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The travelblog equivalent of the Russian revolution, the invention of the A-bomb, even the first episode of Nanny 911.

Forget Bill Bryson. Paul Theroux…who? Snort at Michael Palin. Wipe clean your memories of Ibn Jubayr….(the 12th centrury Arabian explorer, who wrote the book, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr! Of course.)

Over the next year or so i will be stumbling from Oz to India.

Diary Entries

Monday, 05 March 2007

I must apologise for the lack of posts. I'm currently in Goa and have been rushed off my feet sunbathing, swimming in the sea and eating delicious fresh BBQ'ed fish. I promise some more posts soon. Next one is on my hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Thursday, 01 March 2007

Location: Lijiang, China

LIJIANG - VENICE OF THE EAST
=============================================

After so many months enjoying the constant warmth of Southeast
Asia, i now had to acclimatise to the cold of South China in Winter. People in this region don't seem overly bothered by the temperature. None of the guesthouses i stayed in had heating, nor did any of the shops, and a fair few cafes and restaurants. When they did have heating some wise soul left a door or window open which let all the heat escape. I should not have been surprised therefore that the bus to Lijiang on a freezing cold morning was as chilly inside as it was out. The journey was made worse by the cramped seats; buses in much of China are not designed with 6ft 2 men in mind. So i spent the next few hours cold, unable to stare out of the window - the fabric lining vehicle interiors can get really boring after a while - and then finally coughing because everyone began to light up cigarettes and ignore the 'No Smoking' signs. This mattered not when i reached my destination.

Lijiang consists of a grey, bland, funtional new town and a wonderful old town dating back more than eight hundred years, which was declared a World Heritage site in 1999.

Full of charcter and stretching over an uneven landscape of small hills, the old town is a dense network of cobbled, cramped alleys, rickety wooden buildings, decorative bridges and bustling squares. Crisscrossing the quaint streets is a complex yet orderly web of gurgling canals and streams overhung with willows and filled with goldfish; an ancient water supply that still functions to this day and earned Lijiang the nickname the 'Venice of the East'.

Lijiang, like Dali, is also a town of cultural importance, due to the ten ethnic minorities which call it home. Chief among these are the Naxi, the traditional residents of Lijiang who have based themselves in the old town for nearly one and a half millenia. The Naxi have shaped the old town architecturally and culturally.

Walking around town much of the local population were in some form of traditional dress; usually involving a blue blouse and black apron, though others displayed more colourful outfits with fur hats and collars. Stalls sold dried yak meat and other Naxi delicacies such as fried cheese or stacks of baba flatbread, all of which were delicious and cheap. The Naxi written language was also evident on walls around town. It was developed over one thousand years ago, uses pictographs and is the only hieroglyphic language still in use. Interestingly, nouns enlarge their meaning when the word for female is added. For example, 'stone' plus 'female' conveys the image of a boulder. Add 'male' and it suggests a pebble. Language and culture are intimately linked; the reason for this linguistic rule is that the Naxi were, until recently, a matrilineal society. The Naxi thus highlighted one of the great things about travel - the ready availability of societies and social norms which so easily problematise culturally determined ideas and values.

(As a side note - a few hours away in a place called Lugu Lu, live the Mosu, the last practising matriarchal society in the world. Kinship, clan names, social and political positions are all passed through the female line. More interestingly the women never marry nor cohabit. Instead they take as many lovers as they like. Coming of age at 13 they move out of the communal living area and are given their own bedroom. Lovers visit at night and leave to their mothers in the morning, a practice known as a 'walking marriage'. I know quite a few women who are probably kicking themselves right now - i told you not to get married.)

Though a town of historic and cultural importance, development, though faithful architecturally, has undermined some of the towns authenticity. The centre of the old town could justifiably be part of the China Epcot exhibition. Lijiang is flooded with tourists (me included!) and many of the old houses have been turned into shops selling everything needed to get the 'ethnic chic' look which is increasingly popular in China. However, the town is spotlessly clean, wealthy and well presented. In the evenings i spent much of my time walking the streets and enjoying the street performances of Naxi song and dance. The main square in particular was full of people enjoying large bonfires and joining with Naxi men and women who danced around them in concentric circles.

Additional 'old city' sections have been built (and i understand more are planned) to cater to the growing tourist numbers. Hopefully this will stop the encroachment of entrepeneurs who wish to turn atuthentic houses and small restaurants into tourist shops and bars.

