Wednesday, 8 April 2009
This time I was lucky to meet Min-Soo from South Korea straight from the start as we had a joint pick up from the train station. Later our group grew as a bunch of girls from Hong Kong and a guy from Australia joined. The great thing about meeting people in a hostel is that everyone has their own story and their own unique experiences, which makes for excellent and interesting conversations in the cozy courtyards of the hostel.
One of the highlights of my stay this weekend was the dinner plus performance we got to enjoy the Saturday evening. After having eaten a wide variety of dumplings (unlimited supply) a show of traditional Chinese dance and music started. Artists wore beautiful clothing and the feat gave some fine insights into Chinese culture. Of course the night ended drinking beer in the bar of the hostel with the finishing touch of some amazing nightly prepared street noodles! Tops all!
As it is Wednesday evening now it’s less than two days before I shall set foot in Beijing again. I’m nigh halfway my term here and as Antonia from Denmark pays me another visit I got some days off to travel around a bit. Soon more on that!
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
After having disposed of the various taxi drivers who wanted to take me somewhere whilst I had more important matters on my mind (finishing the delicious breakfast I had just bought for twenty cent) a guy on a rickshaw approached me. His expression was one of concentration, as if looking for some words he had difficulty remembering, and naturally I assumed the bloke wanted to share some of his five-word strong English vocabulary. Utterly surprised I was however when his introduction was in Dutch, not so much of the fact that he knew the words but rather that he knew I was from the Netherlands! It appeared that he was kind of famous for taking foreigners around the city and hence his English was of a level I had not run into in China outside the school grounds. Proudly he showed me the newspapers in which articles about his business were written and his treasure.. the diaries in which hitherto 508 foreign tourists had written something about their experience in Kaifeng with Jason. One could not have supplied me with a more convincing argument and hence I entrusted Jason with showing me Kaifeng. And that he did. Elaborating about historic stories at the various sights we visited, taking me to the best food markets and, above all, being pleasant company during the day Jason made my weekend! I have posted plenty of pictures below as well as some videos. In one of them one can see Jason showing one of his precious diaries, one to which I have also contributed by now!
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Coming weekend a journey to Kaifeng is scheduled, after which I shall return once again to my beloved Xi’an the subsequent weekend. Now I am sitting behind my laptop with aching muscles, a feeling I really missed, from the intense football I enjoyed this afternoon with Jhao and a bunch of students.
Friday, 20 March 2009
One of my colleagues, a lady called Helen who teaches English to the first grade, invited me on behalf of her family and friends for a dinner. The location was not, as I had assumed, a house but rather one of the city’s best restaurants! Upon arrival I was introduced to the friends of Helen and her husband after which we took our seats in a private dining room. The round table at which we sat was huge and overloaded with different dishes. And then I don’t mean five or ten, I think there may have been over twenty different plates, platters and bowls with delicious food. The glass plateau on which this all was placed could be turned around at the preference of those who were eating and about three waitresses and a cook ensured perfect service during the meal.
As I get to enjoy more and more of these social gatherings I notice one outstanding fact; Chinese like to drink. Wine, beer and liquor are abundantly served and the question of how much I can drink has been stated more than once each respective evening.
All in all great ways to meet new people and enjoy local customs!
Monday, 16 March 2009
Sunday, 15 March 2009
The best time spent since I left India by far, as I got to meet plenty of new people and consumed a proper quantity of beer for a Friday and Saturday night. The hostel I resided at was great, with free internet access, cleans showers and toilets, great staff, pool / table tennis tables, Terra the Golden Retriever, a cozy dinner / chill out room, and last but not least a great bar in the basement. And it was there that I spent the Friday night, drinking decent quality Chinese beer and chatting with some nice people I had met. The next night I hit the bar street with Mark from England to watch Man U – Liverpool and Arsenal – Blackburn. It’s been ages ago since I’ve seen a football match live and hence I enjoyed it most!
During the day I mainly chilled out, walked the 14 km city walls, and played football with Mico anc Charley whom I had met the previous weekend. Now it’s Monday afternoon and soon I’ll head for another two classes to teach, but time flies and it will be soon again that I pack my backpack and take off to the train station early Saturday morning.
