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Been there, Dan that!

a travel blog by Dan


Well, i'm off to wing it in China for a while, there is some structure to my plans i'm just not sure what they are yet! Thats not entirely true, i'm hopeing to do a bit of teaching somwhere whilst i'm out there and i fully intend to land in a plane in Hong Kong, see i've got loads of plans!!!
it'll be reet mum...

note: the name has changed again, for the last time i promise!


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Breezy Kunming

Kunming, China


Kunming is really nice, i stayed here a bit longer than i intended but it was worth the extra time just to check the place out. The hostel got steadily busier through the week mostly with Aussies because there was an international football game on the wednesday, a world cup qualifier no less between China and the Socceroos! There banter was that the Chinese had staged it in Kunming because of the high altitude (Kunming sits on a plateau around 1900 meters above sea level) the Chinese team then basing themselves here for 3 weeks and the Australians not arriving till the day before. It did the Chinese no favours as the game was a dire affair, a tedious 0-0 draw though the Chinese missing a penalty in the last minute was quite good fun! i wondered down to the stadium to see if I could pick up a ticket on the cheap and check out the atmosphere and there were a few available but not in my sort of price bracket. So i ended up watching it back at the hostel with some disgruntled Chinese.

The day previous I had wondered around the city checking out the park and finding a (very expensive) book shop in the extremely cosmopolitan feeling university area. I also went to a Buddhist temple which was quite an experience, full of pilgrims I was the only westerner there, the temple itself was situated amongst green pools of water teaming with massive goldfish, even bigger toads and sunbathing terrapins. It was a really nice place actually a lot nicer layout than the ones i went to in Nepal, in China they seem to concentrate more on the whole temple complex being aesthetically pleasing rather than just the main temple. I also stumbled across the provincial museum and went inside to look at there display of locally excavated bronzes. They were incredible, really highly detailed and in excellent condition after being taken from tombs of previous dynasties warlords. Some of the drums and tables dated back as far as the Warring states period of 400BC.

Followed Lonely planes instructions to head to the muslim area for food only to find it had been flattened ready for the construction of yet another mall. I wound up finding an Uyghur restaurant and was giggled at whilst i perused the completely chinese menu. I plumped for the the only pictured meal which looked like Chicken, it turned out to be some sort of heavily spiced white internal organ, Possibly intestine, it wasn't the best but not to worry. I found another little muslim section the day after near the hostel and had some excellent kebabs, particularly good mushrooms!

Yesterday i got a couple of buses to the lake Dian Chi a massive freshwater lake just to the south of the City, I was heading for a collection of cliffs on the western shore which contained some temples and grottos that had been dug into the cliff face by a Taoist monk in the 11 hundreds. A fair hike up the hill (i didn't take the chairlift!) brought you to the cliff face and you could walk up and down the face along tiny passages and tunnels chiselled into the rock, was most odd. The freshly painted gods in the temples were a bit garish and strange too. That trip took up the whole day along with a stroll back off the hillside past another couple of temples with really nice gardens, oh and my bit of good karma for the day as i helped some locals push there broken down car UP a hill!
Bought my bus ticket south today so now i'm just chilling enjoying the fresh, sunny and breezy weather today before my first experience of a night bus tonight!


permalink written by  Dan on March 28, 2008 from Kunming, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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First impressions of Jinghong

Jinghong, China


Jinghong is warm, its right in the south of Yunnan province near the borders of Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, its technically a separate little region called Xishuanbanan, most of the signs here are in Thai and Chinese and there are a lot of SE asian looking folk around. I got here early this morning, it was still dark, after an uncomfortable ride on the night bus, i knew it was going to be warm as i stepped off the bus at 6am because i was comfortable standing there in my shorts and T-shirt, after a bit of a trek and a failure to find a bed at my first choice hostel i got myself into a bamboo hut built on stilts in the traditional Dai style! its cool but not very soundproof. Had a bit of a kip and wondered about town to the Mekong river and into a few touristy cafe's that have loads of info on trekking and cycling in the area, there seems to be loads to do, and assuming i can afford to i hope to hang around for a while as there is a big festival in the middle of april which would be worth seeing, so i hope to pass the time trekking, cycling and probably reading, sounds good to me!


permalink written by  Dan on March 29, 2008 from Jinghong, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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The curios incident of the big toe in the night-time!

Jinghong, China


I was really excited about Jinghong after lots of positive reports from Helen and the LP. However i wasn't as taken by the place as i had expected. The town was nice enough with palm tree lined streets and friendly inhabitants but there wasn't a massive amount to do within the city and i was struggling with the heat, humidity and mosquitoes. In comparison with SE asia it probably chilly but i was being properly northern and sweating a lot!!!

