Friday, May 18, 2007

okay, okay, i'm shitty at this. i was really hateful on certain people who failed to update their blogs at all while travelling, and now i'm doing the same thing. in my defense, its hard to get to a computer on the road, and when you do, you're too tired to think about writing a whole blog entry. well, i'm paying for that now. so where did i leave off? i'm too lazy to check, so i'll say that it was right after i saw spiderman 3 in chinese, which i was very proud to understand most of. from there, we travelled for a day and a half south to get to laos, where we spent a lovely afternoon. i wasn't really in favor of taking this excursion, which was a lot of hassle for only a small payoff, but it was cool to see laos, which is amazingly beautiful. and which, surprisingly, looked very different from the chinese farmland right across the border. i didn't think it would, but all of a sudden, as we passed through the border (which is extremely easy to do, you can get a visa there, although the officials gypped us our our change), it was clear we were in a different place. it was nice, kind of hot, we rode bikes through a bunch of farms to get to the big sight of the town luang namtha, a waterfall, and were profoundly disappointed. but the ride made it worth while. um, so then we headed back, spent another day in jinghong, the capital of xishuangbanna, and then flew to dali. when we got to dali, which is an incredibly cute town, we were greeted with rain showers that continued for two days, at which point we checked the internet and discovered that they would last for another five. this was quite a duller on our plan to spend the next 10 days travelling north to zhongdian through lijiang and tiger leaping gorge. actually, zhongdian has been renamed shangri-la as china's attempt to cash in on the legend, and chinese people actually all call it "shan ga li la." so thinking quickly, we decided to reroute our plans to head to chengdu, and check out some of the sights there. we took a bus back to kunming, then took an overnight train to chengdu. after an afternoon spent walking around the city, we booked our spots in a chinese tour to jiuzhaigou, a nature reserve famed for the aqua-colored water in its lakes. the chinese tour was a hoot, filled with old grandmas who took care of us like they were our own, and 6 or 7 stops at stores where we were urged to buy everything from chinese medicine to items made from yak's horns. jiuzhaigou was pretty cool, although it had, like most nature sites in china, a staircase leading through the whole place, through which you trudged in line with hundreds of chinese people, sort of like waiting on line in disneyworld.
so the big thing that happened was that, after 15 days of travelling, dandan and i finally totally totally lost our cool at each other, and today we have split ways. to me it seemed sort of inevitable, i was super nervous at the thought of travelling for a month with someone, when i've never really travelled for more than 10 days at all, and i know i'm not an easy person to travel with. when i saw that things were starting to fall apart, i made my own plans for tibet, which i was able to do because dandan told me that she was rethinking making the trip because she was really worried about altitude and because she didn't want to spend so much money because she just bought a macbook. since i was thinking i'd have to cancel that part of the trip anyway because making your way through tibet with someone you're hardly talking to is not my idea of a good time, i was glad to find that a friend from abroad was planning a trip there at the same time. i do feel really bad about the way that things turned out, but at the same time i think the only way not to go crazy when you're travelling with someone for a long time is to reserve the right to separate if you need to. also, i've learned a ton about the differences between chinese and americans, and maybe i've gotten a clue as to why no one else i know has ever travelled with a chinese person. the biggest problem, i guess, is that they get very very offended at things, things that for me are just part of the give and take of travelling. although today dandan told me that when i said "it sucks to be you" our friendship was over forever, i'm hoping that after a month or so she'll have chilled out a bit about it. i thought it was a pretty impressive fight too, with moments like dandan exclaiming, "here's your 'freedom'!" as she slammed the window shades shut. i dunno, after almost a month of travelling, its hard to take these things seriously. not so for her. well dandan, wherever you are out there, i hope you're having a good time.

Friday, May 04, 2007

hey, just thought i'd do a quick update cuz i might not be able to access the internet for a few days. so you last left me in bangkok, where i had a few days to kill by myself. i did all the rest of the touristy stuff, including a tour of the king's mansion from the turn of the century, where i learned the reason that people all over the city were wearing these yellow collared shirts that made me think they were all the staff of some large golf club. well heidi had already told me that they were to honor the king, but i found out that each day in thailand has a color, and since this king was born on a monday, yellow is his color. so every monday, half the country wears these ugly yellow shirts. crazy, huh? also, the king had a set of porcelain from china that was white, but turned black if there was poison in his food. um, from there i flew to kunming, yunnan, where i met up with a friend of mine who is living there. also, it was at this point in the trip that i met up with dandan, who flew in from beijing with another coworker of ours. he took us to his aunt and uncle's house, where we were barraged for an hour with advice about travelling in yunnan. then, it was really weird. we thought they were taking us out for a nice yunnanese dinner. they took us to a local place that served over-the-bridge noodles, a kunming specialty. but then, they paid for us and just left without saying goodbye! they didn't even eat with us! maybe its a southern chinese thing.
we decided that kunming didn't have much to tempt us, and if we wanted to do all of the cool things shushu and ayi had told us about, we should hit the road. so today, we took an all-day bus to xishuangbanna, in the very south of yunnan. travelling was a pain, but it was so exciting to get down here, its amazingly beautiful and i think we're going to get to see some cool chinese minority towns. it's going to be a pretty whirlwind trip, as we realized that to fit everything in we're not going to have much downtime, but i think it'll be worth it. i'll sleep when i'm in nyc.