Archive for the ‘China’ Category

China Update

Author: steeuwsen
hey folks,

I’m writting from Ho Chi Minh City. I’ve been hanging out here for a few too many days, but I’m getting my passport back from the extenstion office tomorrow so, I can flee this too comfortable city soon. I’ve been hanging around in coffee shops and resturants, hardly leaving my hotel street and amassing a new book collection that is almost to big to carry around. There are guys that walk around with huge stacks of coppied books tied together and towering above them. They seem to just focus in on me, knowing that I’m weak and want more, more, more.

The last post I made I wrote about finally getting to see the white stuff and some foggy views on the mountain where Tai Chi (Chi Gong) was founded. Here are a few pics.

Who is this guy and his hair? It was getting a little unruly and caught under my backpack, so I cut it after this hike.

Guys, way tougher than me, bringing up stones to improve the path to the peak.

Jon stretching half way up the mountain.Dinner in the monks caffeteria. Everyone is absobed in some Chinese T.V. melodrama.The seen we were greated with in the morning, after cuddeling for warmth (shivering to death) under every spare blanket we could find the night before.Part of a mural.One of the only monks who said it ws ok to take his photo.Part of another mural.

The temple at the peak and the three of us: me, Jon and Jordan

From the mountain we headed to Wuhan for New Years Eve. When we went out that night, we met students from all over Europe and Africa. They were all studying Chinese at the University. After some new years fun, which ended on their dorm roof watching the first sunrise of the new year, we cruised down to Nanning. We dropped off our passports to get Vietnam visas and then backtracked to pretty Yang Shou. It’s such a sweet place, as Dan can attest. It was great returning for a few days of bicycling around the peaks and chilling by the river reading.

The Li River

Yang Shou

This is a picture from the topof Moon hill. There’s a handy post to climb if the peak is just not quite high enough for you. Ziggy toasting the sunset.

These are a few pictures from the boat going from Yang Shou to Guilin. It’s deffinatly the most pleasent way to go between the two cities. If you want to go in style arrive in town on the banks of the Li River.
The guys I’m travelling with are also buying up books left, right and center so, there is always something new to read and get dazzeled by. I just finnished three Haruki Murocami books that Ziggy was really into. He’s a great Japanese author. He writes really honestly about realtionships and connections between social outsiders in Japan. If you want to check it out Norweigan Wood and West of the Sun are good, although be forwarned a little strange =)

After a few days hanging around the mountains and meeting with other travellers in Yang Shou, we went back to Nanning to to pick up our passports and to meet up with Iris and Etta, two lively Chinese friends from the Santa project. Christmas night the Icelanders were talking to the girls and were shocked to hear that had never been out of China. They’re poor students from Beijing, ya know. So, we said that we’d help ’em out travelling for a bit in Vietnam if they could get passports, visas and a backpack, then meet us at the boarder and they did.

We took the most interesting train I’ve been in yet down to the boarder. It was just an empty box car with two long wooden benches along the sides but, it was cheap and we met some nice people who were headed home on Chinese New Year vacation so, I really didn’t mind sitting on the floor.

It was excillent walking over the boarder with two people who had never left their home country before. Excitment is contagous. They were skipping along, so we were too.

I had a great time in China, but it was deffinatly done when I left. With the tropical air, from new and crazy jungle, hitting us as soon as we walked into Vietnam, I knew I was on a good path.

It was night by the time we were getting in a mini bus to Hanoi. We just caught the last one and it was crowded! I was squished in the back with all the bags and my knees to my chin for the three hour ride.

