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Kunming

Kunming, Kunming..hmmm what did I do in Kunming

sunny 31 °C

Writing this ages later so probably have forgotten half of it. I was only really planning on hanging around Kunming for a night on the way to do the Tiger Leaping Gorge, but Kunming was lovely and pleasant with clean streets, clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. The hostel was pretty neat too and had a pool table and ping pong!

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There's not a helluva lot to do in the city though. I went to the Art Loft but there was bog all there, except 2 gallerys, 1 had 2 pictures in it, the other had maybe 10. Hmmmm I thought. That was a bit meh.

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So continued on to the shopping district and window-shopped in the fancy shops. Then went to the Flowers and bird market where all sorts of people were selling birds, flowers, dogs, cats and other bits and bobs. I felt a bit sorry for the cats and dogs as they were in tiny glass cages just waiting for people to buy them.

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After a few more hours exploring the town,

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I had enough walking and went back to my hostel to get my free beer. A young handsome Portuguese fellow named Joao came along and we had a grand auld chat outside watching some Americans and Chinese lads playing bad Ping Pong. Joao works with software and special effects and worked on all sorts of cool movies. OOOOOH. Nice going. He quit his job and is out to travel for as long as he can. He was a lovely, friendly funny chap and we got along great.

That night when I got to my dorm, there was a weird old German dude in the bed opposite me. He had his trousers on Simon Cowell stylee and his moobs out. I got quite a fright when he started mumbling at me as I thought the room was empty! I dind't understand what he was saying, but then he started talking English and saying ''Can you leave the door open please?... hmmm.. I was like ''eh ok.. but why?''. He explained he was having difficulty with his door card. I wondered was he even staying here or did he just mosey in off the mean streets of Kunming every night looking for an empty dorm to stay in. Anyways I was pretty happy when two more girls came in anc occupied the other beds.

Joao had been invited to lunch the next day by a lovely little Chinese lady - who we shall call Wu for short, (her name means Beauty of the Sea) so I tagged along as well. Wu brought us off on the bus to her friends house / restaurant. Her friend feeds people for free at his restaurant every day! Breakfast, lunch and dinner! So we were quite excited to be invited along for a free, local, delicious, vegetarian dinner! nom. We sat down with the owner, his friend and Wu, at a big round table with a lazy Susan on it chock full of delicious interesting treats - rice, vegetables, sticky rice in banana leaves, mushrooms and lots of other scrumptious delights.
The owner had an awesome gaff, with lovely polished wooden furniture, a giant tea-pouring desk and stacks of books about Buddhism and Mother Teresa etc.

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He also gives the books away for free and just asks that people pay the kindness forward to others. It was a really interesting place and we pondered how on earth this guy could afford to feed people and give away al the stuff for free. Wu hadn't even thought of that, so I'm afraid we planted seeds of curiousity in her mind! Oops

After dinner, the owner gave us free hemp nuts, which are apparently delicious, expensive and help you live to the ripe old age of 108. Yahoo! He gave us a packet each, which was a bit much considering they were so expensive. Plus we couldn't keep it refrigerated! But we didn't want to seem ungrateful so we took the free hemp. On the bus on the way back, we gave 1 of the packs to Wu. She was delighted, as she couldn't afford to buy the stuff herself. She said they would help her sleep as she had a hard time sleeping these days. She was so lovely! Anywho, we bid her good day and got our stuff. Joao had decided to come to Lijiang too, whoop! ROAD TRIP. So off we went to head for the epic sleeper bus. I wasn't really looking forward to the bus as I never find buses that comfortable. I much prefer the trains. You can move around and I sleep like a baby on them! : ) Wasn't sure how I'd handle 12 hours on a feckin bus!

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Soon as we got on the bus, I met another handsome lad - a young Dutchman named Stefan was in the sleeper next to me. More chums! Wahoo! Stefan had finished a law degree and was out travelling for as long as he liked as well, while he was still youngish. ; ) Well Jell. He'd already hitchhiked a lot of the way down from The Netherlands - quite impressive. Anyways he was a funny chap and we waffled away for a while. The bus wasn't too bad at all actually. The driver did have a gross habit of snotting out the window every 5 minutes which was kinda funny. The journey wasn't particularly comfy but I got a couple of hours sleep and I'm even writing this on the return sleeper bus from Lijiang to Kunming so elected to take the bus again (no choice really!).

