Tuesday, January 27th, 2004 – Day 343 to Thursday, January 29th, 2004 – Day 345

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004 – Day 343

I was up at 7.00am and took a moto to the Thailand border. Its a fixed OTT rate of 50 baht. Again, I have to pass the cambo border officials. Again they take for ever looking at passports and it takes 10 guts to look at one. They found my visa irregular as I entered the country at a new crossing called o Smach. They were questioning an American like a criminal when I was there. Again the Thais are efficient.

I had to wait 40 minutes before a mini bus to Trat was leaving. It took one hour and I was there by 10..30am. From there, you can get a bus to Bangkok for 147 Baht. It took 6.5 hours. I as there at 5.00pm. I took the BTS sky train to Nana and booked into the Orchid House Hotel for 500 baht. It has cable, air con, hot water etc. Its fine.

I did little tonight. I grabbed a bite to eat and washed up. I watched Sum of all Fears on TV and was asleep by 11.00pm. all down to 2 nights on the booze.

Wednesday, January 28th, 2004 – Day 344

I was up at 1.00am and took my clothes to a laundry. I am only here in Bangkok for Shopping really. I have been here a few times previous and have done some of the attractions.

I headed down to Pantip Plaza to check out and purchase pirate PC Games (100 baht), music CD’s (100 Baht) and some DVD’s (130 baht).

Panthip (Pantip) Plaza

Computers, TV’s, cameras and similar items can be good value in Thailand, but you’ll be hard pushed to find one with high quality components selling for significantly less than in the US / Europe.

The best place to go for any type of computer shopping is the multistory Panthip Plaza on Phetburi / Petchburi Rd in Pratunam district (not far from the Amari Watergate hotel). Prices are very cheap and the range extensive, but not all the vendors speak a lot of English.

Though there are a wide range of computer related products on sale, Panthip is most (in)famous for the huge amount of pirated software available. There are literally dozens of different vendors selling hacked versions of software programs, and even the most up-to-date software is available amazingly quickly.

As well as software, pirated versions of all of the top Hollywood movies are also available on DVD or VCD, as are compilation MP3 CD’s with around 12 albums on each. Each CD/VCD/CDROM costs only around 100-150B, as the intense competition helps to keep the prices low.

The Thai government, under pressure from the USA, has periodic crackdowns on Panthip Plaza, but they never seem to last very long. The only lasting effect of the crackdowns seems to be that all the pirated material is no longer kept with the vendor, but is instead in a building down the street and is retrieved when someone makes a purchase.

I had a bite to eat and headed to the river to take a boat to Banlang Poo where I walked to Khao Sarn Road. I picked some 2003 music CD’s and a fake student ID card. I got a bite to eat.

If the image in your mind of Khao Sarn Road is one of a tangle of stereotypical long-haired backpacking farangs staying in a farang ghetto with cheap accommodation, cheap eats and all of the services needed by budget travellers, then you would not be wrong. Just as it has done for almost two decades, this is what Khao Sarn Road serves the budget traveller. But while all of this is available as ever before, Khao Sarn Road now offers so much more.

At 7.00pm, I got a boat back to Central Pier in order to to take the Skytain home. It a big city and it took some time during my first visit to get used to the place.

indeed it would take days for the first time visitor to figure out where they are and how to use the transport options.

Again, I did not go boozing and had an early night.

Thursday, January 29th, 2004 – Day 345

I had already decided that I was going to visit the Forensic Medicine Museum this morning – the so called half-faces of death. Some pictures here.

I book the sky tain to the river pier and took a boat to Wang Land pier. That’s stop ten. The hospital is beside the pier. Its a massive hospital with dozens of buildings and thousands of doctors, staff and patients milling about. There are ten museums on site. They are free but are hard to find with little to no sign posting. I visited three.

1. Forensic Medicine Museum

After trudging up the stairs to the Songkran Miyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum, behind the Siriraj Hospital, the first things you see are a couple of tawny, life-size skeletons: one dangling from a hook, the other in a glass case. The latter one, says a professor, is the remains of the man who was the former head of the hospital?s Forensic Department, and founded the museum, which was named after him, in 1965. ?He was a true man of forensics,? says Somchai Pholeamke with a chuckle. ?He wanted the students to be able to study him.?

The most popular exhibit at the museum is the corpse of Thailand?s most notorious serial killer and cannibal, See Uey Sae Ung. Finally apprehended in the late 50s after racking up a body count of between five and eight young boys, he was sentenced to death. See Uey?s cockroach-brown corpse, waxed with the preservative formalin, is housed in a glass container; the empty eye sockets, as well as the bullet holes left by the single executioner armed with a machine-gun, have been filled in with white parrafin. Beside his upright casket, there are several more occupied by killer rapists and murderers who were also sentenced to death.

The real gallery of grotesques in the museum, however, is the many autopsy photos lining the walls. They detail exactly what an exploding grenade does to a torso, how a broken beer bottle can tear out a throat, a train sever a head, or a knife shred a woman?s genitals. Its hard stuff, photos of the real thing of normal people. Picture of peopel who slashed their wrists (one guy chopped his off), people who shot themselves, who were hit by Molotov Coctails or grenades. All bloody and broken. Hard stuff and not for the squeamish. Lots of arms and legs set in fromolide.

2. Anatomy Museum

Bizarrely enough, the students of anatomy and forensics who come to study here refer to all the skeletons and cadavers as ajaan yai (?head-master?) They also wai them – a prayer-like gesture that is local sign language for respect and gratitude.

In this place we had full male and feamle bodies on display. i walked past the actual dissecting room. There are lots of full grown adults with their chests open for viewing or their skull sawed off to see their brain. There are about 100 foestus and babies as well. Many are Siamese or conjoined twins. Many have been cut open for viewing. Strong stuff but educational. Those of you that are interested in forensics, knowledge about parasites, anatomy etc. One finds skeletons, embryo’s, sick body parts and parasites on alcohol. Some of the people that gave their body for medicine (and especially children) are remembered with a picture, some flowers, small presents etc..

I also visited two other museums. One had to do with the effect of parasites of the body and much detail and examples. The other dealt with the history of Thai medicine.

This macabre monument to death and its causes attracts more visitors — often 100-plus a day — than any art gallery and many other museums in Thailand’s capital. They range from those with a morbid curiosity to serious students of medicine and forensic science. Visitors can study hemorrhaged brains, severed arms with tattoos, and lungs with stab wounds. In one case are skulls punctured by bullet holes, shot at from different angles by forensic scientists in an experiment to study how bullets ricochet inside a human head. Results helped them analyze evidence in murder cases. At the doorway is the skeleton of Songkran Niyomsane, Thailand’s father of forensic medicine and the museum’s founder. He died in 1970. By far the most popular display is the mummified body of Si Ouey, a notorious cannibal and serial killer of boys and girls in the late 1950s. “Don’t commit a crime, otherwise you will end up like this,” joked Dr. Somboon Thamtakerngkit, the museum curator and chief of forensic pathology at Siriraj Hospital, where the museum is located. Somboon said Thai mothers used to scare naughty children with tales of Si Ouey, who was finally caught when the father of one victim and a policeman discovered him at home about to partake of the child’s organs. “Si Ouey thought that it was healthy to eat fresh livers and hearts,” said Somboon Now, Si Ouey, shriveled, brown and coated in wax to prevent mould, slumps against the glass of a phone-booth-like case. A close look reveals incisions in his head made by Thai pathologists who examined his brain for any abnormalities that would mark a serial killer. Many of the displays teach medical students and visitors about the body and what can go wrong with it. And also serve as graphic warnings. “We call the dead bodies ‘Big Teacher.’ We respect the bodies as if they were our teachers or professors. Without them we wouldn’t be able to learn,” Somboon said.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Forensics Museum – Bangkok (29-01-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Forensics Museum – Bangkok (29-01-2004)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Forensics Museum – Bangkok (29-01-2004)

From there I headed to the MBK shopping Mall to check out some shops. Might get a silly portrait done. From there I went to pantip plaza to eat and check out some MP3’s. I then went on the NET to write up about seven days blog.

  • Raucous Antics Prove Miss Backpacker Winner in Sydney.

  • Flu’s deadly numbers game: Health officials are getting edgy. Avian flu, they say, could do more than wipe out countless chickens. It could trigger the next “big one” – a human flu pandemic that spreads around the world, killing huge numbers of people, as in 1918 when flu claimed a reported 40-50m. Is such a doomsday scenario likely or, like Sars, is avian flu little more than a good scare story?

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Bangkok Gym (29-01-2004)

Saturday, January 24th, 2004 – Day 340 to Monday, January 26th, 2004 – Day 342

Saturday, January 24th, 2004 – Day 340

Little done today. I only got out of bed by 11.00am. Shops and markets are still closed/ I headed down to the Tonle Sap lake to watch the sun go down. Very nice.

  • Two Buddhist monks have been slashed to death in separate roadside attacks in southern Thailand, two days after a similar attack which police blamed on Muslim extremists.

  • The Department of Foreign affairs has confirmed the identity of the Waterford man who died in Vietnam on Thursday night.

