner, but he wouldn't let me buy it for him. I chowed down on fish curry and never saw him again.

I had a real nice room with an actual spring mattress that night, so I went to bed pretty early after drinking a couple of Lao Lao mojitos with an Italian woman from Bologna.
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January 27, 2019
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I saw Rosanna the Italian woman again in the morning and we both had tickets to buy in opposite directions. The hotel owner seemed to try to buy me a train ticket to Bangkok, but he said it was full. Hmmm. OK, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He sold me an overpriced bus ticket, but there was nothing I could do about it. Rosanna got hers to Tha Kaek and we were done doing business for the day. At first she was going to rent a bike with me but then she changed her mind when the wind picked up a little bit. It was better that way because the roads were real bad and she seemed like she'd probably give up after a few kilometres anyway.

So, I took off by myself. I stopped to pick up some palm sugar, but didn't see anyone actually making it. I guess I was too late in the day, or it was the wrong season for that.
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Then, there was the long hot drive to Wat Phu Khao Kaew, built on top of some Khmer ruins. Even though it was hot, lots of women were in the fields planting rice. Their husbands were inexplicably elsewhere. I guessed getting drunk at the corner store.
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Tons of children ran after me shouting HELLO in Lao as I tried to navigate the badly eroded red soil track. Eventually, I got to the temple and it was nice, but not really worth the long, bumpy ride. I walked down to the river and took a little dip in my clothes. I'm not sure if it was appropriate to do but I left quickly after that, and it felt great, so whatever.

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I got back to the main intersection on the island and could not find an ice cream. There was super dark beer, however. So, I had one of those while plotting my next step.

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I saw a couple on bikes going to the same temple, but then they decided not to go the whole way because of the aforementioned roads. They came back before I finished my beer. I went back to town and found the historical museum shuttered. So, I went in search of a "Buddha cave". Did not find it, but I did manage to get hopelessly lost in the not so thick forest beside the road for a few hours. I knew I would be OK though, because for some reason my GPS was working at that time. It hadn't worked for the whole trip. After losing the track, I only panicked a little while I walked through the bush with the sun behind me. It infuriated me because I could hear children laughing and playing, but was completely at a loss as to how to get closer to them. The trees seemed to close in on me and I shouted HELLO in Lao. The kids ran away. I didn't know the word for help, but it didn't matter. Eventually, I found another trail which came out near my bike and I cycled back to town relieved.
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I stopped on the side of the road for some kind of spicy noodles with cabbage and a slushie. Everyone else eating at the shack laughed when I couldn't eat the bitter tamarind they happily chewed on. The slushie however, was sent from heaven, exactly what I needed after that hot day. I had enough exhausting adventure, so I went to bed at 7 p.m. and called it a day.
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Posted by baixing 02:51 Archived in Laos Tagged khong don Comments (0)

January 24-25, 2019, Don Det, Laos


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I woke up way early and had a tuna omelette with sticky rice for breakfast. The owner owed me 5,000 kip from the first night. I wondered if this was his sneaky way of getting repeat customers.

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I biked back to town with all my stuff and then checked in at my traditional style guesthouse for the night.

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All the bungalows were full at the place I initially wanted, but no matter, it was cheaper and quieter at Mama Phouwan's where I ended up. I took a cold shower and rested up for a while, eating banana fritters and drinking black tea in a hammock.
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When I finally got the energy back up to go exploring, I came across two German guys who were also lost. I followed them to the other side of the island and then they followed me to the bike rental place. I had decided that the roads on Don Det were too awful an no fun for cycling, so I took it back a day early, whatever.

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Then we found a swanky place to have a beer, and after they left, I grabbed a honey and Lao Lao cocktail on a lounger.
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I walked back with the sunset, which took longer than I thought.

January 25, 2019

I wanted to rent an inner tube and float down the river, but it was not to be. They only took people in groups it seemed, but also, I didn't search too hard for a way to do it independently.

At breakfast, I ordered an Indian rice pancake, called Dosai. Never heard of it before, but it was great.

I met the Korean couple sitting next to me and then they invited me to go walking. I thought I heard them say the word "wedding", but assumed I was wrong.

On the way there, Rannie the Korean had some sort of mental breakdown. She just stopped on the side of the road and started piling up small rocks. It was quite bizarre. Her boyfriend and I kept walking down the road as he was telling me about all their relationship troubles like I was their therapist. Very strange. Then suddenly, he seemed to realize that Rannie might be jealous of him wandering off with another woman. We had probably walked about a kilometer already, but it didn't matter, we had to go back and get her now. I was sharply reminded of the PTSD I had suffered with Masao and Reiko. What is it with Asian couples chasing each other around all over the place? Ugh. Just stay together, if you really have to be together that badly. Why abandon someone and then end up spending the rest of your day looking for them again? Makes zero sense to me. Either stay together or be apart. Choose.

Anyway, it actually was a wedding they were taking me to. Apparently, this was the second day of debauchery at the family event. They immediately recognized the strange Korean they were drunk with the night before and they immediatley brought us over some interesting food. I only liked the salad and sticky rice, so I stuck with that.
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Soon after, beer and Lao Lao was served, and the Koreans were dancing. Normally, I enjoy this kind of thing, but I felt ill at ease since I had my passport and all my money with me at the time. Who knows what kind of pickpocket wanted to take my stuff? A few people attempted to speak English to us, but soon my ears were bleeding from the noise, and soon Rannie wanted to go. I was happy to oblige.

All the way home on the walk though, there I was, the psychotherapist again. I don't know why, but I guess they both just really needed to spill their guts out that day. We got a couple of homemade ginger ales and played some cards. Then, I went to buy my ticket to the next island and Rannie went in serach of her boyfriend again. Is there a pattern you can notice yet? Ugh, Asian relationships...
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At night I somehow saw this guy Joe, who I had met at Tat Fan with Gustav the week before. He was really disappointed in it because he couldn't feel the power of the cascading water. It was too far away for him. I told him he was a character before he went on his merry way. Do you remember?

