2 Months Travelling in Asia
I started off my journey with a solo trip to Chongqing, one of the biggest cities in the world that no one has ever heard about. I stayed with Keegan (thanks man) for four nights in Beibei where I loved the local Muslim cuisine, large round plates with thick noodles, chicken, and potatoes that everyone dives into. I checked out the huge university there, climbed the mountain, explored some temples, and enjoyed mixing it up with the locals smoking hookah and drinking beer and eating seeds, they love seeds….In Chongqing I checked out some thousand year old temples and stone carvings, did the cable car ride, saw a pirate village, (what?) and explored the endless amounts of skyscrapers and apartment buildings. From there I hopped onto a three-day cruise down the Yangtze River. (shout out to my Holland homie although I forget your name.) First of all, the boat was not what they showed me in the pictures, and second of all there was no English guide as also I was told, but that’s Asia in a nutshell for you. But like keegan said, don’t do it for the boat, do it for the sights….which were amazing. Cruising down the river, large, massive, vertical limestone peaks tower above you as if they were Chongqing skyscrapers. Cold wind and murky waters rush by you as you take it all in. The first night we stopped at another thousand-something year old temple that had been relocated due to the rising waters of the controversial three gorges dam, the biggest in the world. On the way we stopped in a cool dragon boat village where the locals from the past and current have races along the river. At night we ate bad food along the river and stale snacks, mixed with cheap beer and watched Heat (‘where’s the van’!) on my Holland friends computer. The three gorges dam was kinda cool, but not really. It’s just a massive structure of cement that spans across the river, the Hoover Dam in Nevada is much more interesting looking.
From there I hopped a bus back to Xiangfan for a couple nights and took off to Wuhan with my fellow foreign teachers. In Wuhan we just had a short pit stop for our flight to Guangzhou, in which we checked out the Yellow Crane Tower and ate Papa Johns Pizza, a treat due to the lack of good food in my area.
Guangzhou was awesome. Now we were really started to see the supposed ‘rise of china/superpower that is to be.’ A great subway system made traveling easy. We checked out the newly built largest tower in the world, (not building but tower, whatever that means). It’s a massive structure of 553 meters (is this real life?) of pure epicness and binding and twisting circular metal rods that looks like an hour glass/baseball bat that could knock the moon out of the sky. From there we checked out an art museum and the site of the 2010 Asian Games, which included lots of flowers and tacky decorations, and boats/barges/parade floats with each countries neon lit presentation.
After two nights we were off to Hong Kong, one of the coolest cities we visited on our trip. Hong Kong is a mixture of a little bit of everything. China, New York, and London all mixed together. Retro red Toyota taxicabs dot the landscape, next to 1,200,000 dollar Paganis, Rolls Royce phantoms, and Bentleys. Buildings sprout up from every which angle, dazzling and sparkling at night. From the ave of the stars, their version of the Hollywood walk with a Bruce Lee statue, you can gander at the epic massiveness that is Hong Kong at nighttime with the laser show nightly at 8pm, where darting green lasers fly across the sky to symphony music and the buildings do their best disco impression. On top of Hong Kong Island via the Peak Tram is the amazing viewpoint of the surrounding city. It’s a great view and a cool ride. In Hong Kong I got lots of great photo equipment for cheap, it’s supposed to be the land of cheap electronics, took many ferries across the harbor, explored the bar district and went on a 7-11 pub crawl and had a giant mug of Hoegaarden, saw the Space Museum and Imax (“I wanna be in an octopus garden with you” (shenme?) We also checked out the quaint beachish town of Stanley on the opposite side of the island and the hilarious and epic and free bird aviary, I don’t know what it is about birds but they just crack me up every time. I got some great shots of some crazy exotic looking parrots and what not. Photos to follow…
From Hong Kong we also jumped ship over to Macau. The “Vegas of Asia.” We explored the old French town colonial area, explored some church ruins, a big wall actually, went to the Macau Tower where me and JT walked around the outside of the top of tower and dangled are feet off the edge as we sat and took it all in. From there we made ourselves over to the Wynn and MGM casinos where I won 125 Macau dollars on two hands of blackjack (it’s actually not that much really) and Mike won about a thousand or so.
