Back  Home  September 2001 November 2001 Maren & Kirk

October 2001 Daily Diary

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(Nepal, Tibet, China)



We started at 6:45 am down the mountain from Kimche.  The last part was really easy. Most of it down hill or flat. We also had great views of the snow topped mountains in the background. The last village on the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek (Annapurna Conservation Area Project, ACAP) was Birethani.  We got there in 2.5 hours.  From there it was another 45 minutes to Naya Pul where we took a local bus back to Pokhara. It took 1.5 hours to get there. The bus dropped us 2 km away from Lakeside in Pokhara. We walked the rest of the way.  In Pokhara, Kirk got finally something to eat, a cheese sandwich.  We found a cheap hotel, Future Way Guest House.  It was a good deal, clean and hot showers. We both took really hot showers.  Kirk needed one really bad after not showering for 7 days, he smelled bad.  Afterwards we went into an Internet Café and downloaded our emails and checked up on current events.  We were very happy that after all war had not broken out.  For the rest of the day the both of us wrote emails and relaxed a little.  In the evening Maren had an egg sandwich for dinner, while Kirk only had a banana lassi (yogurt drink).  Before we went to bed Kirk sent out emails at the internet café.  Before bed Maren booked 2 bus tickets to Kathmandu for the next morning.  Maren was a little ticked off because the hotel had left our laundry out in the rain.  No way it would be dry in the morning.


Well at 6:00 am our laundry was not dry. Kirk had to put on wet shorts.  We walked 30 minutes to the bus station.  Along the way we crossed paths with Rene and Laure again. He was going to Sonauli, then back to Delhi to catch his flight home.  From the bus station one had a beautiful view of the Annapurna Mountains.  The bus ride was really easy.  It was a tourist bus so we got to Kathmandu in 6.5 hours.  There we looked for hotels with the Argentinean guys we met on the mountain. One always seem to cross paths with the same people.  They chose another hotel than we did.   We quickly dropped off our stuff and went to look for something to eat. Well they seem to have everything here.  They even had bagels, yes bagels.  We both had a delicious cream cheese bagel sandwich.  It was a great change. We then went checking for information  on how to get to Tibet.  There were so many different explanations and stories of what is possible and what is not. Also the prices differed greatly.  A few time Kirk noticed that they were trying to tell us a bunch of bull and confronted the guys by saying to them why are you telling us lies and trying to rip us off.  Twice the reaction from the travel agents were silence. They knew right away that they were caught in lies and could only smile.  We got up and left both times. One notices one is in a city and that the modern world has come to parts of Nepal.   It is not like in the mountains, where one felt that they were not always trying to rip you off.  In getting to Tibet, one has to take a tour.  One is otherwise not allowed in. So it is much more costly than going in as an individual.  Later on we also had a huge portion of French Fries with Mayo and Ketchup.  They were also great.  We also checked the internet and walked around town, trying to orientate ourselves.  Kirk also bought a Time Magazine.  For dinner we had some dry pizza  and an awful pretzel.  They were half priced after 9:30 pm. But not worth it.  We also bought some pastries for breakfast the next morning.  Later on Kirk called home spoke to his mom.  It is always great to speak to the person one loves.   We do have to admit,  we do miss our parents on this trip.  It would be nice to see them again or just even be able to talk to them more often.  Kirk spent the rest of the night reading his newly bought Time Magazine.  



This morning we woke up at around 7:00 am.  We did a little work on our diary then got ready to go to the German Embassy here. Maren's passport is almost full of Visas and stamps and she would like to know what she can do about getting more pages or another passport.  We got a small map down at the reception at the hotel and then walked to the embassy, about half an hour away.  Well we were both not thinking.  The 3rd of October is a National Holiday in Germany, Tag der Deutschen Einheit.  Well tomorrow then.  Then we went to the Chinese Embassy. We heard it might be closed, but we decided to find it anyway, well it was closed for the week and we would have to come back on the 8th of October to apply for our Chinese Visa.  We have anyway a lot to do here, especially with updating our website and things. We are also waiting for Wes and Masami to arrive from Bangkok in the next few days.  In the early afternoon Kirk worked on our website and Maren went checking for more information on ways to get to Tibet.  Our hotel reception says he knows a really cheap place. Will see how that turns out!  Well, it was the cheapest tour offer of the day for about 310 US$ each. The Chinese Government changed their regulations going into Tibet. They only allow tour groups to enter for a minimum of 7/8 days. That makes the whole thing very expensive, but that is what they want to reach. For us that means we cannot leave earlier than the 13th of October because we have to get our Chinese Visas and the Tibetan Entry Permit. One and a half weeks in Kathmandu, but we will keep ourselves busy somehow. There is a lot to see here and in the surrounding town of the Kathmandu Valley.   In the evening we went looking for a small handbag for the laptop and then went out to dinner at a restaurant below our hotel. Maren had momos and Kirk had Mexican Enchiladas.  The momos are dumplings, but they were not nearly as good as my mom's and Mrs. Shih's back home.  They never compare.  So we are still expecting some good ones when we eventually arrive in AZ.  Afterwards Kirk spent 4 hours in the Internet uploading pictures. It is so slow here it is very frustrating,  one good thing is that the connection does not break all the time, just takes forever.   When Kirk went back to the hotel, the hotel was shut, he had to call the Hotel to wake up the guard to open the door.  Maren was sound a sleep also when he got back to the room. Like she said in a deep sleep.  But when I told her that her sister emailed she woke up quickly.


Maren got up early and filtered water. She also worked on the pictures for our website.  When Kirk eventually woke up at 7:30 am, he went to the sandwich shop and got two bagels with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mayo for breakfast.  It is so nice to have fresh sandwiches again.   After finishing the pictures Maren went to the German Embassy to see what she can do about the lack of Visa spaces in her passport.   Kirk worked on the website in the mean time.  When Maren came back she was not feeling too good. She went to sleep. She did not get her new passport since the lines were just too long, so she has to go back tomorrow.  Kirk uploaded our website for 4 hours. The connections here are really slow.  Maren got a little sick and threw up a little.  She thinks the sandwich she ate in the morning made her sick.  Later on we both slept for a while then took a small walk through town to get some fresh air.  Kirk than had dinner, Maren only had some herbal tea.  Afterwards Maren went to bed and Kirk worked on the website again. There is still so much to do.  It is still not up to par.  


Maren woke up still not feeling well, but she still managed to go to the German Embassy to get a new passport.  She will have to wait until next week to get it.  In the morning Kirk just worked on our website and uploaded a few things.  In the early afternoon Wes and Masami arrived from Bangkok.  It was really nice to see them again. They got a room right next to ours.  We actually wanted to pick them up at the Airport,  but Maren was not feeling that great, so we waited at the hotel.  Later on after we napped, we bought a bag for our laptop, so we have something to carry it around in. Just  a cloth bag.  We also looked at trekking gear for a while, but did not buy anything yet.   In the evening we went out to dinner with Wes and Masami.  It was a really nice evening, with a lot to talk about.  It is nice because we feel that they are on the same wave length as us and sort of in the same position as us. Having worked for a long time and now are taking a breather and seeing the world. Wes is a also really interested in computers and other topics, Kirk likes discussing and learning about.  So it seems to be a good fit.  So we hope that they will go to Tibet with us.  That would be fantastic if they could fit Tibet now in their plans. After dinner we bought our breakfast for tomorrow, some chocolate pastries at half price. At the bakeries here the pastries are often half price after 9:30 pm.  Kirk then checked the internet for an hour and then went to bed.


