Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, day 5: Kangding to Tagong Grassland

I got up early. Knowing that Alex didn’t have a good night sleep the day before, I didn’t wake him up. Waiting bored me so I decided to go down the hill to buy some dumplings.

Yesterday, I wanted to try the cable car, but today I had to cancel it because Alex woke up late. Thinking that his reading of comic books was very boring, I dragged him down the hill again to buy some ice creams. Ice creams here were effing good.

We checked out of the Zhilam Hostel and waited for the bus at the Princess Bridge. The bus came on time, but the Israeli guy Gal wasn’t. He must have been going to somewhere else. We had to leave him behind.

The bus reached the Tagong Grassland at 5 PM. We passed some places where there were clouds outside the small bus. I dozed off sometimes so couldn’t enjoy the view much.

Like in Kangding, we stayed in another dorm room but with more people. Though the hostel was operated by a Tibetan family whose living room was shared with the guests, there was no curtain in the dorm room this time so a guy heard of my Vietnamese talk with Alex. Then I learned that he spoke Vietnamese, too. He was a Vietnamese Danish guy. He was very nice and as old as the Israeli guy, 22 years old. He said he was studying Chinese. He also knew how to speak many other languages. He understood Vietnamese, but couldn’t speak much. I joked with Alex that Vietnamese was no more our secret language here. We spoke a little Vietnamese in Kangding.

Even though I was tired, I still walked around to find some peanuts and stuff to hang clothes in the room.

We had dinner at a place with an English menu, and bought some Coke. We met the Gal and his gang here. They were so noisy that they ruined my mood to eat.

Was clueless if there would be a horse racing festival tomorrow. But I already told my friend that I didn’t wanna ride any animal. I won’t ever do it in my life, I guess.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, day 4: Kangding

In the hostel, I heard that there was no bus to Garzê aka Ganzi. After discussing, Alex chose to go to Litang instead.

And then he decided to trek the mountain behind the hostel. We headed downhill for some food like Chinese pizzas, then went up to begin our journey. I didn’t know that it would be so hard to hike up a mountain. I was so surprised by Alex’s health. He might look like a nerd, but he was indeed a sportsman. We made it to the top around noon. The feet were like stone in my mouth, but I felt so happy and proud of myself somehow.

I was wrong again to think that going down was easier. The shoes hurt my big toes too much that I felt nothing at my feet on the latter half of the journey. Somewhere along the line, I couldn’t stand no more and decided to walk barefoot despite Alex’s objection. What a relief! One hour of walking barefoot was a lot of ease to me.

I intended to take the cable car in the afternoon, but because of my slow speed, we finished the hike too late, so I decided to delay the cable car visit until next morning.

Before dinner, I watched “The soloist part 2” movie with Alex. We wondered around after that, then hesitated but finally chose a rice restaurant. They served rice with spinach and tofu. We ate on the street, not even the sidewalk. People were staring at us, mostly at Alex, I guessed.

In the end, Alex’s destination moved from Litang to the Tagong because rumor had it that there would be a horse festival the day after tomorrow.

P.s.:
From zhilamhostel.com, I found out the mountain behind the Zhilam Hostel was called Bai Tu Kan. (updated on December 14, 2011.)

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, day 3: Chengdu to Kangding

Very early in the morning, we checked out of the guesthouse and went to the West Chengdu Bus Station (also called Chadianzi) at 8 AM. The tickets showed us that we had to wait 3 hours for the bus to start for Kangding.

Just when we left the city streets, there was a big traffic jam for 3 hours. Cars and buses and trucks ran everywhere on the road, making it worse. Because people in the other lane couldn’t move ahead when people in this lane didn’t retreat.

Then the road to Kangding held a lot of fun. I saw many beautiful scenes, river one side and mountain the other side of the road. I passed big tunnels. At last, I made it in Kangding around 8 PM.

On the way to find a hostel, we met an 22 year-old Israeli guy named Gal. As we didn’t know where to stay in Kangding, we went with him to find a place. Finally, we all headed to a place called Zhilam Hostel uphill. Its decoration has a feel of Tibet.

I was very tired. If Alex hadn’t carried my backpack, I couldn’t have made it to the hostel at all.

It was the first time I stayed in a shared room with strangers. I was a lil bit bothered by the smelly stuff of a Western couple. There was a curtain dividing our places so I just hoped there was no thief.

At 9 PM, the 3 of us went out to find food. Because Gal didn’t eat pork, and there was only barbecued food and hotpot, I bought only milk, and tried an ice cream. The ice cream surprised me. It tasted like it was the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. Alex tried something like a Chinese pizza.

Then Alex and I watched the movie “The soloist” (part 1) together.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, day 2: Chengdu Panda Base

We took a panda tour to visit the world famous giant pandas in the Chengdu Panda Base. They were so lovely, cutie… and all the beautiful adjectives I could use to describe an object. Even it was raining this morning, I felt so lucky to see the pandas in many of their positions: sleeping, eating breakfast, playing with each other, even lazily hanging on a tree.

Alex decided to have mapo tofu for lunch. That was my nightmare. It was so spicy I hardly ate anything except rice. Even Alex felt it spicy.

It was still raining in the afternoon. But we still took a stroll to the People’s Park with rented umbrellas. On the way back, we took the wrong bus. I realized that it went to the airport instead of the hostel.

It wasn’t late, so we stopped to discover the Wenshu Temple’s walkways. The streets around this temple were perfect for walking. We took some pictures here.

I told Alex to walk because maybe we could luckily find the shuttle car on the way back to the Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel. I was right. The driver was pleased to bring us back. We were lucky.

