Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bhutan: Day Two

I was having a delicious Peaceful Resort breakfast, studying my Bhutan magazine homework that my guide, Tsering Penjor, had given me when he and Tobgay (our driver) had met me at the India border, when Tsering startled me by walking out of the hotel kitchen.

"Where is your breakfast?" I asked, when he didn't sit down to eat.

He motioned back to the kitchen. "I am eating with the staff. We have green chilis and rice in there."

I'd noticed he'd munched down an entire green chili last night with his dinner. Bhutanese like their food hot. Really hot. So hot that stomach ulcers are big here.

Darts in Thimpu

Here's one of the sights we stumbled over in Thimpu, on my second day in Bhutan. 

Darts are traditionally a men's game in Bhutan, but more and more women are getting into it. 

The women would encourage their own team and do the Bhutanese equivalent of "Hey batter batter" to the opposing team. When someone scored, they'd run to the center of the field, sing, and do a dance. 

Tsering and Tobgay could have watched this all day, but I was worried about getting sunburned, so we didn't stay too long. 

Tsering told me that Tobgay is quite good at archery, but that he himself isn't so great at it. Of course, that doesn't stop him from doing archery sometimes with his friends. It's sort of like going out to shoot some pool at home. 


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Overnight in Thimpu

"Tsering? Can I ask you a question about Bhutan?" We were getting closer to Thimpu, the largest city and capital of Bhutan—which has the same number of people as Hoboken—and our stop for my first night in the country.

"Yes?" My guide was anxious to answer any questions his tourist had.

"Does Bhutan have the yeti?"

He didn't miss a beat.

"Yes." I could see his face this time, and he did crack a smile.

"What do people do when they see yetis?"

"It is bad luck to see a yeti, and how you escape depends on if it's a male yeti or a female yeti. If it's a male yeti, you run uphill because male yetis have long hair and trip over it. If it's a female yeti, you run downhill as they have very large, sagging breasts and will trip over them."

Bhutan: Day One

A few bites of burnt bread toasted on a burner at half past eight in the morning...ick...and some vile hot water with a smidgen of Nescafe in it. Blech. I was more-than-ready to get out of the dusty border town of Jaigaon.

Tsering Penjor and Tobgay—my guide and driver from the Bhutan Your Way agency—were in the hotel lobby, adorned in traditional Bhutanese dress of black knee socks and long-sleeved, knee-length robes, held in at the waist by sashes. Both of their outfits were plaid, and both men had pulled their tops down in the heat of Jaigaon, revealing T-shirts underneath.

Tobgay went straight for my luggage. Nice. I could get used to this. Even better, he secured my bag in the back of our gold-colored Hyundai hatchback with a stretchy net.

Tsering led me to our car and closed the door behind me. I sat for a minute as Tobgay drove us slowly through Jaigaon and turned right. Last night, we'd seen the arch that separated the Indian side of town from the Bhutanese side. Today we drove through that gate, under the watchful eye of a Bhutanese guard.

We parked on the other side. Tsering had mentioned that the border town looked identical on both sides. That wasn't quite true—things were a bit cleaner here in Phuentsholing, and much quieter.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Darjeeling to Jaigaon

 I was up and showered when someone knocked on my door at 7 a.m.

How sweet! The hotel clerk had brought me hot water in a Thermos because I was leaving Darjeeling too early for breakfast. I made instant coffee in my hotel room, sipping it alongside a stale pastry I'd bought last night.

I left my room, walked two flights down to the front desk, turned in my key, walked four more flights down to the street, zigzagged down some switchbacks to a path in between some buildings, and hiked down the hill to the old supermarket, where the buses leave from.

My bus was there, a large orange-brown and white striped full-size coach showing a sign with our destination—Jaigaon—across its window.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Always Take A Utility Knife or Multi-Tool


Darjeeling had been a pleasant place to hang out for a week, but it was time to move on to Bhutan.

Bhutan had determined that I'd ended up in Darjeeling anyway—I'd needed to find a land route to the Bhutanese border—discounting my flight expenses a bit—and Darjeeling was a convenient, pleasant city en route. I'd needed to pass some time since my scheduled trip didn't start until the 30th—I was trying to delay in order to hedge my bets and get to Bhutan as close as possible to the end of the rainy season.