Kirk woke up late in the morning, around 8:30 am. At 9:00 am Wes came along and asked if we were ready to do a little sightseeing.  We walked to Durban Square where there are some Buddhist Temples and the Old Royal Palace. They are nice, but a little run down. Foreigners actually have to pay to walk around a public square there.  We just walked by the check point.   Maren and Masami actually were stopped, but they just said they were walking through.  The temples were ok, but not worth paying for.  We then did a walk recommended in our guide book, which led us pass other temples.  Katmandu is really nice to walk through, one is hassled, but nothing like in India. Afterwards we got some lunch, Maren and I just had bagels.  After lunch Kirk had another bagel and Maren a brown roll, because we were not full yet.  We then went back to the room where Kirk of course packed out the computer and Maren took a small nap.  After Kirk checked the internet he worked on his pc, doing some other websites. Maren in the meantime checked out tour operators for Tibet.  We went out with Wes and Masami for dinner tonight at the restaurant below our hotel.  Well that was the last time. It is actually not really good.  We do not think Wes and Masami liked it at all. Later on we looked around town for a used guide book for China. The used ones are still really expensive here, so we are going to go looking again tomorrow.  We also checked out trekking stores  and then had a half priced donut before we retired to our room. Maren went to sleep and Kirk worked some more on the laptop.  What is really nice is that it now seems that Wes and Masami are definitely going on the Tibet tour with us. 


Kirk seems to sleep a little longer here. Maren was up early writing some emails. For breakfast we got some chocolate pastries and then checked our emails for a few minutes. Later we went with Wes and Masami to look at tour operators for Tibet.  We first went back to the original tour operator to ask some more questions about the program and payment methods.  Afterwards we decided to look at one more tour operator. There we found what we are looking for we think.  He was offering us a 5 day Tibet tour which will save each couple around 180 US$.  We think we are going to go with them.  On  Monday we just want to go to the Chinese Embassy and learn about the Visa possibilities. Wes and Masami would like to get a multiple Visa.  After discussing the tour and bargaining the price down a little we had some tea and then had some French Fries for lunch, just like in Holland, "Fritten Spezial".  We also bought a used China Lonely Planet book for 900 RS, around 12 US$. Later on we went back to the room and Kirk worked on his web pages while Maren took a nap.  As Maren slept Kirk also went to the Internet Cafe'. An hour later she picked Kirk up and we both met Wes and Masami at a slide show over India. Afterwards we went to the Katmandu Guest House for dinner. Later on we both tried to call home. Kirk got through, but when his mom tried to call back, she must have not got through. Maren's mom and Norbert were not at home.  Afterwards Kirk went back to the Internet cafe' to upload some stuff.  It was really slow and not much got updated.  Tomorrow we have to get up earlier to go to the Chinese embassy for our Visas.  


Wes came to our door at around 7:30 am.  We had planned to go to the Chinese Embassy this morning to get our Chinese Visas. We got there an hour early, but there were already people lining up.  When the doors opened at 9:30 am there was a mad rush to get in.  The security had to hold people back.  They let us climb over a side fence to get in and get a decent position in line.  After finally giving up our passports we walked back to the hotel.  For lunch we had fries and a bagel.  In the afternoon Kirk uploaded some web pages, not much because it was again so slow today. He spent three hours and just uploaded 30 small Html files.  Later on we did some Christmas shopping.  Afterwards we all watched a slide show on Tibet.  We went out with Wes and Masami for dinner again and then called Kirk's mom.   Maren also tried to call home, but no one in the past few days have answered the phone.  Later on Maren bought some bread and Nutella for breakfast the next day.  The bread (healthy, brown bread) is also half price after 9:30 pm at the bakeries here.  


In the morning Kirk went right away to the Internet Cafe to try and upload some files. The connection was better, but still not great. Since he goes so often here, he was able to bargain for a better price.  He now pays 30 RS instead on 40 RS per hour.  In the mean time Maren, Masami, and Wes looked for the best way to pay the Tour to Tibet.  One thing they found out is that the tour operator now says the monasteries are not included in the 5 day package, even though the first time he said they were.   However Kirk had specifically asked him the day before and the answer was yes they are included in the price of the tour. Everyone had the same memory.  Well we went back to the agent and Maren asked again.  He was not very helpful and he just said they are never included in the price.  He told Maren in such a way that one had the feeling that he did not care if we went on the tour or not.  He did not apologize for a misunderstanding or the mistake, he sort of just blew Maren off.  Kirk stepped in and explained our side of the story and how we had all understood the agreement the day before.   But he seemed disinterested and  not concerned. Kirk got a little hard with him and told him that he had lied to us and asked how could we trust him.  We said we would have to discuss it further among ourselves.  We did not feel comfortable with this guy anymore. So we all decided to checkout Green Hill again to see if they could now offer us a 5 day package. Well it turned out they could, and for the same price after Kirk explained what we were offered from the other company.  Kirk just wrote down the prices and said that we would rather go with Green Hill Tours, but here are the facts.  The guy then agreed to the price and gave also a good exchange rate for the dollar, so we could pay in RS.   Later on we decided to go sightseeing to the Swayanbhunath Buddhist Temple here in Kathmandu. It was very interesting and had interesting people around it.  Wes even got his fortune told even though half the stuff what the guy said turned out to be false.   To get to the Buddhist temple one had to walk up steep stairs.  Up at the top of the hill at the Buddhist temple, a lot monkeys had made there home and were feeding off the offerings made to the Buddhist Statues.  On the way back Kirk got a hair cut and shave.  He wanted 70 RS but Kirk paid him 90 RS because he worked on him such a long time. He also got a facial and head massage which was great. For quick snack we had some Momos on a little "restaurant" on the corner of a street. We ended up going back to it for dinner with Masami and Wes. It was so cheap, but really good, 10 Momos for 12 RS.  A great deal.  The owner was also really nice and his wife was really sweet. They got a kick out of the digital camera.  They like the pictures we took of them.  Afterwards we had desert at the half priced bakery.  Maren really liked the Apple Strudel.   Later on Kirk worked again a little in the Internet and then went to bed.


When Kirk woke up, he ate some bread for breakfast and then went straight to the Internet Cafe at 7:00 am. It is the best time to upload sites, because there are not that many people using the net.  He worked on the net for over 5 hours.  Maren in the meantime read her book and did some other things in town.  In the afternoon we took a bus with Wes and Masami to go to a couple of temples a few kilometers away.  The first temple was where they did the cremations of the bodies.  Unlike India, one was allowed to take pictures.  The water was so filthy around the burial site.  But people still washed in there.   The second temple was two kilometers away.  This is a temple where everyone walks clockwise in  a circle around the Stupa.  It is quiet interesting watching the different types of people walk by. There were a lot of Buddhist monks.  In the evening we had Momos again for dinner. The owner and his wife were seemed happy that we came again.  Kirk this time had three and half plates of Momos.  Later on we made a phone call to Germany and then checked out emails again.  Just to let our family know, we have not received emails from the following people in a while, Rita and Norbert & Scott and Marc.  So we expect to get some mail from you guys in the near future. 


