Ni Hao once again from China, still the world’s most populous country. I had forgotten since my last tour here which ended just 9 months ago that it may also be the world’s loudest and dirtiest at times. Which is not to say it’s all bad. Only the areas with too many people are. The trick is getting to those rare places without swarming masses as I finally did a week into my stay here.
Hong Kong Phooey: Not that it’s all that bad, I just liked the heading.
My first stop after whacking my head on the door exiting my final train in Japan was the vestige of the “make the world England” campaign which is once again in Chinese hands. But my 2nd trip to Hong Kong didn’t do much to change my feelings about it gathered last July. It was however the perfect transition from Japan to China. The shock of going straight from one to another might be enough to cause a coronary. For example, most every toilet I saw in Japan was western-style whereas in China they’re very rare – a symbol of opulence. In HK, I found western toilets, but without toilet seats.
Turned out it was a good call to save a bunch of Chinese yuen and HK dollars when I left instead of changing at all back. Having cash to hop on the train from the airport, etc. without stopping to fuss changing money was sweet. And I needed lots of it as my Chinese visa cost over thrice what the same one cost a year ago. Also had the advantage of meeting a friend who’d procured a cheap prison cell…er…hotel room for us. For only $10/night you too can have your own windowless, bathroom-less 6 X 6 room with thin foam mat bunk “beds”.
The good news besides the great room is that food is diverse and cheap(er than Japan). By buying nothing inedible (really, not even a postcard) during all 4 days I was there, I did well in a place that can quickly drain resources. Hawkers, barkers, and sharkers crowd the already crowded sidewalks fishing for takers of tailoring, fake Rolexes, hash, and “massagey”. The only non-food/lodging expense I incurred was a movie on the big screen – in English- for only $7 (US), as opposed to the $19 it’d have cost me in Japan, as I know that I won’t have that option again soon.
There were other redeeming elements to my stay including a decent Taco Loco burrito, riding the world’s longest escalator, and visiting what may be the world’s most incensed temple. Which is not to say it is ANGRY, only so choked with burning incense coils that a full-scale fire might go unnoticed. One also can’t help but enjoy watching the HK skyline at night from Kowloon. How it could look more like some kind of video game I don’t know. But the timing of my visit, despite the mild weather in contrast to last summer’s steam bath, was poor. The largest annual rugby event worldwide fell on the same weekend with thousands of crazed fanatics pouring in from across the globe. One day in the stadium alone drains 100,000 liters of beer. Hordes of drunken expats tend to change the vibe of a place, generally not for the better (see also: Kuta Beach, Bali; Thailand-all).
Return to the Middle Kingdom
Might have failed to keep my expectations low after last year’s lovely tour thru this vast land, but after several days here, I wondered how I managed 4 successive months here. Fortunately, I found that my frail grasp of the language basics has returned rather quickly. I struggled mightily to speak even butcheresque as it’s not “very easy” to learn like one gets told here way too often (see:below). I also remembered to bring about a dozen pairs of earplugs which, in most of east Asia, like floss, deodorant, and tampons, may as well be artifacts from another planet (trust me, after 2 years here such bold statements aren’t unfounded). I suppose I’d made a special effort to visit mainly premier sights last year which helped defer the dirty, filthy underbelly which is most of China. Were the Beatles Chinese, we may have instead heard Ringo (Chang) sing the lyrics, “Sky is grey, the sea is brown, in our yellow submarown.”
Nanning: Just passing thru, thanks
A brief stop in Guangzhou en route from HK saw me shamefully stop in a McDonald’s for more than it’s bathroom for the 1st time in 10 years. My excuse was that the teeming herds of people at the train station distracted me from the “Intraday Luggage” sign where I could have dropped the heavy pack and ventured further for a place to pass the hours while awaiting my train.
The destination: Nanning, although I wouldn’t use those 3 words together if I were you. Had enough time to see a large chunk of the city including its 2 largest parks. They were both fairly nice and remarkably silent for urban China. The views from the peaks within would be impressive if there is ever a clear day. But the acrid smell in the city with the most 2-stroke motorcycles in China (hold your breath) lead me to believe such days are rare indeed (don’t hold your breath). I was pleased to find one of my favorite Asian snacks, pineapple-on-a-stick, for a mere 5 mao (6 cents). But it’s not nearly enough to precipitate my return to this bleak town soon.
