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.

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