Sunday, November 15, 2015

"If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all."

The aim is to be less reactive, more objective. To focus more on a solution than to obsess over the problem. To be less angry and judgemental but to be more open and calm. But what if it is just too difficult to be non reactive to someone elses negative behaviour? Is it so bad to just give up trying to be in harmony with that person, and choose my own stability as priority, and stop annihilating my own soul just to accomodate theirs? When can I say, there, I have tried enough and when can I say, I need to be more willing.

I am now in Salta. It is a bit of a dump with police everywhere, rough around the edges in not a good way, it is kinda like what little I saw of xinjiang in china. Can't wait to leave.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

I made it!!!

To Argentina!!!! Honestly if you just knew the difficulties I faced in getting to this continent, from missed flights to a sick parent, you would understand how surprised I was when I finally landed, and immigration stamped me through with just one beautiful question.... "Como Estas"

From then on, it has been beautiful.

Buenos Aires... At first I stayed at sabatico hostel, which was lovely and quiet enough to sleep off my jetlag the first day and to explore the local neighbourhood of San Telmo where I had the most delicious empanadas for 11pesos, got a local SIM after much funny communication difficulties, did a tip based walking tour, changed money at the blue rate at the hostel.

 Then I moved to stay with a couchsurfer in Palermo neighbourhood, where we toured around the area on his motorbike, had alfajores and helados, went out for a delicious steak dinner, with two other people from the UK we met while queing up to enter the restaurant.

 The day after I did another tip based walking tour in a different area, and met two cool people, one bearded hippie type music producer slash rock guitarist in rolled up jeans Chileno and the other a blue eyed ponytailed aztecprintbackpacked carpainter hiker type Austrian. Spent the day with them exploring, visiting the Recoleta cemetery, having cheesy pizza by the sidewalk, having beers in a park, feeling the rush of rush hour in the subte (and yet even in rush hour the portenos remained polite and in good humour, what people!) , meeting the Chileno's cs host, having wine while watching folk dancing on YouTube, having the most delicious hamburgers, then finally stumbling home on a late night collectivo.

By day four, the aquamarine eyed Austrian hiker had hopped on a plane to his argentinian girlfriend, leaving the Chileno and me to explore BA. From Florida to the best pizza ever at the iconic BA pizzaria Vanchero to cafe con leche in an atmospheric cafe I dont remember where to Puerto madero and a great park, it was a lovely day although energy levels were dropping compared to the day before and I was starting to feel tired.

Day five, I left Buenos Aires, got tickets to Rosario feeling a little bummed to leave Buenos Aires so early since I was starting to really like the city. But I had nothing to be bummed about because Rosario, turned out to be quite a fun experience.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Argentina

After my utter failure to get on that flight to Brazil, I was sat at bangkok airport thinking what to do... The options were, look around Bangkok (no thank you), look around Thailand (not really interested), go somewhere else for a short holiday (fun, but I would have to spend money), or just go home (easily the most cost effective but also the most boring).

So I went home. Bought another flight ticket, to Argentina this time.. Let's see if I make the flight.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A dark day

So.... I missed my flight to Brazil.

Still in malaysia!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hong Kong, Home and future plans

So as is obvious from the previous post, what started out as a bit of fun travelling with some company eventually turned into an emotional roller coaster ride. Coming back to HK felt great but quickly I ran into a few issues. One of them was sleep, or the lack of. Either I had difficulty sleeping or difficulty staying asleep. The first night I woke up when a new roomate came in to the dorm and I think I started talking to him as if he was L. The second night I slept at 5am after a fun night out, thinking that all the beers I had (too many) would keep me sleeping for a bit. Nope, I was up at 8am. Third night, again I woke up when the two guys staying in my dorm came in and again, while being mostly asleep (not aware enough to stop, but aware enough to remember it the next day) I started talking nonsense to them about why they are sleeping in their beds. I woke up that morning to a cloudy, grey day feeling depressed as shit for the first time in days... I was more messed up from the whole experience with L than I was willing to admit to myself and it was time to hit the reset button. Or perhaps it is slightly cruel and unfair to blame all my emotional issues on my brief time with L, perhaps accepting that I was leaving my home (of four years) for my "home" which I havent been in for 7 - 8 years was also stressful. Anyway, I booked a last minute flight and got myself home to KL the next day.

The first few weeks after I left - in russia and my first days in ulan baatar - I was missing the comfort and sense of purpose that comes with routine life. Going to work every day may have been tiring and occasionally boring but it still had more meaning and fulfillment than my little train tour of Russia. I was missing that badly. But somewhere in Mongolia something changed. It is like a knot within me relaxed, a knot which I wasn't even aware of acquiring.. I started enjoying my life again, day to day and I realized that I hadn't relaxed in a long time. Maybe I just got used to being on holiday but suddenly the prospect of working again seemed so unattractive. I liked travelling again! This feeling of not knowing what I want followed me to China. One day in Urumqi, I was feeling particularly conflicted about going home and discussed it with an old friend from my Lincoln days, Luca, who had also returned home after a couple of years in the UK. He thought that if I was meant to not be at home at this point, I will realize it when I am home and I will want to leave. I thought about it but going home was to be far too big a risk to take. "What if I went home and I never left again?!" seems so childish now in retrospect but back then avoidance seemed to be the best choice.