Anyway, He didn't remember me at first, but he was easy for me to remember, he had crazy bouncing curls everywhere. We sat around for a while and I watched him gorge on a huge barbecued fish. Later, I talked way into the night with a Dutch school teacher and a winemaker from Seattle. The Dutch lady was very surprised that I knew and was obsessed with Blof for a few years in the early milennium, so we sang a few of his songs until we got kicked out of the bar.

Posted by baixing 22:37 Archived in Laos Tagged don det Comments (0)

January 22-23, 2019, Don Khon, Laos


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I caught the bus with lots of time to spare and chatted with a French guy who worked in China 10 years ago. The Finnish people were on the same bus, but they were going to Cambodia next. I told them the rest of the story about Gustav, and they laughed. I suddenly felt free as a bird and that I could do whatever I liked again.

The French guy was going to the same place as me, so we hopped on a boat full of other French people, it felt very VIP for a minute.

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However, I wanted to go to the south part of the island, where there was a homestay. I rented a bike and headed out. A nice Lao man gave me a room with a bed and fan but no shower. That was fine, so I snoozed away the day while catching up on my journal.

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At sunset, I climbed the lookout and had a great fish dinner with sticky rice while lounging by the river.

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I tried to entice Liz to follow me over Facebook, but she was still doing research for her trip to Myanmar and trying to win back her hopeless boyfriend.
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As soon as I woke up, I was ready to go.
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I didn't feel too hungry, so I just went off in search of Tat Khon Pa Soi. I seemed to be getting closer to it. I could hear the rushing water. But there was a collapsed bridge made out of old railway ties in the way. I parked the bike and tried to find my way to the walking trails, but I got scared when I heard what sounded like a big crowd of cows trampling the forest. I got back on my bike and I headed as fast as possible back to town where I knew there was another way there.

At the turnoff, a former economics major, Nick, was also just turning to go the same way on his bike. He was in the middle of a cycling trip around the world, which he estimated would take four years. He was really funny and we spent the rest of the day together, getting lost among the rapids and later having lunch and milkshakes on the riverside beach.

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We met a Spanish guy with long dreadlocks who was on winter break from China like me. But he had cycled to Don Khon from Phnom Penh. He was teaching Spanish at a university in Guangxi. I got his email to possibly work there in September. It might be more hours and less money though. We probably chatted for three hours or more while drying off from our quick dip. It was a really fun swim because of the brisk current in the river.
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When the sun started to go down, we all went our separate ways. I went to see Tat Somphamit, which really was worth the entrance fee the other two didn't want to pay.

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I went down to the small beach and back up again to hang out on a little hammock until sunset. At around 5 p.m., I went back to my little hut and slept for about 12 hours. There was some kind of party next door, but it didn't bother me very much.

Posted by baixing 21:56 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

January 20-21, 2019, Pakse, Laos


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On the way back to Pakse, we stopped at one more waterfall for good measure I guess. Tat Fan was 120 metres high, but we could only see it from a distance. A curly haired guy in the parking lot told us he was only a little disappointed because he couldn't feel "the power" from so far away. I ate a bunch of bananas for breakfast, watching a busload of tourists take photos.
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On the last leg of the trip, I'm not sure what I said, but Gustav wasn't taking it anymore. He asked me if we should take the ring road but there was no ring road on my map, so I said "No, turn right. I would turn right."

"Stop talking bullshit," and he stopped on the side of the road to yell at me again. I started crying and shaking and he told me to "behave myself." But then he sped off like a maniac, reminding me of Keith having a tantrum and speeding around in his V8 engine. He always made sure I knew it was a V8 engine.

Anyway, I tried my best to figure out what Gustav and I owed each other, but it was probably not right. Gustav didn't ask me for much money so I just thrust it at him and stormed off, cursing myself because I had no idea where I put my phone. So, I had to go through all my pockets and throw everything down on the sidewalk before I could take off.

I got a dorm at the same hostel as before and called Jeremy and my mom to tell them I was OK. I was lucky to have the whole three bed dorm to myself. I had noodle soup for dinner in Talat Dao market, which was fun.

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Then, I went over the long bridge to watch the sunset from the big golden Buddha on the hill.

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A little girl gave me some incense to light and walked me down the stairs. It was getting dark and I walked all the way home. At one point, I saw some sketchy looking guys on the bridge. I crossed over to the other side to avoid them. I had to climb over some traffic barriers to do so. If I was a man do you think I'd even contemplate doing something like that? Nope, I'd just shove them to the side and walk right in between them, scowling and daring them to come at me, bro.

Some little girls were selling coconuts on the street, so I bought one and sipped on the juice while watching a little carnival. I passed out dead to the world after downing a lot of lovely cool water from the hotel lobby.

January 21, 2019

I slept well but didn't get out into the world until 9:30 a.m. I went to see another temple with murals of Buddha's life. There was some sort of procession, where they threw rice and candy in the air as they chanted and marched around the main building. The little beggar children looked very happy with the candy.
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The next stop was the Catholic church, which had amusing murals of Jesus visiting local villagers and baptizing people in the nearby waterfalls. I felt like I had to spend a little time saying thank you to God for the luxury of travel, for still being alive and for not being sick etc. etc. etc. Before I knew it I was silently weeping by myself in this empty little church in the wilds of Laos, as many similarly confused western colonizers had done in this exact same spot in the past, I'm sure.
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The people at the church let me use the washroom and I had some amazing sausage with a papaya salad for lunch before heading back home.

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On my way there, I met Liz, who had just arived from five months of backpacking in Africa. She seemed lost with her huge pack on her back, so I brought her to my hostel and we went to the small museum down the street.

