Verfasst von: rbontour | Juni 19, 2011

Final Words: Let’s go home…

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Photos Indonesia

… after 10 months of traveling around the world it’s about time! Frankly speaking, it’s quite an exciting and maybe even overwhelming feeling to go back home after 10 months being on the road with a backpack (or actually even longer as we haven’t really lived in Germany for several years). Hey, this means… back to the roots!! the last weeks we had enough time to contemplate on all the unforgettable moments of this trip. If you followed us on this journey you eventually can imagine that it can get really emotional once you let your thoughts wander – ‘emotional’ in a good way, though. Our thoughts are all over the place, especially when we look through the many pictures, gaze in amazement at our final travel itinerary or simply when we click through this website (although it only displays such a tiny part of our experience). Apparently for us, this was not any kind of a trip… it was the trip of our lifetime – a dream, which we carried in our hearts for many years. And we are very well aware of the fact that not everyone gets the chance to do something like this. Therefore, we are so grateful about every little step we could take in the last few months.

Small Or Big World?
The world is not as „small“as you always say. Actually, it seems much greater for us since we left CT last year! Although we were able to get to know so many countries and cultures, we realize that there are still so many other places to discover. Well, but these have to wait for our retirement… once we start our second world trip on the back of a Harley, dressed in sexy, tight black leather gear and kick-ass cowboy boots (ha, ha, ha).

Now this is our final blog and we could start listing some typical “travel facts”, such as: in how many different beds did we sleep, how many cockroaches had to depart from life or how many miles did we travel. However, we find it much more interesting to talk about what impressed us the most including some thoughts you have after 10 months backpacking.

People… And People
The one thing that affected us the most on our journey were PEOPLE. Yes, it’s true, we were able to discover beautiful landscapes and we could even experience several different world wonders. Nevertheless, meeting and talking to all sorts of people from different origins and ethnic groups fascinated us the most. We had conversations with so many different cultures and we learned from all of them – it was interesting to find out how differently people from other countries think, gesticulate, talk or act. We will never ever forget their faces and the unique way some cultures express themselves.

Satisfaction – The Art Of Life
We have seen joy and happiness in many eyes, but also pain and sadness. Entire populations have to fight for their survival – these people deal with sorrows, which are difficult to comprehend and at times even inconceivable for us. But despite their sorrows, we had noticed, that some of these cultures manage to hold a very unique and powerful attitude. They publicly show positivity, high spirits and satisfaction. This fact astonished us everyday anew, because we hardly recognize this positivity towards life among people in our home country.

Family – The Greatest Source Of Joy
Yesterday we had a memorable conversation with a guy from Indonesia. As we have met so many happy and friendly Indonesians during our 4 weeks island-hopping tour, we asked what he thinks about happiness in his country. His answer: „Yes, we are happy people. We may not have so much money as the tourists who come to Indonesia and of course we all have some tough times once and a while, but in our families we always help each other. And we don’t think about working all the time and money, money, money… I love life how it is, because every day I can spend time with my family who are also my best friends. I live with my parents until they day, because I have to take care of them – not like in Europe. We laugh together, eat together, joke around and just sit and talk.

No matter where we traveled, we always felt that family – or the extended family – has much more importance compared with life in the US or Germany.

Masters of Whining
In Germany we often complain about all sorts of things – high gasoline prices, plagiarism affairs or bad weather. Somehow whining, protest and outcry have become an inherent part of our society and it’s quite difficult to get away from this pessimistic or ‘end of the world’ thinking. However, the more you learn and live in different societies, the more you realize that we actually are not as bad off as we always think. In Germany we have the longest vacation times, the most national holidays, hardly any natural disasters, good unemployment benefits, child benefits and much more. We truly hope that both of us will think of and remind ourselves of these facts for a long time to come…

Extreme Situations & Change
After 10 months we still hold on to the thinking that a worldtrip is not a vacation. The planning and organization part is completely different. The inner attitude and certain viewpoints also vary and your standpoints are constantly being challenged and influenced. We learned so much on this journey – more than any college or University textbook could have every taught us. Moreover we had the chance to get to know ourselves a little better. You have a lot of time to think and from time to time you may also reach your personal limits (physically and emotionally). To remain flexible and patient was one of the key ingredients for a “happy traveling time” as there will always be many unexpected challenges or changes – these may be beautiful, unpleasant or just extreme. Oh well, and there were definitely several extreme situations, which not only tested our patience, but also our ability to work as a team… and hey, we managed it :-).

When you are 30 years old you may already have built up your own comfort, routine and standard of living. Hence, it was not always easy for us to continuously adapt to different “people styles”, new cultures, or country-specific rules. This shouldn’t sound negative at all, because we don’t have any regrets. It forced us to leave our comfort zone and we learned to handle things differently and uniquely.

Do We Fear The Future?
No, we are not afraid of what is about to come, although we sometimes have a bit of a queasy feeling… we are without a flat, furniture etc. and our life is still in boxes. Well, but that’s just the way it is for the moment. We are proud of this trip and we would never attempt to hide the last 10 months in our CVs. Why should we?!

Finally, we will do things slowly and one step at a time. And for now, we are only looking forward to experience “home” and we even look forward to go back to work and to everyday life. We are sure that we will acclimatize quickly and feel comfortable soon. In short: Things are gonna be alright!!!

Okay, we guess that’s it… no more adventure stories for a while:-). Thanks to all of you, who have always followed our blog – thanks for clicking through our pics and thanks for sending us your emails and your comments!! Although we may go back to real life now and will be a bit busier, please keep in touch with us and we hope to see you all soon!!

Take care and be safe, Robert & Brigitte

Verfasst von: rbontour | Juni 10, 2011

The Glamourous Heart Of Asia

Photos Singapore

Our stay in the heart of Asia – Singapore – was short and due to the current „Indonesia-Relax-Mode“ we almost forgot to post some pictures or stories. Well, we only had 2 days and we will return for a day or two before we return to Germany, but of what we could see this city is unlike any other place in Southeast Asia: no cows in the streets, no people carrying heavy loads on their backs, only a few food stalls which are clean but still pricey, crazy traffic but very regulated and controlled or no markets with meat and veggies cooking in the sun.

It’s just a small country, but it has managed to become one of the world’s largest trading centers in the world. Financial opportunities are vast – Singapore not only appears rich and glamorous with all its high-end shopping centers, luxurious restaurants or well-maintained parks, it also appears extremely clean and pure! It’s good that we are not spending too much time there – this city is outrageously expensive – more expensive than NYC!