And then I have to tell you about south america - in relation to me. Summer of 2012 I wanted to go, but told myself next year. Summer of 2013 I wanted to go, but told myself 3 weeks (that was all the holiday I had) was too short. Summer of 2014 I tried to arrange my medical elective there but couldnt find a hospital that would accept me without an agency and agencies were far too pricey. Summer of this year again I was torn between either SA or going home overland. Because of flight prices and also my own skepticism if I had outgrown the travel bug, I went to Russia. So its been a long time coming and as I sat outside scoozi hostel in Guilin, I knew it was now or never. There were reasonably priced flights from Bangkok to Brazil and either I bite the bullet now or continue to just dream about it. Somehow Brazil never attracted me much - with much of my daydreams and googling being focussed on Argentina and particularly Chile - but hey, if that is where I can fly to without breaking the bank, then that is where I will go.

And that how my first afternoon in Hong Kong was spent booking my flights to Manaus.

As for going home, it was great. Really missed the place. Leaving was difficult.
But again, although I am sad to leave home yet again, I know if I dont do it this time, I probably wont, not for a while at least.

So here we are again! One more little adventure coming my way.

4 flights to get me there, 1 down, 3 more to go.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

30 days in china

3 weeks were nowhere near sufficient to enjoy the gorgeousness that is Mongolia, but as the temperatures started to plummet in early September, I decided to leave. From Ulan Batar I took a overnight hard sleeper to the border town of Zamyn Uud (20000 tugrik, approx 14 hrs), and from the Mongolian side of the border there were buses direct to Hohhot for 120yuan thus saving me the trouble of bargaining a price with the jeep guys.

Day 1: Ni hao China! Zamyn uud to Hohhot

And so with some sadness I left Mongolia behind. The friendly chinese immigration guy stamped me in, and my bus took me to the city of Hohhot, which felt insanely crowded/busy/modern after 3 weeks in Mongolia. I was meant to couchsurf that night but had no chinese sim card, had no credit in my uk sim card and so I went to kfc in search of wifi. Couldn't get the wifi to work so started asking random people having fried chicken to help me out. Everyone came together and did try to help but without a chinese sim card i was stuck without a login. So I took a taxi to the couchsurfer's address, hung out outside carrefour and accosted random strangers until i found someone who spoke english.
This kind beautiful lady got in touch with my host for me and hung out with me until he got there. I was starting to really like China.

Day 2: Hohhot

This day was filled with so much good food that I drool on reflex just thinking about it. Went for breakfast with my host, we had the best dumplings I would ever have in the 30 days to come. Went to the museum, walked about the center, went to the muslim area, some random tourist street then we went out for dinner and we had the most kickass noodles I would have in China. This two meals and the countless snacks I had more than made up for my 3 weeks of not-so-great food in Mongolia...

Day 3: Hohhot to Jiayuguan

1st Chinese train ride, many more to come. Buying tickets were straightforward. Couldn't reach the luggage compartment so a Chinese uncle standing and a xinjiang lady lying on the top bunk put away my bag for me...teamwork! Fell sick on the train. Vomiting and diarrhoea in a squat toilet on a moving train? Unforgettable...

Day 4: Jiayuguan

This was my first acquaintance with that great Chinese law of not accepting foreigners into local hotels. I had all sorts of trouble finding a place to stay and my non-existent Mandarin skills did not help. After asking countless hotels around town I find one that would take me for 120 a night. Exhausted with D&V and lack of sleep, I take it! After a shower, I head out on a mission to find my way out of there. Had all sorts of difficulties finding ticket office for train tickets so a security guard uncle walks me all the way there. It took a good 15minutes and he helped me without looking inconvenienced at all! So grateful. Get my train tickets (straightforward again) then I find my way to the Great wall Fort. Not bad for a tourist attraction, a little interesting even. Got stopped for pictures by random Chinese people - i obliged but found it a little strange.

Day 5: Jiayuguan to Dunhuang

Just a short train ride so took a hard seat ticket. It wasn't bad at all and I regretted wasting money on the sleeper train. Dunhuang train station is way out of town, so I got on the bus which turned out to be 3 yuan (not the 8 yuan mentioned everywhere), promptly got off at the wrong stop, walked down the wrong road and turned left instead of right. Needless to say I ended up at the wrong hostel from the one I intended. I thought I was asking for a dorm so bargained (begged) the price down to 50yuan a night. Then when lovely but defeated Annie, the girl who runs the place, shows me the room I realize it is actually a triple room. Oops! Walk around Dunhuang, which turns out to be a great little town, relaxed vibe with cafes etc. Saw a little booth selling peanut butter milkshake and made a mental note to come back tomorrow.

