Friday, May 7, 2010
Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)
This commentary may seem different than the rest, I had a lot of Preconcieved notions prior to my arrival in Yangon. One was that the capital was going to be like a police state, armed guards with AK-47's on every corner, people being stopped constantly, roadblocks and checks at every other corner. The capital may have comprised of some of those items, but none of them all together.
Arrival through immigration and customs was very lackluster, infact the queue for Foreigner arrivals was so packed, it consisted of....me. thats right, Me, no one else, i was the only foreigner arriving, infact there were several planes that landed at the same approximate time, and I was the only one in the line for foreigners at passport control. Right off the bat, my first preconceived notion was that i would be hassled in passport control, many questions, "where are you staying, where will you be visiting, how long will you be staying, what is the purpose of your visit, etc etc." of which i received none, handed the gal my passport and doucments, she stamped it, although i did have to direct her to the correct visa. I have two visa's for Myanmar in my passport as i was intending on visiting here last year with Joe.
one outside of Immigration i was expecting to be swallowed in a sea of touts, not the case, very organized to be honest, with an offical looking man approaching (name badge for the gov't and the whole nine yards) in a dress shirt and Yanghyi (sp), directing me to the taxi queue, advising me how much it would be to get a taxi to the hotel, a whole whopping 6USD. Very painless and quite efficient really. One in the taxi there was a gentlman along with the driver who spoke english, this was more for the sales pitch to get me to hire him tomorrow for the day for touring etc. Have I mentioned Yet that the tempeture was 42C when i landed (110+F WAY TO FRACKIN HOT).
After checking into the hotel, i decided to eat in the hotel resturaunt, not my usual MO, but for reals, it was HOT outside and i didn't really want to endure the heat, i mean, it was so hot i couldn't even breathe, gasping for breath in between mopping the two gallons of water off my forehead from being outside for 2 minutes. I had a couple Tigers and some chicken with cashews and ginger, very tasty and the tiger (a singapore beer) complimented it quite well.
So my intent for the night was to get my bearings, work over the map to figure out where i was going tomorrow, as well as the best to way to get there i.e. walking or Taxi. After a couple beers, Dinner, and another beer in the room it was time for bed and an early rise for breakfast and touring.
Last thing before bed to to figure out the money situation, when i arrived i had to have the hotel break down a 100 dollar bill so that i could have enough small bills to pay the cab. Now i needed to know if i needed Kyat, the Myanmar currency, apparently this stuff is old, ratty, several different sizes for the same denomination notes, as well as un official on what the actual real exchange rate is. I exchanged at the hotel at 920 to 1, although i think the real rate was more 1000 to 1. where as XE.com said it ws 6.15 (which i think i wrote down wrong), and the other official is =/-400 to 1. Regardless of which i now have Kyat in my pocket, a lot actuually, with taxi's costing 1.5k to 3k a ride, tomorrow might be a bit expensive for taxi's, we'll see if we can do it for less than 50US like the cabbie and translator were trying to get me for.
Have i mentioned yet how hot it is here in Yangon...fry eggs on the street hot....quicker than in a frying pan.
Breakfast was a simple chinese style buffet, i think the hotel catered to chinese on holiday, thats all there seemed to be there, with many Burmese coming and going, doing business with chinese investors i can only assume.
I knew today was going to be a challenge, between the pollution that had me coughing on the ride from the airport, to the intense heat...have i mentioned its hot here?....40C+ (x2 + 30 to get F). I decided for the morning i'd hit ShweDagon Pagoda, then maybe the national Museum (for some much needed AC), then possibly the circular train, that might be cool and refreshing...
Started with Schwedagon Pagoda and the Martyr's Masoleum, tood a taxi to the pagoda costing 1.5k, not a bad start. I brought my day bag along with me with water and my list of things i wanted to do, I aslo brought it cause i knew that i would have to take my shoes off to go through the pagoda, and didn't want to leave them at a particular entrance and forget which one, so it was just as easy to toss them in my bag and carry thema round with me.
