04 Aug 2010 @ 10:18 PM 

We are lagging pretty far behind on everything, we’re just gonna have to have a huge update when we get back to the US.

After waking up in Pamukkale, we all showered early and headed to buy a bus ticket for the next leg of our Turkish journey. We went to the tourism office and walked up to the desk to begin the wheeling and dealing ritual necessary to get anything done in TUrkey. Behind the desk was a kid who was about 14 years old. Apparently he runs the tourism office. The funny thing is I am not kidding. After buying our bus tickets, the 14 year old informed us his cousin could cut us a good deal on tickets into the “cotton castle”, so we met with another guy to buy discount tickets. He invited us back later to eat his mom’s cooking, which we promised to keep in mind.

We arrived at the travertines and found them to be as impressive as expected. It looks like waterfalls coming down snowy mountains, but it is actually made of white limestone composed of mineral deposits from hundreds of years of hot mineral springs flowing down the mountain. You are not allowed to wear your shoes, which was unpleasant at times, but overall it was an amazing walk up the hill. At the top of the hill we were surprised to find extensive ruins of an ancient civilization, which our ticket also included admission to. We wandered around the ruins until the sun got too hot to bear and we headed back down the travertines. Sadly, we missed half of the ruins, including ‘Cleopatra’s pool’, but we didn’t know that until later. Luckily we all thought it was a totally worthwhile experience without the things we missed, so it was no big deal.

We then headed back to eat the cooking of the bus ticket boy’s aunt. It was as delicious as promised. We then headed back to the hotel to gather our laundry and get on the bus to Marmaris. The hotel brought us our laundry still dripping wet in plastic bags. This made us very sad and would result in all of us smelling quite terrible for the next week. Luckily we all love each other very much.

We took a bus from Pamukkale to Denizli to wait for our big bus to Marmaris. In the parking lot, we saw a terrifying looking cross dresser and wondered where in the world a Turkish cross dresser would be taking a bus to. We would find out the answer to this later…

Meanwhile, we sat on the steps of the police station in the shade and a police officer came out and gave us some wacky Turkish fruits that looked and tasted like a combination between a plum and a fig. I thought it was delicious and sweet, Chris said his was not sweet at all. We realized later that night that his probably wasn’t ripe yet, and therefore slightly toxic. Poor Chris, he pooped everywhere.

The bus to Pamukkale was mostly uneventful and in Marmaris, we got on another bus (are you noticing a pattern?) that was supposed to take us to our hotel. The bus kept driving and driving and people kept getting off, but the driver kept telling us we weren’t there yet. Finally when we had driven almost all the way down the main strip of town, the driver escorted us off and into a hotel… that had a different name than ours. Turns out he was trying to get commission at some hotel he had an agreement with by taking advantage of dumb tourists. When he realized we weren’t dumb, he ran back to his bus and drove away, leaving us stranded. After asking around and hiking quite a way, we found our REAL hotel. The owner was nice and showed us his famous fat cat, which was truly the fattest cat ever. It was a sphere cat. Then we engineered a clothes line in our room and hung out our moldy clothes to dry while we walked up and down the main street, which was beach and sea on one side and crazy clubs on the other.

The next morning we walked to pick up our ferry tickets and then had doners again, only these doners came with a surprise. The surprise was an extra hidden fee to eat them while sitting at a table. Then we went to get on our high speed ferry to Greece. It was a crazy boat that lifted out of the water and ‘flew’ to Greece. This meant it moved according to every little wave it hit, which resulted in many people on the ferry throwing up, or at least wanting to. I was one of those that really wanted to. When we came into port, I ran from the boat, through immigration, through customs, and to a bathroom. The first thing I did in Greece was throw up like crazy in a public bathroom. At least I wasn’t alone, everyone else in the bathroom was also throwing up.