  • Thaksin in trouble: Bird flu threatens to dent Thai PM’s mantle as hands-on hero

  • China tightens web control:New legislation means that all 110,000 internet cafes must now use a particular form of software that will control access to websites considered harmful or subversive – including those of Amnesty itself, the BBC, and other international human rights groups, news and non-governmental organisations. Thousands of special police are also employed to patrol the cafes and to monitor websites and email exchanges, Amnesty’s Louise Vischer told BBC News Online.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Tonle Sap Sunset (24-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Tonle Sap Sunset (24-01-2004)

    Sunday, January 25th, 2004 – Day 341

    I was up at 6.30am and paid the tonle Saple hotel 30 US for three nights stay. I went outside and was getting on a old Honda for the short trip to the central market to get a pick-up truck to Koh Kong. For these short journeys, I keep my back pack on, but as soon as we got going, the front wheels of the bike reared up and I fell off. Just as well, we were not going 50km down the road when this happened. No injuries but strained my calf.

    Anyway even though very few people take this route a mini-bus from the market has been introduced. I paid 300 Baht for a few seat beside the driver (beside another guy). If you buy from a travel agent, the price may be 600 baht. The mini-bus did not go until it was full, so I was stuck there until 7.45am.

    Off we went. Its a road that was built for Cambodia two years ago for the Thai military. Its an OK dirt and dust road in the dry season but not passable in the wet season. Its lucky we have to pass over 4 rivers to get to Koh kong. It gives everyone an opportunity to stretch there legs. There are no bridges and we used vehicle ferries. They are small wooden craft that can bring 4 to 6 vehicles across at a time.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Trip to Koh Kong – Warning against fishermen throwing grenades into rivers to catch fish (25-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Koh Kong (25-01-2004)

    The scenery is excellent all the way. We did not pass any towns or villages. Just a few houses at each river crossing. Its nearly pristine jungle.

    It took 8 hours to get to Kong Kong. It was 4.00pm and I could have crossed into Thailand but I like this town. Its quiet and relaxing. I booked into the Pai Lin guesthouse for 150 Baht.

    Koh Kong is a quaint and interesting border village that shouldn’t be missed. Stop and enjoy us while traveling through SE Asia. Villages like Koh Kong are getting very rare nowadays. Children say hello, ice is cut by hand and although life is slow it is very enjoyable.

    I headed down to ottos to eat. There I met a motley crew. There was France from Austria, Eric from Denmark and Marcus from Ireland. They were all old Cambodian hands and had great stories (mostly tragic) from friends OD’ing to killings. Cambodia has some expat characters knocking about. We continues drinking in different places until 2.00am. Its a relaxing town with no tourist infrastructure or tourists. Its very relaxing sitting outside in a country bar drinking and talking.

    Monday, January 26th, 2004 – Day 342

    I decided to stay another night. I was in bed until noon. I headed down to the boats and the market which was good. I met up with the guys at 2.00am. We went down to the pier to watch the speed boat from Sihanoukville at 4.00am. As usual all the tourists rushed on moto taxis straight to the Thailand border.

    Same as last night. A long session with the guys. Marcus from Waterford has not been home for 10 years. I was in bed by 2.00am as I am leaving tomorrow.

  • Friday, January 23rd, 2004 – Day 339

    Friday, January 23rd, 2004 – Day 339

    Again most businesses in town are closed. Indeed all the markets were closed as well. The influence of the Khmer-Chinese Community is astounding. I was up at 8.30am and stayed watching Rasputin on TV. I headed down town to get a bite to eat. I walked to the New market and the Russian Markets. Parts of them were open but the majority of stalls were closed. I looked at some DVD’s. They are expensive here (although they are DVD-9) at 3 US per copy. Music CD’s are 2 US.

    I did little the rest of the day. I really like the city. Its relaxed, small enough to walk around but has a edge. If you want drugs, guns or sex they are easy to find. They are characters from all around the world, some deranged, some dangerous who have found refuge here. Some of the Western expats are junkies.

    I went to the Rose Bar beside my hotel for a few drinks. Nice place with pool tables. Nice and quiet which is what I wanted. Trouble was I met an Australian who was out for the craic. To cut a long story (drinking) short, I was in bed by 3.00am.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Chinese New Year Celebrations (23-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Chinese New Year Celebrations (23-01-2004)

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    Waitress at Rose Bar (23-01-2004)

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2004 – Day 337 to Thursday, January 22nd, 2004 – Day 338

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2004 – Day 337

    I was up at 6.20am to catch a pick up to Siem Reap. I had no idea what time if they left town (if they existed). i read one report of a backpacker having to pay 35 US for a car. At 7.00am (don’t bother getting up before then), i found a pick up truck. I suggested 8,000 Riel (2 US) for the trip in the truck rear which he readily agreed to.

    The next one hour and a half was a pain. He kept driving up and down the one street looking for cargo and passengers and we only left at 8.20am for the journey which took 4.5 hours. Passengers can pay 4 US if they want an indoor passenger seat or 8 US for a double passenger seat along the driver. By the time we left there were 17 of us in the back of the pick up truck.

    It was fine for the first 1/3 as I could sit on the side with my legs in. It was bumpy and dusty and the first hour, the roads were in a very bad state. There were military personnel everywhere looking for mines. Others were cutting down and burning vegetation like yesterday. Surveyors were also out so it makes me think they will be upgrading this road. Hen Sen, the Prime Minister has identified Pol Pots cremation site as a tourist attractions, but its going to take a lot of improvements to get tourists up there with the roads, accommodation and land mines.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Anlong Veng to Siem reap (21-01-2004)

    Next we stopped for 4 bags of rice which took up the centre of the pick up truck and minutes later we picked up three raged looking Cambodian Soldiers. The majority of soldiers in this area (the last Khmer Rouge Stronghold and last to give up) are all ex-KR. when 20 people I was forced to sit on the edge with my legs dangling towards the road above the back wheels. Every time we swerved left at a bend or to avoid a pot hole, I was nearly thrown off the vehicle. I was holding on with both hands as my bum slid either in or out depending on what way the driver swerved. It was hard and one of the soldiers kept on trying to talk to me. He had pretty good English and wanted to speak of jobs etc. He was earning 20 US a month as a Soldier. he was alarmed that the average wage in the West was about 2000 US a month. He shared this fact with the rest of our motley bunch. By the end of out trip we were all gets on well in this shared experience. Once we got close to Siem Reap and the famous temples, a tarred and paved road appeared.

    We arrived in Siem Reap at about 1.00pm and I took a moto to Smileys Guesthouse. again my bags ere covered in red dust. I stayed in Smileys (renovated) Guest House last time I was here and found it to be very satisfactory. An ensuite room (cold water, fan) is just 5 US. They have good facilities, a restaurant etc and its a quite area of town off a street. It does attract some prostitutes at night though.

    I walked back down town. I don’t really like Siem Reap as a town. Its full of package tourists from Bangkok as well as western orientated backpacker bars and restaurants. its hard to find the spots where locals eat. There are some nice outdoor stalls with seats near Smileys where you can get a great meal for 3000 Riel and some great fruit drinks for 1500 Riel.

    I did little the rest of the day. I was planning to take a bus to Phnom Penh tomorrow. Lots of fireworks tonight to celebrate Chinese New Year. it was very impressive and great to watch.

    News from the Web:

    • It seems a top Cambodian Garment Union Leader Shot Dead earlier today. He was an opposition activist and prominent leader of a garment workers’ union on and is the latest of a string of high-profile killings that have boosted Cambodia’s reputation for political violence. He was shot three times as he read a newspaper at a roadside stall near a Buddhist pagoda in central Phnom Penh.

    • China Hopes Year of Monkey Is Healthy One

    • Falun Gong Founder Says Gov’t Envious

    • Bird flu fears hit Thai exports

    Thursday, January 22nd, 2004 – Day 338

    I was up at 6.30am. There are 3 main buses to Phnom Penh. The first in Nairn/Smileys where I am staying. the bus is a heap of crap and doesn’t make for a good journey. The second buses come from the Capitol GH group. They are fine. The third group, GST has the best buses (comfortable air-con). The price has risen from 4 US to 5 US because of the New Yew Year. I arrived at the GST station at 7.00am to find the bus was out of service. An excuse I think. I walked to the Capitol Guest House bus stop where they had two buses going at 7.20am. I purchased a ticket. I was lucky as both buses were full for the journey and the majority was Cambodians. They were mainly visited family for the New Year I suppose. it is a journey I have taken before and its fine. A 7.5 hour journey isn’t so bad now that I am so used to such long trips. We stopped twice for breaks and food.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Road to Phnom Penh – Badlands (22-01-2004)

    We arrived in Phnom Penh at 3.30pm. I took a 1500 Riel moto my old Hotel called the Tonle Sap near the water front. its 10 US a night for air-con, cable TV and hot water. You can get places for 2 US a night but felt like relative comfort. My bum was still hurting me as it a tough place to heal in this counties humidly.

    I went on a NET cafe to place camera pictures on CD and update nearly 3 weeks of blog. it took close to 4 hours. I returned to the hotel to watch the Blues Brothers 2000 (crap) and Chris Rock live.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Phnom Penh central market (22-01-2004)

    I had two beers at midnight in the bar beside the hotel called the Rose bar. Lots of pretty girls here.

    It should be noted that the vast majority of businesses were closed in Phnom Penh for Chinese New Year. I am surprised that have such a grip on the economy. I suppose the locals fancy a day of as well. The only places that are open are barber shops (for the special occasion) and restaurants (which are packed tonight).

    • 2003: a year in review. This guy has taken the year in review from every source available and breaks them into categories like Film of the Year, Music of the Year etc). impressive.

    • Thailand confirms human bird flu in a worrying development there.

