A Travellerspoint blog

Rajasthan- the land of palaces & piles of garbage

Rajasthan is a land of contrasts. It is full of majestic palaces and forts from a glorious past, when the silk road passed through the region. Today, it is one of the poorest regions of India and definitely the poorest region we have been to. We spent two weeks exploring this part of India by car (with a driver), starting in Delhi and then passing through Agra with its Taj Mahal, the salmon pink city of Jaipur, the hippie town of Pushkar, the blue city of Jodhpur, the golden city of Jaisalmer, the desert city of Bikaner and back to chaotic Delhi.

We arrived in Delhi late at night. When we stepped out of the taxi into the bustle of dark Old Delhi it felt as we had travelled back to medieval times. There were horses with carriages, pigs and cows in the street, narrow lanes and alleys, houses falling apart, street stalls and crowds of humble people in dirty clothes dragging or bearing their merchandise (coming towards us as in the Thriller video) and there were hardly any street lights. Our hotel was in the end of a dark, narrow, winding alley but well inside it felt as an oasis from the chaos. The first days we took India in small doses as the impressions were overwhelming.

India turned out to be awesome scents and awful stenches. The aroma from the food stalls and the flower stalls blended with the smell of garbage, diesel and urine. It was colours. Colours of spices, beautiful saris and shawls in the bazaars and the pastel Hindu temples in contrast to the arid desert landscape. It was sounds. The constant horning, the shouts of vendors, the calls to prayer through the speakers of the mosques mixed with the bollywood music from some street radio. It was dirt. Piles of garbage in the middle of the city, people throwing dirty water directly out of the window, people peeing and spitting in every corner, animal feces on the streets and broken sewage systems. Every toilet and tap seemed to leak water (Spain should perhaps send their unemployed plumbers here?). It is hard to say whether the traffic is worse than in Vietnam but at least it is far from being as motorbike-homogeneous. The roads are quite OK, at least outside the cities. But the streets are a maze of cars, crowded buses, colourful trucks, overloaded tractors, some bikes or motorbikes, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, people pulling trolleys, camels, elephants, horses (with or without carriage) and then of course the holy cows! Cows and chaos. The cows are everywhere, on the motorway, on the streets in the city and so are their remainings. This means you really have to watch your step (or your foot will disappear in a giant cow shit). The Indian cows are so used to street life that you can see them walking up stairs, opening the garbage or stopping for cars in the road.

The sidewalks in Old Delhi were not less of a hassle and packed with pigs, goats, monkeys and used for parking, for cooking and by vendors. Driving in this maze of traffic is all about horning. Horning to get the animals moving out of the way, horning to make smaller vehicles give way, horning to warn trucks that your will overtake them. In fact, the trucks have big "blow horn" signs on the rear. Our driver seemed to love the horning thing more than anyone and used it even when we were all alone on the road. Two weeks of horning almost left us deaf.

During our travelling we have learned to avoid many scams, tricks and to identify touts. However, we have not been to any place with so many touts and so many attempts of scam as in India. They try to charge you when entering the mosques and temples that are free, no taxi or rickshaw use the meter, they will offer you flowers and then later charge you for them and of course overcharge you for everything. The hotel warned us that at the airport touts will even copy the welcome sign with your name from the pick up guy to steal customers. Just in case, we used a code with our pick up guy.

At most tourist attractions it turned out that for the wealthy Indian we, the tourists, are the big attraction. They will take photos of you, film you or ask you to take photos with them. Rebecca had an hour long photo session with a whole family (and Indian families are big!) at one of the forts. Photo with grandma, photo with the baby granddaughter in her arms, photo with the family's women, photo with all the children, photo with uncle X, Y and Z etc. Oscar used the opportunity to capture all the nice saris they were wearing :).

On the streets you see a lot more men than women. It is hard to get used to see men holding hands (they probably thought it was as awkward that we were holding hands) and it is also interesting that there seem to be mostly women working in construction (in their beautiful saris) and that men sit with sewing machines. Indian men don't think twice about staring at women and they looked at Rebecca as they were going to have her for dinner.

And then there is the head shaking, this side-to-side tilting with the head. Apparently, it is a non-verbal way of acknowledging what the speaker is saying. However, for us the gesture seemed more to indicate: we'll see, maybe, yeah right?! So we were surprised every time it turned out they actually had agreed.

Gandhi once said: "The Rich must live more simply so that the Poor may simply live". This was certainly not applied in the Maharajah times (or even today). The Rajasthan heritage is extraordinary with beautiful palaces, havelis and impressive forts that the heirs have restored and opened as museums (if you ever dreamt of your own palace some of them are even for sale!). The decoration is grandiose, detailed and colourful. Taj Mahal is an outstanding marble jewel, the Jodhpur fort surrounded by the blue city is spectacular and the Ajmer fort gives you a very good insight into the life of the ranis (the wives of the Maharajah) and the concubines that only saw the external world from stone latticework windows. Although imprisoned, the lives of the ranis do not seem to have been too bad (in comparison to living in the desert) and the life of the Maharajahs was obviously even better.

After this adventure, the Maharajah and his Maharani are taking some vacation from the travelling in Phuket, Thailand.

An Indian Mozart

An Indian Mozart


Colours

Colours


Colourful truck and overloaded tractor

Colourful truck and overloaded tractor


The Taj!

The Taj!