Kirk got up at 7:30 am and went straight to the Internet Cafe. He had to still upload some pages.  The uploading took 3 hours. Afterwards we went to lunch with Wes and Masami.   We again went to the French Fries Stand and had "Fritten Spezial" as we always do.  In the afternoon Kirk slept and Maren worked on sorting out the Kathmandu pictures. We have taken so many that it is very difficult to sort out the ones for our website.  In the evening we went to the briefing for the Tibet tour.  After that we picked up a few things at the store and then went to dinner with Wes and Masami.  So as you see, nothing major happened today.  


We just would like to wish Holger a Happy Birthday and to Anja, his girl friend Happy Birthday, too. She had her birthday on the 9th.  Kirk got up early again so he could upload our Kathmandu pictures. Uploading is much faster early in the morning when there are not so many users on the net.  At around 8:30 am we went to the post office to send some big packages home. We chose sea mail because it was less than half the price of airmail.  It costs us 126 US$ just to send the stuff home.  Just as much as the stuff had cost us in the store.  Ok a little less. It took a while at the post office to first fill out the customs forms, the customs checking everything we were sending, getting the packages weighed, getting the packages sewn up in cloth,  getting our addresses on other forms, then on the packages, then wax sealing the package, paying for the packaging itself, weighing again the packages, paying for the packages and then waiting for our receipt.   This as you can imagine took a couple of hours.  Hopefully the stuff gets to the US in the next few months. It first travels overland to Calcutta and then by sea to the USA.  We were not done. We had to send our film home by airmail at another post office down the street. This took much less time, only a few minutes.  Maren then called the German Embassy to see if her new passport could be picked up. They had not even got an ok from Germany yet that she would be allowed to get a new passport. The German Embassy is ridicules. She has waited a week already and they have done nothing.   They provide absolutely no service.   So Maren was really angry.  She really needs new visa pages.  Wes was nice enough to take Kirk's passport to the US Embassy after he picked it up at the Chinese  Embassy and got some new inserts in it. It should last the trip at least. Germans have to get a whole new passport.   Later on Maren corrected some internet pages and we both took a nap. Kirk later on updated some of our web pages for two hours.  Later on we did some last minute shopping for a couple of hats and some 35mm films.  Kirk also bought two books to read, the sequential Bourne books.  So we both have something to read now.  Maren later on tried to pick up our bus tickets at Green Hill with Wes, but they were not ready yet. In the mean time Kirk did some internet work.  In the evening we went out to eat again with Wes and Masami.   Before dinner we tried again to get the ticket, we eventually got some vouchers for our bus to Golmud and their flight ticket back to Kathmandu. Maren also notice that they were combining our tour with the tour operator that we had a little fight with a couple of days before when they lied to us. So Green Hill also got caught in a lie that they do the tours alone.  The other tour guide was actually organizing the tour this time.  So we will see as how it goes. There excuse was that there were not enough people this year because of the terrorist attack in the USA and the killings of the Royal Family.  Afterwards we bought some stuff for the trip to Tibet and Kirk bought some fleece pants and a long sleeve shirt. The things are really cheap in Nepal.  Later on e checked the internet one last time and upload some new web pages.


This morning we all got up at around 4:55 am, we had to be at the tour operator at 5:15 am. However like always thing were not well organized and the bus left after 6:00 am.  We were in a group from around 19 people.  At 9:00 am we stopped for breakfast. For some reason we got breakfast for free even though the 5 day package tour did not include breakfast according to the travel agent when we booked the tour.  It seems that they have no paper stating which person is on what tour.  The trip went up and down on a winding sometimes washed away road. Sometimes it was really scary overlooking the cliffs or when trucks came in the other direction and got really close.  At the border we had to wait an hour while they processed the forms so we could leave Tibet. In the mean time the money changers were trying to rip us off. They wanted 7 Chinese Yuan per US dollar while the actual exchange rate is 8.28 Yuan per US$.  They also wanted 15 Nepalese RS for 1 Chinese Yuan, a price absolutely unacceptable.  It should be between 9 and 10 Nepalese RS for 1 Yuan.  So we decided to wait until we got to the Chinese (Tibet) side of the border.  There Kirk started bargaining with the money changers, playing them off one another. Since Kirk had still 10257 Nepalese RS left he wanted to exchange them for Yuan. Since in China later it would be impossible to get rid off, exactly like the let over Egyptian Pounds we sent home to Germany the day before.  The money changers also started at 15 RS for each Yuan. By having the changers bid against themselves, Kirk was able to get 9.6 RS for each Yuan. So that was much better. The guys on the Nepalese side never budged with their exchange rate, so exchange your money on the Tibet side of the border.   From there we all piled up in the back of a truck and drove 12 Km to the Chinese Customs checkpoint up a winding dirt road overlooking cliffs.  It was really bumpy, lucky for us we were sitting on our backpacks and had some cushion.  After getting through the checkpoint, passport and baggage check we met a group of Japanese climbers who just finished climbing a 8200 meter high mountain. One of the Japanese guys was a famous person from Japan, who has also driven in Formula 1 and does extreme sports around the world.  His name is Katayama.  So we have to look him up later in the internet to learn more about him. We then were put up in a hotel. Again we were the only ones who were supposed to get a dorm room.  However everyone seems to get a dorm room, even though in their package a double normally was offered.  So it seems that they do not have an other itinerary and accommodations than the 5 day tour.  So we are not sure if they know we are only on the 5 day tour ourselves.  After getting the room we ate a little bread with nutella and cheese spread.  We then walked through town and had some noodles and vegetable rice at a local restaurant.  It was actually a lot of fun, because we had trouble communicating with the local people, because they did not speak any English. Lucky for us Wes and Masami knew a few chinese characters and words and could eventually order our food.  Afterwards we went back to the hotel and worked on our web page.  The town is filled with brothels.  We guess a lot of border towns are like this.



We all got up at 8:30 am to get breakfast downstairs, tea, egg, and pancake.  The tour was supposed to leave at 9:30 am, but did not get underway until around 11:00 am.  The tour guide was completely unorganized and had was not qualified to do the job right.  After we all found our 4WD vehicle we started driving. However after around 15 minutes we all stopped and waited another hour for the tour guide at the checkpoint. He took all morning to get the Tibet permits ready.  So in the mean time people were getting very frustrated.  Another problem was that no one really new who the tour guide was. He never introduced himself. Also there was only one for 44 people, even though we were promised 2 if the group was over 30 people.  Well they are always lying to you whenever they can.  We were glad we were in a 4WD vehicle though. The roads ere not good and very bumpy.  In the car was Masami, Maren, Wes, Kirk and Mike (an Australian man). The scenery was beautiful and one had nice views of the mountain. Also it was very interesting to see the people from Tibet working in the mountains.  Hard for a westerner to imaging living that way. It must be a really hard life.  In the town Neylam we stopped for lunch. Maren and I ate Nutella and bread for lunch.  The Tibetan kids were very interested in the digital camera. At first they wanted to be paid to have their picture taken, however, when they figured out they could instantly see the pictures after Kirk took them, they lined up to have their picture taken.  We just hope this does not corrupt them.  After lunch we drove up though Lalungla Pass which is at 5050 meters altitude.  Masami started getting sick and not feeling well. There we had good views of Mt. Xixapangma 8013 m, Mt. Makalu 8464m,  and Mt Cho Oyu 8201m. At least that is what we were told. It was also fairly cold at that height. Just before we arrived in Tingri, where we spent the night, we were able to see Mt Everest (8848 m) and Mt Lothse (8516 m). What we were told was that one normally could only see them in the morning before the clouds come in.  However we got lucky and were able to see them in the afternoon and could take some pictures. We were not that close but it was still a nice feeling to be able to see the top of the world, at least our world.   By this time it seemed that a lot of people in our group were not feeling well because of ascending the mountains so fast.  Maren did not feel great, but she was doing ok. Kirk did not have any trouble at all this time.  We arrived in Tingri at around 7:00 pm,  a small village with a hotel and a few restaurants.  There we ate at a small restaurant in town. Kirk had vegetable dumplings and Maren noodle soup.  Masami was not feeling good and went to bed without eating.   We ate a table with a couple from Australia and John an American writing a book on his travels.  The hotel room was very cold and sort of primitive.  The floor was dirt and the walls had sheets covering the cement walls. 



