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Jan 29 12

The Books I’ve Read

by André

When you spent so much time travelling you have lots of time to read. Recently I was trying to remember all the books I’ve read and tried to read. So I thought it would be a nice item for a blogpost:

1. Fantoompijn (Arnun Grunberg)
A book I got with me from Holland. Great book which reminded me of the guy I rented an appartment from in Amsterdam: A drifter who had a son that hated him.

2. Fast Food Nation
Book about how the fast food industry works and what it affects. But I would recommend the book The Macdonaldisation of Society.

3. Foucault’s Pendulum (Umberto Eco) – Not Finished
This book was way too hard for me to read in English and I couldn’t get myself to keep reading it.

4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence
New age book about a guy who is on a motorcycle trip with his son and his inner demon. It’s somewhat of a classic but a bit pseudo-philosophical and pretentious.

5. Lord of the Flies
Every englishman I’ve met during my trip has read this book because it’s pretty much mandatory for them in school. It’s about a school getting lost on an Island without any teachers. Starting again they build a new mini society with all the problems it entails. Great book! Recommend it to anyone.

6. The Plague (Camus)
About a city where all of a sudden a plague kills a lot of people. This existentialist book is about the different people and how they react to these tough situations. The plague in this book could be seen as a methaphor for the german occupation in the second world war.

7. Treasure Island
Pretty much a childrens book about Pirates! But with all the elements you would excpect and all the pirate cliches: treasure, parrots, eye-patches and wooden legs. Very fun read.

8. Secret History
About some upperclass university elites commiting some crimes. Very interesting characters and quite the page turner.

9. Seeing
From Jose Saramago, the guy who wrote Blindness (or the city of the blind). It’s about a city where at an election everyone votes blanc. What would happen? It’s a nice read, but a bit overtly dramatic.

10. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Short story about a guy who is thinking about a girl in his appartment… Wasn’t really able to tell the greatness of this story.

11. Cat’s Cradle
Science Fiction book from Kurt Vonnegut.

12. Catch 22
Well, here’s a fantastic book. But I guess it works best in English and it is sometimes hard to see all the irony and sarcasm. It’s about a world war two bomber pilot who can’s see why there are people shooting at him all the time when he is doing his work. It’s full of absurdity.

13. The Four Musketeers (Humas)
A classic one. Easy read and great fun.

14. Our Game (John le Carre)
Spy Novel about a guy who has lost his girlfriend to his best friend who are fighting for the minorities in Southern Russia.

Jan 3 12

The End

by André

After over 500 days, my travels are over. For now. I got back to the Netherlands on the 4th of December and real life started pretty soon. Within two weeks of being back I already found a (temporary) job and living in Amsterdam again. Everything went so fast that It’s hard to believe that I’ve been away for so long. I have to remind myself that I’ve seen so many amazing things and met so many amazing people.

One question I get a lot is what the most amazing thing is I’ve seen. But ofcourse this is impossible to answer, I’ve done and seen so much: diving the great barrier reef, camping the Australian eastcoast, the temples of Ankor Wat, biking in Vietnam, Hiking in China, Horseriding in Mongolia, drinking Vodka with the Russians… and this is only a very small selection!

Another question is how it is to be home, and if it is strange. But the strangest thing is the fact that you’re used to being back very soon. Ofcourse nothing has changed, but I expected that I would experience everything in a different way. The only thing is that everything is going so fast, and I’m already working in an office every day. It wouldn’t have hurt to have a little holiday around christmas (because also then I had to work quite a bit). I may have been away for 500 days, it’s not that this is always very ‘relaxing’ and when you’re always on the move it’s also nice to be in the same place for a little while.

Since this might be my last post about this travel, I want to use this moment to thank all the amazing people I’ve met during my travel. Without all of you I wouldn’t have had such an amzing time. So again; Thanks!

Nov 26 11

Travelling by Train in Russia

by André

A lot of people do the Transsiberian railroad, but my experience was probably a bit different from most others. First of all, this is because I am travelling in the off-season while most people go from june untill september. Second, most people are coming from Moscow and going south, I’m doing it the other way around. Also, I’m travelling in the cheapest place: platzkart. This means a lot of people (54) on one cart sleaping in places of six without any privacy and the smell of sweaty feet.

