A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnamese voodoo / Vietnamske voodoo

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This post was written entirely by Zuzka as Tobi was too lazy to compose anything ;)

We decided to finish off our month in Vietnam with a short stop in Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon) and on the tropical island of Phu Quoc. Saigon did not attract us much, but we had an important duty there: to earn our first money in two months! Vietnam Airlines promised us a compensation of 100 $ per person for the canceled flight in China, and so with a few bucks in the pocket we happily boarded our next flight to "paradise".

Phu Quoc is a disputed territory between Vietnam and Cambodia. Looking at the map, it is obvious why. Cambodia is still waiting for the moment when Phu Quoc will be returned to their kingdom. This island is the only one in Vietnam where one can watch the sunset over the sea. The place is still relatively undeveloped, but with the new international airport the hotels and resorts spring up quickly. If you want to come here and still experience the original beauty of the island, you must hurry! We found Phu Quoc through a volunteering website called HelpX. We had planned to help in a small restaurant and hostel on the beach, Thuy's house, for board and accomodation.

We spent the first night on the island at the Mushrooms hostel and could not miss the football match Germany - USA. The Vietnamese are big football fans and despite the fact that their team did not qualify for the World Cup, they enthusiastically watched the matches at 11 pm or 3 am in the morning. They love betting and money flew like hotcakes in the pubs. They bet on all possible outcomes and then wait with tension how it turns out :D

On the second day came Thuy, a 34-year-old Vietnamese woman and took us to her ... well ... I would call it a shack on the beach. The beach was beautiful, deserted and about 200 meters from the most expensive resort on the island, Chen. This supposedly should set Thuy up for success. But when we saw the hut's condition it was clear why the neighbor's restaurant has more customers. Thuy's explanation was that the neighbors did bad voodoo on her but we saw that it is rather the crumbling roof and garbage all around the house that drives the customers off. So we told her enthusiastically that we would stay for a whole week and pimp the place up a little bit. And we immediately embarked to work - we cleaned the beach and the shack, repaired the sides of the house and attached a small decoration on the facade. Watching the spectacular sunset, we were proud of our work and looked forward to the forthcoming week. And then came the night and with it the four wild guard dogs from the neighbors. Since our shack had no door, the dogs walked around at night until they entered ... and we were scared to death. We didn't sleep the whole night and in the morning a huge storm came. The dogs obediently waited outside the house all morning, so we could not even move. Thuy told us we shouldn't be afraid of them, they look scary (their teeth were huge), but they've never done anything bad to her. And as she tried to scare them off, one of them bit her in the heel. It may sound cowardly, but that was enough for us. Despite the good intentions, we just packed up, said goodbye and left. Maybe there was something about the voodoo...

However, we stayed on the island for 3 more days and we did not renounce on Thuy. She came to see us the next day and took us to the shaman. We rented a motorbike, took with us our new friend Iwo from Berlin, along the way we fetched Thuy's friend Tim from Canada and went to a Sunday seance. We had to get the shaman some gifts - coconuts, fruits, eggs, flowers, candles and some rice wine (which is actually a brandy) ;) After arriving to the temple, the shaman and his assistants watched us oddly and it all looked very doubtful, but Thuy said a few words to them and after about half an hour they started preparing for the ceremony. Everyone - Iwo, Tim and I (Tobi didn't want to) - asked the shaman some questions and Thuy wrote them down in Vietnamese. The shaman drank a little rice wine, breathed in a lot of smoke from the candles and at the drumming of his assistants he got into a trance. Meanwhile a heavy downpour started and the atmosphere was electric. The shaman put on a red cloak, painted his face red and answered our questions one by one. Thuy translated that I will find a new job after August and buy a house when I'm 28 years old, wow! But if it really comes true, I must return to Phu Quoc and express my "gratitude" to the shaman. If Thuy "thanks" him every week for her customers, he has a nice profit margin from her restaurant :) The best came in the end, when we all sat together and feasted on our donations. The shamans' family even offered us roasted duck and beer. There was no sign of the tense mood from the beginning and we were eating together like old friends.

After our spiritual experience, Thuy took us to see a waterfall in the middle of the island, where the locals bathed and made picnic. Unfortunately, they also left all the garbage behind, so it was not exactly a pristine spring. On the same day we said goodbye to Tim and the next day to Iwo. On our last day on the island we just relaxed and finally said goodbye to Thuy, Phu Quoc and the whole country of Vietnam. We got on a ferry to Ha Tien, where we crossed the border and entered into a new country, a new experience ... Cambodia!

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Nas mesiac vo Vietname sme sa rozhodli zakoncit kratkou zastavkou v Ho chi minhovom meste (byvalom Saigone) a na tropickom ostrove Phu Quoc. Saigon nas prilis nelakal, ale mali sme tam dolezitu povinnost, zarobit nase prve peniaze za 2 mesiace! Vietnam Airlines nam totiz ako kompenzaciu za zruseny let z Ciny slubil 100 $ na osobu, a tak sme celi vyteseni s peniazmi v kapse nasadli do lietadla a odleteli do "raja".

Phu Quoc je velmi sporne uzemie medzi Vietnamom a Kambodzou. Pri pohlade na mapu je na prvy pohlad jasne preco. Kambodza stale caka na moment, kedy bude Phu Quoc zase patrit ich kralovstvu. Tento ostrov je jediny vo Vietname, kde clovek moze pozorovat zapad slnka nad morom. Este stale je to miesto relativne nerozvinute, ale s novym medzinarodnym letiskom tu rastu hotely a rezorty ako huby po dazdi. Kto sem chce ist a zazit este co to s povodnej krasy ostrova, musi sa ponahlat! Nas na Phu Quoc prilakala ponuka dobrovolnickej prace, ktoru sme nasli na stranke HelpX. V malej restauracii a hosteli na plazi Thuy's house sme mali v plane tyzden pomahat za ubytovanie a stravu.