Wake up time was 6:30 am. We did not eat breakfast while they were only serving coffee and no tea.  Masami was not feeling too well and threw up when she got up.  The first stop was at a Chinese checkpoint were they checked our passports and permits. One is not allowed to take pictures there.  Half an hour later we had to stop in a small town because some other vehicles in our convoy did not get through the checkpoint somehow because the tour guide forgot to tell the drivers that all the vehicles had to go through the checkpoint at the same time. So we sat around for a couple of hours waiting for them to sort things out with the Chinese Guards. All this time Masami and Wes were not feeling so well.  They both slept in the car most of the time. Eventually we got going again.  At one stop we got some great pictures of some kids, again they were interested in our digital camera.  We stopped for lunch in Latse.  There we ate fried vegetable noodles and vegetable noodle soup.  After an 1.5 hours we got finally going.  At around 7:30 pm we got to Xigatse.  For the most part today the car drove through some really barren land which had almost no vegetation. All of us were amazed that people were living at almost 4800 meters.  A lot of them had yaks and goats.  Along the way we also went over a pass that was 5220 meters high.  It was probably not a great feeling for Wes and Masami.  But after lunch they felt better after they were able to take a nap.  For dinner we had packaged noodles which we had bought in Katmandu before.



At 9:30 am the driver picked us up in front of the hotel to take us to the Tashilumpo Monastery in Xigatse.  This is the seat of the Panchen Lama.  The monastery was built in 1447.  It was once home to 10000 monks but now has only 750 monks living there.  The temple of Maitreya hold the 27 meters statue of the Maitreya Buddha.  Other sites there are the Grand Hall that has the tomb of the 4th Panchen Lama.  The Tomb consists of 85 kg of gold and other jewels.  The admission fee in 55 Yuan each and each Temple has seperet prices for cameras. The Maitreya Temple has fee of 75 Yuan per camera which translates almost over 9 US $.  So taking pictures inside costs a lot.  The complex is very impressive and our guide today did a much better job. He explained things pretty well.  After visiting the temple we went to the bazaar in town.  There we walked around and saw the Xigatse Fortress from below. We also bought some fruit at a market and had some interesting bread for lunch.  Wes and Masami in the meantime were bargaining hard for some beads at the market place.  It seemed like they found what they were looking for. The market also had a huge meat section where they were selling all types of meat, and all different types of body parts.  Next to the meat section they were selling lots of types of vegetables which looked really good.  We then had according to our guide a two hour drive to Gyantse where the group visited the Palcha Monastery  (Pelkhor Chöde Monastery) built in 1418.  It houses the Kumbum Stupa.  There one is almost able to get to the very top. One gets to the level of the Stupa's eyes.   It is quite nice and very interesting.  At every level there are small rooms with different Buddha's in them.  Entrance to the Monastery is 30 Yuan (but our tour guide bargained the fee down to 20 Yuan) and a camera inside is 10 Yuan.  From the monastery one had a great view of the Dzong Fort which is above the town of Gyantse.  The way to Gyanste was a real bumpy ride and took us around 4 hours to get there.  It was good to be in a 4WD vehicle.  The road followed the Nyang Chu River.  After the Monastery visit we got a dorm room in a hotel in the new part of town. Then we went a little food shopping for tomorrow, buying some apples and crackers for the long ride tomorrow.  For dinner we went out with Wes, Masami, and Mike at a local restaurant. We had rice with different  vegetable dishes.  The dishes were eggplant, cabbage, spinach like vegetables, and peppers.  It was actually delicious and even Kirk ate everything. That was the amazing part. The peppers were really hot, but tasty.  Afterwards we worked on our web pages and went to bed. We are supposed to be ready by 7:00 am tomorrow morning.  



This morning all of us had to get up at 6:30 am. It was tough getting up. We all seemed so tired.  Finally at 7:30 am the 4WD's got on the way.  The trip took us first via Kamba LA Pass which is at 4794m. On this route we had views of Nozing Khang SA 7223m, Ralung 6236 and Lake  Yamdrok TSO (Tourquise Lake).  We then went over Karo LA Pass which has an altitude of 5010 meters.  So the altitude got to some people again.  Along the way Wes organized a plan to get our plane and bus tickets from the tour guide. The tour guide was very unhelpful and seemed not to want to help out at all.  Wes got a group together and tried to explain the situation to everyone.  A lot of people were promised tickets before hand and never got any.  We had received only a voucher for our bus tickets to Golmud in China.  The trip was ruff, since the roads were bad and mostly unpaved.  The views of Lake Yamdrok  were really nice, especially with the mountains in the background.  The last part of the trip was on a nicely paved road to Lhasa.  Right before we got to Lhasa, all the drivers and the tour guides washed themselves in a river.  They must have been getting ready to see their wife's.   At the hotel Wes wanted to talk to the tour guide, but he was incoherent. He immediately wanted some money which was owed to him for a breakfast we had in Zhangmu.  Wes said he would get his money when we got our tickets. But he just flipped out and was very difficult to talk to. He had absolutely no communication skills at all.  Eventually we agreed on a plan that we would be able to pick up the tickets the next day at 6:30 pm.  Kirk did not think this would work out,  but he kept his mouth shut.   We paid him the 40 Y we owed him for breakfast.   It is unbelievable how this guy ever became a tour guide.  He could not communicate anything at all. It took a day before we even realized who the tour guide was.  He could not organize anything at all.  One guy in the tour sort of became the spokesperson for him, and tried to organize things and tried to let people know what was going on.  He the Tour Guide Number 2 (nickname for American Guy mention in previous sentence) said the tour guide would flip out when one tried to discuss problems with him and would say things like, "F__k the tourist, I will just drop them off at the Chinese Police Station". Uncalled comments for a tour guide. Too bad we are not going back to Kathmandu, so we could complain to the tour operator.  Hopefully when Wes and Masami go back, they will complain to Green Hill.  We will definitely write them and Lonely Planet to tell them how bad organized the tour was.  One learns in these countries that you can really never trust anyone, unless you have not paid them yet.  After we had left the tour, we went to look for a hotel with Mike, Wes, and Masami.  We took the first one we found.  Wes and Masami took a luxury room, which only cost 4 US $ more than our basic double without  a shower and bath. Their room had a sit down toilette and color TV and a very spacious room.  It was really nice, but we decided to save the money and take the basic room.  After checking in we went to the Internet Cafe' across the street. It only cost .61 US $ per hour, which is fairly cheap.  China has just unblocked the major news sites in the US, so one was now able to access and other news sites. So that was good and we could catch up what was happening in the US and the War in Afghanistan.  Afterwards we went to a local restaurant Wes and Masami had found for momos. Mike also came along.  He is a really nice guy.  The momos (dumplings) were delicious and they served huge amounts.  Mike is a vegetarian so he had some vegetables and noodle soup.  During dinner we took some pictures. The family running the restaurant had a fun time looking at the pictures we took of them.  Their kids were also there, they were studying English at another table.  Afterwards we transferred the some pictures onto the laptop and then entered our costs in our data sheet.  Maren also did some washing in Wes and Masami's room.   The rest of the laundry we will give to the hotel, since they have a free laundry service. The only things that they do not wash are underwear and socks.  Maren washed Kirk's pants, because he needed them the next day.  



