Archangel's blog A pointless waste of time



I've uploaded a few photos now. More to come though.

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Day 1

So, a new day dawns. What to do, I wondered. I decided to start the vacation of lightly and explore the village I live in. It was supposed to be beautiful and according to lonely planet it's a "must see". Being hungry and not familiar with the area I bought a sandwich and juice at the local store, which I ate standing up in the area. After eating and walking a few more paces I realized there are many, many cafés that serve such stuff, and not just franchise places. Now I know...

My first stop was a renovated Hanok that's now a museum about the area. A Hanok is a style of house which is a one storied house around an inner courtyard. The house is made of wood and on a raised platform both to keep damp away but also to heat. The cooking area is below floor level and thus the heating from cooking heats the floors.
The guesthouse where I live is of this type and it's a common type of house in this particular area (it's recognized by UNESCO).

After learning about the houses and the area I headed uphill, deeper into the village. The further uphill I got the more beautiful and picturesque it got. A really serene area! Many of the winding streets were very narrow and it was easy to get turned around in there. A long time was spent wandering these streets (more could have been spent). The area is jam packed with small privately owned museums and lots of arts and crafts shops of all kinds

I eventually left the village on the other side and wound my way back down on the outskirts of the village.

It was now time for lunch and I was close to where I started the day. Not having decided what to do after lunch I headed back into the area where I ate dinner yesterday. The same problem as yesterday presented itself but after peeking into a few restaurants I stepped into one that had lots of customers and took a chance. I ended up ordering a Kimchi pancake that could have fead two. It was spicy and delicious, but I couldn't finish the whole thing.

Lunch was over and I had decided to head west to the palace, another "must see". The entrance fee was pretty cheap and the area inside huge. Felt a bit like the forbidden city but with more greenery.

A note on the weather: yesterday when I arrived it was 25 degrees and very misty, so no views to be had. Today it's closer to 30 degrees and sun, sun, sun and maybe a few little clouds. So just halfway through the day I felt pretty baked, even though I had on sunscreen, hat and drank loads of water.

On the way out of the palace I managed to catch a reenactment of the changing of the guards in full historical costumes. Nice!

Right outside the palace is Gwanghwamun square, an (apparently) historically important place that could rival tienmen square, not in width but in length. Halfway down the square was a big statue of a important king (me and names... It began with an S) and on the backside of the statue there were stairs leading down to a free underground museum about said king. And the exhibits were even in English!

A bit further down the square I took a left to follow the Cheonggye stream. This is urban planning done right (in my book)! It's a river that was covered over by a freeway going straight trough Seoul. But! A few years ago they said "screw cars" and tore the freeway down, exposed the old steam and built a 8 km long promenade with trees and art. I saw fish, birds and loads of dragonflies. A lovely walk through an otherwise urban landscape. I only followed the stream for a little over 2 km and then came to Gwangnamun market, where I strolled among the stalls and street food vendors and then continued to the even bigger Dongdaemun market. Here anything clothes-related can be found; fashion, cloth, buttons and fasteners, string, etc, etc. wholesale!

I got through only a small portion of the place before I grew tired and hungry. Thus I headed back to the street food stalls of Gwangnamun and had myself some noodle soup with kimchi dumplings (and beer of course). The dumplings were good but the soup a bit bland.

From here I took another route back towards the guesthouse. This route lead through an area with small outdoors barbecue places. From what I've read you have to be at least two to have barbecue, and that's a shame, it looks nice. On the way back I found a place that would serve me beer without me having to buy snacks. So here I am, drinking beer... And after a beer I even got a bit peckish and ordered som nachos (I'm to chicken to order the small squid snacks).
I'm going to try to upload some pictures tomorrow, tonight will have to be an early night. I have to get up early tomorrow for the DMZ-tour.

Observation 1: (negative) Imported (European) beer is more than twice the price of domestic.

Observation 2: Western tourists are somewhat common, common enough that most people won't really spare me a glance. But! Western tourists that actually say "thank you" in Korean seems rare. It almost always elicits a surprised smile.

Steps taken: 27 178 (21.44 km)

All my best!

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Meant to write yesterday before I went to sleep but fell asleep early and quickly due to jet lag and exhaustion.