U makes all the difference
And I ain’t using no Ebonics, I’m talkin bout the relief one feels when switching from ‘Yen’ in Japan to ‘Yuen’ in China. My previous math may have been mildly exaggerated when I said the same meal in Japan was 25 times more expensive, but a meal for under a dollar is a reality in China. Feasts fit for a king can be had here for less than a coke in Japan. You just gotta watch out for deadly avian flu and SARS-laden civets. Mmm…Civets. There is definitely an element of adventure when ordering food in China which I’m pleased to say has been alleviated by my crude grunting Mandarin skills. Still, one must beware of gristle, bones and don’t forget heads. But if I had a choice to pay $6-10 for a bowl of bland wheat noodles in Japan, or pennies for spicy fried rice noodles in China, it’s a no-brainer.
Tale of 2 trains
My sleeper train from Guangzhou to Nanning was a mellow and pleasant journey, largely due to the fact that I shared a berth with 3 nice ladies who were quiet, bought me snacks, and even called a friend on a cell phone who spoke good English to ask if I needed any help.
Then there was the train from Nanning to Kunming. This time 3 MEN. Incessant loud talking, spitting, and once bedtime came, snoring. I’m talking the weirdest, loudest arrhythmic snoring I’ve ever heard. When I first heard it I thought it was flatulence. But eventually it was more like hog sounds. I’d had to crank my tunes all day until the yell talker ran out of things to shout, and then stuffed the earplugs as deep as they’d go and still slept poorly at best.
This story is paradigmatic of gender issues in China. Women are generally warm and selfless. Men are generally lung cookie-launching, chimney-smoking pigfarts. There are plenty of exceptions of course, but more often than not, the train parable prevails.
Kunming: Still the nicest city in China
Seeking sun, I returned to “spring city”. I got some, but lots of wind and wacky weather as well. Knowing my way around a big city -as I spent 6 days there last year- is always a plus. Bought some more cheap DVDs (14 for $10) and some old-looking art for slightly more. The girl who sold me the art called me “xiao qi”, which I think translates to “tight-ass”, which might mean I didn’t get ripped off too bad. Also got all the little trinkets I need for the long journey ahead (compass, knife, etc.) all for a song, and plenty of good cheap food. The hotel I chose was in a rat-infested area, which can be perilous when walking down stairs in sandals, but the price was right.
One disturbing change was the advent of serial honking of the excessive, unnecessary and with a too-loud horn variety. When I was there just 12 months ago, honking had been outlawed and one could notice the difference between Kunming and other Chinese cities right away. I guess the change may have had to do with the fact that the one-party system decided to rip up all the main roads in the center of town at once adding mayhem to a town which already had traffic jams. Overall, a couple days there were better than they would’ve been in any other Chinese city that size.
So for those thinking of learning Chinese because it’s so darn easy, here’s an example of what to expect besides an alphabet of over 3000 characters. When speaking of quantities of things, instead of saying “1 of these”, “5 of those”…, the language uses specific “measure words” which correspond to the things being counted. In fairness, I understand that languages that once used Chinese characters -Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese- also have this burdensome feature. There are over 30 different words used for this purpose that the language student must memorize. And don’t forget to sing them properly or no one will understand you. So here are my
Top 5 wacky Chinese measure words:
5) zhang- tables, beds, tickets, sheets of paper
4) kuai- lumps, pieces
3) tiao- fish and various long, narrow things
2) zhi- hands, birds, suitcases, boats
1) ba- chairs, knives, teapots, tools, implements with handles, stems, bunches of flowers
Dali: Still no (L)Lamas
This last oasis of western-friendly menus and other comforts will be tough to leave behind. I’m way too comfy in this sleepy hamlet with countless things to do, all of them cheap. Went for a lovely hike which began right from my dorm ascending 5 hours, gaining around 4000 feet in elevation. Good practice for the locale at the rooftop of the world I intend to visit very soon. And then there’s always just wandering around one of the many minority villages nearby. My favorite reaction when I’m on some remote alley and the locals notice me is jocular laughter. China’s 55 different minority peoples are one of the main reasons this country interests me so much.
Tengchong: Keepin’ it real
My 1st stop after Dali was the city of Baoshan which proved to be worthy of little more than the 1 day I gave it. The people were friendly enough but it just felt like your basic Chinese city with little to offer tourists. Tengchong in contrast is an oasis which deserved more time than I allowed. Numerous hot springs litter the surrounds & to my surprise are left largely in their natural state for the visitor to enjoy. They didn’t even pipe in cheesy music!