This complex was huge, and the giant pagoda was fracking excess in and of itself. I'm not much on the pagoda's, having seen them in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, i think they are excessive, and in many cases a waste. I take the Cathedral aproach in Europe here, once you've seen one you've seen them all. Now my opinions are my own, and not knowing much about budhism other than what i've learned in school, I just find it hard to fathom that people will plate a 100 meter pagoda in gold, when there is widespread poverty and opression. Just me.
After the pagoda and lots of pictures, like the psychedelic buddha with the flashing lights, and the disco buddha's with there glass flecks surounding them like a disco ball it was off to the martyr's masoleum. Have i mention that the visit to the pagoda was at 8AM and it was creeping on 40C? Its HOT here. I exited the pagoda to the South, expecting to come right in contact with the MM, no the case, there were not direct signs or indication anywhere that it was right outside the south gate. Thanks Wikitravel for the bad info....so not seeing it I decided to walk around the Pagoda to see if maybe I had just been told the wrong exit by my tourguide, in the off chance that i could see it there. The MM was nowhere to be found, so i cought a taxi over to the national museum for 2k, its now around 945 and I'm in desperate need of AC, i'm starting to cough from the exhause fumes on teh street and the combination of the heat blaring down on me...btw i think my bald spot is bright red, i just don't have the gumption to check.
the national museum was interesting, it cost 5 US to get in, and the bonus was that you couldn't take a bag, or camera into the museum, i'm pretty sure i could have, but didn't feel like get tossed out, although the flash would have come in handy as the electricity was not working when the museum opened at 10. This was going to be a common theme throughout my stay here in Yangon, rolling blackouts, or just no electricity in certain areas. I was making the observation that the private sector was prepared while the public was not, generator were well abundant, with the hotel i was staying at having 2. I decided to tough it through all four floors of the museum, not for punishment, but because as i was finishing up the first floor the power came back on and the ac was starting to blow. While the museum was interesting it was in no way shape or form like any of the museums back in the states, with the history exhibits from before the 19th century, and based on the former kings and queens, there was minimal to no history from the 20th century, by design, i imagine, but none all the same.
I managed to stop in front of every AC unit on my way through the museum, and feeling cooled off, i headed out, in an attempt to find the hotel, which later i realized i had straight out passed by, like a 2 minute walk away, i'm not really sure how i could miss an 11 story building either. So for the next 2 hours i decided to walk around Yangon and see how the street fare went. I ended up walking through either the Arab/Indian district. The sidewalks were filled with people selling goods, everything from durian fruit to school uniforms and textbooks. Two hours was about all i could handle, the heat was absolutely overwhelming, especially in the peak of the day. So once the water was gone, it was back to the hotel to cool off. I was exhausted, coughing from walking around the streets, and of course my own personal vice, smoking.
After a break, it was back out into the city, I'm not sure i've mentioned this yet, but its really hot here, hitting 44/45C. This time out, its later in the day around 4PM, hoping the heat has subsided a little, and it hasn't, i headed off to the hotel/tourist district. First stop was the center hotel for a massage. One thing Yangon is known for is there abundance of places to get a massage, and I'm talking about a traditional massage perverts. My massage was performed by this 80Pd girl if she was lucky sopping wet who was as strong as an ox, pratically bending me so that my ankles were above my ears (i exaggerate, but she was strong). after the massage and feeling quite relaxed I headed out to walk around the downtown area, now i was confronted with being in the tourist district point blank when a little boy carrying a baby started following me asking for money for food...i take a very hard approach to street kids, they get nothing from me, 99.9% of the time its there parents who have sent them out to to be beggars, i politely told the kid to go home and smack his mother for putting him on the street when he should be home studying, but that wasn't the troubling sight, the baby this boy was carrying was limp, either drugged silent, or dead, i couldn't quite see which, either way i wanted nothing to do with either of them and walked faster to put as much distance between us, hoping the kid would stop following at the next street knowing he would be out of his territory.
Walking a bit more I decided it was time to get back to the hotel, my laundry would be done and i desperately needed a clean set of clothes, not to mention another shower, having soaked the clothes on my back twice over today, they were starting to get a bit of a funk to them.