    Monday, January 19th, 2004 – Day 335 to Tuesday, January 20th, 2004 – Day 336

    Monday, January 19th, 2004 – Day 335

    I was up at 7.00am and headed to the bus station. It is a 15 minute walk and it as still a bit dark. I passed some monks collecting alms along the way. Once there, I located the number 14 bus that goes to the border. It was only 2000 for the two hour journey. it was a cramped full bus. When we arrived I gave the driver another 1000 Kip as my rucksack was taking up another seat. It mentioned having to pay to get your passport stamped at the Laos and Thai ends but no charges were made. A bus will take you across the bridge to the Thai side for 1000 Kip. There, you have to take a Tuk tuk into the Nong Khai bus station for 20 Baht. once there a bus was heading to Khorat for 165 Baht (.3.35 Eur). It was 9.15am and it was 3.00pm before we reached there. It was an air-con bus so it was comfortable. They showed Face off (john Woo) in Thai on the bus TV.

    Once I arrived there, I headed straight to the bus counter to buy a ticket to Surin for 115 Baht. it was expensive but it was a VIP bus (compared to regular and air-con buses). It had a trans-gender stewardess (a boy dressed as a woman/acted as a woman). They showed one of the worst films of 2003 called Ride or Die.

    Anyway it took 4.5 hours to get to Surin on the Cambodian border. Once there I took a rickshaw to Pirom’s House for 20 baht. Its very close and if I had a Map I would have walked it. there are lots of canals here and the whole town was full of mosquitoes. I booked a room for 100 baht (2 Euro). Its a basic place with small beds with mosquitoes nets but there is a nice lady running the place. She had excellent English and made me feel at home. As I had not eaten anything substantial I headed back to town to visit the Night Market. there are ATM machines here to withdraw currency.

    The night market was excellent and very large. Dozens of vendors under roof with great food. I had two dinners with rice/meat/egg etc. for 20 baht (.40 cent) each. I had a nice time walking about. The only thing is the mossies but the guest house said there was no Malaria in town.

    I read the Bangkok Post in the Guest house while having a nice Thai beer. I was in bed before 11.00am as I am up early. Its the first time I have used a Mosquito trip this trip. Very necessary here. The Liverpool Hooligan also worried me last night as he was taking anti-malaria tablets EVERY day for the full year. that cant be good for him.

    Tuesday, January 20th, 2004 – Day 336

    The guesthouse owner had given me a list of times of the buses to the border. They start at 5.30am and there are about a dozen until 4.00pm. I was up a bit late at 6.18am and was surprised to see it very bright outside. It was different from Laos. anyway, the lady had woken me with when she got up. I walked directly to the bus station but was late so I paid a motto-driver 10 baht to take me half the way (the end half). I was in time to take the 6.50am bus for 30 baht. You can take a mini-bus for 100 baht which goes directly there. There is called Chong Jom. It is approximately 80km from Surin.

    It took over two hours to get there but there were few stops and starts. The last bus stop is the border itself and you only have 15 yards to get checked out of Thailand. as ever, the Thai border authorities are pleasant and efficient. Now for the notorious Cambodian officials.

    It was 9.15am. When I crossed over there were about 4 cocky teenagers with old older guy in this twenties to welcome me to Cambodia. They all had pretty good English and were keen to direct me to the official waiting 10 yards away. This was a clean, efficient bunch who actually worn their uniforms with pride in contract to the slack jawed yokels down in Koh Kong wearing string vests. The guy who gave me the VISA wanted 1100 Baht and even when I told him I only had 20 US, he didn’t believe me. They are meant to take US only but get a good cut out of baht. I gave him 1000 Bahr and he was happy. The guys down in Koh Kong start at 1400 Baht as there usually half a dozen of them to keep happy as they swarm around you.

    The second official who stamps you in said he would do it for 100 baht. I smiled and didn’t pay. He didn’t press the issue.

    Next was how to get to Anlong Veng. Its about 80km away along a bad dusty road. The areas around the road have yet to be cleared of land mines. The cocky lands (who had moto bikes) started at 7000 but after a chat would not go below 400 baht. I told them I would check out the Taxis and get something to eat at the Duty free market which is a 7 minute walk towards Anglong Veng. At that they said they would meet me down there. They went dir4ectly to the taxi guys (I could see them) and now the taxi price was 600 baht. I went to the market and the boys waited outside.

    The market was busy and is a good place to eat. There are moto drivers all over the place for the local routes. I went to a group where there was one English speaker. I mentioned 300 Baht as an opening (far too high) and three lads jumped at the chance. I picked a shy looking chap with a new bike. He had no English and seemed too shy to speak Khmer. He went off for a helmet. I reckon these guys would do the trip for 200 Baht. Off we went as a hell of a pace. A few minutes in and the driver looks around at a beeping horn. Its like mad Max. Hot our trail was the older guy in a taxi (passenger seat) following us along with two of his buddies on bikes. They stopped us and had words with me and me driver.

    My driver didn’t say one word (told you he was shy) and the older guy wanted 50 baht from me because he waited for me and another guy wanted 100 baht because he helped me at the immigration post (he lent me his pen). I told them no with a smile and they sulked off.

    It was meant to take two hours but this guy was a speed merchant bar none. too bloody fast on bad roads. Every time we hit a pot hole, I rose off the back seat, creaking my neck and hurting my bum. It was a red dusty road and every time an oncoming truck passed us, we were devoured by dust. It took only 1.5 hours to get to Anglong Veng. It was 11.30am. When I was paying him he made it look like he wanted 400 baht. The boys from the border must have told him he was been cheated and the foreigner price was 400 baht. He wasn’t that sort though and accepted the 300 baht with a smile.

    It is a tiny one street down full of dust and land mine warnings. I saw many newly discovered mines and unexploded ordinances (UXO) on the road to anglong Veng. They have a sign saying mine and they put stakes and red tape around the object. I saw at least 20 such mines Identified just beside the road we were traveling. There is no way any sane person would walk off the road to go for a piss or to take a photo.

    There were also teams of Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and military carrying out slash, burn and mine search along the road.

    Today CMAC is a national institution with close to 3,000 trained personnel implementing de-mining activities in accordance with international standards.

    They were cutting down all vegetation about 15 meters in from both sides of the road and were using detectors to search for mines. The worrying thing was that they were searching for mines ON the road as well.

    Anyway there are three guesthouses in town. They have set a 3 US price which they wont budge from. I tried the centre one but it was dank and dark. The third one on the way out of town was called border Success and it was nice. they accepted 100 baht for a second floor room. it has a big bed, big window and mosquito net. You can swing on a hammock in the balcony and have a beer.

    it was noon and I asked a moto driver to take me to see Pol Pots cremation site. He started with 10 US but took 4 US without argument. It only took 1.5 hours round trip. it was interesting and I am glad I took this trip.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Anlong Veng – Not much of a town (20-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Anlong Veng – Halfway up to the Pol Pot site is the Ta Mok roundabout. This former checkpoint and monument to the Khmer Rouge has received proper respect. The heads have all been shot off. (20-01-2004)

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    Anlong Veng – Pol Pots cremation site (20-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Anlong Veng – Landmine found. you can actually see it. (20-01-2004)

    The rest of the day was uneventful. I watched some lads play volleyball for an hour and I sat down at a stall and drank 4 cans of Angkor Beer. I purchased 2 more to drink on my hammock back at the guesthouse. A can of beer was 20 baht. They all use Thai Baht here instead of Cambodian Riel.

    I went to get a bite to eat. I saw a lady selling eggs. I purchased two. When I cracked open the first on the stall table, I knew these were no ordinary eggs. Half the egg was half and mushy and the other half was yellow yolk. A third part was hard marrow. I knew it must be Chicken or Duck Foetus. I had it finished now and with the aid of the stall owners lemon and pepper, it was quite good. When I cracked open the second, I was a bit shocked. Instead of the above mix, it was a full duck chick foestus with peak, legs, and light feather. It was too far gone before harvested, and could not eat it like this. The lady was nice and good natured. It was 20 Baht for the two.

    Balut – a fertilized egg with a partially developed duckling, which is eaten boiled. Believe it or not, in certain parts of the world, it’s a custom to eat soft-boiled eggs containing partially developed duck embryos. Filipinos call them “balut.” – also known as the “treat with feet” and the “eggs with legs”. Vietnamese can also be found chowing them down with the help of some salt, pepper, and a couple of beers. Nothing quite braces you for the first time you crack open a balut egg. As you dig into the yolky mess, you discover a miniature duck inside, complete with feathers and a beak! The egg has been incubated 17 days and removed for boiling and consumption. It is considered a delicacy and is highly nutritious.


    I was in bed by 11.00pm was I was very sure. My bum was killing me from the journey. When all the bump and friction I had skinned my behind and had to sleep on my stomach. My back was sore because I wore my day pack on my back during the journey.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Anlong Veng (20-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Anlong Veng – Main town roundabout (20-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Anlong Veng – the town market at dusk (20-01-2004)

    Friday, January 16th, 2004 – Day 332 to Sunday, January 18th, 2004 – Day 334

    Friday, January 16th, 2004 – Day 332

    I was up at 7.00am (it was 6.00am local) and took a 5,000 Kip Jumbo to the bus station. A bus to Vientiane was just leaving. Damn, the next one would leave at 7.30am (my watch was now fixed). The ticket cost 60,000 Kip. If you buy a ticket in town, it may cost up to 16 US. I decided to go or else I would spend the day bumming around Luang Prabang. it was a bit much foe. as soon as I landed at the guesthouse, one of the owners said did I want dope or opium. A second alter, a taxi girl on a Honda (wearing a fetching mini-skirt) stopped to say hi.