The town itself has endured the trend across China to quickly raze anything resembling historic architecture in favor of tasteless boxes covered in white tile. Markets wind in all directions with vendors speaking Chinese, Burmese, English, and Hindi – and that was all just one guy! An afternoon hike to the pagoda atop the hill overlooking town provided the sweeping panorama that Nanning will never see. But the only constant is change in China. A suburb is being hailed as a retirement community for overseas Chinese & one side of Tengchong has been dozed so they can build a neighborhood meant to look old but only reeking of foolishness. As with most of the developing world, the time to go is now.
No means Yes, Yes means No
One exchange in China can be rather off-putting to foreigners at 1st. When one says “xiexie” (thanks), a common reaction is a shake of the head, wave of the hands and even a spoken, “No, no, no.” One feels like, Well, FINE! I take it back. Thanks for NOTHIN! But really it’s just their way of saying “You’re welcome” as in “Don’t mention it.” Then there’s the common Chinglish reaction to a tricky English scenario. When asked in the negative, as in, “You’re not leaving, are you?”, nearly all Chinese people will reply “Yes”…when they aren’t. It’s a cute trend into which I’ve chosen to simply assimilate.
Upon arrival in Ruili & checking into my room, I noticed a fact of life with which I hadn’t had to deal in less tropical climes. Mosquitoes. Scores of them. The solution? An hour-long killing spree that was as fun as it was effective. Although I travel with a net for the bed, I wake up if they buzz too close in the middle of the night. And I love turning the tables on those parasite-laden bloodsuckers! Ha HA! The hunted has become the hunter! My estimate was a 95% extermination rate; no small feat in a room with 12-foot high ceilings.
Ruili, really nice place
One of the benefits of having a flexible itinerary is landing unexpectedly in a town like this. After so many cool, grey days, I suddenly found myself transported to Thailand but without the ubiquitous drunken expat. In fact I was the only non-Asian in sight.
The scenery was totally different from where to bus had departed just hours before. Palm trees flanking the sleepy, dusty roads; golden spires rising from Burmese-style Buddhist temples; and of course the mingling dark-skinned Myanmar nationals in traditional dress. Even came across some genuine rain forest and a lovely waterfall. Having seen very few people along the trail, I began to get my hopes up that I might strip down and dip in the cool waters of the pool at the top. But this is China. What was I thinking? There were 7 locals loitering at the top when I showed up. But wait, just a few minutes later all 7 sauntered downstream just far enough for me to drop trou & splash around without my white ass blinding anyone. May have been less daring & eager for such an experience had I known my fate that day.
Super-soaker sales soar
To my surprise, the new year as it’s celebrated by the Shan people of this part of the world is observed in this corner of China. The Shan’s territory covers areas in Laos, Thailand and Myanmar as well, but little did I know, also the Ruili region. The party may consist of numerous traditions, but the aspect that dwarfs them all is the splashing of water to wash away the past year inviting good tidings for the new. Surely ancient methods of splashing involved bamboo & other natural water basins, but the Shan have adapted to modernity and embraced the luck-spreading virtues of plastic. The days before the event see truckloads of colorful weaponry hawked on the streets by clever vendors. Those in the know will arm themselves lest be a defenseless target.
Of course this being my 1st exposure to such an event, I went about my day armed only with the notion that the festival didn’t begin until the following day. Since it had been over a week since I’d seen another foreigner, I might have suspected the bulls eye visible to the locals 50 meters away. Then it hit me. Not the awareness, but the crack of a large bucketful of water upside my head. I was a long way from home with cotton clothing on and my passport and other unsoakables on my person with nowhere to run. And since I’d already been soaked, I was an irreversibly marked man.
Dodging enemy fire to the best of my ability, I returned alive to my hotel room where I changed into triple-S combat gear: swim trunks, sandals, shades. Once again the hunted has become the hunter. Armed only with a 1-liter squirt bottle I was constantly in need of more ammo, but I held my own pretty well. At first. Feeling cocky from my early triumphs using surprise attack guerrilla tactics, the town seemed to be mine. Walking, nay, strutting down the middle of the road I could feel the old west in the air. But how quickly my invincibility became desperado with empathy for Butch & Sundance. Before long I felt the liquid equivalent of having been turned to Swiss cheese by lead-bullet ventilators. But even in defeat it is one of the most genuine good times one can have.
