Air from the far land Posts

Hello Mister!

It’s rare to come across European people here, not even a dozen since we landed.

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After a visit of the old harbour of Jakarta,  we left the city to reach a less crowded region close to Karang volcano. Hitchhiking is difficult, almost all cars are buses or taxis. And no one understands why a European guy doesn’t want to pay. It makes us think a lot about what we do. On one side paying 10-20 euros a day for transportation may double our budget but for them getting money or not has far more consequences than our hypothetical banqueroute. As much as we can, we convince ourselves that travelling from bus to hotel wouldn’t give the same taste.

Example:

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The first night after leaving Jakarta, we look for a place to sleep in a lost village. It’s already dark outside. Nobody understands and people talk about hotels 50km away, and they look surprised when we ask for a simple shelter. Finally, a teacher proposes us to sleep in his school and takes us on his scooter, together with our bags. We end up visiting a muslim school, first the one for boys, then for girls. Guys are quite shy, but girls start to be a little bit hysterical, ask for our status and religion….well it was great and funny. The deal was to exchange a place to sleep with a speech to motivate these young people to learn English. A win-win experience in front of a few hundred teenagers. And many selfies on the social networks.

Is it finally better to travel from bus to hotels? Exchange matters.

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Next day: a night in an empty house that we found on a hill at the end of a road. Beautiful view. During the night, we had the visit of young guys that went away excusing themselves, a safe place.

What else but children’s smiles and hello mister echoing in the air ? Or these guys smiling or a bit upset when they read “numpang gratis” (free lift) on our paper. They stop and ask so many questions in a language we don’t understand, we try as much as possible to explain them our trip, for the sake of the next backpackers.

Tonight we sleep in a police officer’s house, nice place, a tour of food specialities, from goat feet to ginseng and eggs drink. We finish the evening with a gangsta guitarist and a retired policeman with nice stories to share, he worked in Amsterdam and got expelled, tried to create business between the two countries but failed. All that with a good bottle of Indonesian wine with local and reggae songs.

We had a lot of luck these days. We want to dedicate them to those we already miss, and who let us go.

Terih Makasih (Thanks)

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Indonesia

Already a week in Indonesia. We try more and more food and drinks, for example goat feet, soja milk, eggs ginger and honey smoothies, or pastries with veggies inside.

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In Metro, the police officer called a transportation company manager and we hit the road in manga trucks to Palembang. The road… The road is particularly hard and the trucks follow each other continuously. Two times we crossed coal plants and another driver working as supplier in this industry told us it is the main industry in north Sumatra.

Java has more hydraulic and geothermal resources. We see for the first time the effects of such plants, with a fog that goes on kilometers all around.

When we arrived in Palembang we spent the night with the drivers in the praying room of a gas station. The next day we thank them and leave for Jambi, hitchhiking goes well. We receive advice and help from both women and men stopping by. They give first the direction of the bus station but then understand and try to help us stopping the car with big movements, or tell us where there is a place with shadow.

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In Jambi we fail using couchsurfing and move in the city toward Padang road. We finally ask for a place to stay to the imam of a mosque, and students going to pray help us find a room in a bus station. We chat with them and some drivers, and they write behind our “Numpang gratis” paper some remarks to exchange with people on the road. They offer water and in the morning one of them comes with his sister to give us soja milk.

The next day we meet a police man and his father who go to their palm tree plantation. They invite us to lunch and help us stop cars to continue to Padang region. Wahyu stops for us, he works as a commercial executive for a seed company, Matahari, in all Jambi region. He invites us to his home in the middle of palm tree plantations, the ones providing palm oil. They welcome us really friendly, his wife prepares a nice cake, and we eat traditional spicy veggies and sauce. We also prepare together a green jelly made with leaves we just picked in a tree and ash of the banana tree leaves mixed with water. It is apparently good for the health, we’ll have to look up on Internet what it is exactly, as many other things we do or eat here not knowing anything about it. We visit the head of the village and his parents, and drink coffee or tea each time, as the tradition goes. The next day he proposes us to visit the mountains 100km away. He works at the same time and takes pictures with his customers and us showing his products. Win-win relationship, our guy knows well his job. He has nice relationships and we stay in Madras in the manager of the potatoes’ producers cooperative.