    …. taxi girls, the name used to describe working girls in Asia.

    Vientiane (wee-en-chan) has to be one of the world’s most unique capitals. Like many cities in developing countries, on arrival it’s a bit of a shock; the main roads in town were only recently paved, and it’s a place where the 3-month overdue repairs on a traffic light on one of the main intersections are the stuff of news in the local English-language paper. A short ride in any direction from Lane Xang, the main north-south avenue, will quickly carry you into the beginnings of rural Laos. Vientiane’s population of 280,000 in a country of just under 6 million reflects the nation’s rural makeup, and despite the infusion of foreign aid and steady local growth, the infrastructure even here in the capital is basic.

    Vientiane’s small scale means you’ll be constantly confronted by startling incongruities. The town is peopled with monks in vermilion or mustard-color robes attending to their business at temples, but you might wonder at seeing those very pious figures hard at work on their website or playing games online at the local Internet cafe. The recent cellphone boom in Vientiane has urbanites well connected, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a public phone even in the city center. Crumbling French colonial mansions house the likes of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and every UN agency known to man. The airport still uses the grab-your-bag-off-the-cart method of dispensing luggage, and you can ride to town in a motorized cart. At the same time, the city has advertising agencies, embassies, and investment advisors. There are luxury business hotels with swimming pools and gourmet restaurants with fine wines, and the streets are crowded with big, gleaming sport utility vehicles.

    it took a long 9 hours to get here. It was a hot day and not very comfortable. I was seated beside a Swedish guy (born in Serbia). According to the British foreign Office, this is a dangerous route.

    Since February last year, there has been a number of fatal armed bus attacks: on Route 13, which links Vientiane to the north of Laos through Luang Prabang; and near the north-eastern town of Sam Neua. In February, two foreign tourists were killed in a bus attack on Route 13.

    The BBC report on the death of the two tourists on this road can be found here. it should be noted there was an armed guard on our bus (with an AK-47) for the first 1/3 of the journey. I saw lots of civilians with automatic rifles in some villages as well. I presume this were government para-military.

    Anyway, once we arrived, we took a shared jumbo to the backpacker area for 5,000 Kip. There is a glut of accommodation in this central area. Maybe more than 100 hotels and guesthouses with any tourists about.

    Very relaxed place with little to no traffic and not that many around either. A big difference from anyplace I have been to been previous. It is worth a stay of several days to take it all in and enjoy Vientiane’s laid-back atmosphere while it lasts.

    I took a double bed, ensuite with hot water for 5 US per night. it smelt like a brothel but I found this was from coils lit at night to get rid of vermin. I did little the rest of the evening.

    Saturday, January 17th, 2004 – Day 333

    I was up at 8.20am and spent the day until 2.30pm sightseeing. I visited some of the following main sites.

    Morning Market (Talaat Sao)

    Full of surprises around every corner, the Morning Market is the hub of local commerce and really where the action is. Here you can find anything from the Thai version of that Britney Spears CD you’ve been chasing after or a Buddhist keepsake from one of the tourist shops or small-time trinket salesmen. Bargain hard. This is the Laos version of “mall culture,” and sometimes the everyday tool department or stationery area gives a special glimpse into everyday life (and with a few well-placed “sabaidees,” you’ll be making friends, without doubt). Enjoy a good wander and the unique experience of hassle-free shopping; there are few touts, but, as always in crowded places, mind your valuables.

    Wat Si Saket

    Wat Si Saket, completed in 1818, is the only temple in Vientiane to survive the pillaging of the city by the Siamese in 1828, perhaps because the temple is built in traditional Thai style. It is renowned for the more than 10,000 Buddha images in the outer courtyard, of all shapes and sizes, in every possible nook and cranny. Look for Buddha characteristics that are unique to Laos: the standing or “praying for rain” Buddha; or the pose with arms up and palms facing forward, the “stop fighting” or calling for peace Buddha. The pose in which Buddha points the right hand downward signifies a rejection of evil and a calling to mother earth for wisdom and assistance. Lao Buddhas also have exaggerated nipples and square noses, to emphasize that Buddha is no longer human. The sim features a Khmer-style Buddha seated on a coiled cobra for protection.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Vientiane (17-01-2004)

    That Dam (the Black Stupa)

    This ancient stupa was probably constructed in the 15th century or even earlier, though it has never been dated. It is rumored to be the resting place of a mighty naga, or seven-headed dragon, that protected the local residents during the Thai invasion in the early 1800s.

    Ho Phra Keo

    Also built by King Setthathirat in 1565, Phra Keo was constructed to house an emerald Buddha that the king took from Thailand (which the Thais took back in 1779). Today there are no monks in residence, and the wat is actually a museum of religious art, including a Khmer stone Buddha and a wooden copy of the famous Luang Prabang Buddha. In the garden, there’s a transplanted jar from the Plain of Jars.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Vientiane (17-01-2004)

    Patuxay (Victory Monument)

    This monument was completed in 1968 and dedicated to those who fought in the war of independence against the French. Ironically, the monument is an arch modeled on the Parisian Arc de Triomphe. Its detailing is typically Lao, however, with many kinnari figures — half woman, half bird. It’s an imposing sight, and you can climb up for a good city view. This is the town’s pre-eminent teenage strutting ground and is busy and crowded on weekends.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Vientiane – Arc (17-01-2004)

    Phra That Luang

    This is the pre-eminent temple in Lao, actually a 44.4m (148-foot) stupa. It is not the original; the first, built in 1566 by King Setthathirat over the ruins of a 12th-century Khmer temple, was destroyed when the Siamese sacked Vientiane in 1828. It was rebuilt by the French in 1900, but the Lao people criticized it as not being true to the original. It was torn down in 1930 and remodeled to become the temple you see today. As you approach, the statue in front depicts Setthathirat. After you enter the first courtyard, look to the left to see a sacred bodhi tree, the same variety as that under which Buddha sat to achieve enlightenment. It has a tall, slim trunk, and the shape of its foliage is almost perfectly round. According to the Laotians, bodhi trees appear only in sacred places. You’ll never see one, for example, in someone’s backyard. The stupa is built in stages. On the second level, there are 30 small stupas, representing the 30 Buddhist perfections, or stages to enlightenment. That Luang is the site of one of Lao’s most important temple festivals, which takes place in early November.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Vientiane (17-01-2004)

    I walked to all these sites. A lot of sweat but all within walking distance. So close in fact I was finished by 2.30pm. I relaxed the rest of the day.

    Some relevant stories on the Net:

    Later that night, I met an English couple and we went to watch the Liverpool V Spurs Match. He was a pool fan and the match did not go their way. He was a laugh and a fan of the English Football hooligan and defending their record against other countries like Holland and turkey. I was in bed by midnight.

    Sunday, January 18th, 2004 – Day 334

    This town is so quite. Very little hussle and bussle. Not much traffic. Very relaxed and a good place to sit back and have a few beers. Internet access from 100-200 Kip a minute. I took today off and got out of bed at 10.20am. I walked around town and researched my trip tomorrow.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Vientiane (18-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Vientiane (18-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Vientiane (18-01-2004)

    I spent half the way wondering what I am doing tomorrow. My mind is split two ways:

    • Travel between Vientiane and Nong Khai in Thailand and continue south to Bangkok (or maybe Cambodia and then Bangkok). I would travel over the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. This is the first international bridge spanning the Mekong. The bridge links Nong Khai with Vientiane and was built jointly by the governments of Australia, Thailand and Laos. The bridge was opened in April 8, 1994.

    • Travel South through Laos to Paske and then travel to Thailand.

    I am sure glad that I left China for New Years on January 22nd. China’s 1.3 billion people are expected to take about 1.89 billion rail, bus or plane trips during the 40-day peak travel period that began on January 7. The New Year begins on January 22. Many people head to their home provinces to be with their families.

    Bird flu kills Vietnamese girl

    China Toughens Checks Against SARS, Flu

    I met the Liverpool hooligan again to watch Aston Villa lose 0-2 to Arsenal. We had a few pints and met up with an Aussie. As soon as the match was over (as happened last night) they turned off the lights. It doesn’t matter if you were still drinking, the room is turned pitch dark.

    Monday, January 12th, 2004 – Day 328 to Thursday, January 15th, 2004 – Day 331

    Monday, January 12th, 2004 – Day 328

    I had set my alarm for 8.00am. It takes between 5-7 hours to get to Mengla near the Laos border. I already have my VISA. When I woke at 8.00am after a great nights sleep, I could hardly move I was so tired. I slept until 10.30am. I still could have gone as I wont be crossing the border until the day after I get there but I decided to see this town and enjoy the sun. Its the first time in over a month I have been able to walk outside in a t-shirt. I decided to have a little R&R by eating and watching TV all day. I headed down to the no.2 bus station and purchased my ticket to Mengla for 39 Yuan.

    I walked to a local noodle place for breakfast and went onto he NET for two hours writing up the blog. I then had a nice lunch. No western cafe this time. It was a simple fried tomatoes and eggs, with a separate basin of rice (enough for six bowls), It came to five Yuan (.50 cent).