No, you didn’t see a ghost
An ancient Chinese tradition which has yet to go the may of the Manchu queue and Siberian tiger is the premium placed on pale skin. This millennia-old trend favors the look of pampered royalty over working-class farmer types. Without question, it’s the lighter the skin, the better. This prompts an array of cultural stratagems such as the wearing of long pants and sleeves on even the hottest of days. Women often wear huge tinted visors pulled down over their faces causing a striking resemblance to Boba Fett from Star Wars.
But the true test of any phenomenon is how it rears its head through capitalism. One such example is the total absence of skin lotions which don’t contain “whitening agents”. But I find most disturbing the marketing images. Models for drinks, snacks, etc. are shot in bright light and then overexposed to the point of looking like the living dead, or perhaps an albino wearing a dark wig and colored contacts. When I see these sickly, pasty women & think, “She should really get to a hospital,” the Chinese men are thinking, “Man, is she HOT!!”
Positive Cultural Exchanges
This ain’t about saying hello or smiling at the locals. By PCEs I mean really leaving something beneficial behind for the local people besides the money. For example, when in Dali at the lakeside where a woman had filled two 5-gallon buckets to bring home. I leapt up to balance the bamboo pole holding the buckets on my shoulders and carried them to her house a 10-minute walk away. Or as in Tengchong when I heard a pickup truck being hopelessly turned over & peered thru the window to see if it was a stick. When I saw that it was I chimed in Chinese, “I know! I know!” and suddenly was in the driver’s seat telling the owner’s buddies to push. Moments later I’d popped the clutch & he was on his way.
I’d like to claim that these events are the norm, but chances are few and I still catch myself on the other extreme – such as arguing over what amounts to a price difference of 30 cents- by maybe a 2-to-1 margin. I’m working to reverse that ratio as I become a more seasoned and less self-centered traveler. It’s easy to feel like, “Hey, it’s MY trip!”, but really it’s their world. I’m just passing through hoping to leave positive impressions.
Liuku: My kind of town
Despite a driving rain with nary a relent during my visit I’ve come to hold this city in high regard. Clean air, riverside promenades free of vehicles and soaring mountains on either side of the Nu River which runs through town makes me think this is the best little city in China. And people rarely even bother to use their horns! Short walks to the hills reveal minority villagers living without power or running water (and they seemed as if they’ve never seen a live westerner before). Singing songs to them counts as a PCE in my book but I also did something I rarely do and gave the village elder 10 kuai ($1.25) which they surely could use more than I. The men couldn’t even afford cigarettes for crying out loud! And to top it all off I’ve twice had my money refused after a meal in a restaurant. Add a clean, quiet hotel with a nice hot shower for under 4 bux/day and one can see why I had a hard time leaving (besides the fact that the road I want to take was been blocked by mudslides.)
Nu and unimproved, thankfully
I’ve spent many days on boats going upstream on the Mekong sleeping along its shores in Laos and Cambodia. I spent 2 days & nights on a hike inside a gorge of the Yangtze before cruising down its 3 gorges on a ship just days before they were flooded. It’s only fair that I spend some time along the banks of the Nu (Salween) River, the 3rd of the 3 parallel rivers UNESCO cites as an area deserving the highest standard of protection due to its natural beauty and uniqueness.
Covering several hundred kilometers in around a week’s time I was able to get a good look at the Nu River Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of the Orient,” an area that has been open to foreign and Chinese tourists alike for just one year. One reason for the restriction might have been the rather poor infrastructure which barely manages to hold the region together. But this is surely a blessing in disguise as the vast resources have largely remained untapped as a result. The only road going through the gorge was decimated by literally dozens of landslides. Many sections won’t be restored any time soon either regardless of China’s heaving mass of labor resources. To travel along the Nu one must take a short bus/truck/tractor from one massive pile of earth to the next carrying all one’s belongings over the unstable muddy scree slopes which were once the road. After being stranded for over a week at the northern end of the gorge a Singaporean tour group was shocked to see -and likely puzzled as to why- I had come through. The road closures also exposed Chinese hands in the cookie jar as numerous trucks laden with lumber over a meter in diameter were lined up, stranded, despite the commercial logging ban implemented 5 years ago.