This morning we met Wes and Masami at 8:30 am. All of us had to go to the bank to get some Yuans. We thought there was an ATM machine at the Bank of China.  However it turned out that there was none.  What they did have is a cash advance service on ones credit card.  For a Visa Cash advance they charged 3 %, but on an American Express card they charged no commission.  So we took out 500 US $ in Yuan at a very good exchange rate. Much better than exchanging cash.  The rate was 8.26 Yuan per US $.   Wes then bought 160 Dollars in Yuan from me, he did not have his American Express Card with him.  We then were ready to visit The Potala Palace.  It was well worth the visit.  This palace was once the center of the Tibetan government and the Winter residence of the Dalai Lama.  There are many shrines, statues, buddhas, and chapels inside with thousands of other rooms (of course one does not get to see all of the rooms).  Too bad that inside one is not allowed to take pictures.  On top one gets a great view of the city and one gets to see the Golden Roofs of the palace. This costs and extra 10 Yuan on top of your bill.  The entrance is 49 Yuan for students and 70 Yuan for everyone else.  After taking a lot of pictures from around the palace we went back to the hotel to pick up some things.  All of us then caught a bus to the Drepung  Monastery.  From there it was a 30 minute hike to the monastery. Wes and Masami took a tractor up for 1 Yuan each.  They were not feeling great.  The monastery was pretty big and very interesting.  We got lucky to see a monk ceremony that only takes place once a month. A couple of hundred monks were sitting in a room praying and drinking Yak Butter Tea. Young monks were bringing in huge buckets of tea to serve the older monks.  It was really great to see. We decided against taking pictures because first it cost 20 Yuan and second it was too dark inside to do so.  This day was a great sightseeing day and well worth every penny we spent.  For dinner we went back to the momo place we ate the day before. Had to get some more momos.  We then walked through the market and walked by the Jokhang Temple to the Flora Hotel where we had hoped to pick up our tickets.  Well, they were not there. The hotel reception said that they could be picked up tomorrow at 3:30 pm.  So we will see tomorrow if we get the tickets. We do not care if we have to wait another day or not, we just do not want to loose the money for the tickets.  Later on Maren went with the others to get head, arm, and back massage and Kirk checked the Internet for an hour. Maren said the massage was really good.  Before bed we wrote our diary and then went for a good sleep.


This morning we got up early to get to the Jokhang Temple by 8:30 am when it opens.  It is always very crowed and we wanted to beat the lines.  When we got there, people were praying all around the temple doors and people were already waiting in line to go inside to pray.  So we hopefully got a few good pictures of people praying.  When the doors opened it was a mad rush to get in and line up at the first Buddha statue to pray.  The Tibetans were pushing and shoving to get in.  In the temple they were lining up to pray and make offerings of money and ghee.  At one Buddha statue a monk would yank people back if they took to much time praying.  After finishing the inside of the temple we walked clockwise around the temple. They had prayer wheels going around . The Jokhang Temple has really beautiful golden roofs and is one of Tibet's most holiest shrines.  Hundreds of pilgrims visit the shrines and pray in front of the temple. They also walk around the whole temple complex clockwise and pray.  It is quite an experience to go there and look around the place.  There are all types of people praying ad making offerings.  Around the temple there are hundreds of stalls selling everything imaginable.  After we had some greasy bread and we went to the bathroom in  4 star hotel, we took the number 5 bus to the Sera Monastery. This Monastery dates back to 1419 and is the residence to about 600 monks. Before the Cultural Revolution over 5000 monks were living there.  They gave us a discount for the four of us, we only had to buy three tickets instead of four. So that was nice of them. The monasteries seem to be all like one another to our eyes, even though they are very interesting every time we visit. One can only get a little tired of seeing one Buddha Shrine after another.  We also got to see the monks white washing there buildings.  It looked like a real big job especially the way they were doing it. Throwing white wash onto the walls of the monasteries buildings.  It looked like more white wash landed on the ground than stuck to the walls.  We separated after the monastery.  We went to the post office and got some post cards and stamps.  We then went to the room, took a nap and then went to the Flora Hotel to pick up our tickets, we thought.  Well as we sort of expected, the tickets were not there.  At the hotel Wes confronted the tour guide, but he took no responsibility at all and said to come back at 6:30 pm to pick up the tickets from his boss. Wes tried to explain to him that we were lied to enough and wanted to get the tickets now.  The tour guide started getting very angry and uncontrolled. He threaten to punch us.  Kirk only stepped in when he started to yell at Maren.  Kirk did not want to start a fight, but the guy was nuts.  Kirk just told the guy to stop yelling at Maren (used the term wife).  He then threaten to hit Kirk.  The hotel staff had to hold the guy back.  The guy is really crazy and not good with people. Not a very good tour guide.  We saw that it was not getting anywhere and after a few exchanges of words we went outside,  he followed us after Wes said a few things and Kirk said to him that he was the worst blank tour guide that we have ever had.  He also had changed his story a few times in the argument with him.  So he was lying to us all the time.  When we were outside he started to lift his shirt to take off his belt to pick a fight.  We just laughed and started walking away.  Just after he left Mike came and we explained to him what had happened.  He had just seen the tour guide and had received another story about where the tickets were.  So we knew something was up.  We had no choice but to wait till 6:30 pm for our tickets.  In the meantime we went back to the Jokhang Temple to climb up onto the roof to get a great view of the Potala Palace and to see the golden roofs.  The view we had was really great.  On top of one of the roofs there were people dancing and singing.  It was very interesting. One also could look down at the square and see the people walking clockwise around the complex.  We then checked the internet for our emails and then met Wes and Masami to go to the hotel to see if our tickets were there.  The rest of our group was there as well waiting for their tickets.  We got our bus tickets to Golmud but Wes` and Masami`s names were on no airplane tickets to Katmandu. The tour boss or travel agent boss told them it would be no problem for them  to use another ticket with someone else's name on the ticket who was not flying.  According to them China Southwest Airlines does not check the ticket with the passport.  They claim they have been doing this for the last 10 years. Wes and Masami had no choice but to except this and show up at 5:30 am the next morning to catch the transport to the airport and hope it will work out.  The tour operator even signed a paper stating that if they do not get on the plane they would become a luxury room in the Holiday Inn.  So they are hoping that they get the flight.  We hope that they will also be able to complain to Green Hill in Katmandu how bad everything was organized by the tour and how they lied to us about a lot of things.  But with these tour operators, one should expect that they are lying to you about almost everything. Afterwards we went to dinner with Mike, Wes, Masami, and Irine (a Chinese girl, grown up in Malaysia, now living in Sydney for the past few years).  Kirk had a Yak burger which was pretty good and Maren had Egg Chow Mein and banana fritter for desert.  It was a really nice dinner and we had a really nice two weeks with Wes and Masami. Hopefully we will meet up again. Since Irine was staying at the other hotel, we walked here home.  We then said good by to Masami and Wes and Kirk went to the Internet Cafe to get some current events.   Before bed we updated our diary and costs and Maren filtered some water for the long bus ride the next day.


