Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2



It's been a while since I wrote, so I thought I would keep you all posted of my movements over the past couple of weeks.

In Kashgar, where I last mailed from I generally took things easy, wandered about town a little, round the bazaar and took the opportunity to get a little drunk, it may sound pathetic, but the availability of alcohol makes a difference, prohibiting it doesn't work as there is nothing so tasty as forbidden fruit, furthermore abstention makes one a bit of a light-weight so not able to handle the appropriate levels of booze. I have been working quite hard recently to get my blood/alcohol balance back in order as after travelling through Iran and Pakistan the amount of blood in my alcohol stream was reaching dangerously high levels.

From Kashgar went by train to Urumqi, a thirty six hour journey on a hard sleeper that I really was not looking forward to. I had the pre-conception that Chinese hard sleeper was similar to Pakistani hard sleeper (a sheet of ply-wood above the hard seats). In actuality it wasn't too bad there are about twenty door-less booths to a carriage with beds on either side of the booth, stacked three high, bedclothes and hot water is provided and the toilets weren't as rancid as popular mythology led me to believe. There is no privacy though, but people generally keep themselves to themselves and the staff are constantly mopping the floors and selling watermelons. So, all in all the journey was pretty uneventful, the scenery was undulating rocky desert that got rather repetitive after the first few minutes. I managed to read and sleep most of the time and a mother and daughter in the same booth kept me fed. I didn't stop in Urumqi but went straight to Turpan, an oasis a couple of hours from Urumqi.

In Turpan I met a few other westerners travelling about, mostly English teachers in China travelling about during the summer break. After a few drinks John (American), Gaz (Brummy) and I decided to take a tour around the local sights. Turpan, as is most of Xinjiang province, is predominantly Uigur (a north-western Chinese Muslim ethnic minority). As a result many of the sights are not typically Chinese, this was also a little beyond the Great wall so wasn't really China until relatively recently. The first stop was Jiahe an old mud brick city. It was rather picturesque and very large but compared to Bam in Iran it seemed a rather amateur attempt. We then skipped the Asanta graves where several mummies were found as the entrance cost was unreasonably high. So next stop was Grape Valley. As is probably rather obvious from its name it is a fertile valley covered with vineyards. Whilst the Chinese tourists were busy looking round the vineyards - something which held very little interest to us, particularly as it entailed another exorbitant fee - we wandered round the village. It was interesting to see a little bit of how the rural Chinese live. Next stop was Flaming Mountain, another semi-self explanatory name. It is a mountain with peculiar strata in waves from top to bottom, which when the sun is strong makes it appear to be flames, unfortunately by the time we stopped by it, the sky was overcast. After a lunch break back in Turpan for a little while we headed off again to the Gaochang ruins, another mud brick city, much better than Jiahe, but still not as impressive as Bam. After that we skipped the Karez well, as none of us had a great interest in ancient water wells, and went to the last stop, the Emam Minaret. This being an old mosque with an unusual tapered minaret, more interesting and picturesque than it sounds. After a hard day imbibing the local culture John, Gaz, Whitney (a Shanghainese girl we met) and I did the appropriate thing, namely drank cheap beer and talked crap until two in the morning.

The following day we all decided to take it a bit easier, Whitney started teaching me basic Mandarin (Chinese) and in the evening John and I went to Uigur music show. For the most part it was very interesting and the music was good (especially the drummer who played a frame drum, balanced on his thumb tips and hitting it with his fingers ad palms), unfortunately good things don't last and the show went totally touristy with a rendition of some Japanese song that all the Jap tourists loved and sang along with, then they sank to new depths with a really chronic version of Edelweiss for the Germans. Apart from these two bits the show was interesting, enjoyable and worthwhile, and the musicians were exceptional.