Steep green mountains on both sides are littered with waterfalls and rock outcroppings. The town of Fugong in the heart of the gorge has some of its most impressive scenery which less resembles the Grand Canyon than the Na Pali coast of Kaua’i. More soggy conditions dogged my days there, yet the town was without running water for the entirety of my stay making bathroom visits more horrifying than usual. Elaborate irrigation canals wind back into the side canyons delivering water during less deluged times. They also make for nice hiking paths as long as the hiker isn’t prone to vertigo. Sheer drops of deadly proportions flank the “trail” so soaking up the views requires coming to a complete stop.
Billy the kid
Just minutes after sending my previous newsletter I had another of my little positive exchanges, but involving quadrupeds instead of people. When hiking high above Fugong I spied a goat who was particularly vociferous. When I asked her what was up she gestured down the steep slope where I noticed the problem, her little kid, Billy. He couldn’t deal with the ascent to get to mama. I wasn’t eager to lower myself down there either but found it less harrowing than it looked. Plus, in a country where animals are invariably treated with unconscionable cruelty, I couldn’t pass up the chance to aid their kind. Once I gained Billy’s trust, I hoisted him up without getting bitten. The act would’ve gone unnoticed by the human world had not a few guys happened by just then. Even in the most remote areas in Asia the nearest person is rarely a stone’s throw away.
Dimaluo: Refuge of Creature and Culture
Some fo you may have read about the remarkable history of the area around this tiny village nested in the uppermost reaches of the Nu Gorge. Somehow spared during the last ice age, it’s home to an astounding 25% of the world’s species including the cool-sounding snow leopard, red panda, and snub-nosed monkey. Natural selection has ensured that these species steer well clear of all human contact lest they become endangered species kebabs, so I didn’t glimpse any of these rare mammals.
More link ‘n’ logs
The people are also an anomaly of sorts being over 80% Christian due to missionaries from Europe well over 100 years ago. While doing their chores the villagers would sing familiar tunes such as “Silent Night” using lyrics of the local dialect. They were all welcoming and friendly toward the rare foreigner in their midst. Their demeanor attests again to the fact that having money is far from a requirement for happiness. Their average income is a mere 744 Yuen ($93)/ year.
Up, up and away
Having learned that my proposed route to Tibet was buried under snow at least head-high, unless I procured snowshoes, a dogsled, or a levitation device, I needed to change my plan. Always averse to backtracking, exponentially so along the Nu route, I decided to employ the services of my host as a guide on a trek to Deqin which included crossing a pass over 12,000 feet high. This daunting task paled in comparison to what I’d initially planned to do, especially since there was a porter to carry my large pack causing me to feel much like Homer Simpson with his Nepali Sherpas climbing the Murderhorn.
The trek began thru a couple “suburbs”, hilltribes with smaller numbers than Dimaluo’s whopping 2000+ residents. Got to see a couple examples of churches in rural China. Rustic hardly begins to tell the story. But they seem a more appropriate tribute to the path of Jesus than the garish behemoths that we’re so accustomed to in the west. Not long into the journey, a rare occurrence in Asia unfolded. Human settlement ceased. For what amounted to roughly 16 hours of (brisk) hiking, there wasn’t a single village and nary a touch of man. The riparian landscape went from semi-arid to lush tropical vegetation at this stage so we were alone amidst countless towering waterfalls and dense foliage. Snow-capped peaks and glaciers comprised nearly 180 degrees of the view from the campsite that night. Although we’d gained over 4000 feet, the next day would be the real test.
That’s a cold slap on a cold face
Setting out early, we quickly found land with little other than snow on the surface. Snow hiking of this kind was a new experience for me. The Tibetan guys saw nothing strange about heading straight up the steep slopes sinking down to their crotches with nearly each step. Except for maybe 1 or 2 K, I was content to follow in their footsteps, a much easier proposition. Near the top I would kick back and soak up the views while the pack mules would forge ahead only to have me sprint up to their heels minutes later. The porter guy must’ve thought I was straining because he offered to take one of my 2 meager packs in addition to the one he hauled weighing thrice my load. He must know that westerners aren’t hung up on saving face like Asians who might have hurled themselves off a cliff from the shame of the mere notion of the offer. The truth is that I felt stronger as the day went on, but this may have been dementia from the altitude well above that of Lhasa.