A Life In Harmony
Other than that we learned that Singapore strives for a life in harmony for all the ethnic groups that settled in the region. So much indeed ,that the state sets ethnic group quotas for communities. This means, for instance, that some housing blocks can only rent out flats to a certain percentage of Malaysians, Chinese, Indians etc.

A City Full Of Rules & Regulations
Never ever have we seen so many prohibition signs!! Public places are full with rules and codes of conducts about cleanliness, friendliness and general „do’s and don’ts“. There are enormous fines about so many things: smoking in certain public places, eating durian fruit in the subway (a fruit with an intense odor),  riding a bike through a pedestrian underpass, using cell phones, crossing a street where there is now pedestrian crossing, and, and, and. Until 2004 they even prohibited the import of chewing gum as gum was seen as pollution in public spaces. We even read that after the law was abolished, the chewing gum buyer had to show a doctor’s prescription plus an ID card to the vendor… Crazy, huh?

Nevertheless, all these regulations seem to work pretty well, the state has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, but still, many of these prohibition signs may only serve as intimidation.

Finally, it was a nice visit, especially because we got to meet Kerstin, a friend from Munich who is also traveling for several months. Singapore, as we came to realize, would definitely be an interesting place to live with an awesome climate all year round. However, it feels much more like a big US or European city. Our second visit next week will mainly consist of shopping, shopping and eventually shopping!!!!! We could have bought so many nice souvenirs, gifts and cheap clothing during the last year, but well, we didn’t. Too much to carry, too much ballast… But YES, finally we are able to buy a few things, because it’s our last stop and we won’t have to carry our load for several more month.

But before engaging in some serious bargain hunting we will enjoy our last days in Ubud… Our Bali „Eat, Pray, Love” retreat :-).

Verfasst von: rbontour | Mai 29, 2011

Bob, der Inselgott…

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(oh well, let’s do it the other way around this time…)

Bob, der Inselgott…

Ob er nun den Sheriff wirklich erschossen, sein Weiberleid erschlagen oder im Jenseits noch immer den Büffel-Soldaten hinterher jagt wissen wir nicht. Eines steht jedoch fest und das haben wir mittlerweile gelernt: Unser alter Freund Bob M.* ist auf den vielen paradiesischen Inseln dieser Welt immer und überall präsent. Auch hier in Indonesien kann man die alten Klassiker „I Shot The Sheriff“, „No Woman, No Cry“ oder „Buffalo Soldier“ an jeder noch so abgelegenen Ecke mehrmals täglich aus den mit Sand verstaubten und durch die Sonne ausgebleichten Beat-Boxen dröhnen hören.

Ja, und was gibt es daran auszusetzen? Absolut gar nix!

Die Reggae-Klänge von good old Bobby verleihen uns auch ohne ein „Tütchen“ sehr angenehme, ruhige und relaxte Tage. Sie passen zur Strandatmosphäre, sie beruhigen, man kann die Gedanken treiben lassen, einfach nur aufs Meer rausschauen, den Sand durch die Finger rieseln lassen oder ne‘ Runde unter einer Palme einpennen!

Richtig erkannt… wir machen gerade „Urlaub im Urlaub“ ;-). Wir erholen uns, gehen die Dinge etwas ruhiger an und lassen eine wunderbare, erfahrungsreiche, aufregende, spannende, lehrreiche, aber auch oft sehr anstrengende Reise mit vielen Höhepunkten (und so manchen Tiefpunkten) entspannt ausklingen.

Inselhüpfen in Indonesien ist herrlich und wir sind richtig happy, dass wir uns  diese Gegend als Abschluss unserer Weltreise ausgesucht haben. Nach Indien, China, Nepal, Vietnam, ständig vielen aufregenden, aber schönen Aktivitäten, Trekking hier und da, hektischen Städten, Abgasen, Gehupe, Geplärr, Krankheiten, Kulturschocks und sonstigen typischen Weltreise-Erfahrungen, tut die Entspannung sowie die Zeit zum Nachdenken bzw. Erlebnisse Revue passieren lassen einfach so richtig gut. Während unseren letzten 4 Wochen gibt es also keine großartigen Sightseeing- oder Kulturerkundungstouren. Nein, wir machen entweder gar nix oder nur das Nötigste (… das Nötigste aus unserer Sicht ;-)):

  • mal mit Rochen oder Wasserschlangen tauchen gehen,
  • dann wieder schnorcheln mit vielen kleinen Nemos,
  • lange Strandspaziergänge,
  • schlafen,
  • auf Vulkane klettern,
  • lesen,
  • sich massieren lassen,
  • zum nächsten Dorf radeln und stundenlang vergeblich nach einem Magnum© Mandel suchen,
  • mit einem Roller die wunderschöne grüne und hügelige Landschaft erkunden,
  • sich zwischendurch auf der romantischen Bungalow-Terrasse von einem Gecko  ankacken lassen,
  • jeden Abend leckeren frischen Fisch und Meeresfrüchte verspeisen,
  • im glasklaren Ozean baden,
  • oder einfach nur mal in der Hängematte liegend im Internet rumsurfen.

Mensch, in so einem Zustand bekommt man ja gleich wieder Lust, die Reise zu verlängern… aber nein, das tun wir nicht, denn wir freuen uns natürlich immer noch sehr auf die Heimat! Sogar den Wunsch für das Mittagessen am Tag unserer Ankunft haben wir bereits eingereicht! Wen es interessiert… Hendlmeyer-Senf, Weißwürscht, Brezn, guter Käse, Obazda und Radieserl dürfen da selbstverständlich nicht fehlen…. ahhhhhh, wie geil, schließlich haben wir schon seit einigen Jahre nicht mehr in Deutschland gelebt und unsere Gelüste auf bayerische Schmankerl sollten dadurch wirklich verständlich sein.

Kurzum… zurück zum Reisebericht: Indonesien können wir v.a. unmittelbar vor Beginn der Hochsaison wärmstens empfehlen. Unsere Inselroute könnt ihr bald in der Fotogallerie einsehen, die Bilder auch und ansonsten wollten wir nur mal kurz einen langweiligen Zwischenbericht abgeben. Eine Story mal ganz ohne kulturelle Abenteuer, Armut- und Politikproblemen oder aufregenden bzw. adrenalinfördernden Tätigkeiten.

So, Ihr Lieben, uns geht’s grad einfach richtig guat und mia g’frein uns ganz narrisch auf Eich!!