We decided to walk through old town Rhodes and try to find our hotel. The hotel was situated in the middle of town, so it looked like we probably wouldn’t have to walk too far. We walked for about ten minutes, only to find ourselves at the total opposite side of the town. Turns out it was even smaller than we thought, which actually made us very happy. It meant that all of our time in Rhodes could very easily and pleasantly be spent on foot.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Rhodes. It is beautiful, the beaches are beautiful, the town is quaint, the people are nice, and we had a great time there. It was a little expensive, but that was to be expected. To save money, we went shopping in little markets and ate feasts of bread and cheese and meats. We spent our time there walking around, playing cards, and generally relaxing. The last day we went for a swim in the sea. It was so clear that I saw a huge school of fish swimming nearby and got too scared to venture out too far into the water. Chris, however, braved the risk of fish and swam all the way to the stairway to nowhere and dove off. AJ sat on the beach and admired the view. We walked to pick up our ferry tickets for that night and then spent the remainder of the evening at our hotel bar waiting for nightfall while Chris applied to medical schools.

We walked out to our ferry around 11pm and boarded. As we headed up the grand escalator onto the boat, we all started to freak out at how fancy the boat was. A concierge guided us to our own personal room, with four beds and a bathroom with a shower. We wandered around the boat awhile and Sunil and Chris climbed to some places that were probably off limits. When the boat finally started, we sat on the deck in the back and admired the view and had some drinks. We then went to our room and played some games of cards that we all hardly remember and went to bed. When we woke up, we all showered in the best shower we had encountered up to that point and then had a little snack before the boat landed. I wish we could have stayed on that boat forever, or at least for a few days.

We took public transit into Athens and walked to the temple of the Olympian Zeus. We snagged the student discount multiple entry ticket, which meant we had four days to see all of the sights of Athens for only 6 Euro. We then tried to find the old Olympic stadium and walked and walked until we thought we might be lost, so we turned around and went back. The next day when we actually found it, we realized we were actually about 10 feet from the entrance when we turned back. We then hung out and played Monopoly Deal at the hostel bar for the rest of the evening.

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up and headed out to find all of the famous ruins of Athens. We climbed up to the Acropolis and wandered around for a bit and then headed down to the old Olympic stadium where the boys decided to race around the track. They were in flip flops, which fell off, and they kept running on the black asphalt in 95 degree sunny weather. Needless to say some people had burnt feet for the rest of the day.

After that we took it easy while the boys recovered and ordered a wake up call for 3am the next day so we could catch our flight to the airport. We walked to the bus stop in the dark on the quiet streets and got onto the empty bus a few minutes before it was supposed to leave. A few minutes after it was supposed to leave, we hadn’t started moving yet and people were pouring on the bus. When the bus was packed with people like sardines, we finally left for the airport. On this ride, we had some conversations we probably would have gotten dirty looks for if the people around us spoke English. Then Sunil started releasing terrible amounts of poop steam from his butt on the crowded bus. We were very glad to get to the airport and get off. We had a nice German breakfast on the plane and switched planes in Munich. It was a nice easy flight into Frankfurt. From here, our German adventures began. Because most of these adventures circulate around food and speaking terrible German, I will let Sunil write about them because those are his two favorite things. Well, I guess poop is his favorite thing, but those two are probably pretty high on the list too…

Posted By: Robin
Last Edit: 04 Aug 2010 @ 10:18 PM

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 17 Jun 2010 @ 6:54 AM 

Click here to view the pictures for this entry!

Loyal blog readers, it has been a crazy few days for your beloved adventurers. We also found out that facebook, twitter, and youtube are all BANNED here in China, so it looks like we won’t be on there to tell you about new blog entries (and therefore will stop spamming your news feed). So now I will try to start back at the beginning of our Mainland China travels, although that seems like ages and ages ago.

We boarded an overnight train to Guilin at 6pm. On this train, I was first introduced to the ‘non-western toilet’. Trying to use one of these for the first time in a moving train probably isn’t the best idea, I don’t advise it. We arrived in Guilin in the midst of a downpour, where we met the man responsible for getting us to our tour of the Li river. The downpour was turning the stairways into waterfalls, but some helpful Asians grabbed onto us and pulled us under their umbrellas for protection. The river cruise was beautiful, despite the rain. We sat across from a family where only the 5 year old son spoke English, he was very sweet and kept giving us candy, which to our surprise turned out to be beef candy. Weird, but a cute gesture nonetheless.