Day 6: Dunhuang

The initial plan was to go check out the sand dunes. But due to a combination of waking up at 12.30pm, difficulty finding the bus stop, difficulty finding the train ticket office, difficulty buying tickets at the first office who refused to sell me tickets, difficulty finding the other ticket office which was hidden in plain sight next to the mosque, queuing up for ages at this second office, and then spending more time searching unsuccessfully for the peanut butter milkshake shop, I ran out of time to go to the sand dunes. Had a lot of ice cream instead to make myself feel better.

Day 7: Dunhuang

Since Hohhot, I didn't have opportunity to have an english conversation with anyone so I was starting to feel lonely. I check out early and head to Mogao caves where I run into two Australian retired radiologists turned chinese wine importers. Felt so odd to talk! Loved the caves anyway, way more interesting than I expected. I then head back to my chinese hostel, take my bag, get fed grapes by Annie's mum, then get walked to the bus station by Annie. I needed to buy a ticket to Liuyuan train station but the bus station ladies were refusing to sell it to me! I kept asking, using different translated words and eventually overhear a guy buying a ticket for Liuyuan. Gesture that i want to go there too and they sell me a ticket for 7.45pm. I head back to town, end up in a cafe and order myself chicken and rice with a ice latte. I settle in comfortably, reach for my phone anddd.... it is not there! Boom.
Food and coffee arrives. I gulp it down feeling miserable and rush back to the bus station not expecting to find it. But as i walk in to the ticket office the lady waves me over and gives my phone back to me, laughing! that moment. I could have kissed her.

But I didn't kiss her, mainly because there was glass separating us. Got on my minivan, the ride turned out to be more than 3 hours and I arrive in Liuyuan station just in time to get off the van, rush through the station and board my train.

Note - after this point it becomes a lot less about China, and a lot more about a person I grew to like very very much despite my better instincts, someone whom I was subconsciously about to get very attached to against my own conscious wishes. Sure, I learnt about China a lot less after this point, but also I think I learnt more about my own inner self, and to a certain extent such emotional journeys are good for understanding my own emotions/behaviour better.

Day 8: Turpan

I meet L!!! (a bit of background. L is a guy i met 4 weeks prior at the Russian town of Ulan Ude prior to crossing the border to Mongolia, we kept in touch and decided to meet up again in china) This was a very exciting morning. I got off the train, into a shared taxi to Turpan, found my way to L's hostel and chilled out in his bunk chatting to his roomate who knew more about me than expected. L had headed out to hunt for a nest I was told and I melted just a little to hear that. Then L walked in and boom. It was brilliant. It was also a little awkward but mostly it was brilliant.

Had a great afternoon, and then had another kickass dinner - tofu dish, rice, beer - what a perfect combination, I could have subsisted on this combination forever. We walked around after dinner and chance upon a local uyghur club, banana club. Walked in and it was people everywhere, pounding music, people dancing. It was too much for me, I started to feel really nervous/stressed out and i realized maybe im not over my social anxiety yet. However L seemed like he wanted to stay there for a bit but I was feeling uncomfortable so we left. Felt a little bad as it seemed like I was holding him back from something he would enjoy. Also it started to sink in at that point that maybe we like different things after all and this may not have been a very good idea...

Day 9: Turpan

We went to the grape vineyard place in turpan as it was free. Had to get directions to get there and we asked two girls. One was prettier than the other and L basically ignored the other girl and chatted up the pretty one. That was fine until he wanted pictures and only wanted a picture with the pretty one. He had enough tact to include me in the picture although not enough tact to not say 'im with two pretty girlsss' as the picture was taken. The pretty girl was smart and kind enough to push her friend into a photo with reluctant L although even she seemed uncomfortable by L by that point. Once they left L even mocked the pretty girl's friend for being ugly.. I started to feel quite uncomfortable with L at this point but we got on the bus and the feeling faded.  Personally enjoyed the walk to the grape place and didnt mind the place too much but L seemed agitated by the chinese tourists taking photos which seemed slightly ironic to me. Walk back was enjoyable at first then L went crazy with his camera, taking pictures of every single thing and every single person. I started to feel stressed again but dismissed it as a one off occurrence. Little did I know at that point...

Day 10: Urumqi

Long, long day with many stressors (hostel search, train ticket office search, train station search, etc)..A few positives: the beautiful deep fried meat filled pastry from the cart near the train station, delicious baozi for dinner

Day 11: Urumqi

Again a cloudy day - rain from the sky, rain in my heart and some rain from my eyes. Contemplated leaving L at the bus station. Didn't do it. Not going to write much as I would rather forget about the whole Urumqi mess

Day 12: Urumqi to Zhangye

A sunnier day. We talked in the train station queue. I was happy to leave the place. Long train ride - 18hrs in a train that looked older than me. Secretly I enjoyed the ride but L hated it. Complained about everything from beginning to end. It felt great for me to have some company on the ride but towards the end it got increasingly tiresome to remain positive in the face of such pessimism.

