Asia – The Highs and the Lows!

Asia Highs

Early morning light over Chhomrong rice fields.

Early morning light over Chhomrong rice fields.

Nepal: Annapurna Trek

What better is there to spend your birthday than 10 days of profuse sweating in the Himalayas? The scenery was breathtaking, the villages were picturesque and our guides Shiva and Deepak were two great lads who showed us a few Nepali card games and picked us wild strawberries on route. What are the advantages of climbing 1500 meters every day for 10 days I hear you ask? Guilt fee Mars-bar rolls that’s what 😀

Carvings at the Shiva temple in Kalpa.

Carvings at the Shiva temple in Kalpa.

India: Spiti Valley

Unpaved landslide covered roads, 1000 meter drops, sweaty palms, 2000 year old villages, chanting Buddhist monks who made us tea and adorable but hysterical kids stalking us in tiny remote mountain villages – this was Spiti Valley.

Edel on beach 7.

Edel on beach 7.

India: Andaman Islands

Even a heathen like David had to admit that diving with 5 meter Manta rays was a religious experience 🙂 When we weren’t under the water we spent the days on Beach number 7 which is still rimmed by pristine rainforest, and eating out at the aptly named World Class restaurant where the woman of the house cooked for all of the foreigners on the island on one gas ring…

Tiger in Bandhavgarh national park.

Tiger in Bandhavgarh national park.

India: Bandhavgarh National Park

We were rewarded for bearing the 50 degree heat and having to live in what can only be described as a bunker with close ups of wild tigers, which these days is a very rare experience.

Prayer flags at Everest basecamp.

Prayer flags at Everest basecamp.

Tibet: Everest Base Camp

With all the craziness and history that goes along with Everest you can’t help but be in awe when you do finally see the mountain.. Admittedly we arrived at EBC the lazy way – by jeep – but still to get there at all is an achievement, right? We spent the night in a tent at 5200 meters, David braved the yak butter tea and next day watched the sunrise over Everest. Good Times.

Prayer wheels in Dharamsala.

Prayer wheels in Dharamsala.

India: Dharamsala

After the initial slap in the face that was Delhi it was a great feeling to arrive in Dharamsala. Before I left for India I was a bit anxious about even bringing a mobile as the more stuff you generally bring the more stress you have trying to take care of it. I need not have worried, every single Buddhist monk we saw sipping cappuccino in Dharamshala had a newer phone that made mine look like a fossil. The village itself is a great mix of locals, Tibetan refugees and hippy dippy Westerners. A lot of people get so comfortable here that the end up spending 3 months and forgetting about the rest of India.. We got out after two weeks and luckily caught the man himself, the Dalai Lama at a public appearance before we left which was a great honour.

Bridge in Nikko.

Bridge in Nikko.

Japan madness with Avril

We arrived, we covered her apartment in volcanic ash from Mount Fuji and she made us proper tea with milk in it. 😀 More Japan under “culinary highlights” below. 😀

Yak by Namtso lake.

Yak by Namtso lake.

Tibet: Namtso Lake

Perched at 4720 meters Namtso is the highest salt-water lake in the world. It is also regarded as one of the most holy lakes in Tibet where many Buddhist pilgrims do a 16 day circuit of the lake prostrating every third step.. The lake itself has that straight-from-a-fairytale azure blue which along with the altitude left us breathless.

Terraced rice fields in Longji.

Terraced rice fields in Longji.

China: Longji Rice Terraces

Longji was a little gem of a village that we came across just before we left China. We spent 3 days here wandering through the amazingly complex rice terraces and seeing hardly any other people which is quite an amazing feat in China. Apart from the two old ladies from a neighbouring village who stalked us for a few hours and kept asking me if I was pregnant we were left in relative peace! This was the last stop we made in China so we were delighted to leave on such a high note.

Boating on the Ganges.

Boating on the Ganges.

India: Varanasi

The word “confronting” is the best I can come up with to describe Varanasi. We arrived late at night in the middle of one of the frequent power cuts which made negotiating the maze of tiny little alley ways to our Hostel very interesting indeed. When we eventually did arrive at the hostel after doing battle with several territorial sacred cows we discovered that the last time that it was cleaned was probably when the city was founded as a Hindu pilgrimage site some 2000 years ago… We spent the next days wandering by the banks of the Ganges in the 40 degree heat watching Holy Men zipping up and down in speed boats, people washing clothes, fathers teaching their kids how to swim, people being cremated, pilgrims cleansing themselves and gurus performing religious “puja” ceremonies. We too spent time praying – praying that the electricity would come back for just 5 minutes so we could cool down in front of the fan..

Asia Lows

Amoebic and Bacterial Dysentery

It is all fun and games until someone loses 5 kilos in 7 days … Thank you India 🙂

China in the high season

According to the July 2009 population statistics there are approximately 1,338,612,968 living in China. All of whom visited the Forbidden City the same day as us 🙂

Asia Culinary Highlights

24 hour power!

24 hour power!

Nepalese Dal Bhat

The “spuds and meat” of Nepal which basically consists of rice, lentil curry, vegetable curry and maybe some pickles on the side. Once you are finished the first portion the waiter will ask if you want more as is the custom which you will try to say no to but will give in in the end… Our guides on the Annapurna trek ate Dal Bhat twice a day every day and coined one of the best phrases we heard in Nepal “Dal Bhat – 24 hour power!”

Hotpot in Xian.

Hotpot in Xian.

All Chinese Food

Despite claims in certain rural towns in the West of Ireland I can confirm the Chinese people do not add Pedigree Chump to their food 🙂 In 2 months of eating out three times a day we had maybe two dodgy meals the rest were fresh and tasty (though quite possibly riddled in MSG). I would go back to China just for the food.

Macau

Asia is a bit slack on the old dessert options so we were delighted when we arrived in Macau and discovered that the Portuguese had left behind lots of tasty cakes especially the Pastel de Nata a little warm eggy/custardy tart.

Dining in Kyoto's Gion district.

Dining in Kyoto's Gion district.

Japan

We could probably have eaten supermarket sushi for the whole 10 days we were in Japan but thanks to Avril we discovered that there is more to Japanese cuisine 🙂 We tried Okonomiyaki (a kind of pancake with a bit of everything in it), takoyaki (fried octopus dumplings), curry udon noodles, skewered chicken hearts, Daifuku (soft bean curd cake) and green tea ice cream. Delish 🙂

And what have we learned from all this?

All beautiful sites are located at the top of a difficult climb.

Once you arrived to said beautiful site someone will have hung a powerline right in front of it. 😀

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