    I do like I always do in China with restaurants. First of all I peek in and see what type of restaurant it is. It could be a noodle place, a dumplings place, a fish pace etc. They don’t have any menus so I walk in casual like saying hello. I then go and examine there fridge and veg which is normally in the restaurant proper. I simply pick out what I want by pointing and hand movements. It never fails to work. I ask to pay at the end but never show notes until they mention the price. No need. There is no point just going in and sitting down and saying C.H..I..C..K…E…N, please. Its gets you no where. You also need to learn hand gestures for counting numbers and saying thank you. You might think finger counting is global but is not. Check out this great website about Chinese gestures. Its excellent.

    China is one of the largest countries in the world, the birth place of ancient culture and civilization. In general, one may say that by the influence of Confucius’ philosophical thinking, the Chinese have become more reserved or at least the gestures expressing emotions are comparatively less expressive. As the verbal language, the nonverbal register of gestures lasts for a long time, but in different historic times, there are different gestures. From a historical point of view we will distinguish between dead and contemporary gestures. This gesture categories are metaphorical because there may be archic gestures which are still used somewhere in China, but in general we will try to pick up only gestures which are out of use today. The metaphors refer to common idea of ‘dead metaphors’, since the gestures are to a great extend symbolic expressions of meaning often in combination with iconic mode of representation. In this way we are putting forward the idea of analysing gestures as metaphors. The problem with the term “dead gesture” in realtion to “dead metphor” is that dead metaphors are very much in use although they are not conceptualized as such by the speakers but what we call “dead gestures” are not used anymore, they are archaic, as there as archaic words and expressions

    As mentioned above, today was a day of rest. Its a nice town and fine in the sun. Its the first time I have seen Chinese girls wear skirts. Not bad either. Interesting New Zealand Newspaper article about the effect of the Lord of the Rings films on the country.

    interesting article here about consumer living. It seems China, with roughly four times the U.S. population, will soon overtake the United States in the size of its consumer class. The United States currently has about 243 million people–or about 85 percent of its total population–who fall into the consumer class. In China alone, 240 million people have joined the ranks of the “consumer class,” accounting for about five percent of the estimated 1.7 billion people worldwide who have adopted the diets, transportation systems, and lifestyles pioneered in the U.S. and quickly taken up by other industrialized nations during the last century.

    These are the two most important Chinese characters you will ever need to learn. The character on the left is for “man” the character on the right is for “woman” and it’s all you will see on many a toilet facility in China.

    I did little tonight. Enjoying the warm air and relaxed place in this town.

    Tuesday, January 13th, 2004 – Day 329

    I was up at 8.00am and had breakfast in the noodle shop with my bags. My bus was at 9.00am. It says in the Lonely Planet that the journey would take between five and seven hours. I was at the station early and got a front row seat. It was cramped though as it was only a 15 seat bus. The journey took only four hours. I was there for 1.00pm. If I knew it was so quick I would have gone earlier and gone straight for Laos.

    I did not stay. I walked to the South East station about 15 minutes away and bought aticket for Mohan on the boarder for 19 Yuan. It left at 1.30pm. I did not get a chance to eat. It was a straight forward journey and I was there for 3.30pm. The border was still open and I could have crossed but the guide and it many have a point in saying little accommodation or transport links existed on the other side.

    I decided to stay tonight and make an effort to get to Luang Pabang from the the border town of Boten (Laos side) tomorrow morning.

    It was easy to find a nice room as it was very quite. I got a double room – ensuite for 30 Yuan (3 Euro). It was very quite around town with no trade between the two countries. I saw a hive of activity between China and Burma and Vietnam borders but nothing here.

    Wednesday, January 14th, 2004 – Day 330

    I was up at 8.00am after a good nights sleep but with I walked to the makeshift Chinese office they said come back at 9.00am. Laos is one hour ahead and there would be no point in opening before then. Like the town, they are building a brand new entry/exit post.

    I should mention now that even though I changed my watch, I was persuaded to change it back again by the clocks in the Laos Office. For the next two days, I was one hour out and meant I went to bed early and got up early for 2 days.

    When I crossed, there are pick ups to the Laos post for 3 Yuan which is 3km away on a bumpy road. Don’t even think about walking. They were quite nice at the Laos post but asked for my application for the VISA.

    When I got my VISA in Kumning they asked me to fill in two application forms. They then gave one back to me. It was stamped or anything. I kept it – lucky for me. They never explained that you need this second copy for the border. Well,, anyway, as per standard, they only give you a 15 day stamp.

    From there I walked a few hundred yards to the town of Boten. Not really a town. Its just a bad road, full of dust with a dozen small bamboo or wooden restaurants.

    I changed twenty Dollars at a restaurant as there were no exchange facilities. I was lax about finding the correct exchange rate. I had checked it on the Web and it said 8,000 Kip to the Dollar. When the lady at the restaurant asked me how much I wanted, I put 80,000 Kip on her calculator. When she didn’t argue or counter offer, I knew I was either getting ripped off or getting counter feit notes.

    There was no bus station. Just one bus at the side of the road. It was 9.30am and nd it did not leave until 11.20am (10.20am local). Nobody or no thing was coming over the border. It was surreal, it was so quite. One of two people every 15 minutes. Whets going on! It was 18,000 Kip to Muang Xai. I did not know the exact price, but it seemed the same as the other people were been charged. I thought the bus would never leave. As least the Kip notes were real.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Laos (15-01-2004)

    It took only three hours to get there. I arrived. At 2.20, we arrived at the bus station.

    I headed straight to the office and found to my relief that a bus would be going to Luang Prabang. This was great as I thought it would be a longer day. I had expected to have had to get one bus to Pak Monk and change to Laung Prabang. The cost was 27,000 Kip (2.70 US) and again it was a mini bus. It did not leave as had been the case this morning until it was full. It took five hours to get to Luang Prabng.

    It was a good journey for many reasons. And very different from China.

    • in the four hours to Muang Xai, I saw only half a dozen vehicles on the road. Quite unbelievable.

    • The scenery was fantastic.

    • Its very rural. We passed no towns, just dozens of villages. Houses are simple bamboo, wreath, thatch houses many with no electricity, built on stilts.

    It’s a town that wakes early each day when, beginning ever so faintly, the bells, gongs, and drums of local temples crescendo around 4:30am to send Luang Prabang’s estimated 1,000 resident monks and novices on their morning begging rounds. Making a circuit around the small peninsula formed by the Nam Khan and Mehkong, the crisp column of barefoot, orange-robed figures collect rice for their one daily meal. Visitors can even take part and do their good karmic deed for the day by handing handfuls of rice to each monk as they pass — a unique way to connect in a city that is alive with Buddhist culture and history. The colonial legacy still thrives and the torch of French culture and custom is borne by Luang Prabang’s architecture and cuisine. Even the most brief visit to this magically tranquil town is memorable.

    Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Luang Prabang is named after the golden statue that’s kept here, the Prabang (the town’s name means “great holy image”). With a long history as a center for the study of Buddhism, Luang Prabang was the first capital of Laos and has mercifully remained relatively untouched by war or even by the ravages of time; this means that many of the 33 temples are original, and the town’s charm arises from the ancient and authentic.

    It was about 8.30pm (really 7.30pm) we we reached town or more exact the Northern bus station which is about 4km north of town. Passengers took a shared Jumbo for 5,000 Kip to the Post Office in town. I had no idea where I was but I was shocked to see so many tourists. a couple directed me to an alley where there were half a dozen guesthouses.

    i checked out a very clean place where I got a double bed for 4 US per night. it was spotless.

    Afterwards, I walked to the night market where I got a nice meal for 5000 Kip. there were foreign tourists every where. i mean hundreds. after 6/7 weeks without seeing more than 2/3 at any one time it was hard to get used to. As well as that, the restaurants all had English menus. Everything was so easya nd a little expensive compared to China. in China, beer at a restaurant can ost as little a .25 cent, its .50 cent here in a shot. Noodle Soup can cost about .20 cent in China. Its .60 cent here. It ads up.

    By the way, the exchage rate is about 10,000 Kip to the Dollar, so the lady at the border scored 20,000 Kip (2 US) off me. Ah well, my fault. Fair play to her.

    Thursday, January 15th, 2004 – Day 331

    I was up at 9.00am (really it was 8.00am local) and I wondered why it was so quite and everyone was having brekfast. i thought it was the relaxed way of life in Laos. I walked to various VAT’s (temples)a nd there are amny. Some of the major ones, I visited include.

    Mount Phu Si (Phousi)

    There is a 8000 Kip charge to et to the summit.

    Rising from the center of town, Phu Si has temples scattered on all sides of its slopes and a panoramic view of the entire town from its top. That Chomsi Stupa, built in 1804, is its crowning glory. Taking the path to the northeast, you will pass Wat Tham Phousi, which has a large-bellied Buddha, Kaccayana. Wat Phra Bat Nua, farther down, has a yard-long footprint of the Buddha. Be prepared for the 355 steps to get there. Try to make the hike, which will take about 2 hours with sightseeing, in the early morning or late afternoon, to escape the sun’s burning rays.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Luang Prabang – View from Mount Phu Si (16-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Luang Prabang – View from Mount Phu Si (16-01-2004)

    Wat Wisunalat/Visounarath

    Wisunalat is known for its absolutely huge golden Buddha in the sim, the largest in town at easily 6.1m (20 ft.) tall. The wat was constructed in 1512 and held the famous Pra Bang Buddha from 1513 to 1894. On the grounds facing the sim is the famous That Makmo, or watermelon stupa, a survivor since 1504. Wat Aham is a few steps away from the Wisunalat sim.

