From Hong Kong to Beijing

8 04 2010

On our second day in Hong Kong we had planned to take an open air double decked bus tour around the city.  When we woke up the weather would have nothing of it though.  It was raining and kind of cold so for the first time during our trip the weather made us change our plans and first we went to the Hong Kong museum of Art and then we went shopping.  I have never seen so many shops anywhere and the luxury brand stores here will make even Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich blush!

In the evening we saw the Symphony of Lights, a fabulous light-show where the sky-scrapers on Hong Kong island are the main actors.  The lights on the sky-scrapers dance to the rhythm of a specially composed music and you can kind of see the character of the sky-scrapers on how they dance.  Some are shy and minimalistic while others are cocky and a bit of a show-off and everything between. 

This morning we took the short flight to Beijing and landed in Beijing in the afternoon.  The weather in the capital was nice and the temperature was about thirty degrees hotter than when we flow through in January.  We have been quite impressed with the Chinese so far.  People have seemed cheerful and there is a pleasant wibe everywhere we have been. 

The taxi drives tried to scam us though.  We knew that we should pay 15 Yuan ($2) from the train station to our hostel but they didn’t want to talk to us for less than 100 Yuan.  We met two girls that told us they paid 300 Yuan ($45) for a ride that was supposed to be 20 Yuan.  Fortunately we found a tourist information office that helped us out.  It shows what we knew that you have to know everywhere what is the right price to pay for things or else you will be overcharged.

In the evening we went to a touristy night market that sold food and snacks from all over China.  On offer were for example grilled snakes and scorpions and worms, lamb testicles and penises, pig kidneys and hearts and cow stomachs and many other mouth-watering dishes.  We were not so adventurous and had fried dumplings, chicken pancakes, Chinese hamburgers and deep-fried ice-cream for dessert.  All of the dishes we tried were very delicious.  Hopefully we’ll go again and perhaps we’ll be more adventurous then ;)


3 02 2010

Later today we are going over the Cambodian border.  We have read a lot of stories from people going this way.  It seems like there are a lot of scams to be aware of and dirty border guards as well.  I haven’t seen that it is dangerous, more that there are a lot of scams where the people are trying to trick you out of our money by over paying for the Visa in several ways or tricking you into exchanging money with a ridiculous rate or setting you into a guesthouse where the drivers get paid for delivering the guests and everyone gets angry when you, the paid for guest, don’t want to stay at that particular guesthouse.

We decided to go on our own to the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet and go by our selves to the border.  I’ll post later how that goes.  We are quite excited after reading all the stories and we better get going….

Out of Bangkok

16 01 2010

We had three good days in Bangkok but at the same time were ready to leave when the time came. We had explored the neighborhood, seen the magnificent Grand Palace, visited Buddha temples, seen Buddha in all his seven positions (laying, standing, kneeling, etc.), gotten out of two scams and gotten friskier with the local food so we felt ready to take on Thailand!

Part of The National Museum

Part of The National Museum

Both scams were quite interesting in a way. One we had heard of from other blogs and travel books. We met a nice guy that wanted to help us to get to where we were going. We didn’t quite know where we were going but that didn’t knock him down. After a while we told him we wanted to see the Royal Palace and also the tourist office across the street. He told us that today the King would be at the Palace and the tourist office would be close until later in the day because they all wanted to salute the King. We should go and see some other Buddha that he knew of. He also told us that today the King was giving out petrol and therefore we shouldn’t pay more than 20 baht (50 cent) for any Tuk Tuk today. Right on cue a Tuk Tuk arrives and the driver carries a map which our friend uses to show us where this Buddha of his is located. They talk a bit and the driver offers to drive us to the Buddha for the 20 baht. We had already realized that something was fishy in this story so we just walked away saying we wanted to check for our selves. We walked across the street to the tourist office and there everything was in full swing and at the Palace it seemed like a normal day, not that we know what a normal day is like there but you know…

The other scam was a school book example as well, we met an old old lady that was attending the pigeons. She wanted us to take small bags of corn from her and give to the birds. When we didn’t want the bags she managed somehow to hang them on me and told me to give the corn to the pigeons which we did. When we had emptied the bags she demanded 150 baht from us (5 USD). After haggling with her a bit I paid her 7 baht and off we went.

I wouldn’t say that the scams were entertaining, well maybe the first one, but at least a bit of an experience and teaches us to be careful and take nothing for granted. At least we got off easy this time.

As I said, we have been getting friskier with the food here. We have tried some street food and snacks and everything has been really tasty. We are not eating insects or some unidentified things yet but who knows, that might come later. We have been tasting the regular Thai food like fried rice, noodles and curries and have had some Indian food as well and as I said, everything has been very good. The price on the street is about one-third of what you pay at a restaurant where you pay about 120 baht ($4) for one of those above mentioned traditional dishes. I have been a bit surprised with the price of beer here. It costs about $2 a bottle, even at seven-eleven-, which is more than in the stores both the US and Switzerland. It seems that the Thai people are on the same boat as Icelanders in breaking the universal code among men to offer cheap beer to the masses.

We left Bangkok in a VIP night bus – no less – heading towards Chumphon in the south. The bus was a nice double-decker, quite comfortable, so we were able to sleep most of the way. When in Chumphon we took a big catamaran that took us to the island of Ko Tao where we are now. Ko Tao is on of three famous islands in the Gulf of Thailand and is mostly sought out by divers. The atmosphere in the boat was quite special. Since the sea was moving a bit, people were puking all over the boat but others didn’t seem too distracted and slept the whole way. We kept somewhere in between the two groups, partly sleeping and somewhat nauseous but without getting too sick.

…and now the sport section. We have started an Asian Board-game Tour (ABT) and at first the tour will include Ludo, Backgammon and a diced Scrabble. A couple of rounds have already been played and the score so far are as follows

Ludo 1 2
Backgammon 1 0
Scrabble 0 1

On Ko Tao we rented a very basic bungalow near the ocean for two nights and headed straight for the beach. We’ll get back in touch when we’ve seen more of the island than just our beach and the coral reefs beyond :)
The view from the bungalows on Ko Tao

The view from the bungalows on Ko Tao

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Looking forward to hearing from you!
– Ö r n  and  E l í n b o r g –