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We discover beautiful villages where houses are surrounded by flowers, with volcanos on the background and rice fields all around. We see also for the first time rubber trees, coffee trees and cinnamon trees. Deforestation is real here, and we are told that some villages use violence against each other to maintain and extend their territory in spite of government interdiction. Some people like Wahyu are against these practices and the use of chemicals, but alternatives and investment in this direction are scarce. Not far from here, in Jambi, we could see a Nescafé plant. It might be a shortcut but it reminds us that we are responsible of these situations as Europeans with our consumption and the brands we choose. Let’s try to help people from here supporting qualitative Indonesian products when we can.

Our host in Madras is a calm and smiling guy, he prepares the food for us, bring the plates back in the kitchen and wash them. This is the occasion for us to underline how Islam is not always linked with woman submission, only the quality of the society matters. Here men and women are somehow equal, in spite of a still strong patriarchal tradition. Women drive cars and scooters as often as guys, and it’s often them talking to us on the street, speaking better English and helping us to find our way. Men cook and take care of the children, another stereotype is killed.

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We have now a night in a hotel room, given by a friend of a policeman we met in the police station after a long interrogation. A woman in a car has thought that it is good to take us there and has given us some food. It is a good situation objectively speaking, but these police put some pressure on us to behave as normal tourists and we’ll try to escape from them tomorrow.  We’ll go now to Padang!

Let’s question our other prejudices on the road.

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A step on the mainland

We are already in Malaysia! No salty water to cross anymore.

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Our last post was written in Muara Bungo. The next day we leave for Padang thanks to a taxi paid by the police… We actually went out of the hotel with 4 police officers who take us to the road and stayed not far away in their car for so called safety. They actually don’t want tourists to take risks as their hierarchy is making them responsible in case of an accident, which we can understand. However we were trying to hitchhike and they made us think we were doing it, but they fooled us asking a paid car to stop for us. It was quite obvious as the driver was not that interested in us and too young to possess a car, but as we didn’t want to judge too fast we were sure only later when he started to stop to take other people. So we were a bit upset as this lift was commercial and the driver not talkative at all whatever we could try. Fortunately one of the other passengers could speak English and gave us an address in Payakumbuh, Cafe Pintar, useful later.

Then we were dropped in Padang, without any help from the driver that just wanted us out of the car. It was raining like hell and we went to a restaurant where the evening ended well as we met a student that brought us to his sharedflat. There it was a really nice moment playing Song, something like Bridge, with 5 other guys, and we left then with scooters to visit the place by night. We also tried the local dishes and had good time talking.
The day after we had our first accident: taken by a truck driver we stopped along the road for him to buy some water, and another truck hit the back. Its brakes were broken. The other truck’s cabine was completely crushed and one of the guy was blocked. Fortunately nobody was wounded but it was impressive and reminded us of the risks on these roads.

img_5684We met then another guy, Andre, a pharmacist, and together we crossed Bukittinggi and finally stopped in Payakumbuh where we slept in the same hotel room and chat a lot. The day after Andre made us discover the area by car, he had time as he was here for vacations. We exchanged ideas about occidental sexuality, and he was reassured that reality was far more “moral” than what youtube and series show here in Indonesia.

In the afternoon we stopped by waterfalls and visited an old man that was eager to talk about the area and the other “bouleh” (white people) he met. The area was beautiful, with cliffs, buffalo and green rice fields.

In the evening we stayed in Cafe Pintar, a place owned by an Indonesian who studied in England. The project has been recently launched: it is about proposing courses and chatting with international volunteers while drinking or eating snacks. With our business background we tried to give some advice, not knowing if it was accurate for the local activity, but we worry about the profitability of the business in this little village. We hope they succeed! It’s a great idea.

The next days went really well too as we met a woman that knew people ready to host us both in Pekanbaru and Dumai, all speaking English. So we could talk a lot, in Pekanbaru we met Diko who spent 3 months in France and could exchange about cultural differences, Icha a nice girl that hosted us in her flat, and their friends studying medicine or engineering.

In Dumai we met Jefri, a 28 yo doctor and his mom and sisters, we had our first real monsoon night with water in the house and river on the streets ! We also went to a karaoke… Wow. First time for us, it’s really crazy and our hosts are really good singers. We’ll have to train.

