Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A day out with some koreans

I just received these pictures and I thought I'd share them even though I'm not in China anymore.

One day when I went to meet Kaja and Adam at their hotel I met their roommates, a Korean mother and two sons. As a big fan of most things Korean and also of kids I immediately hit it off with them. Like most kids, they were first scared of my size and then shortly after were having fun jumping all over me. I talked with the mother and made plans to come back later in the week and go to Korean food (score!!) with them and some of my Korean friends in Kunming.

The kids, adam, and I horsing around.

What goes better with playing around than an Orion pie, a korean sweet favorite.

on the sun-deck before saying goodbye.

The day I came back to pick them up and go for Korean.

look at me eyeing that kimchi.

at lunch I think we played around for like 2 hours. Piggyback rides and deadlifting them up from their feet. I was very sore and tired the next day.

prob not so appropriate to do during lunch, oh well.

walking back to the bus

look how cute the younger one. he was so much fun.

saying goodbye

such a fun day, and enjoyed by all (especially mom who didn't have to entertain the kids)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vietnameasy rider

I thought driving a tank in Mongolia would be one of the coolest and most exciting things I would have done on this trip, but that seems like nothing compared to what's recently unfolded.

Originally my plan was to skip Vietnam because I'd been here before and wanted to maximize my time in new places. But I ran into two amazing new friends in Tibet and we really loved traveling together, so I came back to do Vietnam with them. This would be a more relaxed and less touristic vietnam than the one I did with Adam over three years ago.

A few days before coming to Vietnam, Adam emailed me asking what I thought about driving through Vietnam on motorbikes. Let me tell you, the reader, that I've never driven a motorbike before. I didn't learn to ride a bicycle till I was around 11 or 12. These two wheeled things were never my cup of tea. When I was in Vietnam last time I tried driving one to go around the city, but had no idea how to do this and the guy who was renting his bike couldn't speak English so just laughed at me trying to figure out what to do. Eventually refunding me and laughing with his friends. So why would I want to ride a bike through the country? Well, because... and that is sometimes enough of an argument.

So we got a very brief lesson on how to drive a bike and then shortly after we were thrown into Hanoi traffic. For those unaware of what traffic in Hanoi is like should go on youtube right now and be amazed (though Saigon is worse). It wasn't that bad though. Once you figure that there is a small order in the giant chaos then you're sort of ok.

So after a few days of trying different bikes and getting them repaired and then more repaired we got our bikes and are ready to go. The common bike for tourists to get is a Минск (minsk) former Russian but now Bela-Russian motorbikes. They are 2 stroke instead of a more standard 4 stroke and also manual clutch instead of automatic. This might make it seem inferior but in many ways it's more superior. It's made from solid metal. Most bikes here are made from shitty plastic and when you get into an accident, half the bike falls apart. The other day a car had some rope hanging off the end and it hooked the handlebar of my bike and dragged it maybe 20 feet. (I wasn't on it, it was parked) The biked knocked over a few other cheap hondas and they had little damages, my metal machine was fine.

So, I'm writing this post from near Ninh Binh, around 100km south of Hanoi. We made our first drive yesterday and had no problems. We're still learning a lot about how to ride and about the bikes in general. We expect problems and we're hoping that we can fix them ourselves, and if not that a mechanic is close by. It sounds like no matter where you go in Vietnam, a mechanic is close by. I'm also hoping to learn a lot about how the bike works and get a better understanding of mechanics, as I'm a guy and guys like to tinker.

I now own an old beat up, reconditioned, needing much love blue Minsk. Her name will be forthcoming in the next few posts (I hope) as well as pictures and stories.

much love to you all

PS for those who didn't catch the title reference it was in regards to one of my favorite movies, "Easy Rider." If you aren't familiar with it, go download/rent/netflix it.

into 'nam

From Jinghong I took a bus and then caught another bus and then walked across a bridge and then took a cab and then a train to get to Hanoi. The first bus was a sleeper and well, a bit too small. Here's what I wrote the next day.

I'm sitting in my bed for the night. The bed is one of many on the sleeper bus from Jinghong to Mengzi, a 15+ hour ride of pure fun. It's more fun when your body doesn't even come close to fitting on the bed. The only way that I can sort of lie in it is if I'm in a cross between fetal position and utkatasana (that's right, I'm throwing yoga terms out there). My sleeper from Kunming to Jinghong at least sort of fit, and it also had a toilet and a water cooler. This has neither and smaller beds. Did I mention the child of an age between 9months to 18 months with his dad in the bed next to me? I know it will be a rough night of sleep. Added to this is my thoughts of how difficult crossing into Vietnam will actually be. I'll still have a 4 hour bus ride from Mengzi to Hekou and then to cross there into Lao Cai, Vietnam's border town. And then from there to Hanoi by train. Many unknowns involved and the only known or really hope is that I'll somehow make it to Hanoi.

It's 6:40 am the next morning and I've arrived in Mengzi. Sleeping was interesting. It was like they designed the bus so that no matter what way I tried to sleep I always had a metal bar pushing into me or blocking a possible comfortable position in someway. At one point it occurs to me to switch around and put my head where my feet are, a world of difference. I can now sleep moderately comfortably. I'm not too worried about lack of sleep as the bus from Mengzi to Hekou is 4 hours and not a sleeper so I can probably fall asleep on this.