Posted by squeakylee 02:50 Archived in China Tagged bus kunming sleeper hemp chums Comments (0)

Lijiang

a crazy maze of an old town.

sunny 34 °C

So the new gang - i.e. myself, Joao and Stefan, got some noodles at a local gaff and then walked into the old town of Lijiang. Myself and Joao were booked into Mama Naxi's and Stefan was going couchsurfing with a local dude named Soh. There was quite a nice view of the mountains as we plodded into town discussing the issues of the day.

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We went to Panba hostel first to meet Stefan's new chum and host for the night - Soh. Soh was a cool, friendly chap who laughed a lot. He showed us how to get to Mama Naxi's as the old town is a bit of a maze. (I got lost EVERY TIME I went anywhere). All the buildings in the old town have been refurbished to resemble old style Chinese buildings and they are all very pretty. They have intricate wooden designs, and the streets themselves are full of little stone pathways and bridges and lots of lovely pink flowers. It's all very romantic and cute. Unfortunately, all the streets look the exact same and it was impossible for me to find my way around.

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At Mama Naxi's we hung out and had some tea and were joined by the most knowledgable dude I've ever met - Chuck. (aka Clive, aka Chen Lee). He knew everything about everything - mostly geographic factoids. He'd been everywhere and seemed to retain facts about each country, like a sponge. He was a nice bloke who liked to waffle and he too joined the troop.
Soh brought us for an awesome hotpot - this one was based around ribs. I'm not a huge fan of ribs as they seem to be more bony and fatty than anything else, but these were alright - just tasted like chewy. :D

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We went somewhere else for dessert, where we discovered Stefan was an evil dog whisperer and had a talent for talking to dogs. ;) He encouraged a couple of dogs in the restaurant to ''go get'' this poor little fluffy dog on the street. And off they went!! It was hilarious. Although not for the other dog, who got a bit of a fright. But there was no big fights or anything and no injuries. (Don't worry Ro!)
Then we saw a little dog who had just been given a bath, shake himself all over this man nearby. The man obviously didn't like this, and turned around and sneezed violently on the dog, twice! TAKE THAT! lol. it was hilarious. Ye probably had to be there. ; )

Later we all met up for a few drinks and some pool at Panba Hostel.

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Soh brought us all to his private lounge nearby where a gang of his musician friends sang and played guitar & bongos for the evening. Chuck kept translating all the lines for me every five seconds which drove me bonkers, but it was quite good to hear the translation for the boob song. Something about how did you afford those fake boobs and that rolex.. or something.. The musician lads were quite talented alright and we got lots of free beer. I really like this new group, I haven't stopped laughing at all. The people that I've met in the last couple of months are really giving my mates in Dublin a run for their money. ;) hahahahhahahhah CONTROVERSIAL!. (That's if the shower of bastards even read this! ;) )
(They killed Kenny! ;) ) xx

Posted by squeakylee 02:35 Archived in China Tagged town old mates musicians lijiang boobs Comments (0)

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Aww - I'd LOVE to see a tiger... ehhhhh

sunny 34 °C

Today the four of us bussed it to Jane's Guesthouse at the start of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. This is one of the World's deepest gorges and the mighty Yangzi river crashes through it below. If you go to Yunan province, apparently you can't miss this trek. The gorge runs between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (5596m) and Haba Snow mountain (5791) and extends over 15km. Locals say that it gets so narrow at 1 point, that a tiger leapt from one bank to another.

Jane's guesthouse was at the entrance to the trek, but it didn't seem like Jane or anyone else had been around for a while. It seemed quite dingy and empty - but never the less we sat down and ordered some grub off a guy who's ear seemed to be leaking - he had his finger stuck in it for quite some time!
The food and dorms were grand, however there was a couple sharing our dorm who slept in the one bed and were constantly making slurpy noises, or trying to get it on. Jeez lads - it's not that expensive - GET A ROOM!. It was quite disturbing and Chen moved to the outer room as he was too close to the slurping. We had a great laugh that night showing each other comedy clips on youtube - my own particular choice was Father Ted. (as ye do!)