John, Gaz and I decided to go to Urumqi together and to bring down the cost of the shared taxi an Italian called Mario also jumped on board. The journey should have been only a couple of hours, but the cab driver was being a cheap-skate trying to avoid the faster toll roads we had agreed he would take, and Mario was profusely ill, which necessitated several stops. He didn't really seem cut out for life on the road as most of what we heard from him was moaning and groaning. As a result, by the time we got to Urumqi, the buses to Tian Chi (Heavenly Lake), where John and I were headed next were all gone. So we stayed the night in Urumqi. After getting a bite to eat at Best Burger (a franchise owned by McDonalds, originally used to test the Chinese fast food market now just a lower class fast food joint - yes, I know it may sound incredible, but it is a lower class fast food joint.), we went to find an internet cafe. After twenty minutes and a great deal of shouting we got a cab to drop us in the right area of town, according to John's "Rough Guide" however it took another half hour to find the actual place. A very nice, cheap, quick, internet cafe. John decided with his Mandarin (which is moderate, as he has been teaching in Shanghai for the past six months) to tell the girls who ran the cafe they should advertise at the hotels as it took us ages to find the place. After a little while they got us to write them an advert complete with map, English and Chinese. In the evening we went around the night market, got some dinner and then latterly found after all our efforts, there had been an internet cafe one hundred metres just around the corner to our hotel all along, bloody typical. At least I learned internet in Mandarin (Wong Ba - if you care). So the following morning we got the bus to Tian Chi, after arriving we then trekked a few kilometres around the lake to where some Yurts (Kazakh tents) are to stay in. The scenery is very alpine with Spruce trees all around the lake which is a jade green, rolling hills and further in the distance, snow capped mountains. The yurts were surprisingly comfortable and the Kazakh people were very hospitable and good fun. When we arrived there was a big American guy (Vince) curing a horse skin from a horse that had just recently broken its leg (and provided the meat in breakfast lunch and dinner), kids running about, women cooking and working and guys riding horses and herding cattle and goats - all very rustic and relaxing. The food wasn't bad but after a couple of days was getting repetitive. With our relaxation done we all headed back to Urumqi, John and to get our previously booked train to Dunhuang and Vince to head West towards Pakistan. As we were almost back at the car park to get the bus, I realised I had left the book I was reading in the Yurt so jogged back to get it. After showing the folk there what I was looking for with sign language, I couldn't find it anywhere and after a few minutes was giving up, but when I emerged from my fruitless search of the Yurt, one of the women just held up her and implying I should wait, went to the kitchen tent and emerged with my book, albeit with the bookmark missing (I have actually had the book-mark since Malaysia last year, so it was a little annoying), then I jogged back to the car park, deciding on a short cut through the woods that didn't really seem to work. So that evening after a couple of drinks John and I headed off on another hard-sleeper to Dunhuang. Fortunately many of the passengers got off about half way, so the journey was quiet, peaceful and I managed to sleep quite a bit.

Dunhuang is unfortunately very much on the Chinese tourist trail which has made it trashier in points and also made the locals greedy at times. Whilst I had a much needed shower and shave, John went to see if he could get us booked on a train to Lanzhou for two days time. He came back confident that the travel agent he had spoken to would provide the tickets as promised the following day, for the day following that. He had also met a couple of Japanese girls who were heading out to Mingsha Shan, some massive sand dunes in the desert just outside town who wanted to share a taxi. So we all went out to the desert.

Unfortunately, as previously mentioned Dunhuang is firmly on the domestic tourist trail, so the approach to the desert is flanked by tacky tourist stalls and touts and there is a wall around the desert area (sounds unbelievable, but remember the Chinese are famous for building long walls). Thinking the thirty Yuan (about 2.50GBP) entry fee was rather exorbitant, we decided to sneak through a gap we found, unfortunately the local constabulary was also aware of the gap, so one of them escorted us to the ticket office to make sure we paid. This site was a prime example of what is different about what Chinese tourists (and are Japanese friends) want. Very few of them walked anywhere, but got camel rides or went in a tractor pulled train to see the tacky constructions, whilst the international tourists trekked up the massive dunes. The Chinese also found it rather amusing to throw all their waste (bottles, bags, paper, etc.) down the dunes and watch it get buried in the sand, which made a potentially beautiful site look at points like a rubbish tip, still the views in most directions were lovely.