This being my last night in Yangon, i decided what the hell, i have showered more today than i do in a week, I've got clean clothes on my back, and a bunch of Kyat to use, I'm gonna go for a bar hop. A Disco was recommended by the hotel called the Pionneer Disco, i had also heard of this place from a couple expat websites, knowing it was foreigner friendly, which is always helpful, i gave it whirl, arriving around 2130, the heat of the day still lingering, but not quite in your face, cause if i haven't mentioned it before, i will mention, its seriously hot here. The music was good, mostly techo to the current US top 40, lady gaga and the like. I stayed for a good 3 hours before heading back, having about 5 pints of tiger at 2k a peice, not a bad deal for the foreigner price i thought, and still cheaper than Singapore.
On the way home, i did come in contact with my first police checkpoint. the taxi driver having to show his papers, open the trunk, and bribe the police (i'm almost certain of it) for whatever reason. They didn't bother me at all, just shined a flashlight into the car. not gonna lie my heart did jump a little, not knowing exactly what was going to happen. All work out and i made it back to the hotel safely with no other incidence.
Tomorrow singapore, Saturday the Flips, Sunday in the states by 2PM...the trip is drawing to a close, I have officially seen the whole of SE Asia.
Singapore round 2 (this trip at least)
May 3- May 5
What a killer smooth flight darwin to singapore, i thought there was going to be a little more bouncing considering they were expecting weather moving into singapore. The weather unfortunately hit cherries flight, she got delayed and hour out of manila, not for weather but mechanical difficulties, they had to turn her plane around on the tarmac and send it back to the terminal, the weather was experienced up in the air with a lot of turbulence, of course as cherrie told the story, she had her blanket, pillow, and whatever else she needed to be comfy and slept the entire way.
I met her in the airport at the arrivals area, and we hopped into a taxi to the hotel, the Village Landmard, hoity, toity if i don't say. sure as hell beat the $30 dives i stayed in in the "entertainment" area or geylang district. not that there was anything wrong with those rooms, there designed for an inexpensive place to sleep or...well, i'm sure you can figure it out.
After checking in, Cherrie pretty much became the party pooper falling asleep before we could figure out dinner, the days activities for tomorrow, sentosa or indonesia. No decision was made and off to sleep we went, not that i'm complaining, its been a couple rough days of travelling, early flights, all day adventures, enduring extreme tempetures, man i like the tropics, and coundless miles walked. An early night might do me some good.
Exloring the Arab quarter was interesting, this was the first time i'd stayed in the part of Singapore, usually opting for the cheap and well cheap. Cherrie and I got up and around and out of the room by 9, this i was suprised for, i expected cherrie to sleep at least until noon, but she got up and around and we headed out to hunt down some breakfast. We settled on a corner cafe for some indian breakfast (i think), eggs and cheese in some kind of thin tortilla type wrapper with a sauce similar to a tandoori to drench the concoction with, it had onions, peppers and was a tomato base. Finished off with some really good coffee, or Kopi, black expresso coffee mixed with condensed milk.
after breakfast, we were on a mission to find the Raffles Hotel, then make an attempt to get off to sentosa. The hunt to find the raffles proved to be much, much harder than expected, neither of us had a map, and cherrie was attempting to use the gps maps that were included on her phone, only to find that it kep prompting her to log into the data network, which she didn't want to do, and i haven't activated my gps on my phone so we were pretty much s.o.l. We knew the general direction we wanted to head, and being on beach road, which is the same road the raffles is on we started walking, un beknownst to us, we began walking the wrong way, then started turning corners, and more corners, before we knew it we were upon a MRT station...tossing in the towel we decided to take the mrt to Raffles Square, only three stops up on the MRT, and not near the actual raffles Hotel. So our walk began...again...this time we knew where we were going, two turns was all we had to make, a left, and then a right on beach road.
my initial plan was to have a couple singapore slings at the raffles hotel, this did not pan out, we wandered around the property, took some pictures, visited the gift shop where cherrie got some tea for her folks, then we were both sooo tired and hot and sweaty we didn't want to have drinks, what we wanted was someting cold and something to eat, and nice guy i am, i'm not paying the raffles prices for food, so we headed out to find another MRT station to get back over to where the hotel was to take an afternoon dip in the pool, cool off and head back out again. On the way to the MRT station we happened upon a mall, suprise, a mall in singapore, where they had the swankiest mc donalds i've ever seen, cutting through this mcdonalds we decided on chocalate milkshakes...best idea ever...before continuing on to MRT station. On our way to the MRT, we walked right into the taxi queue at the mall and make out way back to the hotel, yeah, the taxi was my idea, cherries feet hurt, i was getting stinky from sweating all day, buckets pouring out of my head, that i just wanted to go swimming.