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TIGER LEAPING GORGE

We set off at about 9.30am and it was already feckin roastin'. I hung out at the back of the group - A) for some peace and quiet and non-fact related-updates and B) cos I was slower than the lads. The lads powered ahead and waited for me every now and then. My legs felt like lead and to be honest I didn't even think I could do the whole thing and we hadn't even gotten to the ''agonizing 28 bends'' yet. Good Jaysus.

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We veered off the track at the start and a local lady put us right. A lot of the locals in the area set up little viewing spots along the trek and try to charge foreigners to take pictures from them. We came across this old woman selling bananas at this lovely little viewing spot. She wanted us to buy some bananas in exchange for taking pictures. Myself and Stef bought some bananas but the other two lads didn't want any. They were taking pictures. We didn't as we were too busy stuffing our faces with banana. The auld dear went mad at the fact that the two lads were taking pictures without a banana purchase! We tried to explain that they were actually taking pictures with our cameras but alas she wanted none of that shite. She cursed Joao half way up the mountains, hoping his ''babies would be born without assholes''. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Harsh.

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We pushed on, the old woman's curses echoing up the mountain. It was an absolutely beautiful day with clear blue skies. Once again we were so lucky with the weather, the views were amazing. The going was tough for me but all the lads seemed grand. (I'm getting weedier I think during this travelling lark - need to get back doing some proper exercise and yoga! )
Just before the 28 bends we stopped for a rest. The bends themselves weren't actually that bad - (I thought the start was tougher) - we were rewarded with awesome views of the mountains around and the gorge below. We stopped at 3pm at the Tea Horse for lunch and then trundled on afterwards passing goats, beautiful mountain scenery and lovely waterfalls.

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After a few more hours of trekking, we reached the Halfway House Hostel, which was full of lots of other tourists. We met a few funny American/UK girls there, a lovely Irish couple, the same American lads we kept bumping into everywhere, an Oz/NZ couple, and another few people from the UK. There was a great auld buzz in the place and we all sat down on the roof which had spectacular views. We ordered a load of food and then had many beers under the millions of stars twinkling above. The four of us were the last to bed as per usual. During the night I heard one of the American lads leaping out of the bunk bed to go and puke over the balcony outside. UH OH. I was selfishly relieved that he hadn't eaten dinner with us. The thought of all 10 of us in the room having to follow him out to puke off the balcony was a little unsettling, if still hilarious!

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DAY 2

The next day, we set off after breakfast and trekked for another few hours. It was another gorgeous day and the scenery was amazing. The toughest bit of the day was going right down into the gorge to the river to see the stone the tiger apparently leapt on. It took us an hour to get down these huge, higgeldy piggeldy steps to the river, but it was worth it. The river was bonkers violent and I questioned the ability of any tiger to be able to jump across without falling in. To which Stefan replied ''It's just a story.''.
Oh.
Right.
Aww. :(

Going down was bad, going back up was even worse. It was torturous. I was soaked in sweat. It was SO HOT. (You would think I'd be a skinny minnie after all this going up and down steps and what not, but I keep drinking too much beer with the lads. :D) I probably wouldn't have had so many beers last night if I'd known this was in store for us today. I thought it would be a quick hop, skip and a jump down to the stone and back up again.

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Anywho we made it to the top finally. I looked like I'd been in for a swim in the river - everything I was wearing was soaked. I had a shower and some noodles in Tina's guesthouse and felt a bit better.
There had been a landslide on the mountain nearby and the road we needed to take to Shangri La was blocked so we all had to be driven to the landslide by mini bus, wait on one side til the drilling and construction work stopped, then walk to the other side to get the bus. Some of the guys who had left Tina's agggges before us, were still standing around in the heat of the day waiting to pass. Sickener!

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Getting the right people on the right bus seemed to be an impossibility for the lads who were organising the buses. It was like a bad sitcom. As soon as two new lads got on our bus, all our ticets had to be checked again and again before two other people were kciked offf. This went on for about 20 minutes! :D Eventually it was off on the road to Shangri La. Our group now included the 3 lovely American/UK ladies and the four of us.