The following day, we went to Mogao Caves, supposedly the best of the grottoes in China. These being caves with a Buddhist statues, paintings, carvings and the like. The belligerent staff refused to give the student discounts we were entitled to as we were foreign, despite the fact that there were prices advertised for Chinese and foreign students. I reluctantly paid up and got my guide. The caves were very interesting in so far as they chronicled changes in artistic style over the course of more than one thousand years, the earliest painting looking rather Indian, whilst the later was definitely Chinese. The paintings, sculptures etc. were also spared the ravages of the cultural revolution as the transport connections were rather bad, back in the fifties. After seeing the site and discussing the situation regarding the lack of student discount (that my fake ISIC card entitles me to) with my guide, who agreed with my argument I decided to press my case further. Unfortunately the Chinese, particularly those with any modicum of power are notoriously racist. I decided though for the sake of future travellers, on principle, and also as I had nothing to do that afternoon to make the point as emphatically as possible. This involved going round all the offices and shouting my point at anyone who might have any influence, I also managed to learn a little Mandarin through repetition of my demands. By the end of my four hour tirade the ticket office agreed to give all students the appropriate discount, but would not refund me the difference in price for the ticket I had bought that morning. Feeling a modicum of satisfaction I returned to Dunhuang. To several beers and some chips, that we forgot to pay for. We then went to see the travel agent John had placed his faith in. It would be an understatement to say that he didn't inspire confidence, he couldn't even remember the fact that we had asked for the tickets and was almost blind, when we showed him the receipt he had given for the deposit paid the previous day he had to hold it about an inch from the half inch thick glass that made his spectacles. He then remembered

what he had promised and said he would have the tickets in a few minutes. After half an hour of procrastination we decided that this Mole man was probably less likely deliver our tickets than Readers Digest are to give their oft promised major cash reward. We got our deposit back from him, and went off to make alternative arrangements. After arranging the transport we went and had a nice, cheap meal in the night market. So, the following day the first leg of the journey to Lanzhou started with a bus to Jiayuguan. Upon arrival there we managed to book ourselves on an overnight train for that evening to Lanzhou, this time soft sleeper. As we had several hours spare we took the opportunity to have a nice lunch and visit the fort that marks the end of the Great Wall. The fort itself was moderately interesting (being heavily restored), but the setting is dramatic, with mountains and desert surrounding it. Also, as Jiayuguan is not so firmly on the domestic tourist trail the people were much friendlier and the ambience was generally better than many other sites. John and I both took the opportunity to shoot at some dummies in the archery range and the place made a welcome break in the journey. After the train was going we decided to go to the dining car to read and relax, but some stupid racist waitress decided we were unwanted. When we tried to order tea, then beer, then food, in order to justify our stay in the dining car she told us they didn't have any, despite the Chinese customers around us eating and
drinking. Once again we decided to kick up a bit of a stink to make our point known, which also gave us the opportunity to practise our Chinese. In the end she got a PSB (Public Security Bureau - basically police) officer to half heartedly tell us to leave. As we were leaving ten French tourists on an organised tour came into the car, we explained that they were unlikely to get much service from the racist staff, they decided to try anyway and most of them were kicked out two minutes later for no apparent reason. The rest of the journey was less dramatic and more enjoyable. Two young Chinese girls decided to chat with us to try and practice their English and we used them to learn some Mandarin. That night I slept like a log and woke up only just before we pulled into Lanzhou.

