Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Costs in Laos

Better late then never. Here is a rundown of my expenses in Laos. It was definitely cheaper in Laos even as I started to add the odd cocktail and a few beers to my menu. I averaged 225,000 Kip or NZ$ 36 per day this includes the cost for my Laos visa at US$ 36

The breakdown of the major daily items was:

Accommodation 48,000 Kip/Day
Food 102,000 Kip/Day
Transport 42,000 Kip/Day

I spend almost no money on entrance fees but even if you were to visit every attraction around you still are unlikely to incur more then a dollar per day.

Accommodation: It rained a lot which kept the temperature down and all but once I stayed in fan cooled rooms. In Muang Ngoi Neua I got a bungalow with attached bathroom and a hammock out in front for 20,000 Kip per night!

Food: Three meals a day, plenty of coffee and some alcohol every now and then. One of my plans for this trip was to limit drinking in the hope that combined with a bit more exercise it would help me lose some weight. However when at the end of the day you are lying in your hammock and a woman half your age comes up to you and asks you to come for a drink you're fool to say no.

Transport: Lots of travel by boat including the two day trip from the Thai border to Luang Prabang. the rest a combination of mini and regular buses. The rest by Shanks Pony.

Miscellaneous: The usual Internet access, toiletries and two umbrellas, obviously quality wasn't their strong point.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fake iStore

The shop in this photo has become moderately famous over the last week. Together with a similar one, both in highly visible areas of the main Kunming shopping district they have turned out to be fakes.
Someone went to a real Apple store either in China, there are ones in Beijing and Shanghai, or the USA and copied them wholesale from the shop front and layout to the shirts their staff wear.
The merchandise in the one I had a look at appeared to be fake as well or perhaps factory seconds. I doubt Apple would normally let shoddy workmanship like that out of the door though.
Steve wont be pleased.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Now how did this happen?

One of the young women running the guesthouse referred to me this morning as Uncle Coffee while she was talking to her friend behind the counter.
Surely my habit of ordering two cups at the same time for breakfast has nothing to do it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Rice & Friends is a new cooking school set up by a lovely young lady named Luxi. She speaks perfect English and has set up her cooking school in the court yard of the house she lives

Jasper and Senne from Denmark were the other two aspiring cooks and we were taught how to make a tofu salad that dispelled my long held belief that tofu is tasteless and should be generally avoided. Then we did an eggplant and garlic dish that was something I will definitely have to add to my repertoire back home. To finish it off we cooked a stirfry chicken dish with chilly and a sesame oil sauce.

I will post some photos as soon as I can persuade my computer to talk to the Internet again. This message is send from my telephone.
Edit 22/07/2011 Fixed

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Retreat to Dali

After watching the rain and gray skies in Lijiang for four days I decided enough is enough and I have gone back to Dali where it's pleasant and sunny!
In the next few days I expect to continue south to Kunming and the Vietnamese border but first I have some cooking to do here in Dali.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Seen on he street


I know it doesn't amount to much but while I was out shopping yesterday I managed several times to put my newly learned Mandarin to good use and was able to hear and understand prices as well as tell people what my shoe size was when buying a pair of sneakers.
I was rather pleased with that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A rainy day in Lìjiāng

The trip to Lìjiāng takes an hour by train or four hours by road. Needless to say the locals know this and make sure that they book their train ticket well in advance. The rest of us take the bus.
The trip is scenic enough going through forests, fields and mountains. Unfortunately the reason for the duration of the journey is that a large part of the road is unsealed while a new highway is under construction. As it had rained all night and still rained during our bus ride that meant large mud puddles everywhere.
Lìjiāng is a bit like Dali with ancient buildings under construction, lots of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. It does look more genuine though. There are narrow cobble stone streets, little bridges and small streams everywhere. It looks like the set of a Chinese period movie.

Lìjiāng is 2400 meters above sea level and this is the first time during this trip that I am actually cold. I think I'll have to look for a jacket or a sweater tomorrow. As my sandals are beyond repair as well, a new pair of shoes is probably in order as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A walk through the hills.