Day 13: Zhangye

We arrived into a warm sunny town and both our moods perked up. We found a great place to stay, had the cheapest noodles ever for lunch and things were going well at first. Things don't go so well after awhile, and I start to feel the heaviness of having a roommate. Things then get positively cloudy at night.

Day 14: Zhangye

No idea what we did during the day. Fooled around with exercise equipment in the park at night - a bit of lighthearted fun! Still can't do monkey bars. Mental breakdown later at night. I start to wonder if it is time to let him go. Tentative, unsure, upset I try to suggest we go separate ways. He didn't want to surprisingly. Ok i thought, let's see how this goes.

Day 15: Zhangye

After last nights drama, L and I were walking on eggshells. Had lunch at the cheap noodle shop, walked around some nice areas, had some laughs together, walked around a park and then I head off to the bus station to visit Danxia mountains. L offered to lend me his camera, which was a kind offer and hinted at the existence of a pretty nice guy underneath all that. He couldn't come along because of budget reasons but at that point I really wanted to see it so off i went. The mountains were simply beautiful, something I'm acutely grateful I did for myself. I get back to the room eager to talk about it and share pictures with L but he was in a grumpy mood, probably from being left behind, so we never talk about it.

Day 16: Zhangye to Xining

Great day actually! Found a smelly wet market, weighed ourselves, more playground fun, more walking around. Surprisingly fun afternoon, decent train ride, good movie that I really enjoyed, and in Xining, a room with a view at night. Despite the great day we had I was aching for some alone time so I escaped to the grocery shop for 20 minutes at night. Found being with L much more enjoyable if I get some time away.

Day 17: Xining

I wake up, look out of the window, see the brown river, odd bridges, the market spread out underneath me looking all rough/crowded/messy/asian and my heart swells with happiness. Feels like home. L picked out a hostel on wikitravel and after being rejected by a chinese hotel in town he was hellbent on finding this hostel. I tag along for the walk as L skulks up and down the street like a madman, we eventually find it and surprise surprise it is full. So we end up staying in the room near the train station. There was a fantastic market in the city though so the day wasn't a total waste. I try to watch a movie alone in the afternoon while L teaches but unfortunately L gets offended. Later L showed me some videos hinting at his needs. In the evening we changed rooms to a smaller room for 80. Better view but less space so you win some, lose some I suppose. I tried to get an extra blanket from the other room but unsuccessful. L became quite tense as well and told me to 'calm down' when i kept asking about the blanket. It began to dawn on me that he is keen for me to respect his boundaries and fulfill his needs but he wasn't prepared to do the same for me. I felt quite trapped in that little room up in the sky and desperately wanted to get away from L but wasn't sure if i should tell him that night. I decide to wait until morning as to prevent an awkward night. But I fall sick that night with diarrhoea and vomiting. Puked 4 times, with the 3rd time narrowly missing L's head and still landing in the plastic bag. Not sure if it was food poisoning or just emotional stress making my body go mental.

Day 18: Xining

We packed to go to Tongren. L leaves the room to go to the toilet. As I sat alone on that chair the feeling of panic rose higher and higher in my chest until I felt I was drowning. I couldn't do it anymore, so when he came back from the toilet, I tell him that I can't do it. I can't go to Tongren with him. I try to leave L. He was surprised. I was shocked that he was surprised. He was sad, I was surprised that he was sad. I started to feel like shit for making him feel like shit. As someone who has been dumped before but never the dumper, this opened up a whole new perspective. Suddenly I felt bad for my exboyfriends who had to do the unpleasant job of telling me it was over. Anyway, we make it to the morning market as it was closing up. Had fried long dough sticks for 1 kuai each. Great lunch - baozi with red bean soup. Suddenly L and I had things to talk about again, now that we were separating. Suddenly I wasn't so invisible to him... We went to the rooftop of the apartment building. I loved it up there. So much air, so much space to breathe. I regret not going up there more than once. I didn't know where to go next and neither did he so we stayed another night in Xining.

Day 19: Xining

We go to the market again in the morning. Had some dumplings that were fried and steamed - both beautiful and cheap. I started to really like the little area we were in. Can't remember what else we did on this day but in the evening we bought train tickets to Xian together. Had stuff on a stick and we had ice cream too. I think this was actually a pretty good day with no minor or major incidents between L and me.

Day 19: Xining to Xian

Good start to the day by going to my beloved market, the earliest I had been there yet so it was lively and full of activity. Went alone as L didn't want to come since he had stuff he wanted to do online. Had a nice walk, got some food for L and came back to find him napping. L woke up and when he found out I booked a hostel for Xian without telling him he got annoyed at me. Then he lost it at the chinese people talking loudly outside and started yelling at them. I go to pieces and the baozi I was eating suddenly didn't taste so good anymore. I packed my bags and contemplated spending the day without him. Changed my mind after a while - realized that while he was acting like a spoilt little white boy, i was also overreacting - and we ended up having a great day out in Xining. Went to the park and the market and the mosque and the etc etc etc. We took the night train to Xian - it was meant to be our last train ride together so we both behaved ourselves. L even put his arm around me surprisingly and it was all very romantic in a way only a hard seat compartment on a chinese train can be.