Travelling in the Platskart might not be the most comfortable, but it’s not bad either and it’s rediculously cheap: a 2,5 day trainride and travelling 4 timezones for 120 Dollars. Besides, you have a good chance to interact with the locals!

So, how does it al go? The first part is getting the ticket. This can be quite a challenge since the women working at the trainstation don’t speak any English. So, with a written note, a Lonely Planet or someone who actually speaks russian you get your ticket. It’s funny how the women behind the counter don’t realise that Russian is “like Chinese” to me but they still repeat what they said but than louder and more slowly. I just smile and say “Da”.

The next part is figuring your ticket out. Times are always in Moscow time, even in different timezones. So you need to check twice when the train is leaving. Also it’s good to now in which part of the train you are sitting because it’s a damn long train and you don’t want to go with your baggage through the whole train.

So, then the time comes that you get on the train. Each cart has a lady who takes care of the cart and it’s passengers so it’s good to befriend them. But every time I enter the train they say something in Russian, so then I reply: Njet Ruski, Angleski? Sometimes you get a smile, sometimes you get a question in Russian, slowly spoken so they think I’ll understand it.

Then I’ll get to my seat/bed. I stash my bag under or on top of the bed and sit down and take a look at the fellow passengers. When the train leaves I bring out my Russian phrasebook and say, in Russian: Excuse me, my name is Andre, 27 years old, from Holland and don’t speak any russian, nice to meet you. Most of the time they are surprised by my name, because it’s also a russian name so it’s easy for them to remember (In China I changed my name to Andy for this reason).

People start talking russian to you again, and I just smile a bit and ask some randomm questions from my phrasebook like “what’s your job” or my favorite icebreaker: “There’s no greater happiness than being with you”. I tell them about my travels by naming some cities I’ve been and showing some pictures.

From this point on it depends a bit on the people you’re with. Because of the language barrier you cannot really continue the conversation for a very long time so I bring out a book. But there is always someone on the cart that speaks a bit of English and is surprised by a tourist on the train. So they ask you to smoke a cigarette with them and it never takes long before they ask if I’m married and how much money I make.

Then it’s time to bring out the Vodka! So you go to sit with them and you introduce yourself to your new friends. So I’m from Gollandia, Amsterdam. “Whohoho…Amsterdam! You uh smoke? Hahaha”, and then I say “Njet, I only do Heroine”. Hahaha. So they poor in the Vodka, always a bit more for me to see if I can handle it. Then they cheer. Instead of the “Nastrovia” what I thought was cheers in Russia, they always cheer for something different: for life, for friendship, for an awesome trainride. So you drink it up and ‘prove your manhood’.

In the train from Irkutsk to Tomsk, one of the guys in the cart was a train mechanic and when the train stopped he brought me in to the ‘cockpit’(?) of the train, which was only for a brief moment but quite cool. He said he also sells this to some tourists for 50 dollars.

Then it’s time for some diner. On the train itself it’s very expensive so you bring your own instant noodles. Every cart has a tap for very very hot water so you can always make those. I love my sandwiches so I always make some of those before leaving and unwrap them in the train.

The main way of entertainment for me was, if I talked enough with my fellow passengers, reading (John le Carre), listening to my iPod (3 Doors Down) and play a game on my fancy phone (Sudoku). When it’s time for bed you unroll the little mattress, and cover it with the provided linnen. The space to sleep is always a bit too small for me, but when i’m curled up a bit I sleep like a little baby.

When you wake up the next morning you go back to sleep again, since you have all the time in the world if you’re on the train for a couple of days. Since I did the travels in little parts I never traveled more than 2,5 days in one run and most of the time only have one night. But when you have another day to fill you read a little bit more, listen to some more music and stare out of the window watching the snowy siberian landscape.

