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Chengjiang 澄江

Best weekend of my Chinese life so far me thinks....

sunny

Hello m'dears,

I have just spent the last 4 days in a little lake side village outside of Chengjiang (澄江) in Yunnan with a student and his family. So we got there the first day (Sunday) just me and my friend Jack (grade one student with English as good as yours and mine in a mini van designed for maximum 8 people (including the driver), which, not unusually had 10 people in it all the way to Chengjiang (2.5hrs, no Natalie). Got there, went to the park, laughed at old people dancing in the square (as they so often do to my great amusement) then meandered down to his Aunts house and ate fresh plums, nectarines and peaches, talked and stuff. They then took me to my hotel for the night, (refused to let me pay, 4 stars was sweet as) then went out with Jack and some of his friends from junior middle school where we talked about life in general, what I was doing in China, essentially talked about me over milk tea whilst Jack translated the bits I didn't know. Followed by hotel, pass out for a bit, wake up at 3am and watch Gone With the Wind on CCTV9 win! lol

Ummm next day was the Dragon Boat festival (端午节) had a traditional breakie of zhongzi (super sticky rice, gonna attempt to make it when i get home) and zhou in the hotel,then to the market which was WALL TO WALL HUMANS and CORPSES of animals then in a bus to Jack's village
and his grandparents traditional Chinese style house of mud bricks down a shaded lane with chickens and dogs out the front and a court yard in the middle, 21 people sitting in the court yard, peeling vegges, laughing and sorting out the coriander for the market. Home made food is seriously THE BOMB! lol

zhongzi, yummmm..... dip it in sugar

zhongzi, yummmm..... dip it in sugar


No joke, wall to wall....

No joke, wall to wall....

Then on Tuesday chilled with Jack and some other students from school, went to the beaches of Fuxian Lake (抚仙湖), looked like a Whitsundays beach, glassy blue/green water, and blue skies (but it was a pebble beach, no sand) water was seriously awesome,
fish swimming and its pretty cool, cold but.

抚仙湖

抚仙湖

Jack, Nat and I went out on the lake in a paddle boat, chilled in the sun (I am currently scarlet skinned) and drifted where the wind blew us, talked to fellow boaters (in other boats) one thought it was an invitation to come aboard, next thing i knew he had jumped in the water, swam over to our boat and got in ours, talked, and found out he was from the nth of china, inner Mongolia. then it started to rain so we headed in, went for dinner, blah blah blah.

043

043

Today, got up, got on a bus and fell into conversation with a pair of 75 yo Hui (Chinese minority that are Muslim, usually from Xinjiang Provence who are Turkic in origin) they were speaking Uighur dialect to me (more like Arabic then Chinese) and I spoke Chinese,
was cool could actually understand all they were saying, so not so stressed about going to Xinjiang now lol. But yeah were talking about their lives, what we were doing in China, places to see in Xinjiang (they got very excited when I told them i was going and told me the addy of some relatives up there if i need any help, so sweet of them) then one of them pulled out some paper and a pen and said "6 numbers and 1 lucky number please, fill up the page" I'm like ok...

He wanted me to pick his numbers for his lotto thing which technically isn't "gambling" but seriously is like power ball lol, asked him why and he said that in his culture, pale skinned people are meant to be lucky.

DSCF8061

DSCF8061

It was a freaking great weekend, something I will never forget.

Posted by Messus 05:51 Archived in China Comments (0)

a quick note...

sunny

Ok, so have I ever told you the tale of a class? No? Well read this.

So, this class can be a bunch of hilarious little shits that I just can't help but laugh at I'm afraid. However, today was enough. Little comments from the peanut gallery every five seconds. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and get them at their own game. Check this out.

So, there is this kid says: "delicious" and "dangerous" all the time, these are the events that unfolded;

Me: "say it one more time, I dare you?" *thinks: well cop this!*
Kid: * puts on little shit face and says:* "mmmmm.... delicious..... Oh my lady gaga its sooooo dangerous!!!" *laughs evilly and looks around*
Me: *writes something on board* "Ok I warned you, read this with one hand on your head."
Kid: *turns red and puts hand on head* "Im a little tea pot short and stout, here is my handle, here is my spout. When I get all steamed up here me shout! "Tip me over and pour me out" ".

Yehhh how you like them bikkies now???

VENGENCE IS MINE! MUAHAHAHAHA

thought I'd let you know.
Hasta.

Posted by Messus 01:40 Archived in China Comments (1)

Concluding week at 民中

what to feel?

all seasons in one day 23 °C

I have finished teaching here officially now, no classes since last Friday as the grade 2 students have exams all this week (the poor darlings!) and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it to be entirely honest, which is more distressing than feeling downright depressed I will say as much!!

Last lesson was on American and English humor, culminating in the viewing of The Big Bang Theory and Little Britain. Needless to say that when the students were faced with the choice of American or English 10/12 classes opted for The Big Bang Theory. I think I can safely say that I'm all Sheldon and Lenard-ed out! Please!!! No more tales of the Whore of Omaha!! *pauses for dramatic effect* Oh, still reading? OK then. :) Good.

It was really quite depressing come last lesson with class 3, 11, 4, 7. Heck it was oober depressing at the end of all of them!! When I told them some classes had a general air of "awww no more bludge lessons.... *tear*" and some seemed genuinely sad that four months had disappeared so quickly! Class 3 were a bunch of babes, gotta love 'em and 7 were their usual amusingly wicked selves which was a refreshing note to finish up on. :)

Thursday night Natalie and I took Lucy, Mr. Huang, Gemini, Mr. Ding (headmaster) and Mrs. Ding out for dinner to say thank-you in some small way for all their guidance and patience over the last four months. They seemed pretty chuffed at the prospect, somehow I get the feeling it is not a common occurrence among past volunteers, as much I hope is not true and that my spidey-senses are out of wack again. It was quite a nice evening, lots of food, chatter. Pretty cool. Lucy said to us that Nat and I were the best volunteers so far in terms of pairing and being able to work together to engage the students (although I have to attribute the engaging aspect to Nat, they seem to love her amazingly bubbly and talkative personality over my quite-listen-to-you-practice-your-English one, but oh well, I won't hold it against her). ;)

So, the weekend passed rather uneventfully, chilled watched some absolutely torrential rain come within 4cm of flooding the house!! Tragically the SS. Sink Me lived woefully up to her name and was all but ripped apart as she made her way through the mini river that was our front yard/car park, (note to self; tell future engineers to invest in some more sturdy materials, paper and sticky tape simply won't do!)

Yes, the rain was torrential!

Yes, the rain was torrential!

Sunday... hmm to be honest I don't really remember what happened on Sunday... turning into a goldfish with my old age I think! Oh yeh! That's right! Went to a wedding for our neighbor on Sunday, physics teacher who I had previously assumed married as there is a woman who appears to be of similar age living with him, turns out she is either his sister or mother. oops. But it was pretty cool. We went with Lucy and her husband, later picking up their son who played a role in the extension of my visa I believe (gotta love family members in good places). Lucy and Mr. Huang took us to see their new flat in Yuxi first. It was really nice!! A mix of traditional Chinese in terms of colours and some moldings and Western architecture. Open space, 2 level apartment with a nice balcony and high ceilings. Really nice place, sitting over papaya on the couch with Lucy out of the room, Mr. Huang reclined rather self-satisfactorily and told us the price of the flat (which shan't be disclosed here, but it was a lot!) On to the wedding and food, fireworks (indoors mind you) and as the usual gist of a Chinese wedding goes left within onne hour and thirty minutes. No fuss here at all. :)

Lucy, Me and Mr. Huang on the balcony of their new flat.

Lucy, Me and Mr. Huang on the balcony of their new flat.

Monday and I managed to spend the entirety of this months wages in the span of a day. ouch! but oh well, it's only money. :P Got the bus to Yuxi, upon which a man and lady sat next to me and started talking about the foreigner and how different she was (me). Then all of a sudden the bloke behind me pipes up and tells them essentially my whole life story which was kinda weird....

"her name is Meixian, she is an English teacher at Minzhong from Melbourne, Australia. She is 18, has one sister who is taller than her and is leaving the school on Monday to travel around China, starting in Hai'nan."

Cause that's not weird at all...... Turned around and looked at him, asking how he knew all that. Apparently E'shan is a small place..... yeh, cause I didn't already know that. :P Anyway, got to Yuxi with my bag of goodies to send home rocked up to what is the "Postal Banking Service of China" (also postal service as the name suggests) however when I asked the security guard where the post desk was he simply giggled (yes, the crooked eyed security guard in the bullet proof vest and hard hat) telling me that the post office I was looking for was down the road.

