donata: (Reasonably priced - Politics)
Where I left off last time, everything and everyone was being cold and miserable. However, neither rain nor snow nor glom of nit can stay us truly dedicated tourists from visiting three to four temples, monasteries, tombs and palaces per day and photographing the life out of them. (Actually, we stopped visiting, let alone photographing, temples after we were about halfway through with Vietnam. Axel and I agreed that you can show pictures of the same temple or altar over and over again to your loved ones back home – perhaps taken from a different angle – and claim that they're different ones. They all look the same anyway.)

Tomb

Enter the Viet Nam (46 Pictures) )
donata: (Intrepid)
After all the excitements of Hanoi, Volker ditched us to go kite surfing in Cambodia. Which is quite possibly the single manliest activity I've ever typed out.

Axel and I went on a trip to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is as beautiful as it is swamped with tourists.

Ha Long Bay

Wet and slippery things behind the cut )
donata: (Intrepid)
*I originally wanted to write: “penniless in Hanoi”, but, well, the Vietnamese currency is called Dong after all, and it sure opens the floodgates for many more punes-or-plays-on-words.
*is Cracked reader*


So, Vietnam. After a 10-hour non-stop flight spent in the last row with no windows, we arrived in Hanoi at half past seven in the morning, on Saturday, December 29 (this will become important). It being half past seven in the morning, we had to wait till out hotel rooms were ready, as the previous guests had selfishly not checked out yet. And so we decided to pick up some local money and go for a coffee.

Literature Temple

It did not go as planned )
donata: (Wise Cat)
Georgia report, part IV: Gothic Georgia

I knew from the moment I sat in the taxi that took us from the airport to the town centre of Tbilisi that the Marquis de Sade would be my personal patron saint for the trip to Georgia. The signs were all there.

Two nights before I left for Georgia, I had watched Pasolini’s 120 Days of Sodom, based on de Sade’s novel of the same name:


(I had to link to the German trailer, because the international trailer is utterly tame. Warning: disturbing content, underage-looking nudity [“Pasolinsche Lustknaben”] and 1970s artsiness.)

Once in Georgia and in the taxi, the driver turned on the radio, and we were immediately treated to Georgian chants, thusly:


“Sade, dit moi,” indeed.

I hadn't heard this song since the early 1990s. de Sade was thus firmly established as my constant companion for this journey. I was proved right when, about ten days later, one of our travelling companions (a non-imaginary, corporeal one) gave the following answer to the question whether he was comfortable: “I am, in a Marquis de Sade way.”

Just like everything's got a moral, if only you can find it, everything’s also got a twist, if only you can spin it.

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Come on in )
donata: (Intrepid)
Georgia travel report, part III: Classic Georgia

Georgia draws its fame (for a given value of “fame”) from two facts: the invention of wine (I bet you didn’t know that) and having been the second country ever to become Christianised.



Surprisingly, it is not the wine that will get a lot of mention )
donata: (mr darcy on a horse)
Georgia travel report, part II: Industrial Georgia

And, perhaps even more importantly, industrious Georgia. The country is permeated by a real sense of purpose and of achievement. Wherever we went, we encountered people renovating, reconditioning, and (re)building their houses, towns and roads. For us, that meant that we spent half the time living in half-finished guesthouses and hotels, and the other half travelling along roads that were heavily under construction. Fortunately, the third half ("Oh dear, maths!") was spent in pleasant countryside.

We didn’t mind the discomfort, however. Rather, we admired the diligence and hard work people put into making their country a better place. Plus, the roads being a work in progress made travelling somewhat more exciting.

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The long and winding road )
donata: (mr darcy on a horse)
Georgia travel report, part I: Romantic Georgia

Let me begin my Georgian report by telling you about the skills that I don't have.

The skills that I don't have are speaking Russian and riding horses.

