24 Tad Lo, Laos March 4th, 2011
In sleepy Tad Lo, we had a relaxing time just reading books, swimming by waterfalls in the river, and going for runs through neighboring villages. We also got rather absorbed one evening watching ants clean up from a drop of spilled papaya juice.
22 Attapeu, Laos February 28, 2011
We made it over the border into Laos on the last day of our visa. We were hoping to take a five day trek in a remote park near Attapeu, however they seem to have recently built a road into the park with logging truck, after logging truck coming out. The pristine lake we were going to visit now has a gold mine right outside of it, with highly controlled access. The town of Attapeu itself was hot and dusty and had little to offer, and we ended up leaving the very next day.
21 Kon Tum, Vietnam February 27, 2011
With only 1 day left on our Vietnam visa, we didnt spend much time in Kon Tum at all, arriving later one night and leaving early the next to cross the border into Laos.
20 Danang, Vietnam February 27, 2011
With only 2 days left on our Vietnam visas, we left Hoi an to go to the border. However in Danang we ended up having unexpected time to explore when our initial bus didnt work out and the next one didnt leave until the afternoon. We took the opportunity to explore a museum with artifacts from the ancient Cham civilization.
18 Hanoi, Vietnam February 17, 2011
Back in Hanoi, we visited Uncle Ho’s mausoleum and museum, ate in lots of good vegetarian restaurants, got a mild food poisoning, rested, spent quality time with a friend of a friend, Van, and then even more quality time with a friend of Van’s, Yen (a friend of a friend of a friend) who invited us over to dinner.
17 Cat Ba, Vietnam February 12, 2011
Cat Ba was unfortunately overcast, but we did get in a day of relaxing/running on the beach, a day of hiking/exploring the “Hospital Cave” used during Vietnam War – known here as the American War – to rehabilitate soldiers, and a day of rock climbing on an Island in Lan Ha Bay. The following day we took a tourist boat back through Halong Bay and then a boat back to Hanoi.
16 Hanoi, Vietnam February 11, 2011
We took a 10 hour train ride through rice paddy field after rice paddy field to Hanoi, stayed there just one night and then did a walkabout before heading to Cat Ba the next day.
15 Sapa, Vietnam February 4, 2011
After over two months of constantly being in a dense fog with no sun, Sapa finally emerged into sunlight the very morning that we arrived. While it was foggy sometimes in the morning and the night for the next week we were in Sapa we had gorgeous weather. We relaxed, climbed a mountain on our own, had a failed attempt up another mountain which turned out had no path leading up it, and climbed on a guided tour up Fansipan mountain – Vietnams tallest mountain.
14 Lao Cai, Vietnam February 3, 2011
On Tet – Lunar New Year, we crossed on over to Vietnam. The place was pretty dead, all shops closed – and we couldnt find a cheap ride up to Sapa – so we stayed the night and left for Sapa the next morning.
11 Damang, China January 29, 2011
We took the “18 turns” road that weaved up, switchback after switchback to the town of Nanou. From there we walked the hour to Damang which had no hotel, but we were hoping to be lucky and have someone invite us in, which they did. Took plenty of photos of the flooded rice terraces, and took a walk and played with local village kids all the next day. Damang is like the town of Yuanyang which there is plenty of pictures on the internet of, however Damang is not in the Lonely planet. Its nice travelling when one of us knows the local language.
10 Yuanjiang, China January 26, 2011
We were let off at the highway exit to Yuanjiang – that should have told us that Yuanjiang wasn’t a key public transport hub. Nevertheless, we walked up the highway ramp and were immediately picked up by a local bus. We had originally thought of only spending a night in Yuanjiang but were pleasantly surprised by the great food and local massage place we found. Ended up using it as a base, did internet, got taken to lunch by owner of hotel and to natural hot springs, and did a side trip to Damang
9 Jinggu, China January 25, 2011
What a strange place. We reached and checked into a hotel. Feng Chunhua had arranged for us that his relative would get us the bus ticket for the next day in advance as tickets are getting difficult to buy with the approaching Spring Festival and everyone hitting the roads. His relative made us leave our proudly found hotel that had internet connection, sigh, and we checked into a fancier government hotel – for free. Jinggu seemed to only exist of a red light district and sex stores, what a weird little place! on the next day we checked out a local temple that had two pagodas with trees growing on top, the roots engulfing the below pagodas. The story says that a bird shat on the pagoda and the seeds led to this phenomenon. Strange that it happened to both pagodas.
7 Lao Cha Qing, China January 21, 2011
Craving for the outdoors, we took off with Amin and drove to Lao Cha Qing, a remote village where we stayed with a family (with an amazing grandmother and paparazzi children). The had just killed a pig for the new year – vegetarian’s delight! Oh well, how disappointed they were to find out that we didn’t share their excitement. We hiked up Xianren Shan and went to a local well where the water is claimed to be the sweetest. From top of the mountain we saw that Shuangjiang was actually not that far away and inquired about the opportunity to walk there instead of driving back. Our guide agreed that his wife would take us. Dressed up in her prettiest outfit, she hiked the 4-5 hours with us and as we were going through the original forrest, she collected more and more medicinal plants and foods. By the time we reached Shuangjiang, she was happy with her successful harvest.
6 Bangxie, China January 18, 2011
Feng Chunhua picked us up in Shuangjiang and we met up with his wife, Tao Fang (another SFY sponsored former student) and Aming who’d be driving us around. Bangxie had changed much since Lucie had been there in 2002. The villagers were building new houses and Feng Chunhua had finished building his tea factory.
Feng Chunhua is Lucie’s friend and the local representative of Schools for Yunnan. We stayed with him, and he even arranged a local wedding party for us (our 3rd) – this time Bulang style. We also witnessed a ceremony based upon local beliefs of sacrificing food to the gods for protection of the village, but was performed by the town’s Buddhist monk.
5 Lincang, China January 17, 2011
We met up with Feng Feng und Zhu Xi, who we’d sponsored through her education through Schools for Yunnan, Lucie’s educational NGO that she had set up in Germany eleven years ago. Feng Feng took us to her gym where we got in for free as foreign guests. They had excellent staff their with great advice and guidance for Lucie to build up her abs and for James to get strong upper arms. The next day we left for Shuangjiang.
4 Kunming, China January 10, 2011
We stayed with Lucie’s friend Katherina for about a week while we adjusted to travel mode. This adjusting included numerous visits to massage parlors, a couple visits to a spa with hot tubs, a evening out at a dance performance, a climb up Xishan mountain in the Western Hills, meeting up with Connie who helped run Lucie’s NGO Schools for Yunnan, and a dinner with a whole bunch of Katherina’s friends.
2 Hong Kong, China January 7, 2011
These are pictures from our time in Hong Kong where we ran the Lantau Mountain Half Marathon and met up with Lucie’s friends from boarding school, Albert and Isaac, and their families in a shopping mall.