Stoffel & Pantoffel

Stoffel and Pantoffel on Manoeuvres

Stoffel & Pantoffel

We don't define ourselves by our stuff so we're leaving it behind and taking off for 6 months. Hit the road Stoff!!

Asia » China » Guangxi » Longsheng May 12th 2013

25 April 2013 Longshen I am lying in bed listening to frogs chirping and thinking about the stir fried frog on the dinner menu his evening. Frogs must love this place. Those that don't get eaten anyway. The rice terraces outside our window tonight are truly spectacular. Yes, it is the wrong time of year to see them as they are not sprinkled with snow, or lush and green, or golden ripe, or flooded in water in preparation for planting; but the muddy, misty, 500 year old stepped landscape is just awesome anyway! The summer rains have begun, the clouds drift in and out touching the ground and leaving everything sparkling in their dewy swirls. Streams trickle and tinkle down rocky cracks and soft focussed bamboo sways in the chilly wind. It is a scene from ... read more
painted door
old man
long haired ladies

Asia » China » Shaanxi » Xi'an May 4th 2013

19 April 2013 I look at the air quality index readings in disbelief. 500 - Hazardous!!! For a full description of what this actually means google it. The short definition is: you are inhaling poison with every breath you take. 2.5 nanometer in aerodynamic diameter particles are lodging themselves in your respiratory system ready to be absorbed by your blood. If you continue to do this for any length of time you will get very sick. In fact just one day is enough to give you a rasping cough, stinging and itchy eyes and a disabling headache. And people live here?!!?? The incredibly impressive city walls have withstood centuries of attack, but this new enemy can't be kept out. It is everywhere. Even in your mouth. The taste and the grit are horrible. Not to mention ... read more
bell tower in the smog
city wall

Asia » China April 23rd 2013

17 April 2013 Brash and brazen, Shanghai sparkles and gleams like cheap chintz in a tobacco haze. We took the fast train from Beijing and got here in air conditioned luxury in four hours. In the process we crossed the longest and second longest bridges in the world; and passed nameless cities of cranes. China is the country of cranes. Tower cranes not the magnificent birds which feature so highly in Chinese mythology... More than 75% of the world's cranes are here, and they are erecting cities rapidly, everywhere. Ten million plus populations inhabiting cities we have never even heard of. The numbers are staggering. The air quality frightening. The brand new station we arrive at in Shanghai is already hopelessly under spec'ed. There are not enough toilets, the taxi queue is hundreds of meters long. ... read more
Future of the World
Shanghai sunset
Pudong lights

Asia » China » Beijing April 23rd 2013

12 April 2013 We landed at Beijing airport at 01h-something after one of the worst flights and slowest landings of our trip. The heating was on too high for the entire flight, and the windy descent into Beijing took what felt like a bumpy, stomach turning hour. Horrible. Next challenge, the taxi queue and all its inherent scams; and the total absence of any spoken English. After much getting in and out of our chosen taxi, the driver eventually got the message and turned on the meter. We are no initiates to this game! And, things didn't get better fast. Chinese driving, to say the least, is quite special. As is the absolute and open disregard for western passengers shown by the majority of taxi drivers. In fact, as we discovered, they will often just not ... read more
Apricot Inn gate
Apricot tree in bloom
Alex at the fabulous Apricot Inn

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City April 18th 2013

7 April 2013 Ho Chi Minh City Arriving at Saigon station is a little like arriving at any small town station in Vietnam, chaotic and unorganised and you still have to clamber over the tracks. But Saigon is by no means a small or primitive town. With a population of 10 million plus and growing by the second, we have made bets as to how much this city is going to change in the next 10 to 20 years. I believe it is going to go the same route as Shanghai, Andrew thinks I am being ambitious, but the place is already massive and far more "sophisticated" than anywhere else in Vietnam. I use the word sophisticated with caution because it is not the same sophistication as that of the more culturally aware Hanoi. It is ... read more
Notre Dame Cathedral
Cathedral interior
General post office floor tiles

Asia » Vietnam » South Central Coast April 18th 2013

2 April 2013 Nha Trang I think it must be travel fatigue. I am just not feeling this place. We woke up this morning in a windowless room and went out to find breakfast on the beach, but only found Russians. We are in Nha Trang for one day, to break the train trip from Hoi An to Saigon. We decide to rent two sun loungers for the day and lie on the beach. The beach is pleasant enough, and there is a lot of people watching to be done. An ancient Vietnamese woman with a charming grin runs back and forth between loungers and restaurants bringing beer and coca cola to anyone with a thirst. She is tireless. The pearl jewellery, conical hat, sarong, cigarette and zippo lighter vendors are jaded, but retain a sense ... read more
Vietnam Railways
weirdo of the day
Nha Trang Beach

Asia » Vietnam » South Central Coast » Da Nang April 3rd 2013

1 April 2013 Not every single hole in the ground in Vietnam is a bomb crater; some are buffalo wallows and some are sunken round graves; but an awful lot of them are bomb craters around here. There is so much recent history on the ground in this place. Loads of it left unexploded too. There is also some ancient history - what's left to spot between craters that is. We made the trip to My Son to see the 9th century Cham ruins, and what remains after the French stole the important bits ( like heads of statues) and then US bombing, is not much to write home about. Most of the site is under archaeological survey or reconstruction. And it is crowded. Far too crowded. But they sell nice handbags there..... We have just ... read more
Hue to Hoi An, Vietnam
Hue to Hoi An
Hue to Hoi An

29 March Hue The heat is oppressive. Arriving in Hue feels like getting concrete booted and being submerged in 40degree Celsius water, with a plastic bag over your head. My hands and feet and eyes are swollen and I feel quite exhausted. Fortunately our hotel, Hong Thien Hotel, has a pool. Unfortunately it cannot provide a breeze. Nevertheless, Hue is already impressive and we have only done a taxi ride from the station along La Loi to our hotel. Hue is situated on the exotically named Perfume River, on the central coast of Vietnam. It deserves every accolade passed its way. Despite being the setting of one of the worst and longest battles in the American war, it has picked itself up, dusted itself off and gone out to get a facial. On the north side ... read more
and the lights came on
tourist boats
fish shop on the move

Asia » Vietnam » Northeast March 27th 2013

27 March Back on the train from Hong Doi to Hue. Thankfully only three hours this time. I am having a quiet confrontation with a person who is lying on my lap again. It is a battle of wills which I am unlikely to win, but the irritation I am causing gives me great pleasure - sick puppy? Look at the pictures and judge for yourself. We missed our train last night and ended up staying in Dong Hoi for an extra night. Our motorbike exploration of a bit of the Ho Chi Minh trail detained us too long, but my god, it was so worth it!! I am sorry we didn't just plan to stay here for two days to start with, instead of trying to rush through. We will have to come back. In ... read more
ipad stand
fields of rice and ancestors
views from the train

Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi March 27th 2013

23-25 March It's 05h30 and we have just boarded the train at Hanoi station. There is no coffee in sight. We are headed for Hang Doi. As we pass along the railway lines on the way out of Hanoi there are places where the buildings come so close to the track that you can touch them on both sides as you pass through. We skirt Reunification Park which is busier today than yesterday, with joggers, walkers and aerobics classes. Then past pavements of badminton players, bonsai art, restaurants, my stomach is grumbling for breakfast..... Pavements turn to vegetable gardens and eventually farms. The crimson sunrise through the morning haze is quite spectacular. We move through fields of rice and ancestors, past duck ponds full of the happiest looking free range food I have ever seen, and ... read more
bird cages

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