Our trip to Golmud almost did not happen.   We took a taxi to the train station at around 7:15 am.  The hotel manager was nice of enough to flag the taxi down and make sure the price was fair. 10 Yuan, which is a little over 1 US$.  We were one of the first at the bus station.  Before we could give up our luggage, it had to be weighed by a couple of ladies, and we had to pay extra according to the weight of the bags.  Though it was only around 30 cents per bag.  After that to kill time we walked around, bought some more food for the trip.  When we got onto the bus we were a little in shock.  We got the worst seats on the bus.  In the back, in a row of 5 sleepers.  This bus was a sleeper bus, with only skinny beds in it.  With two rows and two layers.  Being in the back was bad enough, but we soon realized that we were going to have 6 people in a 5 bed row.  This was enough for both of us to say no way this is not how we want to spend the next 36 hours.  We grabbed our stuff and went out of the bus. We told someone there, that we wanted our bags down from the roof, and that we were not going to  take this bus with 6 people in a 5 person row, it was crowded enough.  The guy eventually understood us and we guess he was too lazy to get our stuff down from the top, so he told one guy to move to the top bunk.  The guy moved up top where they had now 6 people in a 5 person row.  But at least we were not packed in like sardines, still it was really tight in our beds.  Another thing which we had to endure was that everyone smokes, almost everyone including the couple of women on board.  One could hardly breath.  The route went through the Tanggula Pass (5231m).  It is very barren and hardly inhabited.  The ride is also cold and the bus hardly stopped except for lunch, dinner and breakfast.  We were worried that we would have to go to the bathroom, so we did not drink enough along the way.  During the trip, the bus turned into a garbage dump, with every ones garbage on the floor and people spitting all over the place.  It was quite disgusting to hear and look at.  We we were though able to sleep a little bit, even though we went flying once in a while when the bus hit a bump.  By the way we are now 7 months on the road and are still ticking strong!


Well we like to say we survived the trip and got a bonus.  The bus arrived after only 25.5 hours, not the 32 to 36 hours we had heard about.  In Golmud  we took a bus right to the train station and bought tickets for the 16:50 pm train to Xining.  We were happy to leave since there is absolutely nothing to do in Golmud. A very dreary city.  We had a lot of time to kill, so we first walked through the market,  had some noodle soup for lunch, and bought some cookies, nuts, and fruit for the train ride later.  We also found a bathroom at the bus station finally, though it was really disgusting, we were happy to find one. At the train station the toilettes were closed.  Later we checked our email at an Internet Cafe' then went back to the train station. After an hour wait we were able to cut in line, the guard helped us, because we seemed not to know what was going on.  They line up everyone in the train station and then let the people slowly onto the platform where the train is.  They check the tickets this way first, even though they check the train tickets on the train again.  To our surprise the Hard Sleeper class, was really nice. They provided clean sheets and towels.  The train ride went through some really barren parts of the Tibetan Plateau.  The both of us read for most of the time.  Maren read the Economist that Mike had given us before he left and Kirk had finished on the bus ride to Golmud.  Kirk started reading the second book on Bourne.  The lights went out at 9:30 pm. 


We almost missed our stop. We had read that the fastest train from Golmud to Xining was 18 hours.  Our train took only 12 hours so we were really surprised when the train conductor woke us up and said we had arrived.   It was before 7:00 am in the morning.  The first thing we did was check out train times and by a ticket for Xian the same day.  We just wanted to see the Tar es Si Monastery. It is one of the great Yellow Hat Sect Buddhist Monasteries located in Huangzhong.  It was built in 1527 and was the birthplace of the founder of the Yellow Hat Sect. The monastery is quiet nice and had some really nice sculptures in it.  We really enjoyed it, however after a while the Buddha statues can all seem very similar or a like to one another.  It was really easy to get there, all we did was take the number 1 bus to the bus stop near the stadium for 1 Yuan for the both of us and then for 8 Yuan a bus directly to the foot of the monastery.  We left hour luggage at a hotel fro 5 Yuan.  A guy claiming to be the owner was trying to us get a room at this hotel. He had to settle only on luggage storage.  We were happy we had somewhere to store our luggage. Right after we were done visiting the monastery, the digital camera totally broke.  This was depressing. We had know idea what we could do to fix it.  It gave the failure message Lens C:32:02.  When one turned the Camera on it made funny sounds and the lens went in and out a few times, then closed. We looked around Xining if there was anyone who could repair it, but to no avail.  We eventually went to an internet cafe and tried to find somewhere in the internet, but we found only an office in  Beijing and Shanghai.  So we were both a little depressed. We really needed the camera for our website.  We also emailed Kirk's mother to see if she could get in contact with Sony USA.  For lunch we had chicken burgers and Dicos, a Chinese fast food place.  We then walked all the way back to the train station.  Right before the train departed we bought some food and water for the trip.  Again the train was really nice and we were able to read and got a good night sleep.  Till now, except for the hotel owner, no one we met could speak English and we only saw one foreigner at the monastery in three days.  The young couple, she pregnant, sleeping across from us, could not speak a word, even though they seemed really nice.  To our surprise till now for the most part, the people in China have been really nice to us.  During our travels so many people said that the Chinese were rude and not very helpful. At least with us it has been really ok.  Only problem till know is that no one speaks any English, so it is really tough to communicate with them. We have a cheat sheet that has a few phrase written down and we have our guide book with a few phrases, so we try and use that as much as we can.  



We woke up at around 7:30 am and had some Oreo's and apples for breakfast. The train arrived in Xian at 11:30 am. There we were met by a girl tout who spoke English fairly well. That is probably why we decided to go with her and check out her hotel that she was pitching.  The room was ok, but we had heard from someone else in the train station that they had a room for 80 Yuan, not the 100 Yuan she wanted for the room.  We said we would take the room for 80 Yuan, and they agreed, so we saved 2.5 US$.  We also asked her where we would find a Sony dealership and a McDonalds.  The both of us had this craving for a Big Mac.  The first Sony dealership we found could not help us and were kind of incompetent.  So we then decided to go to get our Big Macs.  We both got a big Value Meal (Big Mac, Large Fries, Large Coke) for under 2.5 US$ each. An ice cream and apple pie was on the menu for desert.  We decided then to go try and find an Internet Cafe to see if Kirk's mother had written more about what Sony had said.  On the way we saw another store that sold Sony merchandise. They could not help us, but they gave us an address and phone number where to call in Xining.  It was a Sony Service Store.  We then got a taxi, because all they could write down was the address in Chinese. So we handed the address to a taxi driver and she eventually got us there.  There they said they could fix the camera, but we would have to pay 1700 Yuan (241 US $) for a new lens and 280 Yuan (34.75 US $) for the costs of repairing the camera.  We immediately told the lady who spoke a little bit of English that the camera must be under guarantee, since it was only 7 months old.  She tried to explain that the camera in China was not guaranteed under Sony's worldwide guarantee program. China was excluded.  Well we did not except this explanation.  We said we would like to speak to Sony China, or whoever was in charge. We then went upstairs to see her boss, who spoke no English.  He then called Sony in Beijing where Kirk got to speak to a service guy or manager there. He told him the same thing.  Kirk nicely explained him our situation and asked to speak to his manager.  He gave Kirk a number to call back in 5 minutes.  Kirk called back and spoke to the manager, who explained to Kirk again how Sony`s guarantee policy worked in China and that they could not guarantee the product in China.  Kirk again politely explain the situation, on how we could not pay the 207 US $ lens fee and how we needed the camera for our website.  However, she could not help.  Kirk not giving up said that he would like to speak to her manager and to someone who could make an exception to the rule.  We had bought a Sony Camera because we thought it was guaranteed all over the world.  She said she would call us back.  We then waited around for a while, we showed the Sony Service center an email with the bill of our camera attached to it.  Though it did not help, it showed them that the camera was not so old.   We had done all we could.  Eventually they called back and said they would make an exception for us and that we would only have to pay the standard service fee, which was very ok with us. They fixed the camera in ten minutes.  They put in a new lens and it worked again. We were very  relieved that everything worked out.  The whole scene at the Sony Service Center took over 2 hours, but it was worth it.  We were almost ready to buy a new camera that day and probably would have paid the full amount for the lens anyway.  So we were very happy and celebrated with another Big Mac.  Yes I know twice to McDonalds in one day is not healthy, but it really tasted good!  As usual Kirk again started taking a lot pictures right away. In the evening we found an Internet Cafe' and checked our mails.  It was nice for Maren that Norbert and Rita wrote again!  Oh by the way Happy Birthday to Louise, my younger brothers future wife? At the hotel we worked on our website and then slept! 



