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A Change of Plans Leads to Takao-san 高尾山

Hachioji, Japan


L wasn't feeling well so we nixed our overnight at the hostel in Kamakura and went home. This morning I had the Bright idea of climbing Takao-san over in Hachioji, west of Tokyo. So we hopped on a train.

permalink written by  tokealt on November 13, 2006 from Hachioji, Japan
from the travel blog: 日本 2004-2007
tagged Hiking, Temples, TakaoSan and YakuoinYukiji

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Chengde, Temples, the Great Wall and bad knees. :(

Chengde, China


-How hot is it there exactly? Sometimes hot, sometimes warm, but mostly stuffy. The weather fluctuates to generalize.

-Are there a lot of tourists there because of the Olympics? I've seen only a few (maybe a handful) but I'm in the more, uh, ghetto part of Beijing, so most of the tourists are in the "nicer" part, that is geared towards tourists.

-Is your dorm dirty too? Have you met any natives? Nope! my room is soo clean :) Fu wu ren 服務人 come to clean it everyday! I've met my tutor, who is a native.. but haven't really met too many natives.

-Are they friendly or are they like people in Chinatown? They're pretty friendly, but sometimes they're just frustrated cause they expect me to be able to speak Mandarin. But if you're white with blonde hair and blue eyes, I heard they'll be super friendly and want to take pictures with you.

This weekend I went to Chengde, some temples (Puning and some other one) and the Jinshanling Great Wall. We stayed at a really nice hotel for the first night, I say 'nice' because the next night, we stayed at some shanty-ass 'hotel' in Jinshanling where my bedsheets were yellow and covered with specks of mysterious green/black bug-like guts. The bathroom looked like someone died in it. I didn't shower that night because I was too scared and it seemed like other people's rooms sucked as well. (whine) I really wanted to shower too, I was so gross and sticky (end whine). Now you can gauge how scary it was.

For the first two days of the weekend, we went to the Chengde Summer Palace, rode an electric boat, walked a lot... went to the Puning temple and some other temple called 'Pu hua zhong cheng' something or other. Then we visited a Hebei Tourism Vocation College (where students train to become tour guides) but I didn't really know why we went there. All we did was talk to Chinese students and watch some tea ceremony demonstrating how to drink tea (but not actually drinking it) sadness.. way to tease. So maybe we were there because the tour guide company we were traveling with had employees who graduated from there?

Sunday, we woke up at 3 a.m. to climb the wall at 4 a.m. So I hiked on the wall for about 4-5 hours and covered 10.5 km (maybe 6 miles). My knees are still killing me. I ended up hiking with one other friend because I originally wasn't going to hike all the way, so I went really slow and took lots of breaks. But the wall was so treacherous that I did not want to climb back down after I worked so hard to get up the damned wall. Some parts of the Great Wall didn't really have walls, so you can just fall off the side. I was also obligated to buy things from random farmers traveling the wall to sell things because I was scared they would kill me. Serious. They didn't threaten me, but you never know... one push off the wall and you're gone. Anyway, I have many stories about the wall but I'll save those for real conversations.

Class starts again tomorrow and I also have a calligraphy class. Yay. :(

P.S. once again, excuse the weird fob pics of me by myself. I feel so awkward in those pics.



permalink written by  jlu on July 13, 2008 from Chengde, China
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
tagged GreatWall, Temples and Chengdu

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Bangkok Sprawls and the "Must-Sees"

Bangkok, Thailand


Bangkok has a type of confusion, chaos, and complexity that I have not experienced while traveling before. We did not come fully to grips with this until Joe (my Thai local friend) left us for only a few hours. But that comes a little later.

Yesterday morning we woke up around 6AM - not because we had places to be, but because the jet-lag really makes not want to sleep when you should be sleeping (Bangkok is 11 hours ahead of Eastern time, so you start wanting to pass out sometime in the mid-afternoon). My friend Joe met us at our hostel. - A short bit about that: we are staying at the Lub D Bangkok hostel. It has turned out to be a great pick. The rooms are all air-conditioned, the bathrooms are nicer than most hotels I've stayed at, and there is free wi-fi throughout the entire place. It is ridiculous that we are paying less than $20 a night for this, although I am getting used to ridiculously cheap prices for just about everything, from food to transport to massages. The dollar goes a VERY long way here.