I wore my jeans every day in the rainy chill of Darjeeling, went on the toy train, drank a lot of tea, went to the zoo, and to the nearby Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. I love a good mountaineering story and am a bit of an Everest buff. I also like yetis.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

To Ghum by Choo-Choo

Finally, I could see Darjeeling! The cover of fog was gone.


This city in the clouds is a lovely place, its culture influenced by refugees from Tibet as well as proximity to Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan. Advocates of the area becoming its own state call the area Gorhkaland rather than West Bengal—that discussion is ongoing, with no clear resolution in sight.

I took advantage of the perfect weather to go on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the "toy train." Landslides had stopped the regular daily train journey down the mountain at the moment, but tourists could still take joyrides on the steam train from Darjeeling to Ghum, some 20 kilometers down the track.

You're supposed to buy your tickets the day before, but I've become completely slack in my planning, so I just trotted down to the station before departure time.

And the train was sold out. That's because the engine is antique—not just in a charming way, but the damn thing barely works as it heaves and puffs its way along the tiny tracks set into the road. The engine is so frail at this point—a ticket seller explained to me that "We are having some problems with our Indian engine"—that it can only haul a single carriage of tourists at a time. And all the seats were gone.

Except they weren't, because I was just a single person. One of the ticket sellers asked "How many," and I responded "One." He motioned me into an office where he wrote out a single ticket and hustled me into the last seat in the corner. And we were off!

The locomotive was on backwards.

The train had barely left the station before is stopped under a water spout, taking on water until the engine overflowed. The poor train looked like it wanted out of its misery.

We sluggishly went up the hill to a panoramic viewpoint, stopped for photos (and to shovel in more coal), then proceeded to Ghum, the engineer waving at friends as we went. Ghum has a small museum, which the passengers looked at while the locomotive turned around—now it was facing the right way—then the train pulled us back to Darjeeling.

Here's a little video of the train. And as an added bonus: Now I know what it was like to travel on steam trains in the old days. Because when I disembarked, I realized that I was covered in soot. (More photos are here.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Day in the Clouds

Ugh, all this rain. It's like—I dunno—I'm in the Himalayan foothills during the monsoon or something.

Well, at least I'm not taking the easiest route.

And my view of those Himalayas was like this:


But I had to go to the post office and also get some work done, so at least the rain and fog kept me tied down.

I left my wood-panelled attic room atop the Dekeling Hotel and wandered to the post office with the souvenirs I'd carried from Kathmandu.  The official package-wrapper sat in the corner behind a weatherbeaten table the size of an elementary school classroom desk. He motioned me over, and I handed him my four souvenirs—two Tibetan paintings and two baby-yak-wool shawls, all bound for separate destinations.

The package-man inspected the goods. That's part of his job too, to handle the customs end of things. Satisfied that I was posting only what I said I was sending—I was glad I hadn't included the kama sutra tiles I'd picked up in Tibet for an as-yet-unspecified souvenir-buyer—he slowly wrapped each piece in off-white cotton cloth, sewed it up with heavy-duty thread, then used a candle to heat and stamp a wax seal on all the seams.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Varanasi to Darjeeling

After packing up and storing my luggage with the Varanasi Radisson bellhop, I tried to post my souvenirs to their various new homes.

Damn. Indian holiday. Banks and post office were closed. I was going to have to carry my souvenirs on to Darjeeling. I worried...what if I left them on a train or bus?

Cursing the hot sun and the holiday, I walked back to the hotel to leave my souvenirs with my backpack, then gamely went down the road to try the Chicken Maharaja Mac at the Varanasi McDonald's.

The golden arches aren't big in India, because, duh, they don't eat cows there. But various forms of chicken burgers seem to have a following, and it wouldn't be sporting of me to just eat a wrap or a salad, so I tried out the chicken version of the Big Mac.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Few Days in Varanasi

My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. Ugh. 

Varanasi was almost idyllic this early and no one hassled me to take their rickshaw or photograph their monkey at this time of morning, as I straggled over to the budget hotel next door to the Radisson, to go on their morning excursion to the Ganges.

The excursion from the budget hotel was cheap, but I paid in other ways. Two of the other passengers were friendly and pleasant, but the third was a brash, loud Italian woman who would not shut up.