So got to the right post office, bundled up my goodies homeward bound and had the bejesus scared out of me by Lewis' sudden appearance at my side, followed shortly by the cost of sending just shy of 2kg home (379yuan). Fresh juice in the newly opened juice shop in Yuxi with Lew as we chatted about odds and ends, apparently he is in the same boat as me when it came to exams. ouch! then down to the train ticket office to get my Kunming- Beihai (via Nanning) tickets. Not to mention that I managed to buy one of the most expensive tickets, stupid mistake I wont make again but oh well, will know how the other half live for all of 32hrs. That was cool, got tickets with a little help from a student who luckily happened to be there (bloody ticket woman spoke faster every time I asked her to slow down). So pain number two. (240yuan) followed up by a memory card for my camera (as I will not be travelling with my laptop around China, so 16GB it is, 160yuan).

And yet again the massive thunderheads meandered across the humid sky bellowing their throaty roars telling us all to run for cover before the heavens opened and drowned us. Literally drowned us. My second occasion to be thankful for the ankle high, water-proof hiking boots, only things dry were my feet, passport and train tickets. Everything else, soggy and wet. Not cool.

Following day, went out relatively early and will admit was in a horrendous mood from lack of sleep in Lew's spare bed. Hot, hard and sweaty. Not cool. Nat and I went out, did a few things, spent more money. Bought Lucy a nice little bracelet, quite chuffed by that. Then went back to the shop I'd walked past the night before and purchased... wait for it. A mountain bike, red and white and generally pretty cool. :P Got my mad as wheels for going around China now, pretty much set. :)

Tuesday we got home and Fang being the absolute love that he is had orginised a mini party with a few of his friends. Fruit and stuff. Really nice of him, he made Natalie and I little bracelets/charms that are typical of Yi Minority people. They are intended to bring luck, safety and hope to those who carry them and can only be made on Dragon Boat festival. (and they don't seem like something you can whip up in 10mins). Going to miss that guy.

Yi knot, sorry for the bad quality pic, left my camera at Lew's so had to use my mobile <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

Yi knot, sorry for the bad quality pic, left my camera at Lew's so had to use my mobile :(

Tuesday night was our farewell dinner with the English staff. May I say that their endeavor to get Nat and I hammered was rekindled with vengeance. Dinner and Baijiu. Good combo if you ask me. However after some time the conversation suddenly changed to "discharging". I will let you use your imaginations there m'dears.... not cool. Followed by most people meandering back to our flat for beer and snacks. Photos and conversations until the bell went for bed. Was pretty cool.

Going to miss everyone here. Not feeling much at the moment, kinda like a hollow shell more than anything at the moment. I suspect however that come Monday it will be sad to walk away officially, (even if it is with the knowledge that I will be returning mid-July to pick up my big back pack then again in early September to meet the new grade one students, I get the feeling that the September leaving may be slightly sadder, but shhhhh don't tell anyone that OK?)

Until next we meet m'dears, the adventure will go on and the search will continue, It will not be satisfied and it will not be repressed.

Posted by Messus 06:35 Archived in China Comments (1)

The Adventure Begins...

sunny 30 °C

They say that leaving family is difficult. If that is true then I don't know what the kids at 民中are too me because it was harder than leaving behind my family at Tullamarine. Nat and I had packed up our stuff, tidied the flat by 10am. There was nothing left to do but wait and relish as the hightened sence of distress settled in, holding us hostage and refusing to let us be. Noon came and with it our final hour officially at our home of four months and our new and firm family. Helen, Mona, Graham, Jack and Gin came to the flat to have lunch with us. Helen and Mona rather somber looking and Graham his usual aloof self (glad to see it wasn't affecting him much).

Lunch was lunch, banter and chatter nothing quite out of the usual apart from Nats red nose and extra shiny eyes.... ;) Got back to the flat and that's when doom set in..... we were all quite depressed and then Lucy showed up in her usual way to say goodbye and such. All of us stood outside the flat in all its random pinkness and took group photos and hugged eachother saying we would see eachother soon. And that's when the tears began to flow..... there was not a single dry eye to be seen!! Was sooooo distressing I don't know how it was done bt it was all over in a flash as we rode away on the school bus to the bus station in 峨山with my bike (the bloody thing).

Got to Kunming said goodbye to Lewis as we chucked him in a cab to "The Hump Hostel" (yes that's its actual name) and Nat and I went to the train station... that's where my troubles really began.

So as it turns out, buying a bike wasn't exactly the wisest of decisions...
Problem 1.
In my heightened stage of emotional unstableness I had a mini break down at the station when the woman at the gate wouldn't let me in with it. (there was several back and forth calls to Gin to help out, gotta love him, little legend!) Got it sorted that I needed to put it in the luggage carrage. (this was after I had changed my train tickets).

Got the train over night where a lovely woman took it upon herself to makesure I got off at the right stop (as the attendents were virtually useless!) Slept horrendously ( I know, spelling but no spell check here) and woke up at 4:30am in Guangxi Provence to the sight of mossy green, karst peaks peering through the mist. Very nice. Got off the train, realised I was going to have to cancel my connecting train to Beihai due to the bike issue, did that. Blah blah blah.... So the people at KM train station said my bike would be on the same train. This brings me to problem 2. by 12pm my bike still hadn't arrived not happy Jan. So thought, sod it, I'm going to leave it here in Nanning. So I booked a connecting train to Beihai and was on my merry way again to the most southern city in China.

Train was uneventful, slept for most of it. Got into Beihai, hot, sweaty and exhausted. It was sooooo humid!

Next day and refreshed and inigorated I took off in search of the international ferry terminal. Took me 2hrs and then I gave up, got in a motorcycle taxi and went there. Got my over night ferry ticket for 120yuan all by myself (so proud). With my head held high I went back out to the main road and hailed a taxi back into town to the Old Town. It was quite nice strolling around in the hot sun looking at the archetecture. You could sooooo tell that Europeans had made it their base at some stage (although why I will never know, far too hot for them me thinks) walking along and stupid me managed to get my boot laces hooked on the eye of my other boots, went A over T killed my left knee something shocking and grazed my face too. Luckly for me I managed to go outside a chemist who was also an English student so she patched me up and sent me on my merry way. Ferry over was cool. Think 1950s era Navy bunks, thats what I slept in. comfy....

Got to Haikou 1hr ahead of schedual so 5:30am instead of 6:30am. Got in a taxi and went to the bus station and headed to Wuzhishan in the centeral highlands of Hainan. Very nice.... Green and cool. Went to the doctor about my knee (he looked a bit worried at the awful mess that is my knee) which was hurting so much that every step made me want to hurl it hurt so much! Wuzhishan was pretty uneventful spent most of it hunkered in the AC of my room sleeping. Healing really takes it out of you, that and may have had mild concussion, but thats just being melodramatic I think. Was super sleepy.

Bus to Sanya was awesome! 2hrs winding through the highlands to the most southern city in China! WOOOOOOO!!! Got to Sanya, far less humid here which is veryyyy nice. dumped my bags in a room and strolled down to the beach and meandered along the roasting sand! very nice. Had dinner along the sea side with an exquisit view of the setting sun over a seafood dinner which was very expensive and delicious. :P

So I've made it to my first stop on my China travels; Sanya. The most Southern City in China. With a few minor set backs. I may be half cripple and every fiber in me may be yelling at me to get out of the tropics so I can heal but stuff it, you're only 18 and foolish once so lets do it :P

Stay safe m'dears and be good.

(sorry I couldnt upload the photos for you, I've put some on FB. hopefully they load)

Posted by Messus 22:22 Archived in China Tagged china sanya,hainan Comments (1)

德天瀑布 Detian Falls and the 53rd Marker.

overcast 34 °C

The 15th started off as any other usual day here in China. Got up at 6am, jumped on a bus at 7am you know. The usual. :) (that was before I headed in the complete wrong direction for 20mins..... Taxi!) So anyway got a bus that would enevitably wind up in a 4.5hr, windy and absolutely exquisite trip through the Guangxi (广西) country side. You know it's not until you head out of the city for about an hour you realise how truly impovrished some people live; essentially bark humpies in among the banana plantations and exploding melon crops. (Did you hear about that over there? The farmers used some sort of growth hormone on their melons and well... they grew alright. and exploded). So the year's crops lay destroyed by the side of the road for nothing and no one but the stray dogs and the tires of passing traffic.
(It's at this point I would usually insert a photo but as it turns out my card reader isn't functional at the moment so you will have to wait until I return to school, deepest appologies m'dears).

