Tuesday, September 25, 2007

its been a few days since my last update, and i bet you're wondering about all the fun things i've been up to. unfortunately, clumsy yutz that i am, i cut my toe on my first morning in hanoi and i've spent the past three days waiting for it to get better. well, the first day i was still kind of walking around, but i've had to scale back any activity because that was only making it worse. so i've been mostly confined to the hostel, which is making me a bit stir crazy. it could definitely be worse though, there are always people coming and going so i haven't been stuck by my lonesome the whole time. i even got to watch apocalypse now today, so i feel like i've been through the whole of vietnam on a boat. i'll let you know when i'm not a cripple anymore (or when i have to get my toe cut off, either way it'll make a good blog entry).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

i'm in vietnam! getting here was kind of a pain. from yangshuo, i went back to guilin (and no one tried to rob me again, so i ran into a kid who said the exact same thing had happened to him). from there, i took a five hour train to nanning. i was a little scared of nanning, but this was entirely because they are famous for dog hotpot and have a dog district. oh also because my hotel looked like a mental hospital. it was all okay though. i tried to buy a straight bus ticket from nanning to hanoi, but found that i didn't have enough money because of the hotel deposit. i tried to get more from the bank, but it wouldn't let me take any, something i'm hoping is not repeated here.
so i bought a ticket for the border, the friendship pass, and hoped that i could figure out the rest. lonely planet recommends doing that, so i figured it'd be fine. i got there, and we tried to take the caddy to the border, when the driver was like, "what are you doing, you dont have the pass" that they gave the people with tickets all the way to hanoi. apparently you can't just walk over, as lonely planet made it sound.
luckily there were two vietnamese people who were doing the same thing as me, so i tagged along as they found a woman selling but tickets to hanoi. we crossed through the border with not much trouble, and then hit the four hour bus to hanoi. i was a little worried about my plans for hanoi, because i couldn't buy a guide book in china, so all i had was an address for an international youth hostel.
when i got off the bus, i was freaked because i had no idea where we were in the city, and i wasn't sure what methods people used to travel around. and i didn't know how much anything should cost. and it was getting dark. but luckily i had my new vietnamese friends to ask. they told a motorcycle taxi the address i was going to, and asked the price, and then i was off! it had been a while since i rode on the back of a motorcycle, and i was scared that i'd fall off of that someone would grab my stuff off me at a traffic light, but none of that happened, and i arrived at the international youth hostel safe and sound.
from there, i knew everything would be fine. especially because the guy who runs it is a white guy, something i've never gotten at a hostel before. and they've got maps, and i met an australian girl who lent me her lonely planet. so i'm gonna chill in hanoi for a bit to figure out what my next step should be. i'm in no hurry, and i'm enjoying being in a big tourist city.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