From Hong Kong/Macau we made our way to the epicly awesome craziness that is Bangkok. Greeted by wonderful heat, great food, and crazy tuk tuk drivers, South East Asia had begun! I awoke on my bday after 5 hours of sleep to the hostel lady bangin on our door, my homie Kim Daniel Aronsen, aka Kim Jung Ill the 2nd, had arrived from an all-night bus trip. It was great to reconnect and we started the day off dabbling in some local street food and a brew. I was gonna drink the cold water from the cooler, stupidly, before he warned me, I wouldn’t do that or else your gonna have a bad birthday. From there we checked out Wat Pho, an amazing array of temples and a 100 meter gold Buddha, saw some other temples, and rallied around town in the extremely fun Tuk Tuk’s, pimped out 3-wheel Thai motor scooters, definitely the most fun means of transportation from the entire trip. We were whizzed around through all the crazy traffic like Michael Schumacher and ended up at various tailor shops of course, tourist traps and cash-cows. We all got tailored shirts which was dope and they had free Chang beer while you haggled prices/picked out your fabric/got measured. Mike’s shirt went to about ¾ of his arms, hilarious! Then the bday night was on at the famous Khou Son Road. The world-renowned epic party/shopping/eating street in the world of backpackers. Kim got a nice hotel on the strip with a dope roof-top pool, which was great to beat the heat in. We started with some large Changs and good food, and then got a Thai Massage. Definitely Do Not get one! I thought it was going to be a relaxing, soothing, oil massage of epicness. It was not. Instead, I was greeted by a Thai lady doing her best Chuck Norris impression and thought it was good to try and bend me in every which way possible as if I was a slinky, and then pulling my arms behind my back as I lay on my belly and trying to stretch me into a U shape. I was like heh, do I look like a pretzel right now lady? You mean to tell me I paid $ for this? In a latter note, JT said he got racked in the beansack by his Thai massage lady…..The next night’s oil massage was much better. After a shower and M150 enegry drink, (there illegal in the states because they make your heart kinda hurt/go ballistic, I think I had six in three days, but for some reason a Thai massage exhausts all your energy, maybe because of the flabbergasting combination of yoga/palates/kung fu/punching/and judo chops the tiny women inflict upon you), we were off to the party. We started off with some Thai Buckets and a Tower of Beer. Thai buckets are a combination of a bottle of Thai whiskey, coca cola, m150 energy drinks, and whatever else and they get the party started, and everywhere in Southeast Asia loves these kinds of buckets. From there we had a good time clubbing and bar hopping and I met a cool girl from NY and we had some fun for a few days. The next morning was rough. I was like, “My head hurts.” Kim was like, “everybody’s head hurts.”
The next night on Khao Son we ate scorpions, a preying mantis, and 4.5 frogs. During the day we checked out the day market and night market which sell everything from all sorts of murder weapons, tasers, tarantulas, snakes, and junk. I was so close to buying a legit ninja star but I didn’t feel like getting arrested at the airport. The Grand Palace is also a great place to visit full of gaudy architectural elements and interesting art. The last night in Bangkok I went out with Nicole for a night of Italian food, drinks, pool, more drinks, dancing, and then a Thai street-peddler kid got me for 20 baht on rock-paper-scissors. There like pro’s. Now normally I pride myself on my rock-paper-scissors-skills, but in the words of diddy he totally ‘mind f’d’ me. I lost in 2 rounds in a best of 3 and was like, dayum.
