Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One last update from Asia

So in a few hours we will be catching another flight but this time it is to Melbourne, Australia and we're really looking forward to it. We have had the most amazing time on this trip. It's been hard in places and we are both so tired and saw and looking forward to lots of things but when we look back it has absolutely been a trip of a lifetime. We've seen incredible things, done fun things, been through places we never thought we'd go. We would recommend this kind of flying visit trip to anyone who wants to travel as you get to know the places you want to go spend time in and if you're not a fan of a place then you are only there for a while. For example we are keen to come back to Japan (this time with loads of money to buy the so cheap electronics) and Nepal to do some trekking maybe but then India and Tibet we are so happy to have seen and experienced but pretty sure we don't want to go back there a second time. We also have found that just cos you wouldn't go back to a place doesn't mean you didn't like it, just that it's not somewhere we want to explore further. Hope that makes sense!

Ok funny story of how the language barrier can go badly wrong...when we first got to Japan we wanted to look at DVDs and we saw a sign that said a whole lot in Japanese and then DVD in english. We were like sweet lets go there. We go up to the 7th floor where it is and walk in and just seen cartoons really and then the guy comes running up to us and goes Only Men!!! Then we look again and realise we've gone into an adult movie place!! AWKWARD!! Later on we nearly did it again too but after that just didn't bother going in unless we could see more then just DVD on the sign!

We've also found some things out about travelling that people didn't tell us. Firstly take a small laptop with you if possible. Nearly everywhere has free wireless internet and that would make emailing so much easier. Beijing has no internet cafes that we could find and Japan is similar. Also take cash with you for each country and when you leave change it at the border. For example we have Nepalese Rupee which we can't change anywhere and we would really like to!! Next would be to take a phrase book with you for each country if possible. Nothing big, just a little one to say basic stuff like Train and Toilet. Also always have toilet paper and pen and paper with you. They will come in useful!! Think that's the main ones. Everything else is fairly obvious!! Oh when packing it's not about fitting everything into a bag because if you do that bag will be really heavy! Try having one big backpack and a few smaller bags for the heavy stuff. That will make it easier. And the final and most important one: do all your shopping last, not first like we did. You run out of money and you have to carry it everywhere with you afterwards!!!

Now we looked forward to this trip so much but there a few things we are really looking forward to when we come home.

1. Not having to pack every few days will be a big one

2. Having clean clothes

3. Being able to cook your own food

4. When you eat not having to wonder what you are actually eating, if it will be nice and whether it will make you sick

5. Having fresh bread that isn't sweet!

6. Seeing familiar faces

7. Being able to speak/read english!!

8. Driving - not walking/training/busing/flying everywhere

9. Not having everyone staring at you like you're from out of space

10. English speaking TV!!

11. Actually getting what you ask for

12. Being able to watch a movie if you feel like it

This list goes on but we won't bore you. We have hundreds of photos too. I will put up the better of them in a small format but if you want to see our pics let me know and we can sort out a better way of doing it. If you are on Facebook you'll see it anyways.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tibet, China and now in Japan!!

I know it's been over 2 weeks since my last email but we have been in China and Tibet for that time and were advised that our emails would be monitored so felt it was easier to just wait til Japan rather then trying to be careful what we write! Also all blogs, facebook and anything sensitive were blocked. For example after we had been to Tiananmen Square in Beijing we wanted to look up about the 1989 Massacre as there was no mention of it there. We looked up wikipedia and got the page and then one second later it was blocked. So we looked up a youtube video on it and again it was blocked. So strick!

