From Tanzania warm and dry to Mumbai India heading right into the Monsoon!Saturday August 4th, 2007 by Daniëlle
Drip, drip, drip, I am sitting soaking wet behind a computer in an internet cafe in Mumbai India to update you on our latest adventures. Just before we entered the cafe the skies opened and the rain came pooring down on us and although we had an umbrella sponsered by the pharmaceutical industry we are soaking wet. But as Dutch people we are used to our share of rain and overhere it is lovely warm compared to Holland and I am sure we will get dry again.
On Zanzibar we saw the red colobus monkeys and the Sykes Monkeys (black monkeys) in Jozani Forest. The monkeys were nice, but the park is not really a big deal. We did see a green treesnake, which moved away quickly the moment it spotted us.
Our day on the beach on Mangapwani, a lovely white sandy beach just above Stone Town, was very nice. We had lunch at the nice restaurant and got a nice teint, again we spotted a group of Sikes monkeys (black monkeys).
The ferry (Seabus) from Zanzibar to Dar Es Salaam went well, only the large waves made the journey seem more like a roller coaster ride. The bumping was not really appreciated by a lot of passengers, including Edvar, who looked a little white around the nose and some even needed to vomit. Luckily Edvar was able to keep his breakfast down . My jacket was given a dump in the ocean when they unloaded our luggage, but it survived and looked as good as new after I gave it a shower in our hotelroom.
In Dar Es Salaam we sent another package home to Almelo, so we got rid of some weight from some guide and reading books. Meanwhile we already bought the Lonely Planet of Nepal and China and a new reading book, so the kilos lost are now regained .
Our flight from Dar Es Salaam to Johannesburg in South Africa went smoothly and I had a nice conversation with an American/South-African couple Kevin and Rose and watched the movie. In Johannesburg we were introduced to an English couple travelling around the world, but only the other way around than us. We exchanged some experiences about the Trans-Mongolian Express and Madagascar.
After a good night rest in Johannesburg we continued our flight to Mumbai. During the flight the ”fasten seatbelt signs” went on regularly, because of the bad weather and therefore the turbulence. Edvar had a déja-vu, but luckily it was not as bad as with the ferry. When we arrived in Mumbai Edvar’s luggage did not arrive, which was a bummer, hopefully we will get it back on Sunday morning. The cables to upload the pictures are in there as well, so we will upload them another time.
Mumbai is a busy town, but with a very nice ambiance, beautiful buildings and we like the country India so far. The people seem nice and friendly and willing to give a helping hand when asked. Although they tend to twist the truth once in a while and will not easily admit if they do not know something. For instance they try to sell you an old version of the Lonely Planet. Or another example: our taxidriver we took at the airport said he knew where our hotel was, but in the end it seemed that he did not, and we were already in the wrong part of town, probably also because he didn’t speak very good English.
During this taxiride, while the rain was pouring hard, we got into another car that managed to bring us to the right hotel. In the car we met two other Dutch girls, already travelling for three weeks in India, who had been trying to get a hotel, but did not succeed, because most hotels were full, because of an ongoing congress. We were lucky, because our planned hotel had a room available for four people, where we were able to get some sleep at five o’clock in the morning.
The Dutch girls Patricia and Shira had planned to travel through India for six weeks, but after three weeks decided that this was not their country and they wanted to go home. But after spending two days with us, they decided to give the Northern part of India a chance anyway. Ladies if you read this please let us know how you are doing!
Meanwhile we managed to get ”Trains at a Glance” from India and now it should be easy to plan our trips by train. The next step will be to find out if we will be able to get the tickets just as easy, but first we will wait until we retrieve our luggage. Today we did the Lonely Planet city tour and the ladies are on their way towards the airport to arrange a flight to Jaipur. With a little luck we will manage to catch a train towards Jodhpur ([GP:IND Jodhpur]) on Sunday or Monday. We are still doing great and neither of us has any trouble yet with the “delhi belly” (diarrhea), which is famous in India.
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India: Friendly hard working people, structured chaos!Wednesday August 15th, 2007 by Daniëlle
India is a very impressive country. The country does not seem to look like any other country I ever visited. The people are friendly and work hard for a living. Sometimes you see very rich features, like for instance a Rolls Royce (530.000 euro), but also a lot of poverty. The cities are very crowded. Riksjas (Tuk Tuks), both bicycle and motorised tricycles, seem to easily find their way through all the other traffic. The honking of the horns from the riksjas, motorcycles and scooters sometimes can make you almost deaf.
In between you see cows lying or walking down the streets. Streetchildren and beggers are also a common sight. In between you see a lot of mutts. Also you see a lot of cows, donkeys, horses or Arabian camels towing carts. It is a miracle we have not seen any major accidents happening yet.
Other animals that can be seen within the cities are for instance chipmunks. In Agra you can also see monkeys on the rooftops and sitting in the internetcafe we just saw an elephant walk by. Due to all these animals and people there is a lot of garbage and faeces on the streets, which attract a lot of ants and rats. The rats crawl between the railroad tracks and you can see about six of them within a few square meters.