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Of course not all time was spent gazing at the mighty terracotta warriors last weekend, as Xi’an had a lot to offer on itself as well. Roaming around the first day in the Muslim quarter, visiting the famous Bell tower and Drum tower (pictures), watching the seemingly biggest fountain show in Asia and playing chess at the hostel with Yuki.. Xi’an made my weekend!
Two Chinese dudes who invited me for a beer at the hostel were studying at the local university and invited me to play football with their friends that afternoon. Since I had not taken any clothes in which I could sport we agreed upon doing this the next time I’d go to Xi’an, which will be soon enough! As there is loads of other stuff to visit I’ve already booked my ticket for coming weekend, and I’m sure that even once I’ve seen all the sights Xi’an will appeal to me just for the sake of being in an ancient city which has the current day backpacker lots to offer!
Sunday, 8 March 2009
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
As I strolled the central square last night in search for a public phone I ran into a crowd of about one thousand women doing some synchronized dance on music that came from various speakers. Some white-clad people were leading the moves and the crowd followed surprisingly accurately. Weird habits these Chinese people have!
What’s more.. The enthusiasm I cherish for the majority of my students seems to be mutual as girls from my classes repeatedly pay me visits to hand me written cards, drawings, folded flowers, and gifts.. (!) Today a young lady from the third grade (which I don’t even teach) came to bring me a personal welcome letter and a nicely wrapped package of tea. I feel very much appreciated and am about to write her something back soon.
Last but not least I’d like to share with you the most random fact that I’ve ‘discovered’ a nice coffee place on the way downtown. The warmth and coziness of my room was tempting today after having taught my classes and having done the grocery shopping, but spending too much time in the same space makes me want to go out and hence I set off towards a big ‘Coffee’ sign I had spotted some days back. The place turned out to be a top of the class coffee house, beautifully decorated, with excellent service and live classic piano music. Prices are Western but the coffee I got to drink was truly one of the very best I’ve ever had! Definitely I shall pay this place a visit again very soon, it is the ideal location to read a book whilst enjoying the luxuries of superb coffee and a great environment.
Sunday, 1 March 2009
Thursday, 26 February 2009
As you can see, winter is ruthlessly sweeping away the few Goa images I still cherished in my mind as the weather could not be in bigger contrast. Snow is daily practice now and my hopes for a sunny weekend have little ground. But sun I need because the next trip is already planned, coming Sunday I will honour the ‘Ten thousand Buddha Cave in Longmen Caves’ in Luoyang with a visit! Soon more on that!
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Picture and video displayed visualise the recent happening of Jack and Jao cooking at my place, preparing some tasty Chinese food. My endeavours of the night preceding that Friday of making something that should resemble an Italian pasta were, given the very limited ingredients I had at my disposal, not a total fiasco and hence Jack was eager to make me something tasty as well. Contrary to the food which is served at lunch in the canteen, which is of superb quality as I get to eat with the ‘leaders’, the meals served for supper are less tasty and hence I intend to utilize my kitchen more regularly during the evenings. This is also a great way to spend some good time with Jack and Jao, with whom I get along really well! The video also shows those sections of my 'apartment' that I have not displayed yet.
Monday, 23 February 2009
The city of Qingdao is famous for its German heritage and, interrelated to the German occupation, for its tasty beer. The old town displays a variety of architecture and churches which would lure one into the feeling of finding himself in a cozy German provincial town, though a look at the skyscrapers which line the coast underlines the very fact that Qingdao is a well established Chinese city. Strolling around Qingdao made my first weekend trip, and plans are to continue the sequence in five days by visiting nearby Luoyang. Soon more on that!
Saturday, 21 February 2009
When I've returned more on the visa experience and about Qingdao!