To start off with we spent 5 days driving from Kathmandu to Lhasa in Tibet. The first day was awful. We drove to the border but had to walk up hill a long way with all our gear cos there had been a landslide and then cross the border which took 2-3 hours then wait for the whole group to go through. We went through on the 10th of October which was the first day since the 21st of September or something that the border had been open as they had closed it for their 60th anniversary celebrations. It's 60 years of communisim in China. We got into jeeps about 4 pm but didn't get further then a km til 10.30pm as they closed the road. Apparently they do that quite often for no reason really. So by then it was dark and so foggy and the drivers didn't go slowly and every now and then the barriers would be broken where someone had gone off the road. Was really scary to be honest and we were so relieved to get to the guest house where we were staying. The rest of the trip was not nearly as bad, paved roads most of the ways even! We travelled with another couple called Alex and Gareth from Wales. It was so nice to hang out with them and we're looking forward to them coming to stay with us at Christmas in Christchurch. Well that's the plan anyways. We often caught our driver falling asleep so we spent most of the trip singing very loudly to the Ipod to try and keep him entertained. Hard when we speak different languages! Played a bit of Ipod kareoke too which was so fun. One person has the Ipod and sings along and we all have to guess what the song is. Oh the fun! I have videos to prove it.

So Tibet is very high. Even Kathmandu was high. For about a week we were higher then the highest point in NZ which is Mt Cook. So there was quite a bit of altitude sickness which took the shine off it. Constant headaches and aching bones, nausia, no appetite, short of breath. Makes it hard but was worth seeing. Tibet is very barren. Hardly any green but some beautiful views. Including Mt Everest! Yes we have now seen it. It's so amazing to know you're looking at the highest point in the whole world. We saw quite a few monastrys although Tahu and I started bunking those after the first couple. They tend to all look the same but will millions of stairs! One place we saw in Lhasa was Potala Palace which is the home of the Dalai Lama. Well meant to be. Was really amazing. Until the 5th Dalai Lama it was just the political palace and then someone made the Dalai Lama the Spiritual and the Political leader of Tibet and we saw the very room where that happened. We were amazed at the amount of gold in that palace. The Dalai Lamas from 5 up are buried there and the 5th Dalai Lamas tomb has over 3 TON of gold on it alone. We also saw the tomb for the 11th Dalai Lama which is the current one and that raised a few questions but of course we are not allowed to ask them. Several in our group including Gareth got told off for asking about that kinda stuff. Bit like Harry Potter and He How Can Not Be Named!!

One thing that struck us was that 60 years ago China decided that Tibet was theirs but as much as they have tried to make that happen we still consider it a different country. We called it the least successful invasion ever. And also we weren't sure why they would want Tibet! There really isn't a whole lot there!!

After Tibet we left the tour and caught a train to Xian. We saw the Terracotta Warriors there which was so amazing. So old!! Also by the way the train was awesome. So flash! Made the 36 hour trip a lot easier! Also we found McDonalds there which was just what we needed! We may have had it a few too many times since then! Just so good to know what you're eating!!

After that we caught another train to Beijing which was another overnight trip. We didn't do much the first day, just stayed at the hostel and read and relaxed a bit. Then we went on the big mission which was to go to the Great Wall of China!! It can be seen from space but took an awful long time for us to see it!! We made it though and for only about $30NZ each which is way cheaper then the tours that we were offered. We went to Mutianyu and it was so beautiful. You catch a gondola up to the wall and we walked around and then tobboganed down which was just like a Luge at Queenstown. I was petrified but was actually really fun. Was incredible to stand on the only man made thing that can be seen from space. It was beautiful and so strong. Just amazing!

Not much else has been done. We did shopping of course. And found a great food court in Beijing. Such good food!!

So yesterday we caught a bus which took an hour to the airport and got the plane that I wondered if we were even booked for. I had found the tickets on a chinese website and we had got them for $400 NZ each but when we got them we found out we'd got them for 25% of what they were worth!!! So I was pretty sure they were fake but turned out they weren't! So flew to Shanghai and saw an amazing sunset there and then on to Tokyo. After another 2 hours on the train we got to our hostel in Yokohama. Was a very long day and we were so tired but very excited to be here in Japan!!