Most of my days were spent wandering the old town, enjoying the wonderfully warm and cosy cafes, and planning my trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge - including getting kitted out with a small backpack, trekking boots and suitable clothes. However i did spend one day sightseeing. The location of Lijiang is stunning, at the bottom of a valley floor surrounded by rolling mountains. On the northern edge of town lies Black Dragon Pool, a secluded park with a large jade coloured lake of crystal clear water, white marble bridge, peaceful pavillions and the Ming Dynasty Five-Phoenix Temple. I spent a happy afternoon under the shade of the willow trees, admiring the spectacular peak of Jade Dragon Snow mountain reflected in the lake, writing my journal and reading a book. Afterwards I wanted to walk up Elephant Hill, which is just a short trek off to one side of the lake, but two tourists were mugged a few years back and i was preveted from venturing on the path alone. Groups of four, or no entry. "Nanny state!" i wanted to cry, but it probably would have done little good. It was probably best. Lijiang lies approximately 3000 metres above sea level and i was unused to the thin air. Even walking up a slightly inclining alley to my guesthouse (called MCA) made me out of breath.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Location: Dali, China

DALI - MAO IN THE MARKET
=============================================

The China Lonely Planet features a fantastic picture of three pagodas reflected in a pool and surrounded on all sides by trees and mountains. Just a few kilometres outside of Dali, i decided to hire a bike to take a visit.

The pagodas are some of the oldest standing structures in south-west China, built in the ninth century and climbing to a height of 70 metres. Recently Chongsheng temple, which once stood on the site, has been rebuilt. But when i reached the gates i was asked for 120 yuan - almost fifteen dollars. Naively i thought they must have made a mistake and meant twelve yuan, but when i offered this amount the man behind the desk just shook his head (almost apologetically) and pointed to a hundred yuan note. The Lonely Planet, written only a year or so ago listed the entry price as ten yuan! If anything demonstrated to me how rapidly China is changing it was this. Granted Dali is touristy, but even a similar site in Britain would not cost fifteen dollars. I was not about to spend three quarters of my daily budget on one sight. Frustrated, i checked on the internet and discovered the picture in the LP was taken from the nearby Pagoda Mirror Pond - a snip at just two yuan to enter. Clearly the greedy authorities had cottoned onto this loophole because i arrived at the gate to discover they now charged 121 yuan - more than it costs to enter the site itself. I thought about sneaking under the counter or climbing over the wall but in the end i just gave up and stared at it from a distance.

Disappointed i decided to explore the surrounding villages that lie around the lake. I spent the afternoon cycling along narrow paths which criss-cross the broad green fields around Dali and grow all kinds of fruit and veg. Men and women in grubby clothes tilled the earth, washed the produce in the streams, planted seeds or worked the complex irrigation channels that brought water down from the mountians. In contrast to these wide open expanses, the villages were cramped and labyrinthine. While Dali evokes pre-modern China, these villages are premodern China. The narrow streets were largely deserted. Everyone was in the field or carrying produce back and forth. Those that weren't working could be found in the small, shady village squares populated mainly by old men in blue Chairman Mao suits. As i cycled past in my skinny jeans and chequered black and white shoes (everyone stares at them in China) all heads would turn in my direction and follow me until i was out of sight, as if i was the most interesting thing to happen in the village since the Cultural Revolution. If that wasn't enough excitement for one day, the strange boy with the spike protruding from his bottom lip and oddly tight western clothing would return, cycling past numerous times due to turning down a dead end or going round the maze-like villages in circles. And so it went on until eventually and with no warning, the houses stopped and i found myself in the fields again. This happened in every village. By the time i reached my guesthouse i was exhausted and famished. Back in town i stopped at a dingy room serving lots of Chinese people noodles. I always try and follow the locals when it comes to food - they know best. So i found myself a seat and waited to be served. In southeast asia, even if the owners of the restaurant or stall do not speak english they seem genuinely pleased to see you. In China, not so much. I don't think a westerner had ever eaten in this particular place before because the woman looked thoroughly perplexed when i sat down, a look mirrored on my face when the noodles appeared, cold and with strips of a soft white substance piled on top. Looking back it may have been local cheese. It was delicious whatever it was.