After finishing the second part of the Italian movie we watched yesterday, we found a good place to have dinner: I had wanton and Alex had noodles. Such a good meal!

I tried to buy 2 peaches in a fruit store. Dammit! Peaches in China looked big but tasted bad. There was mostly water inside.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, day 1: Hanoi to Chengdu, transit in Guangzhou

Got the boarding pass long ahead of time, but I was still late for the boarding time because I thought that the time on the paper was the beginning time of boarding. I heard the last call for several times and realized that I was late. My French friend and I had to run at Noi Bai airport. But that wasn’t the only trouble of the day.

Filled in the immigration quarantine form on the airplane for H1N1. Though the outbreak of H5N1 was severe, but I just needed to pass a simple gate and there was no special control as far as I knew.

However, the wait to clear customs at Baiyunport in Guangzhou was quite long, but I was impressed at the largeness of the airport. It’s too big that they use horizontal escalators to help people move from gate to gate.

Alex had a problem with Chinese customs because his Omo detergent pack. Maybe they thought it was heroin?

As we reached Guangzhou at 9AM and the next flight to Chengdu is in the afternoon, we decided to spend our transit time at Guangzhou downtown. So, we got on the bus No. 2 or so which stopped at the President Hotel in the city center.

We went to a Chinese restaurant with an all-Chinese menu. After several times explaining the dish, we had a claypot of chicken rice for lunch. It tasted good!

What I did in 3 hours in this city: viewing the metro (just the ticket system and not the trains), having lunch in a restaurant where everybody stared at Alex, getting lost, and buying a brand-new camera at the technology fair, a Canon IXUS 100 IS. The salesgirl’s English was kinda limited, but she was very good at her job. She confirmed that the camera was made in Japan, and gave me a discount after convincing me for a while. The camera was also equipped with a 4 GB Kingston memory card.

We had a lot trouble catching the bus back to Baiyunport. We waited for the bus in vain in front of the President Hotel but no bus seemed to pass by. We had a lot of problem asking around as we couldn’t speak Chinese while other didn’t understand English. All the signboards were written in Chinese without any Pinyin. At last, a nice taxi driver understood what Baiyunport meant. We took the taxi to the Baiyunport bus stop about a few hundred meters away from where we thought it should have been.

Got in time for checking in at Baiyunport, but the boarding machine didn’t recognize Alex’s online tickets. Luckily, we got help. But unluckily, we had the meal on the plane before it departed because of traffic jam at the airport. I did a quiz on the plane but didn’t finish it. I knew that my English was limited.

Because of the plane delay, we checked in at the Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel at about 11:30 PM. I walked a lot today: at the airports, around the Guangzhou downtown, walking to find the hostel (under the rain), specifically getting lost several times. When we found that there was a shuttle car at the Old Sim’s Cozy, I found so relieved. And luckily, it was a free ride. Such a long day!

We haven’t booked the hostel in advance, so we were lucky to find that there’s still a room with 2 separate beds in this Sim’s Cozy. It seemed to be a well-known place in Chengdu for travelers.

Even the day was long and we were tired enough, we still watched the Italian movie Gomorra (part 1) together from my Dell netbook before sleeping.

Con Dao, day 3: Way back home

We had a buffet breakfast like Day 2 in the restaurant at 7:30 AM, then headed back to the hotel room to collect stuff and check out of the hotel at 9:00 AM.

We waited there for the plane for 1.5 hours. The plane looked newer than the other one we took to Con Dao islands. We reached Tan Son Nhat airport at noon.

The Con Dao trip ended here.

Con Dao, day 2: Hang Duong Cemetery and prisons

We had a buffet breakfast in the resort restaurant at 7 AM. At 8 AM, we went to the Hang Duong cemetery, had an official ceremony then visited Vo Thi Sau’s grave. When we came to Le Hong Phong’s, it rained heavily and we had to run out. It was still raining when we visited An Son Temple. We postponed the tiger cases till the afternoon.

There was sunshine in the afternoon after all. Eve felt headache so she didn’t go with us. I sticked to her friend Binh coz he was kinda the only one I felt acquainted with. We went to Phu Tuong prison (Bagne 3 +) to see tiger cages French style. Then we passed the shooting range where they shot Vo Thi Sau and left at Phu Tho prison (Bagne 3) gate.

We then visited the tiger cases American style at Phu Binh prison (Bagne 7), Vestige of Skull and Ham Phan Bo in Cow Cage Isolated Area, then Ma Thien Lanh Bridge. The last site of the Con Dao trip we went to see was the Ben Dam port.

Today’s sites, especially the tiger cases left a special impact on everybody.

I tried to connect iPhone with my Dell netbook which runs on Ubuntu but failed. I went to sleep kinda early tonight coz the long day out wore me out.

Con Dao, day 1: The museum and Wharf 914

Today I got up early to go to the airport to catch the flight to Con Dao archipelago.

We departed Tan Son Nhat airport 30 mins later than expected. After 45 mins, we reached Con Son (Co Ong) airport and then the hotel around noon. The landing was a lil bit like a nightmare. I was so scared that I didn’t feel nauseous.

At 2 PM, it was raining a lot and I thought we had to cancel the visit to near spots. But luckily, the rain stopped. We walked to the museum nearby and listened to the Con Dao geographical and historical stories for half an hour. A few more walks led us to Wharf 914.

We left the wharf for Phu Hai prison (known as Bagne 1 for French people). We couldn’t see Phu Son prison (Bagne 2) because it was late.

We went to the beach in front of the resort for the evening swim. The beach here is more beautiful than in Vung Tau.
After dinner, we went for a karaoke section.