We weren’t staying in Lanzhou, but were merely passing through to get to Xiahe. We did however take the opportunity to sort some things out and have some great food. We then managed to get a bus for the five hour journey to Xiahe. The journey started odd and got odder. After an hour long delay the bus finally left, but as John and I had not purchased "insurance" (actually a waiver of liability to the Gansu and Chinese government that runs the buses) we had to hide under with a coat wrapped over us until we were out of town. Then after a couple of hours we came to a traffic jam in a small village. Seeing that all the transport ahead of us was stopped for some distance, we decided to walk down to see what had happened. It turned out that a bus had hit and killed a sixteen year old boy who was crossing the road. The body being covered with a blanket and a small impromptu awning. The delay being caused by the fact that the bus driver was now liable for 30,000 Yuan to the victims family, nearly 2,500 GBP - about three years salary. Also this being China the officials all had to get involved and both PSB and government officers were arriving over the course of the five hours we were held up for. There was however a positive side to the delay. We being Laowai (white folk) were quite a novelty in this little village and in no time we had quite a following of both young and old. It was also a great opportunity to take a number of photos of some really characterful faces. A couple of Tibetans who spoke good English kept us company and helped us find some food and were generally interesting to talk with. When the traffic
eventually did move on it was half past ten. It took more than another two and a half hours to arrive in Xiahe, and the town was totally dead. The bus staff showed us a place to stay and then left, what he didn't now was that the guest house had an eleven o'clock curfew, so we could not get in or even rouse somebody. We got out the guide books to find somewhere else and it was rather odd, as whilst we were looking for somewhere there were Tibetan monks gliding about and lurking in the darkness in their burgundy robes, rather eerie. We eventually found somewhere and woke the guy running the place, there were only two beds left, one in a room with an Italian - that John took, and the plank with a blanket in the office that I took from the guy we'd woken. I slept surprisingly well, and was only woken when at six this morning they came to start the business day, at seven they found me a proper bed where I managed to get a little more sleep and then we left as the place was rather run down, but they got us out of a spot at the time. So we moved to a nicer more backpacker place, for a little more money, but much more comfy and it actually has bathrooms, albeit shared. After settling in their for a while, we wandered around the Tibetan part of town (Xiahe, although now in Gansu province was part of Tibet until the Chinese occupation. It is also the seat of the third most important Lama (whose name I currently forget, but recently escaped to Dharamsala in India) in Tibetan Buddhism). John decided to trek into the hills and I went for a wander round the prayer wheels that form a circle around the Tibetan part of town, met a monk and tried to teach him to count in English and was invited back to his place. Although he speaks no English, little Mandarin and my Mandarin is extremely basic, we managed to muddle a conversation that covered how he finds it difficult to learn English, which he is currently learning from tapes and books (the Chinese government does not allow Tibetans to be taught English in school, the official justification being they already have two languages, Tibetan and Mandarin, if they were allowed to learn a third it would be unfair.), how at twenty eight he has been a monk for six years and wants to see the Dalai Lama, the oppression of Tibetans by the Chinese and finally an invite for lunch for John and I tomorrow. He also played some music, made some tea and Tu Dou Si (garlic potatoes).

That has brought you up to date with most of what has gone on, as to my feelings on China, they are mixed. The ethnic Chinese are generally nice enough but are extremely racist against the minorities here and generally to a lesser degree western people, something which is supported by the government. Those in positions of even limited power are usually lazy as they almost invariably achieved their positions through Ganxi (connections, nepotism), they have the most polluted places in the world, the accommodation is comparatively expensive and the places of interest are often prohibitively expensive. There is a positive side however. There are some fascinating sites, beautiful landscapes and interesting cultures. It is just that in this place more than most one must take the rough with the smooth.
Anyway that's me done for the while, once again it seems I have to remind many of you to write, as I haven't heard from a lot of you for some time.


Several of you have commented on the epic length of the previous newsletter, well you can't say I don't try and keep you posted of what's been going on. I do and will try to mail more regularly to try and keep the length down for my sake and yours.

Taking up where I left off in Xiahe, as mentioned in the previous mail I was invited back to the monk I met's place for lunch the following day. John and I went along to a basic meal of tea, bread, tea, water-melon and a lot more tea, and some strained conversation. We were then invited to another monks quarters which had a poster of the Chinese football squad on the wall, apparently he's a big footy fan and he and the monks quite enjoy kicking a ball about.