Through all this movement you can still find some kind of structure and efficiency in India which I can truly admire. If you ask a person for help, they are eager to help you and arrange things in a minute. The problem is everyone wants to arrange everything for you, so sometimes you just feel like a taperecorder, repeating itself all the time saying ”No thank you”. After a day in India you are almost more exhausted then after a hard day of work. Luckily we are pretty relaxed after six months of travelling, so you do not drive us crazy easily, but I can imagine that if you come to India after a year of hard work for a relaxing holiday, you want to go home within a week .
The weather is warm and moist (except in the desert), which makes you feel warm and sticky very quickly. Due to the dust and the exhaust fumes your clothes do not really feel very clean after a day, but since we do not have that many clothes and we do not want to do the laundry every day, we just wear them another day. We delivered our laundry to our hotel this morning, so with a little luck we will soon have a backpack with clean clothes again
Edvar’s luggage was delivered on Sunday morning in our hotel in Mumbai, so we were able to catch the train to Jodphur the same day. The trains in India are fine, we took the 3AC class, with for Edvar a little bit too short beds and there was a delay of one and a half hour, but for the rest the trip was fine. On the internet (www.irctc.co.in) it is easy to book your tickets to the next town. On the carriage you can find your own name in English and in Hindi. A strange sight you see when you arrive at a trainstation in the early morning is that half of the indian people seem to shit and pee near the rails at this time of the day.
The Indian food is kind of spicy, which is fine for a few meals, but we just seem to like other food better. The menu seems to be the same in every restaurant, so that is a pitty. Since we both love a nice piece of meat, India is not really our country in respect of the food since most meals are vegetarian. Although diary products like yoghurt and milk are easy to retrieve in all types of shakes for instance “Lassis”.
After six months of travelling some of our personal belongings are starting to wear out. My slippers did not survive our trip around the world, which of course was a nice excuse to buy some new ones in Jodphur, which of course ended up in two pair of nice new Indian shoes. Climbing an Arabian Camel cart caused one of my trousers to tear open. Edvar’s already worn out shoes were covered with fungus, because they apparently were not completely dry when put in the backpack after the rainfall in Mumbai. One of Edvar’s T-shirts will probably never regain its natural colour light blue after our sweaty desertsafari in Bikaner.
After buying the shoes my selling fever kicked in and I bought a pair of bracelets for 20 roepie (40 eurocents). Afterwards Edvar and I bought our engagement rings for 13 euros, I do not believe its real silver, since our fingers turn black/green, but just for fun they are great.
In Jodphur we visited, together with the ladies we met in Mumbai (Shira and Patricia) and Bas and Leonie, the Fort and went to diner in the evening together. While we were waiting at the clock tower I tried to teach some streetchildren some Dutch hand clapping games and they tried to teach me their Hindi version. We had a lot of fun until the police came which made the children vanish in an instant.
From Jodphur we took the train towards Jaisalmer, a dusty trip through the desert. At first we were not able to find our seats, eventually after being pointed in the wrong direction three times we found them. In Jaisalmer we also visited the Fort and had a drink with a very nice jewel salesman, who would have loved to sell us some rings, but we already had those . We walked towards the lake and visited the puppet theatre, which was not a real success, since we were the only two visitors, we could not hear the story and the music was the same the whole time.
From Jodphur we took the bus towards Bikaner, where we booked a two-day desert Safari. We were accompanied by Mommy and Baby (6 months old) Arabian Camels and Daddy Arabian Camel in front of the cart. Our camel drivers were Harphool, Mangilal and Bhagi Rath. Lovely trip to escape the city. The sunset was nice, only the ten village children accompanying us kind of killed the romance. At night we viewed the sky for falling stars and were able to do a lot of wishes. We slept on the ground and awoke semi covered by the sand, but for a night this was kind of funny. I also learnt a Hindi song from Harphool and I tought him two Dutch songs :).
After our Safari we visited the rat-temple, very extraordinary. In Bikaner we visited the Fort with an offical guide and since everything in India seems to be done at top speed, we have the feeling we have not seen half of it. In the evening we took the train to Agra where we will remain the next few days visiting the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri and the Keoladeo Bird Park.
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Homesick? Not yet, but our thoughts seem to wander of to the Netherlands once in a while….Sunday August 19th, 2007 by Daniëlle
No, neither of us has problems with being homesick. Although a lot of things are happening in The Netherlands, which we have to experience from a distance. The birth of lovely little children (Simon, Lynn and Dominique), weddings (Jan and Ariena, Judith and Gerben and of course in the near future of Sandra and Michiel). Of course we knew these things would happen before we left, but still I really would like to see those little ones in true life and hear all the nice stories from the weddings in person, not only experience them from the of course very nice pictures everyone has sent us.
With a little luck my house at the “Raamstraat” is sold on the 12th of October (if the buyers are able to arrange it financially). Jarno and Marion offered their home to us for a month since they will probably be on holiday at that time. But this means we need to find a new place to stay in or around Deventer. Edvar regularly receives emails from people who think he should get back to work . Which of course is very nice, since we both feel like we want to get back to work after 8-9 months doing nothing.
