A Travellerspoint blog

My observations of China.

Just some random thoughts and observations about my time in China.

My observations of China.

Whilst China is good at doing things the rest of the world notices like; built the world’s highest railway/skyscraper, fastest train and is planning to send a rocket to the moon, despite it’s technological advances, it still has such a long way to go in a bunch of things that matter to it’s citizens such as basic sanitation, road and workplace safety and environmental destruction and pollution. It seems that in China “We’re still developing.” Is a catch-all excuse anytime any blatant deficiencies between it and a first world country are pointed out.

As a traveller, I’m not qualified to have an in-depth opinion of China and how it relates to the world politically and where it will be in years to come. What follows are my random thoughts and observations on a grass roots level made by someone just visiting, wandering and noticing what I saw. Make of them what you will.

Everyone seems to smoke, or at least those that do, do it everywhere. There’s nothing that spoils a great Chinese meal than having smoke from the next table wafting over yours. Cigarettes are way too cheap. Who’s going to pay for the health care requirements of all the dying smokers in years to come? How’s the brand of ciggies – Double Happiness? What’s the double? Cheap price – quick painless death? (Heart attack rather than lung cancer?) Trying to type blogs for you using internet cafes full of smokers was a challenge. No air conditioning the air was thick with smoke. You came out with sore eyes and throat and your hair and clothes stank. If you’re a smoker it would be cheap. Don’t buy your own cigs, just enjoy the second-hand smoke.

Safety in China seems to be non-existent. The following are just some examples of the too-many-to list things I encountered or saw. No seatbelts in cars, so even if you want to wear one you can’t. Drink driving is endemic and I’m told rarely policed. (You are only in trouble when you crash and kill someone for which they will probably execute you. I’m not kidding.) No one wears a motorcycle helmet or follows the road rules. Motorbikes think they’re synonymous with pedestrians, so they hoon up and down what should be FOOTpaths. Very dangerous for pedestrians. Even the ‘pedestrian mall’ in Shanghai was riddled with motorbike riders whilst police did nothing. Maybe China should divert some of it’s 30000 internet police to traffic duty and make a worthwhile difference to the lives of Chinese people?
Road rules seem to be for someone else. The only traffic lights that are observed are those with a policeman on point duty. Without that it’s mayhem, gridlock and a cacophony of beeping horns. Pedestrian crossings are ignored by all, including bus drivers. Just look for a gap in the traffic and run!
Workplace safety? Workers welding without a mask. Construction site workers wearing a hard hat, but running around in sandals and using very noisy tools without ear protection. Trip hazards everywhere. I’m not talking a bit of uneven pavement, rather something sticking up or an uncovered hole where you least expect it. People sweeping the kerb next to the centre of the freeway by hand as traffic whizzed by just centimetres from their elbow or worse. Obviously there are no duty of care by employer laws in China. Maybe some of the multinationals should consider this before outsourcing work to China. How are people treated?

Litter and pollution. I can’t believe that in the 21st century, a whole country just pours/throws anything and everything into streams and drains and thinks that’s the end of it. Rubbish filled streams that people then procure water from, and filthy streets of rubbish and human excretement are a recipe for community sickness. Provide bins and public toilets. Empty and clean them and then expect people to use them. Surely simple things like this are a better indication of a civilised society than sending a taichonaut to the moon.
As for air pollution. Isn’t it internationally embarrassing to have 15 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities in your country? Isn’t that a wake up call? Seems not. We went weeks without seeing blue sky the smog is that thick. It wasn’t until we flew to Tibet that we got blue sky. This has to have an extremely negative effect on the vegetation through reduced sunlight and acid rain and people’s health. Unfortunately for the rest of the world the air doesn’t stay over China but is also blown over other countries. Everything in nature is linked to everything else. No one can do something that does not affect someone else.