after cooling off at the hotel, we decided on a snack by the pool before heading back out. We had taken too much time cooling off so we decided that china town would be the next stop for cheap goods, and i'll be damned if cherrie didn't have over a dozen people to shop for, off to the 10 for 10 stands we headed, looking for the best deals for cheaply constructed chinese knick knacks for her to take home. like any woman, deciding on the perfect piece of crap to give as a souvenier was not easy. I suggested she let me do the picking, a simple grab the first 12 items was what i would have done, and inevitably what she did, taking an hour to get to that point...
We wandered around Chinatown for a little before deciding on heading back to the hotel for the night, both still tired, our feet hurting and just wanting to relax before the day of travel coming up for both of us, we spent the rest of the night chilling and watching TV.
Tomorrow...Off to Burma
Day 12 - Darwin
The Day started after a long strong shower, the water pressure was out of this world. Today I was going to relax at the pub around the block and watch the Mayweather v. Mosley fight, it was going to be nice to watch the fight without having to pay 60+ for the PPV back in the states. The fight began at 1030 AM, after watching back and fort between the undercards and the AFL (australian rules football) games that were on, i finally settled into the outside part of the bar where i could see the game, as well as smoke, eat and drink. Of course this being australia, I have to order all drinks and food from the bar...this i'm not so fond of, but i can only guess that this being a drinking culture, its probably very likely that any other type of payment other than at the time of service, or before food is delivered, would result in a lot of dine and dashes.
As the fight drew closer the bar began to fill, and being the nice guy that i am, i offered to share my table with two guys who had been sitting there previously. I snagged the table after htey didn't come back after a few minutes, that, and the table had a perfect view of the big screen tv on the outdoor patio. It seems that Aussies know a little about American boxers, and world boxers for that matter. This made for good conversation for the fight at hand, as well as fights that were not to be. The chap that sat to my right, was quit knowledgeable, we discuss cst of goods and services, as well as recent changes in the cost of consumer goods, such as cigarettes and basic staples like milk, bread and eggs. It appears that the cost of a 25 pack of ciggarettes is 15+ AUD, and given that the the AUD is currently running like 0.97:1 thats a pretty expensive pack of cigarettes. a pack of drum, or roll your own, similar to what we in the US would compare to a pack of bugler, or Kite is at 30+ AUD, thats frackin expensive.
Even the cost of eating out was expensive, it seems everything is still priced for when the AUD was at 1.30 to the USD, so lunch in a resturaunt was at 20+ AUD, and a beer, at the lower end of the scale was 5 AUD.
I was able to find a Yiro stand the night before, with 10 dollar yiro's that were really good, so for supper i ate in a bar, and had a personal cheese pizza and potato wedges, these were good, they were served with sour cream and chili sauce, not a ccombination i would have tried perviously, but very good after seeing the two guys who sat next to me during the fight eating them that way.
After eating, i swung by the yiro place again to get a late night snack, and boy was that a good snack at around 10.
Now for a bit of a Rant. those who know me, know that I rarely bitch about anything, but i was apalled at the hotel i stayed at in darwin, the Mantra on the Esplande. Now, I rarely go Posh when it comes to travelling abroad, but knowing that what i was budgeting for hotels was going to be far under what it could be on this trip, i doubled my budget for Darwin knowing i wouldn't have to pay anything for my time in Korea.
- only positive part of the hotel was that the room was clean, and the AC worked
-hotel staff was daft, unresponsive and acted as though they could give a shit less.
- the bar/resto was a joke, i sat for 10 minutes waiting for the waitress or bartender to even awknoledge that i was sitting 5 feet from them, i got up and left
- went out to smoke first night (requested smoking room, they had rooms available with balconies that were in my room rate), night clerk locked the door as she passed me in the lobby (seeing me go outside) after i had walked outside for a ciggarette....my thoughts were really? you couldn't wait 5 minutes for me to finish?
