IndyJunior © Bryan Boyer

Sunday, April 30, 2006

North Face Baby....

After our experience in Zhongdian with the cold weather, we thought Lhasa would be even colder, so right after we arrived and dropped off our stuff, we went out to look for thicker jackets.

There are a ton of outfitter stores on the main street (Beijing St.) here in Lhasa and we went in to a lot of them. Columbia, North Face, Sierra Designs, Lowe Alpine, Mountain Hardware....all the good stuff! We started trying on jackets and such and the first price we got for a Titanium Columbia ski jacket was 180 Yuan! That's right baby....180 Yuan or $25 CDN!

We went through a few a decided that we should get something we would never get back home. What better brand to look for than North Face! And poofy jackets too!

We found a shop with some Gortex, 700 weight poly fill, blah blah blah jackets with hoods. And at a whopping 260 Yuan per jacket! "Tai Gui La" we screamed!

The lady who was helping us whipped out her trusty calculator, kept telling us it was a good jacket and asked us to punch in what we would pay.

3 - 5 - 0

No no no was her exasperated answer! She continued with 500...

Synchronized head turning from me and Jenni ensued...

Thinking we low balled her...we went to 400, she went to 490, we went to 410...she stayed at 490, and as a stupid mistake on my part, I punched in 210 per jacket. We said that was it. She said no...we started to walk out...(I knew this was coming) she called us back in and said ok!

So, we are now proud owners of two Gortex North Face poofy jackets for a whopping $30 CDN each! I just hope they hold up for the next 2 weeks.

Oh...and they match too! hahahaha!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Dancing Town

This post is out of order but while in Zhongdian, everynight in the main square of the old town, huge masses of people, old and young, come out to dance. It started around 6:30 or 7:00 pm and was still going when we left at 9:15 pm!

It was so amazing to see so many people, all co-ordinated to the music. There were many different dances and it seemed they knew them all.

Besides being great after dinner exercise, this was a great way to get the community together, teach these traditional dances to the young and to just have a great time. It's too bad something like this could never happen in Toronto. It would be really cool....

Various Videos

I kinda wished we did buy a mini-dv recorder for this trip. There have been quite a few occasions where we ended up taking crappy 320 x 120 video off my camera. At any rate...hope you can get a few good laughs out of some of them...

Driving in China...I couldn't get the full effect of the driving style and pedestrian style here but it's a glimpse into it anyways. Taken in Dongguan, Guangdong.

A 22 hour train ride...This was a quick shot of us (ok mostly me!) 2 hours into our 22 hour train ride from Guilin to Kunming. ;)

Dali Beer Barley - In the Beginning...Here's a video of how the locals used whatever was passing by to help separate the barley from the stalk. Keep in mind that horse drawn carts can come by and I don't need to tell you what horses like to do anywhere, anytime right? :)

Killer and Trouble...Our little friends in Lijiang. The white one was the bugger that pee'd on our floor mat, hence the new name of Trouble!

The making of My Naxi Wife...Here's Jenni getting shown up by the local Naxi elders. But at least she had the guts to do it. Not like me!

It wasn't technically hitchhiking...Ok, so instead of the real bus, we took a mini-van from TLG to Zhongdian. We were a bit worried....but we did make it...

A view of Yangshuo...Some footage of all the limestone peaks in the area...very nice.

Serenade...Ok, it wasn't for us...but that doesn't mean I couldn't take a hidden video of it! :P I'm not sure I would have paid for it...would you?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Looks can be deceiving...especially in China!

We have stayed in 3 different places so far here in Zhongdian for a few different reasons. Our first place (Kevin's Trekker Inn) was a very nice guesthouse. No doubles with bath but the shared washrooms and showers were very clean and there was lots of hot water. But, since we were coming off our Tiger Leaping Gorge trek, we though (ok, I thought) it would be nice to have a double to ourselves where we can relax.

We saw a place (Himalayian Inn) which looked amazing! And for 10 Yuan more, we had our own nice washroom. So the next day we checked in to this one. Bad for us that we didn't check it out more clearly. As we went around turning stuff on, we found:

1. The TV was just an ornament as there was no co-axial cable connecting it.
2. Our reading light by the bed was also an ornament as there was no light bulb in it. We thought about stealing a hall light bulb but decided against it.
3. We turned on the tap and a trickle came out (cold).
4. We turned on the tap and nothing came out (hot).
5. The nice shower guessed it, ornament! Barely worked.