Xenophobia – historically the Chinese feared strangers and it seems nothing’s changed. This is manifest in several ways.
Calling us ‘aliens’, instead of tourists or foreigners.
Taxis driving off when they realised you weren’t Chinese, even though you had the name of the place you wanted to go written down for them.
A city the size of Shanghai only having a tourist map in Chinese. This is the city that is hosting the World Expo next year but it seems they don’t actually want non-Chinese there.
Treating us like second-class tourists. Chinese visiting Tibet can go anywhere, but non-Chinese (aliens) like us need special permits for some areas and others are closed altogether. We can’t even walk to the actual base of Everest, but Chinese people can.
I know we’re just passing through your country, but you don’t need to make us feel like a turd.

Chinese don’t queue, another sign of a civilised society. You have to fight for your spot to get served.

If you want living proof that the ‘Aitkins Diet’ - the no carbohydrate fad diet - is a waste of time, go to China. Everyone eats carbs - rice, pasta and doughy buns - all day long, yet you will struggle to see a fat Chinese person. I don’t mean obese, even just a little ‘fat’. Can’t be carbs. Regardless of the fad diets that come and go, it always comes back to two things.
1) It’s the kilojoules that count, regardless of where they come from. Consume more energy than you expend and you will put on weight.
2) Eat a variety of fresh foods. Most things contain both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ things. Mix it up and make sure that you don’t eat so much of a ‘good’ thing it becomes ‘bad’. The fresher and less processed your food, the less likely it will contain chemicals and other additives that are best avoided. Again, all things in moderation.

China is a noisy place. People YELL into their mobile phones like it’s a tin can on a string. Imagine a train full of mobile phone yellers and you get the picture. Actually it’s not just when they’re on the phone, they are just noisy all the time. Peace and quiet do not go with enjoying your restaurant dining experience.
Construction noise goes all day AND night. No curfew so people can sleep. Pile driving, rock breaking, whatever. Sleeping is your problem, not ours.

Spitting and throat clearing is everywhere. It’s impossible to walk a Chinese street and not hear and see someone harking back a goozy and having a good spit. Out on the street’s one thing, but indoors? Saw that too. There are ‘no spitting’ signs up in places, but no one obeys them.

What's with tactile paving? Seems a great idea to have special paving on the ground that blind people can use to negotiate and warn them of hazards such as steps and roads. Tactile lines and dots - you’ll see it in cities the world over. Great in theory, but when you install it on Chinese footpaths a blind person is safer not trusting it. We saw it lead into obstacles, open holes in the path or just lead nowhere like the paving layers were having a laugh at the expense of blind people. We didn’t see any, so maybe they all fallen victim to tactile paving and fallen down uncovered manholes?

Three-wheeled vehicles. China loves them. From cycle rickshaw, to auto rickshaw, to small trucks and even larger ones, three wheels are the go. They look unstable, but I never saw one that had toppled over.

Chinese who can afford to be, are very lazy. Poor people work hard but those who don’t have to walk don’t and will pay some poor Chinese people to carry them up or down a mountain in a jampon rather than walk. As cars become seen as a symbol of wealth, I hate to think where all these cars are going be parked. China is a country built without cars. Narrow old city streets full of people become horrible as cars start squeezing down streets for which they were not designed. The government is building elevated freeways as fast as you can say, “Pour the concrete here.”, but it’s on the small scale that cars will destroy the quality of live. Quiet little laneways will be choked with parked cars and those rushing through. The places where people sat and chatted or played cards will be swept away and with it their little community.

Arse-less pants on babies and toddlers. They don’t wear nappies. When they need to ‘do something’ you just make them squat where they are and they do it then and there through the big hole in the back of their pants for that purpose. Amanda tried to buy some clothes for her newborn niece, but couldn’t find any without the bum split. I guess the culture of relieving oneself anywhere begins at a young age.