Prvu noc na ostrove sme stravili v hosteli Mushrooms a nemohli sme si nechat ujst futbalovy zapas Nemecko - USA. Vietnamci su velki futbalovi nadsenci a aj napriek tomu, ze ich reprezentacia sa na Majstrovstva sveta nekvalifikovala, oni s nadsenim sledovali zapasy o 23:00 aj o 3:00 rano. Hlavne si ale radi na futbal stavuju, a tak vecer v krcme lietali peniaze ako na beziacom pase. Spravidla si stavia na vsetky mozne vysledky a potom s napatim cakaju, ako to dopadne :D

Na druhy den prisla Thuy, mala 34-rocna Vietnamka a zobrala nas do svojho...no ako to nazvat...chatrce na plazi. Plaz bola nadherna, bez jedineho cloveka a asi 200 metrov od najdrahsieho rezortu ostrova, Chen Sea. Takze predpoklad na uspech by bol. Ked sme ale s Tobim videli stav chatrce, bolo nam jasne, preco ma restauracia o 2 metre dalej viac zakaznikov. Thuy nam sice tvrdila, ze jej susedia na nu robili zle voodoo a prekliali jej restauraciu, my sme ale videli, ze to bude skor rozpadajucou sa strechou a odpadkami vsade okolo domu. Takze sme jej plni entuziazmu povedali, ze zostaneme cely tyzden a trochu jej to tam vylepsime. Slovo dalo slovo a pustili sme sa hned do prace - vycistili sme plaz, okolie chatrce, pripevnili sme odpadnute dosky a spravili sme malu dekoraciu na prieceli. Pri nadherom zapade slnka sme boli hrdi na svoju pracu a tesili sme sa na nastavajuci tyzden. A potom prisla noc a s nou 4 polodivi strazni psi od susedov. Kedze nasa chatrc nemala dvere a nedala sa teda zavriet, psi v noci chodili okolo, az vosli dovnutra...no nebolo nam vsetko jedno. Velmi sme toho nenaspali a rano sa spustila strasna burka. Psi poslusne cakali pred domom cele doobedie, takze sme sa nemohli ani pohnut. Thuy nam povedala, ze co sa bojime, ze oni vyzeraju zurivo (zuby mali fakt obrovske), ale jej este nikdy nic nespravili. A ako sa ich pokusala odohnat, jeden s nich ju pokusal do paty... Moze to zniet zbabelo, ale nam to proste stacilo, a napriek dobrym umyslom sme sa proste zbalili, rozlucili a odisli. Mozno na tom voodoo nieco bolo...

Na ostrove sme ale zostali este 3 dni a na Thuy sme nezanevreli. Prisla za nami na druhy den a zobrala nas k samanovi. Pozicali sme si skutrik, zobrali noveho kamarata Iwa z Berlina, po ceste sme nabrali este Thuyho kamarata Tima z Kanady a vyrazili sme na nedelnu seansu. Este predtym sme ale samanovi museli kupit dary - kokosy, ovocie, vajicka, kvety, vonne tycinky a nejake to ryzove vino (co je vlastne palenka), aby sa nepovedalo ;) Po prichode na miesto na nas saman a jeho pomocnici pozerali dost cudno, cele to vyzeralo velmi pochybne, ale Thuy s nimi prehodila par slov a asi po pol hodine priprav zacal obrad. Kazdy - Iwo, Tim a ja (Tobi nechcel) - sme samanovi polozili otazky, ktore Thuy napisala po vietnamsky na papier. Saman si hrkol trochu ryzoveho vina, zapalil misku s vonnymi tycinkami, poriadne sa ich nadychal a za bubnovania svojich asistentov sa dostal do tranzu. Medzitym sa spustil totalny lejak a atmosfera sa dala krajat. Saman si obliekol cerveny plast, namaloval si tvar cervenou farbou a zacal odpovedat na otazky jednu po druhej. Thuy mi prelozila, ze si najdem novu pracu po auguste a dokonca si kupim dom ked budem mat 28 rokov, wow! Ale ak sa to naozaj splni, musim prist na Phu Quoc znovu a samanovi sa "podakovat". Pokial k nemu Thuy chodi kazdy tyzden a dakuje mu za zakaznikov, tak ma peknu marzu z jej zarobku :) Najlepsi zo vsetkeho bol koniec, kedy sme si vsetci spolocne sadli na zem a pochutnali si na nasich daroch. Domaci nas k tomu pohostili pecenou kacenou a pivom. Po napatej nalade zo zaciatku nebolo ani stopy a boli sme tam ako stari kamarati.

Po nasom spiritualnom zazitku nas este Thuy zobrala k vodopadu v strede ostrova, kde sa miestni kupali a piknikovali. Bohuzial vsetky odpadky tam za sebou aj nechali, takze to nebol zrovna panensky cisty pramen. V ten isty den sme sa rozlucili s Timom a na druhy den aj s Iwom. Posledny den na ostrove sme uz len oddychovali a napokon sme sa rozlucili s Thuy, s Phu Quocom a s celym Vietnamom aj my. Nasadli sme na trajekt do Ha Tien, kde sme prekrocili hranice a vstupili do novej krajiny, k novym zazitkom...Kambodza!

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Posted by zuzana.zav 05:25 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Along the Vietnamese coast / Po pobrezi Vietnamu

Po nabitom programe v Cine sme sa rozhodli vo Vietname spomalit, relaxovat pri mori a ochutnavat vyborne vietnamske speciality.