Then you get to your destination; another city. It’s funny how easy it became to just enter a new city. Even when it’s a city with ten million people where you’ve never been before. You figure out where you need to go (some hostel), go to a metro and just see where it al goes; travelling is easy…

Nov 4 11

Mongolia

by André

The last couple of weeks I spent in Mongolia, a country totally different from any country I’ve visited before. Travelling there independently is not as easy as in the rest of Asia since the country is big and you need a guide to show you around. Also, because it’s the start of the winter it can get pretty darn cold and I needed to upgrade my wardrobe quite a bit. But in the end it was a very rewarding experience, although I feel I need to come back in summer to experience Mongolia to it’s fullest.

So, what’s happening in Mongolia?
Well, actually not too much. But that is the charm of Mongolia I guess. The country is huge but only 3 million people live there, most of them in the capital Ulaan Baatar. This is also the only place you can really call a ‘city’, but even from there you can just walk into Mongolia’s Steppe-landscape and be surrounded by absolutely nothing.

My plan was to go into the countryside, rent a couple of horses and a guide and spend a couple of days horseriding. However, when I got to the countryside (Kharkhorin) and did all my preperation I got a bit sick and my stomach wasn’t cooperating. After waiting a couple of days I decided that five days of horseriding was not going to happen and I joined a bunch of Frenchies with a car-tour through the area for five days. I still did a bit of horseriding, saw the countryside, drank Vodka and slept with the locals in their gers. Also, I improved my French quite a bit!

Genghis Khan
Mongolia’s hero is Genghis Khan, who lived from 1166 until 1227. He is pretty much the founder of Mongolia after uniting a lot of different tribes and started the Mongolian Empire which eventually ruled over the China and reached up untill Europe. He had some pretty liberal ideas and founded a city with multiple religions living next to each other (something which even in the modern age can cause trouble).

The greatneas of Genghis is not only seen in history but can be seen in modern culture. Mongolia is a real democratic nation which is quite an accomplishment with Communist Russia in the north and China in the south. Also you can see Genghis on all the products; Genghis vodka, beer and insurance providers.

Gers
Outside of Ulaan Baatar most people still live like Nomads in traditional ‘tents’ called ‘Gers’. They are round and white and actually a lot more spatious than you would think than when you see it from the outside. But all of the families activities go on inside that tent; eating, sleeping and watching television. But since it is only one space you shouldn’t expect too much privacy.

People in Mongolia are very hospitable, and when you are driving around in the middle of the steppe you can pretty much ask anybody to sleep with them and they will (for a small fee) put their ‘house’ to your disposal. But don’t expect a Hilton. Most of the time it’s just on the hard floor and it can be bitterly cold in the morning when the fire has gone out.

Because the ger holds such an important role in Mongolian culture there are traditions related to the ger. You always walk into the Ger clockwise (which is a general (tibetan?) buddist thing) and never walk between the two pillars in the centre. You never knock before entering and don’t stand in the doorway. The fire in the centre of the ger is also holy and you should never put anything in/on it.

Vodka
Just as important to Mongolian culture as Genghis or the Ger is Vodka. It’s unbelievable how much empty Vodka bottles you will find in the countryside. And at any time of the day you can find people drinking Vodka somewhere. This also causes some problems because at any time of the day you can encounter some stupid drunk who’s going to shout at you for some reason.

At one point I was sitting in a restaurant with the Frenchies and a guys starts screaming something at us. We ignored him and then he started throwing food at us. We tried our best to ignore him a bit more and then all of a sudden the drunk changes his mind. He bought another bottle of Vodka and appoligized to us by giving us all vodka as well.

By the way, when you drink Vodka in Mongolia, there is one man who poors it and gives it to each person separately (clockwise ofcourse). Before drinking the Vodka you should praise the gods and dip your ringfinger in the glass and then splash(?) your finger in the air (three times).

Horses
With a country so vast, horses are the countysides main means of transportation. And because there are no fences in Mongolia it makes an absolutely amazing place to start horsebackriding. The horses are a lot smaller than european horses, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the same ‘horsepower’. One of the horses I’d got when horseriding was a real ‘seabiscuit’ and whenever you say ‘Chu!’ (that’s what they say here to make your horse go) it galloped like the wind and you could go one for ages because there’s nothing to stop it. Unfortunatly by body isn’t that used to sitting on a galloping horse so my back and behind were a bit sour for a couple of days.