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
I am definitely more positive about my apartment than I was at first glance.. the concrete cold rooms with scarce furniture have been transformed into a new home for me during the last days. I’ve bought a big mirror, some carpet to cover the floor next to my bed with, have had twelve big pictures printed and spread them out over the walls.. The air conditioner is fortunately also capable to share warm air so that my room is warm and cozy compared to the rest of the dorm buildings, be it with the exception of my kitchen and bathroom. And it is in my bedroom, under the heater, that I write this story now.. Soon more and better!
the video below shows you my bedroom.. the other rooms are too cold for me to enter now ;)
Monday, 16 February 2009
Saturday, 14 February 2009
From the first second I set foot on Sanmenxian soil I was accompanied by Jack. The name Jack may spur an imagine of an American bloke in his late twenties, with short black hair, a motor jacket and a cool smile, but in China 'Jack' is the nickname chosen by my 'buddy' who's been chosen to help me out during my stay here. He's 24 and an English teacher here at the secondary school where I will be teaching and I am really happy for his company and help. Since I'm the only non-chinese person in the whole area it's nice to meet Chinese people with whom you get along well, and this certainly holds for Jack.
Bit of a bugbear however is my visa, as I am here on a one-month tourist visa I need to get an appropriate one that lasts for four months asap and up till now there's been little action regarding that matter. Anyway, we'll see how that works out!
In my next post I hope I'll be able to post the pictures I have taken so far, if the promised internet access has been realised by then you'll be supplied with a visual image of the scenario on the ground here!
As for now, all the best from China!
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
China itself is truly a new experience; the people, the food, the cities, the infrastructure, everything is so very different than India! I love it though, and the lays days I’ve spent at least two hours each day just roaming around the city, buying random food from the street without having a clue what I’m eating, drinking tea in various teahouses, and especially looking around and being excited to be in China. The city of Jinan itself would by most Western people be regarded as very ugly and grey, as it depicts much of what communism does to architecture and such, but .. it intrigues me. Like at the time I studied in Poland, I can wander around the concrete flats and square blocks and be fascinated about the people who live here and what it must be like to live in such a culture.
Chinese people are very kind and although hardly anyone speaks a word of English here they are willing to help you out. My first encounter was the taxi driver at the airport of Beijing.. think of it, the capital of China where the Olympics had just been held, you’d think the guy spoke some English. But no, he had no clue whatsoever what I meant by ‘train station’, nor had the guy in the yellow outfit who directed people to the respective taxis. Anyway, I decided to draw a train on a piece of paper and name the name of the city I had to go to. The yellow outfit guy shot a glance at the paper, made a sound that slightly resembled the whistle of a locomotive from the 30’s, and we were on the same line again. :D And well.. that’s how I deal with people here. ;)
More news about my new city will follow shortly! As for now, all the best from Jinan!
Monday, 9 February 2009
Small remark here.. depicted are one of the guards in front of our house and Johan who wants to borrow the guy's stick.. He didn't let him ;)
Thursday, 5 February 2009
The last day of our trip was spent in Fort Kochi, a lovely Portuguese town with picturesque streets, charming cafes and houses, pretty white churches and view on the harbour. The Dutch palace we visited was Dutch nor worth visiting but the two rupee entrance fee was not a big loss. On the airplane several hours later (after the usual rush within too tight a schedule and the slight touch of excitement that goes along with it) neither of us felt like going back to Delhi (to express it decently) but inevitably we ended up back home. Sitting in a cab Sunday night with my backpack full of dirty clothing next to me thoughts drifted back to the scene depicted below..
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Since we had only two days to spend in Goa, partially due to our previous delay and partially because we had a train booked that departed Monday evening, we decided that another full day at the beach would be a bit of a waste since Goa has so much more to offer. Hence we rented a scooter, grabbed a map of the state, and took off down south. Goa is a little paradise, as all you encounter on your way is beautiful and cozy and brings along an overwhelming feeling of holidays. As an ex-colony of Portugal it’s flooded with churches and Mediterranean looking houses, fortresses, and other features that the North of India so desperately misses. We followed the road down to an old Portuguese fortress which name I could not even remember every time we had to ask for directions and thus have no clue about now but which was certainly worth visiting. The fort itself was nothing special, just some remnants of the old walls and a church in the middle, but the view from one of the towers was breathtaking. The picture I attached does the scenery no justice but it is the closest thing I can supply you with.
