Ming Meanderings, Mojitos and Momos

Trip Start Jan 17, 2010
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Where I stayed
Homekey Hotel

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Well our trip is as good as over, sitting as we are on the bus back from Huairo to Beijing. We've saved the very best 'til last though - today we've climbed, slipped, sweated and panted our way all over the Great Wall, and been rewarded with the most stupefying views of our trip. We couldn't have asked for a better finale - after a week of tan-sapping smog, drizzle and pollution in Beijing, the sun duly emerged through the swirling mountain mist, and treated us on the last
day of our trip.

Having spent the day strolling Beijing yesterday, culminating in a trip to the historic Tienanmen Square (so foggy and polluted though, was Beijing yesterday, that it was hard to see your feet, let alone the likeness of Mao overlooking the site), we did a bit of wall-research and settled on trying to visit some less well-trodden parts. We took the bus this morning to Huairou, where we
were on the end of a fairly tame, light handed mobbing by eager minivan drivers. We agreed our price for being ferried around for the day with one friendly looking chap, and set out up the winding road to Mutianyu - the first, and most touristy, of our wall destinations. Mutianyu is
partially restored, but still served as a wonderful introduction to the Wall, relatively easy to climb and with stunning views - we gave the cablecar and slide a wide-berth though.

Our second stop was Jiankou, where untouched crumbling remnants of wall lay perched tantalisingly atop a challenging mountain ridge. After an hour of hard climbing through tough terrain, pouring with sweat, and with the clock of the day against us, we gave up our attempt to hike to the top of the ridge, and instead took in the beautiful peaks and wall-silhouettes over a picnic. Having clambered back down, we then headed for Huanghua, our final destination and an illegal wall-climbing hotspot. Having slipped the locals about 20p in bribes they showed us the way up to a gorgeous, partially 'restored' (still pretty old, but not 2000 years like some bits, granted), partially crumbling and untouched section of wall straddling a reservoir. More seriously sweaty hiking, ladder climbing and slipping rewarded us with views of the wall snaking off into the misty distance, best of all we had the whole place pretty much to ourselves. Aside from being in a stunningly beautiful setting and being a mind-boggling engineering feat, we actually found the Great Wall of China quite a moving experience, I guess it is the last day of our trip after all.

So, a great way to end the trip, and we plan to crown it off tonight with MoMos (Tibetan dumplings, our new favourite food) and several (hundred if I have anything to do with it)

Over the last few days we've been feeling a little sentimental, and doing a bit of inevitable reminiscing about our trip. We've come up with our 'top 5' for a few things, and thought we'd share a few of them on here. Here goes:

Top 5, in no particular order unless stated...... (you'll notice the notion of 5 was rapidly abandoned!)

Bad smells
Tofu - sad but true, we thought tofu would be our saviour in China, but the stench that emanates from street stalls selling this stuff really turns the stomach
Chinese public loos - locals sit outside them cooking up dinner over open fires, we can barely walk by without feinting.
Indian open sewers - the smell from the open sewers in the streets of Cochin still haunts us
Indian train tracks - covered with excrement, in the stations, not nice
Our room backing onto a cess pit, Bolaven Plateau, Laos
My 3 month ear infection - the discharge has managed to adopt the least favourable aromas of every country we've visited
Kanan's night-long wind in Luang Prabang - simply a terrible experience

Best Hotels
Lodge Paradise, KL - a haven in KL
Hotel 89, Siem Reap - lovely, lovely staff
Ibis, Xi'an - much needed end of trip basics, like hot water
Ubud Terrace Bungalows, Ubud - we treated ourselves to a swimming pool
Tan Tien, Phu Quoc - simple, cold water, on the beach, beautiful views

Worst Hotels
West View Homestay, Munnar. Damp, small, terrible
Tad Lo Hotel (can't remember name), see above re cesspit
Hotel in Pakse, a converted prison
Homekey Hotel, Beijing. See last blog, Karaoke dinge meets 70s décor

Biggest Letdowns
Angkor Wat - the temple complex is incredible, Angkor Wat itself less so.
Kuala Lumpur/Malaysia - KL felt a bit flat, as did the rest of Malaysia
Saigon, legendary Asian city turned into traffic chaos
Malaysian GP - lots of noise, no idea what's going on - still don't know who won
Hua shan Mountain, Xi'an - as in we didn't get there, we got stuck in a traffic jam
Summer Palace, Beijing - Dull as ditchwater meets Chinese theme park, Kanan doesn't agree!

Worst food
Malaysian food - think rice, pork and a fried egg on top. No veggie options
Finding pork in our food in various Vietnamese backwater eateries
Pizza Hut in China - found ourselves there no less than 5 occasions, desperate times....
Stinky Tofu, only Kanan has tried it as I can't get it close enough to my mouth
Pizza on Perhentian - Who doesn't fry their pizza??