The Cang Shan range is right at the back of Dali and I decided like thousands of others that today would be a nice day for a stroll.
To get going you take a gondola from Dali to Zhōnghé Mountain and then just follow the path, which is the only fully paved mountain trail that I have ever come across.
There are only very gradual up and downs with seats and little shade shelters every few hundred meters.
Hiking for the seriously lazy!

On my way up I got talking to a chap with the somewhat unusual name of Forest, who was here on a holiday from Taiwan, and we decided to tackle the trail together. Like myself he liked to walk rather then amble and we covered the 11.5 kilometer distance to Zhōnghé Temple in just over two hours.
To get down the mountain is as easy as getting up only this time you take a chairlift.
Another nice days walking.

Monday, July 11, 2011


I am currently in Dali which I was told was a quiet laid back town in the mountains. Well it's near the mountains alright. I's also the most touristy little town I have been into years. Sure most of the tourists are Chinese but they are tourists all the same. The old town is scenic but wall to wall souvenir shops and restaurants. I'll see if I can get up the mountain tomorrow. Apparently there is a nice walk along one of the ridges.

The photo is a pagoda that was build about eleven hundred years ago and one of the top attractions in town. The entry fee is over $20 so I just took some photos from the outside.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I have updated the photo albums with the last of the Laos photos and the China photos to date.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Another day in Kunming

We walked and walked and walked. I have the blisters to prove it. Matt had to get some onward travel to sort out so we walked around to look for travel agents.

Instead we found a pagoda.

With a young skater in front of it.

And after a long day we had noodles and watched the lights go on in Jinmabiji square.

I am still really enjoying myself out here and hope to do some more sight seeing before heading to Dali on Sunday.

Friday, July 08, 2011


Sign in a department store

Name of an ice cream shop


Matthew and I decided on an exploratory walk of Kunming today. We grabbed a map and walked off to Green Lake Park and immediately ended up in the major shopping mall area, more stores then Singapore.
A friendly and excellent English speaking student gave us a quick introduction to town and not much later we ended up in the park. Architecture as to be expected is Chinese with colorful entry gates and lots of lotus flowers on the pond.
The reason we came here other then a walk is to see a small water pump station that was originally built at the turn of the 19th century and is now a small museum. Interesting but I liked the park more then the museum

Then it was on to the Yuántōng Temple which was quite interesting and looked exactly as a you would expect a Chinese temple to look like. With multi colored buildings, people burning joss sticks and lots of old people milling about.

The place is stacked with Buddha statues and Chinese deities.
After we left the temple we wandered around town and came upon this lovely pavilion and discovered it was full of people playing Mahjong and drinking green tea.

A bit later we happened on a street full of sign writers.
It's been an interesting day.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

First Impressions

From the moment I crossed the border, one thing was clear, in China things are bigger and better. While the Laos border post is essentially a shed with a few people in it the Chinese border post is an architect designed marvel with lots of marble, immaculately dressed officers, and an electronic score board to rate their efficiency.
The trip to Jinghong my first stop in this country was on amazingly good highways with several large tunnels and huge viaducts to cross mountains and valleys. When we reached Jinghong, a sleepy country town according to the guide book, we were greeted by seemingly endless brand new apartment blocks and I counted over forty tower cranes on the way in. The journey ended at a bus station large enough to have it's own Hotel!
The warning that few people speak English is quite true but it hasn't proved much of an obstacle so far. I got a hotel in Jinghong by miming and pointing and I am trying to learn a few basic sentences in Mandarin. Food is normally on display so that's easy as well. It's cheap too.

And to kick the photos off, here is chairman Mao

The bus station in Jinghong

The main square in Kunming

China and Censorship

I have arrived in China and so far it's quite amazing, before I get to that a rant about censorship though.
When I first tried to access my blog I found out that it was inaccessible, as seems most other information of interest. This is known as the great firewall of China and meant to stop the proletariat from being informed about the world at large. Before this happened I didn't realize how pissed off I could get about some faceless communist critter telling me what I can read and write. Anyway after talking to Matthew, an English programmer, he put me onto a VPN service and it looks, fingers crossed that this has solved my problem. The great computer gods in the sky think I am in the USA right now.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Rules and Regulations

Rule 5
Do not.....bring both women and man which is not your own husband or wife in to the room for making love.