Landed yesterday around two pm. And took me almost two hours to claim my luggage and find my way to the guesthouse. They did try to throw me of the trail, first by not orienting the maps they have at the subway stations with north up. So when consulting these maps one has to think carefully. Then it turned out that the Starbucks I had planned on using for reference had closed. Luckily I still made the right turn. Found the guesthouse on my first try.

The guesthouse is very small and cosy. I think I might be the only guest at the moment, it's very quiet. The room is ok, but as usual (or is it just me) the pictures don't tell the entire truth. It's a little more run down than the pictures would suggest but still alright (by my standards). I have my own bathroom, there is wifi and ac and bottled water is included. It's on a quiet back street where the only noise is the cicadas (except when sleeping, then it's the ac).

After freshening up I decided to take a small walk nag grab some dinner. Headed south since according to lonely planet there weren't many restaurant further up in the village (the area I love in is called Bukchon village). I found a large street with loads of shops, cafés and restaurants. Walked for a bit and found a large "art mall", four floors of very small quaint art shops around an open inner square. The basement held workshops where one could try making stuff oneself.

The small back alleys were jam packed with small restaurants. Most looked very charming. It would be easy to get lost among these alleys where two people barely can walk side by side. The problem was that most restaurants didn't seem to have English menus.

Finally settled on one and tried my luck. I ordered "traditional" bibimbap" which meant that it didn't come all in one bowl but in separate bowls and I had to mix it myself. It was good but had a little to much seaweed for my taste. Food and one beer cost me about 65 sek. So it's cheaper here than back home. Same goes for shops, cheaper but not dirt cheap.

To celebrate that it's vacation time and I'm not going to stay on the healthy track I found som dessert... Cotton candy shake!
Yes, you read that right! Had to try. But turned out to be just a milkshake with a cotton candy on top. So I could eat cotton candy from the top or sip milkshake from the straw. Nothing special but fun to have tried. The milkshake was a bit subpar to be honest.

Wanted to have another beer and a sit down so wet looking for a bar. Turned out this wasn't an area for bars. Finally found a restaurant that had lots of beer advertisements so took my chances. Asked inside if I could just have a beer, that was ok. When trying to order a beer from the menu he pointed to the fine print: must order side dish with drink or drink is double price.
No thank you! No sale today. Didn't help that the cheapest side dishes were about 80 kr.

After reading a bit more in the guidebook it seems this is pretty common here.

So I ended up walking around a bit more before I headed back to the guesthouse where I promptly fell asleep.

Observation 1: (positive) There are quite a lot of public toilets, they are all free and in pretty good condition.
Observation 2: (negative) There is a severe shortage of trash cans around town. So having finished a bottle of water I might have to lug it around for a while. Not even all shops have trash cans outside them. There's surprisingly little litter, especially considering the woeful lack of bins. Seems people don't throw their garbage just anywhere.

That's it for now!

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Test efter bugg

Hello intertubes!




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Chill Winston!

To quote the last post: "Otherwise it will be quiet here for a while."
And yet some go haywire when it's quiet for a few days... Think of the good old days when all communication was snail mail which arrived way after the traveller was home!

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Train and Town

And I'm back!
Some good Naxi food, a couple of beers and a nice evening stroll through the idyllic town did the trick. We
Are now kicking back at the hostel. Tomorrow we're going to explore the town and it's surrounding. I'm thinking about renting a bike and going to a nearby village with some temples.

And I also have pictures today, rejoice!

So since the last "real" update we have mostly been on an train. I wrote last night from a hotel near the train station in Kunming. The alarm went of at 7, and luckily Jocke was half awake and thus heard it. I had accidentally lowered the volume to almost minimum some how, so had it not been for Jocke I would have overslept. So thanks to Jocke we got up on time and got ready and left.

On the way to the train station we bought some breakfast and a lot more snacks than last time. We bought some tamarind fruit. Very tasty but in my opinion it looks a bit like cat poop.

Mmmmm! Lovely cat poop.

We also bought some cookies. And don't you dare accuse them of plagiarism!

Oreo, is that you?

And we enjoyed some good oolong tea from our wonderful tea bottles that we bought in Shenzhen.