From Bangkok we went to Sieme Reap Cambodia. We got off the bus and were met by Tiger, our tuk-tuk driver for our Cambodian excursion. “I’m a tuk tuk driva becuz I drive tuk tuk and this is my tuk tuk. Don’t worry be happy. See that, that’s the fukkin’ 5 star hotel!’ and various other hilarious word schemes developed out of his mouth. The next day he took us to Angkor Wat, undeniably the most amazing sight of the trip. It’s so large and massive and historic and epic that it simply cannot be missed during a lifetime. We only spent one day there but should have spent three. It feels like the pyramids, machu pichu, chitchinitza, and the Aztec ruins mixed into one. The setting is grand. The size is humongous. The architecture is amazingly assembled in perfect unison and detailed down to the brick. Definitely a step back into a new millennium from the space age that is Hong Kong. At night we got 4-handys, oil massages by two beautiful Cambodian women….at the same time, yup, it goes without being said that it was epic. We also saw Dr. Fish, where you stick your hooves into a giant bathtub of hundreds of guppies and they come have a snack on your feet, what?, yeah Asia is kinda weird. It tickles something furious and you can’t help but giggle your ass off like Uncle Benny in Lethal Weapon 4 for the first few minutes, and of course you get a free beer while you get nibbled. So the moral of the paragraph is, definitely go to Angkor Wat and definitely get a 4-handy. After the wat, we went to a floating village on Cambodia’s huge lake that looks like an ocean. We took a hilarious banana type boat to the village, and sat out front/danced on the bow while photographing and taking in the sites. At one point I looked back and to my surprise a lil’ scallywag had boarded our vessel and sold us what else but beer. His partner sped up alongside our vessel and he hopped ship to sell to us foreigners, I was like, ‘I’m not even mad, that’s just impressive.’ The floating village was insane, complete with an alligator pit and kids floating in buckets with giant snakes, schools, churches, and souvenir shops.
From Cambodia we made our way back to Thailand and down to Phuket. Wow, how to even describe it. It’s a majestical paradise, full of foreigners, lady-boys, muay thai fights, cheap beer, prostitutes, parties, pristine beaches, exotic fish, reggae music, and fun in the sun. We stayed on Karon beach at the Beshert Guesthouse, Australian for Hostel. Jumping into the ocean for that first time after the cold China winter was such a great feeling. Not to mention the array of topless women frolicking about the place, some beautiful blond Scandinavians, others, eh, not so much but whatever, it’s just life. Me and Mike rented scooters for the day and cruised all over the island through crazy traffic, checked out the giant Buddha on the hill, several beaches, and some elephants. I fed an Elephant a banana to the snout with my snout. It was great. They are quite peaceful and you can see a personality behind their eyes. During the days we went on two boat trips, one to the beautiful Phi Phi Island, where the movie The Beach was shot with Dicaprio, snorkeled, checked out Monkey Island, fed some monkeys bananas, and had a good laugh at the lil’ baby ones that hang on to their parents for a piggy-back or belly-under (?) kinda like hanging on to a belly kangaroo style. We also went to James Bond Island, named aptly to make $ of course due to a bond movie from the 70’s being filmed there. We checked out the sights, saw a village on stilts, got a monkey with a diaper placed upon me for some candid shots, and drank a coconut on the beach. After that a downpour started occurring, a pure tropical downpour of epic proportions, buckets by the dozen of rain falling from the sky, and I loved every second of it. I jumped out of the tiki-hut-bar and played the local hackey-sack game with the local dudes on the beach in the pouring rain and then jumped into the ocean where we proceeded to throw the ball around. It was such a great experience. I held my arms outwards and looked up to the heavens and thought, this is living…At night we hit up the Muay Thai fights, the thai’s legendary form of boxing. We got great seats and I made mine even better. I walked up ringside with my new zoom lens (thanks ma and doug) and got some great shots whilst the gnarly battles played out in front of me. I was like ‘right, cool, you guys hit each other ‘n shit, I’ll drink my beer and take photos of your injuries.’ The fights started with the youngsters and progressively worked their way up in badassness to the older dudes. They would come out in full traditional head-dress, walk around the rink, pray, do some stretches, and then the hilarious music would start with bells, flutes, and drums. The last match, the dude got flat-out knocked out (beak-checked) and lay on the ground for a few minutes completely oblivious to the world around him. I was like damn, you might want to look on careerbuilder.com for a new field of work. He came through tho, but damn. What guy got karate kicked in the thigh so hard he had to wobble off like a Cambodian flamingo and be carried back to the training table by two trainers. I was like damn again, glad they didn’t have this sport in my neck of the woods growing up. One night we went to Patong, which is like the crazy party area of Phuket, and crazy it is indeed. Actually, gross. There are so many lady-boy prostitues/regular prostitues that its just plain ridiculous. I was like, this doesn’t even make sense? What are they putting in the water here. The last day me and JT went bungee jumping! The jump was 50 metre’s. from the ground it looked short and unimpressive. I was even like, ‘I would jump off that.’ At the top, I was like I immediately retract my previous statement. It was a different story looking down at the lake, the bungee was actually rubber-band chords with frayed threads jumbled together into a rope. I jumped and let off a roar comparable to that of Mel Gibson in Braveheart, it was a long way down, and then like that out of nowhere, the water smacked me in the face like a Tyson hook and I was dunked in the water up to my knees and before I knew it rocketed back up into the air like a yoyo. Oh man it was awesome, much better than my first bungee jump.
Shanghai for Chinese New Year: went to the Chinese Financial Tower, the third tallest building in the world, went to a cool park, tasted some tea, saw the Bund and the colonial architecture, shopped on Nanjing Road. The coolest thing there was the Shanghai Circus, their version of Cirque Du Solei. At one point there were 8 dudes on motorcycles riding around in one giant metal sphere. It was crazy. At midnight on Chinese New Year the sky lit up with thousands of fireworks exploding all around us in a 360 degree circle.
From there me and Mike hopped a flight to Fuzhou. We stayed with his Chinese family and had a good time hiking in the mountains, checking out temples, trying traditional foods, playing with their kids, and watching the Super Bowl at 8am.
From there we hopped a bullet train to Xiamen and stayed on Gulang Yu Island. The island is a cool, quiet place with no cars or scooters, old colonial architecture, piano museums, coffee shops, art, and tourists. We took a cable car over to the bird aviary and I saw a Chinese bird say ‘ni hao’ and ride a miniature bicycle. We did a lot of walking around the island checking out the beaches and gardens and taking in the sights. Over in Xiamen we went to a crazy magic shop where the dude did some mind-bending tricks, checked out the University, and saw the Saturday market.
Then I hopped a ferry over to Kinmen, Taiwan. It’s a short distance off the coast of China, and kind of lame. It was a major military base during previous battles so there are old tanks and forts and temples everywhere. I was the only foreigner around and it was expensive, so I just stayed one night and explored the sights on a scooter, cruising through rice fields, by the beach and in town.
From Xiamen I made my way over to Nanning and then down to Hanoi. Crazy traffic, people selling stuff, French baguettes, kids playing in soccer: welcome to Vietnam. I instantly met some cool people, shout out to Kevin from Canada and my Swedish homies Erik and Frederick aka Ferdinand, and Rich from Wales. In Hanoi I checked out the Water Puppet show, hilarious puppets that dance and spit water at each other and go through fire hoops to live music, ate traditional food at famed local restaurants, went to the ‘Hilton Hanoi,’ the prison where John McCain and other american pilots were held during the war. It was weird.
Me and Kevin went to Halong Bay for a night where we explored some awesome caves, kayaked, swam, and viewed the thousands of limestone peaks jutting out of the water. In Hanoi, I also checked out the One Pillar Pagoda, an old French Church, Ho Chi Minh Square, and the night market. The hostel was awesome, I instantly met cool people in my room, and every night from 7-8 there was free beer hour. In the mornings there was free breakfast, but they failed to mention it was just a French baguette loaf, still good though.