Anyhow, poor people aside (oooohhh that sounds so callous doesn't it? Not intended I swear) The remainder of the trip was through banana plantations with earth a colour I have never seen before. Such a deep red I wanted to get off the bus and paint my arms with it, looked really good! Then the landscape slowly changed, morphed into something absolutely breath taking. Massive karst peaks sauntered out of the perpetual mist around us. Revealing something it would be quite impossible to forget or loath in a lifetime. Soon they clustered until they were all you could see, their ever reaching arms forever skyward in an eternities effort to embrace the sky. They reminded me somewhat of the skyscrapers you see back in Melbourne, their sides so straight and mysterious. What secrets do they hold? What have they seen? What will they see? If only the peaks could talk I'm sure it would be amazing...

Karst Peaks, Guangxi

Karst Peaks, Guangxi

I arrived at my destination slightly awe-struck as it was. Meandering down the incredably steep and slippery stairs to the river, my feet too big for the steps and the roar of the distant falls beckoning me forward through the not-so-dense jungle. The river glittered a jade green and smelt like the sea. The far side of the river I beheld my first glimpse of Vietnam, the closest I had ever been to two countries at once, it was pretty cool. I watched the people go out in bamboo rafts right up to the mist at the bottom of the falls, where the water churned and people came out significantly more damp. It was this point I got a text from mum;

Go out in one of the boats..... if you think its safe

Detian Falls. (On the right, we have Vietnam, on the left; China.. everyone give them a round of applause!)

Detian Falls. (On the right, we have Vietnam, on the left; China.. everyone give them a round of applause!)

Well to be totally honest they didn't look that sturdy, come-on bamboo with polystyrine inbetween its layers, pushed along by 2 men and 10ft bamboo poles. I let it be for now. I followed along the path, now swarming with Chinese tourists, again I was the only white person.... and loving it. You see, as a lone white person, and a lone white girl. stand at a spot for a few minutes and someone (usually a mother or aunty with kids) offeres to take a photo for you with your camera. Very nice. So photos, laughs and continuing along the path right up to the rocks that guarded the 20m across, 3 level trans-national falls. And I will have you know that the water was absolutely freezing! Such a welcome relief from the humidity of the jungle. (I later found out that I was right near the Tropic of Cancer, or was it Capricorn? No wonder it was so steamy!)

Yeh... real sturdy

Yeh... real sturdy

Up the narrow and slimy stairs (OH&S is not a priority here in China I'm afraid) I followed my feet to the 53rd marker. This is infact the boarder of China and Vietnam. So, being dick head me, i stood there, smack in the middle of the two stone monuments (the Vietnames being far grander of the two I will say) and hopped from one foot to the other thinking;

I've got one foot in China. I've got one foot in Vietnam. China. Vietnam. China. Vietnam. China. I think I'll stick with China for now

China on the left, Vietnam on the right. wooo... doin a little dance :P

China on the left, Vietnam on the right. wooo... doin a little dance :P

Pretty random I know, the people around me and the people in the market were looking at me like I was insane. :P From what I could see the boarder was pretty poorley guarded (although I wasn't exactly looking for guards) I think I only saw one Chinese guard, hugging his machine gun as he snoozed under the shade of one of the junge trees..... oh so scary! lol.

Looking down at my phone it was time to start heading back so I could catch my bus back to Nanning (南宁) Heading back the way I came, past the white ponys and their keepers, past the corn fields and back to the roar of the falls. I thought bugger it. You're only young and slightly daft once. So I got on the raft and headed out to the falls with a family from Yunnan. :) Loooottttts of photos and we all got really wet from the falls. The panorama shots I took of the two falls (one is on the Vietnam side, pretty but small, and the other on the Chinese side, the main falls) are absolutely amazing! The only thing that would have made them better would be if it were a blue sky so you could see the karst peaks behind it. But either way. Amazing. I know you all will be totally jealous (to some degree) when I can eventually upload them. :)

Well until next time m'dears. Be good and check in soon!
xx

Posted by Messus 18:39 Archived in China Comments (0)

南宁到大理

Nanning to Dali

sunny 24 °C

So I'm finally out of that sauna calles Nanning and may I let you know; I'm so freaking happy to be out of that freaking hole! Ok, so maybe hole is a little dramatic and over the top, but hey, since when haven't I been?? :)

So, after Detian Falls and it's absolutely amazing-ness I meandered out to some caves about 2hrs out of Nanning. It was nothing amazing, spectacular or awe-inspiring (expecially when compared to those caves of Jianshui, Yunnan) but they were a lovely respite from the outside humidity. 4km underground can do that to you ;) So fast-forwarding to the last day of Nanning and I thought I would bide my time and go shopping in the absolutely massive market area opposite the "hostel". Climbed to the 6th floor out of sheer curiosity and my mind was absolutely blown! So imagine the space of Chirnside Park SC and fill it from wall to wall, ceiling to ceiling with awesome Chinese/Asian stationary. :) Need I say more than 3.5hrs and 80yuan later I was all stationaried out. But seriously it is something you can not get sick of, stationary, expecially Asian stationary, at less that factory outlet prices and as far as the eye can see is not something you can give up so easily. (unfortunately I uploaded the pics to my laptop when I called into school, wiping them from my camera.... bugger...)

Train from Nanning to Kunming was little less than a nightmare. So currently buying train tickets is a gamble as its uni school holidays and tickets are virtually booked out. So I wasn't 100% sure on what class of spot I had on the train, jusr rhar I had a spot to Kunming. wooo. So anyway. Got on the train and to my utter disbelief I had a hard SEAT all the way from Nanning to Kunming, you try sitting still for 18hrs over night on something about as comfortable as your kitchen bench and tell me you aren't mildly agitated by the end of it :)

Walked out at Kunming train station and it felt like coming home. Yunnan! How I missed you so!! Got the bus back to school, thought I would be able to sneak in whilst everyone was in class. Silly me forgot that whilst exams are running there is no normal timetable thus a sneaky entrance was not much of an option. It was kinda blown out of the water actually. :) Got to the front door of the flat after many hellos and whispers, put the key in the door, dumped my bag on the floor, turn around and see Jack headed my way. Such a babe, poped in said hello and left me to my own devices :) which went a little something like this;
-Dump clothes in washing machine
-Turn on washing machine
-Walk away, have shower
-Walk past washing machine to room and think "wtf it hasn't started yet, thats odd"
-Collapse on bed and drift to sleep
-Suddenly wake up and think "duh dick head, usually helps if you plug in the washing machine!"
-Zombie walk to machine, plug it in zombie walk back
-Pass out once more.

So as you can imagine was just awesome. :) Gin came round at about 4pm followed shortly by Helen, Mona and Jack and together we went and had dinner. Chilled. They had exams that night so left. I packed and listened to Nova. Then Mona came back and we chatted for a while followed by some of the guys from class which was really nice, they were so shy but its great that they persisted with it. :) Smart guys. Come 10:30pm everyone was in the flat, Graham showed up and it was literally a full house again. :)

Left the following day, delivered my bike to Paul, after a relaxing ride through Kunming in peak hour traffic, who bought it from me to sell it on (such a love, thanks again). Chilled in Foreigner Street for a while over a beer and dinner then headed off to the station to catch my train to Dali. Apparently had a soft sleeper which was nice. :) Got to Dali at something like 8am, rocked up to the old town and got a room at the "Jade Roo International Hostel" now I will give you one chance to figure out the nationality of the people that run it :) Melbournians through and through with wicked as accents I had forgotten we could sound like that lol. Strolling through the street fo Dali I got a text from Nat saying that she and Joe were in town as of that night. Wooooo so as you can imagine was a little excited at the prospect of some English speaking company :) Was great to see them. :) lots of stories over dinner and beer. I'm ashamed to say I think I babbled wayyyy too much, lack of company apparently can do that to you. oh ohhhh....