* rischtig… vom Marley Bob sprechen wir hier…
Verfasst von: rbontour | Mai 23, 2011

Holy Cows In The Dirt & Pure Chaos In The Heart Of India

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Photos New Delhi

If you only have 5 days to spend in a country, which is approx. 10x larger than Germany, it’s really difficult to portray a true and fair impression of the culture and its people. Actually, we never felt like traveling in India, but somehow we managed to include a short stop-over in New Delhi. Retrospectively, we are glad, that we didn’t plan to stay there for weeks and weeks. At this point, and despite the short “taster visit”, we still don’t feel tempted to explore more regions in this overly crowded, chaotic, loud, hot, poor, but very colorful and somehow interesting India.

During our 5 days we also had the challenge to get rid of another food poisoning, which also meant to skip the Taj Mahal! Well, for Brigitte it was the third time dealing with it (1x Thailand 2003, 1x Malaysia 2010, 1x India 2011) and although we picked our restaurants very carefully, it seems as if it is extremely hard to fully escape India’s dirtiness and pollution.

We also realized that we didn’t take a lot of pictures this time, because many experiences we had and things we saw in New Delhi were difficult to capture. There are certain matters you don’t really WANT to capture with your camera! Here we are talking about the trash in the streets, half-alive children begging for money while you stop with your Tuk-Tuk on a red traffic light, the offensive smells of urine and faeces in some districts or the unbearable heat. The heat really kicked us back and western wimps like us had to escape in over-priced, air conditioned cafes at least every 3 hours. But honestly, 45°C (113° F) at 9AM is cruel and brutal :-).

Actually we have only spent time in the centre of New Delhi, India’s capital, with a population of approx. 17 million people (metropolitan area). So, whatever we experienced was most likely pretty harmless if one would compare it to other cities like Calcutta or rural, undeveloped areas. We don’t care, because after 9 months of traveling “low budget” most of the times, a hardcore trip through India would not have been desirable for us right now. We still don’t have any regrets and are happy to have gained a first impression. Why? Now we know for sure that we will think very carefully, if we should really use our yearly vacation time for a 3-weeks tour through this huge country. Anyways, here are some more of our personal impressions:

Even worse than in China! As we are obviously white and look a bit different, some people stared at us in such an obtrusive way, that we sometimes had a slight feeling of discomfort. However, it was also funny to be the attraction for local tourists in Delhi (peoples of a higher caste). Looking back, we could have made some real cash… we should have charged photography fees! Many families wanted to take pictures with us; they posed next to us as if it is the coolest thing ever, to get your picture taken with people from the west. The families, though, were all very friendly to us and after the photo sessions they thanked us about a million times for our great modeling talents 🙂

Holy Cows & Chaotic Street Life
Yes, everyone knows – cows are holy for Hindus. Well, what we didn’t know was that cows wander around aimlessly in the city and try to find food among piles of trash. Cows are to find literally everywhere in Old Delhi! Moreover, what is absolutely fascinating is that cows, donkeys, horses, pedestrians, cyclists, scooters, cars, trucks, tuk-tuks and rickshaws all share one road (or a 4-lane highway). And the typical Asian, chaotic honking of the non-living vehicles is certainly all inclusive, when you just sit back and watch this vigorous spectacle!

Glitter, Glamour & Colorful
As in Nepal, we enjoyed it so much to be surrounded by all the Indian women in their shiny and multicolored saris (traditional dress worn by Hindu women, comprised of a long piece of fabric that is wrapped around the body). The streets appear to be a lot more colorful, many saris are glittering in the sunlight, the women look very pretty, neat and somehow wealthy (although this is often not the case). In contrast, the men look all quite similar – black or hennered hair, a fine parting to the left or right, a suit pants and a white button shirt…

Street Food
You can find it on every corner. Eating seems to be a passion of Indians. We also could recognize that people of higher castes are well-nourished and have quite a bit of flesh on their ribs – maybe a symbol of status and prosperity?! Hot and greasy, wherever and whenever you look, they frizzle, sizzle and cook local specialties.  And although we didn’t engage in any exotic food experiences this time, we were again caught by food poisoning. Maybe we just shouldn’t care anymore where we eat!!

Smelly or Aromatic?
We already mentioned the fact, that quite often we had the offensive smell of excrements in our nose. It appeared that for some Indians it’s quite common, to just pull down their pants or sari and wildly … or … wherever they are. Well, this was direct, but it’s just how it is. Sometimes we came across public „piss-niches“ (see picture). These are tiled, half-open, cell-like constructions with a hole in the ground, directly located next to a lively street, and usable for everyone who feels an extreme urgency! And why would doors matter… privacy not needed in India!

Finally, the smells are tremendously interesting at 45°C (113° F). On the one side you have the odors of human faeces, on the other side you have the strong smell of thousands of different spices, which are so strong for your nose that it’s not unusual to get a 10-minute sneeze attack.

As a former British colony, almost everyone in the big cities speaks English. We even discovered some news channels, which only report in so called “Indglish”. Gosh, this accent is hilarious (we don’t mean this in an offensive way), but it’s just so funny! Both of us had professors from India, but their accent was harmless… ”Indglish“ in India is even stronger. Therefore, we found it not only amusing, but also quite charming!

In any event, you most likely need several months in India in order to understand the culture, get to know the people and form a fair and neutral opinion. Well, we didn’t have so much time and from New Delhi we flew straight to Singapur – what an incredible contrast! It’s like flying from dirtiness to purity – another cultural shock, but actually we enjoyed the cleanliness and a different feeling of security. Well, more about it in one of our next stories…

Verfasst von: rbontour | Mai 18, 2011

What are you burning in Nepal?

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Photos Nepal

Calories! Right, because Nepal is home to eight out of the fourteen highest peaks in the world. It’s the place to visit for enthusiastic climbers, hikers and hardcore trekkers. Here you are craving for high carb snacks 24/7… at least 2 Snickers, 1 Twix, sweet porridge and 3 bowls of rice per day! After 3 weeks hiking steeply uphill and downhill, we came to the conclusion that the words “flat” or “straight” may not even exist in the vocabulary of Nepali people. No problem, actually, because except for the bus rides on unpaved serpentine roads (see more details in our picture gallery), the mountainous landscape is not really a bad thing. After all, this is what makes the country so impressive and marvelous. Most of the country is completely dominated by the mighty Himalaya. Although the pictures might seem as if we vacationed in the German or Austrian Alps, we thought it was a lot different… It’s the enormous height of the peaks that gave us a special feeling of happiness (and certainly an adrenalin kick).

