Location: Vientien, Laos
New Years Eve 2005. The last day of the year. ON occasions such as this it is important to look back at the year gone by and contemplate the joys, sorrows, hardships, and memories incurred along the way. Fortunately, this is neither the venue nor the time for such meditative contemplation!
New Years also marks the end of the holiday season. This one has been the most...interesting holiday season of all. Lao, what a place. Beautiful weather, beautiful people, beautiful scenery, and a laid back attitude to match. The kind of place that ten years would slip by and you wouldn't even notice.
Mark and Keuron and I came in from the North via China on a bus. WE basically did a strait line down the major Nothern highway to the capital Vientien. Highway is an overstatement. More like paved road twisting and winding through the rugged northern mountains. We stoped for three days in Luang prabang, which is a really scenic large town along the mighty Mekong. We did not do that much because we were so tired from the bus trip, but we did manage to go out to a village party on christmas eve. That was a sortid affair. Firstly we got taken there by a lady-boy, which for those of you unfamiliar with south-east asian (specifically Thailand) means pricely what the name implies, a lady that is in fact a man. We did not realize at first, although mark had asked whether or not she was a man or a woman and we dismissed his worries, and once we did we were standing on the side of the road out of town meeting her friends, which did little to assuage our fears. WE assumed that we were being loored out to the bushes to be sold into sexual slavery to a bunch of Lao men hungry for some tender western treats. Thankfully that was not the case. It was a normal village party (whatever that means!). Basically we hung out with Lao and drank Lao Lao (a type of rice wine). It was really awesome. We were the only non-lao there, which in Luang Prabang is impossible, so it was a real treat--one of those things that every tourist hating tourists hopes for.
Thats about it for Luang Prabang outside the mundane. Oh yeah, the rice wine made me really sick the next day so I spent christmas sleaping and shitting myself.
Next Stop, Vang Vieng, home to drugs, caves, and....well thats about it. Crappy little town alon the highway that has developed into quite the tourist stop. The town basically consists of a couple of dirt roads, guesthouses, restaurants, bars, and touring services. Its savign grace is its location. In a long a wide valley encassed by jagged limestone mountains with a peacefull river that runs through the southern fringe of the town. Other than location drugs seems to be the order of the day in vang vieng. All the restaurants serve muchroom shakes, and various weed dishes. Opium is also a tourist favorite. Bars sell opium tea and there a people selling the stuff everywhere. Despite its seediness the place is actually quite relaxing once you find the right places. We rented scooters one day and drove around the country side and went to check out a cave. It was HUGE. Over a km long and to get in you had to crawl up this tiny little tunnel after which you found yourself standing in a massive cavern. Really cool.
We spent three days in Vang Vieng, and it was really enjoyable. We went tubing down the river and basically just hung out and relaxed.
And now I am in Vientien, the capital. Not doing much. Mark and I are organizing our motorcycle trip which, due to visa delays, begins on the 4th. Its going to be really unbelivable. WE both rented 250cc Honda motorcross bikes for 14 days. Lao only has crappy scooters or big dirt bikes, so we chose the dirt bikes because of the route we chose and the roads that we will be using. We got maps, we talked to locals and expats who have done similar things before, and we figured out where to go and how to get there. Basically we are doing a huge loop around Nothern Lao. Its gonna be crazy. This is really going to be the road less traveled. We are going to get to see some serious shit. Can't wait!
And so now to New Years. NO idea what the night holds, but it should be good. We aare getting taken to some Lao party by this waiter guy we met (we checked, he's a guy). Let's see what happens.
Happy New Years
Location: Luangprabang, Laos
ITS OVEEEEEERRRRR!! Finally the excrutiating pain of the bus is behind me. So I am in Laos...plans changed. The last five days have been a cornicopia of buses....buses, buses, buses. So we left Kunming on Monday night and took an overnight night train to Simao, which is in the middle of the southern part of Yunnan. We got there at 6:30 in the morning and then proceeded to get on another bus to Lancang which is close to the border with Burma. This bus we the worst experience in buses I have ever had. A Tiny "bus" that managed to fit about 35 people in it. Anyway, the bus trip lasted like 6 hours, making stops to pick up people on the side of the road with all there farming produce and live stock...of course there were no luggage compartments so eveything sat with us. The road, which was under "construction", was more like a continous pot hole made of red clay. Anyway, we spent six hours cramped into a seat without moving. It was interesting and all, but by the end of it I thought I was going to go crazy.
So we got to the town and the plan was to rent motorbikes and tour around. We quickly discovered that bikes could not be rented, only bought....which seemed like a better idea cause we could go all the way into and across Lao. So we were going to by bikes, but then we thought about it for a minute and realized that there would be no way to get registered, and the thought of Chinese legal complication quickly bust the enormous bubble. So we were essentially in some backwater chinese town with no way to get around other than bus. So we said f--k it, forget the ten days in China and lets go strait to Lao were we can get our hands on some bikes. So the next morning at 6:30 we got on a bus.