She was so loud and irritating that at one point, the guide muttered "If I'd known she didn't listen and talked all the time, I wouldn't have let her come."

Morning excursions to the ghats on the Ganges are one of the top sights in India, something that tourists make pilgrimages to, in order to watch the pilgrims wash in the holy river.

But hardly any pilgrims (or tourists) were here this year, with the river being high enough to flood the steps on all the ghats. The current was so fast on the river that the boats couldn't even run the whole circuit. We could only motor along half the regular route, up to Assi Ghat and back, and there weren't many people there doing their ablutions.

Here are more photos of Varanasi and of the onward trip to Darjeeling.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Night on the Ganges


Varanasi's Radisson was a charming and deliciously comfortable hotel, with two problems.

1) The laundry service charged by the piece. And every single thing I owned—aside from the clothes on my back—was damp and stinky. And the clothes on my back smelled like I'd ridden an elephant, a bus, and slept on a train in them.

2) The excursions were exorbitantly priced. 

No problem. I hand-washed every piece of my clothing and hung it all over my room, while continuing to wear the stinky stuff. The in-room iron helped too. And for the excursions, I trekked down the road to the overland-group hotel, Surya, where I'd stayed with Dragoman in 1998.

By Train to Varanasi

The dusty border town of Sonauli has a bad reputation, like so many border towns. But even with its dust, touts, and opportunists, the frontier didn't strike me as out of the ordinary, and seemed less corrupt than many. At least no one in an official capacity encouraged me to hand over a tip.

I walked across the border from Nepal, wandered down the filthy street—stepping around mud—to Immigration, which was located in what looked to me like a tiny shack. I was pestered by a rickshaw driver as I filled out a paper and got my expensive India visa stamped, then walked about 20 feet before a share-taxi driver asked me if I was looking for a lift to Gorakhpur.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Morning Elephant Ride

I dragged myself out of bed early—I had an elephant to ride before getting on the 9:30 six-hour bus to the Nepal-India border.

The lodge provided a vehicle to take me and two other guests over to the community elephants, and we climbed stairs up a wooden platform to gingerly step out onto the elephants back and then into the saddle.

I was hanging off the back this time—penance, maybe for having a good view last time I did this—and most of what I saw looked like this:




Hmmph.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

By Bus to Chitwan

The sunny roads of Kathmandu were empty as the Citylink bus pulled out of town at seven in the morning. And as we started on our way to Chitwan National Park, I noticed that the roads were empty in the countryside too.

It wasn't until several hours into the journey that the Nepalese man sitting next to me explained that there was a public transportation strike today. Only the tourist buses and private cars were running.

That explained why so many Nepalese were on today's tourist bus.

We stopped for a rushed breakfast at a casual countryside rest stop an hour in, and I ended up drinking Nescafe across from a solo traveler who casually inquired as to my origin. Turned out she lived around the corner from my old Marvel office and taught at Hunter College.

The bus wobbled alone along the narrow, curvy road through the green foothills of Nepal. When we had a flat tire, no one seemed to mind. The bus staff whipped the old tire off and replaced it in a flurry of efficiency. The passengers loaded back onto the bus and were off again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Last Night in Kathmandu

I sat in the cafe near my Kathmandu hotel eating a grilled yak cheese sandwich while reading up on Chitwan lodge possibilities and then hotels in Varanasi—my, there are a lot of bedbugs in Varanasi—when my laptop seized up into another of its revolving beachball fits. The laptop hadn't been the same since it flew off the motorbike at the Gabon-Congo border. I waited impatiently for the beachball to stop, and that's when a kitten seized the moment to jump into my lap. She curled up and went to sleep.

That seemed auspicious, so I went ahead and booked Sapana Village Lodge for tomorrow night in Chitwan. I'd been to Chitwan in 1998, and remembered it fondly. You get to ride elephants while searching for rhino. We'd seen a half-dozen rhino back then, both from elephants and from a Jeep and even walking (which was terrifying but fun). Unfortunately a number of the rhino had been poached by assholes during Nepal's intervening years of political strife.

One wishes there were a way to convince users of rhino-horn medicines that 1) their supposed powers are mythical and users are complete fools and 2) even if they did work, the sexual prowess of a rhino-horn-med user is a pretty poor reason to kill a rhino. Can't get it up? So what. You'll live, unlike the poor rhinoceros that was killed for your worthless self.