We got off of the river boat down the river in Yangshuo, which is well known for being a backpackers’ paradise. It was a quaint little town, and after the rain let up, we enjoyed wandering around the streets looking at all the markets and their creative English translations on signs. We ate at an Australian themed bar in honor of our friend Jac, where we drank giant, giant $1 beers. Did I mention they were giant? By this time, we were feeling pretty great about life, so we headed to the famous rooftop bar of our hostel, Monkey Jane’s, to watch the world cup game. The view of the karst scenery from the rooftop was breathtaking, to say the least. We met some self proclaimed ‘charming Danes’ and continued to drink with them all night. They were finishing up the backwards version of the trip we are on, so we had a lot to talk about. Monkey Jane sponsors and plays in beer pong tournaments every night, and somehow Sunil became our Danish friend’s beer pong partner. They ended up playing several tournaments, some for prizes and some for pride. They beat Monkey Jane once and lost to her once. We also met a guy from Jerusalem, who entertained us with tales from the places we are about to travel to. As can be expected in a city with $1 giant beers, the night gets a little hazy at this point, but I know it was a great time.

The next morning, we woke up at 6am to meet our next guide for our tour of the rice terraces. Monkey Jane was already awake and was so amused that we were also up that early, she gave Sunil a free shirt. He seems to get lots of free shirts traveling.

The rice terraces were beautiful. We saw a show and sampled some food by some of the local minorities (4 of China’s 55 ethnic minorities live in the Longji rice terraces). We hiked up two peaks to see both sets of rice terraces, which I whined a lot about while we were doing it, but it was worth it. We then boarded a bus back to Guilin, which is where things started to head downhill for yours truly. We arrived at the hostel in the pouring rain, only to realize I had left my camera on the bus when they booted us off in the middle of the street. When we called the tour guide, he said it was not on the bus. The most beautiful pictures of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life were gone, along with my ability to take any more pictures. Needless to say, I had a full scale melt down.

The next morning, we headed to the train station, only to find out right before the train was boarding that the person buying our tickets had purchased them to depart from the city’s nothern station. We were at the southern station. We hailed a cab and paid the driver a hefty sum (for China) to get us there on time, which she did. The ride also had the effect of making my life flash before my eyes, pretty exciting stuff. We hopped on the train and met some new Chinese friends and played rummy with them for hours. Teaching a card game without using any English is actually pretty funny, and we had a good time. Sadly, our friends were not taking the train as far as us and deboarded in the middle of the night. At around 3 AM, Sunil finally had to stop being a baby and poop in the nonwestern train toilet because he had liquid poops that needed to come out. From what I hear, he ruined the toilet, although I don’t know how you ruin a hole in the floor of a train. He also ate an anti-diarrheal pill to make sure it didn’t happen again on the train.

We arrived an hour late in Chengdu and our ride to the hostel was nowhere to be found. We wandered around the town searching for wireless or anyone who spoke English. Neither existed. At this point, I started insisting that I hated China. This was probably an unfair judgement, in retrospect, because eventually some kind man off of the street helped us out. He found us some friends in a business with internet after the internet cafe turned us away for not having IDs issued by China. He then called the hostel and walked us there, which was quite a hike. Sunil and I wanted to give him at least some money to take a cab back to where we found him as it was forever far away, but he refused. We arrived safe and mostly sound at Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel, which is actually more like an entire town. They are currently washing our clothes for us (which smell god-awful from being sweaty and wet from the rain in backpacks for days) while we drink orange soda and watch soccer. Tomorrow it’s off to see the pandas and then onto a two day long train to Tibet. Hopefully Tibet will involve less being lost and less loss of personal items and personal dignity. Although Sunil still might be pooping his brains out, so I’m pretty sure we should just give up on the dignity now. If he’s not pooping, he will update you on our Tibet adventures once we have some!

Whose face is on all of China’s currency?


Posted By: Robin
Last Edit: 11 Jul 2010 @ 07:25 AM

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