Great people, non stop laughing, beautiful weather and epic mountain scenery!

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Posted by squeakylee 06:35 Archived in China Tagged bus stone hot tiger gorge 28 leaping janes tinas bends Comments (0)

Shangri La

''a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world...''

sunny 28 °C

There were now 7 of us in the gang! 2 US gals - Camden (who was hilarious) & Jennifer, and 1 UK gal - Ellie had joined us. They were lovely girls altogether - they'd been living in Shanghai and 2 of them had just completed the Great Wall of China Marathon - JAYSUS - Ironwomen.

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton. It is supposed to be a mystical happy land, and believed to be in the Yunann province. Today Zhongdian claims the title of Shangri La (renamed for marketing reasons). The countryside is beautiful and it's a great place to hang out and experience Tibetan culture without all the red tape and hullaballoo of actually trying to get into Tibet.

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Anywho the 7 of us checked into a YHA in Shangri La (check out this artwork on the walls)

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Awesome eh??

Anywho we checked in and came upon Frenchy Trumpet girl sitting on the floor in reception, pouring over pages and pages of maps and notes. She was awesome. Mad as a brush and talked about 300 miles an hour, and with SUCH EXCITEMENT! I liked her instantly. Her name was Martah but I called her Frenchy. She got excited by everything - especially plants! Martah had been volunteering and studying in China for 11 months and once she was finished, she decided to travel around China for a few weeks. She carried her trumpet strapped to her back everywhere and everyone she met asked her to play for them. It started conversations for her (although that would have been no problem to her anyway), opened closed doors for her - i.e. got her into places for free, she went busking with it, played in a bar with some Irish and English guys with it and was just generally awesome. So Frenchy joined our crew and we all went out for another hotpot. Well I couldn't take another hotpot so went for some momos and they were (in the words of Joao) DEELISHHSHHEEYUS.. :D

After dinner we went drinking in the square for a while, we saw a baby do a poo on the street, we threw some shoes around in some sort of naf competition, and then realised we had a curfew and had to go back to our hostel. Myself, Frenchy, Stef & Joao stayed up drinkin, laughin and being eejits on the rooftop which was great craic altogether. (Don't we need this filter? Yes we do! - ha!)

Next day we pottered around Shangri La and went up to the big temple.

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I liked Shangri La a lot better than Lijiang. SL was a bit quieter and less obviously pretendy Chinesey. (If that makes sense) The temple was cool and I sat and had a look out over the city, enjoying the silence. I heard some noise coming from the Giant Twirly Prayer yoke and took this to mean people were trying to push it round 3 times (for good luck?,blessing - I forgot to find out. I expect you have noticed my lack of facts in the last few posts - my apologies - i'm too busy having a good time to find out all the answers!)
Anywho we rushed to join in and push the big prayer wheel round. Loads of people started out pushing it, but then half of the buggers jumped out half way through, so while the first push around was easy, the second was harder and the third (with only about 7 of us left) was nigh on impossible. But we JUST about made it. :) YAHOO!!!
I felt pretty lucky and blessed by this achievement (although I have felt that way for most of my trip).

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Lunch was skewers of stuff at the market. It was nom. There were skewers of mushrooms, spring onions, yak, potato, chorizo, courgette and big chilli peppers - all covered in spicy pepper. DROOL. It was amazing, although our mouths were on fire afterwards.

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Back at the hostel we hung around for a bit playing Brain Trivia where myself and Stef got a WHOPPER SCoRE OF 7900!! NEW WORLD (lisa) RECORD.

Posted by squeakylee 05:05 Archived in China Tagged culture la prayer tibetan shangri yokes Comments (0)

Shangri La - The Tibetan Monastery

sunny 28 °C

When the girls and Chen returned back to the hostel, the gang of us trotted off to the bus stop to try and stay overnight in the big Tibetan Monastery nearby.

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The aim was to get in free, so we left at 6pm and were hoping the guards/ticket dudes would be off duty by then. Chen had chatted to some other Chinese young people at the bus stop who told him the way to get in free was to hitchhike in with the locals. So, when we got to the ticket entrance office, we pretended not to hear the ticket dude shouting at us and walked towards the monastery village area in search of a lift.
Another ticket dude came out and collared us though, and asked us for our (pretend) hotel booking details. He told us we couldn't stay AT the monastery itself, there were only expensive hotels near it - yadda yadda yadda.

