worldwide walkabout the tiniest bird takes a walk.

10Nov/090

badaling great wall and bei hai, china

i lost a lot of photos from the great wall due to a fake memory card and also a fake flash drive! gutted, yet again. initially i thought there was something wrong with my camera, given the virus problems that i'd been having. i brought my camera and the warranty paperwork in to the nikon shop. i found that the problem was the memory card and also that the piece of paper i believed to be a receipt <written in chinese> was in fact not one. leave it to china to pull a fast one every chance they get! they're really good at making money. i had been warned many times about fake electronics from my mother...

anyway. it was just amazing to be at the great wall and i was definitely in good company! my new friends elisa, iain, and paul were a lot of fun. we got conned by a driver while attempting to get on a bus to the wall but in the end it worked out ok. how cool it was to see such a big project-i can't imagine how much labor it must have taken to build this one! also amazing-some of the stone steps were sagging from all of the footsteps up and down!

bei hai was a cold cold day! it was fun to see my friends li na and fu rao again. it was neat to have a snowy view of the forbidden city too! we warmed up with some shabu shabu afterward mmmm.

10Nov/090

forbidden city, beijing

the forbidden city seemed even more vast than the last time i had seen it. it was really lucky that i decided to return back and have another look! i enjoy chinese tourists in a way: the flags, microphones, matching hats, and the great tourist photos that people take. some people pose so seriously!

10Nov/090

beijing hodgepodge of photos

paul and i arrived by sleeper bus in beijing at 2 am, despite the given schedule to arrive at 5 am.  there was a dog stowed down with our luggage and i found myself with two backpacks covered in poop. in the middle of the night we took three different taxis to get to a hostel. erlian was a nice 'welcome back to china'; beijing was not.

after getting settled though, beijing was a very nice stay. i was able to meet up again with li na and fu rao, those funny ladies i met on the way to mongolia. on our day out, it snowed bigtime. apparently the chinese had shot chemicals into the atmosphere in order to control the weather for the national holiday. it was the earliest snowfall in 48 years and it was a big one! i had been hoping to warm up in beijing...haha. i really enjoyed the great food of china though and am still in awe at how much trouble people go to in order to prepare food.

i spent some more time booking my plane tickets and felt very, very relieved when that was all finished. looking forward!

10Nov/092

ulaanbaatar, mongolia to erlian, china

we returned to ulaanbaatar and enjoyed some great museums and the delightful vegetarian restaurant luna blanca, a place that my friend chimgee had introduced us to. we had hoped to catch a mongolian music and contortion show but the performances were canceled due to the H1N1 flu.

eventually our group went on their separate ways. lesley and stewart took the train to russia to see the surreal amazing architecture and frozen landscape and i took some time out to make some plans. i was hoping to head somewhere warm to thaw out! eventually, i decided to book the around the world ticket that my travel colleagues were on-overland travel for the past 3 months was rewarding but i felt that i needed a change. although i will have to adjust to more schedules, i am looking forward to seeing how it goes!

on the train to the border, i met english paul who was enjoying some mongolian beverages of choice. the very hilarious train attendant gestured *no drinking* so paul kept his bottle behind his backpack but she saw the bottle cap on the table! the train was an overnight journey and when we arrived at the border, the bathroom doors get locked up. because they change the train gauges and check passports, we stopped for many hours despite the protests of my bladder. luckily i didn't have to take plan b which was to pee in some plastic bags because we eventually were let off the train.

erlian continues to be one of my favorites-people there are SO nice. i stopped by the hotel where i had stayed a month prior to give my 'uncle' a mongolian souvenir but he had gone back to his home. the man at the chinese border rushed me to the front of the passport checking line when i asked for a restroom and later rushed me to the front of customs line! what a nice guy.

15Oct/093

glam

while walking around renmin park, chengdu, i saw advertisements and sample photos from the glamour studio. i thought of my friend ali douglass and her great idea to make a glam hut and felt inspired to pose for some shots. i had no idea that i was signing up for: many, many hours of hair, make up, wardrobe change and two extremely painful photo sessions. i am, however, really enjoying the humor in the results.

thank you ali douglass, and thank you jesus.

love,

wei h.

15Oct/091

chengdu

it was quite nice to arrive at the lower elevation and therefore warmer temperature! i had a fun time exploring around the modern city of chengdu-renmin park was an absolutely fascinating place: free music and dance performances galore, tea houses, goldfish ponds, bonsai trees, paddle boats, sugar paintings, kite flying, an amusement park, and even glamour shots! (please see "glam" entry) also, chengdu is famous for its panda breeding center-i was a bit afraid that the place would only be filled with sad pandas-so i was pleasantly surprised when i saw many playful pandas. only a few sad ones.

the only thing about the visit was that the hostel was quite full of thieves! i left my nalgene soap bottle in the shower by accident, it disappeared, one of my drying shirts went missing from the hostel room (i guess whoever was going to steal it changed their mind and ditched my please-don't-eat-me-i-love-you pig t-shirt upstairs), and my black diamond headlamp was stolen from the room! (bent about the last one)