Inspirational World of Heights, Blooming Valleys & Cold Showers
As China/Tibet and India, Nepal is a destination which we didn’t really include in our itinerary. Well, planning-wise and cost-wise it was not quite easy to get to these regions and some destinations arise on the journey itself. You speak with other travelers, hear their stories and listen to their tips. We only heard great things about Nepal and now we know why. Here you can enjoy magnificent mountain scenery; there are suspension bridges over canyons and gorges, sub-tropical valleys, blooming flowers, snowy peaks as well as Nepalese villages and Exile-Tibetan communities with friendly people, who welcome you every evening anew. On the way you will also always run into these colorful and spiritual prayer flags and mani stones – stone plates or rocks inscribed with universal mantra… buddhist traditions, which reminded us of lovely Tibet.

When you go hiking in Nepal, you can’t always expect hot showers, power, heated sleeping rooms, clean blankets (glad we have the sleeping bags), convenience stores or other “luxury” items… Hey, but you put up with it as it doesn’t really hurt, right?:-) The reward comes during the days, when you are surrounded by so much beauty and can gaze at the highest peaks of the world.

Fascinating Heavy Loads
Besides other enthusiastic hikers, you encounter many porters (sometimes called sherpas ). You see them either with or without their mules, donkeys, horses or yaks carrying seriously heavy stuff, such as tons of bottles, gas bottles, firewood, rice, potatoes, furniture, other people’s trekking equipment and so on. They haul things uphill on their back using a rope suspended from the front of their head. The sheer sight of these heavy loads looks frightening and hurt our “weak” bodies! Well, but deep in the Himalayas, far from any infrastructure, everything must be carried by animal or human. Just imagine carrying between 30kg (66lb) and 50kg (110lb) or more over the mountains, all day long and in any weather condition. The only equipment is their thongs, maybe a plastic bag as protection and often a pack of cigarettes.

Eventually, they have adjusted to the harsh living conditions in these insane altitudes. We were told that the sherpas – nomadic herders, who came from Tibet many years ago – supposedly have more blood in their bodies plus about twice the amount of red blood cells and this is the reason for their outstanding performance. Unlike us! After 8 or 9 hours of hiking (with just a little backpack) we were indescribably exhausted every day and slept by 8PM like little babies until sunrise.

Happiness!! Climbing 16,400ft
We have opted for 2 different treks while in Nepal (Langtang  & Annapurna region – around 12 days in total). Our personal climbing highlight was the day when we got up before sunrise and climbed up to around 5,000m (16,400ft). We “only” hiked 4 hrs. uphill, then 2 hrs. downhill and another 2 ½ hrs. to our next accommodation, but dang, it was brutally steep and the difference in altitude (in 4 hrs.) was 1,200m (3,940ft). In addition, the air was starting to get really thin. You feel it even more when you have to walk through the snow. We were definitely out of breath and grateful for each and every grain of rice we had eaten the night before. Anyhow, fact is, the effort was worth it.

During our ascent we sometimes had to stop and look in all directions… there were no other people – we were alone in this endless vastness. As we finally reached the top of the mountain (Tsergo Ri), we felt pure joy and happiness. And of course, we felt also proud, because we managed to get up there and enjoy this awesome view! In a moment like this it feels like doing everything at once: hugging, jumping, taking photographs, eating, drinking, turning, looking, laughing, jumping again (and sending emails or MMS to family and friends… damn, no signal :-)).

Is It The Final Countdown…?
For sure we could write a lot more about Nepal, but somehow we want to make it a bit shorter today… our journey will end soon. So we are busy (lol), but pictures speak more than words anyways, or not?!

Conclusively, we definitely would go back to Nepal. Besides a mind-blowing landscape, the country has an absolutely interesting culture (similar to India, but only on the “surface” we think). There are many different ethnic groups speaking some 100 languages ​​and dialects, but as in many other Asian countries we have visited, the people are very poor. Listening to their hardships remains a unique and emotional experience (~70% of the population lives on $ 2 per day or less).

Despite the crazy power outages in Kathmandu and Pokhara (which lasted up to 16 hrs. some days), we can also recommend to spend some time in the cities: Hindu women in their colorful saris, a captivating and charming chaos around local markets, fruits and veggies you have never seen before, cows in the middle of all of this, and, and, and.

Okay, enough said for now. Mid-June it’s time to go back to our “homeland”. We’re excited about it!! And after a few crazy days in New Delhi and Singapore last week (what a contrast to the Himalayas!), we are also excited to spend the rest of our trip in Bali and the surrounding islands. For sure, there are still some stories left to tell… Be well and take care!

Verfasst von: rbontour | Mai 2, 2011

Tibet’s Beauty… And Hardship

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Photos Tibet

The landscape of Tibet is full of breathtaking scenery, although it is barren and desolate. It’s a true Shangri-La for climbers, hikers and nature lovers.

After some time in Lhasa we started our land cruiser journey and headed towards the Nepalese border. We could only marvel at the beauty of the nature… the vastness and solitude of the Tibetan landscape, the mighty mountain peaks of the High Plateau and the majestic Himalayas provide such a special experience. The countryside around us evoked a feeling of limitless freedom. Last time we had this feeling was back in New Zealand. In the abandoned and uninhabited areas of Tibet you also feel like being on a different planet. You constantly want to turn round and round, look in all directions and admire the landscape.

We often drove at high altitude (higher than 5,000 m/16,400 ft), passed mountain slopes, gorges, impressive monasteries (e.g., Shigatse – headquarter of the Panchen Lama), or beautiful lakes (e.g., Lake Yamdrok), which shimmer turquoise blue in the sun and offer a breathtaking natural spectacle. It is not unusual for Tibet, that you drive all day and don’t meet another soul. All the more fascinated we were when we suddenly spotted nomad tents in the middle of the barren prairie.

Encounters With Nomads
Once we arrived in Tibet, we noticed that the common people are very poor. They may be poor in material, but in Lhasa they are definitely rich in spirit. Still, as many times before we can see that poverty looks worse once you get out in the rural and secluded areas. While we stopped somewhere in the heart of a stone desert, a nomad family came running towards us… it was like they appeared from “nowhere”. The people approached us very friendly; they smiled and immediately signalized that they are hungry. All of us (= our 4-people tourist group + 1 driver + 1 guide) shared some cookies and fruit with them from our food supplies. They were happy about it and tucked some cookies thoroughly into their pockets.

Anew we felt affection and compassion. Looking at the nomads made us almost speechless. Their skins were incredibly rough, brittle and burned by the intense sun of the high plateau. Although they were smiling, their faces showed strain and sadness. The little children had snot running down their noses – sure, the weather and especially the wind was freezing cold. Both of us had approx. 4 layers of warm clothes on our bodies (including fleece pullovers and thermo underwear). Most likely, nomads have no idea, what “thermo underwear” is – their garments were rugged and tattered. And due to the poor (or non-existing) hygiene standards everything was covered with dirt – including their hair, faces and hands. It is difficult to grasp, how humans can live in such an area, how they can survive in the cold with only a few clothes in their possession – without electricity or running water.