Now what?
I’ve left Mongolia yesterday and went for Russia. Since it’s a lot more expensive I’m not sure how long I’m going to stay but I will at least visit Baikal lake before I take the Transsiberian Train to Moscow.

Oct 15 11

A Cold Welcome

by André

If my journey was a book, I’m now at the beginning of a new chapter. I resumed my way back home and started the first part of the Trans-Mongolian Express to Mongolia. It didn’t take long to realise after entering Mongolia that I’ve entered a whole new country and that I left the classical ‘asia’ behind.

The first stop in Mongolia was Zamyn-Uud, a town where you do not want to go. The only reason for me to go there was because a direct ticket to Ulaan Bataar (Mongolia’s Capital) was about 160dollars more expensive than one with a stopover at the border.

Originally I planned to stop at the Chinese side of the border, but with a little bribe the trainconducter was willing to get me across the border. I was hoping that when I arrived there I could quickly get another ticket to Ulaan Bataar. Some Mongolians did the same thing and could continue on the train. Unfortunately the conductor wasn’t very willing to help me and kicked me out of the train. So there I was again in a new country, together with a eccentric Frenchguy I met on the train.

So the Frenchguy asked me: “You have you’re sleeping gear with you?”. He wanted to sleep on the street like he did for ten days in Beijing. But with the freezing cold, only a sweater to keep me warm, and a sleeping-bag in which I already froze in Australia, I’d rather wanted to spent the few dollars for a place to sleep. Luckily there was an hotel near. We were at the door in front of the reception but nobody was there to answer. After knocking for a little while and waking up some other people somebody came to the reception.

Then we saw that all the time that we were knocking there was a girl laying behind the counter, but she just didn’t want to help us. And even when the two people were at the reception they just said “No” and left us in the cold. Some f*cking hospitality…. But later a guest of the hotel came which she had to let in so we went in as well. She tried to shut the door before we could sneak in but we didn’t let that happen. So in the end we still had a place to stay but this was clearly not the Asian hospitality I got used to in the last four months.

Although China was only a couple of kilometers away, also other differences were noticeable. First of all, it’s cold. Almost freezing, but this is still warm for Mongolia where -30 is no exception. Also, the language is totally different. Throughout SE-Asia and China you could still feel there is a connection between the languages, but here it’s more like Russian. Thirdly, the cuisine doesn’t consist of mainly rice or noodles and is to be eaten again by cutlery! Which was quite a change after eating with chopsticks for the last four months.

The next day I went for the 18hour trainride to Ulaan Bataar. Everything went well and I’m trying to figure out now what the hell I am going to do here and how I am going to survive the Mongolian winter… to be continued.

Oct 10 11

20 Things you didn’t know about China

by André

After six weeks I finally made it to Beijing where I am making preparations for my next adventure: Mongolia. As before, I made some observations of the country and it’s people which I’d like to share with you:

1. They like to eat chickenfeat, you can buy them everywhere in the supermarket as if they are candy.

2. It’s a communist country… ugh ugh, who am I kidding; except from the camera’s on every streetcorner and the lack of freedom of speech this country is capitalism on steroids.

3. The cities are overrun by electric scooters, or little death machines as I like to call ‘m. You can’t hear them coming and they never drive with lights on.

4. They are addicted to sunflower seeds. I actually met a guy who had little gaps in his upper and lower front-teeth from biting ‘m open his whole life.

5. They have large camera’s and like to take pictures, especially with tall western guys. Sometimes they don’t dare to ask so they are just filming you when you are ordering a sandwich in a bakery.

6. Chinese are horrible drivers, worse than any other country I’ve been. It may be a mess in Vietnam and the rest of South East Asia, but at least they pay attention to other drivers. In China, Rear-view mirrors are even less used than cutlery.

7. If you want to have those hip designers glasses but don’t actually need glasses, what do you do? Easy, you just wear the glasses without, well, the glasses?Very popular here.