The ride turned out to more unpleasent when we tried to get out though. The guys who ran the bus tried to cheat us badly and wouldn’t let us out. Everyone on the bus, locals and us, had paid one guy who later got out of the bus. When we got to Hanoi the driver and another guy let all the locals out but, told us we had to pay them for the ride saying they didn’t know the guy we paid. It was such obvious b.s. that I assumed we could just laugh and explain that, no, we aren’t paying agian and they would accept it, but they pretended not to understand, said we were cheating them and wouldn’t let us out. We were all in the back and they were blocking the front bench so, we couldn’t just walk away. After loads of arguing our friends actually had to push their way past driver and his friend with some scuffeling and I passed our bags out the back window. It was really lame. On the street I was still trying to explain how everyone had obviously had paid the same guy and they let everyone out except us, but they kept bringing around other people who said we were wrong and another old guy tried to pick pocket us while I argued. It seemed pretty tense, but the whole seen evaporated as soon as we acually turned and walked away. They made no move to stop us and stopped arguing seeing it hadn’t worked. I still wanted to win the argument, you know, let reason prevail, but it just wasn’t going anywhere. Besides that, it was a beautiful night in really happening city. There are French style buildings left over from good old colonial times and loads of people out in the streets, at markets and eating at impromptue street reasturants. I love countries where people get together in the streets and use the space as true public property. Oh, and probably the only good thing that came of colonial times, besides pretty buildings, good BREAD. Anyone coming from China can tell you that sweet bread gets tierd really quickly. Everywhere in Vietnam you can buy excellent baguette bread for almost nothing and on everyother corner there is a lady making sandwiches, SANDWICHES! Oh, it’s so good. I’ve been living off sandwiches since I got here. I’m just starting to get into all the tasty noodle dishes now, after three weeks. I was totally monopolised by the bread.

Iris taking photos of traffic that’s even crazier than she’d seen in China

We found that big, crazy, guy from Israel, YAYA, again. He and I went to check out a temple and a prison turned museum.

…and a cathedralThe Cathedrial was quite cool. We came about an hour before mass and people were starting to fill the pews. A few older laddies sitting togethere started a chant in Vietnamese and other early comers in the congrigation would responded. It reminded me of the responsive reading that we used to do at First Christian Reformed Church, way back in the day. Except this wasn’t lead from the pulpet; it was started by a few elderly women. It seemed like a great way to start a meeting of the church. We sat a listened for a while, checking out the ceilings and stainglass, untill the bells started tolling and the place really started to fill up. It was an amaizing seen, but not quite enthrawling enough to stay for a whole sermon in Vietnamese 🙂

I didn’t stay in Hanoi too long. I’d had enough of cities in China, but did spend a good day walking to a few sights in the city with Yaya and hanging around the central park with crew. The night we arrived we met a french guy who was travelling with his trumpet. He played cool, jazzy tunes in the park and we got a few beers to toast Johnny for his birthday.

Johny, Iris, Etta and I headed a little way south to Nihm Bin the next day. Jon and Ziggy stayed back to hang out with some silly Icelanders they had met. They were so excited getting to talk Icelandic and talk about how small Iceland is. There are only 300,000 of them and after talking for few minuets they figured out a mutual friend. I give them a hard time, telling them they’re from such a little, insignificant place and that they speak a stupid language, but it’s just because it sounds like such a cool place and I feel infrior being so monoligual.

In Nihm Bin we rented motorbikes and cruised around some rice paddie roads to a village near the river. We took a ride up river through another small village and then to a cathedral like cave. It was great getting on a motorbike again, even if it was a little 100 cc with no clutch.

We met up with the guys on a bus south to Hoi An. We were planning on renting motorbikes there and taking off right away, but we ended up hanging around the beach town for a few days. The night we arrived we were walking along the dock and paid a laddy to take us out in the boat for an hour. I sat on the prow,..stern,..aft?.. front, with Jon and my feet in the water as chugged through the night.
some allie pics from Hoi An
When we did head off on the motorbikes, we ended up getting seperated. Etta had fallen off her bike behind Ziggy and me so, Johnny and Iris stopped and waited with her. Ziggy and I stopped to wait shortly after and Jon who was behind everyone caught up to us. He didn’t think he could have missed them if they had stopped so, we assumed they got ahead of us when we stopped. Ziggy went ahead to catch them and we waited at a turn. By the time we finnaly thought we should check back they had turned around back to Hoi An. We figgured it all out by e-mail that night. Etta was alright just sore, but we were a town ahead so, we had to wait a day for them to catch up. A little frustrating, but as it goes.