Best food (excluding home-cooking)
Paneer Masala Dosa, Delhi
50p Idly/Vada set, Hole in the wall, Munnar
Homemade Masala Dosa, Cochin
Paneer Pizza, Pizza Corner, Mysore
Claypot Baigan Bartha, Grand Godwin Hotel Delhi
Cooking class food, Hoi An
MoMos, Tibetan Cafe, Beijing

Best Journeys
Houseboat in Allepey,
Mekong boarder crossing boat from Vietnam to Cambodia
Bolaven Plateau motorbike trip
Overnight 'king of buS' from Pakse to Vientiane
Munnar to Coiambatore unexpected night safari viewing elephants

Worst Journeys
Crossing to perhentian Islands when we nearly drowned in 20 foot waves on a tiny boat (I can reveal this now, I'm not joking)
Luang prabang to Vientiane with vomitting wide-boy british teenager
Mice on the train to Varanasi, running accross my body in the night
Aborted plane landing in Hanoi, just about 2 metres off the ground, suddenly we were lurched upwards at startling speed, surrounded by dense fog
Crazy bus driver from Allepey to Theckady, blind overtaking of other buses on
mountain roads at 100kmph, scant regard for human life

Strange sights
Transportation of an elephant in Kerela on a giant trolley
Body floating in the Ganges, Varanasi. We saw the bloated dead, staring up at us from the Ganges. Still haunts me
A contented smile at me from an indian village lady taking a poo by the roadside as our bus drove past
Japanese fashion in Tokyo

Top gestures by the locals
Hotel staff in Siem Reap appearing at the bus station 10km out of town to bring us the camera lens we had left in our room
Jun Jun and family taking a day off to cook for us and show us round the local village, China
Veggie Restaurant Owner in Singapore taking the time to write out our dietry requirements in Chinese

Most Useful things
Mobile phone - blogging, skyping, emailing, SIM cards, brilliant!
Swiss Army Knife
Dry Bag - bought in Singapore, the envy of Asia, kept the camera dry
Soffell Mosquito repellent - 20p a bottle, works brilliantly
Nivea deoderant roll-on - bulletproof deoderant
A suitable boy - epic book of 1500 pages we both read

Least useful
Lonely Planet guidebooks - rarely helpful, often useless, frequently misleading
Mosquito net - used once the whole trip
Towels - maybe used 3 times
Binoculars - kept forgetting to pack them when we actually needed them

Common things across asia
Pyjama wearing - not in India, but in the rest of Asia we've visited, women are content to stroll the streets, undergoing everyday public tasks in their cotton, pink, printed-with-a-panda-picture pyjamas... Except in China, whose government have passed legislation to ban it.
Attitude towards bodily functions - nowhere is safe, wee, poo, spit, sneezes, yawns coughs and farts are everywhere. Each is a performance, very public, very loud - an expression of individuality. In the most public of places a belch or fart can crack through the silense like thunder - no one will bat an eyelid. I'm still figuring out whether we could learn something from this.
Law Flouting - Amusing law flouting has been a sub-plot highlight of the trip. Reaching its peak in India, where petty laws are seemingly made to be broken, but prevalent everywhere. The 'please don't touch the Buddha' signs simply serve to increase the likelihood of the event.
Smoking - from an ex-smoker this might sound rich, but it's everywhere. From Bedis of India to the biftas of Bali, law flouting on buses and trains, smoke has stung our eyes everywhere.
Sleeping Anywhere - the asian ability to fall asleep anywhere - from a man on a railway sleeper in a train station in India to the Laos dozing in their shops - never ceases to amaze. It's also infuriating for those - like me - afflicted with the opposite condition

Best Experiences (Jo)
Playing Cricket with locals in tea plantations, Munnar
Spotting tiger on elephant-back
Watching an Octopus display snorkelling, Gilli Islands
Roaming the Temples of Angkor for 3 days
3 days motorbiking accross Bolaven Plateau, Laos
A week in Patwa estate (Kanan's family)
The Great Wall of China

Best Experiences (Kanan)
Taking Jo to Patwa Estate
Tiger spotting
Being on the back of a motorbike with Jo driving
Great Wall of China
Temples of Angkor

Favourite Cities

Favourite Countries (in order)

Anyway, just a long-winded bit of fun really. I'll sign off now for the last time. Thanks for keeping track of our travels and for the kind comments and emails - we've both had a wonderful time over the last 6 months, so hopefully some of that has come accross.

Looking forward to seeing everyone very soon!


Jo and Kaa (off for Momos and Mojitos!) xx

PS I think I forgot to press the 'publish' button for the last entry, so may not have appeared. It should be there now!
Slideshow Report as Spam


mum on

Have to be honest...will be extremely glad to see you home! However, thank you for all the entertainment, both the written word and sensational photography.Am sure you will never regret it and will have it all to look back on with great pleasure...even the questionable bits! It has been an education from afar for us too.x

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