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Nasa cesta do Vietnamu nezacala uplne ruzovo - zruseny let, noc na letisku v Chengdu, nahradny let cez Peking na druhy den. Keby zalezalo len na nas, nerobili by sme z toho velku vedu. V Hanoji sme ale mali nase prve "rande" s kamaratom z Prahy! Justin priletel za nami do Vietnamu z dovolenky na Bali a musel si na nas pockat o 24 hodin dlhsie. Vidiet znamu tvar po dlhej dobe nam fakt dobre padlo. Dali sme si dobru poulicnu veceru, porozpravali sme si vsetky novinky a v totalnom lejaku sme bezali do hotela.

Na druhy den nas cakal dlho ocakavany bod programu - Halong bay. Najst v Hanoji agenturu, ktora organizuje vylety (kamkolvek) nie je problem. Skor naopak, kazdy poulicny stanok je vlastne aj cestovka; a este ti operu pradlo za 1 $ a nacapuju pivo za 5000 dongov. Nastastie Justinovho kamarata sestrenica (dufam, ze som to napisala spravne?!) mu odporucila agenturu Miss Ly's a naozaj sme nemohli byt spokojnejsi. Na krasnej lodicke sme sa 2 dni plavili medzi vapencovymi skalami, navstivili sme plavajucu osadu a jaskynu na jednom z ostrovcekov. Zaroven sme tu jedli zatial najlepsie plody mora. Sprievodca sa dokonca hecol a vecer nam spieval (v Azii velmi oblubene) karaoke. Ukazalo sa, ze ist do Vietnamu mimo sezonu bol velmi dobry napad, turistov tu naozaj nabolo velmi vela. Alebo sa nam to po Cine len zdalo...

Justin na dalsi den odletel a my sme v Hanoji zostali este 2 dni, aby sme si zorganizovali cestu dalej, poslali domov balik s teplymi vecami a nakupili letnu vybavu ;) Po nejakych tych horskych turach v Cine som Tobimu slubila, ze vo Vietname budeme pri mori, a tak sme sa rozhodli kupit si listky na tzv. open bus. Funguje to tak, ze clovek dostane sadu listkov z Hanoja do Ho Chi Minhovho mesta a moze vystupit a nastupit na urcenych zastavkach kedy chce. Autobusy su lehatkove, takze sa tam da relativne dobre vyspat pocas dlhsich nocnych prejazdov.

Nasa prva zastavka bolo historicke Hue. Este predtym, nez sme sa vrhli na pamiatky sa Tobi zahral na agenta 007. V hoteli totiz zistil, ze si v autobuse zabudol puzdro s pasom a 2 platobnymi kartami. Ako to uz vo Vietname chodi, recepcna zavolala svojho brata, Tobi sadol za neho na motorku a nahanali autobus po meste. Nastastie sa taska nasla, ale niekto si z nej medzitym uz stihol zobrat "nalezne". Tobimu sa ta jazda tak pacila, ze sme na druhy den isli na vylet po pamiatkach zase na motorkach! V Hue je naozaj co vidiet a oplati sa tu spravit zastavku - stare palace na styl Zakazaneho mesta, budhisticke pagody a bohuzial aj bunkre z americkej vojny (ako ju Vietnamci volaju).

Po 2 dnoch sme sa presunuli do zatial najkrajsej zastavky, pobrezneho mestecka a stareho pristavu Hoi an. Uz len nase ubytko, Starfruit homestay, bolo velmi domacke a dokonca sme dostali bicykle k dispozicii na celu dobu pobytu. Nie, ze by tu nebolo co pozerat, ale my sme uz boli naozaj prepamiatkovani a preto nasich 6 dni vyzeralo nejak takto: ranajky, plaz, obed, slofik, mesto, vecera, futbal. Ale aspon sme konecne zacali s pravidelnou jogou a mali sme cas aj na poriadne cvicenie. Velmi sme si oblubili plazovy An bang beach bar, kde sme kazdy den lezali a davali si cerstvy mangovy dzus, mnam! Co by som v Hoi ane kazdemu odporucila je dedinka Tra Que po ceste na plaz. Na spolocnych zahonoch tu pestuju vsetky mozne bylinky, ktore pouziva vietnamska kuchyna a jedli sme tu asi najlepsie speciality (restauraciu Waterwheel stoji za namahu najst). A samozrejme poulicne stanky s jedlom ponukaju nekonecne mnozstvo kulinarskych zazitkov.

Nasu oddychovu cast Vietnamu sme zakoncili v surferskom stredisku Mui ne, ale nebolo to uplne to, co sme si predstavovali. Hotel na hoteli, obchody so suvenirmi a plno ruskych turistov. A tak sme naplno oddychovali, chytali bronz a pozorovali triky kite surferov. A naplanovali predbeznu trasu nasej cesty. Takze pre zaujemcov, ktori by za nami chceli prist ;)
Jul, august - Kambodza, Barma, Malajzia
September - Indonezia
Oktober - Filipiny a Novy Zeland

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

Vo Vietname nas este caka Ho Chi Minhove mesto a dobrovolnicka praca na ostrove Phu Quoc, ale o tom nabuduce!

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Posted by zuzana.zav 07:36 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

China:lanterns, warriors&pandas/ Cina:lampiony, vojaci&pandy

Our journey through Pingyao, Xi'an and Chengdu / Nasa cesta mestami Pingyao, Xi'an a Chengdu

sunny 30 °C
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Beijing left us with a sweet tooth for more excitement, and there are loads of things to see in China, but after almost 2 months full of sightseeing and traveling we realized that it was time for a deserted small island to relax. This however had to wait for just a little longer ;) There were 3 more cities in China which we could not miss.