    Wat Xieng Thong

    Xieng Thong is the premier wat of Luang Prabang. Built in 1560 by King Say Setthathirat, it is situated at the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the Mekong. Xieng Thong survived numerous invading armies intact, making its facade one of the oldest in the city. One of the outstanding characteristics of the complex is the several glass mosaics. Note the “tree of life” on the side of the sim. Facing the courtyard from the sim’s steps, the building on the right contains the funeral chariot of King Sisavang Vong with its seven-headed naga (snake) decor. The chariot was carved by venerated Lao sculptor Thid Tun. There are also some artifacts inside, including ancient marionettes. Facing the sim, the building on the left, dubbed the “red chapel,” has a rare statue of a reclining Buddha that dates back to the temple’s construction. Its exterior is adorned with fun mosaics depicting a popular folk tale.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Luang Prabang – Vat Xieng Thong (16-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Luang Prabang – Vat Xieng Thong (16-01-2004)

    I went to bed for an hour at 1.00pm. I am so unused to this heat and its really the first time for me in a T-shirt for a long time. I had a nice casual time but didnt know whether I would leave tomorrow or not. I had seen most of the major sites. Yeah, there are monks all over te place and most western tourists go a bit stor crazy at the sight of monks with safron coloured robes. They go camera snap crazy. these monks are mostly kids studying to be monks or here a a monk for a short time. they are ordinary kids but tourists treat them with kid gloves, bowing and open mouth wonderment.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Luang Prabang (16-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Luang Prabang (16-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Luang Prabang (16-01-2004)

    Tuesday, January 6th, 2004 – Day 322 to Sunday, January 11th, 2004 – Day 327

    Tuesday, January 6th, 2004 – Day 322
    I had thought of going to the Panda Research centre this morning but decided it was cutting it a bit fine. I had a shave, hair cut, shower etc which took up the morning. I walked around town for an hour buying some dried fruit for the journey. I took the 64 bus from outside the hostel to the train station at 12.30pm. there were thousands of people waiting for the train. Wow. I was in a hard sleeper.

    Hard sleeper has couchettes, separated into groups of six by partitions, but open to the corridor. Berths are provided in columns of three and are cheaper as they get further from the floor. Lights go off at about 10pm and on again at 6am. Thermoses of boiled water are in each compartment and group of berths, refilled either by the attendants or by yourself from a boiler at the end of each car. Compartments often have cups, but it’s best to take your own. Bed linens are provided in both classes. More modern trains have a mixture of Western and Chinese squat toilets. Washing facilities are limited, and except on the highest quality trains, there’s cold water only (and this may sometimes run out).

    It was as described above. I was in a top berth, which was a good 10 feet from the floor. Its hard as they all open to the corridor and nobody gets privacy or even a bed lights. Ligts out at 10.00pm exactly and no noise after. Lights back on at 7.00am. Still it was just OK.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Train back to Kumning (06-01-2004)

    People with trolleys pass non stop all the time selling food, presents, towels, rental of VCD players. I purchased some noodles around 3.00pm and had a full dinner for 5 Yuan around 6.00pm. There are spring seats in the corridor to eat. Once you get on the train, the attendant will swap your ticket for a token with your berth number. Shortly before arrival, she will return to re-exchange it (you never miss your stop in China). Keep the ticket ready, as it will be checked again as you leave the station.

    There were three Candadins a few berths down. I called down there and we started playing cards. It was like 45 and I soon got the hang of it. Indeed my p[artner and I won the game out rights. They were a serious bunch and would not discuss Tibet (where they were teaching) as they were afraid who might be listening. Weird. One girl kept asking questions of me about Ireland. He would say the question like whets the capital called. I would say Dublin and she would go D..U.B.L.I..N and I would have to spell words to her. She would then write them out with her finger in the air. She asked the most ludicrous and silly questions and I was grinning at the other two, but they seemed obblious. There were two girls and a guy. He mentioned that 50% of those had his small college in Michigan had gone overseas. When pressed for information, he accepted that New York and Hawaili were no overseas (but was accepted as such by the college). Funny bunch and definitely a religious thing with them by the books they were reading.

    We played cards until lights out. I got little sleepand kept on tossing and turning. Maybe it was booze as a Chinese gent kept giving us (I was the only person drinking it) some Chinese alcoho. It was good stuff but strong. He was plastered. I also had a flagon of something which the gent looked down at. Hes had cost 20 Yuan and mine cost 2.50 Yuan (.25 cent).

    Wednesday, January 7th, 2004 – Day 323
    We arrived early in Kunming. It was about 8.15am. I knew the area and could walk to the same hostel I stayed in last time. I rebooked a single room for 40 Yuan (4 Euro). During breakfast, the German lad I met in Zhongian turned up. He was leaving for Beijing in 2 hours. He had got sick of the cycling and sold it to the English guy for 200 Yuan (20 Euro). He was as crazy as ever and was cursing and shouting to all and sundry. He was good craic and we talked (if that’s what you call it) for an hour.

    I went to the bus station and purchased an express ticket for Ruli for 10.30am tomorrow. It was an expensive 180 Yuan but its 14 hours rather than the 22-26 hour normal journey.

    I did little of interest the rest of the day.

    Thursday, January 8th, 2004 – Day 324
    I was up at 9.00am and had breakfast. My bus was at 10.30am. It was a normal bus with no reclining seats. It was an OK journey. We only had two meal breaks the whole trip. The first meal was included in the price. The second cost 12 Yuan. At least I was in the front seat and could watch the subtitles on the two film they showed. They showed two Hong Kong classics called god of Gambles 1 and God of Gamblers two. They both star Yun-Fat Chow. The rest of the time (about 60%) they showed Karaoke. I was nearby enjoying it near the end of the trip.

    The poor girl beside me puked her guts up. Not once but at least 20 times during her 12 hour trip. I don’t know where it came from. She puked into plastic bas the whole way. They are bad bus travelers.

    I thought we might arrive earlier as is usual when they give a arrival time. But no, at 12.35am, just over 14 hours we arrived. It was dark but its a small town with a few streets. I walked about 10 minutes to my chosen hotel.

    Yunnan`s most westerly town, RUILI is barely thirty minutes by road from the sober formalities and politely quiet cross-border sneaking at Wanding, but infinitely distant in spirit. Once the capital of the Mengmao Dai Kingdom but now an ostentatious boom town, Ruili revels in the possibilities of its proximity to Burma – 5km south over the Shweli – with such a heavy flow of illegal traffic pouring over the dozens of crossing points to Mu Se , its Burmese counterpart, that locals quip “feed a chicken in China and you get an egg in Burma”. Though things along the Burmese side have tightened up considerably in recent years, trade is very much a two-way affair, and Ruili is the main conduit for Burmese heroin entering China, reflected in the town`s high incidence of addicts and AIDS patients. Burmese, Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals wander around in sarongs and thongs, clocks are often set to Rangoon time, markets display foreign trade goods and most Chinese in town are tourists, attracted by the chance to pick up some cut-price trinkets and the decadent thrills of commercial sex and night-long karaoke sessions. Ruili`s karaoke craze is so intense that there are not enough clubs for the howling hordes of late-night revellers, so scores of entrepreneurs set up videos, microphones and amplifiers out in the streets, blocking pavements and making the town audible kilometres away. While all this might sound like something to avoid, here at the fringes of the Chinese empire Ruili is a surreal treat. If the town`s nightlife appals you, the markets are fascinating, and many foreign traders speak good English and make interesting company – and the surrounding countryside, studded with Dai villages and temples, is only a bike ride away.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Ruili – Neon paradise (08-01-2004)

    I received an email in August 2005 to say my depiction wasnt fair to Ruili – an interesting town. I will add her email here to give a fuller picture of this town.

    I came across your website while doing a search for
    some information on Ruili. I lived there for over a year (I happened to
    be out of town during your visit) and continue to work with the people
    there because it’s a wonderful place with wonderful people that yes –
    has its faults but all places have their faults and all places have
    their beauties. Ruili has no more neon than anywhere else in China and in
    fact – probably has less. Take a look at any large city in China and
    you will learn the meaning of a neon capital. A lighted sign on a
    hospital is not so odd though to highlight its location at night. There’s
    also less prostitution in Ruili than a lot of other places because the
    economy isn’t doing so well lately and I’m not sure why you depict streets
    running over with karaoke bars. Again – there are no more karaoke bars
    in Ruili than any other Chinese town and they’re certainly not running
    over into the street. Ruili can be down right quiet on some nights. One
    more comment about your ‘dog meat’ restaurant. It was actually a
    Sichuanese restaurant – but one wouldn’t know that unless they could read the
    sign. Dog meat is popular in Ruili as are fried bee pupa and fried
    bamboo worms. But that’s their local diet its no more odd to them than a
    steak and kidney pie is to you.

    It’s great to be able to travel around the world and learn about
    different places and cultures but keep an open mind while you’re at it.


    In News:

    Not my picture: A civet cat that attempted to escape is held down by a health worker as another bludgeoned it to death at a wildlife market in Guangzhou, southern China, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2004. Amid a mass slaughter of civet cats, Chinese authorities said Wednesday they will launch a rat-killing campaign in the southern city of Guangzhou as they try to wipe out possible sources of the SARS

    Friday, January 9th, 2004 – Day 325
    I was in at 12.30am last night. I did little today. I walked to the various markets including the Jade market where Burmese traders sellers are. I took a 10 Yuan taxi to Jiegao about 7km from Ruili. Its on the Burma border with only a wire fence separating the two countries. Its a nice town with most people waring the Burmese Sarong. Even though the West has trade sanctions against the country, the amount of trade (illegal and legal) to Burma is massive. I saw warehouses and 3-/40 motor bikes been packed up with boxes for transfer to Burma. China has been Burma’s closest ally since the army seized power in Rangoon in 1988.