Another day in Dali was spent at Zhong He temple which is perched high on the mountainside overlooking the town. I didn't fancy the one hour walk, my legs were still knackered after the long bike ride, so i took the chair lift which slowly ascended over the dense pine-forest covered hills. The views were stunning. I sat on a small terrace drinking green tea and admiring the deep blue of Lake Erhai Hu (China's seventh largest) and the surrounding patchwork of green fields and white villages.

The temple was small and not overly impressive, but it was my first experience of a temple dedicated to Tao, a complex and ambigious mix of religious and philosophical thought. The building, spread over three layers, was decorated with Yin and Yang symbols, dragons and colourful carved woodwork. Monks dressed in black robes tended to the shrines. One of them beckoned me to the main room, gave me some incense sticks and made me stand in front of a red-faced statue. He struck a gong three times as i bowed. Finally my name and birthdate was entered in a log book and i offered a donation. All for good luck apparently.

My final day of sightseeing was spent at the Shaping Market, a weekly meeting of Bai locals from the surrounding villages. Most people do a tour from Dali but i didn't want to be restricted by time, so i took a local bus. All the hustle and bustle takes place on a low hill at the base of the mountain range. Stalls were placed around the hill and some old stone ruins. The market was a wonderfully colourful spectacle; an authentic insight into Bai society and fashion. While the men wore indistinct shirts and trousers, the women were dressed in their best livery, a variety of ethno-cultural clothes in lurid colours, dense patterns and elaborate headgear. You can never have to many pairs of green sequined trousers i always say.

Most of the people were here to buy food for the week; huge bags of dried noodles, fresh vegetables and fruit, live chickens, mounds of dried red chillis and piles of spices which filled the air with pungent smells. But it was also possible to buy clothes, blankets, books, cooking utensils and colourful batiques that the Bai are renowned for. For those with tooth-ache a dentist had conventiently set up a chair and mirror in the middle of all the chaos. I spotted an english copy of Mao's little red book. I snapped it up, along with an original chinese version - it's the ultimate tourist item from China.


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Recent Messages

From Gemma Scoble
Hey gemma scoble!
Just wanted to leave a message and tell you that we have the same names lol what country do you live in??
I'm in Australia!
Gemma:D
Response: Gemma, is that really you just being incredibly sad?!
From ivona
is the next entry about the gorge??? cant wait to read it!
Response: It is...sorry i got home and it all went out the window - but don't worry ill get it done soon!
From JB
Jb? It's JB! I hoped to escape the monotony of my air conned office with updates from your travels but alas there have been none since MARCH! Boo! I want news of exciting adventures, where are you?? Hit me back. x
Response: Hey JB! Sorry, im back and i got caught up with organisaing my life - but don;t worry i'm still telling my tales!
From Lisa B
Welcome home x
Response: Thanks Lisa B. Good to be back.

x
From claire
Andrew Legon this is unacceptable- you haven't written anything on your blog for ages! What else am i supposed to do on a night shift to while away the early hours of the morning?! More funny stories please! I hope you're still having fun on your travels and haven't got a touch of deli-belly! of course that could explain why you haven't written on your blog for so long! So i hear you're home soon! Cool! Take care out there Dennis its a big world!
Response: Don't worry Claire, more from my Laughter File coming soon. It's just with my brother and friend out it's been hard to get some 'me' time. No Dehli belly yet - i have a stomach of steel.
From Charlotte
Charlotte, the Koh Pangang full moon babe here!!!

Have'nt heard from you in a while, keeping busy yeah?
Was in Cape Town to visit my sister two weeks ago, and it was a lot of fun! Not as good parties as you know where, but still pretty good. Met 4 guys from London...really nice people. So when are you and Ruth coming to visit in Oslo?

Kisses from Charlotte
Response: Hey Bacca! I have some great pictures on this blog of that debaucherous island. I'm in India now but am in the last few months of my travels. Ruth and i will definitely be in Oslo to party it up Norwegian styley. What was South Africa like? I hear its great.

Andy
From Josephine
There is an Aussie guy talking to the girl next to me about his trip home & to thailand next month (FYI I have heard about this trip 4 times now! I feel like I am going too!!) He keeps chatting about all the things he is going to see/do in Thailand and If he says "It's gonna be AWESOME" one more time I swear I am going to RAM this keyboard very hard. somewhere nasty - Sideways!!I Had to share this with you, as his awful Nasal whining has just ruined my daily enjoyment of checking in on your blog!!! Hope you're doing Ok hun xxx
Response: RAM this keyboard - i geddit! RAM - as in random access memory. God im a computer geek, that wasnt a pun at all was it? Tell him to check my blog for handy hints, witty anecdotes and AWESOME tales from Thailand.