Following day headed out to Jizu Shan or "Chicken Foot Mountain" to stay the night on the mountain and watch the sunrise. Got there and roamed the gardens for a bit where I was accompinied by one of the resident Monks who endevored to tell me the legend of the mountain and its significance in Budhist culture (in as simple a Chinese he could manage which was nice), all the while picking fruit from the trees we walked past and handing it to me saying "eat the fruit it is good for your physical and spiritual health". Can't argue with that now can I? The Monk had an air of calm knowledge about him which was highly infectious. So when he said he had to leave for afternoon prayers, I was left in a very calm and relaxed state. :)

Walking up that mountain was hard work I shall have you know, I think I have become more unfit since coming to China. But I did it, got to the 3,000-odd-meter summit and realised I was so high up that both the mountain and I were shrouded in the clouds that christened the head of the mountains all around. I wandered into the nunnery up on the summit and looked around the absolutely exquisite gardens. Drew a couple of sketches and had dinner with the Nuns. Vegetables and rice washed down with a bit of tea. Very nice and all grown on the mountian. I spent the night there too so I could watch the sun rise. Can I just say now, an electic blanket, doona, thermal sleeping-bag liner, jeans, socks, singlet top, 3/4 sleeve top and a jumper was quite simply not enough. It was bloody freezing up there!!

This is where I spent the night, know you're totally not jealous

This is where I spent the night, know you're totally not jealous


DSC02649

DSC02649

Unfortunately when I woke up at 4:30am to the sounds of morning prayers and bells I could see nothing of the rising sun past the clouds which allowed me to see no further than 3m a head of me and tragically was the same at 8am when it came time to leave but the sun was already up. :(

So thats what I've been up to recently. :) Off to Lijiang on Monday. until next time. be good :)

Posted by Messus 00:34 Archived in China Comments (0)

大理 to 香格里拉 (with the photos that would upload)

Dali to Shangri-la, it's not as fictitious as it sounds...

storm

Hey hey!
Well I left you in Dali after a night in the nunnery. Was cool. :) and I'm sure you're all like "oh god, here she goes on another of her rants". But anyhow, suffer at your own risk.

The last couple of nights in Dali were average. Said goodbye to Nat again an on the final night went to the "Bad Monkey" Bar in the old town, smoked shisha with one of the (cute) Israeli bar tenders for a few hours (get the subtle feeling it wasn't straight coals either) which was cool. I swore almost EVERY old lady in that town came unto me and said "smoke the ganja?" lol. Got the bus from Dali to Lijiang. That was a seriously uneventful four or five hours in a bus with stuff all suspension on what was an off road trek through some stunning scenery. :)

Now I got to Lijiang and I don't know if you will recall but the last time I was there it was bucketing rain and thundr the day I got there. Well it was at it again- I get the subtle feeling that Lijiang and I just aren't supposed to be! :( oh well will save me a lot of money in the long run I suppose. :P anyhow. Bucketing rain and a 20 odd kg backpack on smooth, slippery cobble stones in hiking boots is one hell of a ride. :) slipped and slid my way through the old town to Mama Naxi's Guest House (which mother dearest later informed me sounded alot like a brothel). Bu brothel I assure you not! The Naxi woman that runns the hostel is seriously sweet always referring to herself in the third person as "Mama". Lol. Anyhow, spent the night in a dorm there with, yep you guessed it, more absolutely gorgeous Israelis (Isware I'm not biased, they just happen to be that way, not my fault).

Following day I thought hey what the hell let's get a bus out to some mountain and check it out. So got on the bus to Jianchuan, not realising that it would take me a whole 3hrs to bloody get there, arriving there at 3:30pm and the last bus to Lijiang was at 3pm bugger.... And to be even more spiffie the road to the mountain I had in mind had been cut off due to landslides. Yayyyyyy.... Oh well, didn't really fancy climbing another mountain, way too unfit for it. So got a mini bus out to the quaint little town of Shaxi (沙溪) which happened to be one of the last functional villages on the old Tea Horse Road that ran from India to Southern Yunnan via Tibet. It was very beautiful there and could have easily wholes away a couple of days there. I especially think Ma and Mandi would have loved it. Check out the pictures as to why. :) evening stroll by the bubbling river of snow melt and no one and nothing but the mountains and birds as companions. Very relaxing. Lovely place. I spent the night there in one of the local homes. I stayed with a family of 4 in one of those cool mudbrick courtyard homes. With corn and cabbage growing in the centre courtyard and chickens strutting around the ground floor.

沙溪 Shaxi, pretty right, well appart from the muddy water. <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/Emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

沙溪 Shaxi, pretty right, well appart from the muddy water. :)

The following day I returned to Lijiang and shopped a bit and essentially did bugger all, met up with Graham that night, was nice to see a familiar face. He still seems remotely shocked when I understand what he is saying in Chinese and comment back in English. Classic the look on his face. :) following day went and got a bus to Shangri-la (香格里拉).

Now I kid you not. Shangri-la is in fact a real place (however the name from the story was fact before the city of Zhongdian changed it's name to that of the book). So the bus here was quite possibly sooooooo freaking uncomfortable I could literally feel nothing fron the waist down after about 10mins in that seat (which I puld be in for another 4hrs and 50mins). However the absolutely stunning scenery absolutely made up for that. :) as I said in a text to Ma;

I doubt the Dandes will forever be a let down from this day forth. Drivin thru a valley where the sky is but a sliver of a tantalising tease, held back by the greedy hands of omniscient mountains.

Ok so yeh you can imagine. Yeh? She replied in true motherly style the following;

You're a dag. Send that mess to Mandi and Chris

now am I really that much of a dag? Come on if you were where I was you too would be inspired to write such poetic nonsense. :) anyway. Arrived at Shangri-la got to hostel and all was sweet really. :) slept and it poured all night and most of today. Got out for a few hours and climbed up a little hill to a temple where you could see the whole of Shangri-la. The 100 Chickens Temple in English. The entire mountain was shrouded in the waving prayer flags that was all you could hear at the top- the sound of the wind through the 5,000 odd meter mountains and the prayer flags flapping frantically as the wind from the Tibetian highlands blew in in all their absolutely freezing ferocity. It was so beautiful and peaceful up there I could have spent much longer up there just meditating and reflecting in the small temple of the Buddhist Yellow Hat Sect of Tibet. However one peep outsidethe window and my fears were confirmed. A massive curtain of rain heading my way. At first I thought it was the light playing tricks however when I figured out that the mountains behind were entirely hidden behind massive black thunderheads with lightening preceding them and a thick curtain of rain I knew it was time to hitai it out of ther before I was stuck on the top of the mountain in a massive high altitude storm.

100 Chickens Temple's Garden

100 Chickens Temple's Garden

Walking back down the mountain I had time to think, something I've been enclined to do a lot of recently. Religion such as Buddhism seems to be so relaxing and peaceful, it affects not only cultures and lives bug everyone and everything it comes into contact with. I like the idea of it, but fear that it may be a realisation possibly grasped in years to come.

Oh an also. Looks like I'll be heading straight to Chengdu tomorrow as the whole of W.Sichuan and Yunnan is still closed to foreigners. It would appear they don't want us gettin too close to Tibet at the current moment in time which is most annoying. Looks like this is as close to Tibetian culture as I'm going to get for a while yet. Oh well. Shall buzz you again from Chengdu I suppose. Until then, stay safe, be good and don't do anything I wouldn't do :)

Oh and P.S Happy Birhday to Dad and Di, you old buggers :P xx
PPS, also seems that the internet speed here is way too slow for uploading pictures, so I shall let you know when I have added them :)

Posted by Messus 03:53 Archived in China Comments (0)

香格里拉 to 成都

Shangri-La to Chengdu

sunny 34 °C

So I suppose you're mildly curious as to what I've been up to hey? Well before I divulge the mildly amusing details let me fore-warn you, I'm doing this on my iPhone so typos shall be rife. :) appologies m'dears.

So Shangri-la to Chengdu via West Sichuan was a no-go unfortunately SOOOOO I had to majorly back track to KUNMING to get the train up to Chengdu. So that involved two days worth of buses through some of the most mountainous terrain Ive yet incountered (and with a serious bout of food poisoning sublimely and wickedly times with a relatively mild case of Altitude sickness was NO EASY FEAT!!) it took most of my energy not to hurl everywhere on the way back to dear Kunming. Stated at some impossible YHA hostel in Kunming and much to my dismay the staff were utterly useless, well that may be a tad bit harsh, let's just saythat they were severely under staffed by kids between their Gaokao (VCE exams) and uni. Essentially they didn't give a stuff. But who can blame them when a bunch of irate French backpackers are practically screaming at them in French and winderin why the hell the staff don't understand. Hate to break it to you guys, but French is no longer (if ever was) the lingua-franca. Sorry. Anyway. Overnight train to Chengdu. Again hard seat, no sleeper. I think I'm getting the hang of sleeping upright with people either side of me. It's an art I swear and know you are totally jealous.