    Beijing supplies it with most of its military hardware and training. They are also in reality Burma’s most important trading partner, although much of that is unofficial cross-border trade.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Ruili – Market for Rice (09-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Ruili – Dog Meat restaurant (09-01-2004)

    I got a shared taxi (4 Yuan) back to Ruili. Ruoli only comes alive at around 9.00pm and stays that way for a few hours. Its all neon lights, tress lighted up in green and karaoke bars. Even the Hospital is all Neon. Still, its low season. It wasn’t a party town and I deciced to head off tomorrow. I didn’t want to travel that far in one day as I make my way to the Laos border so I purchased a ticket for Lincang which is about 1/3 of the way there for 115 Yuan. It leaves at 9.00am.

    Saturday, January 10th, 2004 – Day 326
    The bus was at 9.00am. It was a sleeper bus. In China, there is the wonderful sleeper bus. You either love them or hate them. For long distances, buses are equipped with bunk-bed style sleeping arrangements. It was very reasonably priced, and allowed a person to get a night’s sleep. There are about 30 beds on the bus. Five down, two up and three across. I took a bottom bunk as there is no storage space. You have to stuff your bags where ever you can find space. It can make you nervous. You also get a duvet. The troubles are numerwous. The bunks are filthy, no pillows, the duvets are filthy, everyone smokes, spits and dumps their rubbish on the floor.

    The main problem is that the bunks are too short for Westerners and I had to double up my knees. Sleeper buses, although cheaper, should generally be avoided when an overnight train is an alternative. Usually they have three rows of two-tier berths, which are extremely narrow and do not recline fully.

    Anyway we kept on getting stopped and held up. The first two times were by drugs police. They checked everyone’s identity papers and questions three men who were traveling alone. They opened their bags and even kicked them off as they checked under their bunk mattresses. Ruli and this area is the biggest drugs entry point into China from Burma. Heroin is a big problem. This province borders the notorious “golden triangle,” which is the nickname for a drugs production area between the Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. A success in removing the scourge of narcotics from Yunnan is expected to play a leading role in eliminating them from the country as a whole. Anyway we were stopped for an hour. They took my passport for 5 minutes to record details.

    We were stopped again for the same exercise an hour later. To cut the story short, we stopped man times during the night as we were carrying lots of cargo intended for various shops along the route. We got to Kuncang at 4.00am and were stopped for an hour unloading cargo. One box could not be found and they ripped the box apart until they found it on the roof of the bus. Many passengers left here but I decided to hell with it. I had expected to e earlier, stay the night and continue on in the morning. With it nearly been 4.30a, I decided to stay on and go directly to Jinghong. When I would arrive, is anyone’s guess. I only had a little sleep on the bus due to the bad road conditions.

    In compensation the scenery was great. It got very cold during the night and there was a full moon with millions of stars out. It shone on the water terraces we passed. All beautiful but I would rather have the sleep.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Journey to Jinghong (10-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Journey to Jinghong (10-01-2004)

    Sunday, January 11th, 2004 – Day 327
    What can I say. We passed through some nice towns. Its a long feckin journey and I arrived in Jinghong at 7.30pm, some 35.5 hours after I left Ruli. Its an epic journey with the highpoints being the toilet stops. We would have got here ealier except for the two hours we lost to checkpoints, two hours lost to two punctures and two hours lost to cargo stops. The first puncture was fine as we had a spare and were heading into a town. The second time we had to back track 30 minutes to a town and then get the puncture fixed. At least we could have breakfast. We had only two main meal breaks with the food been good. You grabbed a toilet break on the road any chance you could (i.e traffic jams) as you don’t know when the next one could occur.

    My trainers were lost some where to the back of the bus. My luggage was filfty with rubbish, fag ash and spit. Only three of us were left from Ruili. Everybody else (and the bus was full a few times) got off along the way.

    I walked from the station to the first cheap hotel I passed. It was 30 Yuan for a double room with bath. I don’t even know the name of the place. I was totally zoned out, spaced out, a space cadet. My body was there but my mind was some place else.

    I found a place to eat, a backpacker place called Mei Mei Cafe which had good music but crap food. The rice was sticky and cold, the dumplings were purchased at a stall down the street and the vegetables poor. Still for 20 Yuan including a beer it was OK. I did went to the NET for 30 minutes but I could not concentrate. I was in bed watching TV by 11.00am and had a great nights sleep after a shave and a wash.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Jinghong – Famous Bridge (11-01-2004)

    Another suggested SARS case n China.

    Monday, January 5th, 2004 – Day 321

    Monday, January 5th, 2004 – Day 321

    I was awake by 6.30am anyway with many people coming and going in the corridors. Monks get up early. The managed had given me a flash of hot water and a basin to wash myself. IT was freezing. I have never been so cold in a place. At around 7.00am, I made my way to the nearby Golden Summit. Basically its two floors up from the Jinding monastery.

    At 3077 meters, the magnificent Golden Summit Temple is as far as most hikers make it. It’s the highest peak. Covered with glazed tile and surrounded by white marble balustrades, it now occupies an area of 1,695 square meters. The original temple had a bronze-coated roof, which is how it got the name “Golden Top” as well as “Golden Summit”. The true summit of the mountain is a further hour away at Wanfoding, the Ten Thousand Buddha summit. Anyway, I was expecting lads up tourists to come. Usually they start at 3.45am from town and after 2 hours, take the cable car up. The monastery was dark and empty. No one was selling an entrance ticket.

    Anyway, I waited there in a corner hiding from the wind and cold. I watched as the sun slowly rose. It was cool and reminded me when I went to Paucartambo in Peru to see the sun rise.

    Its the same as at this point you are above the clouds and as you watch out the sun climbs above them. Therefore you re looking down on the clouds. Its cool and the whole time there were less than half a dozen tourists. I was led to expect like in summer there would be thousands of people. Maybe its because the cable car seems to be out of order. There were a few monks about feeding the squirrels and small birds.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day Two – Sunrise (05-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day Two – Sunrise (05-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day Two – Sunrise (05-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day Two – Sunrise (05-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day Two – Sunrise (05-01-2004)

    I left for the cable car at 9.00am but found it closed. I did not want to walk back the 7.5km to Jilin Hall, but I had no choice. The walking conditions were as bad as yesterday. It was a sheer ice slide down hill. There was a guard railing on some parts which I grabbed onto. Other times, I left the ice path and walked on snow. Other times, I simply slid down on my arse. It was nasty. I passed one Chinese couple who were sliding on there bum all the way down and were scared shitless. It was OK when when you took confident small steps so that my ice spikes grabbed the ground. Baby pussy footing footing around would only lead to a fall.

    I was down in 50 minutes to the bus station. I paid 30 Yuan for a ticket back to Baoguo Si. It took a while to get gong. The roads were dangerous and we slipped and slided over the first 10km. We had chains on our back tyres. A 4X4 jeep nearby crashed into us as it lost control on the road. It took 2 hours to get back to down.

    I went to the bus station and purchased a ticket back to Chengu for 35 Yuan. It was to leave at 12.30pm. I went to teddys Cafe for a bite to eat. It was nice to try something different from what I have been having. I had pancake with honey again and fried rice with pork and vegetable. Expensive but nice.

    The bus back was slow as we kept stopping for people. The bus was in uproar when all the stops. It took nearly 4 hours to get back when it should have taken just over two. At least they showed two good movies with English subtiles on the TV. The driver must have been a fan of Chow Yun-Fat. The first film was the some what dated A Better Tomorrow which launched John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat.

    The second film was the recent hit Internal Affairs. Its brings the genre bang up to date and is an excellent film.

    In summary, the climb to the summit of Mt. Emei is a grueling, straightforward ascent up a wide and sturdy path. The hike takes most people a full day up and a full day back down; the monasteries along the way and at the top offer overnight accommodations for travelers at reasonable prices. The weather was poor. Misty and foggy for the first 2/3, then snow and ice as well as fog in the last 1/3. It will take you at least 10 hours to get there. A full day with few breaks. The monkeys aren’t really dangerous, but it’s probably better to appease them.

    Anyway, I was back in chengdua and decided to head to the train station ASAP to get a ticket to Kumning as there is always a big demand for that destination. I made a mistake of taking a bus in that direction only to find it verred of in another direction. I took another which I believed would take me close. It did but I did not know it. We passed it on a parnell street and I started walking in a wrong direction. It was 1.5 hours since I arrived so I took a rickshaw. It was from a woman in her 40’s and I felt sorry for her, carrying me around up hill and then ahving to get off and push the bike to get started again. Tough work for a lady getting and all for 5 Yan (.50 cent). Anyway within 12 minutes I was at the station.

    Its a massive building and there were thousands of people trying to get in. Once in, there are about 4 halls and each had about 3-4,000 thousand people waiting for their train to be called. If you don’t like crowds, you would hate this place. I found out that they dont sell tickets here but at another massive building nearby. There are about 40 booths but there were masses of people trying to buy tickets. Luckily a new booth opened and I ran for it. It was a painless affair to buy a hard sleeper ticket to Kumning for 208 Yuan (20 Euro). It will take about 19 hours and it leaves at 1.44pm tomorrow.