its the fifth day of my travels, so i thought i'd try to jot down some of my thoughts so far, to avoid having those massive laundry list entries like i did last time i traveled. i keep thinking it'll be easier to update more often since i'm travelling alone, but something always gets in the way. or whatever, i'm lazy. anyway, the first city i visited was guilin. it was pretty, though as with all chinese tourist sights, overdeveloped and overcrowded. i was pissed at having to spend 50 kuai (six dollars) to climb to the top of one of the city's famed hills, especially because the view it yielded was simply on the unatractive city of guilin, and because the lonely planet said it would only be 15 kuai! i'm trying to stick to international youth hostels as much as i can on this trip, because i've found that their cleanliness is unmatched by other hostels or cheap hotels. guilin flowers international youth hostel, my first stop, was very nice and i would recommend it to travellers. i was especially happy that the beds were really comfortable, as the international youth hostel i stayed in in qingdao had rock hard mattresses.
my second morning in guilin, i went to see the reed flute cave, which had crazy cool stalactites and stalagmites, though the chinese did cheesify it by adding neon lights. i was also disappointed that i had to go on a chinese tour, not being allowed to wander the cave by myself. listening to the tour, i was sad to hear that it consisted of the tour guide pointing to different formations and saying, "look- broccoli! look- a snowman!" even though i wouldn't have understood it, i wish they could have explained more of the science of it, as having just watched planet earth "caves", i've realized that caves are some cool shit. if not that, i also would have hoped they could talk about the history of the caves. for instance, my lonely planet said that during WWII, more than 1,000 people were kept in the cave, which was used as a bomb shelter. we were right behind an english tour group, which i think had been privately hired, and i heard a tantalizing bit about how they had enough food inside to live for a month without leaving. oh well, i guess i'll read up on it sometime.
from there, it was on to the backpacker town of yangshuo, which reminds me of dali. i like the feel of backpacker towns, the western food offerings, and the shops with really nice souvenirs. i know i should prefer a more authentic experience, but i haven't made it to a tiny farming town, and anywhere where there are more chinese people always looks like the same overdeveloped mess full of grocery stores, like guilin. plus the nature in yangshuo is unbelievable. oh, and on the bus ride over, i was looking out the window enjoying the scenery, when i noticed the guy sitting behind me had opened my bag and was trying to steal stuff. luckily i caught him before he got anything. it was weird though, i didn't really know what i should do about it once i'd caught him. nothing was missing, so i couldn't make him give anything back. i didn't know if it was the chinese way to shout that there was a thief on the bus. so i just gave him a dirty look. i shoulda punched him in the face.
my youth hostel in yangshuo is okay, clean and nice and everything, but there's one major problem- the mattresses are essentially just wood. i stole some blankets from the other beds to sleep on, but it didn't help that much. it's too bad, because otherwise i would have given it my full recommendation. also while here, i met an english guy the same age as me, who has been travelling around south america and asia. it was nice to have some companionship, especially because he showed me the path to bike along the yulong river, which was incredibly beautiful but where i know i would have gotten hopelessly lost. plus its nice to have someone to complain to when you're getting tired. hopefully i'll keep meeting nice people along my trip, because it is much more fun traveling when you've got someone to enjoy things with.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

so yesterday i got a call from a friend of mine with whom i studied abroad, asking if i was interested in being on a CCTV 9 program with Da Shan. for those of you not in the know, Da Shan is probably the most famous foreigner in china, a canadian with an incredible fluency in chinese. for a few minutes i enjoyed the fantasy of becoming a celebrity in china, being recognized wherever i went (though my friend told me the pay wouldn't be much, so i wouldn't actually be living like a celebrity). but anyway, i knew i couldn't do it. i feel like every time i'm planning on leaving china, something like this comes up that seems like it could be a really interesting opportunity, but in the long run i think i should just stick with my plans. i'm getting excited about travelling; i'm all packed up and i know the first hostel i am going to stay at. i'm also getting nervous, but i think that's natural for my first travel alone.
also, i just bought the Planet Earth series, and to anyone who hasn't seen it-- you must! it is sooo good.

Monday, September 10, 2007

hey readers, wow, sorry for being such a blog flake. to my defense, we didn't figure out the internet in the apartment for a while, and blogging at a cafe just didn't feel right. yesterday also marked the conclusion of a 3 and 1/2 week visit from mariel, another good reason why blogging wasn't my top priority. anyway, mariel's visit made being back here not too bad, though i really feel ready to go back to the states. its just been long enough over here, especially since i'm not even trying to find a job, and the city of beijing no longer holds much excitement for me, so mostly i just watch movies. but next week i'm leaving to go traveling for a while, so that should be exciting. i figured seen i've been to thailand and laos, i should get vietnam in their too. also this will be my first time traveling alone, so we'll see how long before i go crazy. i'm going through some pretty heavy backpacker areas, so hopefully i'll make some friends along the way.
oh also, i wanted to write about the international beer festival that mariel and i went to in qingdao. it was super fun, though i think they should have left the word international out of it (even though they did have some german beer) because it was the most chinese beer festival i can imagine. each brand of beer had a tent, full of drunk shirtless chinese men, with some kind of performance on a small stage in front. these included singers, sexy dancers who borderlined on being strippers, a guy who hung a fire extinguisher from his eyelid, a woman who could support large drunk chinese men in a big jar using only her legs. suffice to say that we had an awesome time. the only downside was that there were all these awesome looking rides, but they cost a ton of money. we wanted to go on one of those giant revolving swing sets, but it cost 5 bucks for one time! hell no, more expensive than america. um, but yeah, getting drunk and enjoying all of the ridiculousness was fun. can't think of anything else i wanted to write about, so peace out from unemployedsville. population, one.