We are into the last week now. Kinda sad but also really looking forward to not living out of a backpack! And seeing everyone again too. We have another 3 nights in Japan and then we have 4 nights in Melbourne with my bro Jem and his partner Eva and I am getting really excited about that! Will be great to see familiar faces again.

We have loads of stories and pictures and memories but now that I'm writing the emails I can't remember them all. Often I have these moments where I go Wow I'm in Japan or China or Tibet and it's just amazing. I planned this for so long and then suddenly it's nearly over. But we have had the best time and I would have been absolutely lost without Tahu. He has been so good to me when I am sick or tired or unhappy. I would have been very lonely if I'd been here on my own for sure.

Friday, October 09, 2009


So we survived our 3 days in India. So glad we had organised a guide because it was way more full on then Bangkok and everything was just different. We spent our first night in Delhi and then next day we drove to Jaipur and saw this amazing fort and palace and observatory where there was the worlds biggest sundial which was way more impressive then in sounds! It is accurate to within 2 seconds and was hundreds of years old. Tahu and I were both struck with how western culture thinks it's so smart with it's technology and cranes and electricity but yet hundreds of years ago people were doing amazing things like airconditioning, calenders, clocks and all that stuff and making it so beautiful and long lasting. Definitely impressed.

The next day we drove to Agra which was again an experience! There are officially no traffic rules in Agra although you often see traffic cops and I have to say that has to be the best job ever because you just stand there and do absolutely nothing! We went to the Taj Mahal there and it was beyond words. Way more then either of us had expected. 81 metres high, marble and inlaid gems, everything is exactly symetrical except for the 2 graves and it's all just beautiful. took 22 years to build. absolutely breathtaking and well worth the trip to get there!

There are so many animals everywhere! We've seen camels, elephants, squirrels, dogs, cats, pigs, goats, sheep, monkeys, horses, donkeys...the list probably goes on! A lot of fun spotting the different things! We got to ride an elephant too and our driver texted most of the time and even stopped to buy cigarettes! Most entertaining. We had the most amazing driver/guide called Jessie who we really appreciated! If anyone is planning a trip to India please contact us and we will give you the details as the country would be very hard to navigate on a short time on your own I think. But maybe it was just us not being seasoned travellers!

The next day was Tahu's birthday but we had to get up at 3am to drive to Delhi and catch a flight to Nepal. A lot of travel by car, bus, plane, bus, car, in that order! Poor Tahu was sick too which does not make for much fun! But we survived.

Kathmandu is just amazing. Nepal is just so green and so big! The people are amazing but I will tell that story later! Nepal is definitely somewhere we recommend!!

All the places we've been staying while on this organised tour part have been amazing. So flash! We are very spoilt. Yesterday we had an ausy guy called John join us for the sightseeing part which was cool. We went to the Monkey Temple and a couple of other places and also the place where they cremate bodies. Now can I just say we did not ask to see this and that we thought we're just see the outside and the smoking chimney but no. You walk down this river and there are bodies being cremated the whole way. It was truely hard to see and we all felt like intruders although there were hundreds of tourists. The people had all died that morning. Not sure I can really tell everything we saw. Hard to explain. The ashes are washed into the river and we saw a guy cleaning his teeth beside them and there were kids swimming!! A little disturbing to say the least!

Yesterday morning we went on a flight up to see Mt Everest. It was mostly covered in cloud but we were stoked just the same and then we got our money back cos they said it wasn't good enough!! $300USD. Oh yes that did make it so much better!!