Top of the World: Mount Everest Basecamp
Enough about the sad things… When we think back on our voyage, it’s just truly amazing, what special moments life can bring. Several years ago we have been on top of Germany’s highest mountain – the “Zugspitze” (~ 3,000m/9,843 ft). We didn’t really expect to gaze at the highest mountain on earth one day and neither did we think that we would stay overnight in a nomad tend at 5,200m altitude. When we stood at the foot of this great mountain, a feeling of happiness and even temporary euphoria overcame us. It was such a special moment and you only think how crazy all of this is and that no other freaking place on earth is actually closer to the sun… w-o-w!

Yes, it was damn cold, but we all received plenty of Tibetan yak fur blankets from our hosts. Therefore, our bodies were relatively warm during the night. The only problem was our face, which must have been as cold as ice including a half-freezing noseJ. The hardest thing was to crawl out of this camp bed in the middle of the night in order to go to the outside toilet (about 200m). At the end of the day, it really paid off! We had full moon, the air was unbelievably fresh and the sky incredibly clear. Even at night this grand mountain took your breath away by its sheer beauty!

“Breath” is a good keyword… the air was extremely thin up there. Each step was super difficult and the simplest activity, such as crawling underneath your heavy yak blanket, increases your pulse. Besides a little headache though, we were fine. During the night, however, we woke up a few times. Suddenly it feels as if you wouldn’t get enough air and you start gasping for air a bit. In a situation like this, it’s important to calm down, relax and breathe steadily until it goes away. Unfortunately, it didn’t just go away for a nice American tourist in our nomad tent. Around midnight, he began to breathe heavily. He panicked. Somehow Brigitte was the only person in our camp, who did not sleep deeply (despite her beloved earplugs). I jumped up and had no idea what to do. Well, I tried to calm him down “please don’t panic” and quickly ran (in my thermo underwear) to the next tent, where I disturbed our guide playing cards. Luckily he dropped the game and followed me right away to help this poor guy. For the next hours they provided him with 3 oxygen bottle… and thanks god, everything went well and he was feeling much better after that.

The Hardship of Tibetans – Some Talks to Remember
Finally, we would like to write about our conversations with Tibetans. We had some surprisingly deep talks about the country’s political situation. Actually, locals are not allowed to talk about such things. However, their frustration and their sadness are probably too intense. (FYI: To protect these people, we did not publish any pictures of them in our photo gallery). Here are some issues, people have told us about. When we left China, we researched some statements a bit more as we don’t intend to publish any untruths.

  • Since the Chinese occupation, the poorest farmers have to carry the heaviest burdens. It’s nearly absurd, what kind of taxes the communist government introduced in Tibet: fell taxes, grass taxes, freshwater taxes, land taxes and even people taxes. Yes, they have to pay money for every child that is born (BTW, ordinary Tibetans are allowed 2 children). In Germany, for instance, we get financial support for every new baby – in Tibet you have to pay a “penalty fee”.
  • The government also increased school fees so that many families are no longer able to afford the education of their children. In general, the immigrating people from China enjoy higher wages and don’t have a problem to pay this fee.
  • Schools are now state-owned and from second grade onwards, Mandarin becomes the language of education. This means, Tibetan children are again disadvantaged, grades decline and many of them are discouraged…
  • The monthly income of a Chinese waitress/waiter in Lhasa is ~ 1,200 RMB (US$ 184). A Tibetan waitress/waiter, who carries out the same job, earns only ~500 RMB (US$ 76). We are not sure if the figures are a 100% correct, but it’s true that Tibetans only get half of the money Chinese people get.
  • Until this present time, Tibetan parents send their children into exile to India. They hope that they will have a better future in a freer country (and near the Dalai Lama). It’s estimated that ~800 children try to escape every year – and the only escape route lead over the glacial passes of the Himalaya! Many children lose their lives. And those children, who really reach Nepal or India, may never see their beloved parents again…
    (Source: “Escape over the Himalaya” from Maria Blumencron – a book which we recently read).

Well, for sure there are many more things we heard and many more topics we could write about. Fact is that our contact with the friendly and incredibly faithful Tibetans has really touched our hearts. We have learned a lot and very much hope that one day (before it’s too late) Tibet will be able to find religious and cultural freedom again.

Adhe Tapontsan, a former Tibetan prisoner and now living in exile in Dharamsal/India, puts it as follows: “I hope that the culture of my homeland as well as the horrendous suffering and destruction imposed on its people will not continue to be easily dismissed as a casualty of what has often been termed progress.”

Verfasst von: rbontour | April 23, 2011

Spiritual Moments (Despite Soldiers & Kalashnikovs)

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Tibet was one of the best decisions on our long journey! Due to the protests and several bloody riots in 2008, the only way foreigners can visit is by signing up with a tour group and a guide. Although it was very unusual for us to go somewhere with a tour group, we had a brilliant and unforgettable time. It was just too short! Nevertheless, our 7 days from Lhasa to the Nepalese border (Zanghmu) were packed with many cultural and scenic highlights. We would have loved to extend our journey in Tibet, but traveling with a guide is more expensive and obviously, we were less flexible.

Political Tensions & Cultural Genocide
Tibet is very different if we compare it to China, although the Chinese influence cannot (and should not) be overlooked – especially in Lhasa. Officially, the “country” now belongs to the Middle Kingdom. However, most Tibetans still don’t want to accept the Chinese rule, which is – in our point of view – quite understandable. Tibet’s face is changing rapidly; so far, the Chinese government pumped billions of dollars into the region, which leads to more and more immigrants from the “mainland” (as they call it). Well, unfortunately, it is not the Tibetans who benefit from the prospering economic development!

Once you start traveling in Tibet, the presence of political tensions can be immediately felt. We were quite shocked, because we saw with our own eyes how the friendly Tibetan people are being oppressed in their own homeland. An absolutely unique and extraordinary culture is gradually being destroyed. Since 1959, Tibet’s spiritual leader – the Dalai Lama – escaped to live in exile in India. And with him, hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have fled from their beloved home, where they can’t enjoy religious or political freedom.

Many people call the development of the past 50 years a “cultural genocide”. The Chinese government does not seem to care about human, cultural and religious values. During the Cultural Revolution, they killed over 1.2 million Tibetans and destroyed thousands of religious monuments. Faithful followers of the Dalai Lama were not allowed to worship him publicly – getting caught with a picture from him could lead to torture. Tibetans were no longer permitted to give donations to monks in the monasteries. In addition, monks and lamas were forced to take off their robes and get married.