Jinghong though isn't praised for its town its there on the traveller itinerary for its surrounding jungle with lots of trekking and cycling possibilities and i had intended to do so.

After my first day in JH recuperating from my first (and unfortunately not last, the only way back out was another bus) of chinese night buses. I went to check out the few tourist attractions the town itself had to offer, mostly parks and gardens. the botanical garden was really nice with all sorts of cool things you never see outside of the tropics. The whole place was like the little hot house at the botanics in Sheffield only there was three acres of it. Met an Australian chap in there whom i had chatted to previously at the hostel in Kunming. We both expressed the desire to trek and both reported back the same problem of most of the treks only being available to groups of 2 or more. So we agreed to check out the options in the cafes later that evening. First though i was planning on checking out the much recommended blind massage school. So I searched it out with Chris and we signed up for a full collaterals massage! whatever that was. Turned out to be pretty good if a little brutal, mostly working on your spine there was a lot of pressure and use of the elbow. Was good though especially the head massage at the end.
We then strolled down to the cafe to check out the treks and bumped into some more folk form Kunming 2 Aussies and an Australian. Chris and I booked ourselves onto a 3 day trek and all 5 of us went to check out the local Dai barbecue scene. The scene was distinctly quiet a whole sort of market area by the mekong was set aside but there we few people there. We stuck in all the same and had such delicacies as bbq snails (removed from shells) which were good and slightly mouldy tofu (the equivalent to blue cheese) bad!
It was getting late but the day wasn't over yet, next a trip to the 24 hour sulphurous springs was in order to help digest our dinner? The springs were in the nearby village of Gasa so we piled in a cab and got there at about 10.30pm. Warm sulphurous swimming pool steaming in front of us we dived in got the gentle taste of eggy sandwiches in our mouths whilst floating around the pool. Now of course it is time for the curious incident which was to shape my travels for the next few weeks. Whilst extricating (a dainty procedure) myself from the pool i slid my right foot against the wall of the pool to aid my exit from the sulphurous waters and caught my big toe on a broken tile which painlessly sliced an cm square off the bottom of my toe. I felt something but not until i was wrapped in my towel did i notice the large amount of blood relieving itself from my foot. 30 minutes 2 tiny plasters a bunch of tissue paper and much debating with the proprietors as to whether they'd ring us a cab later i was sitting in said taxi pissed off and thinking i'd need a tetanus jab.
So no trekking then and after I dressed my foot properly, raiding the incredible array of medical equipment sent with me. I was left to contemplate what to do next.
Bikes i discovered was a good option as no pressure was placed on my toe. The other Aussies and Swede were hanging around too so i wound up cycling through rubber plantations with them and playing roadside pool in the suburbs of JH.
A couple of days later i could walk fairly well too and now deciding i'd hang around with the Aus Swede contingent as they had a similar itinerary to mine (an option they agreed too) We booked ourselves on a mini Jungle trek to a local waterfall before catching a bus to northern Yunnan. The trek was really nice, amazing sounds of the jungle and incredible high canopy, but after 4 hours in the jungle i was wet through so who knows what would have happened had i been out there for 3 days?!


permalink written by  Dan on April 1, 2008 from Jinghong, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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Green Papaya salad

Jinghong, China


If you can find any green papayas this salad is ace, had it in the Mekong cafe in Jinghong.

1 Green (unripe) Papaya, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped
some peanuts
a bit of garlic
lemon juice
a handul of corriander
seasoning, possibly a light soy or just salt and pepper
a splash of light vinigar

instructions
1. mix
2. eat

nice with beer!

permalink written by  Dan on April 1, 2008 from Jinghong, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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Back north