8. Toilet’s are shitty. Generally no real surprise but even in well run places the stench is often unbearable. And also, a lot of times it is just a trench in the ground without any flushing mechanism or even real separation between ‘toilets’. So don’t expect too much privacy. For the rest all toilets are those wholes in the grounds where your have to kneel over. (And oh yeah, bring your own toiletpaper)

9. Chinese spit everywhere, but only after they retrieve that little green slime from the back of their throats.

10. Xiyangyang, a sheep catoon character, is huge here. There is merchandise everywhere and if it hasn’t already it will probably find it’s way to the western world soon.

11. The world is their garbage bin. Even on holy mountains people throw all their garbage on the ground.

12. Don’t go to China if your asmatic, they smoke everywhere and a non-smoking sign doesn’t mean shit.

13. Chinese like to dance. Throughout the country and near sunset there will be people somewhere on a square dancing. Near Tibet it will be in a large circle while in the big cities it will be in a big grid. Everybody doing the same moves, it’s amazing. It doesn’t really look as if they’re really enjoying themselves. It is just what you do.

14. There is no official way to eat with chopsticks and everybody just does what they want.

15. When you buy a house in China, it’s only yours for 70 years. After that you have to give it back to the government.

16. Erotic magazines are illegal in China, but Playboy is a huge clothing brand.

17. Even for the Chinese it is hard to write Chinese (Mandarin). Sometimes when they need to write something down they have to think about the characters and try to write it in their hand first.

18. You need to show your passport to buy a trainticket or go to an internetcafe (which you can’t go to if you’re not 18).

19. Guys like to get their tops of in restaurants. In a ‘real’ Chinese restaurant it is not uncommon to see a whole table with shirtless burping middle-aged guys.

20. They build a gate around every brick with even the least touristic value and charge you money to see it.

Oct 5 11

Chinese Holiday in Guoliangcun

by André

This week it is a National Holiday here in China, because Mao Zedong did something important 62 years ago. Next to Christmas this is probably the biggest holiday in the world involving a fifth of the world’s population. Because of this traintickets are almost not available and all the places you want to visit will be crowded I tried to make an alternative travelplan.

So I thought that I could avoid 1,4 billion Chinese on their holiday by going to a little village called Guoliangcun. This city is way off the main tourist-trail but since there aren’t any traintickets available I needed to go the slow way by bus anyway.

After a day of travel by bus from Xi’An (Yes, I’ve seen em) I arrived in Zhengzhou. There is pretty much nothing to do there and therefore I haven’t seen a single westerner in this small city of two million. The next morning I get a bus to Xianxiang, even smaller and in the middle of nowhere with a lot of what-the-hell-are-you-doing-here looks on peoples faces. But luckily, with some poiting at my lonely planet I found my way to a bus that took me to another busstation where I had to get on yet another bus.

And there I realised that Guoliangcun maybe not that far off the map for the Chinese. Quite a few tourists were waiting there and in the end the bus came. Tourguides were shouting at me to go here and there and put my bag there and I eventually got in the bus. No seats were available so I had to stand and started questioning if I made the right decision.

Then I arrived at the gate of the park where a lot of tourbusses had gathered and cars were honking and the Chinese were pushing in line of the tickets. Luckily a Chinese couple came on and helped me and after getting the tickets we did a little 4km hike (with a 20kg backpack) and arrived in the village up the hill. The village itself was pretty small but at this time overrun by Chinese with their cars and you could stop hearing the sound of them honking. So you may imagine that I needed to change my expectations. The couple told me that this place is actually not popular with Chinese and throughout the year there is nothing to do, but it’s just public holiday…. amd there is no escape!

But then I started doing what I like to do most during my travels: getting lost. I found some amazing spots where it was too far for the Chinese to walk. The scenery was absolutely amazing and in the end I truly enjoyed my stay there although it would be even more magical if it wasn’t so crowded but I defintely would recommend other backpackers in China to take a little detour and go there. So in the end it was a mistake thinking I could avoid hundreds of millions of Chinese, but coming to Guoliangcun was definitely a mistake worth making.