The Chinese are not a happy people generally. Our Chinese guide Ling loves going to any other Asian country because she says that unlike Chinese, they’re happy and smiley. Any one who’s been to Thailand knows what she means. Perhaps its being under a Communist regime that takes away your freedom? Whatever it is, it’s noticeable. It’s not that people aren’t friendly just you won’t see the smiles you do elsewhere in Asia.

Chinese love umbrellas so much they use them whether it’s raining or not. Sunshade when it’s sunny and rain protection when it’s raining. The only problem is you walk down the street without one you end up almost getting poked in the eye by those carrying umbrellas.

Perhaps it’s very easy to notice the negative things, so I’d like to finish on a positive thing or two.
There is a real sense of community in China that I don’t see at home. Instead of locking themselves inside in front of the television on their own, I’d see people sitting on the street until late, chatting with neighbours or playing games of Mah Jong or cards. If there was a TV on, there’d be a group watching it. People seemed to use their houses to sleep and eat and not much more. The street – their community – is were it happened. I liked that. Interconnected with people around them in a way that we aren’t.
I imagined that with over a billion people in one country it would be more of a crush than India, however China does BIG cities like no one else – over 600 cities – but that means out of the cities is rural, slow and uncrowded. It felt like a step back in time for many of these places with livestock still in use for transport and bullocks ploughing fields.
Despite Mandarin being spoken and written everywhere, there were just enough people who spoke English that we never really had a problem.

I trust you’ve enjoyed my writings, photos and the odd video of my adventures in China and got to travel vicariously with me.
I recommend you go and experience China for yourself. It is a big and interesting place and there’s no better time than now. Plan YOUR next trip and go for it. I look forward to hearing YOUR stories when you do. Enjoy.
Keep smiling.

The Wandera AKA Malcolm Roberts

(Adventures in China August 14th – September 28th 2009)

Posted by TheWandera 04:45 Archived in China Comments (1)

Singapore and home.

After more than 6 weeks away, it's time to head home.

Sunday – Leaving Kathmandu for Singapore.

I’ve saved the first hangover from this six-week holiday until today.
Partook of the buffet breakfast carefully before we packed our bags and grabbed a taxi to the airport. My backpack is SO FULL it took all my packing skills to make it fit.
The taxi to the airport was quick. With Dashain Festival in full swing and most people in the middle of 3 days off, the streets were empty but there were queues at the temples.
Our flight isn’t until 1pm, but we’d been told to get there 3 hours early because “everything is done by hand”. Not quite true. Kathmandu is a quaint old airport, but they did still have x-rays, metal detectors and other modern devices including a newfangled device called a computer to check us in.
Passing the ‘gate’ we boarded the waiting airport bus. Not unusual, especially at older airports without a ‘bridge’. What was unusual was that it then proceeded to drive 50m and stop. The plane was right there. I’ve walked much longer paths lined with orange cones at Perth airport without getting the service of a bus. If you can’t walk 50m you should seriously reconsider your ability to travel.
We arrived in Singapore and caught a taxi to the hotel. Not the ‘airport hotel’ we deliberately chose somewhere close to the airport rather than the city, because not only are we only here for one night, it is the night of the F1 Grand Prix. Dropping our bags, we headed straight out for some dinner as it was nearly 9pm local time. Finding Thai place nearby, we sat and enjoyed Seafood Pad Thai and some super spicy Tom Yum soup. Washing it down with Tiger beer we watched the second half of the GP on a big screen. So, here we were in Singapore, watching what happens in Singapore on TV. Tonight was a lovely 29 deg C and not too humid.

Monday 28th September – Return home.

Up and go! I’d planned not to open my big backpack on route. Took the hotel shuttle to the airport and waited for our 9:30 flight. There might have been some machines at Kathmandu, but there were no scales. I was curious how much my bag weighed and if I was over. Amanda suggested we could pool our 2x20 KG allowance, but when hers weighed in at 19.8 KG she didn’t have much to offer. Mine was 20.0 KG. Not a gram overweight.
All good and before you could say, “I was enjoying that music.” The pleasant Singapore airlines staff were collecting headsets and Perth was below us.
My sister, her husband and their three children were waiting to meet us, which was a nice surprise.