- check in; my flight arrived at 5 AM, i arrived at the hotel at approx 530, knowing that it would be next to impossible to get a room at that hour, or that my room would even be ready, i wanted to make sure the hotel knew i was there, find a place to do laundry, and find some plae for breakfast. The hotel didnt have a laundry facility, so i was told to mooch off the hotel next door, as for getting a room somewhat early, i was told i would need to come back at 2, that would be the soonest a room would be available, no effort whatsoever to attempt to accommodate me, no, "sir check in isn't till 2, we will see if we can find you a room sooner than that", or "sir, check out is at 10, as soon as the room is available we can notify you"
- impolite staff, not once...i repeat ONCE, was I greeted in the hotel with a "hello", "How are you" etc.
I found out later, after arriving back in singapore and chatting with a Darwin native that the Mantra hotel i stayed at was in fact the worst for customer service in Darwin, not that customer service strives there, but i had as they said in Indiana Jones....Choosen Poorly
Arriving at 5AM isn't exactly the best time to hit a city, regardless of where in the world you are. With laundry top on the priority list i headed straight for the hotel. Not knowing what to expect, and knowing full on they wouldn't have a room for me ready yet (of course there was that ice cube chance in hell, but i wasn't counting on it). I inquired about laundry services and bag storage first off. Bag storage, wasn't an issue, but the laundry service was. I was told that the Novatel next door had laundry service, self operated coin laundry type machines. At four dollars a pop for a wash and a dry, but alas, i stunk, and didn't have a clean pair of drawers.
After finishing laundry i decided to take a walk around the park that was on the Esplande, a very nice park with many war memorials. I was suprised to see a large number of transients in the park, although, now that i think about, as you begin to move into any civilized country, their is bound to be blight and homless. I was taken aback though, as i walked through the park and came to a bluff overlooking the ocean, there was a stone wall barricde, with a bit of a landing, to my suprise, there was a backpacker sleeping on the other side of the wall, all i could think was lucky dog, if you weren't there, i would be...sleeping the cool morning away.
after a brisk walk through the park, i got to thinking it would be nice if Catherine was with me, she would like walking here! Knowing that I had a lot of time to kill, i decided to make a few phone calls, calling Jack first, it took a couple times for him to answer, apparently he has Mother syndrome, not wanting to talk to the potential bill collectors on the other line... of course i let him know that the call was a test of the "Emergency Philip system, and that this is only a test, had this been a real emergency, i would be screaming bloody murder"
after the phone calls, i walked up the main street, killing 4 hours was easier than i thought, now it was time for breakfast. I found a little corner cafe called Sallitories on Mitchell street. Had a very tasty white coffee (not the same as Vietnam), which was just an expresso with white foam, and an apple tart, as it turned out, i wasn't as hungry as I thought. After walking around for another hour after breakfast, i decided to head back to the hotel to see if there was a room available, to no avail...in fact they blew me off when i asked, so i asked about internet, only to find that for 24 hours of internet would cost me 27.50 billed to my room...seriously? 30 dollars for internet, damn thats steep, i'll leech off a wifi, or find an internet cafe. after blowing me off about a room being available, the front desk wanted to know if i wanted to get a jump start on my paperwork for check in (which would occur in another 3 hours)...screw it, filled out the paperwork, dropped my clean laundry into my bag and decided to walk around a bit more, at least until i could get into my room at 2.
heading down the main blvd, i grabbed my list of places i wanted to see, identifying that i could see most of them on foot, i headed in the direction of Mindi Beach. following the Esplande park to the end, i came to the main drag, and headed, North (i believe). I got to Mindi beach and to my suprise, there was no one there, its over 100F on a saturday and no one is at the beach, i couldn't believe it, of course, the tide was out, and that could be what was contributing to the lack of attendence. Walking further past the beach, i came across a nature trail, deciding to follow it cause the signs said that it went up past the High School, and towards the aboriginal museum, heading up to gaol bay/harbor (not sure which) where the bombings occurred by the same fleet that hit pearl harbor.
I'm good at picking times to walk...today its 100+ degrees and i'm on a walkabout around Darwin, the path led past the High school, wow, what a view, overlooking the bay, thats the way i would have liked to spend my high school days, a breeze coming over the cliffs, and gorgeous days with the sun shining everyday.