Another big disaster is that I am going to miss Stöppelhaene (big festival in my birthtown) this year. I will miss catching up with everyone and the fair and our traditional ride in the carousel. Girls, I promise next year I will be there until the late hours!
We are not complaning, since everything seemes to be going quite well at the homefront, luckily no events have occured which have led to us returning prematurely (knock on wood). But in our thoughts we have the feeling we started our way home and are thinking how we will get our lives in order when we are back in the Netherlands.
Our visit to India has almost ended, since with a lot of luck we were able to book a flight for tomorrow to Kathmandu in Nepal. Our visit to the Taj Mahal on Independence day (15th of August) was definetely worthwhile. According to us the Taj Mahal has earned her spot on the list of seven worldwonders.
In Fatehpur Sikri we enjoyed wondering around the ghosttown, but really were bothered by the ”salesman/touts/guides/students”. In the end I asked a boy if he had ever been hit with a lonely planet and then he finally got the message. After this we could fortunately cool down at the Keoladeo National Park, where we enjoyed some nice birds and animals from our rented bicycles.
After Agra we took the train to Varanasi. During the train trip we encountered so much low life, we finally tried to get some sleep with one eye open after tieing all our bags together.
In Varanasi we did the boattrip on the river Ganges and picked a fight with the boatman, who tried to earn some money from us in not really a nice way. To my opinion the true culture and religion of India is probably found off the beaten track. In Varanasi everything is so built on tourism, it just does not feel right. For instance we were asked to get out of the boat to look at the cremation stacks up close. I decided to stay in the boat, since I would not really appreciate a bunch of strangers walking into my own funeral or cremation. In summary we are ready for a new country, so Nepal here we come!
7 Responses to “Homesick? Not yet, but our thoughts seem to wander of to the Netherlands once in a while….”
Nepal, on top of the world!Monday August 27th, 2007 by Daniëlle
Our flight from India to Nepal was very exhausting, due to the enormous chaos we encountered at the airport of Varanasi. Believe me, we have not seen anything like this during our trip around the world! The check-in counter opened too late, which caused people pushing and shoving eachother, because there were too many people with too much luggage and therefore not enough space. After a lot of manual checks and other stuff the plane departed too late, which did not really surprise us. After a short flight the relaxing atmosphere and organisation at the airport of Kathmandu was quite a relief. The visa we were able to achieve easily for 24 euros.
Both Edvar and I were kind of exhausted, due to our trip in India. In Nepal we let us be taken to a hotel the “Pilgrim Guest House” by some guy we met at the airport. Since the hotel was nice and Bhupendra seemed like a trustworthy guy, we decided to book our complete trip in Nepal and our grouptrip towards Tibet (which you have to do through a travelagency anyway) with the same guy (Bhupendra Adhikari, The Great Adventure Treks & Expeditions). To be honest it is kind of nice to travel in an ”organised” way for a while.
The Nepalese people are really friendly and they really know customer service and Nepal is a cheap travel destination. Until now we really enjoy travelling in Nepal and Nepal might end up as the second best country on our trip around the world (Canada is still number one). Nature is wonderfull and although there are some similarities compared to India, Nepal is a lot nicer and quieter.
After relaxing for a day in Kathmandu we decided to do some citywalks. Kathmandu is a nice town with a lot of nice little courtyards with nice stupas and little temples. Wandering around Durbar Square is definately worthwhile, the only thing I think is a pitty is that the impressive buildings are built too close to eachother.
Unaware of the man approaching me, while reading my Lonely Planet, I was given a red dot on my forehead and got flowers thrown over my head, this was supposed to bring me good luck, but of course only if I paid the guy some money. Edvar just had enough time and was tall enough to prevent getting a red dot on his head and his reaction and mine made it clear to the two guys they were not going to get any money from us.
After Kathmandu we left towards Chitwan National Park, we stayed in the little town Sauraha, at the Jungle Safari Resort for four days. Again the people were very friendly and the different activities well organised (canoe trip, jungle walk, bird watching, elephant riding, visit elephant breeding centre, cultural show, visit to the village and the jeep safari). The food was very good and every day a different menu.
In the morning of our first day it was raining so we were not able to see a lot of animals, but in the afternoon we were able to see the rhino (even three of them, second day another one), which we missed in Africa, ofcourse the species with only one horn . During the other days we spotted different types of deer (spotted deer, sambar deer, barking deer), crocodiles (marsh muggers and gharials) and different birds, for instance a nice stork (blue with yellow and white) and during our second trip of bird watching (Very nice, especially organised for us, because there were not many birds to be seen due to the rain on our first trip) a nice mongoose and stables with male elephants with large tusks.
The Asian elephants were really amazing. The beautiful view you have from the back of an elephant is really great. You also feel a lot safer, than during our jungle walk between metres high grass on both side of a slim track, knowing the area you’re walking in is also inhabited by tigers, rhinos, bears and wild elephants. Climbing the elephant during the elephant bathing was also great fun, just grap the fellow by its ears and put your foot against its trunk and before you know it you are lifted up in the air, so you can climb on the elephants back.
