Page 8 of Willow Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Bagan September 17th 2006

Another day and another early start (the concept of sleeping in doesn't exist in this country!) saw us stumbling somewhat bleary eyed onto the 5am boat from Mandalay to Bagan. By the time the Ayeyarwady river reaches Mandalay it's huge and initially the scenery wasn't that impressive - the river was so wide and the cloud low that it was difficult to see anything along the flat river bank and surrounding plains. As the day progressed though and we moved closer to one bank or the other, we got many glimpses of river life..... water buffalo grazing as they rested, people washing themselves, their clothes, fishing for dinner, kids playing in the river and everyone just getting on with life. Almost everyone we saw stopped whatever they were doing to wave, smile or laugh and shout ... read more
At Bagan
Across to Mt Popa
At Bagan

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Mandalay September 15th 2006

We'd booked a shared taxi from Hsipaw to Mandalay for 9am. Tap tap on my door at 7am... taxi will be here in 15 mins!! Huh?? Good job I'd been organised for once and packed the night before!!! I'd considered taking the train as the scenery along this particular journey is supposed to be stunning, but a few days before the train had been cancelled due to track flooding and it was renown for being late at the best of times. I later met a French couple who had taken the train that morning... an eight hour journey turned into a 15 hour epic and they finally arrived in Mandalay at 1am! I was glad I'd taken the taxi ;0) I'd planned to have 3 or 4 days in Mandalay, but in the end I opted ... read more
Sunset over Mandalay Hill
Shwenandaw Kyaung, Mandalay
Sandamani Paya, Mandalay

Asia » Burma September 8th 2006

I'd been pleased at how painless it was to get a China visa in Hong Kong - I sauntered into an agency one lunch time, handed over my passport and hey presto 4 hours later I was the proud owner of a 3 month visa. Leaving the country proved to be rather more challenging!!! I was in a town called Ruili in southwest China, from where I planned to cross into Burma. I'd arrived at the boarder crossing around 9am and duly joined a queue of about 15 people... some 20 mins later I was at the front and handing over my passport. My entry stamp from Shenzen, where I'd originally crossed the boarder from Hong Kong, hadn't printed properly and was only partially readable. This resulted in a few wee problems during my months in ... read more
Rice fields around Hsipaw
Walking along the train tracks.... usually not a problem as there are only a few trains a day... when ithe tracks not flooded of course!
Taking a break...

Asia » China » Yunnan » Dali August 23rd 2006

I'd originally planned to spend a few days in Zhongdian, but the Israeli girls I'd met on the bus from Xiangcheng were keen to move on to Tiger Leaping Gorge... and me, well I was keen for some company. I'd only seen 2 other foreigners in the last 5 days so loved the idea of practicing my English! Whilst I've enjoyed the freedom of traveling alone there are times when I've wished for company, usually when I've been near to national parks... it would have been great to strike out and go hiking for a few days, but not on my own. To be honest I probably would have started the TLG walk alone - every other traveler I'd met said it was easy to meet people along the way - but given the opportunity to ... read more
Push that bus!
Drying corn at the Naxi Family guest house

Asia » China » Sichuan » Songpan July 24th 2006

I finally made myself leave Lhasa, somewhere I think I could have spent ages just chilling out (especially once I discovered the cappuccino shop... absolute heaven after a month of the 3-in-1 super sweet instant stuff they have in China) and arrived in Chengdu to find it hot hot hot - sooo much better than the incessant rain last time I was here! I spent just one night in Chengdu... after the small towns and remote places I'd been to in Tibet a city of 10 million was all a bit too much!! The next morning saw me up at 6am (again) for a 9 hour bus ride to Songpan in the north of Sichuan provence. The journey was long but the scenery stunning, the flat area around the city becoming green forested slopes rising steeply ... read more
In Songpan
One of the numerous small villages we passed on the horse trek
Horse treking in the mountains.... my horse like to go slowly so I spent a lot of time at the back!