The aboriginal museum was nice, it was a mixed museum, with a natural history side, exploring the history of the animals found in Oz and some current natural habitats.
After the museum, i decided to do something different, that morning in the coffee shot i was reading the newspaper and came across an advertisment for Jello Wrestling, with it being such a hot day i decided, what the hell, i could use a cold beer and live entertainment. So to get there proved troublesome, i would need to find a taxi, and, the area the museum was in was not exactly a haven for them. I began to walk the main road, hoping to see one as i was going. As i walked i passed by a Cricket Pitch i had passed on my way to the museum, now there was a game going on, of course i don't know much about cricket, so as to what i was actually watching escapes me. Finally after another 10 minutes of walking, a taxi passed by and i was able to flag it down. Told the driver to head over to winnellie hotel for the entertainmaint, and he was all for it, in fact he seemed a bit disappointed he didn't know it was going on, that it would be the kind of thing he would want to go see on a saturday afternoon.
It wasn't all it was cracked up to be, sure the girls ripped each other tops off, but it was a bit lame and the matches ended quick. the positive side, the time had passed by pretty quick, it was now passed 2 and i could head back to the hotel and check in and get a nap, that, honestly, was sounding better and better by the minute.
With a quick walk to the main road i was able to flag down a taxi and back to the hotel i went. Check in was smooth and painless, then again why wouldn't it be, i had already filled out all the necessary paperwork, and the room was paid for off of hotels.com. up to the room i went for a much needed shower, having been up since 6 the previous morning (don't ask, even i don'w know why i was up that early), and lets not forget a clean change of clothes. after getting cleaned up, i layed down for a quick nap.
Refreshed from my nap i decided to go out and see the town at night. of course, i was also hungry, so going out was a necessity, and after my discouraging feelings festering towards the hotel, i decided that paying the room tariff was good enough, no more money there way unless it was absolutely necessary.
I ended up walking around for about an hour before settling on a Yiro stand to have dinner, it was quite tasty, fresh onions, lettuce and garlic cream sauce....quite tasty.
Once dinner was concluded, it was back to the hotel for bed.
Out and about in a city of horrible sidewalks. Stop one on the walking tour of Ulanbaatar is the Gandan monestery, a nice complex of muliple buildings, and more prayer wheels than i've seen since Katmandu. From there it was off to the state Department store, then to Sukahamot (sp) square where the Parliment building is, with three large statues of Ghengis Kahn and of course Sukahamot (sp) a major historical figure who helped the Mongolians in there independance against the russians.
Next stop was down to seoul street, after walking around Peace street. after 4 hours of walking around it was off to find some lunch. Along Peace Ave there was a nice noodle shop that was packed, i figured thats as good a spot as any for lunch, considering there were lots of people, the food has to be good.
After lunch is was back to the Guest House for a use of the facilities and a cup of tea, and some conversation. The Swiss couple Mark and Djemina were off at the black market off loading all of there riding equipment from the previous month, as well as buying some soveniers when they were approached by three large mongolian men who backed them into a barricade and stole his wallet, it didn't help at all that his hands were full of all the items they had purchased in the market earlier that day. I knock on wood everytime i hear stories like that, thanking my lucky stars that situations like that haven't happened to me like that when i've been travelling.
With my new friends we took dinner at the brewhaus, good beer and decent german food. After dinner it was back to the guest house for a good nights sleep before heading to singpore via beijing. I treated to dinner, i felt the gesture was worthwhile considering the circumstances of the day, my small effort to confirm that not all people are bastards.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Arrived at the airport to find that I was an hour early, and its still 530, the flight which i thought was at 730 was actually at 830...and to top it off, theres nothing open and i really wanted a cup of coffee.
Got the boarding pass and made it like a breeze through immigration. Again having to catch the tram to the terminal and walking an additional 15 minutes to get to the gate, why do i always have to fly out of the last possible gate in a terminal...