The elephant breeding centre was also very informative and the little elephants really cute. We were attacked by “the little bitch”, who was kind of angry since she did not get any food from us. Some of the little ones have not been chained yet and this lady was walking around freely and believe me, when there is about 200 kilo coming straight towards you, you have no problem stepping aside. Our guide clearly had experience with this kind of adolescent behaviour and gave her a firm hit on the head. Though several blows were necessary before she decided to return back to her mother and leave us alone.
Neither Edvar nor I are really charmed by the different “cultural shows”, we encountered often unwillingly during our trip around the world, for instance when you are enjoying your meal or sitting in a bus and have nowhere to run to. But we both really liked the show we watched in Sauraha, which was well organised, very professional and with humour and therefore we rewarded the show with a tip.
Yesterday we took the bus from Chitwan to Pokhara and we will stay here for a few days, before we leave for a baby trekking (Ghorapani (Poon Hill) to Ghandruk loop) for six days. After the trekking we will stay a few days in Pokhara, before we go back to Kathmandu. On September the 8th we will head from Kathmandu towards Tibet. In Nepal we are not able to get a connection with our mobile phone, so we can not be reached. For everyone who has already enjoyed their holidays, tell what it was like and ofcourse I am curious how you enjoyed Stöppelhaene?
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Up the mountain and down the mountain, just like a couple of mountaingoats!Tuesday September 4th, 2007 by Daniëlle
In Pokhara we walked up to the World Peace Pagode. First we took a small rowboat to the other side of the lake with a stop at the small island in the middle to take a look at the Varahi Mandir (Hindu temple). After a nice climb up the mountain with a lot of nice birds and butterflies on the way we arrived at the World Peace Pagode. On top of the mountain we gained a new friend, a German dog named Rambo 2, who loved to walk along with us as our adoption dog until its worried Nepalese owner came to take him back home. We walked back taking another route and visited the Devi’s Falls, a nice waterfall.
Yesterday we returned safely from our six day trekking from Naya Pul to Phedi with overnight stays in Tikedungha, Ghorapani, Tadapani, Ghandruk and Dhampus.
- Day 1: Pokhara (915 m) to Naya Pul (1050 m) by car. From Naya Pul (1050 m) to Tikedungha (1577 m).
- Day 2: From Tikedungha (1577 m) to Ghorapani (2675 m).
- Day 3: Because of the weather we skipped the climb towards Poon Hill (3232 m). From Ghorapani (2675 m) to Tadapani (2675 m).
- Day 4: From Tadapani (2675 m) to Ghandruk (1950 m).
- Day 5: From Ghandruk (1950 m) to Dhampus.
- Day 6: From Dhampus to Phedi (1113 m) and back by car to Pokhara.
The trekking was really nice, passing small villages and wonderful nature. Especially the waterfalls were very impressive. Unluckily because of the rain during the afternoon on the second day, the third day and the last day, we were not able to take a lot of pictures and skipped our trip to Poon Hill, because the view would only consist of clouds.
The first day I felt a little tired and when we arrived at the place we would spend the night I got a fever. So I hit the sack early and luckily felt much better the next morning. To my regret I seemed to have passed the fever on to Edvar at the end of the second day.
Only Edvar did not seem to get rid of his fever as easily as I did and the problem is he kind of looses his appetite when he is sick, which is not really a good thing when you have to get up and down mountains for five to six hours every day for six days in a row. But although slower than normally my superman was able to finish the trekking. He felt slightly better when the time passed and at the last day I have declared him a healthy man again :).
Our guide Babu Ram Karki (website: www.greathimalaya.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org) is a very nice guy to hike with through the mountains for six days. During our trip we met a few other tourists, but not many since it is still off season. Due to the rainy weather we missed out on the spectacular snowcapped mountains, which were hidden behind the clouds. We only were able to get a few glimps of the Annapurna South (7273 m) and the Hiunchuli (6441 m). We met two English ladies (Chirsty and Becky), with whom we spend some nice evenings chatting.
During the trip we were accompanied by a few Nepalese dogs, because of course I had been too friendly again. Edvar said I really had to watch out, because otherwise we might end up with another adoption dog .
When we were picked up by our taxi at the end of our trekking we heard about the bombings that took place in Kathmandu. In November there will be elections in Nepal and these kind of stupid terrorist acts were claimed by some small ethnic groups who try to sabbotage the elections. Nepal used to be a monarchy and has a temporary government right now, which will be replaced after the election by a new hopefully stable government, which will hopefully be able to improve the situation in Nepal.
The tourist season in Nepal starts in September and chances are high the bombings will effect the amount of tourists travelling towards Nepal. It is a shame that a country with such friendly inhabitants has to suffer and will have problems to develop itself, because of a few idiots. Nepal really depends on money earned from tourism.
2 Responses to “Up the mountain and down the mountain, just like a couple of mountaingoats!”
Some roadblocks due to landslides, but in the end we were able to reach Tibet!Monday September 17th, 2007 by Daniëlle
On 8 September early in the morning we were picked up in Kathmandu to walk to our bus, which would drop us off on the border between Nepal and Tibet/China. With an international group (1 Australian (Michael), 1 French (Marie-Laure), 2 Americans (Kate and Linda), 2 Germans (Markus and Steffi), 1 Canadian (Julie), 2 English (Rachel and Tom), 2 Israelians (Shirly and Lea) and 3 Dutch people (Maroesja, Edvar and I)) we entered the bus on our way to the border. Our breakfast was in the rain and the road got slowly worse afterwards.