The first stop was Pingyao, a small city (0,5 mio. inhabitants) which is said to be the best preserved historical city in China and a UNESCO world heritage site. This is probably how one would imagine China to be. Small narrow streets with stone houses and red lanterns. This made the nights very special and unique. Our hostel could have been out of a tacky old Chinese movie scene in the middle of the historic centre. After Beijing we were happy to take a good 3 day rest in Pingyao with almost no "assignments on the plan", but only wandering about the city.

Xian (8 mio. inhabitants), destination number two was a certain choice for us. The Terracota army was one of the reasons why we couldn't miss the city. The sight is called the 8th world wonder and is located about 40 km far from the city centre. Thousands of amazed tourists were pouring into the 3 large hangars where the majestic warriors were displayed. The 2000 year old warriors, horses and weapons are mainly made of clay and iron and each warrior is unlike the other. Their grim faces, real body size and detailed uniforms make them almost look alive. The historic city Chang'an (old name for Xi'an) was China's capital city until the 15th century. We experienced that industrialization and consumerism has unfortunately not much left of the historical flair of Xi'an. The city is busy with itself and thousands of cars buzzing through the city leave heavy smog in the air. However, if you look for it you can find marvelous places, such as numerous small Buddhist temples. Great too was the bike ride we took on Xi'an's city wall. We took a full day to see the Taoist holy mountains of Hua shan. As I'm not a great fan of hiking (mountains are only for skiing ;) Zuzka promised me to go surfing later in the journey. The 2000 m high mountains of Hua shan were full of Chinese tourists but are undeniably worth seeing. The Huffington post recognizes the mountains as one of the worlds most beautiful but also most dangerous to climb. This was also the first and probably last time we booked a tour and did not arrange the trip ourselves (as we were not sure of the local busses etc.). The bus to the mountains stopped several times and we were exposed to teleshopping. Funny enough, the Chinese were amazed by the presentation and all left the room with a multifunctional scarf.

After a 16 hour train ride during the night we arrived in Chengdu (4 mio. inhabitants) the capital of the province Sichuan. The city is pretty laid back and does not convey the typical busy flair of a large Chinese city. The Sichuan cuisine is said to be the spiciest and tastiest in China. A specialty is "huo guo" (hot pot), a pot in which you cook your dish together with hundreds of chilly. It is similar to the concept of fondue and can probably serve for a nice 'get-together' with friends. The highlight for us in Chengdu was the pandas. A good hour ride from the city and you are in the natural habitat of a well preserved panda compound. Pandas are insanely lazy as they only feed on bamboo and can hence not draw enough energy from food intake. This has two implications, for one - we had to get up early as they are most active in the morning and secondly they are even too lazy to make love which threatens them with extinction. We were hosted by "Friend's house" where people come together to exchange languages, play games and spend a good time together. The owner also happened to be a Couchsurfing ambassador which meant that we could stay there at nights.

As beforehand mentioned, Zuzka is a great fan of hiking so it came to no surprise that we had to climb another mountain - Jiuzhaigou. Even I have to admit that the 9 hour bus ride was worth the hustle. The park is full of azure lakes and the mountains radiate a mysterious yet beautiful flair. We walked almost 9 hours surrounded by stunning nature (and occasionally many Chinese tourists).

We spent one month traveling through China. We have learned many things and I think I speak for the both of us when I say: it was brilliant. People are generally welcoming and you can get along with English in the big cities (don't expect it in rural areas). The gap between rich and poor, educated and illiterate people is enormous. Some areas are far ahead of western standards and others are miles behind. If you expect royal table manners you are definitely in the wrong place. We encountered slurping, smacking ones lips and spitting across the board. But if you can live with that than China is the perfect destination, full of history, rich nature and great sights.

Vietnam here we come. As we are (for the most part because of me ;) limping behind our blog updates I can already give away that Vietnam exceeds our expectations far and beyond.

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Po Pekingu sme mali v Cine naplanovanych par nocnych prejazdov vlakom, 3 uplne odlisne mesta a samozrejme vela veci, ktore by sme chceli vidiet. Az sme z toho boli nakoniec trochu unaveni.

Prva zastavka bolo Pingyao (0,5 mil.ob), mesto s najzachovalejsim historickym centrom v Cine, zapisane v zozname svetoveho dedicstva UNESCO. Takto sme si Cinu predstavovali. Uzke ulicky s kamennymi domcekmi, nadherne vyzdobene fasady a vsade zavesene cervene lampiony. Hlavne v noci to malo svoje caro. Dokonca aj nas hostel bol v historickom dome s niekolkymi nadvorimi a v izbe sme sa citili ako v romantickom filme. Po nabitom tyzdni v Pekingu sme boli radi za oddych, lenosenie a bezcielne prechadzky po meste.

Xi'an (8 mil.ob), zastavka cislo 2 mala zato jasny ciel - 2000 rokov stary pohrebny terakotovy sprievod cisara Cchin-s-chuang ti, osmy div sveta. Lezi asi 40 km za mestom a vybrali sme sa tam hned na druhy den. Davy turistov sa stratili vo velkom a pekne vybudovanom areale muzea. Najvacsia cast vojakov (az 6000) je umiestnena v lietadlovom hangari! Vsetko, co sa clovek o vojakoch docita, je pravda: su v zivotnej velkosti, kazdy z nich je absolutny unikat s inou tvarou, inym ucesom a inym brnenim. Pesiaci, lukostrelci a generali s niekolkymi konmi nahanaju strach, ja som mala zimomriavky pri pohlade na toto velkolepe vojsko. Xi'an, historicky Chang'an, az do 15.storocia hlavne mesto Ciny a zaciatok hodvabnej cesty, vsak nema tu historicku atmosferu, ktoru by sme ocakavali. Industrializacia sa na nom podpisala vo velkom a pamiatky su vacsinou obklopene mrakodrapmi. Velmi pekny zazitok bolo ale bicyklovanie sa po mestskych hradbach a navsteva budhistickeho chramu. Jeden den sme si este vyhradili na vylet na posvatnu taoisticku horu Hua shan. Viac ako 2000 metrov vysokych 5 stitov tvori lotosovy kvet a pohlady na strme skaly vzbudzuju respekt. Huffington post to oznacil za jeden z najnebezpecnejsich vystupov sveta. My sme sa bohuzial vybrali s autobusom cinskych turistov a dokonca sme pristali na "teleshopping" prezentacii zazracnych cistiacich prostriedkov, superhandier a multifunkcnych salov :D Co uz.