There were some interesting statues. For example, a man was hugging a woman from behind in a statue that was a thousand years old or more. Upstairs, there was a small collection of unexploded ordinance, including one attached to a parachute. So, that parachute was 50 or 60 years old. And there it was baking and disintegrating on the windowsill in the sun. Crazy.
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Liz needed to mail something home, so we made it just in time to the post office for that. Then, we had a sunset beer/iced milk tea on the river, obstructed by a strange tarp. I ordered some nice meatballs and a banana salad, but it was really bad. The bananas were soooo green and I couldn't eat them, but at least I tried it once in my life. The wind started picking up, so we headed back home. I bought my ticket to Don Khon, leaving in the morning, so I said goodbye to Liz, hoping to see her again on one of the islands where I'd be chilling out for the next week or so.

Posted by baixing 21:00 Archived in Laos Tagged pakse Comments (0)

January 19, 2019, Paksong, Laos


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At breakfast of weird sandwiches and overpriced coffee in a bamboo mug...

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I told the story about last night and he looked at me with pure hatred in his eyes. Nobody laughed except me. We said goodbye to Estelle and Matt and I was a little sad to leave this British guy James who had just quit a job doing web content and SEO for a real estate company in the UK. Sound familiar? Anyway, Gustav and I got to the next astounding waterfall, after probably three more fights because I apparently don't know how to communicate properly. He announced we would not travel together anymore. No shit Sherlock.

When we got to the resort he complained about the prices again and told me how I could heal all the problems in my uterus. I just need to put some yogurt in there. Yep, that's literally what he said. I don't know why he was concerned, but it made me feel small, sad and stupid. I handed him the key to the room and went for a walk by myself to an otherworldly view at the bottom of the cliff. A nice waterfall with perpetual rainbows. I was instantly cheered up. I felt lucky to have the luxury of travel. I believe this luxury is wasted on horrible people sometimes. There are a lot of people I know who need/deserve to take a break from their busy lives and see the world from a different perspective. Gustav is not one of them.
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When I got back up, I was muddy and a little drained emotionally. I met a brother and sister duo from Finland who encouraged me to do a very difficult descent down another steep cliff. I destroyed my cheap canvas shoes, but that was fine. I wanted to throw them out anyway, they were heavy. Gustav caught up with us unfortunately, but I was better able to ignore him from then on.
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I took a shower to wash away the red dust all over me after sliding on my butt all the way down. I relaxed with a little kitty on my lap on a lounge chair set up on a teak porch at the edge of the cliff. I could hear the rushing waters from high up above. It was lovely. The kitty was dirty and probably full of worms and fleas, but she was happy.

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I talked with a South Korean guy after another papaya salad dinner the rest of the night and I felt sleepy pretty early.

Posted by baixing 20:14 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

January 18, 2019 Captain Hook's homestay


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I had a great breakfast of coffee, omelette and heart shaped rice. I was a little disappointed they randomly put noodles in my omelette though. We took off on our motorcycles, but for whatever reason, Estelle and Matt didn’t want to lead, even though they had the better map on their phone. I only had a paper map.
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We stopped at three waterfalls that day. The first was not so great, but the second one was beautiful and we stayed there for lunch. I had a papaya salad as usual. We swam in the pool at the bottom of the crashing water and went on our way.
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We stopped for a coffee at a plantation and admired the coffee beans on the trees.
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The last waterfall was a little strange, because some French people told us the dam would flood at 4 p.m. It didn’t. We went and jumped into a little swimming hole behind it. I was a little frightened still, but a quick look in Lonely Planet showed no such flooding, and there were no signs around, so I followed.

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I screamed, "Hello", but couldn't hear them. Matt heard me but thought I was a cat. By the time I got to them, I hardly had time to swim, but that's fine. I'm not that into it anyway. I was already waterfalled out.
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For sleeping, we ended up at Captain Hook's homestay, which I would not recommend to anyone because of the way the owner dealt with some creepy Swiss tourists.
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At first, I saw them handing out toys and candy to all the kids. I thought that was a bit weird. Then at dinner, they were looking at naked pictures of 10-12 year old girls. I heard Mr. Captain Hook say "Yes, we have nice girls here..." and I looked over and the fat one had a catalogue style photo of two young girls standing there doing nothing on his tablet. I thought I would see some bikini lady and laugh, but I felt sick to my stomach when I saw it was a young girl. I couldn't eat anymore and went to bed. But I couldn't sleep so I got up and saw two young girls, dressed in their best clothes, waiting outside the dining area. What/who were they waiting for? The Swiss guys were downstairs playing games with the other children, and I decided to just watch them and see what they did. "Captain Hook" asked me what I was doing there and I told him if he didn't have anything to do with prostituting these young children, then he's at least part of the problem. Mr. Captain Hook said he was disappointed in these men and thanked me for bringing the problem to his attention. He immediately whisked the two Swiss men away to another building for the night. I don't know what happened to those two fancy girls. They weren't there when I went back to bed. I have no idea to what extent Captain Hook is involved in child trafficking, if any at all, but something very strange is going on in that village.

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Then, it got even worse. At first Gustav didn't want to believe me about the whole thing. Fine, whatever, I know what I saw, it doesn't matter what he thought. So I tried to sleep, but the hut was drafty and the mattress was nonexistent.

"Gustav I'm cold," I said.

"I'm NOT cuddling you."

What the hell... his ego was ridiculous, that was the last thing I was suggesting. What a loser. Somehow I fell asleep after all that, but I have no idea how.

Posted by baixing 18:52 Archived in Laos Tagged homestay captain hook's Comments (0)

January 16, 2019, Pakse


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On my second day in Vientiane, I followed the rest of the Lonely Planet cycling tour.
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I went to a couple of temples, and at the third one, I found some monks who had just finished an English exam, so we chatted under the shade of the garden pagoda. They said i should come back and teach English in their hometowns, in the north of Laos. Of course I promised to do exactly that, as long as they gave me food and a place to sleep. How could anyone resist?
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From there, I had a Lao lunch of delicious lahp (meat salad).