An Old Friend and Past Guest Star

I'd started nosing around online a few days ago in my Kathmandu hotel room and had a bit of a panic.

Seat61.com—a fabulous site that has been explaining the world's trains to us since the early part of MariesWorldTour 2001—had showed me how to buy the India sleeper train tickets I needed for part of my overland journey from Nepal to Bhutan. The best way, it seemed, was to book them here, at Cleartrip.com. This way they were confirmed, final, easy, authentic.

But there sure weren't many left.

I found myself scrambling for any A/C sleeper I could get. Ah, that's the key. A website called IndiaMike.com pointed out to me that while only a few trains went through Varanasi en route to New Jalpaiguri (the jumping-off point I needed near Bhutan), lots of trains went through Mughal Sari, some 20 kilometers from Varanasi.

I grabbed what I could get. August 22, from Mughal Sari to New Jalpaiguri. I added a an overnight trip from near the Nepal border to Varanasi. Now I had a schedule, a reason to leave Kathmandu. And soon.

But first, I went to see my friend Sareena.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The World According to Me

Some of you know that Wanderlust magazine has been excerpting this blog on its website every Sunday for a few months.

And they posted an interview with me as well. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

But Is It Made Out of Tigers?

Lasagne. Sinatra. Kathmandu.

And Tiger Balm. That goddamned Tiger Balm. It's everywhere. Just when you've sat down for some comfort food in a cafe where you didn't really expect to hear Hoboken's most famous former citizen, a Tiger Balm salesman is in your face, furtively whispering as if he were selling illegal drugs.

"Pssst, Tiger Balm?"

I'm beginning to think it's a metaphor. Maybe he IS trying to sell hashish. But then, what are the other whispering salesmen selling, the guys who open their palms to reveal a small packet?

"Transport? No? Hash then?"

Ah, Kathmandu. As restricted and policed as non-Chinese tourism is in Tibet, Nepal is equal amounts free-for-all. Tourism runs rampant, creating a competitive atmosphere that can sell you all the hash and Tiger Balm any one person could consume in an entire lifetime, that can produce hundreds of tiny cheap guesthouses (but can't quite make them appealing), where if a trekking tea house is too full, a backpacker can just sleep on the kitchen floor.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Checking In

As I ate breakfast in the Ganesh Himal Hotel's restaurant, a familiar song came on in the background. I identified it in a second—I'd heard it many times. This was from the Tibetan Incantations CD, which I'd bought in 1998 after hearing it repeatedly on my last trip to Kathmandu.

"Nice to know that Kathmandu's Hotel California isn't, in fact, Hotel California," I thought. Though I did get sick of this CD over the next week.

Today I had to find a hotel, as there was no room at the inn tonight. I initially thought I didn't mind as the Ganesh Himal is a bit of a walk from central Thamel. Not too bad, but just enough that I was unlikely to scamper out on a whim. And for some, being out of Thamel is a good thing. It's noisy, crowded, and full of touts and tourists. I am not totally opposed to such a place. I am a city gal, addicted to convenience.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You Know You're Not In China Anymore When...

Here's one of the first buildings I saw when we pulled into Kathmandu.

After being in China and Tibet where Facebook is banned, this blatant attempt to capitalize on its brand came as a shock.


Who Put the Adventure Into Today's Easy Itinerary?

Two kilometers of mud near the Nepal-Tibet border separated me from the sealed road to Kathmandu.

Today was supposed to be an easy day. Cross border. Board bus. Arrive in Kathmandu and check in at the newish hotel, Ganesh Himal, which got good reviews on TripAdvisor. 

But this mud, which presumably resulted from all the rain washing the road out, presented me with a novel dilemma. Namely, how to cross it. 

But where there is a dilemma, there are entrepreneurs working out a solution. And here on the Nepalese border, local residents had become impromptu porters and guides. 

"You can ride piggyback," announced a helpful young man when I eyeballed the mud and then looked at my utterly inappropriate footwear. (My Tevas were uselessly packed away.)

Crossing to Nepal

Something was wrong.

I'd crossed from Tibet into Nepal—in the rain—and no one cared.