"get down to the interesting stuff, we dont care for your relatively late night musings Zoe!" I hear you say. Hold your horses I'm getting there ok?!

So Chengdu was pretty cool nice and laid-back really. Stayed at the Mix. So the first day I go there was relatively knackered cause of the train. Go there at about 3pm got the bus ti the hostel dumped my bags, SHOWER, and sit on couch to read a book. Ten this chick from Sweden comes in and says mind if I put a movie on? Well she chucked on Lord of the Rings and I'm slightly ashamed to say that we sat there from about 5pm until 2am watching the WHOLE trilogy. Something I've never done before and something I suspect I shall have to do when I return home. The whole concept was lost on me except for some crazy obsession with an evil ring and the line "my precious" lol.

Following day went to see the Giant Pandas at the "Panda sanctuary". I've a few things to say on the matter (ha since when don't I have somethig to say of late??)

Pandas are adorable. Especially when 4mths old twins decide to play stacks-on-mum and make her tumble off the platform or you get to see a 3 day old pink thing in a humidi-crib. However it is most distressing that in a "sanctuary" well let's face it, it was more a glorified Panda zoo with 4m x 3m pens with minimal natural foliage that would be found in their natural environs (ie BAMBOO), these near extinct creatures are essentially a black and White bag of furry bones. The poor things were so skinny and the look intheir eye eleven they stared at you from their daze was one of utter loss of faith. Many would argue that their just animals bread in captivity and know no diferent. But it's still gut wrenching when they stare you in the eye and seem to beg for something more.

Pandas!

Pandas!

Moral of the story. Pandas are cute, but desperately depressing.

The following day I decided to temporarily check out of Mix and head down to Luobian 洛表 on the Sichuan/Yunnan border (9hr bus) to see the hanging coffins of the long extinct Bo people. So got talking to a husband and wife on one of the buses and he asked if that's what I was going to see. I'm like yeh going early to see them. He offered to show me them in the morning as he used to play there as a kid. So of course ii was like sure that would be great thanks. :) they helped me check into a hotel and said he would pick me up at 7am.

Half an hour later I get a text asking if I'd had Sichuan food yet. My response no I haven't. So I also got a dinner. Thought cool we will go out for something. Qian comes by the hotel, picks me up on the back of his motor bike and drives through the Market, picking up fish chicken and herbs along the way. So home cooked sichuan food. No English with Qian, his wife, brother and daughter. Very cool. Spoke about everything from what I was doing in China (he is also a teacher although far more qualified) to the differences in Chinese and Western culture especially marriage, all the way to how independent western kids are compared to their Chinese counterparts. It was quite interesting really. Spending a rather relaxed evening in the company of complete strangers in their home. It would seem that humanity is not this big evil thing many would have us believe. Gotta have a little faith from time to time. :) they all walked me back to the hotel when it started to get dark. We walked back through the original 300year old village (in which people still live, work and socialise) listening to the gauntly sound of the erhu waft through the labrinth of old dirt streets. I guess they don't get many foreigners out there as everyone I walked past did a double take, the children got into small arguments with each other as to wether or not there really was a "waiguo" (foreigner) in their village and then upon realising followed us all the way to the hotel. I think I had a following of about 15kids. :) was pretty cool. We walked through the old, original 400year old city gates. They looked both fragile and imposing, sturdy and wise at the same time. There were lions guarding either side of the blue, yellow and red mosaic gate and pine trees acutally growing out of the top. Was pretty cool to watch the sun set through the gates and the village.

The following day I got up at 5:45am with the idea of havin a shower. Little did I know that the water is solar heated and the over night temperature was about 12 degrees. Brrrrr. So gave up on that crazy idea. Packed and watched the morning news whilst waiting for Qian. Got a text saying to meet him in the resturant next door for breakfast. Wet down met him had hella spicy noodles for breaky (mouth was still tingling 4hrs later!!!) and then we went on his motor bike to see the hanging coffins of the long dead Bo people.

He said watch the cliffs as I held onto the back of the bike. Sure enough out of the sheer cliff face square holes appeared in regular clusters.

Hanging Coffins of Luobian

Hanging Coffins of Luobian

He pointed outto me that these were the holes for the support pins that the coffins once balanced on. As we rounded the corner a cluster of about 6 coffins came into view about 100m up the sheer cliff. He kept saying over and over that the Bo wre really smart and that even to this day no one has any idea how they got them there as thy were mostly under massive lips (think upside down L). We did a circuit of the valley floor all you could hear was the sounds of early morning village life, wind through the corn fields, the roosters call, childrens laughter, the river and the wound of he motorbike. I kid you not I know it sounds extremely idilic but that's how it was. To get to some of the coffins we had to walk through farmers fields and the yards of original cottages (200 years old minimum).

Hanging Coffins of Luobian

Hanging Coffins of Luobian

It was seriously cool and not something I will ever forget I think. Headed back to Chengdu at about 11am hit back at some obscene hour.

Following day I just killed around Chengdu. Looked at a map and saw that there was an IKEA in the south of the city. Now I don't remember if I told you but for about the last month I've been haven these incredibly vivid dreams about IKEA and random impulses to go there. Seriously been giving me the irrates. I don't even like IKEA that much. So for the first time in my life I got the metro. Yeah Zoes on the metro everyone look out or be surprised. Well may not seem like much but I was pretty chuffed. Metro is cool. Anyhow got to IKEA and couldnt help but laugh.

IKEA!!!

IKEA!!!

It was really surreal. :) hung round IKEA for a little while then wet and checked out the MASSIVE electronics markets up the road. Was cool think Eastland buy over 7levels. :) techies paradise me thinks. Lol. Followed up by a trip to the park, I didn't know that there was a Starbucks in ancient china. ;)

Overnight train to Lanzhou then to Dunhuang where I currently write to you from. It's desert country out here sand and sun and about 37degrees. Lovely :) I've been told that today is Ramadan on the Muslim calendar, that explains all the tables set up in the streets outside as Dunhuang is a majority Muslim town. Well should go. Will talk soon. I've all bu given up on photos guys I'm afraid :( Internet out this way is way to slow. When I get back to school in September I'll do a mass upload to here and good old FB. until then be good and talk soon.

Posted by Messus 07:20 Archived in China Comments (1)

敦煌 Dunhuang

The Gobi Desert

sunny

Hey hey it's me again! So after the little reprieve I've so graciously given you there is a little catchig up to do, ie. All of north west china (well actually it wasn't a reprieve just unreliable Internet and a general sense of it can wait till a little later when I'm bored on a bus or something along those lines). So long story short, there is going to be a influx of posts over the next day or so. :)

So onto the main event!! I believe I last left you all in Chengdu after the hanging coffins of Loubian correct? Well a couple of days later (after absolving my insane inklings for IKEA) I was yet again in one of those magnificent hard seats from Chengdu to Lanzhou. Oh how I love those seats, I don't know if I should worry, I'm beginning to find the comfortable of all things... Anyway. Lanzhou nice and early somehow managed to sleep the whole way there (by some way of minor mirrical I thinks) dumped my bag in storage and meandered around the city for a bit whilst I waited for my 8pm train to Dunhuang. Weather was absolutely spectacular I must say, desert weather. :)

Now here in china there is a popular dish called Lanzhou Mian (Lanzhou style noodles). Now being in Lanzhou and the home of these noodles I deemed it absolutely necessary to try out these noodles in their home town. And diasapointed I was not!! YUM! to make Lanzhou noodles:
-wheat noodles
-fresh beef stock (none of this powdered rubbish)
-thinly sliced roast beef
-diced garlic, spring onions, corriander, salt and pepper
-freshly sliced red chilli
Enjoy. :)

Ok so you can try those for yourselves if your so curious. :) train was mildly interesting intact it was virtually empty. So despite the fact that I had a hard seat ticket there was enough room for everyone in the carriage to spread out over six seats and sleep relatively comfy. :) oh and there was this absolutely adorable little girl. Tiny thing but cheeky to boot with a wicked little laugh. She seemed to have a thing for my hair, for some reason  unknown she found it hilarious. Any way. Got to Dunhuang and it was like YAY!!! Blue sky!!! (you have to understand that not seeing blue sky for almost a month and a half you really come to miss it!)