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I still had a few hours of daylight, so I headed across town to the COPE rehabilitation centre, a place that makes artificial limbs and otherwise helps people who have been injured by unexploded ordinance in the last 50 years since the Vietnam war and the secret war in Laos.
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I had to catch the bus to Pakse in a few hours, so I walked back, picked up some takeout noodles and chatted with a woman who had just lost her baby’s father to the civil war in Cameroon. It was really a terrible shame. I tried to connect her with Will, my Cameroonian friend in Nanchang, because at the moment, she was in between visas in Thailand. She was just waiting for all the paperwork to go through so she could get back to work. That could take weeks, but she would be stuck in limbo in Vientiane the whole time. I hoped that working in China would maybe be a better option, because maybe her daughter could join her in China, unlike in Thailand. However, Will said even he was not sure he’d have his own job in September. Not a really good situation for Africans or non-native speakers teaching English in China at that moment.

Finally my tuk tuk came and it sped me off to the bus station. Gustav surprised me when he was already there. He said he already told me he would do that, but I guess I forgot.

January 17, 2019
The bus ride was terrible. I was at the very back of the bus sleeping with three other people. Gustav was on another bus, but when I tried to confirm where we would meet when we both got to Pakse, he didn’t hear me. We had discussed staying at Sabaidee 2, so when we got there, that’s where I waited. Apparently I was supposed to wait at the bus station, which we had also discussed, but he had left maybe an hour before me, so I figured he’d already be there. On top of that, I really had to poop, so I pretty much ran to the hotel and found a toilet before even checking in. Gustav later said he was irritated about that decision of mine as well.

Anyway, I had met a couple of Gustav’s friends, Estelle and Matt. We were on the same bus, so we started to plan our day together. We were walking to a nearby temple, when Gustav came walking by. He checked into the hotel, and then we immediately rented a motorcycle and went off to Wat Phou, which was older than Angkor Wat.
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We wandered around there in the heat, looking at a crocodile and an elephant carving as well as the intricate designs on the buildings themselves.
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When we came back to the hotel, I fell right asleep without dinner. I was exhausted from not sleeping all night on the way to Pakse. The driver was a crazy person and he flew over the bumps and potholes all night. That also meant that my knees knocked together and created a horrible pain that lasted into the next few weeks. Meanwhile, Gustav, Estelle and Matt planned the motorcycle tour we’d take in the morning.

Posted by baixing 00:46 Archived in Laos Tagged laos pakse Comments (0)

January 14, 2019, Vientiane


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January 14, 2019
Early in the morning we walked, no ran, to the bus stop because Gustav thought we’d be late. We were half an hour early and the tickets were more expensive than at the hotel. On top of that, it was the same price to go to Vang Vieng or Vientiane, which was double the distance. So, I decided to go to Vientiane and promised I’d wait for Gustav whenever he wanted to go south to Pakse. I’m not sure if that irritated him or not, but he got off the bus in Vang Vieng and I arrived in Vientiane late at night. We had some good chats, but he called the MeToo movement a witch hunt and I should’ve seen that red flag and left him alone at that moment.
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Anyway, I followed some people on a big jumbo tuk tuk to the city centre and they led me to a cheap hostel where three long term residents lived. It was a little strange, but fine for two nights.

January 15, 2019
I had a shower and breakfast early in the morning. I sent some clothes out for washing and got ready for my cycle tour of Vientiane. I followed the guidebook’s plan and went to the busy temple and museum in the morning, when there were fewer people milling about.

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I realized the one dress I had, had gotten moldy, so I went shopping in the central market for a new one. They didn’t look quite right, so I kept going deeper into the market and came across endless rows of traditional style Lao clothes. Exactly what I wanted. I chose a nice white jacket with black embroidery and paired it with a black skirt with white embroidery. The skirt had to be custom made, so I paid and was told to come back in one hour.

I stopped in the tourist information centre, and they gave me a really nice map. I also met a really nice couple from Victoria. We climbed up the arch in the centre of the “Champs Elysee” of the east. It was a fancy monument built with foreign aid money that was meant for a new airport.
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After that, Sandra (the lady from Victoria) came with me and helped me refit my skirt. I couldn’t have done it without her.

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Brian, her fiancé, waited for us in a cafe and had a mango passionfruit smoothie. So refreshing.

From there, Sandra and I went to have a Lao style massage together, which I thought was amazing. The masseuse had feet like hands and he pulled my body around in many new directions. Afterwards, we relaxed with something like rooibos tea and met more Canadians, Rachelle, also from Victoria and Brody from Calgary.

Sandra went back to her hotel, but she messaged me about two minutes too late and I never met up with them for dinner later on. Maybe it would have turned out better because Rachelle and Brody were just getting over food poisoning, so I ate another papaya salad in front of them on a little table on the street. We walked around along the river and finally we all got tired and said goodbye.
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Rachelle was a really useful person to meet though, because she’s a doctor in Canada! She helped me identify the weird thing the Chinese doctor pulled out of my belly button a few weeks before. She called it a schwanoma. A non-cancerous tumor my body created to push something out of my body. She said I could email her anytime if I had any other health problems while abroad. What a kind lady!

I was a little sad though, that she didn’t have such a great trip in Asia. She knows a lot about people in pain and she could see it everywhere. It must have been difficult. She verified the stories I had heard in China about people who had been maimed or blinded on purpose, so they could collect money begging on the street for other bad people. She could see that the amputations and the eye injuries were done on purpose. She said that no doctor would ever do amputations like that, and that people were blinded on purpose with hot spoons. To my untrained eye, none of this is obvious, but it was really astounding to find that these rumours were true.

Posted by baixing 00:45 Archived in Laos Tagged laos vientiane Comments (0)

January 12, 2019, Luang Prabang


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I grabbed a bunch of bananas and got thrown onto a truck. Nobody told us what time we were leaving, so everyone was waiting and angry. While they waited, I also had to fill my water bottle up still. I would’ve rather walked down to the pier by myself. It was probably 500 meters away. Stupid.