Po 16-hodinovej nocnej jazde vlakom sme dorazili do tretej zastavky - Chengdu (4 mil.ob.), hlavneho mesta provincie Sichuan. Je to prototyp moderneho cinskeho mesta, ale aj tak nas dostalo svojou pohodovou atmosferou. O secuanskej kuchyni sa hovori, ze je najlepsia v Cine, a zaroven najpikantnejsia. Miesta specialita "huo guo" (hot pot) je velmi spolocenske jedlo, nieco ako svajciarske fondue, akurat ze vsetko sa vari v hrnci plnom chilli papriciek a stiplaveho korenia :D Hlavnou atrakciou su PANDY! Nadherne zvierata tu ziju v najvacsej chovnej stanici na svete vo svojom prirodzenom prostredi. Hlavnym ucelom je prinutit ich sa parit, lebo oni sa sami od seba k tomu nemaju. Citili sme sa tu dobre aj vdaka nasim hostitelom vo Friends' House Josh a Johnovi. Druha couchsurfingova skusenost a zase sme sa zoznamili s fajn ludmi. V Chengdu bol zrovna trojdnovy Festival dracich lodi, a tak sme varili tradicne zong zi, lepkavu ryzu zabalenu v liste s trstinovym cukrom. Kazdy vecer bol dom plny ludi a hrali sa hry, pozerali filmy alebo sa proste kecalo. A naucili sme sa hrat cinsky majian!

Ako perlicku nakoniec sme si nechali jeden z najkrajsich narodnych parkov v Cine, Jiuzhaigou. Nachadza sa v tibetskom autonomnom regione asi 460 km severne z Chengdu. Cesta tam trvala autobusom 9 hodin, vstupne bolo najdrahsie, ake sme zatial platili, ale vsetko sa vyplatilo! V udoliach vo vyske 2000-3000 m.n.m. je 114 jazier s krystalovo cistou vodou vsetkych odtienov tyrkysovej. K tomu hory vysoke skoro 5000 metrov a niekolko ohrozenych druhov rastlin a zivocichov (ano, aj pandy tu ziju). Bohuzial ako v kazdej turistickej atrakcii v Cine, aj tu sme zazili zaplavu miestnych turistov sutaziacich, kto spravi v parku viac fotiek! Nastastie sa Cinania radi vozia v autobuse (cely park je v tvare Y a je dlhy 32 km, takze tam premavaju autobusy), takze stacilo ist pesi po turistickych chodnickoch a davy zrazu zmizli ;)

V Cine sme stravili skoro mesiac a citili sme sa tu velmi vitani. Mali sme stastie na fajn ludi, ktori vzdy ochotne pomohli s objednanim v restauracii alebo s najdenim spravnej autobusovej zastavky. Cina je stale plna kontrastov medzi supermodernymi bohatymi mestami a chudobnym zaostalym vidiekom. Pre tych, ktori rozmyslaju nad cestou sem - nevahajte a chodte! Budete odmeneni zachovanymi historickymi pamiatkami, nadhernou prirodou a stale prijatelnymi cenami. Len je treba sa pripravit na davy cinskych turistov (vsade!) a nie zrovna vyberane sposoby, hlavne pri jedle. Srkanie, mlaskanie a vypluvanie jedla na a pod stol je proste normalne. A zmierit sa s tym, ze na niektorych miestach je biely turista stale najvacsia atrakcia :)

Uz sa ale nevieme dockat novej krajiny, novej kultury, odlisneho jedla a hlavne mora! Vietnam tras sa!

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Posted by zuzana.zav 22:25 Archived in China Comments (3)

Beijing BABY!

sunny 30 °C
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Beijing is wild, historic, overwhelming, fast, big, international, impressive, overcrowded, dazzlingly beautiful...everything but boring. I was there with my parents 20 years ago (OMG just realized how old I am ;) but for me it was love at second sight. So many things changed for the better after the Olympics were hosted in 2008, we suppose. The city is very clean and well organized. Surprisingly there are only occasional traffic jams in a city with a population of more than 22 mio. - one forth of Germany and four times the size of Slovakia. As opposed to Russia everything is signposted in Chinese and English. This made it fairly easy for us to get to our destination, the super modern expats quarter of Sanlitun. A very "fashionable" area full of shopping malls, bars and restaurants.

This was our first time couchsurfing (www.couchsurfing.com). We couldn't have been luckier. Not only that the area and the apartment was very nice but this was topped as we were welcomed by Xiao. A very charming, witty 28-year-old girl. She invited us into her life for a week and we made for good friends. Xiao showed us around and we went out to a "Beer supermarket" and 2 different clubs. During our stay in China we both have the feeling that the Chinese are genuinely polite and
interested in foreigners. This is probably why in the first club David (quite funny, since the majority of young Chinese give themselves English names for us to remember, and quite frankly I do not remember his Chinese name indeed), who was introducing a new beer to the market, gave us 3 kegs for free. People kept on inviting us and the next morning I had 2 inexplicable messages from unknown numbers on my phone. The next day Xiao showed us the gorgeous area of Beijing's hutongs (Beijing's small streets). We strolled the whole day through numerous street stalls and ate delicious street food. We finished the perfect but exhausting day next to the splendid Hou Hai lake with a cocktail and some "ice cream for Tobi ;)".