So, 6 weeks in China (mostly) and between the two of us; not an illness, loss through either carelessness or theft or anything at all that soured this holiday. It’s been fantastic. (With traffic you won’t believe I can’t believe we never got run over.) As a bit of a solo traveller normally, it was so nice to have not just a travel companion, but a good friend with me the whole way. Looking out for each other might be part of the reason Amanda and I kept safe and sound.

I trust you’ve enjoyed my writings, photos and the odd video of my adventures in China and got to travel vicariously with me.
I recommend you go and experience China for yourself. It is a big and interesting place and there’s no better time than now. Plan YOUR next trip and go for it. I look forward to hearing YOUR stories when you do. Enjoy.
Keep smiling.

The Wandera AKA Malcolm Roberts

(Adventures in China August 14th – September 28th 2009)

Posted by TheWandera 04:44 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Kathmandu

The Nepalese capital had a few surprises for us.

Friday 25th September – To Kathmandu we go.

No early start today because Kathmandu is only an hour away. A repeat of yesterday’s ‘Indian breakfast’ was in order. I love the way that when I travel I see so many variations on what is ‘normal’ for breakfast. In China it’s congee, a rice porridge, but on the Indian subcontinent curry potato parathas are common. To much of the world having eggs or a bowl of cereal with fresh milk is strange. In China/Asia fresh dairy anything is a rarity. They don’t do cow’s milk or it’s derivatives, just soya milk if you must, but tea is drunk ‘black’. (Even if it’s green tea?)
Waiting for us at the bottom of the 150 steps was not only our van to take us to Kathmandu, but the corpse of the goat that spent yesterday tied up by the kitchen and bleating loudly. I guess it knew that today is the start of the big Hindu Dashain Festival and it was going to form part of the celebrations. After sacrificing it, they daubed it’s blood over their car and painted the wheel hubs with blood whilst burning incense under the bonnet. We were told it’s to bless the car for the following year so that it’s safe for the passengers and doesn’t have an accident. The sacrificial goat is not wasted. As we left, they carried it up the hill to cook it for the feast that is part of the festival.
Travelling down the Kathmandu Valley to Kathmandu I was struck how semi-rural and subsistence it all is. Most cities become a choked metropolis, but here we were surrounded by rice paddies and well-separated houses almost to the city centre.
The Shanker Hotel wasn’t ready for us, so we left our bags and Ling took us for a walk around Thamel, a lovely old part of Kathmandu with narrow shop-lined streets full of pedestrians and cycle rickshaws. After just an hour or two I’d been offered; marijuana/hashish, flutes, beads, rafting/hiking trips, rickshaw ride and more. NO! NO! NO!
We had lunch together as a group at a nice restaurant. Can’t believe how cheap everything is. We thought China was cheap, but it’s got nothing on Nepal. Quality tasty meals for $2 AUD. They have a 5 rupee banknote that’s worth 8 cents AU which ironically is 4 times the 2 cent banknotes I was getting in China.
After going back to the hotel and checking in, Amanda and I immediately headed back to Thamel to do some shopping.
On the way there though, the road outside the hotel had gone from a bustling Kathmandu street full of cars, auto rickshaws, bicycles and motorcycles to nothing! Not vehicle to been seen. What the? It was then we saw the police/army cordon closing the road. We didn’t have to wait long for someone special to come past in their limo, complete with full escort of high-ranking officers. Watching the cordon be lifted was akin to the start of a F1 Grand Prix as the traffic swarmed the road.
Making it back to the shops, we were impressed with all the books about Tibet that magically just don’t seem to be available in Tibet itself. I was tempted to buy a poster of the Dalai Lama and send it to someone in China that I don’t like, but don’t know anyone, let alone someone I want to get into a lot of trouble. Hmmm? Where do these thoughts come from?
Books are cheap and we bought a few, including The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama. I replaced my dead Gore Tex jacket for a pittance. I’ll know when I next get rained on if I’ve saved a fortune or wasted my money. It absolutely poured this afternoon. A real monsoon downpour. I preferred to browse a bookshop than test my jacket.
Amanda had been told by Ling that jewellery here was cheap, so she too came ready to shop and did. Speaking of cheap, how’s <$4 AUD for a bottle of nice gin?
Just time to test our gin before we headed out for dinner as a group. Third Eye was the place and there listed as the ‘house specialty’ was tandoori chicken done in a proper tandoor oven. Done well, Tandoori chicken is a personal favourite of mine. This was up there with the best ever. Nicely charred on the outside, it was moist, but fully cooked inside. Served on the bone it was perfect. Not so the cocktail I chose, which also claimed to be a ‘barman’s specialty’. I chose an Everest beer after that.