Apparently, today monks are no longer forced to get married, some monasteries are being rebuilt, pictures of the Dalai Lama are back, but political tensions and cultural destruction remains. To date, Lhasa has more Han Chinese than Tibetan people – about 2/3 of the city’s population are immigrants from China.

If you are interested, click here to learn more about the current political issues between China and Tibet – read how monks got killed and removed.

Important Note: We don’t intend to create an anti-Chinese atmosphere on our blog. Believe us, on our trip through western China, we have met many friendly and very nice Chinese people! True, at first we were a bit shocked – they spit, snot, burp out loud, fart and sometimes they urinate in public (wherever and whenever they feel like it). People are generally a bit rough, but that’s just how it is. You have to recognize them as a different culture and to take it as it is. What may not be socially acceptable in the US or Germany, is totally acceptable and legitimate in China. Hence, in case you feel that our travel reports about Tibet sound negative, please be reminded: we are not speaking about the general public.

Lhasa – Impressive, Spiritual & Unforgettable
Lhasa blew us away. It has always been one of our dreams – to visit the “Country of Gods” and to stroll on the “Roof of the World”. We didn’t expect that it would impress us so deeply.

The new city district is suffering from, let’s call it Chineseiation… we can only hope that Lhasa doesn’t turn into another smog-polluted mega-city full of ugly concrete blogs. Luckily, the old quarter is still wonderful – actually, there you can see some fascinating Tibetan architecture. The narrow streets are packed with pilgrims from around the region. There are numerous temples and traditional markets selling fresh food, Buddhist souvenirs and “tools”. You are surrounded by prayer flags flattering in the wind. People are praying literally everywhere; they are either carrying prayer wheels or prayer beads. The atmosphere there is so spiritual and passionate – it’s moving, impressive, interesting and very exciting.
What is very sad though is that the Tibetan quarter is full of grim-faced Chinese soldiers. Why? The government is afraid of new uprisings (the last pro-independence demos were in 2008) and therefore you have to get used to the sight of military soldiers with heavy Kalashnikovs controlling the area – sad, but true!

What we also found very interesting is the fact that Tibetans still dress in their traditional costumes – in both, rural and urban areas. Of course, in SE Asia we have also met various ethnic groups in their costumes, but we only saw them sporadically. In Tibet, however, we could see this everywhere and we found it really special.

At the moment we are in crazy Kathmandu (Nepal) and tomorrow we will start a 10-day trekking tour in the Himalaya mountain range. When we are back, we will post some more stories (and photos) about Tibet’s incomparable beautiful landscape, our truthful talks with locals and, of course, our new adventures in Nepal… BTW, Happy Easter!!

PS: This post was written in a hurry in Kathmandu, where people struggle with approx. 16 hours of power outages per day. Unbelievable! Please forgive any grammar or spelling mistakes…

Verfasst von: rbontour | April 14, 2011

China – Unstoppable Growth & Power Appetite

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Photos China

We finally start to comprehend China’s unstoppable growth and power appetite as we can now see things with our own eyes. Yes, China is booming! The Middle Kingdom is striving for power, for growth, for international prominence, for economic domination and for more prosperity … and to us it seems as if the communist government would do everything to pursue growth, regardless of the consequences.

We are not traveling for a very long time in China. Most likely our impressions are not fully matured. Actually, we didn’t plan to travel across the western part of the country at all, but it’s nice that we can still be flexible. Our next (and long anticipated) destination is Tibet, the roof of the world, and a couple of years ago they launched a costly railway track from Golmud to Lhasa. Hence, we decided to hop on the highest railroad of the world to get to Lhasa as this option also allowed us to spend a week in China beforehand. Well, and on a 2x 24 hours train journey (no joke!) you have a lot of time to look out of the window and see what’s going on in this country.

The First 24-Hrs.-Leg: Bulldozers & Cranes
We wouldn’t consider the things we saw during the last week as an attractive highlight of our trip. Especially in regards of the train rides, we expected some pristine landscapes or the possibility to spot a traditional Chinese temple in the distance. Somehow we thought that China’s west is less populated and remote. Not really! In fact, we were shocked what we saw on the first leg of our train journey. Still, we don’t regret it, as the ride was definitely interesting.

China is a construction site! No matter in which direction you look, you can see cranes and bulldozers literally everywhere. New roads, huge skyscrapers, giant bridges, long tunnels, new train tracks, industrial areas … concrete all over the place. The blind quest for growth seems to have no limits. Really, the landscape could be quite pretty, but everything is knocked down and destroyed. Absolutely, Chinese do not build on a small scale!

One would think that they place importance on traditional Chinese architecture, but we had the feeling that originality and traditions lost value. These things have become unimportant! Instead, they are constructing mighty highway bridges, extremely large and ugly stadiums, huge dams, shopping and entertainment centers and nasty-looking apartment complexes. There is no height restriction and one building is uglier than the other.

Even during the nights, they worked relentlessly on building sites. From our train window we could see the big floodlights. Every movement seems to be accurately calculated and things have to progress quickly – of course with maximum efficiency. Time is money!

The Cities – Often A Thick Soup Of Smog
We spent a few days in Chengdu (population: 10.5 million) and Xining (2.5 million) and we were really impressed. Opposed to what we have seen in Southeast Asia (SEA), the two cities were so clean, so tidy and well-maintained. When we traveled through Chinese communities or city districts in SEA, we always noticed how dirty and trashy it was there. Nevertheless, the cities here in China looked so gray, just colorless, pale and unattractive. Although it may sound weird, but there is no feeling of coziness around here! There is no color, no joy, we can hardly see any trees or flowers and, thus, we feel the lack of fresh, natural air. Smog is obviously a problem in China. You can’t see the sky you very often and living here seems to be sad and almost depressing (if you are not used to this environment).

China’s Luxury Market
Going shopping in Chinese cities feels a bit… European. The difference: everything appears more powerful, bigger and more extreme. Although they have gigantic shopping malls like in the US, we could also meander through typical pedestrian zones. However, these were built on two levels with even more luxury boutiques and Western brands in the underground pedestrian zone. From Armani, over H&M to Zara… you can find literally everything. Luxury brands (non- fake stuff) are becoming more and more important in Chinese society; people strive for status and designer fashion is increasingly popular. If everything is real, who knows, but the quality in the stores felt good and quite decent.