We planned one week for Beijing but one can easily spend a few weeks for sightseeing only. The first sight we visited was the Summer palace. I decided to take a tour guide and we met with "Rocky" who was just the right man for the job. His self chosen name was exactly the opposite to his looks, pictures below. The palace was built in the 15th century under the Ming and Qing dynasty and is definitely worth a visit. There we experienced for the first time that for some Chinese we are somewhat more interesting than the actual sights. The more rural the area the more people want to take pictures with us, or only of us. We also got the Olympic park under our belts and swam in the same pool as Michael Phelps. Although we were not allowed to go into deep water as one needs to have a license to swim in the deeper lanes. Later we saw why, even the people swimming in those lanes where almost drowning each time they were crossing them - wild movements but slowly getting on. One pool had 3 lifeguards on each side. However, everyone was dressed professionally in Speedos or with fitting goggles and caps to the swimsuit. We kept the Forbidden city for Wednesday hoping that there wouldn't be too many tourists. This was a rather foolish idea as we experienced first hand the new purchasing power of the Chinese middle class. The entrance was crammed and the whole sight pretty packed with tourists throughout the day. Nonetheless, it is a mesmerizing place and one of the "to do's" in Beijing. We also ticked the Temple of heaven off our list. There we watched old men playing cards and Chinese chess and practicing the art of Thai chi.

By far the nicest experience for us in Beijing was the Wall of China. I got it for Zuzka as a birthday present in Prague and it proved to be nicer than words can tell. Even pictures fall short to show the beauty of this place. We walked 6km from Jinshanling to Simatai, one-thousandth of the whole wall.

We also went twice to the only official affiliate of CrossFit in Beijing. It is a nice little place with fine people - and we finally got to work out a little bit (a nice change to the hotel gyms and hostel floors). The Chinese food is rich and not surprisingly way different to the "Chinese cuisine" in Europe. Whereas their proclaimed "western food" is unlike ours too ;) So far our favorite dish is the Beijing duck, but don't lose sight of the Chinese chuarn, a typical delicacy - usually meat or vegetables on skewers. The "cherry on the cake" was the 2h survival mandarin class which we took in Beijing. We continue learning Chinese and can feel that the locals appreciate our effort, besides that it is really helpful. "Fu wu juan, cai dan!" (Waiter, the menu!).

Beijing offers something for everyone. You are met with rich history, an international flair and a vivid city life. Beijing exceeded our expectations by far and we would recommend it to everyone.

P.S. No Facebook in China, so please send us an email, SMS or WhatsApp. Or simply comment on the blog :)

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Peking je obrovsky, rychly, moderny, historicky, preludneny, strhujuci...vsetko len nie nudny! Pre nas to bola laska na prvy pohlad. Hned ako sme vystupili z vlaku, zaskocila nas cistota mesta, verejna doprava fungujuca ako hodinky a relativne dobre znacenie v anglictine. Bez problemov sme sa dostali do stvrte Sanlitun v tretom pekingskom okruhu, kde sme byvali. V tejto supermodernej casti mesta plnej cudzincov, nakupnych centier, restauracii a barov sme sa hned citili ako doma.

V Pekingu nas cakala nasa prva skusenost s couchsurfingom (www.couchsurfing.com). A viac stastia sme asi ani nemohli mat! 28-rocna Cinanka Xiao nas privitala s otvorenou narucou a poharikom vina. Mali sme vlastnu izbu s kupelnou na 20.poschodi obytneho komplexu Soho. Dala nam vlastne kluce, takze sme boli uplne nezavisli a vzdy nam ochotne pomohla - s listkami na vlak, s tipmi na dobre restauracie, ako objednavat a jest cinske jedlo a mnoho dalsich veci.

S Xiao bola sranda a hned sme si sadli. Prvy vecer na zobrala do "Beer supermarket" baru a 2 dalsich klubov. V jednom bola zadarmo ochutnavka noveho piva Sky beer, takze sme dostali hned 3 sudky, aby sa nepovedalo. V dalsom bol DJ Lil Jon ;) a Tobi si hned nasiel kamosov, s ktorymi si daval panaky. Na druhy den rano mu pisal nejaky Kim, ale to sme nikto nepochopili :D Cestou domov o 2 rano sme si este dali pekingsky nocny street food, v oleji smazene hriby a hovadzie hanky v pikantnej omacke. Xiao nas na druhy den povodila po pekingskych hutongoch, starych uzkych ulickach s milionmi obchodikov so vsetkym moznym a vybornymi cinskymi pochutkami. Narocny den sme zakoncili koktejlom na terase pri Hou Hai, jazere v centre mesta.

Na to, ze sme si na Peking vyhradili cely tyzden, sme mali program dost nabity. Nechceli sme si nechat ujst jedny z najkrajsich a najzachovalejsich historickych pamiatok sveta. Zacali sme Letnym palacom, nadhernym dovolenkovym sidlom dynastii Ming a Qing z 15.storocia s obrovskym parkom, jazerom a pohodovou atmosferou. Tobimu sa prihovoril cinsky student, ktory si hovoril Rocky (vsetci Cinania si davaju alternativne anglicke mena, kto vie preco) a zdal sa nam sympaticky, tak nas po celom komplexe previedol. Pozreli sme si megalomansky olympijsky park a zaplavali sme si v bazene, kde sutazil Michael Phelps. Bolo zaujimave vidiet Cinanov v Speedo plavkach, capiciach a profi okuliaroch clapkat sa v bazene, skoro nikto totiz nevie plavat! A ten kto vie, musi mat na to preukaz :) Zakazane mesto sme si nechali na stredu dufajuc, ze tam bude menej ludi, ale davy cinskych turistov sa zdaju byt vsadepritomne. Aj tak to bol zazitok a fotky nikdy poriadne nezachytia caro tohoto palaca. Pre zapis do kroniky sme sa vybrali este k Oltaru nebies, kde sme ale viac ako budovy pozorovali cinskych dochodcov hrajucich sach, karty alebo cviciacich Tai Chi. Kedze Peking je obrovsky, kazdy den sme stravili tak 3 hodiny v metre...nastastie tam maju klimatizaciu.