Later that afternoon John, Geraint (a Welsh guy) and I did the full circle of the prayer wheels which takes about three hours, including visiting some temples en-route. Then Geraint and I had a wander round the monastery, quite interesting with some nice architecture in places. It was all rather tranquil until we came across a couple of young monks fighting the younger of the two (who looked about fifteen or sixteen) was throwing small stones quite violently at the other monk (who appeared to be two or three years his senior). The older of the two was throwing stones back it seemed to keep the younger one at bay. The younger one then ran into the temple and re-emerged with a broom which he started beating the older one with, after a minute or so the older one managed to wrest it from him, whereupon he went back into the temple re-emerging with an eight foot lead pipe which he was smacking the other with. Again the older monk managed to wrest this from his grasp, as the older one went into the temple the younger picked up a big rock which he threw at the other, we couldn't see whether or not it hit but there was a definite groan from behind the temple walls. The older monk then tried to lock the younger in the temple but couldn't, eventually some more senior monks calmed the situation down a bit, but the younger monk kept shouting at his adversary, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't reciting sutras. Just goes to show there must be different paths to nirvana.

After having a look round more of the monastery we then saw an examination, whereby a monk trying to go up a rung in the hierarchy recites sutras by rote in front of a large audience, if he makes any mistakes they all laugh at him. The monk in question seemed not to get anything wrong as nobody even tittered whilst we were watching. The next stop after Xiahe was Langmusi, a small Tibetan village. We arrived there about midday, heard about a good place for a Yak burger (Lesha's) and ended up there drinking and eating until late. Lesha, a nutty Tibetan and her husband Tony a 6"6'giant kept us well fed and entertained. We then went to a "Disco" which involved a VCD player, playing cheesy tracks in someone’s living room whilst Tibetans danced badly, a different take on the night club theme.
The following morning I got up early and myself and a couple of Israeli girls trekked up the hill behind the village where we heard there would be a sky burial. We waited and chatted for an hour or so, when the rest of the mob from town turned up, the girls then left deciding it wasn't going to happen. The rest of us decided to wander over to where a tractor had pulled up near some prayer flags. I checked the trailer, there was nothing in it, the ten or so men who'd ridden up in it got a fire going and started drinking beer. A couple of their crew were busy getting the fire going, chopping wood for it. We noticed they'd been working on one log for quite a while (between drinks), it was only when one of them lifted a grey hand, his accomplice swung his axe into the armpit and the first threw the arm over his shoulder that we realised that it wasn't a log, but the corpse of what we later established to be a twenty-four year old girl who'd died of a "bad head" (could mean anything). They proceeded to chop off each of the limbs and head in the same sort of manner as previously described. They then wrapped the head in a coat and smashed it using the back of the axe. From then on they just hacked away at the various parts, breaking from time to time to have a cigarette and some beer, which they offered us as well. In the end they just jumped back on the tractor and went back down the hill, rather drunk. We went to inspect the remains, careful not to tread on bits of the deceased. It wasn't actually too gruesome, although the smell was horrific. The buzzards that had gathered "in order to take the body the body to heaven" didn't seem too peckish, probably because there had been another sky burial the previous day. We decided after a while to leave them to their dinner and Geraint and I went to Lesha's to have a Yak burger, and once again ended up staying there until the small hours.

The following day, Geraint and I went to Lesha’s for a coffee and were planning afterwards to walk twenty minutes up the road to look at a religious cave. Mike (a Kiwi) said he'd join us so after our breakfast we set off for the short walk. The cave was nice, small with prayer flags and offering all over. We then decided to go for a short walk up through the valley behind it. We decided to climb up to a vantage point from where we not only disturbed some young lovers, but could see quite some way to what looked like nice countryside, complete with paths. After walking uphill for a short while the path ran out, but we decided to carry on, then the undergrowth got thicker and thicker until we had to push our way through rhododendrons and thick heather. Eventually reaching the top of that mountain, we realised that what we thought was the top was a long way from it, despite only having my sandals on, I agreed we should press on, by the end we'd run out of water as we reached several false bluffs, eventually getting to the top of the tallest peak around. Mike had an altimeter accurate to 4,000 metres, that stopped working by the time we'd got to that point. As we were out of water we were pleased to start the descent, en-route I twisted my ankle (again) but we were fortunate enough to find some wild strawberries, we managed to get back to Lesha's in one piece, although absolutely shattered, but with a sense of satisfaction from our six and a half hour slog, wit me vowing never to go anywhere with Mike without my walking boots on.