Asia » China » Tibet » Friendship Highway July 19th 2006

Well, OK, so I only walked up to base camp but it was the longest 8+km that I've ever done!!! I'd been struggling to walk up stairs in Lhasa, which is only at 3700m - base camp is slightly higher at 5200m. The increase in elevation over the 8km wasn't too great, that said it did all happen at the end... but that combined with the altitude meant I was almost crawling along by the time I got to base camp! For the last few days our jeep had being buddying along with another one - we were following the same route and the drivers new each other well so us passengers all got to know each other too. Me and a couple of the others had talked about the horse and cart option - for ... read more
Almost at base camp! Thank god!! By this point I was struggling to put on foot in front of the other...
It's freezing outside. you're at 5200m and you feel like death... what else would you do??!!
I managed to crawl out from underneath 2 sleeping bags, a duvet and two blankets to watch sunset.... and was it worth it??

Asia » China » Tibet » Friendship Highway July 19th 2006

Travel in Tibet is challenging, in that once you get out of Lhasa you need permits galore to get almost anywhere... a nice way of forcing all the foreigners onto expensive land cruiser tours where the pain of getting permits is taken away... either that or you hitch and dodge the checkpoints, which isn't really my thing. So I hooked up with a Canadian guy and two French girls and embarked on a 6 day tour. Well, of course things are never quite that simple! We turned up at 6pm the day before we were due to go to meet our driver and inspect our vehicle... driver didn't speak English of course but seemed OK, the vehicle however had no suspension and four completely bald tires... and the state of the spare? don't even go there! ... read more
The view we had for 4 hours whilst we waited for the landslide to be cleared...
Waiting for the landslide to be cleared....

Asia » China » Tibet » Lhasa July 14th 2006

Having spent several action packed hours in Chengdu watching panda's eat and eat and eat and.... I was rather hungry myself! For my first month in China I'd been v good and stuck to Chinese food.... well, apart from breakfast.. noodles for breakfast???!! Sorry, just can't do it. But a constant diet of rice, fried vegetables swimming in oil (I really don't know how the Chinese stay so thin) and 'would that be an extra helping of MSG madam??' was starting to kill me. I'd heard there was a branch of the French supermarket Carrefour in town and was salivating at the thought of French bread, yummy brie, camembert... ahhh ;0) So as I found my way to the cheese aisle, tucked away between rows and rows of various animal parts (here it seems you rummage ... read more
Potala Palace
On the way into the White Palace..
Gang workers on the roof of the Potala...

Asia » China » Sichuan » Chengdu June 7th 2006

Panda's, panda's everywhere.... OK so they weren't quite wandering around the streets of Chengdu but I got to see a lot of them at a sanctuary there. I joined a tour from the hostel I was staying at - the tours are deliberately run in the morning when the giant panda's are at their most 'active'.... well, they sit there eating, and eating, and eating, and...... yup they don't seem to do much else other than eat and sleep! The fact that the keepers place their food close to the barrier that separated us and them contributed to the fact that we were able to get so near but they didn't seem too fussed about having us there.... the bamboo shoots were far more interesting! Although I swear one or two of the teenagers started to ... read more

Asia » China » Shaanxi » Xi'an June 6th 2006

It was nearing the end of Ann's trip and we only had one full day in X'ian... so of course there was only one place to go...... I'd read various blogs about the Terracotta Army before we got to X'ian - some raved about it whilst others thought it over-rated. Personally I thought it was astounding. Imagine you're an Emperor living some 2000 odd years ago and aware of your mortality your start building your tomb.... which you decide to have guarded by 8000ish life size terracotta soldiers and horses that will protect you in the afterlife.... each piece is unique and brightly painted and the whole lot is lined up in battle formations and buried in underground pits!! The Emperor in question was Qin Shi Huang, who ascended the throne at the age of 13 ... read more
Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army

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