Sep 27 11

Seventeen days near Tibet

by André

The last weeks I travelled from Shangri-La to Chengdu, a trip that took me through the highlands near Tibet. Although it is not in the province ‘TIbet’, the nature and the culture is the same. Some people even said it feels more authentic because it is not overrun by the military and the buildings aren’t destroyed by the government.

From Shangri-La I first went to yubong, a town in the middle of a beautiful mountainous area and only reachable after a six hour hike. Although it took a long time to get there, the scenery was absolutely worth it. The town was really little but had a Tbetan feel and was overrun by yaks, chickens, pigs and horses roaming the streets.

After a little detour through Shangri-La the next destination was the Yading national park. It wasn’t really planned but i’m glad I went, because again there were some amazing hikes with some great snow covered mountain peaks.

After a couple of days there, the next place was Litang, the Tibetan wild west, with awesome people in the middle of great grasslandscapes. And as I mentioned in the previous post, I witnessed a Tibetan Skyburial.

Next up was tagong, a really small town on the way to Chengdu, not much really to do there but a great place to hang out and talk a little with my travelmates for that trip, an (ofcourse) Israeli couple.

Now I’m in Chengdu, a ‘small’ city of 4,1 million people. How much you would expect that a bit of civilization would be a nice change, I can’t say I’m a big fan. Big cities like this (same as Kumning) don’t have any character. It is full of shops: Starbucks, KFC, Prada, Louis Vuitton and it even has a good old Dutch C&A. The city is also overrun by little ‘death machines’, namely electronic scooters which you just cannot hear and surprise you everywhere.

The main thing to see here are the Panda’s, but unfortunately i’m not going to see them. Next week is a Chinese holiday and 1,5 billion chinese will be on the move. Traintickets are impossible to get but I luckily have one for Xi’an tomorrow (home of the Terracotta warriors). From there I hope to get a tickets to Beijing, otherwise I try to escape the herds and head in to the countryside a little and move my way slowly to Beijing and try to get ready for my next adventure; Mongolia!

Sep 21 11

Tibetan Sky Burial

by André

This morning I witnessed the single most extraordinary event of my travels, and perhaps my life. Today I witnessed a Tibetan Sky Burial, or actually two. But before you continue I must warn you that this story might not be for the fainthearted.

This morning I went a little out of the town of Litang to some grassy hills where some yaks were eating and a few people were eating next to a fire. A little bit further a bunch of vultures were sitting on top of the hill waiting for what was about to come. After a while two guys walked up the hill looking for a spot to hammer a pole in the ground. At that time another guy changed his clothes to some kind of monk outfit and on top of that he covered himself in plastic. When he was done he also walked op to the hill with a big bag in one hand and an axe in the other.

Of course I had a bit of an idea of what I was about to see and out of respect I stood about 100m away. But although the distance we could see what came out of that bag, a human body, probably that of a child. The body was (as I later learned) tight up to the pole with his or her hands while it was laying down naked on the ground. At that point about thirty vultures that were sitting on the hill flew closer to the body while the man covered in plastic was slicing open the body. When he was done, he walked away a little bit and let the vultures do their work.

After a while, the man covered in plastic came back, this time with the axe. Although it was hard to see from a distance the sound it made was pretty clear; he was chopping up the bones. After a while he was finished and left while the vultures came back to finish the remaining parts of the body.

At that point a car came up to the mountain. A couple of people came out and they were also putting a pole in the ground. Later more people came with cars and motorbikes, some of them went up the mountain and some of them stayed down where I also was sitting. One of the guys waved at me and told me to come up the mountain with him.

Even though I knew what I was about to see I still came up with him. Another body was already being tight up to the pole. There were a lot more people now than there were at the previous ‘burial’ but none of them seem to be in a sad mood and they were even laughing. And there I was standing about four meters away from another body that was being devoured by vultures. At that point somebody gested to sit down next to him, so I did. He made some remarks about my big nose and laughed, all while I saw the body losing its flesh and showing more and more bone. All of a sudden I realised where I was sitting and I saw hundereds of pieces of bones lying around me belonging to people who probably have been burried there only days before.