Water, snow. They’re the same, really
Earlier in the day while ascending we passed a couple creeks which made me think to ask if I should refill my water bottles which where low. When I asked the guide in Chinese, because he speaks virtually no English, if there was more water ahead, he replied, “Oh, yeah. Lots.” So onward I marched. Well, in fact, we’d see nothing but snow and more snow for the next 6 hours of rigorous hiking. Once again, I was surrounded by a form of water, but not the kind I wanted! You see, the words for “snow” and “water”, xue and shui, despite having different characters, are pronounced identically to the untrained foreign ear. My guide thought I was just curious about the snow. Fortunately I seemed to absorb all the water I needed through my feet as my Gore-tex socks eventually became fishbowls for the minnows that were my toes. The waist-deep snow doesn’t respect such non-expedition quality gear. I imagined that a kind of wetsuit effect took place keeping my feet from feeling cold, but that again could’ve been delirium from the elevation.
Coming down isn’t always the hardest part
Once past the apex, besides the decrease in pesky freezing rain, the hike became much more pleasant. Bounding down at a healthy clip, I’ve rarely felt so young since…well, I was a kid in the snows of Wisconsin. The tricky but forgiving route brought us down to a height where I could filter water in no time. This turned out to be not such a good thing as I was persuaded to bypass the bucolic setting that would have served as our campsite. We could reach a Tibetan village “by 4 o’clock” I heard when in fact they’d said “in 4 hours” which turned out to be 5. My reward at the end of this 11 1/2- hour march was very loud and very awful Chinese techno pop music videos on the villager’s TV. The only thing worse than being subjected to such an audio assault late into the night when all I wanted was sleep was having it wake me up at 7 AM the next morning.
All’s well that ends well
The last day was comparatively mild & I was able to amble remarkably painlessly. After many hours of pastoral alpine scenery with mossy trees and moist turf the previous day, I found myself amidst the prickly pear in a parched desert. The glacial stream cut thru the red Jurassic sandstone like butter at last leaving terrain fit to be likened to the Grand Canyon, albeit on a tributary of the Mekong, not the Nu.
At the end of the trek was a tiny hamlet consisting of a few Tibetan restaurants and lots of roaming swine. Due to yet another slide of earth it appeared after a 5-hour wait that my bus to civilization might not be coming. No problem. A quick hitch on a water truck and a rock truck, the former being entirely more useful in such environs in my opinion, plus a 4K jaunt with my packs on along the dry alpine roads & at last I stumbled upon a lovely Tibetan town flanked by 18,000-foot peaks. Salvation came in the form of a $4 room with a hot, hot shower, my first shower of any kind in nearly a week.
Speaking in Tongues
Most Mandarin speech sounds much like the “ping pong” jargon westerners envision when they think of Chinese. But often words sound like something familiar. For example, “how” means “good” and “knee” means “you”. To say hello in China you simply ask about someone’s leg joint, “Knee how?” There’s even the rare automonopoea like the word for “cat” – “mao”. But more often what we English speakers hear isn’t what’s meant. If you say “Hong Kong” to a Chinese person, you are asking to send something “by airmail”. So for kicks, inspired by my Mandarin floundering of late, here’s a list of my
TOP 5 “That’s not what I meant” Chinese terms
5) Shoe = book (but they also use it to herd livestock, as in SHOO!)
4) WHOA! = me, I
3) Mayo = don’t have (one of the most common phrases heard by foreigners. It can also mean “get lost, Whitey, I don’t want to deal with you.”)
2) WOO, fun! = 5 minutes
And, the Palestinians would have a field day with this one
#1) “Jew” = pig (Hey, I’m not making this stuff up!)
Deqin: End of the road?
The inspiration for the “Shangri-la” described in James Hilton’s Lost Horizon despite nearby Zhongdian’s usurping of the moniker by changing its name to “Shan-Guh-Lee-La”, Deqin is tucked amidst snowy peaks with only 3 long and winding roads out of town. The town itself is nothing to get excited about, but the surrounds are enough to keep the discriminating tourist content. The northern road is said to be off-limits foreign folk, but I aim to test that theory. I’m all loaded up with provisions of dried yak meat and pineapple amongst other munchies for what is a 5-6 day trip if I’m lucky
No more news from me until it’s from the shadow of the Potala. Until then, stay cool. I’m sure I’ll be downright frigid!