Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hezhou and Huangyao

After enjoying a pleasant evening and morning at the hot springs in Hezhou, we are now in Huangyao where The Painted Veil was filmed. The weather has turned damp and colder - mid 50's - but we still managed to enjoy our morning coffee on the hotel terrace.

Sun-Ling enjoys the hot springs in Hezhou.
Hezhou Hot Springs - Hezhou, China

Morning coffee on the terrace in Huangyao.
Morning coffee - Huangyao, China

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Silver Beach - Beihai, China

We had planned to bag some beach time at Beihai.  I originally had my eyes on Weizhou Island, 36 nautical miles off the coast of Beihai.  It turns out it would cost us $85 US just to make the roundtrip, due to the government ferry monopoly.  And it wasn't certain whether there is lodging right on the beach.

We opted for a hotel right on the beach at Silver Beach in Beihai.

We are pleasantly surprised!  The beach has a lot of activities: wildlife viewing, clamming, fishing, night shrimping, jet skiing, speed boating, swimming, umbrella lounging, beachcombing and tourist watching.  Since it is HUGE L-shaped sandbar, there is plenty of room for everyone and lots of shells for Sun-Ling to pick up.

The view from our hotel room.
Silver Beach - Beihai, China

The touristy part of the beach.
Silver Beach - Beihai, China

A local foraging for shellfish.
Silver Beach - Beihai, China

Sun-Ling shelling.
Silver Beach - Beihai, China

The tropical waters.
Tidal Pool - Silver Beach - Beihai, China

Wildlife.
Silver Beach - Beihai, China

Sand dollars.
Sand Dollars - Silver Beach - Beihai, China

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Yunnan to Guangxi

We have left Yunnan and arrived in Baise, Guangxi.  We did so with some trepidation.  While we enjoyed our travels in Yunnan very much, we were uncertain about Guangxi because of our previous experience in 1994:

1.  I stopped eating meat, as I witnessed too much consumption of non-domestic animals and inhumane treatment of animals in general.  I have since become an ovo-lacto vegetarian.
2.  I vowed to not return to China for the next 10 years.  On a daily basis we experienced unpleasant encounters where people either took advantage of us or scammed us or tried to, in their unrelenting pursuit of financial gains.  I did break my vow and returned 5 years later.

2008:If our bus ride into Baise is any indication, things have not changed on either accounts.  The bus carried 8 dogs wrapped like flower pots in the luggage compartment, despite of our protest.  After 5 hours, the dogs were finally unloaded - on their way to be someone's dinner.  

The driver decided he can now get on the expressway, but not until he collected 5 RMB each from the passengers.  Most of the bus goes along, but we made a call to the station.  The office verified that our tickets were supposed to have taken us on the expressway 40km ago.  Money was returned.  The driver was persuaded into taking the expressway.

Our bus.
Yunnan, China

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bamei Village - Yunnan, China

After four afternoons' clambering up and down the rice terraces, we left Yuanyang and embarked on two days of bus rides. On the third day, we arrived at our destination, Bamei, a famed village only accessible by boat through a cave until three years ago. We stayed a night, at Mr Nong Guesthouse, to enjoy the tranquility of the village and take in villagers' way of life.

We are poled through the cave.
Bamei, China


Sun-Ling enjoys a cup of tea on the porch of our guesthouse.
Bamei Village - Yunnan, China

Bringing the cows home.
Bamei, China

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

We have seen photos -- we have expections. We have reports of unrelenting fog -- we budgeted extra days. We came and saw the terraces. Words cannot descibe the awe we feel for the stupendous Hani who engineer the terraces.

That's Sun-Ling at lower right at the Bada terraces.
Yuanyang, China

Longshuba terraces.
Yuanyang, China

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Jianshui, Yunnan

After a  500 kilometer, 12-hour overnight bus ride, we arrived in Jianshui, "the old China" says Sun-Ling, "the real China" says John, leaving SE Asia solidly behind. 