The three girls and Chen went in to the ticket office to see what information the ticket dude had. I'd learnt ages ago to let those who want to handle things, handle them, so I sat outside with Frenchy. We saw 2 Chinese people who were at the bus stop flag down a local's car and hitch a lift into the village. So hitchhiker extraordinaire Stef decides we would do that too. He told the girls our sneaky plans and the four of us, Me, Frenchy, Joao and Stef jumped into a passing car and got a lift up to the monastery. :D Success!! BUT there was another ticket checking office at the entrance to the monastery. DAM! I snuck into the monastery via the toilet, but when all four of us tried to sneak in, we got caught 'rapid'.
However Frenchy and her magic trumpet saved the day! The lads at the ticket office asked her to play a tune for them and she did and they rewarded us with free entry! Meanwhile the girls and Chen were still back at the ticket office trying to hitch hike up.

We had a good 40 minutes wandering around the monastery - it was really cool. There didn't seem to be any place for us to stay the night there though. Frenchy got talking to one monk and he let us into see the Big Buddha and the monks chanting. It was all very cool and spiritual (dunno if that's the right word) and I felt a bit teary eyed and emotional. The monks looked like they were having a great time though, chatting and laughing away during chanting time.
The artwork on the walls was amazing - so detailed and extravagant. There were various incarnations of Gods getting jiggy with it, vultures eating the intestines of deadmen, nudey men and women, and lots of other cool weird stuff. It was pretty epic and the monastery itself had a great view of the surrounding village and lake.

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The girls and Chen finally arrived! They had agreed to stay at some local dude's gaff and have dinner there, in return for a lift up to the monastery. They went in for a look at the monastery and I went for a walk around the lake, which had cool viewing points of the monastery in the middle of it. I met some awesome locals on the way around the lake and had a right good mime/chat to them.

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Later the gang of us went to the local dude's house for a dinner of vegetables, slices of FAT (really!!), rice, Yak butter tea (ew), Yak Cheese (equally ew) and other stuff.

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I wouldn't be a big fan of the Yak dairy products now - they taste like you're just taking a bit chompy bite out of a rather stinky Yak.
The guy's house though was amazing.

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He had lovely wooden features and details everywhere, big copper pots for cooking in and fabulously big bedrooms that would accommodate all 8 of us. The weird thing was the toilet which seemed to be out the door and down the road - it was literally a shit hole. :D All the neighbours used it as well as Joao found out early the next morning.

We got up at stupid o Clock the next day to go and see the sunrise and walked around the lake to a viewing point so we'd have a good view of the sun rising up and shining on the monastery. We sat in the morning darkness and waited. And waited. And waited. There was no sunrise! There was however some duck-lovin' going on nearby that kept us amused for a while before we had to return to the gaff for a breakfast of delicious bread and spicy eggs.

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We returned to the moastery to explore a bit more in the morning sunshine (it appeared eventually) and after another hour or two decided to hit the road back to our hostel in Shangri La and get my backpack. Stef was hitchhiking to Lijiang for the craic and I thought it would be fun to try it out. I'd never hitchhiked before and Stef (who'd hitchhiked around the block a bit) seemed like a good person to go with. He was confident enough, he'd done loads of hitchhiking before, he was good fun and mega tall so could easily take on a few Chinese who might get a bit rowdy! ;)

We had to bid adieu to the US girls (We said we might see them in Lijiang if we were successful with the auld hitchhiking), and we had to say goodbye to Joao and Frenchy who were staying on in Shangri La. I was pretty sad to say goodbye to Joao who was an awesome travelling chum, great fun and a super nice guy - and also of course to Frenchy who was delightfully bonkers. Chen had decided to try and hitchhike to Daqin so we said goodbye to him too. But I had a feeling we'd not seen the last of Chen! :)

Posted by squeakylee 05:26 Archived in China Tagged sunrise la dinner for monastery duck yak tibetan fat shangri lovin Comments (0)

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