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After crossing the channel we had to struggle to pay a tax, we didn’t have any money and the closest atm was 1 km from the harbour and the passport checkpoint. Another way to deal with money: not having cash seems impossible for them even when changing from a country to another, so the infrastructure doesn’t follow.

We finally used couchsurfing when arrived in Malaysia and stayed in Klang with Yeoh Hui Sio, a cake artist who made us try their pork and tea during the breakfast and discover her work.

We’ll now see what are the next steps of the trip toward Thailand. We try to work on the documentary too, the format is almost defined and we gather content.

Have a nice week! Thanks for following us.

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Multicultural Malaysia

img_5888After Port Klang we headed in direction of Lumut, having lifts with Hindu, Muslim, and Christian guys. The first of them showed us scars made by 4 Indian robbers and then warned us to avoid them. But the next truck and the next car were driven by Indian cheerful guys. Yes we’ll be careful, but not against a whole community. These contradictions and fears, we felt it among Chinese against muslim Malais too and vice versa.

We go to Lumut, a touristic area but we fortunately found a host far in the countryside. Devan is a manager in a palm oil plantation, and we learn a lot about this industry, its practices and history. Next step will be Taiping, the Rain Town, the most rainy city in Malaysia. It rains, but we find a nice host with whom we have another introduction to Malaysian politics, from the Indian perspective. He has an electronic bracelet to keep for two years, due to some mistakes in his job as immigration officer. A strict country.

img_5996By the way, everybody here talks about the recent strike in Kuala Lumpur: just after we left 30 000 people gathered on the streets to ask the prime minister to quit his job. Malaysia is in a bad situation for 5 years, and the government is made responsible for inaction and potential corruption. It’s the biggest strike in the country’s history.

After the green Taiping we go to Alor Setar, trying again to escape from the city to the countryside we meet a guy that knows a guy who can host us. We’ll stay 2 days with this host, who turned out to be really interesting. We’ll write an article about him in the People section. With him we visit the whole Yan area and the mountain, and discover local archaeology, beekeeping, food, fishers villages and so on. But we finally have to move and cross the border to Thailand.

img_6107In Songkhla we find a house close to the old harbour with the manager of an ice-cream distribution company. The alphabet has changed, but the smiles stayed the same. We hope we cansend you this good mood overseas.

Have a nice week!

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Black and White

The mourning of Thai people for their king is still going on, and the majority of the people wears black. Black and white tissues, and many portraits of the king are displayed everywhere on the streets, and you can find pictures of the royal couple in every house. It seems that Thailand found its Ataturk. We learned he died at 89 years old and became really popular thanks to his help to poor people. With engineers he was visiting regions with less fertility and gave advice to the farmers in order to increase the productivity or choose the most adapted plants to grow.

img_6556To come back to our trip city per city, after Songkhla we spent the night in Nakhon Si Thammarat in a shop selling tires, and the next morning we ate a really good Hong-Kong breakfast made of many bamboo plates cooked altogether with steam. Then we left for Tha Sae and discovered a temple built close to an impressive cave populated with Bouddhas statues.

Then we tried to reach the coast in Hua Hin but the city was so artificial and full of tourists that we preferred to sleep a few kilometers away in Pran Buri, where the farm worker/ice cream seller Dui Matt welcomed us with his two dogs and his good mood.

On the road to Bangkok we met a procurement manager, an helicopter pilot and a Honda commercial, and then we slept in Siwat’s small flat. He was really welcoming and made us visit the China town while there was a free food event to celebrate the king. In the morning we went to a temple to see a 5 tons golden Bouddha and our host guided us to the station where we took a 30 cents train to Ayutthaya.

There we met too many Europeans and crossed many ressorts and we escaped again to Ban Goom. A police officer generously hosted us in exchange of some cleaning in one of the empty wooden houses belonging to her family.
The day after we drank coffee in a rice cooperative and her sister and a friend showed us an old temple and its relics, tea services and old scrolls.

img_6416After we travelled toward the western mountains  on a really nice road, and made some contacts in a market to finally find a place to sleep on the sport fields of Lan Sak city.