The funny thing was that everyone had booked their tour at a different travel agency in Kathmandu and prices and itinaries did not seem to match (different hotels, different sightseeings). Although the final tour would be organised by one organisation Greenline.
In the bus our Nepalese guide Mac handed out a piece of paper with some additional information for the journey. Regretfully this was rather late since at the moment of departure you did not really have time to arrange the recommended: 100 dollar cash, warm clothes, sleepingbag, suncreme, sunhat, sunglasses and sportive shoes. For us in the end it did not really matter, because we had all our luggage with us since we would not return to Kathmandu. So a suggestion for Greenline, put this form on your website, so each travel agency in Kathmandu can print it out and inform their people appropriately when they book the tour to Tibet.
At one point the road turned really bad and we ended up at our first landslide. Since the distance was not that far we carried our luggage ourselves. People who used porters to carry their luggage had to pay 200-300 Nepalese roepies. Having reached the other side of the landslide safely we were told there was another landslide further ahead and that we had to pay 500 roepies per person to pay for transportation to the border. If we did not want to pay we would not be able to reach the border in time and the distance was to far to walk. It really felt like blackmail.
In the end after a lot of discussion we compromised on 150 Nepalese roepies to the second landslide and 150 Nepalese roepies, when we would reach the border. Really funny that there did not seem to be a second landslide afterall. When I confronted our Nepales guide, he said it was the river we crossed, but of course that was rubbish since this river always crosses the road. Since he darn well knew he was ripping us off, he walked away quickly to avoid any further confrontation with the difficult Dutch woman. Of course it is rather strange that you have to pay extra for transportation, because of a landslide, since you have paid for transportation all the way to Lhasa and landslides are really common on this track. The bus who drove us until the landslide obviously used less gasoline than planned.
The organisation at the border was also really chaotic and crossing the border took much longer than I think was necessary. If you let people fill in the health form first, it will safe you some time. The luggage was decontaminated at the border with some kind of machine. After crossing the border our Nepalese guide was not able to track down our Tibetan guide so we had to wait again.
After a very busy day we finally managed to reach Zhangmu with the jeeps at the end of the afternoon. Since our Tibetan guide was not able to arrange a travel permit yet for our group and the office was closed we had to wait again. In the end he succeeded in arranging the permit afterall, but decided it was now too late and we would be better of spending one night in Zhangmu. Next morning we had to get up early to make it past a check point before five o’clock. After an hour drive we ended up at our second landslide which was much worse than the previous one.
After sleeping a couple of hours in the jeep, we were woken by a second landslide passing over the spot where the landslide blocking our way already was. I really started wondering how save the spot where we were standing with our jeeps was……. In the end the decision was made to head back to Zhangmu. The communication about when we would be able to pass the landslide was rather unclear, which caused a lot of people to get irritated. Since this was not really a situation where complaining would really help, we just decided to go with the flow and wait what would happen.
After spending three nights in Zhangmu we drove with a long row of jeeps towards the checkpoint hoping the road would be open at the end of the day. At the checkpoint the irritation between our Tibetan jeepdrivers and the Chinese soldiers almost got out of hand. Finally the road seemed to be clear, but we had to wait for all the traffic coming from the other side to pass first, before we were allowed to start driving. At the end of the afternoon of our fourth day we finally were able to continue our journey.
All the waiting did create a nice bonding within our group, which really was great. Our group was expanded by now with two Russian ladies, two Spaniards, three French, two Germans and three Americans who already live for quite a while in Nepal.
Our guide Tempa and our jeepdriver Tenzin stayed friendly and cheerfull eventhough the circumstances were not optimal, in the end it was not really their fault, so compliments guys! The fourth night we spend in the village Nyalam. The fifth night in the village Shigatse, where we visited the monastery and walked the Cora (pilgrimswalk around the monastery) and visited the old town, because on request of Julie we were allowed to stay a little longer in the village. We managed to find an ATM here which did not only have the explanation in Chinese.
Due to the height and the high passes, Edvar and I both had trouble with altitude sickness. I was very tired and sometimes dizzy and Edvar also had a headache. Due to the fact we were both tired and had altitude sickness we picked our first fight together during our trip around the world, but do not worry we made up with eachother immediately!
After Shigatse we drove on towards Lhasa, where we spend two nights. The program (Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery and the Potala Palace) for Lhasa was all stuffed in one day, due to our delay, which caused us to miss the visit to the Jokhang temple, but we will probably visit this temple today. The group demanded a refund for the missed sightseeing, but we did not agree, since we think it was not a situation that was caused by our guide or the travel agency, so we told Tempa we did not want our money back.
Our first impression of Lhasa was not quite what we had expected, because in the area of our hotel most shops were selling porn. Lhasa is a very modern city, with neon ads all over the place and high buildings. Banks are also open on Saturday and you can get money at the ATM’s easily, especially inside the bank where there is a guard present. The Chinese food is really great for instance the Peking Duck and the Chinese Hot Pot, so we are really enjoying that.