We thought, ok, maybe the hot water and pressure will come on later. Nope. Next morning we were greated with a toilet that wouldn't flush! Nice. At least we were able to take the crappy shower head, turn on the trickle of cold water to fill that tank in the toilet so we could at least flush! :)

Our next attempt is where we are currently (Barley Wine Inn). Yes, it's perfect for me, unfortunately, I haven't tried any of it yet! ;)

So, we have an electric blanket, a double bed, lots of hot water, lights and a very "fragrant" washroom. The lesser of all the other evils I guess!

It's COLD in dem thar hills!

I will have to admit that we weren't quite prepared for the weather here in Zhongdian. When packing for this trip we figured we would hit mostly late spring weather (15-20 degrees) in the beginning and it would warm up significantly as we went.

Well, looks like we have been moving a little faster than we thought. Zhongdian has really nice weather when the sun is out! It's nice and hot, and you definitely need sunscreen. But the crazy thing is that if you were to go into the shade, you'd need a jacket at least because it's that much cooler. Someone mentioned to us that for every 100 m increase in altitude, temperature decreases 1 degree C. So true...

Unfortunately for us, it's been more cloudy than sunny in our 5 nights here. Temps have been around 10 degrees or less. We've both bought some new clothes (me a set of thermals and J a new fleece jacket) which we wear all day.

I've mentioned before that there is no such thing as central heating (or heating in general I guess) here so the nights are frigid! Thank God our room came with an electric blanket. It definitely makes the nights bearable!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I faced my fear (again) and it kicked my butt for 3 days straight!

Lonely Planet says this about the Tiger Leaping Gorge (TLG).

"After making its first turn at Shigu, the mighty Yangzi River surges between Haba Shan and Yulong Xueshan, through one of the deepest gorges in the world. The entire gorge measures 16 km, and it's a giddy 3900 m from the waters to the snowcapped mountaintops....the hike through the gorge has gone from obscure adventure to the can't miss experience of nothern Yunnan"

After reading this, who can resist. We decided we needed to see this natural wonder. After trying to get information in Lijiang and Dali on how bad the high trail would be we thought, well, we can decide if we want to do it or go in on the low trail.

Getting to TLG was really easy. We stayed just inside the park gate one night and decided what to bring in with us for a 2 or 3 day trip.

With minimal stuff and our packs stored at the hostel, we were off. My GPS reading at the hostel was around 2000 m.

The start of the trail is very nice. You slowly walk through some terraced farm land and there are locals there with their donkeys which try to get you to ride and they'll take you through the high trail. We kept telling this guy we didn't want to but he followed us for quite a while. I think they did this just to make sure we didn't get lost. We had met some people who got lost for 6 hours on the trail! Luckily for us I guess.

It's hard to say exactly when I started to freak out but I'm sure it was around the first time I had to go around the outside of the hill. It's ok on the inside, there's usually no steep drops, but when you come around the outside, it's straight down!

After a couple of these I was pretty much freaking out. And we haven't even gotten to a place called 28 bends. 28 switchbacks practically straight up the mountain to 2600 m, then another damned outside bend! I didn't even bother to get a picture I was so scared! Jenni may have one...

Our first stop for the night was in a village in the mountain. Beautiful place. And we ended up staying in a room on stilts. Great right!

View was amazing though even I must admit.

Next day was better and we decided that Ian has had enough stress so we took the road back down to the low trail. More switchbacks...but at least the road was wide! Sigh....

Once on the low trail we though it would be easy, but we had to worry about landslides. We heard little rocks falling from above and ended up running across this damned area. Bad news is we would have to come out again this way by car.

A better walk into Walnut Garden and we were done for our second day. Sat on the patio and listened to other trekkers stories about the rest of the trail and lived vicariously through them! :)

Here's a video of part of the ride out . There was real fear and terror in my eyes. Maybe not Jenni's.

In the end we did make it out and I almost kissed the ground!

On to Everest Base Camp trek next! ;)

Monday, April 17, 2006

I married a Naxi woman???

We took a bike trip out to Baisha, about 9 km north of Lijiang to check out a local Naxi village. The bike trip out itself was really nice since we were heading directly for Yuelong Shan (Snow Mountain). Once inside Baisha, a local Naxi elder came up to us with a book of quotes from people who visited her house. Apparently she gave tea and peanuts and could use her toilet (Not sure if I would have though. On second thought I should have taken a picture of it!).