I'm doing well, trying to catch up with this blog before Lucy and my brother come out.

How is work going - other than a whinning Aussie (are there any other kind? They complain about us being whinging poms, but ive never hear da people whine so much!)
From Lisa B
Helllooooooo!
Moaning at me worked Mr Legon.. I am here! Just read some of your messages... erm when it snowed every school in Medway closed EXCEPT MINE!!!!! Boo.
Anyways... email you in a mo but had my wisdom teeth out yesterday and have been told I will look like a purple hamster by end of tomorrow so will send you a pic if I can... will help you to get over me :-)
Love you lots,
Lis xxx
PS loving the pictures on here
PPS Seen any orbs?
Response: Moaning? donlt know what you are talking about Lisa (aka Alice). Get better soon. Definitely send me a pic....or a video....or money, i could really use it.

x
From Jenn
Heya Andy! Are you still in India or in Vietnam?
Response: Hey Jenn. How are you?

I'm in India - I'm just really far behind on my blog. Plan to catch up someday.

How come?

Andy
From claire
Hey Andy! Glad to hear you're keeping up the drinking! Remember passionpop?! Its cold and raining here and i've been working loads. Wish i was still travelling i'm very jealous of you! Must all meet up when u finally get home! Take care x
Response: Do i remember passionpop?! It became my best friend. Pound a bottle, and tasty and delicious. Who would have thought a wine based product made with fish, milk and egg extracts could taste like a bottle of Bolly.

I'm so glad to hear its cold and raining - it's really hot in india and my tan is making a comeback.

Definitely meet up for a reunion when we get back. We can play ship-pong.

x
From Josephine
You must have been a pro at the Poison Dart Blowing in Malaysia, considering the amount of experience you have gained from all those saturdays spent going to and from Chatham on the bus, spitting paper down McDonalds Straws. Just to clarify, why did you do that? I never understood it!

Hope you're doing ok, Monkey.
xx
Response: Oh good times. Bus 132 to Chatham. Every saturday without fail. Not sure why we did that, but we pissed off ALOT of people. The star shot was when i managed to get a guys bald head through a small gap in his car window. I've never seen someone go so red.

How is home? Life? Loves? etc.

And
From raaa! its charlotte!
hey you!! arrr just been sick on my keyboard so bloody jealous. you dont know wjat you got until its gone, better to have been than to never have been at all though. Im talking about my love for travelling the world in case you missed that. i must declare at this point that you have no access to cadburys mini eggs which the english are undoubtedly going crazy about here. so si anara! enjoy today and rest your travelling feet, i am slowly getting fatter having not travelled faster than walking pace since i got back as i am a lazy mare x
Response: Charlotte! Good to hear form you. Absolutely. There is always the 'next trip'!

God i miss cadbury's mini eggs. This is the second year in a row i will have no easter eggs!

did you see the pictures i put up of us in Cairns?!

Peace
From Pork Pies with BROWN
Alreet Andy lad!

How's tricks?

Me and Raymondo have just been reading through your blogg. I was in kinks of laughter, especially when you mentioned the old gummy-goo incident Ha! Ha! God bless the Heart of darkness eh! Future best man material or what? (Well maybe not) Just thought that I'd warn you that you've got an irate china man over here in OZ just itching for revenage!!! Ha!Ha! Well enjoy the rest of your travels mate! Good luck with that job in India!....Minto
Response: Minto and Raymondo!

Such a northerner - pork pies with brown sauce indeed! Get some class man - MAYONNAISE!!!! Oh yes, good times in that club. I will be putting up pictures soon so stay tuned for drunken faces and awful dancing.

Where in oz are you two?
You must do Fraser Island.

Raymondo - bring it on!

Safe travels to the both of you.
From Josephine
2cm of snow and they shut all the schools in Medway!! What a load of old pony! We only got sent home from school once in the 7 years we were there and that was cos the boiler broke and the snow was so deep it kept going over the top of my wellies! What has this county come to, honestly! There wasn't even enough snow to make snow angels. Hope you're feeling better. I too am suffering from the bird flu. Damn you bernard matthews and your bloody turkey drummers!
Response: Bootiful! I won't damn Bernard just yet, isn't he the one who makes those delectable and nutritious Turkey Twizzlers?