Jocke & tea

Since we wanted to travel cheaply we went with "hard seat" tickets. Last time I bought these it meant a bench, so literally a hard seat. This time it meant that they used the hard sleeper carriage as a hard seat carriage and ever lower bunk was four seats and you had to stow your gear on the middle bunk. This meant that tall handsome Swedes as ourselves couldn't sit up straight. Eight hours cooped up and folded like cattle... You get the picture I think. Add to this that the guy next to me liked to take up a lot of space. He chewed loudly with his mouth open, he slurped his noodles loudly, as soon as the other guy on our berth left he laid down and put his feet behind me so I could lean back, he had his mobile phone set to ultra high volume and it rang a lot and when he was resting he didn't feel like answering so he just let it ring and later when he felt like music he just skipped the headphones and held it in his hand whilst trying to sleep. Wonderful chap! Nice contrast to the nice young guys I met on the last train.

And I mentioned a storm cloud in the last post, so behold!

One storm cloud on otherwise clear skies.

But since I'm sitting here writing I survived, as did Jocke.

Once in Lijiang we took a cab from the train station to the old town. But since cars aren't allowed in the old time we had to walk the last part. I consider it sheer luck that we found our way among these small identical alleys. We actually haggled for the cab fair, but I'm still pretty sure we got screwed...

Once at the hostel we saw the largest collection of westerners since we entered China. So it was truly backpacker place. And many of them really fitted cliché description of backpackers, kind of sad... But the place was really nice and friendly. Good price and they could arrange both the trip to Tiger Leaping Gorge and train and plane tickets out of town. So even with the clientele it seems as a really good place.

After checking in we took a nice stroll down the picturesque streets and looked for a place eat. The town is really extremely charming. The only thing that I'd say is negative is that all the shops are a bit "touristy". We found a pretty expensive restaurant that served the local
Naxi people's food. It was pretty expensive, but when we got the food we saw that it was slightly less expensive than we thought. The hot pot with mushrooms that Jocke had ordered would have feed at least two, probably three. The food was very tasty and I can't complain about the price either since Jocke insisted on paying. Thanks! It was a very nice meal!


After dinner we walked around town just taking in the sights for quite some time.

Nice town.

Nice town by night.

We eventually felt a bit tired so we turned around, bought beer and snacks and headed back to the hostel to wind down. And here we are! Now time to sleep!

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Just a quick update.
Just arrived in Lijiang and the weather right now is great! We saw a few (very few) storm clouds on the way here. But over all he weather seems good. The hostel where we are staying also supplies busses to Tiger Leaping Gorge, so we'll have that covered tomorrow. This town looks very charming, old houses, cobbled streets, streams running along the streets... So the decision is to stay here on day and explore before heading of to Tiger Leaping Gorge for the two day trek.

Now we are both tired and hungry, so we're off to find a nice restaurant and a cold beer. Will try to update more tonight!

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Still Alive

Just arrived in Kunming, local time is 00:15. We are both a bit tired (understatement!) after having spent 26 hours on a train.

Yesterday we left Shenzhen for a short train ride to Guangzhou. There we spent a few hours waiting for the night train to Kunming. So we ate a little and bought some provisions to consume on the train.

We had little problem finding and getting on the train. Though it can be said that they have strange rules as to how and where to queue and have checkpoints. Not the most streamlined system I've experienced.

On the train it turned out that we both had bottom bunks but not in the same compartment. I was in one compartment over and in that one a Chinese couple had the same experience, they had been split up and wanted to change with me. Since I wasn't in the same compartment as Jocke I felt that one further away didn't matter. This turned out to be a good switch. Whilst reading before bed, with everyone asleep except for two guys talking in the other bottom bunk, I suddenly got a small package on my book. Something to eat, a snack of some sort. The two guys mimed eating and said "chew". The picture on the vacuum sealed packed looked like a ginseng root. So I opened the package and noticed that the object was slimy. Pickled ginseng I thought. Biting on it I realized that it was not ginseng but tasted slightly of meat. Upon getting the entire thing out of the package I saw that it was a chicken foot. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Chew out the meaty parts and spit out the bones! It was very spicy, so I can't say that it tasted bad.