Checked into the hostel which was a mild nightmare to find, it was wedged in behind the Mosque and went for a meander in the afternoon sun. 

Following day I got on the little green bus out to the Mogao Grottos. A massive complex of rooms carved out of the mountains in the Gobi desert and painted with Buddhist murals. It was a respite spot just outside Dunhuang where traders along the Silk road would stop to either thank the Gods for safe passage to China or pray for a safe passage to where it was that they were headed. now to get in here you MUST be in a tour group of some form and if you're a foreigner they try to charge you an extra 20yuan (total 180yuan) for an English tour guide. Now I thought that that was an absolute joke. One you don't need someone to tell you exactly what you can see, two I speak relatively good Chinese and three why on earth would I want to see what was dictated to me and move on when the leader got bored (usually after 2mins). So I bought my Chinese ticket (after a 5min debate in chinese with the woman in the ticket office, cow) and latched onto any group that was passing my way and moved onto whichever open cave was open that I fancied. Haha take that rules and regulations lol. So the caves were ok, after seeing 2 or 3 you kinda had the general gist of what the rest were like. Some of them were badly damaged by weather and salt, others by the naivety of 20th century European "explorers" (more like thieves) and others were really well preserved and dusty as all hell. Someone seriously needed to tell them about a feather duster or something of similar purpose. :)

Back to Dunhuang in the middle of a sandstorm and I spent the evening of Ramadan in the town in the night Market outside the Mosque with a Hui family who just pulled me down into a spare chair and insisted that I celebrate Ramadan with them. Was quite cool. :)

Ramadan in Dunhuang

Ramadan in Dunhuang

Following day I just meandered round the town wondering through various markets and reading my book down by the river whilst biding my time to the evening. Spend the night in the Gobi Desert anyone?? :) camel trekked about 10km into the desert. Stretched out to one side was flat nothingness as far as the eye could see and to the other side towering sand dunes that blocked out the sky. It was pretty cool and the sunset from the top of the highest dune was an amazing array of oranges, reds and pinks splashed across the cloudy sky. We spent the night watching Bollywood movies on one of the guys iPads as the massive full moon rise above. (it was quite a surreal moment I will say, being in the Gobi, in China watching Bollywood movies in the desert of all places lol!) 

Gobi Sunset

Gobi Sunset

Now a few hours after crawling into my tent and falling asleep on the sand I was woken up. At first I was like right... Minds playing tricks on me. Then I heard it again. Someone or something moving around our little campsite in the dunes. Lying absolutely stock still in sand is a little difficult and somewhat painful. But to tell the honest truth I was absolutely bloody terrified, we had passed some other Trekkers on our way there and my sleepy brain assumed it was them, shifting around my end of the site, looking for something to steal or someone to torment. 

My mind kept flicking to the small knife in my backpack at my feet whilst my eyes constantly flicked from the zipper of the tent o the skylight above my head, an internal battle of words flying around in my heightened sense of alert in my head. "don't move they might hear you!!" "but if I get the knife I can give em one hell of a surprise..." "Zoe you moron this is probably some figment of your imagination, you're having a 3 way argument in your head right now idiot *mentally raises eyebrows to emphasise the point of stupidity*" *plastic bag rustles outside and stool falls over* "yeh some figment...*moves to get knife*" "DON'T MOVE MORON!!what if they look in through the skylight and see you hmmm???" 

And so raged the battle for a good hour or so, somehow managed to fall asleep in my utter, unnecessary fear. Got up the following morning at about 5am with a sever call of nature screaming in my head. (no loo, literally dig a small hole on the far side of the dune and all is hunky dory really. Good view), it was cold, my brain like Mandi's pumpkin soup after it's valiant battle over night and absolutely busting my mind flicked to the ground in the sporadic search for some form of human tracks in the direction I heard the noise during the night. Aside from my own boot tracks to the small stool there were one other set of tracks, so my mind wasn't playing tricks on my after all, someone was there in the night!! I thought to my self; funny looking boot tracks though, looks like someone was dragging a thick rope through the sand and wiggling it back and forth. That's when it dawned on me. Zoe you absolute idiot, you were scared of some crazed bandit coming to get you all in the night, it was just a noisy snake. MORON!! well you can essentially imagine the internal name calling that was happening then and the absolutely ridiculous size of the smile plastered on my face. Oops. 

Posted by Messus 20:04 Archived in China Comments (0)

新疆

Xinjiang; the home coming.

sunny

Sitting on a bus from Chengdu to Pingle and I look down to see the tan of my arms and the utter albino contrast of my legs makes me think I haven't told you guys about my Xinjiang adventure yet have I?

Well the train from Dunhuang to Urumqi was uneventful (but had a sleeper bunk, WIN!!) got to Urumqi the capital of Xinjiang Provence and it dawned in me; right now at this second I'm the furthest away from any ocean it is humanly possible to be. Pretty cool eh? Well got on the bus for the hostel and managed to miss my stop. An elderley man and his wife took it upon themselves to ensure that I got to my hostel safely. Such loves, whilst talking and waiting for a taxi he told me about how he is a Professor of Astronomy and about when he used to lecture in Harvard University in the late 1980s and that his eldest son and daughter are at uni in Boston. Interesting family that one. We got to the hostel and he utterly refused to let me pay before writing down his email address and phone number saying if I needed any help to just give him a call. :)

Now I don't know if you know anything about the civil unrest in this part of china (and it's probably something I shouldn't mention whilst here so I'll just brush over it briefly) in 2009 there were riots in this city, the biggest And deadliest China has seen since Tian'an'men actually. Anyway long story short the minority group here (Uighers, of Turkic origin and appearance) want Xinjiang to be an independent state and thus the struggle still simmers below the surface. Regional history done. 

However, despite the slight inkling that something was off coming to Xinjiang felt like coming home for me. No one stared and muttered "waiguo" under their breath when I walked past. If anything passing me off as another member of Xinjiang society. I can't tell you how good it felt to finally blend in after months of sticking out like a sore thumb. Went and got my train ticket to Kashgar then spent the afternoon in the (supposedly) famous international Bazaar in the heart of the city. Now the next bit makes me chuckle every time, when walking through the bazaar the Uigher  stall owners would smile pleasantly and go about their buisness. When I stepped into their stalls they would start talking to me in Uigher (a Turkic/Persion sub-dialect). To which I'd respond in Chinese with "sorry I dont understand". The look on their face was utterly priceless, they would switch to Chinese and say, but aren't you Uigher?? In the most confused voice manageable. LOL!! makes me smile just at the thought. So despite my blending in and non-comprehendo of Uigher the local people were really friendly and found it funny, many saying that I must have Uigher blood in me somewhere. Cool right?

Anyway, 25hr train in a hard seat to Kashgar the following morning and a Uigher woman (making the same mistake as the others) took it upon herself to teach me some Uigher basic phrases and in turn I taught her some English. I can count to ten and say goodbye, that's about all I can remember hehehe. But she was like "you've got the accent!" she seemed rather excited by that. :) 

If getting to Urumqi felt like a home coming then Kashgar must have been like metaphorically walking past St. Paul or something. Was a freaking great feeling. Got off the train and there is Uighers everywhere, clear blue sky, 36degrees of dry desert heat and the smell of BBQ floating by. I think I could live there to be honest, felt quite similar to Melbourne but with a middle eastern/ central Asian feel to it. 

Got to the hostel and a bunch of people from Jerusalem said "hey we have a spare seat to Kakuruli Lake tomorrow, want to come?" (I think that's how it's spelt). So not passing up the chance (as you need permits to get into that area) I was like sure. Following morning got up for the lake and there was 4 Israelites, 2 French guys, a Chinese girl and me heading out, only to find that the drivers screwed up and only sent one 4x4 instead of two. Idiots. So we sent the Israelites on their way (as they were the ones that organised it) and the rest of us got a taxi the 300km to the lake (which actually worked out 50yuan cheaper each). We got to the lake at about 7pm Beijing time (Xinjiang runs 2 time zones; Beijing time which is 2hrs behind Melbourne and Xinjiang time which is 4hrs behind Melbourne). To our left was massive sand dunes and to our right was a massive, sky blue lake surrounded by lush green grass and soaring black, snow capped peaks. Was pretty cool. 