The train to Kerala was two hours delayed, two hours which we could have spent on the beach that we had left behind with so much regret, but that’s India. Come to think of it, the train had departed in Amritsar (from the Golden temple, remember?) and had thus already covered quite some kilometers since Punjab finds itself totally in the North of India. This time we actually spent some time on the train planning our journey ahead and after repeatedly consulting our hope and salvation on the road – the Lonely Planet – we had decided on a plan: the backwaters! It took us another bus ride of two hours but eventually we had a houseboat arranged to cover the famous backwaters with, departing the next morning. Quite an expensive 22 hours, but the presence of three men with the sole devotion of making our journey as pleasant as possible, a great bedroom, welcome coconut drink and flower necklace, great lunch, even better dinner, and fantastic views on the way made it all worth it. The backwaters are waterways that function as roads in an area covered mainly by rice fields and jungle, and on the way we saw various houses, schools, villages, and plantations. Children go to school by school bus / boat, people go to church by boat, and selling fresh fish has become the profession of more than a few families.
(to be continued in part four)
Monday, 2 February 2009
(to be continued in part three)
The plan, insofar one could call this a plan, was to catch a night bus to Goa once we got off the plane. However, these buses tend to leave around eight p.m. if on time and up to eleven o’clock if late and thus our endeavours of finding one at 1 a.m. proved to be rather fruitless. Almost equally difficult to realise was Plan B; finding a room to spend the night. It took around seven negative responses of hotels in the area before we got admitted to a very shady place with grumpy employees who did not appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night by two random backpackers. They money we paid for the few hours of sleep could have gotten us a week in a guesthouse in Goa but once necessity arises these arguments are pushed back and the prospect of a shower and a bed are stronger than any monetarily dominated reasoning.
Mumbai by day treated us far better and I have to admit that it has everything that Delhi lacks; pubs and bars, the sea, a (modest) skyline, nice looking buildings, churches, efficient buses.. and apparently even nightlife (!). Things are definitely expensive though, as a city as such requires Westerners to live there for a while to know how to get around. But all in all a big plus for India’s biggest city, and it seems we’re in the wrong metropolis of India.
Sunday, 1 February 2009
You may wonder, doesn’t the guy have to work? All I write about is partying and travelling. Well, I finished my work as a teacher at the slum school just before Christmas. All in all it was a great experience and I got to become really close with the people but I really felt like taking on a new challenge. And that is why I disclose hereby my next stage in life.. China! Coming Friday I will fly via Honk Kong to Beijing where I will take a train to Jinan. More information on this will follow once I’m on the ground, for now a coverage of the previous two weeks will dominate my posts!
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Last night a night train took us to Kerala where we just booked a boat trip for tomorrow morning. The trip will take 22 hours and is supposed to cover all the beauty that seems to be hidden in the so called back waters. At the moment I fervently hope all this will be worth the money we're paying for it ;)
Flight back to Delhi is scheduled for Sunday afternoon and Monday I will post some detailed stories about all this! Of course with the related pictures and videos..!
Thursday, 22 January 2009
as of now I am preparing for a journey to Goa and Kerala! Goa is the state in India well known for its beaches whereas Kerala is famous for its forests and jungle! Tonight I will depart from the domestic airport, off to Mumbai, from where a nightbus will take us to Goa. Spending some days over there after which a train will take us to Kerala. At least, that's the plan! A full update will follow as soon as I get back, but for the next ten days I will probably not be able to post any stories!
Below you see a picture taken some time ago. Chilling out at the Taj during sunset.. Good times..
Monday, 19 January 2009
Capital of Punjab, centre of the Sikh religion, Amritsar is home to the famous Golden Temple. In addition to other Sikh temples, where visitors get food offered 24/7, the Golden temple also offers ‘peoples of all classes’ a place to spend the night. All involved in the temple are volunteers; the men working in the cloakroom where you have to leave your shoes behind (even cleaning them from time to time!), the men preparing and serving the food, the guards.. And being told that rich people come to the temple to help clean dishes because the respect gained is so enormous.. It is all really admirable and impressive.