Where were the money changers? The taxi drivers? Where was Immigration? Didn't anyone want to stamp my passport?

I asked a guard at the end of the bridge for directions to Immigration. She casually waved me on.

Maybe it's just because it's Sunday morning and I was first through from Tibet today, I thought. And all of China is on one time zone. Which might make sense in Beijing but doesn't make a lot of sense out west in Tibet. So by crossing to Nepal, I'd gone back to 7:45 a.m.

Yes, that's right. Nepal is two hours AND 15 MINUTES behind China.

I saw no open doors, no signs for Immigration. Every business was shut. I walked down a hill and suddenly realized I'd paced the entire one-strip border town. I turned around and walked back, cursing the hill and my poor fitness. Immigration had opened while I'd been on my rainy stroll and was now easy to find. The officers cheerfully greeted me, sold me a $25 visa, and waved me down the block to a coffee shop that changes money.

From Everest to Zhangmu

We drove away from Tibet's Everest Base Camp along the old road through the plateau back to the steep switchbacks leading to the Friendship Highway. Once there, we pulled up to a rural roadside restaurant for some noodle-and-vegetable soup.

Which is where I realized I had a small key in my pocket. The key to the padlock on the door back at the Rangphu Monastery Guesthouse. I left it with the restaurant staff, with instructions to hand it off to the next group heading in the other direction.

I hope the key found its way home.

I sat alone until some Indian-American tourists struck up a conversation. They were traveling with their families, but had left Everest early when one of them had gotten altitude-sick. They now waited for the rest of their group.

But one of their group had gotten seriously ill and was in a hospital back in Lhasa. They were scheduled to depart for Nepal tomorrow but were on a group visa.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Room With A View

I went to bed without supper—god forbid I should get food poisoning with the toilets on offer at the Rangphu Monastery guesthouse—and in the morning, woke up at six to look out the window.

Fog.

And snow.

Snow? Where had that come from?

My guide, Rinchin, had made sure that I got a room with a view of Mt. Everest. Except the fog had messed up his plan.

But at seven, Rinchin peering into my big window. (Fortunately, I was clothed, though I was blowing my nose.)

"The mountain!"

I hurried outside with my camera.

"It has never disappointed me yet, not in a hundred times of coming here," he murmured as we stood in the center of the tiny village, between the stupa of Rongphu Monastery and our guesthouse. He even took a few photos with his phone.

"We were lucky because it snowed. Snow is good luck."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On to Everest

I made the mistake of waking up too early. The Shigatse hotel turned on the hot water an hour AFTER I showered. Sigh.

We left the tired old hotel—which had rooms left yesterday since it was about to be renovated—after breakfast, which was a unique experience. Breakfast was included, so I dutifully traipsed into the huge, dilapidated hotel dining room at 7:30, where I learned that the meal was buffet-style and all eastern—that is, soup, noodles, vegetables. I didn't have high expectations here so I found a bun, ordered some instant coffee, and went to sit down.

A waitperson noticed me and motioned me over to a small table by the kitchen.

I was sitting there, nibbling my bun and waiting on my coffee, when an array of foods was presented to me.

Suddenly, the waitress brought me a fried egg. Oh. I ate it, amused by this new treat.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dancing Tibetan Men of Shigatse

Here's some video footage of the Tibetan men practicing their pageant dance outside Shigatse. I apologize for the annoying sound of the generator.

And click here for more photos of the entire day.

Gyantse to Shigatse

"The ride is short today, but we're leaving early because we need to pick up your permit for Everest," explained my guide as he opened the car door to let me hop up into the 4x4.

There's a lot of opening and shutting doors for me here. And carrying my luggage. Not that I'm complaining, but I feel kind of silly when someone waits for me to get into a vehicle and then closes the door behind me.

Permits…what is all this about permits, I wondered. Tibet's Everest Base Camp is sensitive as it's in a border region and they're afraid I might try to go to Nepal illegally…by CLIMBING EVEREST? I don't think so. I appreciate what mountaineers do (especially Reinhold Messner when he tried to find the yeti), but I think they're crazy. More like the Chinese government wants to know who to fine if a banned Tibetan flag ends up unfurled and plastered over a Tibetan hill when I happen to be at base camp.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lhasa to Gyantse

Some Chinese fishermen walked alongside the road as we headed along the river out of Lhasa. My government-mandated guide and driver both chuckled from the front seat of the white Land Cruiser.

