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Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia

a travel blog by Jason Kester


Not really travelling so much this time. Mostly, a winter at work, climbing rocks on the beach. With luck and if the motivation holds up, I'll pull out in the spring and make my way north. I've got a Russian visa for June, so maybe I'll finally make it onto that trans-siberian train.
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Cryin' into a bowl of noodles

Vinh, Vietnam


Made it to Vietnam in grand style. 20 hours with my knees in somebody's back, and to the outskirts of Vinh. Sleep deprived and ill-fed as I may be, I do know that there's only one highway in Vietnam. It goes through the center of every city. The bus driver has pitched our bags out the window exactly a mile short, in front of a group of greedy looking motorcycle taxi drivers.

I stumble forth with book in hand, pointing at a map and debating whether to walk, then do a quick inventory of things hanging from my person. Yessir, remember that little bag with everything valuable that I own...

There follows a loud stream of obscenity, a mad sprint towards the largest looking bike, and some completely unnecessary instructions to the driver as I hop on and we speed off into traffic. Lights are run, large trucks are passed in the gravel, certain death is narrowly avoided dozens of times, yet no large busses seem to be coming into view over the horizon. We give chase at top speed through town and for a full 10 kilometers into the countryside before giving up.

I've already committed myself to the impossible task of contacting the hotel in Vientiane and somehow arranging to have the pack (which contains my laptop, incedentally) picked up on the other end. No Hope of course, but I tell the driver to turn us around. In doing so, we are nearly struck down by my bus, which we have somehow managed to pass on the way through town.

Vinh is interesting, I doubt I'd recommend it to anybody. No tourists here, which amplifies the Vietnamese habit of staring at any westerners and following them around. I'm the only white guy in town at the moment, so I get all the attention. Hey everybody! Come look! He's eating noodles now!

permalink written by  Jason Kester on April 4, 2004 from Vinh, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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several small bowls of good

Hoi An, Vietnam


Made it to Hoi An.

The food here rocks, as advertised. Good call to those who recommended this place. I was a bit doubtful about this country after Vinh and the stare-fest of a reception I got. now that there's other mzungu around to share in the hassle, it's much easier. May stay a while.

permalink written by  Jason Kester on April 5, 2004 from Hoi An, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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In search of the perfect seven dollar meal (continued)

Hoi An, Vietnam


I'm still in Hoi An, halfway through my 30 day visa. It's just that pleasant here. Tonight, I had to avoid another incredible Vietnamese meal, if only to keep my sanity. The food is so good. The food is so cheap! I usually go for two appetizers, a main dish, and possibly a couple glasses of the local beer if they have it on tap. And I still have not broken five dollars!

Went Indian tonight. It was good too, but I fear it will only send me back into the fried wontons and white rose with renewed vigor tomorrow. I may never escape this accursed town!

So yeah, I've found the place in SE Asia that even my mother would enjoy. Clean, nice, four zillion tailors (I'm having a silk shirt made for $8, but only because I didn't bargain very hard.) Hot water, A/C if you want it, good coffee. Everything you could need, and cool spring weather to boot. Book a flight to Danang, and catch a shuttle on down. I'll probably still be here.


permalink written by  Jason Kester on April 10, 2004 from Hoi An, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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Eatin' good in the neighborhood.

Hanoi, Vietnam


I just had another fantastic meal in Vietnam. The food here is SOOOO good! This one was slices of marinated, stirfried pork alongside little deep-fried packets of sticky rice wrapped in rice paper. Incredible. Throw in a plate of spring rolls and a half liter of tasty local beer, charge me four dollars, and I'm a happy man.

Vietnam is still groovy. Found a little roll-your-own springroll place on the street the other day, where they give you some wrappers, a bunch of mint leaves, and a giant platter of raw pork. I thought you were supposed to die if you ate uncooked pork, but the place was packed with locals and none of them seemed to care. Still alive, for the time being.

I'm on the train to China tomorrow night, for some climbing and chillin' in Yangshuo. If it were up to me, I'd take the next 2 months to go through China slowly, then maybe another month for Mongolia and Russia. Unfortunately, the Russians are not too flexible with their visas. I committed to the dates thinking that 5 months in SE Asia would be plenty. It seems that no amount of time is ever quite enough.

permalink written by  Jason Kester on April 22, 2004 from Hanoi, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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Re: Big Top

Yangshuo, China


Made it to Yangshuo, but somehow I've not been all that motivated to climb. It seems like there are no climbers around.