2cm of snow? I trek though three feet of the stuff in the Himalayas just for a view of a few mountains and kids in Britain can't brave 2cm to learn how to say "the monkey is on the branch" in french and other useful items of information?! Back in my day...
From Tar-ra-ra
where are the photos of Tibet??? Did amelia ever send you their nativity scene??? x
Response: They're coming. I need to put all my Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China ones up yet.

But i'm ill so it may be a while. Pokhara is so expensive for internet. And the weather is crappy. And there is hardly anyone here. Did you trek here?

Peace out homie
From gemma scoble
it is SO cold here and inconsiderate people are having stupid accidents and forcing me to get out of my snug bed to go and 'care' for them! nursing sucks. love and smiles to you though! xxx
Response: Yeah i saw on CNN there may be snow in London? Actually it's been quite cold here in Pokhara so instead of going trekking i turned on the Discovery Channel and Palin (my protege!) was in the same place i am on his Himalaya programme and was trekking instead. I planned to go tomorrow but now it looks like i'm ill. Feel like the flu is coming on :( Damn that H5N1.

Peace

From BS
Ahhhh I remember those spiders on the bus lunch-stop. I bought one and ended up giving it to an old cambodian lady (kickback to my Courtesy Cup days). She ate it leg by leg, mmmmm Crunchy.
Response: Hello BS. So bored your back on my site eh?

Whatever happened to a pork pie or ginsters pastie lunch break eh? To be fair the spiders porbably taste better.
From Your Big Cousin
The movie star's name you are looking to trace is Chu Sum Twat. His biggest movie to date was Cream of Sum Yung Guy, I think its available only on DVD Region 9 so its limited distribution means acquiring a copy maybe a little difficult. Take care and trvael safely!
Response: Big Cus!

I've seen that movie. The sequel is better - Cream of Sum Yung Guy Hits Back.

Good to hear from you. I'll try.
From sue and lou
well the pictures of all of us in Cambodia are so funny i'll email you the one of you up in the air balloon the look on your face is comical.
Response: Oh crap - there's photographic evidence of my reaction? Hope your leg gets better soon. I can relate to breaking a bone on the dance floor.

Peace
From Ta-ra-ra
xxx
(can't complain now!)
Response: Expect a strongly worded email from me tara!
From claire
Hey Andy! Great pics of fraser and whitsundays-brings back some memories! Just feel i have to point out that its champagne falls not pools if you remember-call yourself team leader honestly! Sounds like you're having an amazing time in Asia. I'm so jealous its cold and miserable here. Really want to get in a tyre and float down the river to a few pubs-bet that was amazing! take care hun.
Response: Hey Claire, such good memories! It was champagne pools wasn't it? If not you got it wrong so many times its drilled into my head.

Just get a trolley and skid down your local high street stopping at every pub on the way. I've seen worse ;)

Good to hear from you. See you in June.
From gemma
love the photos, particularly the one of you and claire in the yellow macs on deck. What happened next was funnier (tonight mathew i'm going get soaked by a giant wave...Ta Da!!). made me very fraser sick, best time ever. If it wasn't for the dingo safe position i don't know how we would have survived! xxx
Response: Oh yes i remember that. How stupid of me to think our bedroom would not all of a sudden become a de facto power shower whenever waves crashed over the hull.

Dingo alert! I know - thank god they told us. We could have lost our arms - did you see how that dingo sucked on that flip flop?!

Fraser was the best ever.
From Angus Fareed Clarkso
Andrew
since you seem to be Grassy Green's answer to Ibn Batutta - quit with this East Asian poppycock and come to Yemen. You cant drink or see woman - but you can stay in my refugee camp.
what do you say?
Response: I wish i was, Mrs Miggins already has that title - she also has a large shopping mall named after her (just like Ibn) on the outskirts of the village. Still in Yemen then? Chuck in four camels and you have a deal.
From Josephine
Street cred... you can't lose what you don't have, hun! Ha ha Only kidding.

Have you climbed everest yet??
Response: Upon reflection you appear to be correct - where did it all go wrong? Was it the white jeans i once wore to the Av? Yes, climbed it the other day though could not be bothered to reach the summit so i settled for base camp.
From Josephine
Cos I'm a deeper shade of blue.....and there's nothing I can do.... You're so far, far away..... Oh My, we were so cool back then.
Response: I have a sneaking suspicion i should delete this comment, but in the interests of free speech...

Thanks Jo, my street cred - already low - is now plummeting.