Day 20: Xian

We arrive in Xian. Wasn't sure when L was planning to leave so I awkwardly posed the question as we were crossing the underpass. He wanted to walk to my hostel. Felt too rude to say no, but it turned out to be an annoying walk, with L asking for directions repeatedly even though I had the directions written down and knew where I was going.. We get to my hostel, I check in, L uses my phone and then it was goodbye L. Part of me felt relieved to have escaped emotionally unscathed but part of me felt extremely guilty because he looked so sad. I did laundry, took a long nap and met a CSer for dinner. Had great food actually, a proper meal after so long (since dunhuang)- chicken curry, rice, street food, beers. Enjoyed myself and enjoyed the city until I got back to my hostel.  And then boredom set in and I started chatting with L on skype when he mentioned heading to Vietnam the next day. Suddenly I didn't feel like losing him then so we agreed to meet again the next day.

Day 21: Xian

Woke up feeling excited, nervous and a little hopeful. Checked out of See Tang hostel, went to find the train ticket booking office and found out that it is closed for 7 days!!! Then I meander south to the the area where L was staying, spent money on an overpriced fancy hazelnut caramel ice blended latte. Wait by the bank, and L shows up! Felt happy to see him. There was none of the 'boom' effect when seeing him like in Turpan, but it was like seeing a good friend walk around the corner. Warm feelings all around. We walk to the hotel we booked online, which took us a good few hours. It was a great walk, interesting and with good company. We had lots of laughs, I think L too was glad to be back together. L was being extra nice to me which was very sweet and it also broke my heart a little bit to think I had in me to hurt this boy yesterday. We get to the place we booked (online for 100) where after watching L go back and forth in chinese with the lady, we manage to get the room for 30 a night. It was truly worth no more than that anyway so I sucked it up. What followed was a very uncomfortable and awkward shower where it hit me that I may have made a big, big mistake by coming back. I get emotional and L doesnt help matters by showing me pictures of his ex on fb. Wasn't sure why he would want to show me her pictures at that exact moment, when him and I were having so much trouble connecting. Anyway I manage to settle down, we go out for dinner, and suddenly don't have much to talk about. I was tired of always initiating conversation so we wandered in silence. Had food on a stick, dumplings and eventually an omelette for dinner which felt so, so satisfying!

Day 22: Xian

We change rooms to a slightly better hotel for 50. Today we discovered the mixed rice shop across the hotel. It is like the heavens opened up and the angels started singing... delicious, cheap, filling, awesome food. After much thinking, I bit the bullet and asked him to come Guilin with me. He says yes to my surprise. Then we go to town, buy train tickets and walk about for the rest of the day. Lots of walking. Quite liked some parts of the place although many spots felt too touristy and crowded. Visited the night market again but it had gone from Dr jekyll to Mr Hyde, super crowded with too many tourists. Bought a persimmon pastry thing for 2.5. L obviously didn't approve of the price and complained that he could have it in one bite. A little annoying but I let it go. He kept eyeing the yellow cake thing that is dipped in syrup and sold for 3 each, but refused to buy any all evening because he felt it was too expensive. Either way I let it go, it was not my budget nor was it my desire to buy the cake. Felt quite nice to have company to walk around the market. Told L about my previous misadventures with not buying food when I see it but saving it for later then coming back and finding it gone, and that earned me an impromptu hug from L. We turned a few heads at the market and I wasn't sure if he was kidding but it was still a nice part of the day. We head back to our area at about 8 or 9pm, and L seemed truly tired on the bus. Bought fried rice with an extra egg for dinner.

Day 23: Xian

We do nothing... Wake up late, joke around, L heads out to get breakfast without me, it felt great to have the room to myself for a bit. We then have mixed rice for lunch and walk around the local market. I buy a pastry for 3 which was like a doughnut filled with pork floss despite L wrinkling his nose at the price although he wasn't paying. He then takes a bite of it and loudly pronounces it 'too bland'. It starts to rain, so we head back and watch movies. L struggled with internet for teaching purposes but seemed to get it sorted out in the end by sitting in the corridor and using my 3g as a hotspot. I got time alone in the room to relax and eat and watch my tv show, when L barged in and decided to take a picture of me chilling out. Killed the chilled out vibe a little. Anyway it was a still a Great day, enjoyed the relaxation, enjoyed the company.

Day 24: Xian

Last day in Xian. I felt too lazy to trek out to see the terracotta warriors, something I regret up to this day. L asked for a late check out, we had lunch at the mixed rice place opposite and take a nice walk around. Enjoyed being with L that afternoon, we both behaved ourselves. Ended up in a supermarket where L was being really sweet by buying an extra cup, carrying the basket etc etc. I gave in to temptation and bought some overpriced durian. We rush back to the room, book rooms for Guilin and Xingping, pack bags and head to the station with baozi in our backpacks. While we wait for the bus, L takes a sneaky picture of a lady waiting for her bus. She seemed uncomfortable when she realized and I can understand her discomfort. For a moment I had the impulse to ask him what exactly he does with these pictures but knowing it will spark off another conflict, I ignore it anyway. I was getting used to the picture taking by this point and I was in a good mood. We make it just in time for the train. We get settled in, no problems. Night on the train. Looking back, this day was actually a pretty enjoyable day.