    Good Guardian article about Gym Life in the UK and the SARS case here in CHINA HAS BEEN CONFIRMED> Its all over the news.

    I did little the rest of the evening. I had a beer at the hostel and was too tired to shower.

    As the capital of Yunnan Province, Kunming, also known as the “city of eternal spring,” is one of the most pleasant and relaxed cities in China. Though it was founded over 2,000 years ago, the city did not gain prominence until it became the eastern capital of the N?nzh?o Kingdom in the 8th century. By the time the Mongols swept through in 1274, Kunm?ng, or Yachi as it was then known, was enough of a flourishing town to have attracted the attention of Marco Polo, who described it as a “very great and noble” capital city. The city’s bloodiest period occurred during the Qing dynasty, with a series of Muslim rebellions. In the late 19th century, foreign influence appeared in the form of the French, who built a narrow-gauge rail line to Vietnam still in use today. During World War II, Kunm?ng played an important role as the terminus of a major supply line (the famous Burma Road) in the Allies’ Asian theater of operations.

    Today, Kunm?ng’s wide streets, towering office blocks, and giant shopping centers all convey the impression of a modern, 21st-century city. Sadly, much of the development of recent years, most of it on account of the 1999 International Horticultural Exhibition, has come at the expense of traditional wooden dwellings and artisan workshops, which have all been razed in the process, taking much of the city’s original charm with them. Still, Kunming remains a highly enjoyable and relaxing place to spend a few days even if its offerings do not match some of Yunnan’s other treasures. A subtropical location and high elevation (1,864m/6,213 ft.) give Kunming a temperate climate year-round. Its days are filled with sunshine, making almost any time good for a visit, though the balmy months of September and October are especially fine.

    Sunday, January 4th, 2004 – Day 320

    Sunday, January 4th, 2004 – Day 320

    Mt.Emei lies in the southern area of Sichuan basin in China. Mt. Emei is one of the four sacred Buddhist Mountains in China. It is said that Mt. Emei derived its name from two peaks which face each other and look like eyebrows. The whole mountain range extends over 200 kilometers in length and breadth. Ever since the introduction of Buddhism into China in the 1st century AD, Buddhist buildings have been built on the mountain. Now there are more than one hundred temples and monasteries. It is known as the place of Buddhist Rites of Puxian.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day One – Nun with Candle (04-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day One – A tourist making an offering at a temple I visited during the Hike. It was Wannian Si. (04-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day One (04-01-2004)

    Mt. Emei is rich in natural and cultural heritage and carries several monikers: “Kingdom of Plants”,” Paradise of Animals”,” Geological Museum”, “Buddhist Celestial Mountain” and is particularly famous for the title, ” Elegance of Mt.Emei Under The Sun”. The Four Wonders of Mt.Emei are the Golden Summit Sunrise, sea of clouds, Buddha’s Halo and the Holy Lamp. The main attractions include the Baoguo Temple, Fuhu Temple, Leiyin Temple and many other spots. In 1996, Mt. Emei and the Grand Buddha in Leshan were included in the List of the World Famous Cultural Relics.

    i was up at 7.15am and decided to start walking at first light. The start point is Baoguo Monastery. You must pay 100 Yuan (10 Euro) entrance fee soon after. Its discounted for students. It would be a part day. The way I planned it was as follows and I wanted to head back to CHENGDU tomorrow.

    • Hotel to Baoguo Monastery 1km

    • Baoguo Monastery to Wannian Monastery 15km

    • Wannian Monastery to Xixiangchi 15km

    • Xixiangchi to Jinding Si (Golden Summit) 15.5km

    That was a grand totel of 46.5km (29 miles) in one day. I knew nothing of the conditions or steepness. I knew Jinding is at 3077m. I did not like what it said in the lonely Planet. It said in January the Summit would be -7 oc.

    Anyway I set off with my day back with was my LP, a litre of water and dried fruit. The first 15km were fine and I did it in Three hours. I met very few people on the route. CHINESE tourists now get buses to certain temples, its low, low season and locals now use the road to transport goods. You now only come across people at a few open stalls and foreign tourists which I have seen gone since I arrived.

    Wannian Monastery is one of the bigger temples on the route and I paid 10 Yuan in. I spent about 15 minutes there. Nothing amazing.

    The temple, 1,043 meters above sea level, was built in the 4th century. It burned down several times in the following centuries. The present brick building was reconstructed in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The Brick Hall, a domed building with small stupas on it, was built of bricks. In the hall is a statue of the Bodhisattva Puxian on a white elephant, 8.5 meters high, cast in copper and bronze. Its weight is estimated at 62,000 kilograms.

    I passed lots of temples on route. As a holy mountain there are many. The main temples and scenic areas are: Baoguo Monastery, Wannian Monastery, Fuhu (Ambushing Tiger) Monastery, Leiyin (Thunder Sound) Monastery, Chunyang Hall, Qingyin (Pure Tone) Tower, Heilongjiang plank road, Hongchun Ping, Xianfeng (Fairy Peak) Monastery, Xixiang (Wash Elephant) Pool, Golden Summit, Huayan Top, and White Dragon Cave.

    Anyway the next 15km was very hard. The first hour past the monastery I visited was very tough. Basically for the whole day you are climbing man made stone stairs. 90% if upwards and steep. You can see the stone stairs maybe 2-3km ahead and its disheartening to watch. I rather hike on ground rather than this. It took me 3.5 hours to get to XX. I was very tired and thought about staying here. Most of the monasteries offer dorminatory room. I did not come across any other hikers. The weather was very misty and foggy and NO views were to be seen.

    At this temple the care taker was using a sling and stones to shoot at the monkeys. They are big feckers and have been known to attack humans for food.

    the other thing was the snow and ice on all the steps which made things difficult. It was also getting very cold. I decided to head on and maybe take the cable car the last 6.5 km up to the summit. I did not want to spend two days in the mountain. I purchased some local made craptons for my boots. They added steel ice spikes help increase your grip and traction on ice and other dicey spots. They did wonders and were needed as soon they were no steps but just snow and ice.

    For the next 9km, I pushed hard as the snow, mist and fog were closing. I got to Jieyln Hall in 1.5 hours. I was there for 15 minutes checking whether the cable car was working it was not. Lots of those menacing monkeys were about. Many 30/40 were roarming about on the ground and on roofs of buildings. Anyway the cable car was not going up.

    To tell you the truth, I did not feel like walking the last 6.5km to Jinding Si with the way the path was. No steps. Just steep ice and snow. It was like walking up a slide. I did 2 minutes and came back down. I t was 4.00pm. I really walked to do this. I had walked alone all day and it as a bit weird. For the last 2 hours, all I could hear was the cracking of branches due to heavy snow and ice. I saw monkeys now and again who scared the shit out of me. Even the few stalls and mountain shops had closed for the night. A group of CHINESE CAME ALONG and started doing the hike. I felt beer and followed them. About 100 yards later they stopped at a bench. Damn. I walked on.

    IT was dicey now and again but I WAS DETERMINED AT THAT STAGE. Anyway EVEN THOUGH I DID NOT LIKE WALKING IN these conditions, I hated the idea of walking back down in these conditions even worse. I find it hard easier to climb up in hard conditions than walk down in the same conditions. I pushed myself and within 1.30 minutes I was at the summit. I had to use my flashlamp as it was very misty. You could hardly see 1 metre ahead of you. I walked ahead and asked a stall owner to point me to the monastery in order to get a bed. He pointed a shadow out and I walked there. A Buddhist nun was walking around and I put my two palms together and tilted my head to make a bed gesture. She gave me a big smile and did the same. As she pointed me upstairs to another temple, I believe she thought I was a foreigner making a HELLO gesture.

    Anyway I went back down and found a caretaker. He pointed out a faint light about 300m away. I found it was built like a monastery with long dark cold corridors. I was freezing and paid 20 Yuan for a dorm bed. There are about 6 hotels up here and all empty. They still want 400 Yuan for a single room. Even the monastery wanted 110 Yuan for a single room. Anyway they gave me a dorm to myself. It was a 12 person dorm and I have never been in a colder room. IT must have been -10 oc outside and the missing plane of glass in he window did not help.

    I took duvets from the other beds. I put behead me and 3 on top of me. I went out looking for a bite to eat but none of the hotels were going to open there restaurant for one foreigner. When I tried the last place, the owner wanted to make me pot noodle. I did not fancy it so she told a girls to open the restaurant. I am never heard a Chinese girl give out and argue so much. It was 8.30pm and she was watching TV. The filty looks said it all but the owner just laughed and herded us down stairs. I ordered some vegetable soup and some noodles with rice. It was the worst meal I have had since coming to CHINA< AND THE SULKY GIRL?COOK KEPT BELTING ON> Everytime she said something I just talked to her face going YABBA, YABBA, YABBA. At the end, knowing she had no English I told her she was a crap cook.

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day One – Yeah, Steps all the way to the top. When I got views like this with steps up and up, its kind of heart breaking. More at every turn. (04-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day One – Unfriendly Monkeys (04-01-2004)

    Click on the picture to see it in its original size

    Mt. Emei – Day One – Lots of Snow near the Top (04-01-2004)

    I was in bed by 9.30pm and I was going to keep my boots on it was so cold. Everytime I put my head out from under the covers, there was a blast of cold air. I set my alarm for 6.30am to see the sunrise. I was extremely happy to see lots of stars out and the mist and fog gone. I was unhappy to note that it was no where near sunrise and it was freezing cold.