Of course J and I were a bit skeptical of getting ripped off or worse (robbed). But after reading a bunch of entries in her book, it looked like a lot of people did it. So away we went after agreeing to a 5 yuan (we thought for both but later turned out to be for each of us...) payment after.

Once was so funny...there's this old lady rummaging through a big cardboard box...and after a bit, she comes out with two plates. One with peanuts and one with sunflower seeds...really amusing!

Next she pulls out all this clothes and proceeds to dress Jenni up! HILARIOUS!

We knew her only as Mama since we forgot to ask what her name was.

She was a very interesting old lady. You have an elder you wouldn't think would know a lot about technology, but she was able to grab my camera and take the picture of us.

Personally, we think she has a great deal going. Such a smart lady. We read that in Naxi culture the woman is the boss. And apparently they can have as many men as they want and if they were to get divorced, they get everything! Hmmm... not sure I like that idea!

Friday, April 14, 2006

A collection of pictures....

Need a toothpick?

Touts harrassing poor Eric!

We'd like the bus boy in oyster sauce please!

Going fishing...

Who says trees aren't alive...

Feeding Frenzy...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The making of Dali Beer!

I continue to be amazed at how the Chinese have come to do certain things. You've read about the Christmas lights. Well, we took a trip around Erhai Hu (Lake) and came across all this barley thrown across the roads. The cars just go right over them and we were wondering what the heck? After asking our tour guide, he said that is how they separate the barley from the stalks! Amazing! And this particular barley was going to be made into Dali Beer (Watch out for a future blog on Dali Beer of which I've had my fill). Who would have thought about free labour (cars, horse carriages, us...) to do this. It was so interesting to see.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Yes, I've confirmed I am still scared of heights!

We're now in Old Dali city in Yunnan province. The entire south west area is covered with lots of mountain ranges over 4000m. Dali itself is at 2000m above sea level.

We decided to go up the local mountains where there is an 11km walk from Zonghe Shan to Gantong Shan. The path itself is very well made, nice and wide with stone tiling. Unfortunately, it's on the cliff faces of all these mountains and there must have been a 300m drop if I were to have looked over the edge (I'll take Jenni's word for it!).

The walk was 4 hours long and I think I was slowly going crazy for about 3.5 of them. It was amazing views, amazing heights, and very beautiful! And it's just the beginning. Sigh...I'm wondering what the hell I got myself into. But it must be done! So suck it up right?!?

Check out some of the pics...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I was wondering how those terraced rice fields got their water. After taking a walk through them in Longsheng, you can see bamboo halves running between terraces. The water also trickles down the terraces through troughes cut into the ground. Great Engineering work. And to think these were made over 600 years ago!

Crotchless pants aren't just for adults!

It would seem that diapers are not available here in China. Probably better since the population is so large, there would not be enough space to throw them away. Anyways, almost all the kids have slits down the center of their pants and whenever they need to go, they go. Right in the street, while walking (and spraying everyone at the same time), where ever. You see a lot of kids squatting in the middle of the street doing No. 1. I haven't actuall seen a No. 2 yet, but I think Jenni saw one the other day.

Quite amusing I think.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I'm back in Toronto....

Psyche! Just kidding. For the last couple of days, I did think we were in Toronto again. We were in Kunming (N24.96, E102.66) and it's a city of about 3.5 million. We stayed near the downtown and there were skyscrapers everywhere, all the brand name stores. It was kind of crazy. We didn't take in any of the tourist sights but there were still some interesting experiences.

1. Tried ordering noodles and a local place. Got the wrong ticket (you pay first then go to a window with your ticket) went back, pointed and grunted, got the right one, had the person making the dish yell at us, had no clue what she was saying, finally got something, ate it and it was DELICIOUS! No idea what it was though.

2. Found the "Old" part of Kunming, was taking pictures to show old buildings to new, when I looked behind me, there were about 4 teens right at our backs (up to no good said my senses). Decided to leave then.

3. Found another "Old" part of Kunming and was taking a walk through to look at the houses and stuff and some guy comes up and starts yelling at us to leave (at least that's what I think). Really wish I knew what he was saying.

4. Started to not like the "Old" parts so much. :)

5. Yunnan has some damned spicy food! Can't wait for Sichuan. Don't think my Zantac is going to last.

6. Could have sworn our dorm room became a DVD pirating operation. 4 people (who spoke French) moved in and when we got back to our dorm, there were DVD's all over the floor. They were busy stuffing them into CD wallets and then wrapping their clothes around them....hmmm shady....

