remembering some stories....
After 5 months traveling in Asia, and before opening a new chapter in the other side of the world we’ve decided to make a sort of summary of our experiences so far. Well, we feel a little nostalgic, and you’ve heard it all before – so feel free to test your knowledge
Things that make you go: “This makes no sense at all!”
1. Sand dunes in the middle of the Gobi desert. The dunes are surrounded by earth, there's no sand anywhere else. How the hell did they get there?
2 Gates in the middle of nowhere in Mongolia with roads passing all around them. The concept of a gate needs to be explained to them…
3. Prices in china, no proportion to one another. The admission fee for a touristy site can go up as high as 20 times a dinner for two.
4. Driving in Burma. Drivers drive on the right side of the car like in England but on the left side of the road, like in most of the world. Now, imagine trying to overtake another car on the road!
5. Official rate exchange in Burma. That's a good one, the official rate is 1USD for 3.5 Kyat. On the black market you can get 1 to 1000! (300 times more?!)
6. Electricity wires in Vietnam. Unbelievable.
And it actually works?
Stupid thoughts, some things Andre wishes he could take back
1. "I can pass these rice terraces with the bike" – as you might remember it ended up with us buying a new camera and Andre destroying a T-shirt from Burma (and a bit of his ego…)
2. "Yaks don't attack, I can get closer to take a close up picture" – being run over by a yak in a country as empty as Mongolia is a really stupid way to go down…
3. "No need to buy snacks for the flight since it is only 1,5 hour from Beijing to Ulaan Bataar". Don’t get us started on food in airport hotels that serve almost only customers of Air-China that are stuck in Beijing
If Only we had better weather
1. Ha long bay, Vietnam. Did you ever find yourself arguing with a fellow traveler if the grey thing in front of you is a rock or a cloud? (It was probably a cloud on top of a rock, but, well…)
Sunbathing in HaLong Bay
2. All of Burma. The heat…
3. Hiking in Mongolia in the rain.
Ridiculous, no other word…
We wish we haven't been there at all
1. Nanjing, China
2. Na Thrang, Vietnam
3. Yangoon. Burma
Toilet experiences, a MUST category in any Asian trip
1. Open air toilet, in the sand dunes (Mongolia) with view that is exactly the same as the cover of the Mongolian Lonely Planet.
See the LP cover page:
2. Returning toilet paper in Tibet. In one of the GH in Tibet had a “hole in the floor” toilet on the second floor, that never mind how we throw the toilet paper down, it will return up, due to the wind. Life in the 4000+ meters world…
3. Tiger leap gorge view. The view is so beautiful that they decided not to add the wall, so you can appreciate the view while you do your stuff..
Strange local drinks
1. Snake wine in Vietnam.
2. Mare's milk vodka in Mongolia. That’s the local drink, and it is as bad as it sounds.
3. Airag in Mongolia. “Vodka” made of mare’s milk. No one of us managed to drink more than a sip of it.
Biggest tourist traps
1. Floating market in Bangkok: a 500m market, with only tourists.
2. Acrobatics show in Shanghai: We expected to see traditional Chinese acrobatics, but it was a western-style production. Lots of music and dance, in one word: Terrible.
3. Boat trip in Na Thrang: Only locals, karaoke, a visit to an aquarium that the biggest fish was a turtle and stopping in a rock beach instead of sand beach.
Best view from our room
Potala palace in Lhasa.
Rice terraces in Ping An.
Yangshou Sweet dreams GH, where we could see all the area from our balcony yangshuo
Most annoying days
1. The day we had to return from Songpan, after we didn't succeed to renew our visa.
2. The full day in the airport in Beijing, waiting to travel to Mongolia.
3. In Chengdu searching for the meeting point to joing a group of volunteers to promote sport activities for kids that lost houses due to the earthquake.
Strangest people on the road
1. Mongolian "german" dirijidu singer. This Mongolian guy came to our table, started to talk in German and wanted to sing a traditional Mongolian song, that should have sounded like dirijidu. It sounded like he was in the WC.
2. “Sleepingbag man”. Traveling the world and taking pictures of himself in a yellow sleeping bag is enough to be in the list.
3. Mandalay’s ex-monk drunk tourist guide. The guy is an ex-monk that spent time in the Burmese prison, and was completely drunk half the times we saw him. At one time he said he loves Israelis, just after to say that we are serial killers.
Most repeated song
1. “Shi shi shi” song in China. It started in Shangrila, repeated itself in the car in Tibet a million times, and later we heard this song everywhere...
2. The “father on the horse” (Shiri’s favorit), the “Barbie song” (Patrick’s favorit) and the “khara song” (Andre’s favorit) in Mongolia. The big hits on Jigme's car, looping for 20 days with other Mongolian greatest hits.
3. Obladi oblada in Burmese. This one was playing for more than 13 hours in loop. They had only one DVD (with something like 5 to 7 songs) for the whole trip.
Why did I try to eat this?