Because we had to wait a for them to catch up, Jon, Ziggy and I drove around some small town roads, checking out farms and markets along the way. We stopped by some rice feilds to take a few photos and a Vietnamese guy named Yum stopped to say hello, which was all he could say in English, but he got accross that he really wanted us to come have something to eat at his place. At first I didn’t really feel like it, but I’d never been in a Vietnamese home yet and he seemed like a nice guy so, we went.

A market along the way

Where I met the Ledgend of Yum.

Yum’s house.

He lives in a little place and has a corn farm. When we got there he was so excited flipping through pictures. He found the one he wanted and was practically jumping up and down. In the picture there were some people building a house and one of them was a forigner who looked a lot like me. Yum was giving me huge hugs and lifting me off the ground. I wasn’t sure if I should try and explain it wasn’t me. He was so happy, why ruin that? Although, I felt like I was impersonating a saint or something. We comunicated by phrase book and when one of his sons came home he could speak English pretty well, so were understood and I broke it to him I wasn’t the guy in the picture.

Yum was always just giving us more, more and more. He sent one of the kids to buy a case of beer and got the Kareokee mike out. Of course there are no English songs so we were singing really strange freestyles that didn’t rhyme. Yum was so psyked up I couldn’t believe it. It was hillarious dancing with him. There were a bunch of neighborhood kids laughing and pointing at our sillyness and three smilling ladies that enjoyed the show, but sat a good distance back from us. Later, Yum brought out a jug of something sealed up with plastic. I’m not sure what it was made of but it looked like palm leaves filled most of it. It’s deffinatly a potent moonshine that you drink through a bamboo straw. Someone takes a glass of water and pours it in the full jug as you drink. You have drink fast enough that it doesn’t spill and you get to stop when the cup is done. Some of the older kids tried as the bamboo straw went around. There was more dancing and bad singing and eventually everyone went home. We slept that night on the cool cement floor of the living room. As everyone was laying down I went for short walk into his corn to check out the night sounds and the increadably bright stars. Yum gave us such a great night out of no where, just to have friends to host and he couldn’t even speak any English.

A sweaty rendition of ‘Yellow Submerine’ to Vietnamese dance musicAttempting to get a dancing partner and getting shut down.
The next day Yum jumped up early and was just as ready to go as the night before. This guy! He has so much energy, always grining and laughing. He showed us to a place where we had bean porage and rice cakes for breakfast and he kissed us good-bye as we went back to town to find Johny and the girls who had caught up to the town we stayed at the night before.

Me and Jon getting our good bye kisses

The ledgend

It was a good day riding into the mountains. Vietnam is beautiful! We made it to Kon Tum after driving by sunny rivers and rice patties, through rain and fog near the top of the mountain and then down into a steamy, valley night.

We had headed up there to see the mountains and also check out some CHER? villages. It seemed a bit weird to be going to a small village and wander around taking pictures of people, but once there I met Hyme and her friend Pung. Both of them are about 50 and like to sing to pass the time. Hyme speaks great English and it was interesting talking to her for a while. She works at an orphange in Kon Tum cooking bread.

After sitting with Hyme and Pung for a while I went to find the guys. I found a gang of kids instead. I hung around with them for a bit, sword fights and games of slaps. They even found my friends, who I had walked right by. They were dancing and singing again. Some guys, who were playing a broken guitar and keeping beat on bottles, invited them to have a drink of rice wine. One of locals guys was a pretty slick dancer. He taught Etta some steps and was spinning her around the room as she giggled.
Saying adios

The next day we checked out the orphanage that Hyme works at. It was nice to run into her again and the kids are amaizing. We played games with them and I talked to one of the sisters who run the place about teaching there for a while. I told her I’d love to come back after getting my visa extended. She saidI could stay there for as long as I wanted to vollunteer.

It was a long drive back to Hoi An to give back the bikes because, we started so late (it was hard to leave the games of tug-o-war). We ended up having to drive through the rain at night. We got back soaked, but still laughing, and passed out in a comfy hotel.

The sunseting on the mountains as we drove back to the city.