After having visited the temple in the morning we rented a cab that brought us to the Indian – Pakistani border where we witnessed the change of guard. Basically it comes down to the ‘border guard’ doing some ceremony which is witnessed by thousands of people. Spectator seats are set up all around the road so that all who want to are able to view the happening. A mirror image is drawn up at the Pakistani side of the border, and all moves by the soldiers are similar at the other side of the gate.
To be honest I found the whole thing rather pathetic. The soldiers were supposed to be marching synchronized, which they didn’t, as some tripped over the feet of the soldier leading the session or slipped over the ninety degrees turns in the march. Lifting their feet as high as their faces, rigid and apparently practiced infinitely, with the crowds going totally wild on it.. A lot of cheering and screaming and yelling, as in some kind of football match, with rage and pride on their faces.. The whole thing took a whole afternoon and I had the feeling to be the only one (perhaps with some other ‘outsiders’) who regarded the whole situation as rather excessive. Especially when you realize that the same thing happens every day ;)
But that may just be an outsider’s view?
Friday, 16 January 2009
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
The party I attended last night with three fellow trainees from kalkaji was organised to celebrate this particular festival. On the rooftop of one of the trainee houses in Delhi's outskirts a big bonfire was lit. The party was complete with a complete DJ stand and coloured lights. I can state without doubt that parties like these keep the life of a trainee interesting enough!
Sunday, 11 January 2009
The only locations where parties are allowed to continue for as long as they have to, besides our trainee houses ;), are five start hotels where guests have to pay up to 3000 rps (50 euro) as far as entrance is concerned. Working as a volunteer does not really allow this kind of behaviour I must admit.
But there was an outcome, and one that all the trainees have gratefully taken. Urban Pind organises an ‘expat’ night every Thursday, which basically comes down to foreigners not paying entrance in a decent bar. Closure time fluctuates around 1 am, but as all of us have to work the next day it’s a burden that we managed to overcome.
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
Things have definitely taken a turn in that respect. I cannot say that I am fully integrated after less than half a year, but definitely some positive line has set in over the last months that has brought me to a point I thought I would never reach.
I think this development is best illustrated by an example. As Johan and I left work today by auto-rickshaw after bargaining long and skillfully enough until the requested price was reached we directed the driver through the busy Delhi traffic to a stop close to our house. After paying the guy Johan set off to buy two glasses of freshly made orange juice from a street vendor whereas I did the same across the street by buying two omelets with bread, fried in a mix of spices. As we enjoyed the food and drinks we leaned comfortably against the barrow of the juice vendor whilst the parked motorbike next to us served as a tray to put our glasses on. A satisfying five minutes later we took a stroll, dodging auto-rickshaws and bicycles on the road and ignoring the ever present horning of cars. We don’t even hear that anymore. Waving at the broker who we could distinguish in his office, walking the streets without having to think of which road to take.. New Delhi has become a new home and I have come to appreciate and love it.
Monday, 5 January 2009
Little hinder from cold I had the days in between Christmas and New year’s eve, when I was travelling with Antonia from Denmark, a good friend of mine who came over for ten days. Rajasthan is known as the ‘desert state’ of India and the clear blue skies and the ever present sun make weather conditions even pleasant this time of the year. Five days and four nights our journey took and we have visited some of the most beautiful places of India. Not having slept in a hotel room even once during this time must be a good indication of the distance we have covered, as the nights were consecutively spent on a train, a bus, the desert and again on a bus.
Udaipur is a lovely town with cozy buildings, a beautiful inner city, foothills with wild parks surrounding the conglomerations, and the famous lake palace as the outstanding tourist attraction. After having spent one day there –far too little but lack of time made us do so- we moved on to Jaisalmer, where we engaged in a so called desert safari by camel. Spending the night under the starts with nothing more to cover ourselves than some dirty blankets was definitely a great experience!
The journey back to Delhi by bus took another 21 hours but was definitely enjoyed to the fullest extend. Please take a look at the pictures, I hope they can supply some insight in the great time we had!
Thursday, 1 January 2009
Soon an elaborated story will be posted about my most recent journey into Rajastan!
As for now, a very happy 2009!