In Sukhothai, next day, we struggle to find a place to sleep and we finish sleeping in the tent with one hundred mosquitos we have to kill one by one, in spite of being careful when we entered the tent.

Finally, after a few days talking only to each other we meet an old man, a carpenter, who hosts us in the future resort of his wife, in Ban Nong Bon. The environment is really beautiful, and we swim in the river running down the houses. We try some meals, for instance a really good papaya salad. He speaks a correct English he learned by himself 50 years ago and never really practiced until he met us. Impressive.

img_6583Now we are with a nice host in Khon Kaen area, his mother is spoiling us and we try food again. We also had the opportunity to see 50 employees of a company shaving their head to become monks for a few weeks, for the king of course. About monks, it is apparently a step in any education here, as a military service and for instance our host did 5 months of meditation after his master degree.

This week was looking calmer than usually though,  with few people with whom we could communicate, but these last two days we were really lucky and we have good hope for the crossing to Cambodia the next days…

We wish you as much good time on your side, enjoy!

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One week in Cambodia

Our first days in Cambodia were quite exhausting, but we finally discovered beautiful natural places and we met welcoming people. The economic situation is bad for 5 years now, and you can see it directly on the road while hitchhiking: on the main highway at 9am you can wait 5′ between each car.

img_7030In Siem Reap, the city close to Angkor Wat, luxurious hotels are being built all along the road, which is contrasting a lot with the villages we crossed before. Tuktuk drivers are running the place, all having an hostel somewhere.
We walked to Angkor Wat and did the tour of almost all the temples in one day, 37km, to give you an idea of the size of the place. Lakes there were digged by hand, and the biggest is 20km to 5km… All that built between the 11th and 16th century. So even if we usually escape from touristic areas, this one was too important in South East Asia and Cambodia’s history to miss it.

img_7037Then we moved to Battambang where we spent two nights. The first in a school which finances itself with farming, sewing clothes and hosting tourists. One of the young women there had two jobs 9h a day everyday to pay the university of her siblings, while another one explained us how difficult it was to get married with her boyfriend, because of religious and financial issues.

We spent the second day with Vuthy Prum, an English teacher and Tuktuk driver on the weekends. His father in law was speaking French it was a great moment chatting, and playing with his kid who loved all the curious things inside our bags.

img_7383Then we moved to a floating village, where the stereotype of muddy road and small shelters was even more true than the previous days. We have to say though that they live really well in it, with a lot of comfort. Hamac and outdoor kitchen suit perfectly the weather.

The next day, after a 100km dusty road, we stopped in the middle of Cardamom area, famous for its pepper. And there a woman waved us just before we entered the jungle walking, and offered us to stay in her home. From her small wooden room she took out shampoo, pillows, carpets, and even whisky to fight the cold 18C night… They had no electricity, but phones for sure and even a tablet where she showed us her daughters living in Paris and USA.
img_7351In the morning we waited one hour and a half for three cars, the last one driving us through the jungle to Oh Saom. The area is beautiful but quite hostile, with lakes that surely hide crocodiles and tigers eating everything from the chicken to the buffalo. Not sure that the 5 dogs per family are enough to protect the livestock.

We also noticed huge burned trees in the middle of the plantation. People here use fire to get rid of the jungle and grow pepper and banana. We cannot condemn it as easily as we are used to do in Europe: people here terribly need resources and investment. We’ve seen Chinese, Japanese and European infrastructures but we wonder what is granted in exchange. We crossed for instance the path of a whole Chinese military division, probably training in the area.

Well, the red dust covered our bodies and bags, but behind pick-ups or on the top of a banana load we finally reached Krong Koh Kong where we slept in a Pagoda, again.

Now we are un Sihanoukville, where nothing special happened, and we hope we can reach Chbar Mon by the afternoon!

We wish you a nice week!

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Along the Mekong

We spent the night in Chbar Mon in a school for teachers, where classrooms are used as dormitories too. The future 20yo teachers sat with us in the courtyard and we talked a few hours, some translating for the others.

img_7422The warehouses for textile industry follow the road to Phnom-Penh, some with Chinese label, which confirms the shift of the industry from a country to another. Around 7am minibus and scooters start to move around, some people stopping by like us to eat some rice porridge with Mekong fish and doughnut before going to work.