From Langmusi five of us decided to get a jeep to Songpan, however on the way the jeep had a flat tyre and as the spare was also shot, the driver tried to fix it with two pick axes, two screwdrivers, a hatchet and a bit of super-glue. We could tell that the prospect of this working was limited so we sent the girls off to Songpan with a family who we pulled over. As the mad drivers ideas continued to get more mental we flagged down a bus to take the three of us remaining to Songpan. The driver objected to us leaving him and threw a fit, getting us kicked off the bus. We flagged down another gave the jeep driver a bit of money for how far he had got us and told him what he could do to himself. I'm still curious to know whether or not he ever made it out of there. Upon arrival John and I arranged for a three day horse trek to leave the following morning.

So as you no doubt gathered we set off the following morning on our horses. As we set out the heavens opened, fortunately the guide had ponchos for us. We rode for about three or four hours to our first camp, near a waterfall. We pitched the tent which John and I sheltered in whilst the guide somehow got a fire going. We had tea and slightly cooked salad and read waiting for the rain to retreat, which it eventually did. The guide then gave John directions on how we could reach the waterfall, so we set off on the path which was pretty easy to follow as there were no forks and when we came to a clearing I managed to find the path continuing on the other side. After continuing for about an hour and a half and becoming more and more disillusioned with our route and having got so wet from the dripping brush, we suddenly heard some shouting from behind us, the guide came bounding towards us and managed to tell us we were in completely the wrong place. He then led us pretty much straight down the mountain side on to a path back to our camp. John had chosen the wrong path leading out from camp, hence the fact that we seemed to be constantly climbing uphill. The guide made some good curry and we cooked our wet clothes over the fire wrapped up in nice warm yak jackets.
The following morning it was a nice day, so we set off to see the waterfall with the guide and horse in tow, just to make sure we got there. The waterfall was very pretty, cascading over a series or rock for about a hundred and fifty feet. We also sent Nutter, the name we'd given the guide, to get us some beer for the evening. We then set off for a lake where we were to camp the following night, arriving within a couple of hours. Nutter made some lunch and we chilled out in the tranquil surroundings. At one point some yaks invaded the camp, but were easily shooed away. John and I decided we wanted a raging inferno for a camp fire that evening so went off to find some good firewood. Nutter who had been sleeping with the horses, decided to do it his way, which involved climbing a tree and hacking its branches off. We went back had dinner and nutter built the fire up to a ridiculous height. He then got drunk on one and a half beers whilst John and I played at pyromaniacs.

The following day we set off early to get back to Songpan, which didn't take too long but we were rather tired by the time we arrived. We had some lunch and checked into a hotel, then I went and e-mailed you, which is right now. So once again you are up to date.


Just a brief note to say what I've been up to recently.

Basically since arriving in Chengdu, where I am about to leave (after nearly three weeks), I have spent most of the time at Paul's Oasis, a bar/cafe, with a number of recently made friends.

The excursions and sights seen have been limited (unlike the beers). The first thing I did was to go and see the Wenshu monastery, not very interesting, then to Renmin park to go on an odd train ride through the former bomb shelters. The train is glass panelled and the tunnel has numerous peculiar clay models of cavemen, ET, small elephants, large walruses, alien creatures and the like - all very badly crafted, very amusing.

The next thing I went to see was the Pandas, which was fun especially when the babies were pulling each other out the trees and dropping on each others heads - looked kind of like the Ewoks in star wars. Last excursion was to Leshan to see an incredibly big Buddha. Apparently seventy two metres, and that's when he's sitting down. Another interesting site, made so in part by the folks I went with (Annie - from the USA and Mauro - from Argentina). Otherwise, it has generally been relaxing, about ten days ago Khapre and Wendy (a Kiwi couple) gave me there spare room to use so I didn't waste money on a hotel, Wendy has been very good, feeding me and when I awoke in the afternoons having a hot coffee ready for me - part of the reason it has been difficult to leave.

Anyway, five in the morning tomorrow I am on my way to Lhasa, Tibet. So, it was unanimously decided that we should spend the night drinking at Paul’s until the bus is ready to take me away.



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