Rozhodne najviac nas ale dostal Cinsky mur. Tobi mi este k narodeninam dal poukaz na vylet v Pekingu podla mojho vyberu, a tak sme sa rozhodli pre 6 km dlhu turu po mure z Jinshanling do Simatai. Je to vzdialenejsia cast muru, asi 120 km z Pekingu, ale stoji za vsetky drobne. My sme boli skupinka asi 7 ludi a cely 6 kilometrovy usek sme mali sami pre seba! Este teraz, ked pozeram fotky, sa mi to zda neuveritelne. Netreba sa ale nechat zmiast vzdialenostou, pretoze tato cast muru je postavena na kopcoch a cely turu tvorili schody hore a dole. Trvalo nam to 3,5 hodiny, s castymi pauzami na fotky a vyhlady spojenymi s vykrikmi "Wow to je nadhera!".

V Pekingu sme po 3 tyzdnoch boli aj 2-krat na vytuzenom CrossFite. V malej telocvicni, ktora funguje asi rok, bola prijemna atmosfera a fajn ludia. Celkovo ludia v Cine nas velmi milo prekvapili - velmi slusni, ochotni pomoct a dobre naladeni. Obcas sme sa medzi Cinanmi citili ako atrakcia my, lebo cinski turisti sa pri nas casto zastavovali a chceli si nas fotit! Co sa tyka jedla, boli sme v siedmom nebi. A to hlavne vdaka Xiao, ktora nas vzdy zobrala na tajne miesta. Ci uz to bola pekingska kacena v 150 rokov starej restauracii, typicky letny chuarn (grilovany telaci spiz) na plastovych stolickach na rohu bocnej ulicky alebo klasicke cinske Kung pao (ano, chuti uplne inak ako u nas), vzdy sme si pochutili. Ako ceresnicku na torte sme sa prihlasili na kurz cinstiny "Survival Mandarin", kde do nas za 2 hodiny nahustili ako pozdravit, opytat sa kolko co stoji a objednat si jedlo v restauracii. Fu wu juan, cai dan!

Peking daleko predcil nase ocakavania. Na svoje si tu pridu historicki fajnsmekri, nakupne maniacky, party people aj gurmani. Treba len nacvicit jedenie palickami, pripravit chutove pohariky na pikantnu kuchynu a vyrazit - najlepsie s prazdnym kufrom (ale aj ten clovek kupi lacnejsie na mieste). A pripravit sa na blokovany Facebook a dalsie "nebezpecne" stranky - ale to je koniec koncov dobra odvykacka ;)

P.S. Pre tych, co to nepochopili - nepiste nam az do 6.6. na Facebook ;) Bud komentujte blog (budeme velmi radi) alebo mailujte na zuzana.zavodna@yahoo.com a tobias.redieck@yahoo.com. Zaijian!

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Posted by zuzana.zav 10:00 Archived in China Comments (4)

Going wild in Mongolia / Divocina v Mongolsku

snow 1 °C
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We didn't know what to expect when we went to Mongolia. Yes, we have been reading about the vast country but in this case one really has to witness the mysterious land of Genghis Khan and countless tales about battles and conquests. We planed to stay 6 days in total.

Our train traveled the whole night through a heavy snowstorm and upon arrival at 5 am in UB (Ulan Bator) the streets were buried under a thick layer of snow. The first night we stayed at the UB guesthouse, a very clean cosy place packed with backpackers from around the globe. Under the very intense continental climate (with chilly nights and hot days) snow melted in no time and we covered the most important sights such as the Suhbaatar square, the Genghis Khan statue and the Choyjin Lama monastery. UB is already very westernized (or say an interpretation of western countries) with trendy, fashionable people and consumerism. The Mongolian currency is ridiculous in our terms, with 2500 tugriks to 1 euro you can easily be a millionaire :)

The next day we took off for a 4 day expedition together with our friends Cahir and Darryel into the wild of Mongolia. However, before we could even start out we had to get through the thick traffic of UB. Traffic lights and crossings don't seem to have a meaning. Once people are actually on the crossing they have to run for their lives and one has the feeling that the whole population of 1,1 mio. pave the streets. This is leaving the city with quite a bit of smog in the air. The one who honks the most has the right of way :) Alcoholism is problem number one in Mongolia. Man are being considered strong if they can drink much. Sometimes bottles of vodka can be seen along the way but it is not likely that people drive into each other outside of the city. One can drive for hours without meeting another car. We continued slaloming our way, either on the street or in the field (due to countless street holes) to Karakorum, a little town in central Mongolia. The town was build by Genghis Khans son but the ancient core was destroyed by the Chinese. The monastery Erdene Zuu is worth seeing and monks are still praying there. Although it was strange for us seeing them on iPads and iPhones. Much is destroyed due to the communist regime of China but the town is still beautiful. The next day we continued to the edge of the Gobi desert. We rode a camel (in proper tourist fashion) to see it. The following day we woke up by the cold north wind and drove on to the amazing Terelj national park. We also did horseback riding but it was a scary feeling riding on them since they were poorly tamed and often broke lose.