In China some websites are blocked, including our photowebsite Flickr. So we are really sorry, but you have to wait until we are able to upload the pictures. Tonight we will take the train from Lhasa towards Xining, where we will try to arrange a train as soon as possible towards Chengdu and if that is not possible towards Xian. Chengdu and Xian are both planned destinations, before we leave towards Beijing, where we hopefully will succeed in arranging the Trans Mongolian Express, the email towards the consulate is on its way, so hopefully we will receive a response soon.
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Who persists will conquer, Russia here we come!Saturday September 29th, 2007 by Daniëlle
In Xining we succeeded in arranging a trainticket towards Chengdu for the next morning, so of Xining we did not see much more than the hotel near the trainstation. In Chengdu we spent the first day wandering around the town. Chengdu is also a very modern city, but nice enough to walk around for a day.
The second day we went to the Panda Centre in the morning to admire the Giant Panda and the Red Panda. Pandas are smaller than the black bears we saw in Canada, but especially the little ones are really cute.
In Chengdu we stayed at Sims Cozy Guesthouse and we spent the afternoon reading some Dutch magazines which were left behind by some previous guests. In the evening we jumped in the train towards Xian.
In Xian we spent the end of the afternoon and the evening of our first day leaving a lot of footsteps in again a big modern city. Around the Clocktower and the Drumtower there was a lot of activity and people on the streets, which created a nice atmosphere. Our next stop was the Big Goose Pagoda where we went to view the fountainspectacle, the biggest in Asia. Again a lot of Chinese people came to watch the spectacle aswell.
The next morning we visited the Terracotta army, which was impressive. They are still busy in digging up statues, that are still under the collapsed roof, nice to see. Afterwards we had to hurry to catch our next train, which left for Beijing at three o’clock in the afternoon.
Monday we arrived in Beijing and tried to find someone to get us traintickets and a Visa for Russia. We were not very successful, because Monkey Shrine can only arrange the visa in Hong Kong, because they do not seem to be real good friends with the Russian Consulate in Beijing. They would not be able to get our passports back in time, because of the National Holiday starting at the first of Oktober.
At CITS and BTG they could not sell us traintickets unless we already had arranged the Russian Visa ourselves. Both a little grumpy of our unsuccessful wandering through half of Beijing, we decided to head for Mc Donalds for a hamburger. Afterwards we decided as a last resort to sent an email towards http://www.visatorussia.com hoping they might be able to help us with the invitation letter and voucher from a Russian Tourcompany we needed to get the visa.
The next morning we got up early to check our email and we received a not really encouraging email, saying that the consulate in Beijing normally does not allow a copy but needs the original invitation letter and voucher. They would be able to sent it to us in five working days, but then it would already be the first of Oktober and the consulate would be closed. They advised us to contact the Russian consulate.
At a quarter to nine we arrived at the Russian consulate and at 11:00 o’clock it was our turn with number 25. Yes, indeed it seems to be so busy sometimes, that numbers are handed out to keep the crowd quiet, since the Chinese are very good in queue jumping, luckily the Russians do not seem to like this either, because everyone who tried was sent back immediately.
The Russian lady was very friendly and said that in this case a copy of the email would be sufficient and that we should also make a copy of our Chinese visa. Tuesday afternoon we arranged all the paperwork (necessities see consulate in Beijing: http://www.russia.org.cn/eng/?SID=23&ID=8):
* Orginal Passport
* Copy of your Passport
* Copy of your Chinese Visa (Since we have a paper permit, because of Tibet)
* Filled in applicationform (You can download it from the Russian website)
* One Passport size photo
* Invitation letter and voucher from a Russian Tourorganisation (For sale at www.visatorussia.com) Inform them how you plan to travel, plane/train and at which places you intend to stop/stay and how you enter and leave Russia.
* Proof of proper Health/Travel insurance, which also covers Russia (Travel Insurance are not always valid when you travel for a longer period than three months, or are only valid in Europe, we have a travel insurance at Delta Lloyd with world coverage and we are allowed to travel for a year). Copies of your health insurance pass (back and front) are sufficient.
Wednesday we payed another visit to the consulate and were able to get our visa the same day at eleven thirty for 82 dollar (prices differ for each nationality) with the quick procedure. Since we want to be home at the end of Oktober and because of the first of Oktober holiday, we decided to spare ourselves the arrangment of another visa for Mongolia. A very quick stop in Mongolia (desert trips are too cold this time of year and Ulan Bator does not seem to be that interesting) and the additional costs for the visa did not seem worth the hassle, so we decided to take the Trans Manchurian Express around Mongolia.
In the afternoon we arranged our trainticket to Irkutsk. In Beijing they are not allowed to sell Russian traintickets so the rest of the trip we have to arrange in Irkutsk. They tried to sell us the Deluxe tickets, since the hardsleepers were sold out, but in the end the really nice lady at BTG came with a solution, for the same amount of money as the ticket to Irkutsk, she arranged a hardsleeper trainticket one station futher than Irkutsk. We plan to stay in Irkutsk for three days and than take the train to Moscow where we will also spend a few days and then to St. Petersburg where after a few days we will take the train to Helsinki and then the boat to Rostock Germany and then the train back to the Netherlands.