Lynne found me a few minutes after I sat down on the boat and I was glad she wasn’t tired of me from yesterday. We had another luxurious day watching the scenery slide by.
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On the way there, we saw the Chinese construction sites for the "Belt Road Initiative". Something I had seen lots and lots of propaganda about in China. I was amazed and astounded at the scale of it all.

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Finally we disembarked at Luang Prabang. Another pickup truck took us to Gustav’s guest house, where he was waiting for us with a big exhausted hug. We sat down with Reiko and Masao and I explained that I had to go on my own now. I explained that my style of travelling was very different from theirs and yaddayaddayadda. I felt this was quite obvious but it took a long time to explain. I guess they didn’t want to hear it.

Later, Gustav took me to the night market and we had dinner near the hotel. Many laughs ensued. I learned that the moon in southeast Asia is happy or sad, unlike the moon in Sweden, Canada or Jilin, where it is a crescent.
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January 13, 2019
We went to town in the morning, but I forgot that you have to wear a long skirt or pants in the temples.

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We walked all the way back to get it, but Gustav was sick, so I left him there while I ambled around on my own. The Lao temples are a lot more delicate than the Chinese ones, so I really enjoyed looking around there.

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I poked around a few more, and then found myself turned around heading back. Our bus to the waterfall Kuang Si was leaving at 1:30 p.m. and I had time to pick up some art (done by a seemingly crazy homeless person) and snacks. I found him painting with his fingers, so I talked to him in Chinese for a while which confused him quite a lot. I bought a little painting, so that was my souvenir shopping done for the entire trip. I felt very accomplished at that moment.
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After I bought some longan, Gustav found me on my way back to the bus station. We ate some lunch on the street and caught our minivan to the waterfall. A guy in the back seat was flipping out because we were driving too fast for him.

There was a small bear zoo at the front of the park, I guess they have been rescued by poachers and now they live in a small enclosure.

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We hiked up the flooded stairway to the top and came down and jumped in the pool at the bottom. The water was cool, crisp and clean, but there were fish swimming around my feet, so I didn’t stay in too long. The water cascaded down in many layers which were more beautiful than I had expected.
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Refreshed, we headed back to the van where that weirdo from before was. He ended up being an alright guy, and we chatted about Canadian politics all the way back.

When we got back to the guest house, I wasn’t hungry, but Gustav met a very good looking young Swedish lady, so I pressured him to eat dinner with her and leave me to sleep. He went, but I didn’t sleep. I ended up at a party with one Russian guy and five Japanese people, including Masao and Reiko. I asked the Russian a lot of questions about life in the USSR for three hours while the Japanese got drunk. He was a technician at a nuclear power plant way up in the Arctic Circle, so we talked about northern life too. It was great.

When Gustav came back, he found out I didn’t lock the door and he got mad at me. This was the beginning of times I would make him mad at me. Later, he was OK with me not locking the door and I joked that I would literally puke if I had caused him to lose his passport. I almost peed my pants laughing when he pointed out that this would only make the problem worse. Not only would he not have a passport, but there would also be puke to clean up.

Posted by baixing 00:44 Archived in Laos Tagged laos luang_prabang Comments (0)

January 11, 2019, Pak Beng, Laos


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We were probably two hours early for the boat, but we had to sit in our seats at that time because there were no assigned numbers. I saw a friendly looking lady who looked like my uncle’s sister Ruth. We immediately hit it off and chatted the whole way to Pak Beng.
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Lynne was taking a two week holiday with her teenage daughter, Grace. She had spent a good bit of the 80s and 90s traveling around Asia. It was great to talk to her about my problems with Reiko and Masao. She helped me work out my feelings about the whole thing. She was very empathetic and I totally vented out everything on her all day.

Reiko and Masao were looking miserable at that point and my heart was breaking. I felt so guilty for bringing them all the way there. At the same time though, they didn’t give me any guidance about this trip. They simply said they would follow me. So, I guess it was maybe bad communication all around. I tried to explain my travel style to them before we left, but I don’t think they understood at all.

Anyway, the scenery was languid and Lynne and I lazed away the day chatting casually and zoning out, admiring the jungle landscape.
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They sold us a hotel room on the boat, and there was another kerfuffle. Reiko didn’t want to share a room. When I said I would go to another hotel, she relented and then I felt bad again. Ugh. A nosy Austrian guy even asked if I knew them or not, that’s how awkward it was. We checked in at our hotel and later had a nice dinner together with more green papaya salad.
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Posted by baixing 00:42 Archived in Laos Tagged laos pak_beng Comments (0)

January 10, 2019, Huay Xai, Laos


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January 10, 2019
I woke up at 4 a.m. to the sound of a mouse or a rat eating my apples! Oh my lord get out of there! I threw some nearby garbage at it. I tried to fall back to sleep but it was no good. I was listening for more mice.

At 6 a.m. we left for the bus station. I thought I heard rain, so I repacked my bag, and wore a lot of clothes, but I was wrong, there was no rain. I guess it had been raining so much, I just assumed it was still raining. I didn’t know what the world sounded like without rain anymore.

When we got to the bus station, they told us there was no bus today. Excuse me? Why did you sell me a ticket then? They gave me some money back and we got on a bus bound for the Lao border but no more.

On the bus, I tried to sleep, but it was no good. I kept thinking of different ways to get myself out of this mess I was in with Reiko and Masao. It was all my fault and I felt guilty. I couldn’t go on for two months acting as their tour guide and babysitter.

I had a friend in Luang Prabang, who I had met two years ago in Cambodia. Gustav would wait for me and then we’d go off on our own. I had planned it all out in my head. Reiko and Masao were very uncomfortable and their pained expressions constantly on their faces looked miserable. I believed it’d only get worse.