From China, looking into Vietnam.

crossing the bridge from one country to another. Technically this is no man's land :)

looking out over the bridge onto water that is between both countries.

scenes from the train to Hanoi

my train car

out the window

out the window

out the window

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Getting lost in the jungles of Xixuangbanna

Ok, half the fun of going to Xixuangbanna is typing and saying the name (sish-wong-bahn-na). I went on a little trek one day into a rainforest near Myanmar to see an incredibly old Pu'er tree. My old boss, Jason, used to always have a can of Pu'er tea on his desk and I thought it would be fun to visit something that I had more of a connection with. The trip was uneventful for the most part, save for getting lost in the jungle. Yes, on a trip with a guide we got lost. Awesomeness indeed. Luckily we found some locals harvesting some sort of plant in the jungle and they told us we were going the wrong way. We slept with a local village family for the night and in the morning I hitched back to town. I was supposed to catch a bus that I was told would never be full, and of course, it was. The following is an account of what happened that was written on the day as I was living in the moment. Enjoy

You just have to be rude and forceful sometimes. It's not about being American, it's about not being fucked over. I'm deep in the jungle of Xixuangbanna, 5km from Myanmar, and I need to head back to Jinghong today as my bus leaves tomorrow to get me to Vietnam. My visa runs out on that day, leaving everything needing to run smoothly which is probably a bad idea considering China and Vietnam are involved. But this is how it is and I need to get back today. There is one bus that runs and it runs in the early morning. I'm told it's never full and I'll be fine, yet in my gut I can feel this is not the case. As I'm waiting for the bus to come the first bad sign of the day comes., I feel pretty sick. I took my malaria meds on an empty stomach and now my stomach is turning it all around on me. I run to the bathroom area and let my dinner from last night empty out, but not vomit if you catch my flow. But after, I still feel a bit queezy so I go to buy some bread. All the "shop" has is some rice crispy type snack so I take it. It costs ¥1 and I have a ¥100 and 2jiao (¥.2). The lady can't break the ¥100 so takes my 2jiao. I give her a full pack of tissues as well as sort of a "thank you and hope this helps cover the cost a bit." Eating the rice thing helps a little and soon the bus comes, and guess what, it's full. But I need to get back. I sit in the middle of the aisle and just wait. The driver is telling me no, but I play dumb and say "ting budong" (I don't understand). Someone tries speaking English to me but I tell her how I need to get back. Eventually my waiting wins out and the driver sits down and drives. I say xie xie (thank you) and many passengers laugh. It's not that I want to be an ass or the class clown, but sometimes you need to be persistent and forceful to get what you want in these countries. In Japan and Korea, people were more understanding and helpful. In China, it's more do for yourself. So that's exactly what I did.

Flash forward one hour: well the plan didn't work exactly as planned. I get dropped off in a village and am told the driver will get punished if he goes further with me on board as there are checkpoints ahead. They tell me that this village has more buses or cars that I can catch. So I get out and wait and hope inside that indeed something will come soon.

Flash forward an hour: Two buses came by, neither had room. I am told by a guy who also got kicked off the bus when I did that we should walk.

Flash forward 2 hours: We've been walking for a while and no cars have really gone by our way. Tons of motorbikes and tractors but no cars. Suddenly I am able to flag down a car. Success! We get into the backseat and crunch to make it work as there are already 2 other people there.

Flash forward 15 minutes: I'm asleep in the back of the car.

Flash forward 20 minutes and then back 15: you just time traveled, how did it feel?

We ended up getting dropped off at the Menghai bus station which is exactly where the bus originally would have taken us. A minor detour but a fun and adventurous day was the result. Now I'm heading back to Jinghong where I'll meet up with a friend tomorrow and then head on a bus for 15 hours to work my way to Vietnam.

Dinner the night before heading into the jungle. Banana leaf wrapped eggplant, the upper palate of the pigs mouth, mixed bamboo, and the green stuff in the back was a seaweed local specialty which was super tasty.

hello village in the jungle

tea plantations.

Just over those mountains is the mystical Burma/Myanmar. One day I'll get to go (I hope)

heading out along the trail

A beautiful lake at the foot of the jungle

our "special" tour guide in the forest. This was before getting lost.


the very very old Pu'er tea tree

different angle, notice the fence around. You go China, way to protect.

A risque part of the hike, crossing a slipper wobbly creaky wooden "bridge" of sorts. No one fell in, which is probably a good thing.

Wadding through deep jungle

A beautiful waterfall in the middle of nowhere in this tropical rainforest.

Following the leader through thick terrain, and knowing he has no clue where we are.

After being told by locals, we are back on the right path.

Coming out of the forest.

The sun begins to set over the village.

some of the pigs in the hood, just walking around. They like to hang out when you poop or pee. not the best talkers though.

The families dog, hanging by the fire.

It's dinner time!!

Grandma and the son.

The house and village in the morning.

Waiting for the second bus, a common site here is men with long machetes hanging from their belts.

Don't anger the machete men, if you know what's good for you.

My "friend" I met who I walked and eventually hitchhiked with.

Mengzhou in the background.

The car who stopped and drove us back to town. Hoorah!