Especially Chinese women appeared to be very conscious about their appearance. According to Robert, the Middle Kingdom has really pretty girls… (unfortunately, Brigitte couldn’t claim the same thing for the guys). We noticed that the women even dressed up for 24 hours train journeys. No matter if they are traveling first or economy class – the shortest miniskirts, the sexiest hot pants and high heels can’t be missing, of course.

Food – What A Challenge!
Everyone had Chinese food before in the Western world… delicious, huh?! Crispy spring rolls, wok noodles sweet & sour or fried duck! Well, but forget the wok men around the corner – food is so incredibly different when you are in China.

As most of you know, Brigitte is vegetarian and in China we faced our first challenges with this fact. On our entire journey, it was never a problem, but China was even a bit challenging for Robert. Nobody speaks English and forget English menus. In case they have translated menus, they only show “half-truths”. Example: You read “Squid with assorted” and think about delicious squid with rice and tasty veggies in sweet and sour sauce. Not really, actually! What you get is “squid with assorted meats” – but it doesn’t look inviting at all. It rather looks like a meat massacre and who knows what kind of animals you get on your plate…rabbits, frogs, dogs, cats, pigs, beef?!

In addition, the portions are tremendously large. One starter can be shared by 4 people. We have seen mega-portions in the US, but the plate sizes over here are unbelievable! They make more food than required. It’s quite lavishly… too many leftovers. Well, currently we may also be a bit wasteful with food as we often order 3 dishes and hope to find something edible. Well, but we need to eat and it means: yay, three times a day pure adventures!

Chinglish … New World Language?
The fact that hardly any locals speak English is tough. If they speak English it more sounds like “Chinglish”. You basically don’t understand a freaking word. Sometimes you really feel awkward and helpless as not even your hands and feet speed up your desire to communicate. When it’s about money, one would think that using fingers may turn out to be helpful. Not in China! Locals are clapping and flicking their fingers in a crazy way and you just don’t get what they want to tell you J.

In any event, we finally understand my dear friend Bianca much better. She and her husband lived in China for a while and they mentioned whenever they left their apartment, they carried some kind of a “dog tag” with them. This means, you should always carry an identification tag including the hotel address in Mandarin with you as otherwise you may never find your way back.

It’s just interesting how the world-language seems to be unheard of in China, although they finally started to teach English in public schools (not for a long time, though!). Well, if you look at these gigantic development projects and the tremendous growth in this country, who knows what our future world-language will be?! At some point students in Europe may no longer be taught English, but Mandarin…

The Second 24-Hrs.-Leg: The World’s Highest Railway
The second leg of our train journey was just fabulous – the ride to the roof of the world. There were fewer cranes, for sure. Instead we could gaze at seemingly endless vastness. On the one side we saw the snow-covered mountains of the Tibetan high plateau and on the other side we were fascinated by the peaceful views over the Tibetan high altitude deserts.

The expensive railway tracks devoured more than 3.5 billion Euros. It’s 1140 km long and the tracks are partly laid on frozen permafrost ground, because more than 86% of the route runs on an altitude of more than 4000m (highest point of the journey was above 5000m). There is a special oxygen delivery system on the train, which ensured that we feel comfortable and have an easier time acclimatizing.
What is quite sad though is that although the new infrastructure brings progress and economic growth to the region, Tibetans themselves are not enthusiastic when it comes to the super-train. They see it as another means of oppression by the Chinese. The train brings unpopular Han Chinese immigrants, which have a devastating effect on Tibetan culture.

Arrival in Lhasa
Wow, we finally arrived in Lhasa this evening… another dream comes true! It’s already dark and we can’t wait for daylight! Our headache – due to the high altitude (over 3500m) – is still bearable, but the air is thin. Climbing up the few stairs in our guesthouse made us pretty breathless. Our technical equipment only works sometimes as displays just don’t like high altitudes. In any event, we are really excited about exploring this region. Will we feel the Tibetans’ quest for independence? Will we still be able to find unique Tibetan traditions? Or has the Chinese government started to exert their power-hungry appetite upon this region…?

Verfasst von: rbontour | April 9, 2011

Vietnam – “Same Same But Different”

Whoever traveled to Southeast Asia knows this one famous and most favorite expression of locals, especially street vendors: “Same Same But Different”. It basically means that things are very similar, but just a bit different (or you’ll never really get what you expected). The phrase is almost like a mission statement – there are even t-shirts printed with it.

Reflecting on the level of hospitality and kindness of Southeast Asian people we always felt it’s a bit of “same same”. No matter where we traveled in this region… Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia or Laos… we have met an uncountable number of friendly, welcoming and warmhearted people. However, in Vietnam the “but different” part of the phrase applies much better…

Please let us say this: we do not want to generalize things on our blog and we don’t intend to put Vietnam in a bad light. We only talk about our very personal experiences. Other travelers may have a totally different view, but for us… when we left Hanoi 2 days ago we were both, happy and relieved to get away.

South vs. North Vietnam – What a Big Difference
Culturally, we thought the difference between South and North Vietnam is enormous. We stayed over 5 days in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – actually way too long, but we had some issues with our Visa for China and for the first time of our journey, we got stuck.

Anyways, at first we were surprised to encounter such friendliness in the south, especially because we heard some negative stories from others beforehand and also it’s a huge city (~8 Million people)… as you know, the atmosphere in cities is always a bit different. Sure, everyone was trying to sell us something and Vietnamese are definitely more assertive than sellers in other countries. Opposed to the north (!), in the south we found they bargained in a funny way. Food-wise, South Vietnam was amazing – a complexity of flavors that is truly delicious (but no worries, we didn’t taste the frogs)! We never thought another country in SE Asia can compete with our all-time favorite Thai kitchen, but South Vietnamese kitchen definitely can. Lastly, it was warm and sunny down there, which always adds to one’s mood and personal comfort.

Once we arrived in the north, we immediately noticed that something is different and, in fact, it was so different that we wouldn’t be keen on returning. We had the feeling that people can be incredibly rude, aggressive, pushy and cold. Especially towards foreigners, some are mean and miserable. So many times we felt treated poorly. There were restaurants in the countryside that didn’t let us eat in their location because we were foreigners. With an expression of dislike on their faces, they just sent us away or closed their doors in front of us. Honestly, this never happened to us in 7 ½ months! In addition, we felt constantly ripped-off, hassled and overcharged. Some vendors pulled on our arms and yelled at us – they were pissed off if we looked at something and didn’t buy it. For a bottle of water some guys tried to charge us twice as much, although the bottles displayed the proper local price. Once, a taxi driver pulled over and stopped somewhere so remote just so he could blackmail us. He wanted us to pay a higher price than agreed – and man, he got so aggressive and screamed at us in Vietnamese that it was hard to stay calm.  Actually, Robert is gifted with a great characteristic called “patience”… and if he is losing his patience or temper, something is really wrong. In Vietnam this was the case several times!