This morning we packed our bags and then went to the train station to get train tickets to Beijing in the evening. We wanted to get Hard Sleepers (2nd class sleeper).  To our amazement they were fully booked for 2 days, which is only half the truth. There are usually sleepers available, but they just tell you they are not for an unknown reason.  One sometimes can then get an upgrade on the train. Also they save some for the CITS (China International Travel Service).  CITS earns an extra commission on the sales to foreign tourists.  We had no choice then to by Hard Seat (2nd class seats) on the train. We would try and upgrade later.   The good thing is that they are almost 50% cheaper than the Hard Sleepers.  After checking out of the Hotel and paying 10 Yuan to store our luggage (a rip off, but we had no choice), we caught the number 306 bus to take us to the Terracotta Warriors a little outside Xian.  Up to now we have not noticed any major tricks by the Chinese to rip off the tourist, well it has now begun.  The bus stopped first at another tourist site, the Tomb of Qin Shihuang, telling us that this was the Terracotta Warriors site.  The bus attendant even got of the bus to bring us to the ticket counter.  This was not normal.  We then realized that this was not the place we wanted to visit. Two Canadians were also on the bus.  We told the boy this was the wrong place,  when he realized that he was not getting us to go there he said ok, sorry he misunderstood. He even flagged down a taxi and brought us to the bus down the road for free.  This was very fishy.  The bus then drove us to some other place up the road we did not want to go to. He was trying to bring us to places he earned a commission on us.  Well it was close enough to the Terracotta Warriors, that we could walk there in 5 minutes.  A good lesson is that they will try and rip you off in which ever country you are in.  The main problem here is that hardly  no one speaks English and it is a real pain to communicate anything.  The entrance to the Terracotta Warriors cost 65 Yuan, which is only slightly higher than our Guide Book says.  There are 3 main sites, which are enclosed with in a museum like structures.  The first underground vault has 6000 Terracotta figures of warriors and horses.  It is really nice how well they are preserved. The second vault has 1000 terracotta figures and the third one only holds 68 warriors and one chariot.  The third is supposed to be the command post of the other two vaults.  The guide book said one is not allowed to take pictures, however it seemed everyone was, even in the 2nd vault where we saw the only no photo sign.  So they might have changed the rules a little.  The Terracotta Warriors are one of the most famous Chinese Archeological founds.   They are well worth visiting.   After a couple of hours we were done, so we took the number 306 bus back to Xian. There we decided to walk around town a little.  It started to rain, so we ended up, shameful to say at McDonalds again.  Kirk had two Big Macs.  Kirk thinks he is now good to go again and will not need a Big Mac for a while. Kirk's excuse is that he had the runs again this morning and thought McDonalds would help.  We then went to an internet cafe for two hours to write some emails. For the first time we got two separate computers. It was raining heavily and we got pretty wet on the way back to the hotel to pick up our baggage. Along the streets adjacent to the train station it seemed that the streets were line with small massage parlors, doubling as brothels. Did not go in to check.  We picked up our baggage at the hotel and went to the train station to wait for the train to leave.  Oh at the hotel was a German guy who was arguing with the desk clerk over payment.  There was a misunderstanding about when he checked out. To make the story short, the clerk and manager were more interesting in shoving food in their faces than anything else.  We left so we did not catch the end of the story.  The train seats were not very nice, uncomfortable and crowded.  We thought we might be able to upgrade, but when Maren finally found a conductor, there were many people trying to get an upgrade and Maren was unable to do so.  It seemed one had to throw money to the conductor for them to do anything for you. We had a hard time sleeping.



The conductor woke us up in the middle of the night, when we were both just about to start sleeping a little for the tickets. The question was why did he wait until the middle of the night to ask for the tickets.  The rest of the night was very restless. Another thing is that they do not turn off the lights in the Hard Seat Class.   At 11:30 am we arrived in Beijing and found a bus taking us to Tiananmen Square.  This a square Kirk always wanted to see.  Across from the square is the Forbidden City, with a picture of Mao Zedong.   From there we walked to a hotel recommended to us from the Canadian couple we met the day before.  It was the Far East International Youth Hostel. The rooms were very clean and new. Only draw back were that the bathrooms were downstairs and outside.  Otherwise it was a pleasant surprise.    We first took an hour nap and then decided to walk through town a little.  We were near the Tiantan Gongyuan, Temple of Heaven Park, so we decided to go in. The entrance to the park costs 15 Yuan each and the entrance to 3 Temple complexes cost 20 Yuan each.  The temples are famous for their perfect example of Ming architecture and they have come to symbolize Beijing. The park is quite nice and very green.   The first complex is the actual Temple of Heaven, the 2nd is the Huiyinbi containing the echo wall, and the 3rd is the Imperial Vault Heaven.  The whole place was very interesting.  There were however a lot of tour groups around, must be packed in other times.  Later on we went out to eat and had vegetable dumplings, rice, and shredded pork in sweet bean sauce. Both were delicious, especially the pork meal.  All for 25 Yuan, which is little over 3 US$.  We then found an Internet Cafe, checked out emails and the news and went back to the hotel. Kirk did some computer work and Maren went to bed.  She was still not feeling great. She has had a severe cold for the last few days. However she is tough and she keeps on going. She is even holding out with me!