Anyway, we got to the checkpoint for leaving China and I was quite nervous about it. Every Chinese person we met was mentioning the 13 Canadians who had been detained in China as a result of political bickering. I was worried they’d fabricate something about me and I’d be stuck. But on the other hand, I’d be free of these people I brought with me. Ugh what a horrible thought. I was so desperate that I’d rather be interrogated and jailed than continue on this trip with them. Maybe it doesn't seem like it, but I cared about them a lot. They were really nice sweet old-fashioned Japanese people... but we just needed to break up. It wasn’t them, it was me.

The border guard looked intently at every single page in my passport. He asked me how long I’d lived in China, what the name of my school was, why I didn’t want to stay in China for my vacation, why my parents didn’t visit me in China, when I was going back to Jilin, how come I was such a young teacher (???) I realized he was just killing time as his boss sauntered over to look me up in the computer *gasp* Did they know I had a VPN so I could watch Youtube and Netflix? Did they know I regularly searched for foreign news on Google? I was extra nervous because a random guy at a bus station a few hours ago asked me direct questions about those exact things. Was he a spy??? I hadn’t admitted anything to him about my VPN and I was glad. There was nothing else they could accuse me of. He asked me if I was “escaping” China and I emphatically said no. After staring at the serious looking pair in silence for what seemed like centuries, they smiled and stamped my passport.
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I exhaled and went outside where someone was pushing me into another van. They promised they were going to Huay Xai and I had no other choice but to believe them. 100 yuan seemed like an OK price for a 200 km trip through the mountainous jungle. I was safe from Chinese prison anyway.

We drove on muddy roads until we stopped at a little shack for lunch. I couldn’t find a way to buy anything with my Chinese money, and then I just gave up. Reiko thought I was starving and brought me a plate of plain rice. It totally broke me. I felt so guilty. They were so nice, but I couldn’t explain to them how lonely I felt. What is the point of travelling with people when every conversation is one-sided? They never tried to talk to me about anything, they only used their translation apps to ask questions and make complaints. I felt like a tour guide and just started crying at that little shack on the side of the road in Laos. I tried my best to translate my feelings, but it didn’t come out right. I walked back to the car and Masao tried to hug me, but it made me cry more. I hoped they wouldn’t be upset if I went with Gustav when we got to the city.

At Huay Xai, we got in a little truck, which brought us to our hotel.

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Our first task was to get some Lao kip at the ATM. Two of them were empty of cash, but we found one and then paid for our boat ride to Luang Prabang leaving the next day. I had a nice dinner of green papaya salad, which I ate every chance I got thereafter. We tried to get a good sleep, picked up some snacks, and then got on the tuk tuk to the boat in the morning.

Posted by baixing 00:41 Archived in Laos Tagged laos huay_xai Comments (0)

January 8, 2019, Jinghong, Yunnan


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Reiko and Masao knocked on my door at 6:30 a.m. ready to go. I had told them to leave early, but I didn't really now what time would be best. We didn't catch a bus out of there until 8:30 a.m. anyway. The rain was still pouring and my pants were still damp from the day before. It didn't matter because it all just got soaked again.
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When we arrived in Nansha, we had about four hours to kill, but it was still raining. My plan was to find a restaurant for lunch and dry off, then buy some snacks and go to the bank. Masao had other plans. He took off and left us behind.

I just kept going on my way to lunch, I wasn't going to wait in the rain for him. I lost the both of them and got me some rice noodles again. I sat there for a while but then got kicked out because they wanted to close the shop. I went around the market and bought a bunch of oranges and guava. It's been a long time since I had a fresh guava. When I got back, Reiko was still waiting at the same spot in the rain. What? We all had our tickets, why not walk around and meet me back at the station? I was annoyed.

I put my things on the x-ray conveyor belt, but she started asking me something nonsensical and then my fruit bag got caught and broke as she tugged on my sleeve, miming something I couldn't understand. The bag broke and the fruit went all over the gross bus station floor. Getting more annoyed, I read a book in silence until the bus was ready to go. It was pretty much impossible to explain my feelings via Google translate, so I just didn't.

The bus arrived in Jinghong very late, maybe midnight, but our hostel wasn't too far, so we walked there in the rain. Masao navigated us there with his ever present cell phone. The woman had overbooked it and we had to stay in two rooms for the night. She gave Reiko and Masao one private room but Reiko said the bed was too small. So I took that room and they went to the dorm. Suddenly Reiko realized that more people might come in the dorm the next, so she changed with me and I had to move all my stuff back to the dorm again. Oh my god... Just stop... I was slowly going insane. So there I was, moving my bags into the storage room/overflow dorm room to sleep in it with the rats by myself.

January 9, 2019

I tried to sleep in, but I was awoken by the repeated slamming of a door. Something was wrong with Reiko's door, but did they try and find someone to help them? No, just slam slam slam. Good lord. I stayed in bed until 8 a.m. anyway, when I went to buy our bus tickets to Laos, leaving the next day. I came back with breakfast of eggs, rice and pickles. Yum. Only 60 cents for that.

We went to the tropical plant garden after that. Another debacle ensued. At first we started out OK, strolling around together at random. At one point Masao was 50 metres ahead of us, when Reiko wanted to turn right into a fruit plantation instead of left, to see some water lilies. So, she pulled out her phone and refused to walk another step. Really?! Masao is just down the road! I sauntered over to him and told him about Reiko trying to call him. Oh lord what a mistake. Now we were on a frantic goose chase for Reiko. We never found her, so I left them both looking for each other.