It's a strange place here. They really love tourism. Everything worth visiting has been developed in the Disneyland model. Bigger is better. Take a place with amazing views and natural splendor, then add roller-coasters and aerial tramways to make it even better. Most tourists are Chinese, in giant package groups.

It's the Chinese labor holiday this week, so everybody is traveling to all the tourist sites. And when everybody in China does something, it's quite a thing to see. Yangshuo was pretty crowded when I first got here, but on the first it just went insane. You simply could not walk down the streets because the people were too thick. Hotel prices are tripled, you can't find an empty seat on a train, and even more tourists are flocking everything. It would be amusing if I wasn't in a hurry to get to Beijing. As it is, I'm essentially trapped in the South for the next 7 days.

permalink written by  Jason Kester on April 30, 2004 from Yangshuo, China
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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Guangzhou, China




permalink written by  Jason Kester on May 1, 2004 from Guangzhou, China
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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Peking Duck

Beijing, China


I'm in Beijing now, trying in vain to find a restaurant that will serve me some of that famous roast duck. Last night, I was drinking the good cheap local beer and and enjoying the conversation with a bunch of folks from the hostel. At about 4:15 am, somebody suggested that we should walk to Tienaman square to watch the amazing daily Sunrise flag raising ceremony. We barely made it there by 5:00, just in time.

Not at all impressive. But it was nice to see the Sunrise over Beijing, and we found a good restaurant for a breakfast of steamed dumplings and wonton soup. I woke up at 4:30, and am just now getting started with my day.

permalink written by  Jason Kester on May 6, 2004 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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Another rant on Chinese tourism

Beijing, China


China loves its tourism. There is no natural wonder so beautiful that it could not be improved with the help of man. Say you have a really impressive cave with crazy rock formations. That's great and all, but what if you then built a 50 foot tall concrete butterfly over the entrance, added stairs up to it, widened all the passageways, lighted it, installed fountains, and piped in music. It also needs a karaoke bar. THEN, the tour busses will start showing up for real!

There are no tranquil pools that you can sit by and think about life. They have tranquil pools of course, but they are surrounded by hotels, Ferris wheels, aerial tramways, and filled in with gravel so that they can be converted into a Hot Spring.

Beijing is cool though. It's big but not dense. I could deal with living here. Apart from that though, you'd really need to know Chinese well enough to find a remote village if you wanted to see China in its unaltered version.

permalink written by  Jason Kester on May 6, 2004 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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Global Domination!

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


Yalp! I'm in Mongolia now. Yeah that's right, freakin' Mongolia! I've moved in with 5 armies, and I'm about to roll on into Irkutsk. I should have all the green territories by the time I'm finished, and we all know that's 9 armies a turn. Let's see what your little exploits in North America pan out to.

But for now, I'm swaddled in a crazy padded jacket that I bought out of a shipping crate of stolen Russian army gear. Tomorrow I'm off to the hills to live in a Ger and drink some fermented mare's milk. Tonight, I hit the town, Ulaanbaatar style!


permalink written by  Jason Kester on May 14, 2004 from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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Chillin' with Chingis

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


I spent the last 4 days wandering about in rural Mongolia, sleeping in a Ger just outside of Kharkhorim, which is the village that now stands where Karakorum used to be. Nothing is left of the old capital except a couple stone turtles that used to mark its boundaries.

Mongolia is really cool. It's like you took eastern Washington, made it 100 times as vast, covered it with a nice lawn and added Yaks. Not a fence to be seen outside of town, and not much in the way of towns. We drove for 8 hours and passed one village on the way east from Ulaan Baatar.

My cyrillic skills are coming along, which in nice, otherwise I'd never find my way back to YnaaH baatap, or anybody to sell me some byy3 or xyywyyp for lunch.

Tonight I hop the train North, so I'll be out of communication for at least a week. Got a pocket full of Roubles and a smile on my face. This should be good!


permalink written by  Jason Kester on May 18, 2004 from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
from the travel blog: Southeast Asia, the Trans Siberian and Scandenavia
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Hey! I wrote Blogabond so I guess that makes me your host. Welcome!

I spend about 9 months a year on the road, chasing the sun around the world in search of good climbing and surfing. I carry a laptop along with me, and take on small programming contracts to take care of expenses.
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