Day 25: Guilin

Most of the day was spent on the train. L and I had a nice fun talk till about mid afternoon where there was a moment of tension over movie selection. End up watching the wolf of wall street - typical american feel good movie that i didn't like because of the way it objectified women although I realized with some discomfort that that aspect of it (girls = toys that exist to please men) is probably appealing to L.. Also realized that for all we have in common, he won't appreciate my somewhat feminist POV because for him, women are meant to be demure feminine and sweet to him. Something I observed was that he gets annoyed at rude women a lot more than rude men, and reacts by taking a sudden picture of women who annoy him like a little punishment or evidence or whatever. Rather conservative and backward ideas of gender equality, that of women being submissive little things. Anyway the later hours of the train journey was filled with awkward silence which carried over to our little chinese hotel room. I was too tired to care anymore by that point. I was feeling moody and tired, unable to sleep so I put on earphones, blasted music into my ears with a towel over my eyes. Insomnia that night. Stayed up till 3am frantically looking for ways to get to south america.

Day 26: Guilin

L loses his phone. We try to get to the end of the line to look for it, but go to the opposite end of the line. I buy my ticket to Guangzhou which made me feel relieved. We are too late to get to Xingping. Suggested a hostel but ended up in another cheap chinese motel near the bus station for 50 a night.. Mixed feelings upon seeing the room, felt relieve at the 2 single beds but negative feelings about staying in yet another dingy shithole when we could have been staying in a decent hostel dorm for just a little more.. Felt isolated and stressed again, and contemplated moving to a hostel that very night to get away from L. Contemplated just forgetting about Xingping. Then we got out of the room, we went for a little walk around town and around the lake, it was fun hanging out with L in a friendly sort of way. Also had grilled octopus on a stick, delicious stuff, again L didnt seem to approve of the price but whatever really. I was starting to feel better and thought maybe I can handle just one more day in Xingping with him. But then L took picture after picture of every single girl by the lake (of course only the ones that qualified for his standards of 'beauty') and I felt like I was going to be sick in my mouth.. nauseated both by his photos and by the jealous monster i was morphing into, We then took lots of selfies. I really don't like taking pictures of myself and have made that clear before but again L gets what he wants. I smiled along in the spirit of not being a total bitch but secretly felt relieved that soon I won't have to take another selfie for awhile.

Day 27: Xingping

Woke up feeling cheerful and well rested. Had a greasy breakfast of some chinese sticky rice thing that I used to have as a kid, a little bland admittedly but the nostalgia made up for it although L as usual openly showed distaste for it. We then got bus tickets to Yangshuo, met a Hungarian girl at the bus stop. Moment of the morning, she asked L with great surprise - 'so how come you were in the phillipines for so long?' Even L looked a little bewildered at the naivete of the question. Anyway, had a nice chat with L on the bus about daddy issues etc. At Yangshuo we changed to another bus to Xingping. Beautiful scenery along the way. A hot chinese girl gets up the bus at some point dressed to the nines, L checks her out openly while holding my hand. He lasts all of two minutes before he took his camera out and took her picture somewhat subtly while still holding my hand... I suddenly could not wait to get away from him. The scenery seemed less beautiful. We get to Xingping, walk to the hostel, where after a minor scene with the receptionist - basically L insisting to see the more expensive room when the receptionist was refusing, another girl who refused to follow his every command hohoho - we get to our room, the one we originally booked. Beautiful views. Hot shower. We walk around town and Xingping really was a beautiful place. In the evening we rush off for a hike. I struggle up the hill and halfway through we stopped, didn't go all the way up due to the fading daylight. We find a nice spot, sit down and look at the view for awhile. Enjoyed those moments with L, then the camera comes out. I was feeling cooperative so after a standing awkwardly for a few pictures to make the boy happy I try to sit down and enjoy the view. Unfortunately L kept demanding I take more selfies with him and then started insisting that we start walking down although I could have enjoyed the peaceful view for a few more minutes. Whatever, I gave up by this point, we head down, walk around town, I get moody again and when I walk back into the hostel that was full of people my heart seized up in pure fear. Social anxiety attack. I flee up to the room, L joins a while later. I get emotional again, this time bitter with anger and disappointment and sadness that we had turned out this way. We go out for dinner - I had some fried noodle thing and some fishballs. Interaction with L gets weirder and weirder, and I could not stand to even hold his hand by the time we got back to the hostel. We come back, I try to speak honestly to L about why I think we were not working out and the discussion doesn't go well, as expected.