What a waste of time in a beautiful garden. Anyway, I had a good time by myself and saw some Bougainvillea, Frangipani, which is the official flower of Laos, rubber plant trees and lots of palm trees. To this day I don't understand why a fruit plantation would be more important than strolling happily with your husband in an idyllic garden. But I'm not married for 10,000 years either.
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I met them back at the hostel and took a nap. I found a random Chinese guy who wanted to go to the night market for dinner. It was 3 km away, but Reiko and Masao didn't want to walk. They also didn't want to take a taxi without me. ugh. Sorry I'm walking, do what you want. So they walked, but then we had to walk slow. More ugh. We had a really nice Dai minority dinner with the help of the Chinese guy. Women were singing old folk songs while they played guitars, serenading the diners. Ha.
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The Chinese guy took us to the night market, which was huge and completely manufactured and fake for tourists. More women were dancing in I guess a Thai or Lao style and everything was sanitized and spotless. Maybe I would even venture to call it Disney-fied. Shudder. Unimpressed, we went home to sleep because our bus left early in the morning.
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The Chinese guy bought us little wooden elephant keychains. That was nice. Almost too nice? I suddenly remembered I had left my US money out on the bed. What an idiot. I also couldn't remember how much was supposed to be in there. I tried to get back quickly, but it was not easy. When we did get back my door was open... WHY?! I counted the money, it was $125. Did that seem correct? I didn't know. I called my mom to ask if she remembered how much she gave me for my birthday. She thought $200, so OK it was probably alright. Nothing I could do now. At least it wasn't all gone. Phew. I couldn't sleep after that, no longer worried about the money, but thinking maybe I'd be the 14th Canadian detained in China over this Huawei trade dispute crap that's going on. Bleh

Posted by baixing 20:50 Archived in China Tagged yunnan jinghong Comments (0)

January 6, 2019 Yuanyang Rice Terraces, Yunnan, China


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We woke up early again to catch a little bus to Nansha. We waited an hour in the cold for the city bus. Oh well. When we got to the main bus station, the bus driver was seemingly waiting just for us and he guided us right to his bus. We took off immediately. He whisked us along a bumpy road through a valley with endless rice fields as the sun rose over the hills. I froze again all the way there, wrapped in my thin silk sleeping bag liner.
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In Nansha, the next bus driver pushed us onto her bus. It was another speedy trip up and around a windy road. When we got to Xinjie, another woman pushed us into her van and I thought it would be the same, but she tried to charge us too much. We argued and got it to half price finally.

We arrived at our hotel and found there was nothing to eat anywhere nearby. I still had some fruit, so I was OK, but Reiko kept looking for a restaurant. Then when she found two, she complained about the price. So, we didn't eat lunch that day.

She also refused to walk around anywhere, so I just sat there at Bada rice terrace and finally they both went back to the hotel.

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I wanted to wait there and watch the sunset. They didn't want to walk back in the dark afterwards. I stayed at Bada to watch it with a huge crowd of people. It was very nice and well worth the trip out there. The colours the sun and clouds reflected in the flooded rice paddies were lovely. No photo or painting could really reproduce it.
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Once I got too cold, I trudged back with everyone else and went to bed. Somehow, Reiko had cooked an egg with vegetables. They saved me some and I went to bed quite early.

January 7, 2019

The day before, I had arranged a driver to pick us up and take us to the sunrise at another rice paddy. We agreed on the price, but he tried to charge us 100 yuan for a one way trip. Uh no, last night you told me it was both ways. So we had to call back and forth with the hotel manager until he agreed.

The sunrise was indeed as mesmerizing as Lonely Planet said it would be. The clouds moved in and out of the valley and as the sun rose, it illuminated more reflective rice paddies in the terraced field. It really was captivating to watch everything brighten and become clear. I just hoped the taxi driver scams would end at some point, but I knew better than that. I knew they never would.
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When we got back, the hotel owner tried to explain how to get to some more nearby rice terraces, but it was completely lost on me. So, we just started walking down the road as Baidu Maps said to do. Eventually someone picked us up and we got a ride there, even though I didn't want it.

Wouldn't you know, it started to rain very very heavily? My friends had no rain coats or umbrellas. We had been talking about this rain for days. They always carried a big bag with them, so I just assumed they were ready for it. But no, they were not. I couldn't believe it. What on earth were you carrying in there, if not an umbrella??? They stood under a tree for a while, and then they ran towards a village which had an expensive cafe. I had already eaten a huge plate of fried rice at the hotel after we came back from the sunrise. That was because I thought we were going to be hiking all day. So no, I didn't want to wait there for the rain to stop. Besides, the Weather Channel said it would only get worse for three days anyway. I had my raincoat, so I walked back by myself cursing that stupid taxi ride we took in the first place. In the end, the walk was very pleasant in the spring-ish weather, even though I was soaked.
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When I got back, I just planned our trip towards Laos. The hotel owner was not helpful once again, but he called to confirm the information I had already found out by myself. So that was fine I guess.

Masao and Reiko took a cab back to the hotel just as I was about to take a nap. I explained the next few days' plans and then went to bed really early listening to podcasts all night.

Posted by baixing 20:35 Archived in China Tagged rice terraces yunnan yuanyang Comments (0)

January 4, 2019, Jianshui, Yunnan, China


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We had breakfast in the hostel. Reiko really wanted to use the five yuan off coupon, so I had a big bowl of banana oatmeal and we took off to the south bus station to make our way to Jianshui. The line for the bus ticket was crazy long and we managed to get out of town by 11 a.m. Not at all what I had hope for. Oh well.

When we arrived, we went straight to the old town to see Chaoyang gate. It's just an old watch tower in the middle of town with some old photos on display on the second floor.
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We tried to find somewhere to eat, but settled on a random tofu barbecuing place in an alley. These places are everywhere and they sell aged tofu grilled and crispy. I tried one piece and almost barfed. Reiko kindly ordered me some fried rice after that.
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It was too late to catch a bus home, so we walked back and picked up some fruit for breakfast along the way.