A few people from our Tibet group have also arrived in Beijing and we have had diner in the evening with Michael and Marie-Laure and yesterday evening Tom also joined us. Before we will get on the train this evening towards Russia we will have a final diner with the five of us.
Thursday we walked around on the Tianamen Square, which already shows a lot of signs of the Olympic games which will be held in China next year and we wandered around the Forbidden City for a few hours. In the evening we enjoyed our visit to the Chinese Theatre, with all kind of different acts, like Folkmusic, Opera, juggling with a vase, Kong Fu, Shadow play and cabaret, although we did not really understand much of the latter, since our Chinese needs a lot of practising .
Yesterday we climbed the Great Wall, so we can check our fifth worldwonder on our list aswell , still two to go. Edvar is now busy trying to upload some pictures on our website, but since he can not see them, do not blame him if the text below the picture does not correspond . The pics are until Lhasa, the rest will follow another time. Untill the next update!
5 Responses to “Who persists will conquer, Russia here we come!”
The planning of the last part of our trip around the world!Wednesday October 3rd, 2007 by Daniëlle
Yep, the end of our trip around the world is getting nearer and if everything goes according to the schedule below we will be home on October the 20th! At this moment we are in Irkutsk, Russia. We managed to arrange our train ticket towards Moscow, but we have to arrange the other tickets on the way in the specific cities, so if something goes wrong, we will let you know.
- Friday October the 5th train to Moscow
- Monday October the 8th until October 12th Moscow
- Friday October the 12th train to Saint Petersburg
- Saturday October the 13th until October the 17th Saint Petersburg
- Wednesday October the 17th train to Helsinki, Finland
- Thursday October the 18th boat to Rostock, Germany
- Saturday October the 20th train through Hannover to Deventer, arrival time 17:42
Sorry brother and sister in law and little nephew Sven, it seems we will have to miss eachother for another month, sob……
10 Responses to “The planning of the last part of our trip around the world!”
Our first impression of RussiaFriday October 5th, 2007 by Daniëlle
In Beijing we jumped on the train heading towards Irkutsk. Spending three days in the train, of which half day was spend waiting at the border with all the formalities at the Chinese and Russian border and with adjusting the wheels to the Russian tracks, so our train would not derail once on the Russian railwaysystem. We did not have to leave the train for the borderchecks and we were allowed to walk around the station of Zabaikalsk in Russia, while the wheels were adjusted on a piece of double track.
Funny is that we have often been mistaken to be Russian with our blond haircut. A load of Russian will be spoken to you, which is hard to stop and let alone to understand . Most Russians do not seem to be able to speak any English and with the little bit of Russian we have available in the back of our Lonely Planet the communication remains difficult. But slowly we are starting to learn and with a friendly smile, even the most somewhat distant cold looking Russians seem to melt. In the streets no one seems to bother us either, which is nice for a change.
Translating the Cyrilic alphabet towards the Roman alphabet is also getting slowly easier, which makes it easier to understand/translate the words. Our first evening we spend staring at a Russian menu for an hour and eventually a friendly Polish guy, who spoke English and Russian, lent us a hand and we were able to get something to eat .
The Russians are on average friendly people who are willing to help if you attempt to explain your needs in Russian. This is our first country where English does not seem to get us anywhere. The younger people sometimes speak a little English and are willing to help you with the translation of Russian.
Irkutsk is a nice little town, a little gloomy and worn out, but with very colourful little churches and old wooden houses. The traffic seems to pass you by at top speed and we have seen a lot of head tail collisions the past few days. Yesterday we went to the Baikal lake, but we did not have much luck with the weather. We even had the first wet snow. Therefore we spent most of our time in a bar trying to warm up again and watching the displayed DVDs of King Arthur, Braveheart and First Knight. Of course, in Russian …
The food here is fine, we enjoyed a true Russian soup on our first night “Salyanka” and had filled pancakes yesterday called “Bliny”, Edvar with meat ”myasa” and for me with orange “apelsin”. Yesterday we also had Omul, the fish from the Baikal Lake.
Tonight we will take the train for another three days trip on our way to Moscow! Don’t forget to check the Photo Gallery: around 100 new pictures of China and the first part of the Trans-Manchurian Railway!
One Response to “Our first impression of Russia”
Moscow and Saint Petersburg, enjoying the culture and very cold!Monday October 15th, 2007 by Daniëlle
The end of our trip is approaching and yet we can not help ourselves to give you a quick update of our last adventures. The journey with the train from Irkutsk to Moscow went quick and smoothly with our fellow traveller Sasha an old Russian, who did not speak any English, but with hands and feet we managed to exchange our food and made an attempt to communicate with eachother.
When we arrived in Moscow the hostel we wanted to stay in seemed to have vanished. Lucky for us a kind Russian man helped us with an address of a second hostel. Since it was already late we considered to stay a night in the Holiday Inn, but 350 euros for a night was a little bit too much. In the end we managed to get to the second hostel by metro and decided to stay here for 81 euros per night, yes we were a little shocked with these prices as budget travellers .