Day 28: Guilin

Rough start to the morning. Didnt sleep much at night, try to sleep in the morning but L plays a video on youtube right next to my head. I snap at him to keep quiet, he snaps at me to 'go to fucking hell', all sleep leaves my body. That's it then I thought, it was finally time for me to pick up what little self respect I have left and leave. I wake up, shower, have a coffee and then it was goodbye, L. We hugged goodbye and both of us didn't seem too sad, which was ideal. It was the end of a journey and the end had been going on for a while. I left my bags at the hostel, walked by the river, found a quiet spot and I just sat there for awhile watching the water flow.. feeling very appreciative of my solitude. Feeling relieved. After all that reflecting that I walked to the viewpoint of the 20 yuan note, went to the market near the bus station, bought some chinese fried doughnut and fried pastry thing and then I got the bus to Yangshuo. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. At Yangshuo I had the bright idea to walk between the 2 bus stations and ended up schlepping my stupidly heavy backpack all over town for almost an hour. Jumped on a bus to Guilin, found my hostel easy peasy, and got settled in. Met 3 other solo girl travelers at the hostel, all very cool independent ladies. Woke up in the middle of the night looking for L. Maybe I miss him.

Day 29 Goodbye China: Guilin - Guangzhou - Shenzhen - Hong Kong

Long day of travel. Bus from hostel to train station, had a coffee in the yellow mug - thought of L - at the station, train from Guilin to Guangzhou. Long wait at Guangzhou of 3 hours for my next train. Get on the train to Shenzhen north station, metro from there to the Futian checkpoint. Cross the border, essentially stamp out of china, walk on travelators for 5 minutes then stamp into hong kong. Got on the MRT, three changes later I found myself in causeway bay and found my descriptively named Hong Kong hostel.

Solo traveler solo once again.

And then there was Hong Kong. but let's save that for another post.

Themes from china... or rather, themes from being with L...
-objectification of women vs appreciation of beauty
-overspending while travelling vs not missing out on what you really want
-being alone and lonely vs being with someone unsuitable
-total honesty vs respecting the other persons feelings
-chemistry in a relationship - cultivatable or a necessary preexisting foundation
-actions vs words, making and receiving empty promises










Monday, September 7, 2015

The one thing I hate about travelling alone is getting sick.

And sick I finally am, after a month.

It started yesterday with an episode of diarrhoea. Over the past 24 hours it has evolved into diarrhoea, vomiting, chills, feeling like shit. So I try to starve the bug (bad idea), sleep all day and woke up at 530pm feeling amazing. Until I stood up, felt the room go spinning around me and had to rush to the toilet to poo. I have gingerly made my way down the stairs, now im sitting upright nursing a cup of tea and having palpitations trying desperately to remain upright and not puke all over this tablet.

However, I am swaying and the room is swaying, tea is threatening to come back up, heart is going to burst from the effort of sitting up typing this and so Im going to crawl back into bed. Moments like this I desperately wish for someone else to be around, if not to go out buy paracetamol or bring me liquid in bed, at least for comfort...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

im in moron

Information on bus timings seem to be woefully inaccurate in Mongolia. Everywhere I read claimed at least 16 hours from ulaanbaatar to Moron. Thinking of saving a nights accommodation I hopped on the 3pm bus from Dragon center. It finally left at 4pm, leaving me quite pleased as that meant an hour extra to sleep on the bus in the morning.

So imagine my surprise when just before 4am, the lights are all switched on and people start getting off the bus into the darkness which looked like the middle of nowhere. Convinced this cannot be Moron, I check my GPS and what do you know - it is Moron! Im in Moron!

No clue where I am with the name of one guesthouse bouncing around in my mind (gan oyu) I stumble off the bus half asleep and into the waiting arms of a greedy taxi driver, demanding 5000 for the ride to the guesthouse. The fact that it was 4am and he was the only guy around combined with the fact I had no clue where I was and where the guesthouse is, I take the ride....

After what felt like 3 minutes of slow driving, we arrive at the guesthouse. I could have walked. At this point I think even he felt bad for scamming me so badly for such a short ride that he accepts 3500 and carried my little backpack to the guest house door. Adrenaline pumping from the combination of being kicked off a bus at 4am in the middle of nowhere and being overcharged for a taxi, I call the lady confident in the lonely planets claims that she speaks English. Well the LP is wrong again, she does not.

Some back and forth later (me ranting in english, she raving in mongolian) and I find myself inside. Looks like I have a 5 bed dorm all to myself (yes!) and after a long, deliciously hot shower... I am ready for bed.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

one week later

Leaving ulaan bataar n the rickety bus to Kharkorin was the best thing I could have done for myself. The floundering crisis I found myself in the midst of 10 days ago has passed. Somewhere between days spent watching rivers flow and nights spend admiring the Mongolian countryside sky, my worries melted away. I felt within myself a strange sensation of lightness, a feeling vaguely familiar but long forgotten - peaceful happiness.