Now this bus was somewhat better than the last one, we got better seats and it didn't pack quite as many people in, but the road, my god the road. To begin with there was a dog tied to the roof (which incidentally wasn't there when we stopped) who barked and barked and barked. The road, which was actually some sort of stone path winding up and down montains with huge cliffs and landslides everywhere, was so slow and bumpy I thought I was going to puke. It was 6 hours long. Granted, the country side was absolutely amazing!! Some of the most beautiful natural scenery I have ever scene. I can't really describe it, but it was like going back in time. Crazy.
SO after 6 hours, we got to Jinghong, where we got on another "bus", more like a big van, and travelled for another 4 hours. Got to the bus station in some small town and then transfered onto another bus, travelled for 2.5 hours, and then got to Mohan, a border town with Lao.
Next morning we crossed the border on foot and climbed into the back of a pick up truck (which had benches) and rode for 3 hours till we got to a town called San Nach Than. There we hung out for the rest of the days because Keuron was really sick. So mark and I rented motorbikes and went out into the country side. It was awesome. WE went trhogh all these villages and stuff. I gave a ride to some old lady who was carrying a 40kg bag.
This morning, up at 7 to catch a bus to Luangprabang...which was 10 hour bus ride. The buses stop every ten minutes to opick up people and their goods (fauna or flaura) and drive on twisty pot hole ridden roads that wound its way through the mountains. Again it is absolutely stunning, but after 5 days we were going to go CRAZY!
But its over. We are here. I am in Lao. The plan is to rent motorbike for 3 weeks and travel throught the entirety of nothern Lao. No lonely planet or anything. Just drive. Its gonna be amazing.
Hello Hello. Well I've spent one week in Kunming doing nothing in particular, mostly just relaxing. My time during the day has been spent walking around the city and hanging out with a crew of Israeli's that I met at the hostel. It's been fun. Kunming is actually a really cool city. People are relaxed and friendly, the city is clean, and the weather is really good.
Managed to squeeze in a couple of foot and body massages...they were amazing...acually my feet are still fuzzy from the last one I got two hours ago. Cheap too, less than 5$ for an hour. Other than that, there was the requesit weekend of debauchery that accompanies any good stay in a big Chinese city. We were rolling like 12 deep on saturday and took this clun by storm. The managers liked us so much that they gave a 24 of Carlsberg and a bottle of Vodka on the house. Eberything else is a blur of dacing and laughing. Bang up weekend, but after three days of hard drinking and dancing I am ready for a break. My life is just that hard!
So now Mark and Kueron (two Auzies I met) and I are taking the overnight bus to southern Yunnan province to check out some remote countryside villages and jungles. Should last about ten days and be a well wicked trip. The goal is to be in Lao by the 1st of January.
Oh funny story. So yesterday I was walking to the massage parlor, which is about a 20 minute walk from my hostel, and I had the wierdest encounter with Chinese people yet. I've got used to the stairing, the pointing, the "nace to meeeet yu'" 's, and all the other perculiarities that accompany the foreigner status, but this one takes the cake. So I was walking, when out of no where this big chinese guy just stops in front of me, looks at me, and hugs me. I was a bit stunned, but I hugged back, not really sure what was going on. Before I had time to think about it a woman popped up and did the same thing....and then a third. They hugged me and said "nace to meeeet yu". It was really really funny. I laughed for a good block.
Oh I also got my haircut...that was interesting since I don't speak chinese and they didn't speak ANY english. I just explained with my hands and my hair what I wanted and then hoped for the best. It's certainly not the greates haircut I've ever had, but thankfully hair grows back. Myles I will tell you one thing, he was no Francisco!
Well I gotta get going to catch the bus. I am going to make an effor to actually post on here once or twice a week, so for those of you who are interested keep checking the site.
Location: Kunming, China
Hello hello. Well having been told that my blog sucks by one very astute observer, I suppose it is time to actually write something.
Well, alot has happened since I last wrote anything. Too much to actually bother writing all of it.
In a nut shell: I've been travelling. I went north to Dalian to look for work. Not much luck, which is fine by me since it gives me an excuse to stay on the move. So I went back to Bejing and met up with my mom who was there on work related business. During this time I was really sick and was basically in bed for three or four days. Recovered just in time for what turned out to be a weekend of debauchery. Went clubbing three nights in a row with Tom (from montreal...the guy who lived in my appart on St-Domique before I did). Man, the clubs here are on another level. THey are insane..strait up. Anyways, we were acting like ballers since it is soo cheap, ordering bottle after bottle and managing to attract quite a crowd. It was awesome.
