Monday, March 26, 2007

On the highway there's a million ways if you want to disappear

Due to technical difficulties...

After arriving in China I discovered I couldn't log onto blogspot and combined with a nasty bout of the flu, it seemed like a good reason to stay away from computers. Anyhow, by some miracle of the internets, I can't see my blog but can log in and post stuff now which I couldn't do last week. Brilliant but be warned, I doubt that there will be many, if any, updates until we reach England at the beginning of May so things may be a little sparse. And there's always a chance that this site might be go down again.

As mentioned, since arriving in China I've been struck down with the flu and also a stomach bug (joy of joys) which has made it less than enjoyable. However, in Kunming I got to hang out with my old friend Tim who has been in China for eight months learning the language. Watching him converse with the locals was both impressive and somewhat sexy. Ruth and Tim, who had only met briefly before, got on like a barn on fire and became good friends, it was sweet to see. Anyhow after a week in Kunming, we are now in Dali which is kind of like Vietnam's Hoi An on steroids. Next we go to Lijiang and then up to Tiger Leaping Gorge and then further up to the Tibetan Plateau for you trainspotters. That's the itinerary, I'll keep you posted if I can.

Anyhow, here's some more pictures to finish off Vietnam before I make an incursion into China.

Hue to Hanoi to Sapa (all photos by Ruth, apart from the one's of her obviously)

We had a one day stop over at Hue before taking the night train to Hanoi. We visited the Citadel in the middle of town which was the former palace of the King which was spectacular. Apparently, he used to be a little frisky so there used to be a "purple" city which was solely occupied by the king's hundreds of concubines and only eunuchs were allowed to enter because of their penislessness. Sadly most of it got destroyed during the war but there's still some phenomenal structures left, like these.

We also visited the home place of Thich Quang Duc, better known as the Rage Against The Machine First Album burning monk. He set himself on fire in Saigon in 1963 to protest the persecution of Buddhists at the time. I had been here before but this time it was infinitely more peaceful which I think Ruth captured in this photo.

We then went to the station to catch the night train. I went to get some water and supplies and when I got back, Ruth was surrounded by monks and nuns. While I was doing sign language to explain what a carrot was with a local shop keeper, this group of nuns and monks were staring at Ruth until one guy came and spoke to her. They couldn't really communicate but then the guy's sister (the nun in the photo) came over and started chatting to Ruth for a while. All that time, the nun's family took film and photos of them talking. Ruth and the nun (sorry, I've forgotten her name) swapped email addresses and if she comes out to Australia she's going to stay with Ruth. I actually think this was one of the nicest experiences that Ruth had in Vietnam.

Notice how I keep mentioning the night train. Its just because I love that Guns N' Roses song called Night Train. So here's me on the night train, I can never get enough...

After the night train, we arrived in Hanoi at 5:30 in the morning and it was about 10 degrees. When we left Hue it was about 34 so we were still wearing shorts. Ruth immediately embraced the cold and was glad for some relief from the relentless heat.

I, on the other hand, sooked and curled up in my teddy bear doona...

We went to Halong Bay which is one of the highlights of any trip to Vietnam. Its basically hundreds of limestone islands jutting out of the sea.

We did this trip with a lovely Melbourne couple, Clare and Nathan, who we'd met on various points of our journey (we even took a, you guessed it, night train with them). Here's a picture of Nathan, Clare and I on board our boat.

Mysterious Halong Bay... ahh yes, just like the brochure promises.

Next we went to my new highlight of Vietnam, Sapa. Sapa is a small hill town outpost surrounded by mountains and hill tribe villages. The locals cultivate the hills into these amazing terraces that go on for miles and miles which look spectacular. It is also the home of the fattest pigs in South East Asia.

One of the nicest parts of our trip was meeting Mumtaz, who we met in Saigon, hung out with in Mui Ne and Dalat and met up again on the night train (again) to Sapa. On the first day we went on a trek to a small town called Cat Cat. We immediately gathered an entourage of locals who gladly posed for photos with us and then we bought a bunch of hill tribe stuff from them. Capitalism in action kids but they were sweet.

Sadly Mumtaz left us the next day but only after proving she was a card shark.

We then took a 15km walk through the hinterlands and through three different hilltribe communities all with their own distinct cultures. It was a beautiful day and the hill tribe people were welcoming and lovely. Unlike other visits to local communities, we got to see the locals in their everyday lives as opposed to "locals in their everyday lives as constructed for tourists." This definitely made Sapa a highlight although trekking15k through mountainous country was a little much for me... I almost died.

Sapa was a truly wonderous place.

PS Ruth's ipod has died in the arse which is a calamity of epic proportions (she even cried last night about it). If anyone's coming to England in the next few weeks, can they bring over her laptop. Or maybe we can have a benefit concert to raise the money to send it over.

I'll start.

Imagine a darkened stage with a single spotlight on me in a tuxedo. I take a sip of gin and tonic as a mournful piano melody plays. Then I start to sing:

I've been alone with you inside my mind
And in my dreams I've kissed your lips a thousand times
I sometimes see you pass outside my door

(Screams) Hello!
Is it me you're looking for?
(Everybody!) I can see it in your eyes
I can see it in your smile
You're all I've ever wanted
And my arms are open wide
Because you know just what to say
And you know just what to do
And I want to tell you so much
I love you

Thank you Lionel, thank you audience, you've been great. I'll be here all week. Late show at 10! Leave donations in the tip jar on the bar. Goodnight.

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