We spent the night in a Yurt (think round house tent) with a Kazak family with nothing but a bucket sized brazier for warmth. And it was about 2degrees outside. Brrrrr!!!! There was no loo, just a rocky out crop and a massive moon and billions of stars uninterrupted by light pollution. We were quite literally in the ass end of nowhere. ;)

The Yurt. Yes, theeee Yurt. lol

The Yurt. Yes, theeee Yurt. lol

The morning and the sunrise from behind the mountains was absolutely amazing. Mist rising off the lake and not a cloud for the mountains to hide behind. Complete and pure silence crept all around casting a sort of mysterious magical feel. Alex, Lanzi and I went horse riding around the lake before attempting to hitch to Tashkurgan (as there is no public transport this far west).

327

327

We walked along the highway for a little while before a private bus drove past heading for Tashkurgan which gave us a lift there. Now there was no seats left so we were sitting on upturned buckets in the asile of the bus, no biggie, it's normal here. Anyway Han Chinese are rare out here, everyone  looks European of some sort, usually with really dark olive skin and eery blue eyes. This one guys eyes were such a awesome colour I turned around to comment on them, before I could open my mouth he commented on mine saying that their so black, and then something about the night sky. Hahaha lol. About an hour into the bus I started to doze, that's when some of the women on the bus thought it would be cool to put their hats on my head and take pictures. Lol. So awake and modelling these local womens hats (think the bottom half of a round hat box) the whole bus was laughing and all the women chattering, thrusting their hats at me insisting that theirs be next. Was pretty funny. I don't know why it happened, it just did. 

Hat Model lol!

Hat Model lol!

Now Tashkurgan is the most western city in China and essentially that's the only reason I went there. I was 100km from the Pakistan border too. :) Initially we were going to go out to the border but then decided it was too expensive for the amount of time we were allowed to spend there. Instead we walked around the village playing with the local kids and exploring the narrow dirt alleys. The kids are pretty awesome, some of them had semi decent English and some could speak Chinese so it was all good. :) they took us to the top of a hill to watch the sun set behind one of the massive snow peaks and see the colour if the Mosque's roof change with the light. Was pretty cool. 

Tashkurgan Kids

Tashkurgan Kids

Headed back to Kashgar the next day, and decided that it would be smart to take a short cut through the old town to get to the hostel. Not wise especially when desperate for the loo!! It's little mudbrick houses and narrow winding lanes reminded me somewhat of the pictures I've seen of The Sion sisters quarter in Jerusalem. Narrow and maze like. I could hear the sounds of the midday prayers echoing through the alleys and pulled my headscarf a little further forward to cover my hair incase I walked past the mosque. Lucky I did cause the next corner gave me an uninterrupted view straight into the courtyard and hundreds of men praying. Was almost chilling to see that many people devoted to one religion that they would get down on their hands and knees, and move as one in worship. 

Following day went to the Idkah Mosque of Kashgar,  the geographical and spiritual centre of the city. Built in the early 1700s it was pretty cool. 

I decided it was time to leave Xinjiang asap the following night, every day I could see more and more armed army personnel patrolling the street with kick ass sized shot guns and a tank in the main square. There is definately something coming to a boil out there.  
 
Train to Turpan overnight, hard seat, 22hrs. Didn't sleep much, spent most of the night talking to a Uigher English student and a Chinese guy who ran one of the oil wells out there. Was pretty cool. Funny guys. 

Spent the afternoon in Turpan (literally) and then another train to Lanzhou and out of Xinjiang. Spent the night talking to English students about everything from how to learn English to marriage, house prices, culutral difference, the one child policy and history. Interesting. 

Next post is on the Amdo reigon. Should happen sometime in the next 3days. Be good. 

Posted by Messus 05:37 Archived in China Comments (0)

Amdo Country

I made it to Tibet after all.....

sunny 35 °C

Nimen hao or should I say "Ta'shi de'lek" (hello in Tibetan)?

Ok so I know it hasn't exactly been three days, more like two weeks and three days.... hehehehe I know, I'm a shocker. But hey, what you gonna do about it eh? :P

My speedy escape from glorious Xinjiang landed me head first in Lanzhou, Gansu Provence and straight into the back of a ever happy taxi driver. Got in the taxi and the driver is gibbering away in Chinese and asking questions. You know, taxi talk, anyway it wasn't until I got out of the cab at the South Bus Station that I had a mini revelation; I understood about 90% of what he was saying and could answer all of it. Hells yeah, go me... lol. So after my small and slightly ridiculous victory dance on the steps of the bus station (much to the entertainment of the waiters in the Muslim restaurant next door... awkward...) I lugged my now morbidly obese, human-sized, blue back-pack up the stairs, dragged it across the floor (was too knackered to even pick the bloody thing up) to the ticket window and purchased a bus ticket to Xia'he (夏河) in southern Gansu. Now I suppose you can imagine the looks I was getting and the impression of utter terror on the woman's face when I brought it over to the luggage storage area... poor love, lucky it could sit in the floor, I didn't like the chances of the shelves holding it up for very long with all the other luggage on it. hehehe....

Bus to Xia'he was rellatively uneventful. Managed to get a bit of sleep and chill... in more ways than one. My jumper was at the bottom of my back pack and out of reach for the trip and when I got off the bus I well and truly froze! It was something like 12degrees out there! eek! My brain was like "haul ass back to Xinjiang, I don't care if there is massive amounts of extremely intimidating "friendly" army personnel on the street, get back to the 40degrees of bliss!!"yeh and so the internal battle raged as I meandered up the main drag of this pea sized Tibetan town looking for my hostel. I must have looked either well and truly lost or well and truly pissed off at the cold cause after about 5mins of walking and muttering to myself one of the (what seemed like hundreds), crimson clad monks came up to me and said (in Tibetan, much to my dismay) "Need a hand? you look lost" with one of those massive, yellow and toothy grins so many of the monks have up there. When I responded in Chinese with, "I've no idea what you said, but do you know where this hostel is?" it was all good, we walked up the street talking about the area, the monks here, how they spend their days and what on earth I was doing in this little place and not Tibet proper. Got to the hostel, said our goodbyes and checked in.

So I know I've already said it but it was soooooo cold! After the epic, 49hr-hard-seat quest for the town of Xia'he (as I so fondly (not) think of it) all my brain was saying was:

Hot shower, pyjamas, bed. Hot shower, pyjamas, bed. HOT SHOWER, PYJAMAS, BED!!

Demanding little bastard isn't it? :) So I caved, had a hot shower, got trapped in the shower because moron me had to pick the on stall that DIDN'T have a inside door-handle, so there is me, out of a shower, wet hair freezing cold saying "hello....? is anyone there? can you push open the door to the end shower please??" not cool... eventually was let out, much to the amusement of the guy that ran the hostel, gave me extra blankets and coffee to appease my freezing plight. lol. and then BED! Now, I don't know how many of you have ever been in a hard-seat train for 49-odd hours with a massively fat Chinese man snoring on your shoulder for a good 10 of those hours whilst you, in utter and sheer terror, try to shove him off and shove massive wads of tissues on your shoulder at the same time, to stop said fat man from DRIBBLING on your shoulder. But it's definitely not nice. So a soft, warm, HORIZONTAL bed was just utter bliss. No fat men dribbling on you (however I did wake several times to ultra-consciously shove rolled up tissues on my shoulder... mentally scarred from that one) just blankets and a pillow. mmmmm..... bed. :)

Following day woke up at some crazy-insane hour, like 5am. With nothing better to do, I went out to the lobby to read my Lonely Planet (aka my pet blue brick) for a while. When the owner (the guy who rescued me from the prison of the shower the night previous) suggested I start the day like many of the locals and walk the Kora path around the Monastery (3km). So walk I did. Dug out my jumper and strolled around the Monastery listening to the river bubble over rocks, birds sing (something I haven't heard in MONTHS), squeaky prayer wheels turning and the devout mumbling their monotone prayers.

Labrang Monistry Kora path

Labrang Monistry Kora path

Looking over to my left I spied a nice little hill which would let me look over the whole of the Monastery complex. So up I climbed with my little bag of local bread I decided it would be a good place to have some breakfast, good view, peaceful and sunny... mmmm sun :) So sitting up there all by my lonesome and some company in the form of two white billy goats meandered over to see who the foreign body was and if they had anything worth eating. So, they could smell the bread. Came over, munched the bread (which was good 'cause it was absolutely awful!) then progressed to sniff me to see if I was holding back. They seemed to think that my camera was ediable 'cause the next thing I knew they were eyeing it up and lining up for a nibble... cheeky little buggers..

