29 Jun 2010 @ 7:37 AM 

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at this present moment, we are sitting on a train bound for xi’an. we have just concluded our tibet trip and we are both sad to leave the roof of the world.

after spending three days in lhasa, the four of us (me and robin, and our two internet travel partners gabriel and sabrina) hopped into a toyota land cruiser and made our way toward everest base camp. it takes two days of driving to make it to base camp even though it is only around 500 km from lhasa. the scenery of tibet reminded me a lot of arizona actually because tibet is full of broad valleys with brown mountains and not a whole lot of vegetation.

our first destination on the road trip was yamdrok lake, one of the three holy lakes of tibet. other than the interesting viewpoint we had at 4700 m, robin had to brave what she called “the worst toilet in the world.” it was a non-western toilet for westerners, so a lot of old people who couldn’t or wouldn’t squat had pooped and peed all over the floor, then stepped in it and walked it everywhere. there were also no trash cans, and you can’t flush ‘sundries’ in china, so soiled toilet paper and feminine products were everywhere. the best part was that they made her pay 2 RMB after she peed for their ‘bathroom maintenance’. good thing that is only about $0.28. out of her bitterness and rage, she stole a picture of a yak (which they charge like 20 RMB for).

after leaving yamdrok lake, we made our way to gyantse and then onward to shigatse, where we stayed the night. i was excited that night since the USA game was going to be playing at 10 PM. and though the US is out of the world cup right now, i was still able to witness one of the best endings the US has had in a while. oh well, damn them ghanans for knocking us out two times in a row!

on day two of the road trip, we started the long road to everest base camp. there really isn’t a whole lot to see between shigatse and EBC and the road seemed like a long one. finally, about 60 km away from EBC, we got our first glimpse of the mountain, and then shortly after, our driver decided to screw the road and do some offroading to save us some time. we also stopped to help another land cruiser that followed us; our guide and driver thought that their car didn’t fare as well on the offroading and they needed help. it turned out that the people in the car had diarrhea and needed to stop.

we made it to EBC at 7:30 PM and found ourselves a hotel (which is a tent made of yak hair with a fireplace that burns yak dung for warmth and had one occupant who sleeps in the back and cooks for you). we had her make a HUGE pot of fried rice; we ordered the three fried rices on the menu and told her to mix them together. she laughed at us for ordering it. at about 10 PM, we were informed that only two guests other than the guide and driver could stay in the tent and that two of us had to hide when the police came. so robin played anne frank and hid in the back room, while i played elian gonzales and ate some cuban sandwiches (and also hid in the back room). after the police left, we went back into the main room and played some cards with our guide and driver. and then we all retired for the night.

the next morning we had the option to hike to the real everest base camp, which was 4 km up the road or to take a bus up there. since we were all full of ourselves and didn’t think that the altitude would stop us, we all opted to hike. and it really wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be (this is coming from the only person on the trip that didn’t have any problems with altitude, i must have some sherpa in me). when we made it to base camp about an hour later, we snapped our photos and admired the view. and it was all downhill from there.

on the way back from EBC, we ran into a problem. along all of the roads in tibet, there are numerous checkpoints. we reached our first checkpoint outside of EBC and found out that sabrina didn’t have her passport. and without that, they were really reluctant to let us pass. our guide called all the people that she knew at EBC to see if they could find her passport. all of us just lingered around trying to figure out what to do if they can’t find the passport. we collected the canadian embassy’s phone number since they would probably be able to safely get her to where she needed to be (even though we were literally in the middle of nowhere). after some time, the checkpoint told us they would let her pass if she could show some other form of picture ID, so she went in to show her student ID. at about that time, we were informed that her passport was found and was being sent with another tourist group and she could collect it from them in shigatse. and so we headed in that direction.

the next morning was the unveiling of a thangka in shigatse. the panchen lama was to come from beijing to be at the ceremony. for any of you that traveled to dharamsala with me, you would remember that the real panchen lama was kidnapped by the chinese government and then a fake one was installed later. so apparently, the fake panchen lama was in shigatse with us.

we started our drive to namtso, another holy lake of tibet, and stopped enroute at a hot springs. throughout our whole tibet trip, we had kept seeing the same few people all over the place. and especially two of them, frank and bong, were everywhere with us. they were on our train from chengdu to lhasa, i saw them walking around lhasa, we saw them at EBC, and now at the hot springs. we found out they literally had the same itinerary as us. but sadly, i forgot to ask them for their email address.

at the hot springs, we ate an egg boiled in hot spring water, and showered away all our dirt. it was a pretty relaxing few hours after all the driving we had been doing. at around 8 PM, we made it to namtso. the accommodations and all the shops were like tents scattered around the shore of the lake. we had dinner and fed half of it to the stray dogs that were hiding in the restaraunt. after eating, i knew i had to do some duties before it got too dark to find my way around.

it was actually impossible to find the bathroom in the nighttime. i had gabriel hunt with me, but we found it to be impossible. i decided to drop trow in the middle of an open field, but also found that to be impossible because there were hoards of dogs running around barking at me and that wasn’t really condusive to me going to the bathroom. so i gave up.

the next morning, i headed out to the lake and skipped rocks with a couple tibetans. then we all packed into the land cruiser for our last drive and made it to lhasa around 4 PM. we separated from our guide and driver, and i was a little sad to part with them. i loved our driver especially. he would sing in the car and had some quirky humor. but anyway, we had scheduled to take pazu (the person who arranged our trip) out to dinner that night, so we went to his cafe, dropped off our stuff, and then went to the market to buy souvenirs. we came back to his cafe and he informed us that we were going to go to some tibetan restaurant that gives out a set meal of 20 dishes or so and around 15 of us were going to go to dinner together and have quite a lavish going away dinner.

and lavish it was. first came out the cold dishes, which were vegetables and hoisin sauce, cold beef in a chili sauce, some sort of animal cartilage (i was told it was ear), strip of animal stomach (which someone referred to as ‘organ’), and mushrooms in a hot sauce. then the hot dishes started coming out: curried potatoes, beef and vegetables, cheese and yak momos, yak steak, and the best eye pleaser of all, meat stuffed in yak hooves. i’m actually probably missing a lot of things because there were a million things on the table. but it was an amazing dinner and a great way to say goodbye to pazu and lhasa. i’m gonna really miss being in tibet.

after saying our goodbyes, we took a cab home and returned to our hostel. me and robin said our farewells to our tibet partners gabriel and sabrina, and we retired to our rooms. the next day we got on our train bound for xi’an, and we bid tibet one last goodbye.

What is the Tibetan name for Mt. Everest?


Posted By: Sunil
Last Edit: 11 Jul 2010 @ 07:28 AM

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 17 Jun 2010 @ 6:54 AM 

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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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