Since we returned to Canada we’ve been putting together a book of all of the adventures we’ve had over the past four and a bit months (In Asia anyways) and just realized a few days ago that we’ve been neglecting the blog just a bit. We left home on the 5th of September for Japan where we spent the next three months; one of the first was spent working at a hotel in the Nagano – Ken region. Once we began traveling around Japan we mostly stayed to the southern areas; some of our favorites were Kyoto, Hiroshima, Beppu and of course Tokyo, oh and Mt.Fuji just to name some of the very very few.

From Japan we headed over to Hong Kong for a week just to check it out, then it was up to China for a while. After seeing a few on the main sights in the south we caught a train over to Lhasa, Tibet which we fell in love with and plan to get back to some day. Unfortunately just before we left for Lhasa we found out a close friend of mine had become very sick, we ended up only spending five nights in Lhasa before booking a flight into Beijing and then home. Fortunately we had two days there; One was spent hiking on the Great Wall, and the morning before we left was spent at the Forbidden City and surrounding areas. The most amazing things in Lhasa are the monasteries, and Potala Palace will take anyones breath away. Unfortunatly no one is allowed to take photos inside of the Palace and little (In size) Chinese guards enforce it. We thought they were funny. I hope that when we return Tibet has not been too destroyed by the Chinese, our guide told us that over 300 Chinese a day move into Lhasa alone! and that they have little respect for Tibetan culture.

In all of China the best things we saw were in Beijing, it is almost an entirely new city because of the coming Olympics and most of the cultural relics are being restored. But we still thought it was fairly dirty, mostly because of the people’s attitudes towards outsiders (those who aren’t in the tourism industry) and the fact that they spit, EVERYWHERE! All in all it was an amazing trip that was unfortunately cut short; Hopefully this summer will bring more travel for the two of us. We may even keep posting in this blog so everyone we know can keep tabs on us!

Mike

If anyone wants to see more pictures (and you can buy them too), check out : http://www.shutterfly.com/pro/CarolynCarson/Asia

We arrived in Lhasa today after a grueling three day train trip from Guang Zhaou; one of the worst things about china is that people smoke everywhere… even on a sealed train! So were were overjoyed to finally be on solid ground again and breathing clean air. once we left the train station we were met by our guide Dawa, a local Tibetan to our relief. He was an amazing guide and he knew more than we will ever be able to remember about this magic place. They call Tibet the rooftop of the world, and after spending only a short time there we could tell why.  At roughly 3700 meters above sea level it holds the record for the highest capital city in the world, and you can definately tell; not just because of the extreemly big and bright sun but also by the lack of oxygen.

Tibet was invaded by China in 1959 and they have been suffering abuse ever since, many of the monasteries we saw had been looted or destroyed by the chinese. Dawa told us several things about chinese occupation that really struck us; if a Tibetan decides to become a monk they are now required by chinese law to denounce Tibetan independance. They are also not allowed by the government to have a passport or travel outside of china, although many excape to India, including our guide for several years. Another thing that has been wierd about all of china is the internet censorship; as mentioned we couldn’t access our blog because it was free speech, and forget hearing anything involving democracy or human rights. The Tibetan people really have no way of knowing what is going on in the outside world. Tibet has captured a place in our hearts not only for the stunning beauty of the landscape but because of the stunning resilience of the people, hopefully we will return some day.

Mike

Well, we’ve been having a bit of a weird week.  The place that we were
staying at in Hong Kong didn’t have wireless anywhere except right
beside the elevator, and half the time it didn’t work.  Now we’re in
Guangzhou, offically in China, and we can’t even access our blog!  The
thing about communist China is that they control pretty much anything
they want to.  They’ve blocked us from accessing our blog (Because
it’s free speech) and we also can’t look up anything on Tibet, or any
other controversial issue here.  Oh well, what can you do?  So now
we’re writing out our blogs in wordpad and sending them to a friend to
post for us so everyone can still keep up.

We had a pretty good time in Hong Kong, a lot of people spoke English,
they were reasonably friendly, and the area that we were staying in
had quite a few western restaurants around it.  There was also an
interesting street market, but we didn’t really buy anything at it
because we heard mainland China was cheaper.