Ok the big adventure would be last night! We had to drive to Nagarkot which is way up in the mountains and about 2 thirds of the way there our car got a flat tyre. Not a big deal except that the spare was flat too. So the driver jumps on a truck down the hill and gets someone to tell us that he'll be half and hour. Not so. A guy who lives just up the road let me use his (squat) toilet. Oh the pleasure. And offered us drinks but as it was only meant to be half an hour we said we'd just wait at the car. About an hour and a half later in the pitch black he comes back to us and then another guy stops and after much discussing in broken english and what I assume was Hindi we worked out that he would take us on his motorbike the rest of the way and the other guy would wait with the car. But about a km before the place we were staying at the top of the mountain we hit mud. So we walked the last way hoping we were going in the right direction! At one point 2 men walked for some of the way with us and we still don't know why although it might have been that we had a torch. Can I just say to Dad at this point thank you so much for making me keep that yellow torch?? For some reason I had it in my bag and so at least we could see! We made it there in the end!! But really were amazed at how kind these people were. It was so dark and completely out of their way and they helped us without a second thought. A bit of an adventure for sure! We got to this super flash hotel and found not hot water, a phone that didn't work, no towels, the tv didn't work and no heating or aircon. Not quite ideal after the trip there but somehow it was still great!

So tomorrow we are starting the drive to Lhasa in Tibet. It will take 5 days and we're told its one of the most beautiful drives in the world. We cross into Tibet tomorrow and again it is great timing as the border has been closed since the 21st and is only open from tomorrow. We have had great timing the whole way really. Like the sun came out at the sundial, it rained up until the day we went to the Taj Mahal and the flight to everest the day before was cancelled because of the rain! We at least got to go up and see it. Also I missed a Typhoon in Cambodia and there was massive flooding in India but we saw nothing. Lets hope this keeps up as a typhoon is due to japan yesterday i think!

Ok better go, got shopping to do and I think I've covered everything!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Feeling better now

It's so nice having Tahu here with me. If it's possible I had forgotten how great he is to have around and we are both really similar in what we like doing and all that. Not feeling fragile any more for the record!

We're off to India tonight which is scary but will be fun for sure!

Cambodia, Thailand and tonight..India!

So I've left it so long since my last update that now I have to try and remember everything I have done!

On Wednesday last week we flew in this tiny plane up to Rattanakiri and spent 2 nights there. We went to the prison twice and I played pharmasist while the others did medical checks. Was quite full on to be honest and I was glad when we left and had an afternoon of sightseeing. We went to Crater Lake and had a picnic which was just amazing and then (on Motos of course) we went to a waterfall. Had to walk into the bush a bit and it was just amazing. We could go behind the waterfall and everything.

We flew back to Phnom Penh on Friday and it was a VERY rough flight especially for a little plane and a couple of us (yes I was one of them) had the pleasure of spewing during the flight! Oh such fun. Was glad to be home for sure!

Saturday we went to Kantal Prison again with the Dentist team and in the evening I went with Annie to Lakeside which is a slum area. They live right on the train tracks and we were standing there going man these houses would get destroyed if a train came through and then not long after one did and nothing got damaged cos they knew it was coming and moved all their awnings or whatever off the tracks! Definitely impressive to see.

Sunday was my last teaching session and Monday I went to the International University for a bit and did some last minute shopping.

Tuesday was really hard because there were goodbyes. Most of the children weren't around which was good because it was hard enough saying goodbye to the few that I saw!! In the afternoon I caught a flight to Thailand and hung out at the airport for a few hours until Tahu's flight arrived! Was so good to finally see him but because I'd spent hours worrying about how to find him and if he'd get through customs ok it took me til the next morning to relax and actually be happy!

So we've been here a few days and have done a lot of shopping and just looking around. We've spent a day or so just chilling at the backpackers too which was very much needed! Tahu got a suit custom made and it looks AMAZING!! I am very impressed. I got glasses and contacts and we both got clothes and other random things. A lot of fun shopping but not so fun trying to pack it all this morning!

Yesterday we successfully caught a bus to Kanchanaburi and saw the Bridge over the River Kwae and the war museum and just looked around there for a few hours. Was very hot though so lots of viewing everything from the shade!

Tonight we are catching a flight to India. We have a night in Delhi, a night in Jaipur and a night in Agra. Wednesday we are going to the Taj Mahal and then flying to Nepal and it is also Tahu's birthday! What a way to celebrate eh!