Goat buisness

Goat buisness

so walked the Kora, bought bus tickets to Lang Musi (郎木寺)on the Gansu, Sichuan border and chilled for the remainder of the day. Now I should point out that by this stage I was feeling massively home-sick and all I was thinking was "Minzhong, must get to Minzhong. Melbourne; t-minus 24 days... hang on, I don't even remember what Melbourne is like anymore, oh ohhhh.... I can't even picture being back in Australia..!!!" so with this little thought pattern going on I guess you can figure out for yourself how lost I was feeling. :( Got back to the hostel, had dinner by myself and talked to mum, dad, maggot and Yang. Felt a bit better after that. Then spent the next hour or so talking to the guy that owned the joint (no I never got his name.. how rude of me) about everything from the region's history, Tibetan culture (Han Chinese here are as rare as crazy ass white girls) and what I was doing in China, where I'd been and where I was going. (seems that everyone asks that last one..)

Following day I left for my 4day bus hopping trip to Chengdu (via the border towns of Lang Musi and Zoige then down to Songpan). I didn't stay in any of these places for more than one day cause all I could think was; "Minzhong, must get to Minzhong. Melbourne". Got to Chengdu (finally) and thoughts eased up a little. Bought train tickets to Kunming for the 10th September. So I had a week to kill in Chengdu (again lol) in the absolutely VILE humidity of Chengdu. (think rainstorm wet, like 99% humidity... worse than Nanning ewwwwwwwww) So, next day I went out to Pingle (平乐)a supposedly "ancient" town. Ancient my ass. lol, but it was nice nonetheless, spent the afternoon beside the river with a glass of floral tea watching kids play in the river, attempting to drown one another with water cannons, listening to old men play majhong (click, click, click, laughter at superior move.. go old men lol). Back to Chengdu for the night.

Pingle River

Pingle River

Following day, I checked out and went to Langzhong (阆中). Another "ancient" town.. you would think I'd know better hey? But got there and was pleasantly surprised. It was in fact an ancient town. Very old (as were the inhabitants). Spent the following two nights in a 500 year old court yard home that was well and truly feng-shui-afied. hehehe absolutely wreaked of Pine sapp and omg there was AC thank god for that 'cause it was more humid than Chengdu (which was 5hrs west of me and Chiongqing was 5hrs to my east). Nice place, of course beside a kick ass river (I believe it was the yellow river actually). Check it:

Langzhong sunset

Langzhong sunset

Be good. :)

Posted by Messus 17:55 Archived in China Comments (1)

The Return Home.

The screaming subsides for a little while.

sunny 25 °C

The train from Chengdu to Kunming was like any other, however I had a bed (win). So getting on the train, dumping my bag I look out the window at the revolting humidity of Chengdu and bid it farewell. It may seem that all I do is bitch about how humid Chengdu is, believe me it is, I'm not exaggerating in the slightest I promise, however it is one of those cities where everything is just so relaxed you just don't really want to leave, you know?

Anyhow, train was uneventful. Half a day and over night. Boring.... Anyhow, such was my excitement of getting back to my home Provence of Yunnan that I was awake at 4am and bouncing, ready to go home. No longer did my now familiar friend of complete and utter exhaustion, irritability and slowly consuming depressing thoughts of "screw it just go home now" sprawl across my shoulders but instead decided to bugger off for a while which was absolutely lovely. Was like coming alive again. Anyhow, got to Kunming and forced myself to buy my train ticket to Xi'an for the following week, (not a nice thing to have to do first thing in the morning when you are utterly elated to be home) then meandered down to the bus station and got on a bus to E'shan. I should point out that most bus drivers in the area know who I am and where I live, so when I got on the bus and the driver yelled out "Meixian nihao! qu minzhong-a?" (Hello Meixian! Going to Minzhong?) I couldn't help but smile HUGELY and laugh in agreement, saying that it was time to go home. He found this quite funny. So on the bus and I managed to fall asleep for majority of the journey, waking up when the driver had stopped the bus at the school gate (a few minutes off the usual route to E'shan, so out of the way) and said wake up you crazy foreigner your home now! With one of those massive, yellow and toothy grins plastered across his face reaching all the way to his crinkled eyes which now seemed fully closed in a smile. lol.

The security guards were like welcome back Meixian. It was good to be home. All the students were in class (thank god for that) and I made my way up the small hill with my back pack to our little brown door, struggling to find the keys, having a mini freak out when I couldn't find the key. Finally found the key and opened the door, dropping my bag on the tiled floors and peering around, breathing in deeply the smell of home long locked up. Then it dawned on me when I looked at Nat's door; it's not the same, she isn't here. *sniff sniff* little depressing that revelation.

Dumped my stuff on the floor of my room, up ended my back-pack on the bed and loaded up the washing machine (that god-damned thing) and headed straight for the shower whilst sending off messages to my Chinese family that I was home for the week. Got out of the shower (soooooo good to used a proper towel and not a travel towel!! the small comforts of life I suppose). Next thing Helen knocks on my door and comes in with her friend, "Welcome back Zoe!" well you can imagine the smile now pasted on my face like a moron (as it is right now at this recollection) then went out into E'shan with them for a bit of dinner. It is the same town but it just felt, looked and seemed different. Not quite right, but it didn't matter, I was home, people were muttering "Meixian hui laile!" (Meixian's back!) under their breath, new grade one students from Minzhong and E'shan Yizhong were like "waaaaa waiguoren!" the people in the juice shop (our local lol) were happy to see me. It was good to be home. :) So who wants a drug induced high when you can have something like this which is about 10,000,000 times better?? :)

After seeing everyone I was pretty out of it, brain was buzzing and face hurt from smiling. It was good to be home. Mr. Wang came knocking on my door to give me my timetable for the week (such a love, he is so shy) before riding away on his bike.

The following day I had my first class with the new grade one students and butterflies is an understatement!! Think more along the lines of kick-ass sized beetles skittering around in my stomach (ewww). Was utterley terrified! Why I don't know, I taught the older levels so this should be a piece of cake right? All we are doing is playing games. Anyhow, these little thoughts taring around my mind at a million miles an hour as I walked over to the Grade One building I hear "Meixian!!" and running footsteps. I look up in time to see Lucy breaking her usually regal and refined air to come rushing over to give me a massive hug. Much unexpected!! Family was complete. Smile and laugh, that was about all I could do whilst we caught up on the way over to class. Ahhhh it was good to be home.

Class was utterly hilarious and I realised how much I missed standing in front of about 60 students and making an utter fool of myself explaining how to play games then watching them all get so involved and competitive as the noise level steady rises. It has to be one of the best tension releases known to man. The new kids were great, they seemed a lot younger and less serious than the last group of Grade Ones. More like fun kids than serious Senior Middle School students, preparing for the dreaded Gaokao in 2 years time. Soooooo good to be home. :)

Tuesday night was made up of the usual shenanigans of the English department. But this Tuesday night there was two reasons to celebrate; two new English teachers were joining us fresh from Uni and me coming back. So it called for the 50% baijiu and 22+ dishes of food on the table at any given time. It was loud, it was funny, it was great. One of those things you don't forget. Sheer alcohol induced hilarity as the decibel level grew to a low, deafening roar. I think at one stage I smoked one of the famous Yuxi cigarettes... that's about all I can pin the taste in my mouth the following morning on... *shudder* but I remember most of the night, I also recall sending a text message to friends that if anyone knocked on my door before 12pm the following day I wasn't going to answer so don't bother. :) lol. Lets just say that hang-over was an understatement. Didn't feel sick, just like my limbs had been injected and encased in lead, was very happy that there was fresh coffee in the fridge and my only class for the day wasn't until 4:10pm. mmmmm.... amusing.

The new English teachers, and the rest of the new teachers were all really sweet. Young and funny, I think they will fit in just perfectly. I hope everything goes really well for them. :)

Fast forwarding to the last day and it was sad sure, but not as sad as the first time, it was both easier and harder than the first time. But I won't bore you with sad good byes, instead; a look back at my time in Minzhong...

My brothers and sisters.

My brothers and sisters.


Day one; Me, Lucy (Zhongguo Mama) and Nat

Day one; Me, Lucy (Zhongguo Mama) and Nat


Tuesday nights... chaos

Tuesday nights... chaos


My Chinese Family

My Chinese Family


The Yuxi Three!

The Yuxi Three!


Class 6, G2

Class 6, G2

Posted by Messus 19:04 Archived in China Comments (0)

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