Dali, China


Have seen the best weather yet here in Dali, deep blue sky and refreshing winds, deceptively cool as the sun is quite harsh.
Heading back north has seen me climb again and Dali is situated around 2000 meters above sea level. I'm staying in the old town, which is walled by grey brick. Its very picturesque and Chinese looking.
Arrived in Dali from a bus direct from Jinghong, a mere 17.5 hours to travel the equivalent length of south Korea i wont be doing it again in a hurry! The beds were even more ridiculous than the last bus wit beds that had metal bars down the sides that were too wide for my shoulders and the bed was too short to be able to lie comfortably on your side without sticking your feet into the aisle. The road was also insane, from about 10pm to 3am we were on a twisting bumpy road obviously climbing a fair altitude but not really suitable when your trying to sleep.
After arriving in the new town at around 10 am we then had to get to the old town, waiting for the bus as instructed by the lonely planet proved unsuccessful as it didn't turn up so we took a taxi for the 20 minute ride to the old town. Only as we drew up did i realise in my tired state i'd left my flask (kindly handed down by Helen) on the bus, that thing had already been round china once so i'm a bit gutted to have lost it. However my loss was eclipsed seconds later when Kiki realised she'd left her ipod under her pillow!!! Sadly it was an hour since we'd exited the bus so going back was no good.
The resulting sleep deprivation meant the next day was spent flopping around the hostel. The next day was more fruitful though as we spent the day (i'm still hanging round with the 2 Australians and the Swede by the way) checking out the town, walking along the wall and eating from the street stalls, really nice savoury potato pancakes, and generally taking in the place. the town itself is flanked by a large freshwater lake to the east and 4000 meter snow topped mountains to the west.
The next day we hired bikes with the intention of catching a ferry across the lake and cycling back round. However the LP's price of 2-3 yuan for the ferry had in fact increased to 50 yuan so we decided to stick on the eastern shore instead and check out some local villages. The cycle was nice but it got very hot and despite 3 liberal applications of sun cream the 7 hours cycling in the sun saw me get a bit burnt. I know have sandal marks on my feet like a proper englishman.
Due to extreme saddle saw today has been officially designated a rest day before another (short) bus trip north tomorrow.


permalink written by  Dan on April 6, 2008 from Dali, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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A short time at Mama's

Lijiang, China


Lijiang is a strange place, its one of the few remaining complete old towns in China and is protected by UNESCO. Obviously this is great but sadly it means that the small chinese streets are insanely busy.
Its an incredibly picturesque town with streams, even more than Dali, running down the edges of the paths and little bridges connecting the maze together.
The must fun in Lijiang was the accommodation a simple comfy dorm run by mama Naxi (Naxi is the local chinese minority) she with her army of girls and Baba (her husband) ran the hostel brilliantly. Creating a really friendly atmosphere whilst never failing in seeming to go insane at every turn. She organised everything including dinner for the many travellers staying there every evening, tickets and tours to anywhere and always making sure you where topped up on tea and fruit. All of this done at maximum decibel just to keep us on our toes! The hostel itself was in the old town but situated outside of the main tourist arteries so it was quiet too.
To get a real taste of local Naxi village you had to leave Lijiang and head to one of the surrounding villages. On yet another bicycle trip we did just that and it didn't disappoint, not only did we not get lost we also found ourselves in the silent countryside with great views of the local mountain and then quiet streets to cycle through were Naxi people were still living. Sadly in Lijiang the locals have sold up (apparantly perfectly happily) for tourist vendors to use there houses as shops.
Despite the crowds Lijiang is a great and surprisingly peaceful place and i would have happily stayed there a little longer but the weather was great and we (still with the aussies by the way) had a trek to do.


permalink written by  Dan on April 9, 2008 from Lijiang, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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Tiger leaping gorge

Tiger Leaping Gorge, China


One thing all backpackers seem to do round here in northern Yunnan is the tiger leaping gorge trek, for good reason too as it is stunning! Its only quite a short walk, 24 km and can be comfortably done in 2 days. Some understandably take longer just to take in the views.
We got a bus from Lijiang in the evening and stayed overnight at the start of the trek to take advantage of the cool early morning setting off at 7am. It was a good move too as place soon became baking after the sun had risen over the mountains on the far side of the gorge. We walk about 16 k's the first day to a lodge up in the mountains where we stayed the night.
The next day was mostly a descent right into the bottom of the gorge and its vertical cliffs where you can get right up to the thundering rapids and to the rock from which the tiger lept!
The river itself id the Yangzee by the way before it heads north east to Sechuan and the East across China.
I don't really know what else to say about the walk except it was beautiful so check out the pictures!


permalink written by  Dan on April 11, 2008 from Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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Into the Tibetan regions