Saturday – Dashain Festival.

We knew there is a festival on. How could you not with the streets being so quiet and more than half the shops shut for the next 3 days?
Finding a place that was not only open, but showing the AFL Grand Final proved to be harder than we thought, but we succeeded. It was pretty cool to be sitting in a Kathmandu café drinking ice coffee and watching the AFL GF. The close game was a bonus.
We had different things we wanted to get done this arvo, so Amanda and I explored Thamel separately.
I went mad buying CDs and DVDs for $2 each and she bought more jewellery.
Returning to the hotel I found Amanda relaxing under an umbrella in the large manicured garden in the hotel grounds. Joining here we had a few G & T’s before getting ready and joining everyone for dinner as our last meal together as a group. The trip officially finishes tomorrow after breakfast.
Ling booked the group into a restaurant called Thamel (how original) with a ‘show’. Most of us went for the set menu that looked like a degustation list of 13 dishes for $12. Looked good on the menu, but the reality was it was two small plates with a variety of pickles and side dishes that had just all been listed separately. Regular group toasts of shots of a strong local liquor, with a few Everest beers thrown in, meant we didn’t really care. I think the ‘show’ might have been downstairs, but we never saw it. As if we hadn’t had enough to drink, we then found an open nightclub, though we were the only patrons. Mexican themed, Brett wasted no time jumping behind the bar and learning how to make mojitos. Leaving at midnight, Amanda and I got Ling safely into a taxi with us and back to the hotel where Amanda put her to bed. She’s worked hard all trip and not drank at all. Tonight she made up for it.

Tomorrow we fly to Singapore.

Posted by TheWandera 04:40 Archived in Nepal Comments (2)

Dhulikel - Nepal

A welcome relief to stay in a real resort.

Wednesday afternoon - Welcome to Nepal.

