A Travellerspoint blog

Getting closer to that elusive Russian visa

Please, nice Russian lady, let us in.......

sunny

Okay, so Anthony and I have spent two days trying to work-out this visa situation. We finally found a travel agency in Ulaan-Bataar that could get us the tickets from Moscow to Tallinn, Estonia. For train seats it is $98/person. The actual cost is around $68 but the agency has to get their cut as well. There was no arguing because there is no other alternative. Further, we are still not sure how much the Russian embassy will charge us for the transit visa. Regardless, the payment has to be in US dollars, exact amount and intact, crisp bills printed no later than 2006. Ain't that the shits! Oh well, there is no arguing with Russian bureaucrats!
We are going to go out to the countryside for the weekend. Supposedly, we will have the opportunity to milk a mare! I can and have milked a cow but a horse is a whole other issue, logistically. Hopefully, I will not get the crap kicked out of me. I will let you know how things go........
Later and lots-o-love to all who are keeping up with our travels.

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 03:56 Archived in Mongolia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Hanging-out on Tiananmen Square

Even with the Military, Police and Secret Police you still had to worry about pickpockets

Anthony and I walked over to Tiananmen Square and got to watch the flag lowering ceremony. It was pretty cool. There is a busy street between the square and the Forbidden City. The portion of the street in between the two was shutdown during the ceremony. A squad of honor guards emerged from the forbidden city and marched across the street to the flag area. They then lowered the flag and marched back across the street in formation with the flag. There were a slug of people watching but apparently because it was a rainy day the amount of people was far less than usual.
The interesting part to all of this was that 1) we had to have our passports viewed before we were allowed onto the square; 2) there were loads of soldiers, police and undercover police throughout the square area. I guess China does not want another embarrassing incident.
I personally do not care for China nor Tibet. The people are closed and come across as unfriendly. There is a lot of public spitting, urinating and littering. While Beijing is a little better with regards to sanitation (not by much) the smog is pretty awful. The purchasing price for everything is about 100% more for non-natives. I guess the assumption is that westerners have lots-o-money.
My final point of contention is in regard to Tibet and the Buddhist monks. It is obvious that the Tibetans are devoted in their beliefs but it is also apparent that the monks benefit greatly from this devotion. I did not see much in the contribution of the monks towards charity for the poor and destitute. I do not give a shit what anyone might say in defense of the monks especially from the naive point of them being so enlightened and above it all..... One of the first teachings of Buddhism is compassion. I did not see this at all while in Tibet. What I did see was a lot of poor folk giving there precious little to the temple in hope of some magical answer to a needed prayer.
My point being is that there is hypocrisy in all forms........ No group is above exploiting the weak and ignorant.

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 01:31 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

48 hour train ride to Beijing

not bad but........

rain
View Unnamed Trip on TB_Ddizzle's travel map.

We boarded the train at 7:30 am. Our sleeping berth was an approximately 9x8 foot cubical containing 6 single beds. The berths were stacked three high on either side of the cubical opening. A single car contained 10 or 12 cubicals and the train had 17 cars. Within each car there was a squat toilet and an open area containing three sinks with mirrors. The toilets got progressively worse as the trip went on. By the second day the floor had urine covering it. Fortunately, there was only urine on the floor of the toilet.
There was a hot water boiler available to make coffee, tea or instant noodles. Let me tell you when I say hot water I am not kidding! There was no need to worry about contamination.
In our berth there was on average 4 people the whole time we were traveling. We cycled berth-mates on two occasions. The last night I had a guy sleeping across from me that snored horribly. I had to wake him up on four different occasions.
Upon arriving in Beijing we shared a taxi with Mia (Sweden) to the Jade International Youth Hostel near the forbidden city. The cost was $17/person/night, which was well worth the price for location and the hot showers.

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 01:31 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Lhasa

Is this Tibet or China? Depends on who you talk to.........

sunny
View Unnamed Trip on TB_Ddizzle's travel map.

Once we finally made it to Lhasa things settled down for everyone. The members of our tour group finally adjusted to the altitude. As for me, my headaches, insomnia and digestive issues finally went away. I could sleep and my appetite was back. One of the members of the group got really sick. Coleen from England had the beginnings of fluid build-up on her lungs. It was really frightening. Even more frightening was the hospital visit for her. The conditions were appalling and the doctors were more concerned about her having H1N1. Holy cow......batgirl! Anyhoo, things got straightened-out and Coleen received some diuretics that helped tremendously.
Once in Lhasa, we made the rounds to the temples and monasteries (sp?). For three days it was nothing but...... I was Buddha'd out.
I had two interesting encounters with Tibetans that made it perfectly clear that they were Tibetan not Chinese. It was moving to say the least. The military presence was very obvious and most people were subdued in their reaction to their presence. I have no idea how that issue will play out........

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 01:31 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Altitude sickness

"Your head will explode in ten seconds"

sunny

Here we are in Gangste. This is the highest elevation thus far on our tour of Tibet. At 4058 m this is no easy task to get ajusted to...... Most everyone in our group is suffering some manifestation of altitude sickness (headace, nausea, insomnia, digestive issues and low energy). It takes several days to adjust and most of us are creeping towards that mark.
We went to a couple of temples yesterday and the monks were chanting. one of the temples was established in the 13th century. It was amazing. The statues, paintings and various rituals by the local people were interesting and thought provoking. Unfortunately our guide is new to the game and gets embarassed easily. Thus he tends to not say much.
Anthony and I are getting tons of excellent pictures and will share those as soon as we get somewhere better suited to uploading the images.
Later......

Posted by TB_Ddizzle 17:42 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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