Click on the picture to get the full Accommodation Regulation

Monday, July 04, 2011

A walk through the rice fields

At ten in the morning Nina, Julia and I set of for a trek through the forests and fields surrounding Muang Ngoi Neua the plan is more or less to visit a cave, walk through some rice fields and visit a village in te jungle about an hour away.

We were warned about the mud but didn't listen.

The first half an hour of the trek follows a well trodden path, muddy but not to bad, the cave is really just one big chamber with a small stream through it.Nice but nothing special. To go any further underground you will need to be a spelunker and know what you are doing.

The mud is getting heavier and my feet sink knee deep in the mud a big sucking sound then my sandal comes off. I retrieve it but the heel strap is broken. I take both sandals off and decide to go bare feet, we cross the first of a number of small rivers and irrigation channels.

The mud stays sticky and deep and we are going quite slow. Then suddenly we emerge fom the jungle and into the rice fields. There are rice terraces and little dikes to hold the water in, ducks waddling about and people working everywhere.

The fields stretches seemingly in all directions so we ask one of the locals how we can get to Ban Na he waves to the East so we start traversing the dikes between the paddy fields they are wet, muddy, unstable and made for Lao sized feet. We slide and stumble slowly from one to the other.
More asking, more vague answers , and after an hour we're completely lost. Then the girls who are further ahead of me, stumble on a group of women who are actually going to Ban Na, It turns out we were going in the exactly opposite direction and actually walking away from our intended destination. We double back on our trail and I tell Nina and Julia not to wait for me if I lag behind I'll just turn around and go back to Muang Ngoi Neua.

The trail now moves out of the fields and back into the forest and starts heading uphill I decide enough is enough and turn around. the forest trail to the rice fields present no problem but I feel seriously out of shape. so I sit down on the edge of one of the terraces and have a rest and a drink of water. No worries anymore about the mud, I am pretty much covered from head to toe anyway. eventually I get up take my best guess at where the point is that we entered the fields and start sliding my way towards it. Occaisionally I slip of the edge of a dike and into the paddy, at one stage I just wade right across two or three of them to get to a more likely looking trail.

A village appears on my left, Ban Hi, as it turns out, a few houses and a small temple nestled among the trees and edging the fields. Nice but nowhere near where I wanted to go. What to do?Askng the locals leadsto either blank stares or contradictory answers. Then I remember that my phone has a GPS unit on it and I put in the location of the river we crossed. Modern technologie to the rescue! I am a kilometer of course but heading for the right direction now. Ofcourse to cover that kilometer I must zigzag about double that through fields but eventually I am back where we entered the fields. I have been walking now for five hours with only a five minute sit down to rest up. Another break is in order. I haven'tsat down longer then a minute when the first drops of rain start to fall. I throw my phone and camera in a waterproof bag have another swig from my waterbottle and set off again.

It takes another hour in the pouring rain before I reach my guest house, shed my clothes have a shower and remove three leeches. Their bites look nasty and purple.

It's been a good trek.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Muang Ngoi Neua

The minivan that was supposed to pick me up from the hotel wasn't there of course and after a while I got the hotel owner to ring him up another thirty minutes later he arrived, picked up some passengers and dropped us at the mini bus station where I got in a van with four others and we started for Nong Khiaw.

It's starting to rain again.

The four other passengers are a couple from Melbourne, Nina from Germany and Alex from Virginia. We have a chat and while the rain gets heavier we weave our way through the mountains, there are a few minor landslides but the road is generally in good nick and we arrive just after lunch.
The main street in Nong Kiaw is a slippery mud slide and we slip and slide our way across, most of the hotels look quite drab, cheap but no atmosphere, the continuing rain doesn't help either. The Australians eventually decide on a cottage with a river view and I suggest to Nina and Alex that we have a look and see if their is a boat to Muang Ngoi Neua. In spit of the weather it's a fantastic trip, green mountains on both sides of the boat, serious water flow and rapids to go against.
On Muang Ngoi Neua things move at the slowest pace possible, we have bungalows overlooking the Pak Ou river and a few hammocks strung out in front.
This place is well of the beaten track the only way in or out is by boat, there is no Internet and electricity from six to nine thirty in the evening.
I think I am going to like it here.