Again, maybe this country is an awesome destination and we just experienced a combination of bad luck and too much cold and rainy weather… We don’t want to make big judgments here – it’s only our travel experience.

Communism or Capitalism?
Vietnam is still run by a communist regime, but more the „light edition“ as to us it didn’t seem communist at all (besides the government posters in the cities). BTW, since 2 days we are actually in China and here daily life seems much more communist than in Vietnam.

We expected that things would be rather structured, ordered/controlled in this country; or no real classes exist, wealth is divided equally among all citizens and eventually limited supply of some goods. This, however, was not the case.

Well, many sites on the web are blocked and, for instance, Facebook is not accessible (although it works on the Blackberry :-)), but on the surface Vietnam is no obvious police or communist state to us. What we found is a vast artificial landscape of shops, souvenirs and street vendors everywhere…well, one could say “mass consumerism” to this. There are not a lot of streets, we think, without any vendors and all of them show this apparent greed kind of mentality.

In regards of order and structure… not in Vietnam. The cities are extremely noisy and quite polluted.  Traffic is bad and very aggressive… Saigon is simply crazy! With a population of approx. 8 Million, there are 4 million scooters. Crossing the street can be a daring act and driving with local buses is a nightmare. We claim to be experienced driving with local buses in Southeast Asia, but in Vietnam it was more frightening than anywhere else. The bus drivers are overtaking in such risky ways that sometimes we closed our eyes and hoped for the best. Everyone is honking as anywhere else in the region, but the Vietnamese honk out of habit as opposed to necessity. Lastly, street lanes, traffic lights or so called driving politeness do not exist on the roads of this country.

War Remnants Museum
We had one really educating and memorable experience in Ho Chi Minh City, when we visited the extraordinary War Remnants museum. Well, of course the museum showed a one-sided (Communist) view of the horrible Vietnam War, but the photographs displayed showed more than a thousand words probably. The pictures illustrated the triviality of the entire war – there was definitely lots of careless massacring on both sides. The most moving part of the museum was the exhibit on the defoliant, Agent Orange. During the war, Agent Orange was used by the US to uncover the enemies – they sprayed millions of liters of this chemical compound on trees and vegetation. What we were not aware of is that so many people suffer from Agent Orange until this day. We saw shocking pictures of what this chemical did to the people, who came in contact with it – and how it still affects their offspring. It mutates the genes and once you have it in your blood line, nobody can say how, when or if you can get rid of it. Generations over generations may be affected; it’s heartbreaking to see so many young people with unbelievably deformed bodies and faces as a result of this criminal act.

Understandably, we were extremely sad once we left the museum. All wars are shocking and the dramatic descriptions of irrational hatred and antagonism makes you numb. It creates feelings of disbelief as its sheer impossible to understand what in the world can turn people (or nations) into destructive killing machines.

Finally, if you are interested we would like to share a letter with you that moved us deeply. It’s a letter written by Tran Thi Hoan – a 23 year old Agent Orange victim – to Barrack Obama. Click here to download her words to the President of the United States.

PS: Sorry, this blog was a bit negative – as you can see in our photos… besides the bad and foggy weather, the landscapes here can be fascinating and surely we also had good times :-).

Verfasst von: rbontour | März 28, 2011

XXL World Trip Adventures for Dad

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Photos Cambodia

It was a super nice and very spontaneous surprise that Brigitte’s father visited us for a few days in Cambodia. As he was on a business trip in China and Korea, he was able to take a little detour before heading back to Germany.

After the first day, my father mentioned that we would treat him like a royal visitor. Well, of course, because we were just really excited about it as we hadn’t been around family or friends since last August! Sure, we always have each other and we appreciate that; it’s wonderful to have all these experiences together, but sometimes you simply do miss your beloved ones… your friends!

When you travel you definitely meet a lot of people – unique personalities from all over the world. We’ve had lots of great encounters, many fun and interesting talks. However, most of these encounters are only „loose“, but still friendly acquaintances. After a few hours or days, everyone is heading in different directions. Conversations remain on the surface and don’t go as deep as the faithful conversations with our friends. Thus, it was such a pleasant and nice change to have a close friend here with us.

We spent five days together, traveling through the country – from Siem Reap to Battambang, Kampong Chhnang and Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Deliberately we have chosen a route that was a bit off-the-beaten-track. Hey, after all, it was our intention to give our „royal visitor“ the real thing – the real backpacking adventure :-).

And quite frankly speaking, we had it all:

  • bargaining odysseys with tuk-tuk drivers
  • bumpy back country roads,
  • asian bargain massages
  • street vendors confronting us with the same thing over and over again:
    „Hello Sir, please buy, Sir, only 1 dollar, Sir, please buy“,
  • close encounters with cows and water buffalos on rice paddies,
  • an extraordinary day in the orphanage,  introducing our ambitious English students to him,
  • lots of great talks with locals in general… when we stopped in a
    village outside Battambang, a bunch of kids was so happy to see us that they jumped all over us,
  • unfortunately we also had heartbreaking moments, e.g. when we were surrounded by begging children or mine victims,
  • then we had an amazing temple-hopping tour at Angkor Wat – an astounding, proud and vast wonderland of Khmer architecture that we will never forget,
  • an out of the ordinary and definitely memorable lunch at a street food
    kitchen was also one highlight… We remember the following: 

    • 3 huge plates full of rice,
    • a fluid-like mess that looked like eggs,
    • grayish chopsticks that would normally have a light brownish color,
    • a piece of sundried bread – hard like stone
    • lots of chilli sauce, flies and other creeping creatures,
    • cows right next to the chef in her open air kitchen
    • and lastly, a bunch of locals, who gazed at us in awe as if we were from another planet (they were either drunk or absolutely stoned)
  • further, we had a thrilling „business class“ ride on a bamboo train (according to Karl Platzer: it’s better than flying – great leg space and lots of fresh),
  • and finally we enjoyed a very special boat ride through a floating village (Kampong Chhnang), which was so remote that locals made us feel like the attraction of the day… we didn’t see any other tourists.

All in all, we had a wonderful time together! We were happy that my father enjoyed the journey as well, especially because the experiences where somewhat different for him too… So, who wants to visit us next? We are „on tour“ until mid-June. 🙂

thanks for the detour and thanks for the good times! Make sure that from now on you don’t forget to listen to your most favorite song once and a while:

What A Wonderful World

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