We booked our train tickets a couple days in advance out to Guangzhou
without too much problem, just a bunch of waiting at the travel
agency.  It was pretty easy to get down to the station and get on the
train as well, but we had to go through customs before we could get on
the train, and had to clear customs again once we arrived!

When we arrived in Guangzhou we were a little overwhelmed.  We’ve
never been stared at so much in any country we’ve ever gone to.  It’s
really unnerving, and in addition to that, there were armed guards
everywhere, people sitting in the streets, and little to no english
signage.  We barely figured out how to get on the subway so that we
could get to the central train station even though we asked a couple
different people.  When we got to the central station, we booked our
tickets for Lhasa – luckily we got probably the only English speaker
in Guangzhou to book it for us.  Then we tried to find our hostel and
that was a process in itself, but eventually we made it.  This hostel
is probably one of the nicest we’ve been in on our trip so far, and
it’s also probably the cheapest.  It’s not in a very desirable area of
town, but I’m sure that there are worse.

We found a really tasty Japanese/Western food restaurant near us that
we’ve had two dinners at now, and it’s a little like being in Japan.
When you walk in, everyone yells out, “Irrashemaseeeeee”  (Welcome in
Japanese), so it’s a little like being back in Japan (which is
somewhere we already miss).  They are really attentive when they’re
serving you, and we had one waiter last night who Mike tried to tip,
but the waiter just giggled and patted him on the back and sent him
off.  It was pretty funny.

Today we went out shopping on an open market shopping street.  We
didn’t end up buying anything expect shampoo and conditioner, but
we’re going to try again tomorrow.  We have a strong feeling we’re not
going to like China very much, so after Lhasa, we’re going to try to
get back to Hong Kong as quick as we can.  Everyone is just really
rude here, and they stare at you like you’re a tv show and you can’t
see them.  Even if you smile or wave at them they still stare at you
blankly.  We were buying tickets for a ferry today, and I gave the
woman at the ticket counter my money, and she pretty much threw my
change and the tickets back at me.  A bit of a culture shock coming
from Canada and Japan where politeness is the norm.

What can you do?

Carolyn

We took our first trip over to Hong Kong this morning and jumped on a tram that heads nearly all of the way up to the top of one of the mountains on the island. The view of the city and victoria bay was incredible from the top of the observation deck as you can see from the picture. It seemed a little strange to me but a large area of the island doesn’t have anything on it, the majority of the buildings are on the north side across from the Mong kok area which is a little less spectacular but still has it’s charm. You can certainly tell the difference that years of British rule had on the island compared to the mainland.

Later in the day we looked a little more indepth into our travel plans to get up to Lhasa, it’s a little hard to get the straight facts from anyone here so it’s a little frustrating sometimes. Luckly we have heard from some people that getting into Tibet is a little easier than it’s made out to be sometimes. Hopefully their right! Now were hiding in our room trying to get away from the crowds, somewhere in our building is a recording studio that blares music all day until around 10 so we’ve been trying to stay away as much as possible. Thankfully tonight it’s pretty quiet so were taking advantage of it and relaxing.

Mike

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Arrived in Hong kong yesterday afternoon after a fairly bumpy four and a half hour flight from Narita. Let me tell you this place is nothing like Japan in any way, I think the most obvious difference is the Japanese are way more polite. This isn’t to say that the Chinese are rude but you can definately tell there is a difference. The other is the population density in Hong Kong, We’ve been to some of the busiest places in Tokyo and the area around our hostel seems busier! To be honest I’m a little scared to go outside as well.

Our first day around Hong Kong we ended up eating at a really ritzy place called “Pizza Hut” and I’m not lying, it is really classy here. I almost felt bad about eating with my hands… Almost. We walked around and found the tourist information center for some maps then headed over to a small park to get away from the crowds for a while. I would liken walking around here to being in Thailand for those who have been, it seems on every street corner someones trying to sell you a suit or a fake watch. By the way, if anyone wants a fake watch or louis v’s let me know, special price for you. We tried to look into the train to Lhasa today as well but the woman at travel advisory place wasn’t really into helping us out. 

One more thing, if you want to use your north american electronics in China you will need a converter and a plug adaptor to do so, it’s 220 volts here; We use 120 in Canada. The little black box on a laptop cord will do just fine but look and make sure it has a 120-240 input. Coincidentally my razor died in a freak accidental voltage mismatch accident today… It will be missed.

Mike

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