The prices of hostels/hotels in Moscow are really rediculously high, but it seems you will not be able to get a room cheaper than 81 euros per night. The hostels are a little bit strange in Russia, located in a district away from the city centre and not really easy to find. The hostels are not particularly cozy and the personnel is not really friendly either. Somehow it seems that the Russians are either very friendly or really rude. Maybe talking English or trying to communicate with hands and feet is kind of frightning/unfamiliar/unwilling to them.
Russia does not really seem to be into tourism yet. Even at very touristic attractions finding some explanations in English is a difficult task. Sometimes you see a very large explanation in Russian and the English translation then consists of just two lines . In seems that the closer you get to the border of the other European countries that more Russians are able to speak English. Saint Petersburg definetely inhabits more English-speaking Russians than Moscow.
In Moscow we wandered around the town admiring a lot of very nice buildings and churches. Both Moscow and Saint Petersburg have a unique charisma, both cities are really worthwhile for a long weekend trip. The temperature is really cold here, so we decided to dig up our gloves and shawls from the bottom of our backpacks.
In Moscow we visited the Kremlin, which was oke but not really amazing. St. Basils Church has a nice appearance, a little bit like a Disney castle. We also paid Lenin a visit in his Mausoleum on the Red Square. Now we have seen all three in history important communist leaders during our trip around the world (Ho Chi Minh, Mao and Lenin).
We also spent quite a few hours on the internet searching for new houses and jobs. The first job interviews have been planned for the both of us. I decided to buy myself a new suit in Moscow and might pay a visit to the hairdresser in Helsinki so I will have a nice appearance for the job interviews.
We also attempted to spot some Ferraris, but it seems that Beemers, Mercedeses (incl. Maybachs), SUV’s or Limo’s (in all colours and sorts) are more hip in Russia. Luckily for Edvar we were able to admire a Lamborghini Gallardo driving by, his new twin brother from Germany (the Audi R8) and we also saw two Ferraris at the Ferrari dealer in Moscow .
After a night in the train we arrived safely in Saint Petersburg, where we wandered around the town and admired the mosaics of the Church of Christ the Redeemer (The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood). Tomorrow we will visit the Hermitage and Wednesday morning we will catch an early train towards Helsinki!
6 Responses to “Moscow and Saint Petersburg, enjoying the culture and very cold!”
Unluckily there was no more accomodation left……Wednesday October 17th, 2007 by Daniëlle
Hello everybody, at the moment we are at the trainstation in Helsinki and all cheap hostels/hotels seem to have been fully booked, because of a soccergame, the autumn holidays and some congresses. So a slight change in plans, we will already take the ferry to Rostock tonight and therefore will arrive a day earlier in Germany, but Rostock is supposed to be a nice town aswell, so we will spend two nights overthere. So our arrival time will not change unless we have problems with our final trainticket . See you Saturday!!!
P.S. Indeed today 17th October is Edvar’s birthday, hip hip hoeree!!!
12 Responses to “Unluckily there was no more accomodation left……”
Home sweet home!Sunday October 28th, 2007 by edvar
We’re back in The Netherlands, safe and well, but we still would like to tell you about the last days of our trip around the world and about the first days here in The Netherlands.
In Saint Petersburg we visited the Hermitage, one of the most famous museums in the world. After a while you will get an overkill on art, but it’s still a very impressive museum with beautiful halls and nice pieces of art, including paintings of Dutch artists like Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Art lovers: add Saint Petersburg to your list!
From Saint Petersburg we took the train to Helsinki in Finland, where we spent a few hours “high-speed sightseeing” before we took the boat to Rostock in Germany, as you may have read in our last message. The 24 hours on the boat were a bit boring (the boat was almost empty), the “seats” to sleep in are not recommended, but on the other hand, 350 euro for a cabin is a bit too expensive for budget travellers like us …
In Rostock we quickly found a nice hostel and the next day we spent walking around this nice old Hanseatic town and also in Warnemunde, a small town close to Rostock, with a nice harbour and some lighthouses (check the Photo Gallery for the last pictures!).
On Saturday October 20th, exactly according to our schedule, we went by train from Hannover to Deventer, where a large group of family and friends was waiting for us at the train station, with things like Dutch flags, flowers and a basket full of nice Dutch delicacies. We really liked this “welcoming party”, so THANKS A LOT!!!
Our first week in The Netherlands was mainly focussed on the search for a job and a house. Daniëlle already had two job interviews at some recruitment agencies, but my (yes, this time it’s Edvar! ) appointments were shifted to next week, when I have a total of five job interviews!
Thanks to Jarno (Daniëlle’s brother) and Marion, we can spend the next few weeks in their home in Zwolle, as they are enjoying a nice holiday in Australia. But as we can’t stay here forever, we searched for a nice rental apartment and succeeded: from November 1st, our address will be:
Edvar van Daalen & Daniëlle Horenberg
M.C. Escherweg 13
7425 RH Deventer
Mobile Phone: +31 (0)6 49485176
Of course, we will keep you updated about our adventures, also here in The Netherlands!