January 5, 2019

I couldn't sleep because of intense menstrual cramps, and neither could Reiko. She started making breakfast. It took us two hours or more to get ready.
On the way, we saw a bunch of old men selling caged birds in the square. It made quite a racket.
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We went to the beautiful Zhu family garden where we wandered around old rooms and walked behind a little decorative waterfall. Reiko bought a bunch of garbage there. Her bag would end up being really heavy at the rate she went.
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It got a lot warmer, which made me so happy. I had been cold for days at that point. We went to the Confucian temple which was pretty much empty of people and very peaceful. I really loved the giant lake that is called the "sea of learning". Apparently it's designed to look like Confucius' hometown temple. It was first built in the 13th century.
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After that, we had more rice noodles for lunch and I went back to the hostel to take a nap. I was woken up by some guy speaking three languages and having a grand old time talking to Masao in Japanese. He immediately invited us out for barbecue which I couldn't eat too much of because of the knife-like stabbing pains in my pelvis. I stuck to fruits and vegetables for a while after that, ugh.

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Posted by baixing 20:26 Archived in China Tagged yunnan jianshui Comments (0)

New Year's Eve on the train


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Dec. 31, 2019

I wore all the clothes in my bag which were four pairs of socks, a pair of long johns, three pairs of shorts, one pair of pants, two long sleeve shirts, four tank tops, two polo shirts, my raincoat, a scarf, a hat and don't forget my sarong wrapped around my head. It was -15 degrees and I waddled my way to the train station where I hoped I would ditch my shoes and wear sandals for two months straight.

Instead I spent two days on the train beside a noisy baby the whole way. I brought a lot of popcorn, almonds, raisins and oranges. That was what I ate the whole way. I didn't sleep too much because of the stupid baby. The train ride was pretty boring until we got to about the halfway point in western Hunan, where we travelled through a lot of mountains. To my dismay, they were all covered with snow. By the time we got to Kunming, it was early in the morning of New Year's Day, 2019. Pretty much exactly how I spent my New Year's Eve last year and the year before, in transit. On the way to Cambodia in the Guangzhou airport and on a ferry to Athens.

This time I'd be more mobile and spend two weeks or more in Laos and then the rest of the time lolling about Thailand. New Year's Eve is a manufactured festivity and no one really has that much fun forcing themselves to have fun anyway.

Jan. 1, 2019

We arrived early in the morning at the Kunming train station and I found the hostel very easily. Exhausted, I took a shower and washed the clothes I'd been living in for three days. It was still not warm enough for shorts, so I couldn't throw any of my warm clothes out yet. My sandals were heavy as rocks on the bottom of my bag. I tried to take a nap, but it didn't work, so I headed out to the central park, where red-billed seagulls were wintering.

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Every year, people just lose their minds about them, and they spend too much money on stale bread trying to feed them. I kept on going to Yuantong Temple, where a lot of nuns had gathered and were doling out these strange cakes to everyone. I thought that maybe they were meant for the fish, but I saw other people eating them, so who knows.
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Then, I tried to find the Yunnan Provincial Museum, but it had moved to a southern suburb. The old museum was turned into an art gallery and had some modern style Chinese ink paintings on display. I went home ready to sleep forever. I went to bed at 5 p.m. and didn't get up until the next morning, even though a bunch of Thai women were chatting away all around me.

Jan. 2, 2019
When I woke up, I went to the suburbs to find the provincial museum. I took the right bus, but when I transferred to the second bus, I decided to have some noodles for breakfast. I guess I took too long, because when I got back, the bus wasn't running anymore. I waited for a long time, and someone finally told me which bus went the right way. After all that, the museum was closed. I turned right back around and went to the two old pagodas in town, the East and West pagodas. Both of them had been gaudily repainted, oh well.
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Next, I walked to a supposedly up and coming arts district, you know the typical kind they have in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing. Just a few more galleries and hand made trinket shops would be needed for it to be actually worth visiting. I sat and drank a tepid overpriced latte until the second art gallery was supposed to open at 2:30 p.m. It never did. The first gallery was full of a lot of what I thought was quite garbage, compared to what I really enjoyed the day before. There were a couple of dirty kittens play fighting at the cafe, so the whole day wasn't a waste.
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When I got back to the hostel, I met a woman from Mississippi studying Chinese because she wants to learn traditional Chinese medicine. We went to eat soup and more noodles, then I had to go to the airport to meet Reiko and Masao. Their idea was to join me on my tour for the whole two months. I got there too early, so I had time to figure out how they could get to the hostel at midnight. We had to take the airport shuttle, but also a short taxi, so it wasn't too bad of a problem. There would be no way they'd have figured it out alone.

Anyway, I went to look for some hot water because I was freezing. A nice woman at an expensive jade shop gave me some and she asked me a lot of questions about getting married to a Canadian man "for a friend". Apparently her friend was engaged to someone in Vancouver. Then, it was time to find Reiko and Masao. There were three exits and I was waiting at the wrong one, of course. In China they told me they weren't bringing any checked bags, so that's why. They showed up and there they were, with giant bags. It was the first of many disappointments in the coming days. I took them to the shuttle bus I had found before and we got home probably at 1 a.m.

January 3, 2019
We found the minority village and the minority museum were right beside each other in the south end of the city. So, we did everything they wanted to do in one day. Thank god though, because it was not that great. The whole thing was like a low budget Epcot Centre, except just for people in China. All the different minorities were walking around and doing their native dances. Even one guy climbed up a sword ladder in bare feet. You could explore lots of different houses from all different cultures, so I guess it might be fun for kids.
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I had some really spicy beef dish from who knows which culture for lunch and then we went to the museum next door, which I liked a lot better. The most interesting part was a huge scroll, depicting the layers of existence, including a graphically painful purgatory. There were also tons of ancient sculptures and carvings in different local languages as well as a huge bong made out of tin.

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We were tired when we got back, so we had some snacks and chatted with Donielle, the American woman I met the day before, then went to bed.

Posted by baixing 04:27 Archived in China Tagged kunming yunnan Comments (0)

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