After having shared this late night snack we started communicating. One of the guys spoke a little English while the other only knew a few words. But with body language, will and my iPhone dictionary app we managed to get to know each other a little. We spent a little over two hours "talking" until we decided to sleep.

I slept ok, but hardly good. Small berths and a train that stopped occasionally and meeting other trains that honked their horns.

The day and following evening on the train was spent talking to Jocke, "talking" to the two Chinese guys (with a varied audience), reading and playing mah-jang with our mah-jang deck of cards we bought in Hong Kong. He last activity garnered quite an audience as well. Not only were we strange looking westerners but we played their game, much to their delight. So the time was spent quite well. But 26 hours on a train is a bit on the hefty side. So I thinking on flying back, even though it's almost three times more expensive (about 1000kr). We'll see when the time comes what I value the most, money or more time in some location.

Regarding the weather:
During the train ride the weather outside has been nothing short of splendid! So the scenery here was enjoyed thoroughly. Once in Kunming we can see on the ground that it has rained but it's clear now. We also met one other westerner on the train. Jocke talked to him and he's from Canada and works up near where we want to go with teaching the Chinese agriculture. When asked about the weather he said that It was ok now. As always unpredictable but not at all bad. So the horrible weather in south-east china seems to be somewhere else. So tomorrow morning we're boarding another train for an 8 hour long ride to Lijiang. So fingers crossed!

No pictures today, the connection is crappy to say the least.

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The Great Firewall

Just an FYI: seems China doesn't like either Facebook or Twitter. So I can receive mail and read comments on the blog, but comments made via Facebook will not be read until my return to Sweden. It also seems Jocke will be unable to blog at all since they also block blogspot here.

Sad, sad state of affairs...

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Sweet, Sweet Nostalgia

Greetings from China!
Today the decision was to get breakfast, check out of the hotel and head across the border. Thus we did just that!

The weather turned out to be warm and just a little cloudy. Over in Shenzhen we started sweating copiously from heat and humidity. And finding where to buy train tickets took a while. But once we found the right place the people were friendly and we quickly resolved getting train tickets for Kunming in Yunnan the following evening.

We then proceeded to the subway to get to the hotel and check in. It turned out that one thing that has changed since last I was here was the subway. It was now extremely crowded and you had to x-ray your bags to get into the subway! Just like at the airport. Thus there was quite a queue and it took a long time. Insane!
Sweet, sweet Shenzhen

After some searching and walking in the wrong direction we finally found it and managed to check in. We got a nice big room on the twelfth floor. After some quick freshening up we headed to Lao Jie, the shopping district. There we had a nice lunch and walked aimlessly amongst the stores and stalls. I found a place that sold the same charger I bought yesterday for fifty for only fifteen! Welcome to China!

We then headed to the tech-district (I had to, as usual) and perused the wares. Joakim bought a USB-keyboard since his Mac seems to be a bit broken (might be the humidity). He headed back to the hotel since he had promised to skype with some friends that were getting married. Since I didn't feel like spending the evening at the hotel I struck out alone. I took the subway to where I worked when I was last here and took a stroll back to the hotel where I stayed then. I even tried to find where Stoprock lives but got lost among all the similar looking back streets. Since the hotel didn't have the outside barbecue and serving I decided to head back to the area where I had worked since I knew there were a lot of restaurants there. I found one that he company had taken us to one of the first evenings and got myself some dumplings and beer. 12 mixed dumplings for 15 Yuan (almost exactly the same as 15kr). So tasty but the sauce was dangerously spicy. Some food and two beers later I strolled around the neighborhood for a while and then took the subway back to the hotel to wind down.
Sweet, sweet dumplings

So tomorrow we are headed by train to Kunming... My mother posted a comment about the weather in southern China and upon some further inspection it seems to be horrible in all the places where I had planned to visit (and shows me for ripping out and bringing only the "relevant" parts of Lonely Planet). So right now the plan is to take that train and see what happens. My plans might have to change, which might complicate things since I have no guide book. But I'll have to wing it. Keep your fingers crossed!
And it might be some time before the next update, the train leaves tomorrow night at 21:30 local time and according to Lonely Planet the trip to Kunming takes almost 24 hours. So needless to say I won't be updating till after that, which is Tuesday morning at the earliest.

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