Once my mom was done work, we left Beijing and headed for Lijiang in the province of Yunnan. What can I say, it was great. The weather was amazing...hot and sunny during the day, cold at night. The city was so cool. Half of it was "the old city" which consisted of these wood and stone houses built along the banks of several rivers and springs. Now its a tourist trap, but an impressive one none the less. We didn't spend much time there becuase we went to the "Tiger Leaping Gorge", which is the deepest gorge in the world. Forget the three gorges (which is already pretty much flooded anyway), this place is spectacular. The hike took us three days along this little moutain pass that ran through the top of the gorge. We stayed in little guest houses that belonged to the local people, the Naxi people, who are a kind of endangered Chinese minority. When we were done we got a ride back on the new road that winds along the lower parts of the gorge......this road is death trap. There are land slides all the time and so there were rocks littering the road, some of which pounded right through the cement, and which washed away parts of the road. So as we are driving the driver is continously looking up and to the right to see if rocks are coming down which causes the small van to drift left...towards the edge of the road that drops strait down a few hundred meters into the gorge. I was sitting on the left side of the van constantly looking down at my impending death. My whole body was tense for the entire hour long ride. It was an experience.
So now I am in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan. My mom left yesterday on a plane and I took the overnight sleeper bus to Kunming. Sleeper buses are awesome. It a bus packed with beds. It pretty confortable and its cheap as hell. Cost me 20$ for a 12hour bus ride. Basically I slept until I got here.
I am hanging out here for five days or so and then my trecking really begins. Me and this guy Mark are going to snake our through the southern part of the province until we get into Lao. I am going to hang out there for 2 or 3 weeks until I make my way into Northern Thailiand and just keep going south to soak up the sun (with my white, translucent skin) and hang out on the beach. All this should take me til the end of february, by which time I hope to have secured a job that will begin after the chinese new year.
So thats that. i will post some pictures up in the next couple of days since I have a good connection.
Enjoy the winter......SUCKERS!
Location: Beijing, China
Man I am bad at this. I don't write entries and I haven't even told anybody about it yet....all in due time.
I'm back in Beijing after an extended visit in Xi'an, which ultimately cost me my job. I didn't get aroudn to trying to get a ticket back to Beijing until it was too late. The result was that I missed my interview and they gave the job to somebody else. Typical. On top of that, I missed the train that I did manage to get a ticket for.....also typical. Whatever, I'm back now and another job opportunity has presented itself, so I am back to square one.
Xi'an was sweet. Shao Han and I hung out. He took to me a club that was crazy. Best club I have ever been to, and there was no cover! It was teh first time that I went out in China. A long wait, but well worth it.
Infact, my lifestyle here is very different than at home. I get up early, eat 3 meals, don't go out, AND I DON"T SMOKE WEED. I never thought the day would come, but its been over two weeks and not even any signs of withdrawl....it just goes to prove that weed is harmless, non-addictive drug with absolutely no side effects....HA. I don't know how much longer this healthy non abusive lifestyle will last though. Today I found Beijing's strip....and it looks sweeeeeeet. Huge clubs, hundreds of bars....and I have plans to go explore their insides both nights this weekend.
Yesterday was a day of first. First, I got a cell phone. Yeah that's right, after years of hating and bashing, and wild claims that I would never going to own one, I got one. There is no other way though. In a place this big with no home its the only way I can get in touch with people, or they with me. I'm already addicted to messaging people...bad news.
The other first was that I hate sheep cock and balls. Strait up bbq'ed sheep penis' on a stick, and the balls came on seperate squewers. I got taken out to drink by these two chinese guys. They were super nice, one of them worked for the ministry of finance and the other was cop. ANyway, they take me to this restaurant to drink, and we start drinking. When the chinese take you drinking they mean business, no f--king around. It's one toast after another and you have to empty your glass each time, and they keep on ordering beer until everyone is shitfaced. At some point during the drinking they order some food. It looked like other chinese food I had had, basically bbq meat on a stick. It looked slightly suspicious, but then again alot of it is suspicious, and I learned that you have to try what they order to be polite, so its just better not to ask what it is, so that you don't think about while your eating it. Anyway, I take a few bites, and its pretty crunchy and stringy. RIght away I knew it was a part that I would never eat by choice. They then proceed to explain, with much gesticulation and the use of my dictionary that I was eating sheep penis. There were 5 penis' per stick...tiny little things really. Leon I was reminded of you. Well, I was pretty off put, and they laughed. So then they decided to order the testicals, which they forced me to try. They were actually better than the dick....ladies, I'm sure you already knew that. They were very tender and not at all chewy, tasty even, except for the fact that they are sheep balls!!!! So we continued to drink fearcely till we were all pretty drunk. The night ended with toasts to our newfound eternal friendship, and to the progress we made for the relationship between our two great nations. And then the cop, drunk, drove me home. All and all, quite an experience. The cock and balls didn't sit too well though, and I was feeling pretty shitty this morning. Moral of the story....don't eat cock and balls when you drink a shit load of beer. So keep that in mind......
One day I will get around to putting up pictures...I swear.