This morning we woke up at around 8:00 am. After dressing it was off to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, the main attractions in Beijing.  Along the way we brought some bread with something in it for breakfast. Maren also got some cold medicine at a pharmacy. She was still not feeling great. Kirk bought a cheap pocket knife with a scissor. They started at 68 Yuan, but Kirk finally bought it for 16 Yuan.  The entrance to the Forbidden City cost 40 Yuan or 60 Yuan which includes two exhibits.  We chose the 60 Yuan, but on hindsight, the 40 Yuan ticket would have been enough.  Masses of people were already lined up to go in. Tiananmen Square was also full with people, and there was a long line to get into the Mao Zedong Mausoleum. The Forbidden City is absolutely huge.  The architecture is also very interesting.  The Forbidden City was home to two Chinese Dynasties of Emperors, the Ming and the Qing Dynasties.  The Chinese call the place the Palace Museum.  The Forbidden City was built in the early 1400's by the Emperor Yongle.  The place is really big and it took us 3 hours to see the most of it, though not the whole thing. But this was enough. The buildings look almost all a like to the untrained eye.  The place was filled with mainly Chinese tourist groups, though there were also a lot of foreigners among us.   After the square we walked back to the hotel. Along the way we went to the bathroom at McDonalds, no we did not eat anything there.  We bought some food on the street for lunch. They always try to rip you off, especially foreigners.  It is really hard to communicate with the people here and they try and take advantage of that.  With the fast food they try and put an extra 2 Yuan on the price of it, lucky for us we watched a Chinese person first pay for hers, so we knew what the real price of the thing was. The night before when we were trying to by some fruits, they had the  Chinese customer turn around when he was paying so we could not see.  They saw that we wanted to know how much the Chinese person was paying.  Of course we just said forget it and left.  Today they sometimes first mentioned prices 10 times the real price for bananas.  It is really tough trying to get the real price.  One really has to pay attention to what the locals pay when shopping.  Then you might have a better chance of finding out the real price, or least get closer to the real price.   In the afternoon we took a nap, we were both very tired. In the evening the both of us were lazy and did not want any hassles so we went to dinner at the same place as the night before, this time we only had the shredded pork in bean sauce again.   We also finally got some oranges at a price we thought was ok.  In the evening Maren did some washing. They have a washing machine here at the hostel for only 5 Yuan, which is fairly cheap.  Kirk wrote the diary and did the costs.  For the first time in a while we did not check the Internet. 


The both of us would like, no love to wish Scott a Happy Birthday. Scott is Kirk's younger brother and has been a great to have over the years.  So Scott I hope you have a great day and best of luck with everything.  Chris we both wish you also a happy birthday!  This morning Maren was not feeling well still.  So going to the Great Wall of China today was out of the question.  So Mao Zedongs Mausoleum would take the walls place.  The line for seeing the Mausoleum and Mao Zedong's body looks like it would take forever, however the line moves really quickly and we were in there in no time. Though one only gets a real short glimpse of his body, it was interesting to see how the Chinese showed so much respect for this guy.  He is still very respected here in China.  The Peoples Hall was next on our list, but we found out it was closed until tomorrow, so we decided to go to the summer palace in an other section of town. The subway got us halfway there, and a bus took us the rest of the way.  It started raining and was very cloudy. The summer palace must be really nice in the summer when the sun is shining and the weather is nice. Today it was very dreary. Even with the weather it was packed with Chinese tourists.  To bad the weather was so bad and Maren was not feeling that good. Kirk was did not bring along warm enough clothes and his rain jacket.  We got a direct bus to Tiananmen Square, which seemed to take ages. After getting some food at a supermarket, a nap was on the agenda back at the hotel.  Later on Kirk went to an internet cafe and then did our website.  Hopefully tomorrow Maren will be feeling better!


Happy Birthday Rita, We both wish you a great day, best of luck, and enjoy you vacation! Today was the day Kirk was looking forward to, the day we were going to the Great Wall. Only problem Maren was still not feeling great, actually worse.  However we decided to go anyway because the weather was really good, sunny, the first time since we were in Beijing.  We first took the subway and then caught a bus to the Huairou and then got another bus to Huanghuachang where the the section of the Great Wall is the Wild Walking Wall.  This section of the wall is not renovated like other sections of the wall. It is in it natural state and there is no fee to walk on the wall.   We were lucky getting the the bus to the Wall, when we got off one bus and wanted to get a bus for the wall. The first people said that there were no buses, while they wanted to us to take a cab for 10 times the price.  A nice guy started speaking English to us and found transport for us to the wall for a local price.  Maren could only walk a small portion of the wall because she felt so ill. So Kirk walked a 3 hour path up and down the wall and met Maren later.  The wall was really interesting and scary at times when one hiking down on very steep sections.   This section must be very different than the main sections where most tourist go to see.  This is where residents of Beijing come to visit.  After getting back to Beijing we walked around Tiananmen Square at night and then bought some snacks for dinner and then went to bed.


This morning we first walked around trying to find an ATM machine to get money.  The first machines that would accept our card did not work. We eventually found a machine at the Bank of China after walking around for over 2 hours.  Yes we did it again, we went to Pizza hut and had a Pan Pizza, to bad C. Keller was not there to pay for it. That was the good old days.  Afterwards we took the subway and got our train tickets to Shanghai.  We took hard sleepers because they were half the price, so it will be another comfortable night!  After that was settled we went to visit the Great Hall of the People which overlooks Tiananmen Square.  It was nice to visit but not that much to see or learn about.   Later on we bought some food for the trip, got our stuff and took the subway to the train station. There we had to walk around a little to find some more food for the trip.  We then caught the train to Shanghai.  On the train we basically just read and tried to find a comfortable position to sleep.   The Hard Seat Class is very uncomfortable and it is really hard to sleep even if you have 2 seats to try and stretch out on.  One thing you have to get used to is people spitting and smoking on the trains.   


Happy Birthday Norbert, hope you had a great day and the best of luck.  We arrived  in Shanghai at around 9:00 am and put our stuff in storage.  The toilettes outside were very interesting, men lined up squatting as the did their deeds.  A really weird scene when you want to go, walk into the toilette and seeing guys in the squat position.  In Shanghai we took a subway to a more central section. There we had an chocolate ice cream cone and walked around Shanghai.  Shanghai is an absolutely booming and growing town, with cranes and construction sites around. Also some of the most modern building we have ever scene.  We had a huge salad at Pizza Hut for lunch, walked down to the river and then quickly checked the Internet for emails.  We had to catch the bus 16:26 train to Wuhan, again in the Hard Seat Class.   At one point in the night young kids got on the train collecting plastic bottles. Somehow a fight started out between the trains plastic bottle protector and the kids.  The kids started throwing and hit one passenger in the face and gave him a bloody lip.  The guy got pretty pissed.  Otherwise the trip was uneventful. We both read a lot and tried again to get some sleep, which was really difficult. Our limbs kept on falling asleep because we were in such horrible positions.
31.10.2001 The night in the train was again great.  The both of us did not sleep to much again, so we were really tired when we arrived.  We figured out, ok Maren figured out which local bus to take to the long distant bus station.  From Wuhan we wanted to take a cheap bus to Yichang. They first offered us a luxury bus to Yichang, Maren was smart enough to ask for the smaller less comfortable buses.  They were almost half price. Smart girl.  It was 5 five hour trip to Yichang.  It was much more comfortable than the trains we have been taking.  What was really nice, is that a worker at the bus station who spoke a little bit of English help us around the bus station, even moving the some people from their seats so we could get the best seats upfront.  In Yichang a lady and worker at the bus station help us find our hotel, even walking us there.  The hotel wanted 130 Yuan for a room, which was too much for us so we started to leave after they said they would not make it cheaper. Just as we were outside the security guard came out and said we could have the room for 100 Yuan, the price in our guide book. The room turned out to a real luxury room, with TV., Bath, and even a free tooth brush, soap and a comb.  After dropping off our stuff we took went to a internet cafe. Actually the Hotel came with us to show us where it is.  Afterwards we got some street food for dinner and bought some supplies for the bought trip tomorrow.  At the hotel we bought the tickets for the ferry and went to bed. We bought the tickets through the hotel because they did not charge a commission and the boat company would pick us up in the morning.