We set out for some of the big touristy attractions of Bangkok - the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple. To get there we took a 30 min boat-shuttle up the river. We passed by lots of river-side markets, pretty cool sites. We arrived at the Temple and met up with our Tufts friend Mike and his girlfriend, Sierra. Joe took us around the temples giving us some insight into their origins and cultural importance (no 500bht tour-guide necessary!). The temples were really breathtaking and fantastic to look at (I'll post pictures in the next couple days). Afterwards, we got lunch at a Thai restaurant and proceeded to a new museum in Thailand called the "Museum of Siam," followed by another temple with a massive (must've been 100+ feet long and 40+ feet high) reclining Buddha. Buddhism is a huge part of Thai life and I'm learning some stuff about that.

After the big Buddha we went to a massage school (on the temple grounds) and got our first Thai massages, which involve some creative and sometimes painful techniques like jumping on top of your back and cracking all your fingers and toes. Very relaxing!

Corey and I split off from the group, our afternoon jet-lag in full swing. We got back to the room and passed out for about an hour. Our plan was then to meet Joe, his girlfriend, Mike and Sierra at a Thai super mall, and have dinner.

It was a big change trying to get around without a Thai-speaker. Our first cab drive tried to convince us that, rather than go to the super mall for dinner, what we really wanted to do was visit a tailor and buy shirts. After repeatedly saying no, we finally made it halfway to our destination, and took the highly modern and really fast SkyTrain the rest of the way. That night we had dinner at a great Thai place and spent a couple of hours on a really nice rooftop bar overlooking the city (pictures to follow here). Afterwards Corey and I headed back to our hostel which is situated surprisingly close to one of Bangkok's Red Light District. We decided took soak in the Thai culture and take a walk through the nightime Red Light Baazar and market. It was slightly amusing, but overall actually pretty depressing. We bounced out of there and passed out at the hostel, trying to get some sleep for today's trip - we're heading with Joe and his Girlfriend's family to Ayutthaya, Thailand's ancient capital. I'm looking forward to it, though I am pretty exhausted. Overall, so far, Bangkok has been a real assault on the senses, but in a great way!



permalink written by  bhkann on June 20, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Ben's SE Asia Voyage
tagged Temples and Bangkok

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PICTURES!

Bangkok, Thailand


I've uploaded some photos from the trip thus far and will stick them in the appropriate blog entries. For now, you can just click on "photos".

permalink written by  bhkann on June 21, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Ben's SE Asia Voyage
tagged Photos, Temples, Bangkok and Ayutthaya

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Finding My Inner Buddha - Ayuttahaya

Bangkok, Thailand


Yesterday we set off on an excursion with Joe, his girlfriend, Arm, and her friend, mother and grandmother. They had rented a luxurious minivan to travel in, and due to some extra space, they were gracious enough to invite us along for the day. It was great meeting the family and getting a glimpse into Buddhist Thai culture and tradition. Arm's family occupies an entire four-story building. Her whole family lives together - parents, both sets of grandparents, uncles, aunts, you name it. (And I thought my family was close!) Apparently this set-up is typical of traditional Thai culture (though apparently less so now than it used to be) - the younger generation is responsible for taking care of the elders - no nursings home here! Throughout the day we learned tidbits of Buddhist culture and custom from our Thai hosts. I feel like I have just taken a course on it.

We set off on a two hour drive to Ayutthaya, which was Thailand's capital over 500 years ago. We saw some very cool temple ruins and climbed up them. We also saw some current temples and some gigantic Buddha idols (see pictures) including the biggest Buddha in Thailand (even bigger than the reclining Buddha). We took part in some Buddhist customs - one involed shaking a jar of numbered sticks until one falls out - then you get a corresponding horoscope-esque fortune that can either be very good or bad depending on your stick's number. I was very proud that mine spoke of being very powerful and successful or something. We joked about ours, but Buddhists take it extremely seriously. A bad fortune can really break their day.

We ate lunch at a restaurant that was way set back from the road and looked like a deserted, dilapidated shack at first glance. It turned out, however, to be packed with Thais on the inside, and the food was pretty good. We visited more temples in the afternoon, and then Arm's family braved the Bangkok traffic and graciously dropped us off at our hostel.

Last night we met up with Mike and went to a Muay Thai match - a form of boxing/martial arts popular in thailand. It seemed like a typical fight except that there were about a hundred Thais off to the side of the ring gambling and placing bets and passing money around like crazy. Picture the floor of the new york stock exchange - with the symbols and gestures and yelling - on crack. People were taking it very seriously - to us, it was almost as entertaining as the actual match.


That's it for now. Tomorrow we are leaving Bangkok and heading to Kanchanaburri, the site of the river Kwai.

permalink written by  bhkann on June 21, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Ben's SE Asia Voyage
tagged Temples, Bangkok, MuayThai and Ayutthaya

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