Traditional Chinese architecture abounds, both new and old, in various states of splender and delapidation.Communist party slogans from bygone days are fading, but yet to disappear. Ancient wells draw people from the neighborhood, carrying drinking water, doing laundry, washing motorcycles....

Though they have seen a fair amount of tourists, people are genuine and hospitable, in pursuit  of prosperity, but not yet completelt converted to the new state religion - money.  Unfortunately, I have a hard time communicating with them - Mandarin is widely understood, but not spoken. School children exubrantly call out "hello" as we walkk by, none of the pathetic pleas for money, candy, pen... that were all too common in Laos.

Old ladies with bound feet scoot around with amazing swiftness.  I had thought my grandmother who was born in 1900 and passed away in 2000, was the last of the breed.

Jianshui, China
Jianshui, China

The local delicacy is grilled tofu, made by hand, eaten communally around the grill, where the proprietor keeps track of consumption with corn kernels.

Eating grilled tofu and potatoes with the locals.
Jianshui, China

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tropical rain


Even though it's the "dry" season, we had several thunderstorms in
Xishuangbanna. The kind of magnitude seen only during hurricanes.

During one morning downpour in Jinghong, the steet in front of our
hotel became a small river. It even hailed! Hail in the tropics?!

Later in the day, we passed by a government office for "Hail
Prevention." We guess that the local cash crops - tea, rubber, and
bananas - must regularly be damaged by hail.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Back in China

We spent our first week (3/2--3/8) in China in Xishuanbanna, a region
of Yunnan Province that borders Laos and Burma. The landscape,
climate, and people are very similar to where we came from in Laos,
except
1. The amount of cargo for sale in the stores is dizzing, compared to
Burma and Laos where what little was for sale were largely made in
China.
2. We finally seem to have left Western tourists behind. The first
three days in Mengla, an hour from the border, we hardly saw any
tourists, Western or Chinese.
3. Population density is noticeably higher; Laos is one of the least
populated countries in the world.
4. The amount and variety of agriculture is simply amazing. Aside
from protected nature preserves, every inch of every hill and valley
is covered with rubber, tea, banana, pineapple, and rice, not to
mention all the vegetables. They have the climate to grow everything,
and they do!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Itinerary 2008 - China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos

Date(s): Location(s): Transport
--------------------------------
1/1: Shanghai -> Kunming: Air
1/2: Kunming
1/3: Kunming -> Lunan: Bus
1/4: Lunan
1/5: Lunan -> Kunming: Bus
1/6: Kunming -> Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma): Air
1/7-1/10: Mandalay
1/11: Mandalay -> Pyin Oo Lwin: Shared Taxi
1/12: Pyin Oo Lwin
1/13: Pyin Oo Lwin -> Hsipsaw (Thipaw): Train
1/14: Hsipsaw (Thipaw)
1/15: Hsipsaw -> Mandalay: Train + Pickup
1/16-1/17: Mandalay -> Bagan: Boat
1/18-1/21: Bagan
1/22: Bagan -> Kalaw: Bus ride from hell
1/23,24: Kalaw
1/25: Kalaw -> Pindaya -> Inle Lake: Hired Car
1/26-28: Inle Lake
1/29: Inle Lake -> Yangon (Rangoon): Fly from Heho to Yangon
1/30-2/2: Yangon
2/3: Yangon -> Vientiane, Laos: Air
2/4-2/6: Vientiane
2/7: Vientiane -> Vang Vieng: Minivan
2/8-2/11: Vang Vieng
2/12: Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang: Bus
2/13-2/19: Luang Prabang
2/20: Luang Prabang -> Nong Khiaw: Boat
2/21: Nong Khiaw:
2/22: Nong Khiaw -> Muang Noi: Boat
2/23-24: Muang Noi
2/25: Muang Noi -> Nong Khiaw (Boat) -> Oodomxai (Van) -> Luang Nam Tha (Bus)
2/26: Luang Nam Tha
2/27: Luang Nam Tha -> Muang Sing: Van
2/28-29: Muang Sing
3/1: Muang Sing -> Luang Nam Tha: Van
3/2: Luang Nam Tha, Laos -> Mengla, China : Bus