1. Yak/ Goat/ Horse fat-dry-cheese in Mongolia. It is as bad as it sounds, plus it looks like soap.
2. Bread or chocolate in China. All breads in China are sweet and taste terrible, chocolates are almost inexistent, and always bad. If you must – go for Dove. This one is not a soap...
3. Crispy shrimp like schnitzel in Ha Long bay. It was made without cleaning the shrimp fist….
Unforgettable sleeping places
1. Drunk summer ger in Mongolia.
2. Cosmic GH in Hong Kong. We never thought we could sleep well in such a small room, but we end up sleeping until 12:00
3. Beautyland hostel in Yangoon. No window, air conditioning working for 2 hours a night (if working) on our first travel week. Impossible to forget such a start of the travel.
Best transportation rides
1. Shangrila to Lijiang by bus.
2. Everest base camp trip.
3. Chengdu to the north of Sichuan (3 times on the same bumpy road in 5 days. We deserve some kind of a medal, no?)
Best local customs experiences
1. Monk initiation in Burma
2. Hospitality in Mongolia – being invited to drink, eat and play the finger game anywhere we went.
3. Monks praying in Mongolia.
Guides trade mark sentences
1. just like that- Julie (Tibet)
2. yap, maybe, you know – Mongo (Mongolia)
3. suddenly – Zutla (Mongolia)
4. 'cuse me - Halong bay guide (Vietnam)
Not only food, meal with entertainment
1. Hooters in Chengdu. The funniest meal of all. Including the unforgettable sentences "Gentleman and you" (you being Shiri, the only girl at the table), and "she’s having a breast in the restroom".
2. Goat in Mongolia. If helping to kill the goat was not enough, trying to clean the teeth after eating with a tea bags string (since we forgot dental floss) was hilarious.
3. Cooking course in Chengdu. Preparing the food was as fun as eating
Best fake brand
Forget China, eventually the best fake brand turned out in Mongolia, check this out:
Johnnie WORKER, Red LABIAL”. The communist whiskey…
Construction works my (Andre) professors must see (aka extreme engineering)
1. Mongolian bridge, no words to describe it:
2. Road to Everest base camp:
3. Car engine to pumping oil in Mongolia. The gas stations in the Gobi desert have oil being pumped by car engines, in open air.
Actually, what will happen if the engine runs out of petrol? It will be impossible to re-fuel it…
As we did some internet research before planning our budget, we hope the help people trying to plan a trip.
Our prices are for :
Guesthouses - double room with private bathroom and air-con
Meals - Local restaurants. Not fancy tourist ones
All prices are per person, except room that is per room (for 2), and all prices are in US$
It is hardly impossible to make a prevision of how much it will cost you to be in BKK. Accommodation is around $17, food can be for even less than $1, but it will all depend on how much you will drink (and party) and go shopping. We didn't make (by far) our $20 per day plan. The electronics shopping…
Beers starts at $2.10 (660 ml)
We've planned for $20 a day per person and it was just on the spot. Accommodation will cost around $15 while food will be around $2. Transportation is $15 never mind if the trip is 10 or 15 hours.
Short transportation inside the cities, such as to bus station or airport, are usually a rip-off of $6, so you can share taxi or use local transportation to keep the budget.
Bottle beers (660ml) can be found for $1.5 (but due to the lack of electricity the whole day they are bad) and draught (500ml) for $0.5
We planned for $20 a day, but it was not enough. Transportation is quite cheap, we took the open bus from Hanoi to Ho Chi Min, that cost $32 and we could stop in all the touristic places on the way (only north on Hanoi you should pay separately). Accommodation goes from $12 with computer and internet inside the room in Hanoi to $8 in Hue. Mui Ne was a bit more expensive, but as average $12 is a good number.
Food is not expensive, going for $4 to 5 and fresh beer is really cheap ($0.20). The expensive part is the organized tours (HaLong Bay, DMZ, etc...) and the souvenirs.
$25 per day can be ok.
Ok, HK can explode your whole budget. We planned for $40 per day and didn't make it (Mainly due to Macau). We got accommodation for $20 that is very cheap, meals goes from $5 to $7 and transportation will take also a lot. Every small metro ride is at least $1. Far places can be up to $8
Day trip to Macau will raise the average, since only the ferry is around $40 (both ways).
No beer price to report since it was Passover.
Rooms can be found for $10 to $15.
Transportation takes the big chunk here, since there are train rides of 18 hours, buses of 12 hours and so on... Long rides costs from $40 to $60
Meals can be taken from $2 to $4 while 660ml beers is usually $0.9 (same as a can of coke), if you go to tourist places meals will cost around $4 to $7.
Admission fees take another big chunk of the budget, since almost every place has an admission fee and usually it costs from $10 to $15.
This is the really budget exploding area.... due to the Chinese policy of trying to avoid tourists there, you must pay for a permit and be part of a "tour". Plan for an average of $100/day/person there. More details see our last post on Tibet.
The most common way to travel in Mongolia is in an all inclusive trip. It costs around $35/person/day. Add more $5 day to include vodkas and treats, the Ulaan Baatar stay and airport transports…