Diary date : 6th August -2010
Long Bus ride back to Medan and then …
fly to Hong Kong.
After a few days wait for Chinese Visas we hop a train to China, never really meant to come here but permits for Tibet are longer if you come via China. A few pleasant few days beside the Li River amongst amazing limestone scenery is our 1st experience of China and its friendly people.
Even here beside meandering rivers we found ways to endanger our lives, watching climbers ascend a huge limestone arch we realize the sunset view from the top would be awesome!
Next day we return and clamber up the ridge of the arch, high above the climbers we reach the peek of the arch. A very unsettling feeling being up so high and knowing that under the tons of rock beneath your feet is a lot of air! Still the view was awesome and we survived.
Food is interesting here and cafe’s like ” Dog Meat Restaurant” are not to a vegetarians liking. Mary refused to enter the meat market and we wandered the many alley ways looking for something we recognized as food.
A boat trip up river took as through the famous scenery on the Chinese currency, on small sand banks in the middle of the picturesque river entrepreneurial Chinese attempted to sell us every bit of junk made in China.
Renting a moped and heading down back lanes was a lovely escape from the touristy downtown area, maneuvering along the river side on narrow path ways and meeting large water buffalo’s are sure good memories. Caving is a must here and a small boat takes you deep underground to large mud ponds where even the most elegant tourist’s cannot resist the urge to get slimed in soft fine red mud.
Removing the mud proves much harder and days later we still find traces of China. A short bus ride to the Quilin, by far the most dangerous thing we have done yet in our travels, Chinese drivers are reckless to the extreme! Then on to a smaller bus to Long Ji. High up in the hills are the most lovely sculpted rice terraces and cultural people that remind us of the Tibetians we met high in the Himalayas of India. So peaceful and lush, not anything like the China I thought we would find.
Trains are hard to book and there is no central system, you can only book a train from the station and our village has no station. We end up on a sleeper train to Chengdu, some 2 days or so from the Li River. A late evening train through a lovely sunset was a great start but our hopes in the morning for a view of the Chinese country side were short lived. Limestone mountains are every where and we spend at least 50% or more in dark wet tunnels for most of the journey to Chengdu! Chengdu was larger and even cleaner if thats possible than other places we have been in China. I watched in awe as major highways were swept clean using small hand brushes! China certainly has built an impressive infrastructure of roads and bridges, pity most cannot afford the road tolls or the cars to use them. We stayed in Simms Cozy Garden which was a model of efficiency and friendliness. Our prior plans for our Tibetan tour were re hashed and ended up being a 16 day trip into Tibet and on through to Nepal in the south. We posted a notice on the hotel notice board looking for 2 others to share our self planned trip. While waiting for travel buddies to share costs we went to see the Giant Panda center about 10km away. Package tours drive me nuts and this one day trip was no exception, I escaped the group ASAP and at the end when they climbed on the bus I escaped back into the zoo for more Panda adventures! The Pandas were lovely gentle giants that loved to play. We saw three-day old Pandas in the hospital wing and about 20 others in semi natural settings with lots of room to wander around. Just before catching the local bus back to town I found a lake with black swans and what had to be millions of colorful carp which were being fed by local kids.
Small relative of the bear family, fast asleep!
Fall in and your a goner..
Later we joined our new found Tibet travel friends, Larissa (Park ranger in Denali Nat park) and Shane (helicopter pilot for park service), and headed out to the Chinese opera. A wonderful evening full of dance, puppets and amazing face mask that change in a snap of a second.
We wandered through town the next day and ended up at an old Buddhist temple. Just after sunset we watched as Chinese people burnt money as an offering for good fortune, Seems like many old beliefs are still strong in this fast changing country.
Simms were struggling to get the final Tibetan permits but they came good the night before our train was due to leave! Tomorrow Tibet ! The land of snow and Tintin’s famous adventures. I must admit that my desire to travel is largely due to Tintin books! See you in Tibet.
Matt and Mary
Simply lovely… I wonder how things will change in the upcoming years now that the country folk can see how well the city folk are doing.