When we arrive in Phnom-Penh we are surprised by the simplicity of the capital, which looks like a huge village where tall buildings are rare. This gives some charm to the city, crossed by the impressive Mekong and its fishers’ armies. However we don’t want to stay there having no plan and not feeling ready to ask around for a free stay in such a crowded place.

img_7584To go out of it turned to be complex. After 5km walking we found a nice hitchhiking spot but a couple stops and take us back to the center despite us telling them to stop. We had to negotiate with them and at the bus station where they stopped, we finally made them take us back where we were. We reach Chealea at the end of the day, and are welcomed in a Pagoda on a hill. Second problem of the day, the street restaurant doesn’t have food so we have to walk 2km to find dried meat and rice.

These small issues are quite frequent since the beginning in Cambodia. Even if we question our culture and sometimes understand why it happens, which is an important and interesting thing to do, we finish the days quite exhausted.

img_7457Three young guys become monks the day after and we can stay two nights to watch the ceremony. The karma comes definitely back just before leaving Cambodia: a couple going to a wedding stops for us and we get the second ceremony of the week. We cheer with the newly wedded and eat with their families, among almost one thousand of guests. The rites are quite different from the Christian’s ones. For instance the guests bring gifts one after another in the broom’s room, after a procession where the more traditional gifts are at the front. Or the family pretends to cut the hair of the couple while sprinkling water with a rose. We will try to learn more details about these symbols and their meaning when we are back.

img_7522We leave this party well fed and cross the border with Laos. The south of the country is full of tourists who came to admire the dozens of islands on the Mekong river. We have a short view before going to sleep on a rice field. The ground and the trees are dry in comparison with Cambodia and Thailand and we observe for the first time a real difference of season after the wet Indonesia.

We move toward Pakse to sleep again in a Pagoda, where we luckily found some English speaking monk-students. We can exchange a bit, know more about the 10 rules for a monk under 20yo and the 227 after this age. By the way, every buddhist not even monk should follow five rules, like the one of not killing, but also not drinking.
img_7569We feel good to talk, the pagodas being a place used to help poor or old people, we don’t like to come and go without giving anything in exchange.

We walk a lot since the border, more than 20km a day and often around noon, unfortunately we cannot do that much about it for now. We hope we can manage our time better, but at the same time we want to go in the countryside and cars usually stop in the big cities without that much traffic elsewhere.

English level is really low besides the international hello, and sign language is sometimes not enough to be understood. It’s highlighting the difference of cultures and symbols between us in the villages where telecommunications, business and tourism haven’t spread fully yet.

img_7573Close to Khasmida, the only person among fifty to know a little English was transsexual and was feeling totally accepted in the community, which was somehow great in our opinion. We exchanged a bit with her and moved then to camp close to the lake that was actually a muddy pond. Malaria will catch us one day!

Now we are close to some mountains in Thakhet area, and there are many caves around there. If it’s still the case next time, we may try to find one without Buddhas to sleep in! But we need to find some people to discover how they live inside the house too, camping under the stars has some limits.

img_7543About the legends, we decided to take as many videos and note as many things as possible about people’s life and traditions, and we may display it on an interactive map here. The documentary seems complex to do, the situations being too complex and different to have any coherence within a movie. We’ll see!

Have a nice week! And Merry Christmas!

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The Mountain Road

The northern Laos is covered with mountains, and small and poor villages spread along the roads. You can add to this landscape the cold weather, with temperatures dropping to 6 degrees in the morning between Vieng Thong and Phoukhoun.

img_7826The forests bring some wealth to the people, with many skidding trucks around, but we can also spot gold panning and looming on the doorsteps.