7. I budded in line for the first time! Although it was kinda weak, there was only one other lady who was buying bread and she started asking the person behind the counter but right away I said I wanted this and that cake and away we went! hahaha....

Overall, great to see what it was like, but happy to be on our way.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

It's HOW long from Guilin to Kunming?

Yes, 22 hours! Not 2.2, not .22 but 22! Almost a full day to be spent in a little car, crammed in with God knows how many other people.

We thought the "hard sleepers" would be an ok choice for this length of trip. There is the option of a "soft sleeper" but it's about twice as much as the hard. Of course after walking through the soft sleeper car, we almost, almost said we would do that next time. But we need to save money and that luxury is out. I can't begin to imagine how the people felt in the hard seats on this ride! There were quite a few of them.

The car was full, but once it filled up, Jenni and I went over to the little tables beside the window across from the beds. We must have sat there for quite a while, and it wasn't too bad because we could open the window (because the hard sleepers don't have AC) and take in the nice warm breeze! Had our instant cup o noodles for dinner (more was 15 Yuan for a dinner on board!) then pretty much went up in to our beds for the rest of the night.

Surprisingly the night went fast, for me at least and at 5 am we're up and getting our stuff together.

Overall, it was a great experience, although I'm in no rush to do it over again any time soon...

You're from Canada? But you look Chinese!

Jenni has already mentioned this quickly in her blog. We heard this a couple of times in Guilin. Yes, we are Chinese, Yes, we are from Canada, Yes, we can't speak Mandarin worth anything! :)

Pointing, hand gestures, and feeble body language will have to do. It's gotten us food, bus and train tickets and a couple hours in an internet cafe so far!

I'm kind of giving up on the hope I will learn any sort of Mandarin while here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Made in China...

As a side note to Jenni's blog about Fuli Town, we saw something pretty interesting.

Everyone knows almost everything is made here in China. But when I think about that, I picture huge factories, people sitting at work stations, conveyor belts and the like. Well, we were walking through a small street and we can see people sitting in the doorways. I looked at one old lady probably in her 70's or 80's hunched over 2 little dishes in her lap. I noticed that on 1 dish, there were glass cylinders and in the other dish, there were green cylinders.

I did a double take and saw that they were the little Christmas lights you buy from Noma and stuff. I thought it was absolutely hilarious that "she" and others in that town I'm sure, was the factory!

Made in China alright!

Responses to comments

So since I can't see my blog I thought I'd respond to some of the comments posted in some previous posts....

For Muddy Feets:

I have actually been debating whether or not I want to do this coffee table book. We'll see. I haven't seen too much in the way of interesting photo opportunities! ;) Although Jenni had a chance at a good one.

As of now, we have been quite spoiled, every place so far has had a western toilet except for the one in Guangzhou.

Also, I wasn't so sure if anyone cared to hear about me squatting! Hahahah....gross!

For Shantou to Guangzhou:

Oh crap! That is a double chin....I gotta stop drinking so much beer!

For mmmmmm Beer!:

That is an excellent idea! I will try to get a contact at the brewery! I'd buy that stock for sure! :)

Thanks for all the comments everyone. Keep em coming. I'm sure at some point I'll be able to respond in the blog itself....

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Muddy Feets

Mmmmmm Beer!

You knew this was coming. I have to do a Beer blog...what has Ian had so far?

Check it out.

Heineken in Hong Kong (? HDK): Not as good as in Canada. Not sure why.

Huiquan Beer (2.50 HKD): No good. Watery and Bitter.

Singha (? HKD): Nice. Easy to drink and smooth.

Zhujiang Beer (2.90 HKD): Not bad considering the price.

Guang's Pineapple Beer (1.50 Yuan): Like pineapple juice. Almost no alcohol. Not enough really. :)

Yanjing Beer (1.5 Yuan): Not bad. Taste is a bit watery but ok.

Pabst Blue Ribbon (1.50 Yuan): Don't bother!

Liquan (5 Yuan): Ding ding ding...we have a winner!!!! Brewed here near Guilin (I assume cause it's everywhere!) this beer is super easy to drink, no after taste or bitterness! I've had nothing but this beer since arriving in Yangshuo! $0.75 CDN for a 600 ml bottle! SWEET! :P

Let me know if this post looks weird. I still can't see my blog....