A simple room housed the visa formalities man and with a whack of his stamp we were free to explore his country, with or without pictures of the Dalai Lama as no one checked anything of our bags.
Procured on short notice, a van too small for all of us was waiting, and after loading our bags onto the roof we squashed in and drove 1km down the narrow road of Kodari lined with shops and pedestrians. One kilometre is as as far as we got before we reached a traffic jam. After sitting for 20 minutes we got out to explore and discovered that up ahead a bus had run out of fuel, as they do, and on this narrow road that blocked the traffic in both directions. One hour and a half later we were off and still had 4 hours to go to get to our accommodation in the Dhulikel Valley.
Not only has the vegetation changed and become much more lush, we had more rain tonight.
China in all their wisdom, has only one time zone for the whole country, and it’s wider than Australia, meaning that in the far east such as Beijing, it gets light early and dark early too. Here in the far west, it gets light too late and stays light until late too. Now we’ve crossed into Nepal we put our clocks back 2 hours and 15 minutes. (15 minutes? Can’t do 2 hours. That would make them the same as India to the south and THEN how would you tell the two countries apart?) This means that we arrive at what feels like 9pm but it’s apparently 6:45, but it’s been dark for over an hour.
The High View Resort is expecting us. I’m sceptical of ‘resorts’, especially in third world countries. I’ve stayed in places called X Resort that bear no resemblance to what we understand the word to mean. How pleasant to find, not only willing porters to carry our bags up the many steps that afford you the ‘high view’, but a welcome hot flannel and drink on arrival. This place knows how to guests on side from the moment they arrive.
Dinner that followed was some tasty vegetarian pakoras and wontons. It was late so that was perfect. So too was the Everest beer, brewed in Nepal, the first decent beer since I got to China.
Apart from cocktails at funky bars at the start of our trip, I’ve not drunk any spirits or wine during my time in China. The spirits were like kero; the wine was called Great Wall, but despite the efforts of two intrepid tour members - Helen and Tess - to valiantly keep trying different vintages and varietals, the BEST they managed was ‘drinkable’. As for me, I’m happy to wait until I get home for some quality Aussie wine. Until then, Everest beer will do me just fine. It says ‘limited edition’ on the label, but it celebrates 50 years of Tenzing Norgay’s climb in 2004. On enquiring of the barman, it turns out they’ve been making it for 5 years. Limited?
There was a surprise waiting for us here – Brett. We’d last heard he’d been medivacced by ambulance from Lhasa hospital to hospital in Chengu and that was the last we saw or heard of him. Down from altitude, he’d made a full and fast recovery. Travel insurance flew him to Delhi, but wouldn’t fly him to Kathmandu because it’s still high, although it’s only how many metres ASL?
While we were in Tibet and Everest, he rushed around India before flying up here (without telling his travel insurance) to surprise us and join us for the last 4 days of the trip. When you have a good group as we do, you’re sorry to lose someone. Having Brett back was a welcome surprise and we both had stories to tell.

Thursday – Day in Dhulikel.

Woke at a ‘normal’ time for our body clocks, but it was still early here. 9am reads 6:45 am. As day broke and the valley fog lifted we enjoyed the panoramic views over the valley from our private balcony. This is a nice place and a welcome change and respite from Tibet’s Spartan hotel offerings.
Taking breakfast on the rooftop terrace I chose the ‘Indian set breakfast’ as others chose ‘Continental’. As their bad tasting cornflakes went soggy in the hot milk, they eyed off my potato parathas and banana lassi and made a point to order it tomorrow.
Travelling tip – non-Western countries rarely do Western foods well. Order what they’re good at. Not only does it expose you to what others eat, it’s what they make the best as well.
Mid-morning walk with Nigel from the resort as our local guide, we first caught a local bus into the nearby village of Panauti. Not only was the bus crammed full of colourful people and chickens, the roof was too and there were goats in the boot. So glad the fare was only 5 cents.
Stopping first at a temple, we walked through the busy village past people threshing and winnowing rice in the town square, whilst others shelled soya beans by hand. Animals of all types roamed, children played and we took photos. Why is that goat looking at us from a first story window? Back at the market square, we caught another bus. Getting off in the middle of rice paddies, we walked across them and through a much more rural area. Why are there unharvested bunches of rice standing in the paddy, all tied by hand? Blown over sections of untied rice gave us our answer. About an hour into our 2 hour walk back, grey clouds covered the sky and giant raindrops hinted at the deluge to follow. I got my jacket on just in time, but others hadn’t come prepared and I felt smug as well as snug. Paths turned first to mud and then to small streams as the rain continued to fall the whole way back. Wet where I shouldn’t have been, I discovered that the Gore Tex jacket I bought for my first overseas trip 17 years ago has finally worn out and is no longer waterproof. It’s done me well for all that time.
What a nice feeling to return to a hot shower and dry clothes.
With the rest of the day free, a snacky tasty late lunch with drinks morphed into an afternoon of cards and drinking on the terrace once the rain cleared. Gin & tonic is a perfect tropical drink and Amanda and I made it our choice of the day and left others to the local ‘wine’ and beer.
Brute made a reappearance. That was the card game we played in Chengdu that simply involves placing the deck of cards on top of a wine bottle. Taking turns to blow at least one card off, the loser is the one who blows the last card off. The penalty in our game was a black dot on your face made by the twist of a burnt cork. It’s a noisy game, but out here on the hilltop there’s no one to complain.
Too many drinks and black dots later we all went downstairs for dinner.
Hill View Resort has great food and my Vegetable Kofta (balls) Curry was no exception with the Basmati rice a nice treat. It’s known as the ‘Queen of Rice’ and I agree. Long fluffy aromatic grains. MMmm!