From there I hopped on a sleeper bus with Erik and Frederik down to Hoi An. On the way we stopped in Hue and some ancient temples, kids playing soccer, war remnants, and had some good food (although Rich’s BLT came with the ingredients on a plate served like an appetizer tray with a bread loaf on the side.)
From there we made our way down to Hoi An, a beautiful beach town and my favorite place in Vietnam. The beach was lined with palm trees, and we enjoyed the free sun beds with the purchase of beer, throwing around the Frisbee, and wave crashings. Our hotel had a pool and free cocktail hour, and at the cocktail hour I ran into a couple from Australia that I randomly met at a roadside eatery in Bangkok, how random, yet how cool how life works like that. I made the mistake of letting Ryan the Canadian cut my hair. His guard was broken and I was like just hold the guard there, and he was like neh and tried using his finger and that didn’t work. Needless to say, it didn’t work, and he was like, ‘you’re goin neo-nazi!’ ahhh dammn. Moral of the story, don’t trust a guy with a Mohawk to cut your hair.
We rented scooters for a day and cruised out to My Son, the Angkor wat of Vietnam, and had a great day cruising the bikes around and exploring the ruins. They aern’t nearly as cool as Angkor wat but still pretty awesome. Cruising by the rice fields with the sun beating down on you and seeing the farmers with their cone-hats on is amazing. The fields are the most luscious and vivid greens I have ever seen and sway in the wind. We stopped at a local restaurant and had two bowls each of the delicious chicken noodles.
The other days we rented bikes and cruised around the beach and town. Erik and Frederik got tailored suits and blazers, and I got another tailored shirt for 10 bucks. At night time we enjoyed the local restaurants on the river, partying at the local bars, and went to a beach party. At one point, me, Fred, and Erik all got on one motorcycle taxi, so including the driver, that’s 4 grown men, ridiculous, crazy, and absolutely hilarious, although myself with the metal handle in the back for a seat was not the most comfortable ride. I also met a cool Norwegian women on the last day who rode by me and asked if I wanted a ride so I hopped on the back of her bike, a great way to get around, kind of…
So the couple I met in Bangkok could not use their bus tickets, so I got a free bus ticket to Ho Chi Minh from them and Erik got one as well. All day the coast backpackers travel the same route from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh usually, and you can buy open bus tickets that stop along the route and you can get on and off whenever you want. So from Hoi An we went to Nha Trang. Another cool beach town. We enjoyed a booze cruise day for 7 dollars that included diving off the top of the boat, snorkeling, and a floating bar in the ocean with a free cocktail hour. One time while I was snorkeling me and a fish had a moment. I stopped swimming and stayed still and so did he, about 3 feet away from me, and for about 30 seconds we just had an eye-to-eye gander in which we pondered each other, him just gently flapping his fins and hovering there and me floating next to him. And then, as if to say, catch ya later dude, he paddled his fins and was off to rejoin his homies. Then the guys on the boat put on a jam session, their local band, which was hilarious, one guy dressed up in a coconut bra and grass skirt. Chilling on the beach we got massages, cheap beer, and checked out the kite surfers and crashed some more waves.
From there we said goodbye to the Swedish homies (see you in Stockholm! Or guttenburg) and caught a sleeper bus to Ho Chi Minh. I had one day there, in which we went to the Cu Chi war tunnels. Do not go on this tour! It is horrible. Instead of educating and honoring those that passed, they make jokes and a tourist cash-cow out of it. The souvenir sand is next to a live firing range with ak47’s for tourists to shoot for pete’s sake. The tour was completely hypocritical propoganda, inappropriate, disrespectful, lame, boring, weird, and the firing rage was ridiculously stupid and potentially dangerous.
The rest of the day we spent checking out the city, trying local food, the Notre Dame Cathedral, different shops, and the nightlife.
Then with two hours of sleep, I was off to the airport at 430am to catch two planes, a couple busses, a couple taxis, and a train back to Xiangfan China.
An excellent, eye-opening, adventuresome journey with great sights, great food, great people, and fun times. I can’t wait for my next trip.