Crafting seems quite developed. Vieng Thong’s Pagoda is for instance built on impressive wooden pillars, and the walls are decorated with beautiful sculptures in solid wood. In the touristic Luang Prabang, shops sell silk clothes, probably coming from the workshops we’ve seen in the mountains.
However,  in spite of this industry, almost everybody here wears synthetic clothes and walk in flip flops in the cold winter.

img_7805Unfortunately we couldn’t meet that many people on the road, and couldn’t discover more precisely these crafts, the language barrier and a kind of shyness of people not helping at all.
In Ban Thitnoune, a village high in altitude, we’ve been invited by some guys to drink a local alcohol but the situation degenerated quickly. Fortunately a farmer offered us a dinner in his home, with the light of his fire, and we slept in a teacher’s home where we watched Thai boxing on TV.
We spent also a night in an unexpected strawberry farm, where travellers were invited to camp. Else we could only talk to young guys in some pagodas and to the drivers.

img_7846People actually drive really bad, we’ve seen many accidents of trucks on the side and also a probably dead woman on her scooter. The houses are built as close as one meter from the road, cars go there up to 80 km/h, and children are sent to collect reed along the curves. And you can add to this people parking in curves or in the middle of the road, these roads being the main ones in Laos. We hope this country is doing or will do some awareness campaigns…

img_7932In Oudomxay area, young girls and boys wear traditional clothes to celebrate the end of the year. Here, already from the 30th of December the streets are alive and sound systems turned on. We slept in a vocational school where you could learn about farming, construction, catering and so on. But the administration was out to celebrate new year and those still in the place hesitated to let us camp inside.

Then we struggle for three days to reach the border, and we finish by taking a bus. Thanks to this situation we can at least try rat meat as we are hosted once in a village. They were still celebrating the new year the 1st  of January’s evening. Finally at the border we learn that I cannot get visa on arrival with my Swiss passport. We probably missed something on the embassy website… There is no possible negotiation and we have to go back to Luang Prabang and then to the border again. That’s a good lesson.

img_7660Therefore we are leaving Laos with the feeling we missed many things… And we had harder time than before to find welcoming people or just lifts. That’s the game, and it’s probably about luck. Our next step will be North Vietnam, where we’ll try to get the Chinese visa.

Happy new year to everyone !

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Hanoi under the rain

IMG_7904In Dien Bien Phu at around 10pm, we have some difficulties to find a place for our tent. Our first night in Vietnam will be a great one though: a student stops with his electric scooter and spontaneously invites us to his home. We probably wouldn’t have done it in such a dark street with two tall guys in black…

The next day we struggle hitchhiking but finally reach Son La with a truck, where Thai and his family host us. We visit the city together, stopping by a French prison where many Vietnamese soldiers died during the Independence war.

His mother manages a vegetable shop downstairs and we enjoy it during the dinner. Here they eat mainly a kind of spinach with yellow flowers.

IMG_8300After Son La we have to wait 4h while hitchhiking but the first car takes us directly to Hanoi, through beautiful mountains surrounded by rice fields. In Hanoi we walk a bit to reach our couchsurfer Da in a building dedicated to startups and co-working.

Traffic is dense and it reminds us of Jakarta with the amount of scooters, but we find far more pedestrian walks. We will stay there four days first, relaxing and trying to get the Chinese visa. We taste some food, we buy some new clothes, and a pair of new shoes replacing the old ones worned out by the 1200 km we walked from Indonesia.

It rains hard, and we don’t take any bus so we test the water resistance of our stuff. The result is quite positive! We stay two more days in Hanoi, this time with a lawyer who presents us his friends, CEOs of startups. We visit their office and they compare themselves to other people from the high society of Hanoi, who rely apparently too much on their position and relatives and don’t do that much for the country. Their last mobile phone application is a success, and they work now on an educative one to help kindergartens’ teachers to follow the children’s behaviour.

IMG_8113Another one sells PRM software, another is the CEO of a water distribution company, and so on… We had therefore a good view on the entrepreneurship here, plus all this activity on the streets, and we’ll keep a good memory of the city. We just regret the mess on the streets, and the lack of any driver’s skill there.

Finally it’s good, we got our Chinese visa! The time we need to recover the passports, we escape to Haiphong where in spite of the help of many people we cannot reach our contact 40kms further. Therefore we have to sleep on a soccer field in the suburbs, after walking almost 38kms the whole day.

Something new, pagodas are closed by the night, the religion being apparently weaker here and less respected. We cannot rely on it anymore.

IMG_8214The next day we go to Ha Long, hitchhiking through so many buses and taxis… The coast is disfigured by the hotels, but the bay itself disappears in the fog and seems inaccessible to the tourists. It is only in appearance when we see how many ferrys slip between the islands.

We sleep on the beach, surrounded by oyster fields and crab cages. We chose well our camp place and the water stops at 4m away from us during the night.