zhongdian (Shangri-La), China


Zhongdian or Shangri-La as the government renamed it recently is a strange place. Perched on the hills of northern Yunnan at 3300 meters above sea level its inhabitants are 80% tibetan. It is a fast growing town as most of the traffic out of eastern tibet travels through it so there is a sprawling new city sprouting up around a small but pretty tibetan style old town. It was the old town in which i stayed in a pleasant little hostel, sadly though the dorm rooms didn't have electric blankets and the nights here i discovered got VERY cold.
First day in town was spent wandering the old streets, the layout here is very different with big tibetan houses and wide open streets. Sadly there was the usual tourist tat being sold but this place was far less busy than anywhere else i'd been thus far. The small town square also became a dance floor in the evening, all the locals turning up around 7pm to dance to local music being pumped out of someone's shop. It was really cool as everyone new the dance moves so you had around 100 people doing synchronized moves in a big circle for getting on for 2 hours!
The second day was spent at Ganden Sumtselling Gompa, the most important Buddhist monastery in southwest China. It was more of a walled village than a monastery with ancient mud walled houses surrounding the monastery which was perched on top of the hill. 600 monks still live and work there and they were very welcoming allowing you into all the parts of the temples. It was a colourful place with vivid tibetan frescoes adorning the walls and bright gold bells gently tingling in the wind.

Sadly that evening i ate something dubious and was struck down with my first serious bout of food poisoning. This meant my last day in Shangri-La was spent in bed.
Next day was spent on a bus and an incredible bus ride it was too passing a 4100 meter pass to the small hillside town of Deqin.
The ride it self is worth a note across dubious roads worth regular landslides and hunks of snow impeding progress. The view from the top was stunning with white peaked mountains all around. Sadly my battery had run out on the camera so it wasn't until the next day that i could start photographing the views. Deqins surroundings though certainly didn't disapoint!


permalink written by  Dan on April 15, 2008 from zhongdian (Shangri-La), China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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Eastern Himalayas

Deqin, China


Deqin is the last stop before Tibet. Its and ugly town crammed into a crease between the Yunnans highest mountain ranges, it is at 3500 meters above sea level West from here is the himalayas proper but the surrounding countryside is equally beautiful with great valleys down to the Mekong river and snowy peaks and glaciers reaching 6800 meters.
The countryside and trekking there in is the reason to visit this remote outpost and it was well worth the trip. So much so in fact i stayed here for a week in a tibetan guesthouse in the countryside village (about 10 houses) of Raringkha.
The first destination on arrival though was further from Deqin town, another village called Felai Si where you could apparently get stunning views of the local mountain range. We arrived there in the evening and stayed in a cheap bed with the intention of getting up at dawn to watch the sunrise on the mountain peaks.
We were very fortuante as the next morning after rising at 6am the view was clear so we watched unimpeded as the high peak of Kawo Karpo mountain turned from snowy blue to a warm orange. After breakfast we caught a taxi back towards town and jumped out at Raringkha and Tashi's mountain lodge a traditional tibetan house where we would base ourselves to do some trekking.
To my great surprise the place was run by 2 Irish fellas one of whom had just been travelling when he was offered the job and had then invited his mate, a trained chef, to come and help him run it.
The place was beautiful with big comfy beds and huge kitchen dining room with a warm stove and plenty more areas to relax in.
They kept pigs and chickens and the communal meal in the evening was excellent. We had Paella the first night!!!
When we arrived there was only another Belgian couple there making 6 guests in total
but the place soon filled to 12 with the comings and goings of other travellers and families over the week. Er yeah intended to stay a few days up here but with such a comfortable, chilled out place to stay it soon turned to 6 night, though only Nick and I stayed the last 2 getting an extra trek in for good measure.
A couple of walks where done while we where here one a 2 day effort that we did in 1 from Felai Si the aforementioned viewpoint down (very steeply) to the Mekong river then up the other side and across to the Migyong Glacier. Sadly we didn't get up to the glacier as we had arrived to late but the views where cool all the day.
After a rest day (and a bit of archery, the Irish guys had a bow) Danny and Kiki went back South whilst Nick and I stayed a couple more nights and did another day trek up the mountain behind the lodge. A tough 3 hour climb up Yak trails for us too the snowy ridge at 4500 meters with Deqin and the surrounding villages specks below. The altitude here really began to take its toll with deep breath in not really resulting in a lot. The last hour up in particular, probabably only about a kilometers steep walk, was especially hard.
The views though where incredible with a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding mountains.
Long bus ride back to Lijiang tomorrow morning, then up to Sichuan via a lake! Cant travel North from here as originally planned as the roads around tibet are closed to travellers.



permalink written by  Dan on April 22, 2008 from Deqin, China
from the travel blog: Been there, Dan that!
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Back to Lijiang

Lijiang, China


Because of the problems in Tibet and the surroundings i am uable to travel any further north without backtracking. So a beast of a bus ride back to Lijiang followed by 2 days doing very little in the relaxing surroundings of Lijiang before another bus north east to Sichuan province.

Welcomed with open arms (of course) by mama though and plyed with bananas!

permalink written by  Dan on April 25, 2008 from Lijiang, China
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