In Georgia, I was speaking Russian for two weeks, and I rode horses for two days. My first riding lesson consisted of some guy pushing me up a horse (I carried my trekking backpack at the time) and telling me: “If it's too fast, pull in the reigns.”

And then I rode.

Picture 546

The above is not a picture of my first riding lesson. My first riding lesson was much more extraordinary than that.

It took place on a muddy rural road, somewhere in the Svanetian forest (at that point, we had no idea where we were), and the guy whose horse it was had literally just appeared in our lives half an hour previously.

But wait. It gets genuinely romantic. )
donata: (Wise Cat)
Nepal travel report, part V

I had previously decided that I had milked this holiday long enough and that I would not make any more Nepal posts but rather return to the usual business of posting random ramblings every now and then. However, friends of mine who abhor cats (Yes, I know. But apart from that they are really lovely people.) told me that, after I had been announcing them for weeks and weeks, it was about time I posted those cat pics already. They were really keen on seeing them.

Such is the power of the kitten.

Seeing as everyone who knows anything about anything knows that kittens are among the four most happiness-inducing things on earth, they have to be complemented with other happy things.

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Sugar and spice and everything nice )
donata: (Intrepid)
Nepal travel report, part III

On the fourth day of the trek, I enjoyed a private “Sound of Music” moment, just before we reached Junbesi. Sadly, I couldn’t share it with anyone, because this particular popcultural reference requires considerable herzensbildung that, I fear, none of my travel companions possessed. Barbarians. (English speakers, take note: just like “schadenfreude” and “angst”, “herzensbildung” is a phrase that you really should incorporate into your language).


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Get thee to a nunnery )
donata: (Intrepid)
Nepal travel report, part II

One of the most beautiful spectacles in nature is a lonely yak, wandering serenely up a steep mountain slope. I wanted to film it, but it was too far away. You will have to take my word for it.

Yaks

Extremely picture-heavy post under the cut )
donata: (Intrepid)
Nepal travel report, part I

On the way to Kathmandu, at Heathrow Airport, trainer-wearing, mobile-phoning Buddhist monks stole our seats. This goes against everything that I or anybody else ever thought they knew about Buddhism, and only goes to show that that path to Enlightenment is longer and stonier than you'd think.

From Kathmandu, we had planned to fly in to Lukla: the starting point for everyone and their mother who sets off for the mountains (if everyone and their mother want to ramble about the Everest region, which most of them do). And so we spent five happy hours (and I'm using the word "happy" very loosely here) at the domestic airport in Kathmandu, in the company of other dismayed hopefuls and hoards of natives who, doubtlessly, were not gloating at all about the fact that they could fly to their respective destinations, whilst the tourists, with all their Western equipment and functional wear, could not.

My favourite bit about this whole experience (and I'm using the word "favourite" very loosely) was, how you stop caring after a while: There was a huge black box sitting right in front of the check-in counter, and at first, we were wary of it like you are wary of any item of luggage that doesn't seem to belong to anyone. But after a while, wariness made way to weariness, and I ended up sleeping on said box, seeing as it was the perfect height for my head to rest on, whilst the rest of my body rested on my backpack. That's how you can wage the war on terror in people's heads: make them sit around in airports till they're bored out of their skulls and willing to fraternise with potential enemy luggage, just because any possible alternatives seem even more horrid.

Seeing as we couldn't fly (the flights for that day and the following three were cancelled), we decided to walk rather than spend even more endless hours waiting at the airport. And so we hired a taxi, and it took us only nine and a half hours to drive out to Jiri - the town from which it would take us only six more days to walk to Lukla: the starting point of the actual Everest trek.

But it was totally worth it. In fact, the route Jiri-Lukla turned out to be my favourite part of the trek, what with not being bloody freezing.

Taxi

This is the taxi that took us into the mountains. We had to stop every few hours to let the car breathe (see open bonnet).

And then we walked. There were landscapes.

Landscapes like this one:

Solu03

Bigger, better, more behind the cut )
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