Once at the gate the flight monitors provided a pleasant suprise, the flight that was scheduled to leave at 830 was now leaving at 1920....11 hours delayed due to weather in Mongolia...At aroudn 9 they finally coralled all of us that were still at the gate and bused to a hotel to that we could not mill around the airport, once at the hoel, we were told that we had to share a room with a random stranger form the light or pay 200 Yuan for a seperate room, I ended up with a German named Jurgen, a nice chap who worked a little on his computer and slept until it was time to go. The bonus was that we got a free lunch at the hotel, this was nice considering i was starving from the long day and early morning start.
The flight delay didn't bother me, it was the fact that we were prisoners in the hotel, they told us we couldn't leave as the flight might be leaving early once the weather cleared, i had it all worked out that i was going to go back to Tianemen square to see what i wasn't able to the night before.
Oh well, a nap instead was my actual events for the day, not that this is a bad thing as i was beat, but it still would have been nice to get out. Back to the airport, wihtout delay, rushed through immigration and security and off to the gate to hurry up and wait. The flight boarded on time, and they even apologized for the delay, nice touch i thought.
Arriving in Mongolia, the airport pick up that I though i arranged was no where to be found, so i ended up with the cab driver that didn't know Ulaanbaatar very well. Arrived a the guest hour around 11PM and straight to bed, only to be woken at 4AM by two things, my alarm that apparently turned on in my bag, and a huge dog trying to knock down the door to get let back inside. Good thing for me, falling back asleep was a non issue!
Woke to a fantastic shower and great breakfast of Eggs, bread, jam, tea, and cheese, was also graced with the great conversation from two swiss travelers who had just traversed Mongolia by Horse. Very adventerous individuals and quite the adventure from the story they told.
Ulaanbaatar is a very nice city, not much for developed sidewalks, but the overal archetecture is nice, as are the people that I come in contact with. thats not to say other people have not had similar pleasantries with the locals. The lovely swiss couple i met were mugged in the black market, as well as the german travelers, whom were followed by a pick pocket for many blocks, and were unaware until they were notified by a shopkeeper.
Another early start in Korea, needing to catch the 8 AM bus to busan to get to the airport. The bus ride was uneventful, and apparently i snore on buses too (thats what brenda and andrew said at least). Arriving in Busan led andrew straight to a McDonalds, while that is not my breakfast of choice, he relished in the egg mcmuffins and hash brownsm, it seems he doesn't get that very often and when he does he's quite gluttonous!
The airport was a breeze, and landing in China was an entire non event, i expected questions and some delays clearing through immigration but it was almost as quick as clearing immigration in Korea. Right out of the immigration area it was to the tram to get to the front of the airport, from there i saw Sunny my chinese tour guide (which might have been overkill) with a sign that had my name on it....straight to the car and the great wall.
The car ride was nice, i was very suprised at the lack of traffic. I was expecting the roads to be cram packed with people and cars and it was like any other major city on a sunday, not a lot of traffic and not a lot of people out.
The great was was awesome! i got the cable car ticket to the top to save time from taking the steps, not that i'm fat and out of shape, but that we had only a limited amount of time to see what i wanted to see in the short amount of time i had available. At the top we were able to see 4 towers and the wall just seemed to stretch on forever, i could have spent several days there taking pictures and just following it around. Getting to the top provided a bit of a weather shift, as the wall follows the ridge line of the mountains, in fact so much so for a weather shift that it started to snow.
After the great wall it was back into Beijing to see the Olympic park. This was super cool, having watched the olympics every night when they were on in 08, it was great to see everything up close and personal. The Birds nest is just like it was on TV and the Aquatics center was even cooler with the green lights on and the design making it appear as though water was falling down in giant rain drops...being there around dusk proved nice to get the pictures with the lights on for each of the buildings.
After the Olympic Park it was off to Tianenman Square. Unfortunately it had fallen dark by now and the park was closed. i was able to see the monuments all lit up and got some good pictures. by this time it was around 9PM and it was off to the hotel to check in and get situated to go find something to eat.
the hotel was nice, just what i needed for the overnight, a bed and a place to shower before getting up at 4 to head back to the airport for a 730 flight to mongolia. Once i was checked in and in the room, i sat down, which turned out to be a big mistake cause the next thing i knew it was 4 AM and ready to start the new day without any supper, oh well, at least there will be food on the plane!