Tomorrow we go to Kathmandu.

Posted by TheWandera 04:36 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Zangmu

Tibet's cliff-side border town with Nepal

Tuesday 22nd September – to Zangmu on the border with Nepal.

Stopped by roadworks on the cliffside path, we walked the final hour and a half to Zangmu, saved from falling rocks by the fence installed for just that reason. What a dangerous cliff-side road.

What a crazy town!
Stuck to the side of a cliff overhanging the Zangmu Valley which winds into Nepal is the Tibetan town of Zangmu. Even though it is only one street, telling you that might give you the wrong impression. It IS only one street, but it starts at the top of the valley wall and switchbacks all the way down to the gushing river and border post at the bottom. Everyone has ‘main road’ frontage AND a view of the valley. It’s so steep that some of the buildings are beginning to topple, with some empty and apparently condemned. My concern is that if they fall it will be like dominoes down the hill and, you guessed it, the place we’re staying is right at the bottom. We DO have a valley view - now, unlike those of us who got the noisy street rooms. The first room they tried to give us was a bedsit triple with no windows or furniture. Other people weren’t so lucky and got stuck with rooms that included no curtains (and windows across the street), blood-stained walls, no lock on the door and walls that had more mould than paint. We’re told the Sherpa Hotel is the best place in town, but I’m not convinced. Border towns are shite the world over because everyone only stays for one night because they have to. No one would make it a holiday destination or stay more than one night. Everyone that is except Intrepid? What were they thinking to plan for two nights here?
Looking out the window and down the valley, I can see Nepal, so close, yet tantalisingly, a world away. Looking up, there are swallows nesting under the eaves. Looking down, there is rubbish. It just gets tossed out windows and off the roof and now coats the mountainside below me. I can’t lean out the window too far, lest I catch the slops that fall past intermittently, thrown from the kitchen on the roof.
We planned dinner in the restaurant so we’d be here when our bags arrived, which they did just before we started. The Landcruisers made it through.
It then started to rain heavily.
Dinner wasn’t memorable, which at least means it wasn’t memorably bad.

Wednesday – Landslides, destruction and our early ‘escape’ from China.