When the vultures where almost done with their first part a couple of the guys went back to the body, which about now was reduced to only a skeleton. The guys took their axes and started chopping of the legs. Anther guy grabbed the legbone, put it on a stone and started grinding it with the back of his axe from the knee to the toes. Slowly the rest of the body was being chopped up and grinded so it was easier for the vultures to digest. Once in a while they were picking a piece of bone, all with bare hands, and threw it to the vultures that were waiting.

Still the people were chatting to eachother and even a phone rang and was answered. None of the people minded me being there but it seemed a bit too disrespectful and morbid to make pictures.

In the end only the skull remained. With an axe they opened it up and exposed the brain which was cut out with a knife and being fed to the vultures who were fighting over it. Some Tibetan guy made a remark about something to which everybody was laughing, even the guy who was at that point crushing the remainders of the skull. When the last piece of bone was grinded they wiped all the bones together, mixed it with some kind of powder and left it there.

As if it was the most normal thing in the world, they washed their hands and removed a bit of brain that flew in someones neck. Another job well done. They all left, still chatting to each other, while the vultures ate the rest of the grinded body. I stayed for a little while watching the vultures and trying to realize what I’ve just seen.

The guy at the hostel told me the people were the relatives of the deceased. Normally they aren’t so cheerful as they were today and being allowed to be so close to the ritual as a tourist is quite uncommon. Also he said that the person only died the day before and was still alive two days ago when I first heard this ritual existed.

ps. ok, so somebody else did take pictures and posted them on the internet. Images can be disturbing but this is exactly what I’ve seen and also on the same location: Burials in Tibet not for sensitive souls/

Sep 16 11

Tiger Leaping Gorge

by André

Like I said before is China a lot more developped and touristy than I imagined. That was a reason for me to travel a bit beyond all the touristy hot-spots and discover the rural area’s of the Yunnin province. After being sick for a little while (damn shaksouka!) I made it to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Here I hiked on the edges of a giant gorge with some amazing views hunderds of meters down in the canyon and hundred meters up at a beautuful mountain scenery.

The hike was quite strenuous and you are hiking at heights of almost 3000 meter so the air get’s a bit thinner. So I am glad to say that, even though I didn’t have the most healthy lifestyle the last year, I managed it quite well. Who would have thought that this year of travelling was actually good for me! Also I have to say that I have some nice companions on my trip that kept me going quite well.

Next up: My adventures through the remote and culturally Tibetan villages in North Yunnan.

For the other travellers that might read this
When you arrive by bus you get dropped of at Jane’s guesthouse after you payed an entrance fee of 50 Yuan to the gorge. At Jane’s Guesthouse you can drop your big-bag and continue with your small bag with stuff you need for a one-night stay in one of the guesthouses up on the gorge.

From Jane’s Guesthouse you can start the hike, and there is a description on how to get to the high path. From the start you will probably be followed by a local that’s trying to sell you a horse ride, so they can also show you the way. Most travellers would decline the offer at the beginning but the horse will pretty much follow you like a vulture, waiting for you to break!

At the beginning of the track you’ll find some local women selling water and snacks. There are also some woman asking for money if you take a picture. They say that the locals have build the path but don’t see any of the money of the entrance fee. I can’t tell what’s the truth in this, but I can say that the 8Yuan viewpoint further on in the track is absolutely stunning.

The first part of the track consists mostly of hiking uphill and can leave you breathless for a little bit, but the hardest part is defenitly the 24 bends. Make sure you get some water before you get there, but there is a little store just before. When you finally reach the top you will be rewarded with some amazing views.

Most people try to get to the Halfway Guesthouse on the first day, this one is technically halfway on the gorge but most people only go to Tina’s Guesthouse to catch a bus (4:00PM) to either Jijang or Shangri-La. The second day hike is mostly downhill and is a lot shorter than the first which leaves you some time to climb down into the gorge which is can be reached when you cross the bridge next to Tina’s Guesthouse – and yes, there is someone charging you to get there again.

Although the hike can be potentially hazardous it is not as bad as the Lonely Planet might led you to believe. I did the hike on a pair of Converese and never felt it was really dangerous. Of course weather plays an important role and if it gets rainy it can get a lot more slippery so you might want to check the weather before you go.