After ulaan batar I spent time in Kharkhorin (stayed at the best guesthouse ever, gayas guesthouse), shared a taxi to Tersiin Terkhin Nur, stayed in a ger by the lake, then visited Tariat as well where I found the most beautiful music and laughter and companionship.

I love it. I love the countryside. I love how quiet it is at night. I love the rivers, I love drinking from them. I love the lack of traffic. I love the horses sheep goats cows bulls yaks. I love waking up in my ger and looking up into the sky. I love afternoon naps on the grass in the Sun. I love sitting in my ger in the evening with a woodfire going. The lack of flush toilets and showers and electric heating seem like such minor inconveniences compared to these little everyday joys.

Today I am in Tsetserleg but tomorrow I will have to get back to ulaan baatar. Need to get warm clothes and a sleeping bag. After that... Who knows :)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

struggling

Im struggling in this trip. Suddenly the things that used to excite me about travel seems so meaningless.. Staying in hostels floating ffom place to place same old traveler conversation with random people I wont meet again.. All this used to feel "this is awesome" and now everyday I am asking myself - What the hell am I doing?

Why the hell am I in mongolia doing completely random things like trying food I dont like, walking along the streets randomly every day, waking up each morning without an an aim to the day, seeing endless museums, taking pictures of random things? What am I doing with my life? The whole thing abt travel being abt self growth and self discovery etc seems like New age Zen bullshit to myself at this point... It just feels pointless. It feels like im wasting my time. I feel like I have grown out of this entertainment, I feel like ive grown up.

Backpacking hostelling rtwing cheaptravel, once upon a time it was everything I wanted but now its too late for me. Ive missed the bus. Too much has happened. My time to wander has come and its gone.

Going to Kharkohrin this weekend, mongolias ancient capital.. ( again, why?!)

Hoping ill find that spark again that made travelling special for me.

Otherwise ill plod through china overland as I planned to do, through Taiwan and hk and then fly home, where I belong.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

a little update

So here I am.. Finally in Russia. Honestly it doesnt feel like im on a long trip, I keep thinking ill be flying back next week back to work.

A little summary for future reference.

Day 1: arrive at Pulkovo airport at 1.40pm and promptly run into trouble with immigration bastards authorities. Then by the time I got to the baggage area the carousel number was not even displayed anymore. 30min queue, get my bag and by the time I got on the bus to the metro station it was around 5pm... Got off at the right metro stop for my hostel but then wandered 20 mins down the wrong street. Finally I found my hostel using GPS and a hot shower later wandered down Nevsky prospect before crashing. Amazing hostel by the way - Simple hostel Nevsky 78.

Day 2 - walked for a good 4 - 5 hours before succumbing to the heat and getting on a hop on hop off bus. Great bus tour! 600 rubles. Really interesting commentary, nice slow ride so I could take in everything from the comfort of a bus. Free dinner at the hostel - Russian pancakes with condensed milk. Odd but delicious.

Day 3 - 1.5 hr boat tour with anglotourismo, 1000roubles. Tour itself was ok but it was an open top boat and doing it at 12noon on a hot sunny day probably was not the best idea... Took the sapSan train to moscow, fabulous ride. Comfy and spacious, polite staff who spoke English, got a hot drink, bottled water, a sandwich and a biscuit included.

Day 4.. Walking tour at 10.30am, went with a girl I met at the hostel. Unfortunately had to be cut short because she fainted in the heat... Oh well there is still tomorrow and I was probably close to fainting as well. Had two (TWO!!) scoops of icecream. Pistachio and mango. What a holiday so far.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

pre-trip musings

3 more weeks to go. I'm so excited to leave that I've actually started packing 3 weeks ahead.. this has never happened before. It is getting increasingly difficult to get up and go to work everyday, partly because it is boring but mostly because the end is so close i can almost feel it! Usually I do not prep much before a trip and rarely have I actually planned the sights i want to see weeks in advance but this time I just could not resist. So much trip advisoring and travel blog reading has been indulged in and, I've even come up with a detailed budget! Just couldn't resist. I think the last time I was looking forward to a trip this badly was in 2010 prior to the very first time I set off on my own to india. Plus it has been a long while since I've done a travelling kinda trip - so the painful memories of smelly noisy dorm rooms and days on chicken busses have faded away.. only leaving behind vague memories of that thrilling feeling of exploring new places and seeing things i could never have imagined. I miss that feeling.

3 weekends to go, 22 days to go!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Well this blog has been quiet for awhile. This past year, so many ups and downs. Havent been travelling much hence not much blogging material but now big changes are afoot and I am EXCITED!!! after a year of being doctor (although I still feel very much like a med student), I am leaving the UK. Packing everything up and leaving the country that has been my home for the past 4 years. I am going to ship all my things home, and then do an overland journey that I have been dreaming off for many years now. Russia mongolia china overland and then if I still have the stamina the plan is to keep taking busses and trains until Malaysia. After that hopefully it wont be too long before I start work as a junior doctor in Malaysia... Its a big move and im essentially chucking my career through the shredder and starting from scratch all over again but hey, this feels right and it is what I need to do right now.