Okay, I'll bite.

"What's so funny?"

My driver, a 60-ish Tibetan man in tinted 70s glasses, didn't speak much English and didn't answer me. My guide, a fluent English-speaking Tibetan in his forties, did.

"Tibetans don't fish. We find fishing to be really funny."

That didn't really answer my question, so I tried again.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lhasa: Day Four

I showered fearlessly. I'd been mocking the tourist literature all week, which suggested that washing my hands and showering might cause me to catch a cold at altitude. This was, of course, insane.

Then today I'd realized that this was based on most people outside the city having no hot water. So yes, washing in glacial-melt water probably wasn't a good idea.

But the Yak, though it had a stinky bathroom, did have hot water.

My guide met me to escort me to Jokhang Temple, which is at the center of Lhasa's old town and is one of the holiest, most sacred sites in Tibet. Pilgrims used to hike for weeks to reach it, but now they can just take the bus—thanks to the new Chinese roads (oh, the dilemmas offered by the modern world!)—and boy, do they. In droves. Pilgrims were everywhere, along with hundreds of Chinese tourists.

Friday, August 5, 2011

More Lhasa Photos

Here are more photos of my second and third day in Lhasa.

And here's a link to the previous photos.

Lhasa: Day Three

Hic.


Hic.

Are hiccups a symptom of altitude sickness?

Or maybe they're just a symptom of being crabby. Tibet itself was charming my socks off while being simultaneously heartbreaking with the hardcore military presence, but I was still feeling crabby, given that the enforced tour didn't include hotels or admissions or taxis within Lhasa.

But yesterday, I'd learned that my guide was actually paying attention when I'd complained about the price of the taxi and he'd effortlessly switched us to the public bus for the return trip. Maybe being on a leash in Tibet would work out all right in spite of it being annoying.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lhasa: Day Two

"Where is breakfast? I was at the front desk of the Yak Hotel in Lhasa.

"Fifth floor."

"Where is the elevator?"

"There is no elevator.

Oh. 

I live on a 4th floor walk-up at home (no elevator there either) but at home I live at sea level. Lhasa is at 3650 meters, or 12,000 feet. That's a lot. It's not the highest city on earth or even the highest city I've ever visited—that honor prior to this trip belonged to La Paz, Bolivia, but only just as it wasn't much higher than Lhasa. Because I'd been there, I knew I'd be okay in Lhasa, though I was concerned about Everest Base Camp later in the week. But having been to La Paz didn't mean I breezed up the stairs here. I was puffing a bit by the time I got to the top. I was glad I'd booked in for four days to acclimate before heading down the Friendship Highway.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lhasa: Day One

 I waited an hour in my room, wondering when my guide would show up to do whatever guides do when you first arrive in a country. He'd been at the airport straightening something out with a departing group's tickets and sent me ahead to Yak Hotel, which was crumbling and had a stinky sewer drain in the room (I quickly got into an ongoing battle with some invisible force of housekeeping, who took the towel off that I'd throw over the bathroom drain every day), but was a damn sight better than having no room at all. Plus, the location was great for access to the center of Lhasa's old town.

I unpacked and stared at the wall for a bit, before getting bored. I took my laptop and went to the restaurant next door, Dunya, which turned out to be delicious and had wifi. 

"I'm going next door," I told the hotel receptionist. "When my guide arrives, can you tell him I'm in the restaurant having a cup of tea?"

I worked there for a few hours until my MacBook battery ran down, then tried my iPhone via wifi on a proxy server just to see where the bigger world thought I was but all I got was a loop of interwebs confusion, so I went back to my room. The phone rang immediately.

Heading to Lhasa

I plucked this choice bit off of the New Yorker's website. It's from 2007, when the train to Tibet first opened.


Between this and the consideration that the ethics of the train to Tibet were complicated, maybe it was for the best that I couldn't get a sleeper and had chosen to fly instead.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pandas!

The coolest tourist attraction in Chengdu has got to be this.

PANDAS.



Here are plenty more photos of Panda Day, the most-bestest animal day since Lemur Day with Guy back in Madagascar.