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Current position: Back home…, in Switzerland
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Rip-off, Chinese bureaucracy and a Yak in our tent
Last updated: 21. July 2010 - 34622 Clicks - Enable Print View
Mount Everest Base Camp, Tibet, 6 July 2010, 5 degrees Celsius

Limestone pinnacles near GuilinAfter three hours in China, we felt like we just had been ripped off for the first time! And our feeling was right - we were quickly financially compensated after we pointed out the "marginal" difference in the way both parties calculated the “correct” price. But it turned out that this was a rare experience in China and we enjoyed our seven weeks in China a lot! In the vast Forbidden City in Beijing, we walked probably about the same distance as on the Great Wall - 10.5 km. Thus we now know about 0.0017% of the 6,000 km long Great Wall... From Beijing, a fast train took us in 23 hours 2'135 km further to Guilin. But its not just the size of China’s surface, the country is also unbeatable in terms of huge construction sites or the number of (to us unknown) cities with millions of inhabitants. Locals were jealous about our trip to Guilin and the limestone pinnacles which are nation wide known (and immortalized on countless paintings around the country and on the 20 Yuan note). Already becoming tired of the countless entrance fees in China (with farm land labelled as a pay toilet as our favourite), we skipped the ascent of the limestone pinnacles and enjoyed instead a trip on a bamboo raft through the bizarre landscape towards Yangshuo. After extensive reflection (unlike other tourists) we decided not to hire a singing Chinese girl for our raft. In Dazhai the true highlight of the area around Guilin was waiting for us: The Dragon's backbone rice terraces. The rice terraces steeply stretch over more than 500 meters in altitude and have been farmed and perfectly maintained for the last 500 years. With the influence of tourism, the role of genders have changed: While local men as usual work in the fields, every women we met wanted to carry our backpacks to the top of the hill...

Tibetan woman in Shangri-La in TibetThe city of Kunming is known for its mild climate and friendly locals. We got the confirmation really quickly when an only Chinese speaking stranger gave us money for the bus ride as we did not have enough change. As friendly but a bit more curious was an old man in Dali that suddenly began to stroke Andri’s arm, since he probably had never seen such hairy arms ;-) This was topped in Tibet where Andri was finally compared with a Yak. In the Public Security Bureau, we were shown that Chinese officials do as much as they can to retain their reputation as public servants: We applied for a visa extension and were told that we can pick up our passports 3 days later which is perfectly correct. But the officials did not start with the work on our extension until exactly 3 days later when we showed up for the pick-up… Lijiang, our next temporary home, we liked more than Dali. The old town of Lijiang is an impressive proof of how good Chinese are in building something new that looks very antique. In Shangri-La, our first stop in Tibet, we attended the annual horse festival. But for us it was more the Tibetan audience in their colourful costumes that was of interest than the race with tiny horses. Within two days we went on an adventurous journey on disastrous roads from Shangri-La via Xiang Cheng to Kangding. Tired and hungry we were looking with our sheet anchor (chinese characters for spicy beef and gong bao chicken) for a restaurant. And once more we were amazed by the friendliness: The woman in the first restaurant couldn’t serve the food we were looking for but she took us from restaurant to restaurant until we found a suitable one! Gladly, we were already a bit starched with some bites when the locals starting asking us for drinking shots with them... ;-)

Tibetan woman at horse race in Shangri-La Prayer flags in Tibet Potala Palace in Lhasa

Mount Everest...In Tagong we got to know the Chinese attitude towards the Tibetans when hundreds of pilgrims from far away came to Tagong to greet and see a Lama (high monk). They spent the night on the ground of cheap hotel rooms, in tents and even on the loading platforms of trucks. Unfortunately they were all disappointed - the Chinese government did not allow the Lama to visit the Tibetan area. There was no language needed in order to see the disappointment as the faces of the people spoke for themselves. Luckily, the family of nomads which we reached after a 7 hour hike noticed nothing of all this. We helped them to catch the yak babies in the evenings, played with the kids, made fire to keep us warm and had to chase a 400 kg yak out of the tent several times during the night. The food, especially the breakfast was very simple: Oats, yak milk and sugar. But it feeds perfectly for the long, hard days of the nomadic family. In Chengdu, we got our permit for the "autonomous" region of Tibet. On our 10-day journey through the "autonomous" region of Tibet, we got to know (beside a very positive) a scary side of China: Ignorance and paranoia. Since the demonstrations in 2008 there are military posts every 40 meters in the pedestrian zone in the centre of Lhasa, further patrols are in constant motion; others monitor the crowds from the roofs of the houses of Lhasa. For tourists it is currently neither possible to enter the "autonomous" region of Tibet without a pre-booked tour nor to move freely. Even a Swiss cyclist on his trip around the world would have needed a driver and guide! Only one word missing on a permit can cause troubles - we waited almost four hours on the border to Nepal until the Defence Department gave the permission for us to exit (!) the country. This is the so called "autonomous" region of Tibet. The monasteries of Tibet are world famous – no wonder! E.g. the huge Potala Palace consists of over 1,000 rooms! We enjoyed our trip with the two Americans Allison and Jason on the very top of the world (almost always above 4'000m) a lot. The Base Camp of Mount Everest was definitely a venerable end for our long journey around the world! Nepal was unfortunately only a transit country but has already qualified for a next trip... ;-)

See ya, we've gone away.
Corina & Andri
Pictures to this article:
From Beijing to the border of Nepal - our last part of our trip around the world. During our time we started to appreciate China and Tibet a lot and the best way to communicate was Swiss German... - View pictures
Comments about this article: 4 comments so far | Post a comment
21. July 2010 | Lotti und Ruedi said...
Lieber Andri, herzlichen Dank für Deine wie üblich eindrucksvollen Schilderungen. Scheinbar kann man China auch als Individualreisender besuchen. Dieses Land fehlt uns noch in unserer Galerie, weshalb wir uns für den Moment mit Deinen Bildern begnügen.
Wir hoffen, Euch nach Eurer Rückkehr zu sehen und aus erster Hand von Euren Erlebnissen zu hören. Dies wird und Ideen für unsere zukünftigen Reisen geben.
Uebrigens: die Banken stellen wieder Leute ein, für den Fall, dass Ihr beabsichtigt, eines Tages wieder unter das werktätige Volk zu gehen.
MIt besten Grüssen Lotti und Ruedi
17. July 2010 | Heidi Wrasmann said...
Ich wünsche Euch einen guten Start ins "neue, alte Leben", der Mount Everest war ein würdiger Abschluss, nun müsst Ihr wieder mit dem Eiger vorlieb nehmen! Alles Gute Heidi
16. July 2010 | Tracy said...
Hey Corina and Andri - absolutely spectacular shots and very engaging travelogue. You could have photography/travel writing careers if you ever decide to ditch the banking sector ;-)
15. July 2010 | Mami said...
Die letzte Bilderserie ist eine der umwerfendsten, grosses Kompliment, ein Glück, dass euch dieses letzte Kapitel so gut gelungen ist!

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