Filed under: china, Uncategorized 1 Comment
25Sep/090

insane mountain journey 9/22-9/24 (shangri la-chengdu)

wow! when i signed up for the journey up and over some of china's tallest mountains, i figured it would be an adventure. i got even more than i had bargained for! this area is full of tibetan towns and settlements, yak herders, and fortress-like homes. the scenery was amazing, although i wasn't able to take many photos, especially on day 2 of the journey (was too busy hanging on!). we reached elevations of over 2, 500 meters and despite the fact that i was wearing every article of warm clothing, i was still a bit chilly! got good use out of my cozy sleeping bag these days though. what an experience!

day 1 shangri la-dao chun: had an early start from the hostel, power was still out at 5 am from the night before. it sure is dark out at that hour! the day began with misty forests, deciduous trees strung with garlandlike moss, and a very rattly window! it had been raining the day before so that one section of the road had turned into very deep mud. i couldn't believe it when the driver went for it and then was able to back out when we got stuck. he assessed, put chains on the back wheels of the bus, and there we were skidding around in the mud with a pretty massive cliff just two feet to the right. my little heart panicked. everyone clapped when we cleared it and didn't fall of the cliff! the scenery was just stunning: blue skies, puffy clouds, tibetan architecture, valleys, and the amazing looking granite mountains (on the other side of the bus...rats). overnighted at a tibetan lodge that a really kind tibetan man took me to-the owners had the most adorable little girl who was not shy!

day 2 dao chun-kangding: an even earlier start to the day! projected 12 hour journey. arrived at the station at 5: 18, wondered why the bus trunk was so dusty. soon found out! i should have known better when the second driver, just starting his shift, warned me to not sit in the back row because i was going to hit my head on the luggage shelf two feet above me. i shifted over a seat and later back to my original seat-i was getting chucked around like no other! i love bumpy rides but this was too much for me! i really couldn't take any photos because everything was flying about, myself included! the driver really burned it over the bumpy dirt road and didn't seem to use the brakes even while peeling around the sharp switchback turns. it was for not though, as we had to wait for two and a half hours for the road to open back up from repairs. after we got back on the road, we spent the next 3 1/2 hours in traffic due to poor planning with the road construction! people smoked on the bus, i think, due to boredom or stress. in total, the journey was 17 1/2 hours-a very long day of bumps, dust, and chain smoking chinese men!

day 3 kangding-chengdu: this was the easiest day on the rear, as almost all of the road was paved. passed by some very beautiful valleys, rice and tea plantations, and the endless chinese construction. the no smoking sign on the bus window was a joke: even the driver was chain smoking, despite the fact that the windows didn't open... given road conditions, i found it ironic that we got a flat tire! we were held up by changing the tire and then later by repairing and reinstalling the tire. arrived in chengdu in a short 8 hours-from here on out trains (with readily available toilets) are available! gearing up for a long haul to mongolia.

25Sep/090

shangri la 9/21-9/22

it rained for most of the time i was in shangri la...i sometimes forget how much weather can affect ones experience. not only that but also the hostel that i stayed at was not so great. the power also went out for the afternoon, evening, and into the morning of my departure!

however, i did visit the ganden sumtseling gompa which was beautiful and a bit what i imagine lhasa to look like. while climbing the stairs, i felt like a wimp for being so winded, however, on the climb down i noticed two chinese tourists huffing cans of oxygen, after which i felt less bad.

25Sep/09Off

amazing tiger leaping gorge 9/19-9/20

luckily the dam project that was to flood much of this gorge was cancelled! yay for one of the deepest gorges in the world! it was an absolutely glorious couple of days of trekking about.

day 1: shared the path with some horses, a few cows, and a handful of hikers. enjoyed the perfect weather, the stunning vistas, and along the way met a baby moo who walked right up to me. i held out my hand and the little guy coated it with saliva goo. salt lick? also met a horse wearing a bell, fed that one an apple on the sly. the trail was not nearly as gnarly as i had expected it to be; much of it was flat and i made it to the guest house just in time for supper, a shower, and sunset.

day 2: early morning start-hiked down into the gorge on steep trails that two families blazed. there were hand rails, a rope bridge, ladders, palequins, and signs that read "falling rock. go quickly." this day even more intense than i had expected! had the place all to myself. caught a ride back west, we had to wait for the falling rocks to stop falling into the road.

25Sep/090

ancient city of lijiang 9/17-9/19

i have been getting spoiled with all of these ancient pedestrian only cities! hope that i don't forget how to cross the street in china-usually a terrifying experience!

lijiang was an absolute maze! the architecture is truly beautiful: traditional rooftops, cobblestone streets, waterways, waterwheels...much of the ancient city though has been taken over by the chinese tour buses that spew out hoardes of visitors. despite this, it was fun to walk around and be lost in the chineseness of it all. early morning was my favorite time to explore the city and have some of my favorite breakfast foods.

keith, my travel partner, and i agreed that traveling together wasn't working out for either of us. we are very, very different. from this point on i'm going solo!