We stayed another day relaxing in town and that night Jon and I headed out to see what there was around town. We found everything around town closed, except a noodle stall. We sat down there and met Do. He said he could take us to a place for a beer. We squished onto his little motorbike and he took us to his friends reasturant. As we talked we asked him about the war a bit. He said if we wanted to find out a lot we should go to Sun Mi. He told us if we wanted togo he would take us and the next morning he was at our hotel bright and early. Sun Mi was the site of a village that was wiped out and burned in an attempt to flush out VietCong sympathisers. Now there is a memorial and museum. Although the place talked mostly of American crimes it was a reminder of what all wars are and how we let our governments (which are supposed to be represntatives of us) go start them again and again.

From Hoi An we headed to Na Trang, antoher beautiful beach town. Na Trang was a lot of sitting on the beach reading, sitting on the beach playing chess and sitting on the beach. We are such intrepid travellers that we spent nearly a week there, before catching the bus further south to here, Ho Chi Minh.

The Icelanders have headed off to check out the Mekong Delta, then onto Cambodia and the girls got on the bus back to China a few hours ago. So, it’s just me and Johny now. Yesterday when I found everyone in a reasturant they were sitting there with David, our friend from Beijing, who first inspired the tricycle trip. They had run into eachother earlier on the street. David had bought a very simple tricycle, no engine, just peddle power and started out from Beijing just before we did. It was hillarious to hear his stories of everything breaking just like ours and to laugh at ourselfs for thinking we were all going to meet up on tricycles for Christmas in Hanoi. It’s been three months since we met and first started talking about tricycles in Beijing. Reliving it all, with David there, was a great way to send off the Icelanders and the Chinese girls.

A few days ago I bought a mountain bike off a German guy who rode it from Laos, through Cambodia to here. When I get my passport back I’m planning on heading around the delta for a few days and then back North to meet some good friends from Taiwan, Niahm and Emma, in Na Trang. Then, back up to Kon Tum to teach for a while. I’ve never done a big bicycle trip before so, I’m bit worried I might wuss out and throw it on a bus after a few days going through the mountains, but it should work out.

That brings it up to date. I’ll try and get back to a computer sooner next time so, you don’t have to read such exhaustive posts.



Off to Hong Kong

Author: steeuwsen

Hey Jer looking good climbing, nice to see you have a proud mane growing in there. Looks like you’ll have to get climbing more though, dem rippeling back muscles seem to be a little lacking (not that I can give you a hard time unless rippeling back hair counts).

Well, I’m off to hong Kong tonight. I’ve got to get the visa stamped and wish I had more free time. I’d stay the weekend, but it’s only two weeks till the show and I’ve got to get back and lock myself in the darkroom. So, it’s twelve hours in Hong Kong, 8-8. I guess I’ll see if I can catch a bus into town and dig the streets at night. That’s probably all I’ll able to do though, by the sounds of it everything is so expensive I should pack my food with me. But I’ll get in and shoot a couple pictures so I can show yeh a little of what’s there.

More Angkor

Author: Jeremy Teeuwsen

Steve’s Angkor pics have been updated. It took a little while, but it was worth the wait.

Beach rather than Skiing

Author: steeuwsen

Well I’ve been sitting here reading all of your posts of ski trips and schenanigans. It occationaly sends me stewing in pits of longing for the rolling contours of unbroken wind drifts and sparsely treed knolls. So, Friday I hopped on a bus at around 2 in the morning (so Saturday if you like technicalities) and arrived in Kenting at about seven. We headed strait for Frog rock marine park. It’s got a gorgous white beach with volcanic rock headlands popping up at one side. I strung up the hammock and with the days work over and it already being sunny and hot, I swam in the cool water, dried off, swam, dried off, played in the sand a little, took a nap, chatted with some other people that came down, and headed out to see Scott play. If you’re interested in what ole Scott cook is up to check out . The websight name is a little self inflating I’d say. Well I would say if I wasn’t writhing on Anyway some stompin’ tunes and crashing in my hammock finished things off. No better place to wake up than the beach. You can just jump in that water and straiten your head out and you’re already at where you want to be spending the day. Sorry there was no bumbling down stairs on a boogie board or anything so you’ll just have to wait for Dan’s next post to chuckle.


Steve’s Angkor Pics

Author: Jeremy Teeuwsen

Steve’s Angkor pics have been added. Wow! Definitely check them out.


Author: steeuwsen