Our way back to Hanoi is fast, we meet a couple speaking French who host us for the next two nights, the time for us to recover our passports. They tell us how they lived the Vietnamese war, how Hanoi changed, and it was nice to exchange in French this time.

IMG_8389Then we headed to Lao Cai, a rich town, with so many jewellery shops. We sleep there on the hills and leave again to Sa Pa. There is fog all along the way but the sun finally goes through in the afternoon. We therefore climb a little bit in the muddy fields until we find a place at 1600m, where we have a nice view on the valley. In the morning we enjoy a nice sea of clouds and we go back to Lao Cai.

Our stay in Vietnam was too touristic as we didn’t have enough time to take the little roads. However we will have a nice memory of this country and its welcoming people.

We hope we can still share articles with you in China tomorrow!

See you!

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The Chinese World

IMG_8463 Just after the border, a 20yo couple stops and invites us for dinner. We spend our first days in China with them, in a community organized around a basketball field, and surrounded by banana plantations. Each family living there wants to invite us for a meal and our appetite has to follow the rhythm, moreover they seem to eat 4 times a day in the area.

The new year is coming: everybody is on holiday for at least 3 weeks and the pig has been killed to feed all these people. We enjoy the food and the smiles and we learn how to play with Google translate to talk to our hosts.

It’s also from this moment it is confirmed how important is the cigarette in China. They offer some to us or their friends every 5′, some shops give it for free to attract customers and for instance at the weddings some cups full of it are displayed at the entrance.

Our trip to Kunming starts at the toll where a policeman stops cars for us. He finds one after a long discussion and we don’t know if our driver was somehow forced to take us… Whatever, the guy was nice and we could exchange a little bit on the road.

IMG_8541The first Chinese landscapes are huge, the first villages are cities, where tall buildings are aligned along the roads. The infrastructures are impressive and our map is not up to date anymore, the concrete is still warm and the roads are bright.

After Kunming, a city where everything  seems so recent, we go to Dali. It is one of the most touristic city of China and we discover there the importance of interior tourism in China. A family from Canton takes us there, they did more than 1500 kms to reach Dali. From Dali we are on average at 2200m of altitude  and the road often reaches 3000m. The faces and the clothes of the local ethnics change a lot, languages, food and landscapes too, and we realize how diversified China is. It is more than a country.

We sleep for the first time under 0 degree in the tent, and we almost reach the limit of our equipment. The coldness being more important in the morning, our fingers are frozen when we fold the tent. We try from then on not to sleep outside, and we directly ask people on the street if they can host us. The day after we sleep in a building belonging to a Christian church, then in a shop etc.

IMG_8441One of the village where we sleep is specialised in silver crafting for several centuries. And even if few houses or temples seem old, this quite touristic place is keeping some charm and its village soul. It was the same in Dali, and it seems that tourism doesn’t change that much the cities and the people.

We spend a night in the suburb of a mountain city, Shuanghe, with a family belonging to the local ethnicity. At the light of a fire we eat potatoes cooked in the ash and we chat with the brothers, sisters and cousins  some of them talking a quite good English. We are till now really impressed by the welcoming spirit of Chinese people and how they are proactive.

IMG_8419In Chengdu we spend the new year with a family, in Xin Du district. We are warmly welcomed, again, and we enjoy the sound of firecrackers and the fireworks popping from everywhere around us. These are more or less forbidden in Chengdu center but not here. We visit a big Chinese temple full of people, and we throw the incense in the fire before sending some balloons in the night. In the morning the firecrackers sing again.

In Sichuan province  the food is spicy but not as much as in Indonesia, or differently we cannot say. Whatever we try new tastes, unknown vegetables and meat, some buckwheat tea, green tea, strange sweet and salty crackers etc.

We are now in Mianyang with so much to tell, but we have no time to describe all that we discover here. Days are short while travelling…

IMG_8499-2We will soon buy gloves and hats to fight the minus temperatures of the North. Pollution is visible too but our nose gets cold and we cannot feel it. People warn us regularly about the sand storms between Urumqi and Beijing, we’ll see. To go there when everything is fine wouldn’t it be cheating ? Till some limits 😉

Happy Chinese new year! May the roosters wake everybody up!

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