I was up a few times during the night and the shared toilets got sh$ttier and sh$ttier. Why won’t they flush?
Looking forward to even a cold shower this morning, we were more than disappointed to hear that the hotel now has no water.
I spent some time before breakfast poking my zoom lens out my hotel room unsuccessfully trying to photograph the nesting swallows feeding their young and it gave me a new-found appreciation for wildlife photographers who get ‘that shot’.
It seems that our hotel is not the only victim of a sanitation-less situation and we are now told that last night’s rain caused a landslide that knocked out the town’s water supply. At least it didn’t knock out the town itself, though any other day, it might not be such a bad thing. Did I just say that?
We communicated our frustrations with this place to our guide Ling last night and she said without a natural disaster, she couldn’t change the itinerary, no matter how crap this place is. I said to her this morning, “Surely a landslide is a natural disaster?” “Can’t stay here with sewerage backing up and no water for kitchens to wash dishes with?” Doesn’t bear thinking about really. Perhaps they will rename it Zangpoo?
Nothing to do but go and eat and see what happens. A bunch of us found a lovely Nepalese place around the corner and the food we were served made us ‘hungry’ for more of Nepal. Made with black tea, milk, cardamom, ginger and sugar, the Marsala Tea was delicious and I got his recipe.
The restaurant had bags of water hanging from the ceiling like the ones you take a fish home from the shop in. We discussed what they might be for and I suggested that maybe it was instead of sprinklers in the case of fire. I was being kinda silly, but we asked the owner and he said, “For fire.” We’re still not sure if he stands there and pops them with a blow dart or if the flames are meant to touch the bag and release the water, by which time it’s too late. If the flames are so big they’re touching the ceiling a few hundred millilitres of water is useless.
Just then, Ling came in smiling, so we knew she wasn’t bearing bad news.
The good news? She’s been in contact with Intrepid HO and we can PO.
We’ve moved our itinerary for the last 4 days forward one day and will now leave this afternoon at 3pm and have 2 nights in Kathmandu instead of 1. YAY! (This is extra-good for Amanda and I because we were only going to have 24 hours in Kathmandu otherwise and I might even have missed the AFL Grand Final.)
Happy with the news, we went off to explore Zangmu. At least you don’t need a map in a one street town! The only trouble with the one street is that it is actually the main and only road linking Nepal with Tibet, so everyone uses it. This might not sound too bad until you put long trucks on narrow roads with hairpin switchbacks. Much forwards and reversing later, they negotiate just one of many such bends with traffic building up behind.
This would now be my last day in China and my last chance to acquire “Mops of China” photos for you. I was in luck. With all the rain they get, it seems this place does a lot of mopping and they come in all shapes and sizes and they love to hang them in public. I got some great photos to share.
Not had internet for awhile (this town had to have one redeeming feature) so took the chance to keep in touch and post a blog.
Back to hotel to pack my bags before returning to the same Nepalese restaurant for lunch before departing. What a tasty lunch. Amanda & I met up with Keith & Tess and all 4 of us ordered the Nepalese Vegetarian Set. SO TASTY. I’ve not had meat for quite a few days now, but I don’t miss it. Sure, it’s available, but just like buying seafood away from a coastline, it’s not always the best option. Our lunch today was classic example of that. It was a delicious introduction to Nepal, a country we shall be in, in just a few hours if all goes well.
That traffic I described above, continued the short distance to the border and it seemed to take forever to get the loaded Landcruisers that last little distance. Eventually we just grabbed our bags and walked to the border post, located on the Friendship Bridge with Nepal. That’s a misnomer. Getting OUT of the country was not going to be easy.
Among many things, China forbids; pictures of the 14th Dalai Lama (currently in exile in India), Tibetan flags, and of course else anything inflammatory and NO! I don’t mean hydrocarbons or firecrackers. To this extent they took much time in examining the contents of everybody’s bags in minute detail, including perusing my address book, souvenirs, and other random stuff in my big backpack.
I was concerned because I was reading Michael Palin’s Himalaya and there’s a lovely full-colour photo of him meeting the Dalai Lama. Current reading, I’d put the book at the bottom of my day pack, hoping they wouldn’t find it. I popped it by my feet out of sight whilst he delved through my bag. With a big smile, I helped him squash everything back into my bag and walked off without presenting my bag of contraband. Passport control followed and I was free…almost. Walking across the Friendship Bridge you are greeted with something I’ve never seen before on a bridge border, and I’ve seen a few. A red (of course) line in the middle of the bridge drew a literal line between the two countries, though you didn’t need a line to see the difference. On the Tibetan (Chinese) side were armed and tense soldiers, grey buildings and solemn faces, whilst the Nepalese side welcomed us with casual soldiers without guns, colourful if somewhat dilapidated buildings and happy faces. What a contrast.
We’re all quite happy to be leaving China/Tibet. I’m sick of being ‘controlled’ by the state in what I can say, what media I choose to access and even the books I choose to read.

Confucius says – Girl who work as legal secretary probably called Sue Wing.

Posted by TheWandera 04:31 Comments (0)

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