During our stay in Mongolia we stayed in nomad families gers. This was quite an experience. Each ger is equipped with a stove and we nicely heated the place before going to bed (although we often woke shivering since the fire extinguished). It is a nice atmosphere and many tales were told. Water is scarce and nomads often only wash themselves 4 times a year when they go down town (25% of the Mongolian population are still nomads). The food is let's say interesting. It is very organic and plain. We had to get used to the mutton meet and mares milk. Tee is served with milk and salt. Flavors are unusual and they were only introduced late by the Chinese to Mongolia.

The country is majestic and definitely worth seeing. The nature is vast and full of sheep, kettle and horses. Thousands of falcon and eagle flying above ones head in the everlasting blue sky of Mongolia. Mongolia has left us with a nice impression. Once back to UB we visited the National History Museum to put it all into prospective. We are already exited for our next destination: China here we come...

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Mongolsko bolo pre nas tak trochu zahadou. Nieco sme si pred cestou sice precitali, ale nevedeli sme presne, co ocakavat. Naplanovali sme si v tejto krajine 6 dni s tym, ze si pozrieme hlavne mesto Ulaanbaatar a zorganizujeme aspon na 3-4 dni vylet do prirody.

Celu noc vo vlaku nas sprevadzala snehova fujavica, takze ked sme dorazili do UB o 5 rano (ako je uz nasim zvykom), lezalo na zemi asi 30 cm cerstveho snehu. Na odporucanie sme si dopredu zarezervovali ubytko v UB guesthouse - jednoduchy, cisty hostel s dobrou atmosferou a centralnou polohou. Prvy den sme v dazdi pozreli hlavne namestie Suhbaatar s velkou sochou Dzingischana a jeho synov a budhisticky chram Choyjin Lamu. Hlavne sme ale zorganizovali planovany vylet. Nasi kamarati z vlaku Darryel a Cahir sa k nam pridali, aby sme dostali lepsiu cenu za osobu. V Mongolsku sme ale boli milionari, vdaka kurzu 2500 tugrikov za 1 euro :)

Vyrazili sme hned na druhy den rano a najprv sme spoznali taje mongolskej dopravy. V UB je v podstate permanentna zacpa, lebo celym mestom sa z vychodu na zapad tiahne jedina hlavna ulica Enh Tayvany Orgon Choloo, po ktorej vsetci jazdia. Pruhy na ceste v podstate nic neznamenaju, auta vytvaraju pruhy podla potreby, takze kludne 8 na 4-prudovej ceste. Prednost ma ten, kto najviac trubi a byt chodcom je hazardovanie s vlastym zivotom (zeleny panacik je len nieco ako vianocna vyzdoba). Mimo mesto to nie je ovela lepsie. Alkoholizmus je problem cislo 1 a vacsina soferov jazdi opita (hlavne kamionisti). To dokazuje 1 flasa vodky na 1 m2 pri okraji cesty. Soferovanie je v podstate slalom medzi dierami v ceste (esteze tam nejazdi vela aut) a v pripade prace na cestach je obchadzka...cez pole.

Potom sme ale spoznali mongolsku prirodu a nekonecne scenerie a boli sme ocarovani. Prvy den sme boli v starovekom hlavnom meste Karakorum, ktore nechal postavit Dzingischanov syn a neskor bolo znicene Cinanmi. Dnes tam stoja len kamenne korytnacky, ktore kedysi chranili okraje mesta. Pozreli sme si najvacsi budhisticky klastor Erdene Zuu, kam zrovna v nedelu prichadzali mnisy aj miestny obyvatelia v sviatocnom obleceni na modlitbu. Velka cast z neho bola znicena socialistickym rezimom, ale zostali 2 krasne budovy, jedna v tibetskom a druha v cinskom style. Druhy den sme sa presunuli na okraj puste Gobi, kde nas (trosku turisticky) povozili na tavach. Bol nadherny slnecny den a vyhlady na pust so zasnezenymi horami v pozadi boli, ako Tobi hovori, dychberuce. Na treti den nas zobudil studeny severak, ale nastastie sme boli hlavne v aute a presuvali sme sa do narodneho parku Terelj. Vo vyske 1600 m uz bola vegetacia horska, s krasnymi skalnatymi utvarmi. Na stvrty den nas cakala prechadzka na konoch a potom sme sa rozhodli este pre malu turu k dalsiemu budhistickemu klastoru, zasadenemu do skaly vo vyske 1700 m.

Tri noci sme spali v jurte. Bol to urcite zazitok, ale pocitili sme co to znamena "extremna kontinentalna klima" - cez den kludne 20 stupnov, ale v noci -4, studeny vietor. Dvakrat nam snezilo. V jurte je sice mala piecka, takze sme si vecer pekne zakurili, ale do rana to samozrejme vyhaslo. Najvacsim problemom na vidieku je voda, miestny zbieraju dazdovu vodu alebo sa chodia umyvat (obcas) do najblizsieho mesta. 25% mongolcov stale zije kocovnym zivotom, presuva sa 4-krat do roka a zivi sa chovom dobytka. V krajine je vlastne 10-krat viac dobytka ako ludi. Vzhladom na drsne klimaticke podmienky je aj strava velmi jednoducha - verene baranie maso, slany mliecny caj, kobylie mlieko, chleba alebo cestoviny, pripadne nejaky polsky zeleninovy salat z dovozu :) Jurty su ale celkovo velmi romanticke a spolocenske, prenesu cloveka o par storoci do minulosti.

Mongolsko na nas zanechalo velky dojem, hlavne ked nam vsetko zapadlo do kontextu po navsteve historickeho muzea v UB. Zivot je tu tazky, ale krajina je otvorena novym veciam a ludia sa ucia, ako im turisticky ruch moze priniest zivobytie. Clovek sa tu citi velmi autenticky a krajinu si proste zamiluje. Kto vie, mozno sa sem este niekedy vratime!

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Posted by zuzana.zav 21:12 Archived in Mongolia Comments (5)

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