It's been a hard day's work

It's been a hard day's work


Tuk tuk

Tuk tuk


Photo session

Photo session


Photo with the aunties

Photo with the aunties


Preparing for the photo session

Preparing for the photo session


Family picture

Family picture


Fatephur Sikri - abandoned city

Fatephur Sikri - abandoned city


Breakfast time

Breakfast time


The palace of winds

The palace of winds


Street life

Street life


Hard-working woman

Hard-working woman


The pink city through the eyes of a Rani

The pink city through the eyes of a Rani


The yellow royal city in pink city

The yellow royal city in pink city


Adobe construction

Adobe construction


Traffic in Jaipur

Traffic in Jaipur


Bazar alley

Bazar alley


Sari selling

Sari selling


Colourful women

Colourful women


Floating palace

Floating palace


Peacock door

Peacock door


Colourful spices

Colourful spices


Following the news

Following the news


Casteless

Casteless


Mechanic workshop

Mechanic workshop


Moving stall

Moving stall


Fast food stall

Fast food stall


Palace cleaning lady

Palace cleaning lady


Palace garden

Palace garden


Women

Women


Elephants at Ajmer

Elephants at Ajmer


Latticework

Latticework


Fort entrance for the elephants

Fort entrance for the elephants


Afternoon chatting

Afternoon chatting


Construction work

Construction work


Beggar

Beggar


Hairdresser

Hairdresser


Dali, the holy cow and saint Rebecca

Dali, the holy cow and saint Rebecca


Typical alley: a cow, a monkey, a dog...

Typical alley: a cow, a monkey, a dog...


Pushkar

Pushkar


Colours

Colours


Colourful fabrics

Colourful fabrics


Transportation

Transportation


Market life at the square

Market life at the square


Matching couple

Matching couple


Market life

Market life


Tuk tuk bullfighting a holy cow

Tuk tuk bullfighting a holy cow


a bit too much?

a bit too much?


Palace ceiling

Palace ceiling


Jodphur

Jodphur


The blue city of Jodhpur

The blue city of Jodhpur


Christmas decoration in the palace

Christmas decoration in the palace


Temple

Temple


Holding hands

Holding hands


The fort from our Haveli hotel

The fort from our Haveli hotel


Life in the desert

Life in the desert


Wild "cow"

Wild "cow"


Our Tata car

Our Tata car


Antelope in the desert

Antelope in the desert


From a camel's perspective

From a camel's perspective


Food in all colours

Food in all colours


Old Delhi

Old Delhi


Traffic in Old Delhi

Traffic in Old Delhi


Flow

Flow


Street hairdresser

Street hairdresser


Pedalling

Pedalling


Goat parking at the sidewalk

Goat parking at the sidewalk


Rooftops in Delhi

Rooftops in Delhi


Remembering good old times

Remembering good old times


Haveli

Haveli


Caught in the air

Caught in the air


Street in Jaisalmer

Street in Jaisalmer


Street life in Jaisalmer

Street life in Jaisalmer


School kids and cows

School kids and cows


Siesta time in Old Delhi

Siesta time in Old Delhi


A glimpse from the street

A glimpse from the street


A glance

A glance


Colourful saris and kids playing

Colourful saris and kids playing


Blacksmith working in the street

Blacksmith working in the street


this is why Indian food is so hot!

this is why Indian food is so hot!


Fruit stalls

Fruit stalls


Faces

Faces


Shoe stall

Shoe stall


Palace decorations

Palace decorations


Maharaja throne

Maharaja throne


Palace door

Palace door


The Maharaja's bedroom

The Maharaja's bedroom


Cowshit cakes for fires

Cowshit cakes for fires


Ready for cricket

Ready for cricket


Overcrowded tuk tuk

Overcrowded tuk tuk


From behind

From behind


Pilgrimage to Taj Mahal

Pilgrimage to Taj Mahal


School transportation

School transportation


construction workers

construction workers


Taj Mahal glimming at sunrise

Taj Mahal glimming at sunrise


Indian tapas (thalis)

Indian tapas (thalis)


Larebecca of Arabia

Larebecca of Arabia


Travelevers in the sand

Travelevers in the sand


Camel safari in Jaisalmer

Camel safari in Jaisalmer


Oscar chatting with the beduins

Oscar chatting with the beduins


Sunset in the desert

Sunset in the desert


dinner with camel safari friends

dinner with camel safari friends


Cooking

Cooking

Posted by travelevers 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

Trends and tradition in Tokyo

Tokyo is one of those places that you cannot really compare with any other city. In that way it is unique. Maybe its remote location is part of the reason, but possible also the fact that they are so "introverted" as a country. Apart from tourists, we saw few foreigners in Tokyo. Apparently immigration rules are strict and in contrast to European or American cities, where it is common to see immigrants working in construction or hotels, in Tokyo those jobs are performed by locals. Sometimes by very old locals, so old that we were surprised to even see them working. That is a hint to a big problem in Japan. Its aging population. We saw many old people, not so many kids and surprisingly not a single pregnant woman. As people do not have high hopes for the economy, they do not have kids, and since the government does not want to allow more young foreigners to come to Japan, it seems that the pension system will have an even darker future than in Europe.

Japan used to be the second biggest economy in the world, until recently, as China just took that place. The stagnation of Japan's economy is something one can "smell" without looking at the financial newspapers. Coming from Hong Kong or Vietnam with annual GDPs growing by two digits year after year, you see the action in the street. The eagerness of people to go forward and be successful. In Tokyo, somehow, you do not get that feeling. Business people walk around dragging their suitcases without that drive in their eyes and it is normal to see people, often business people, taking a nap in trains and subways. Sometimes we even saw a whole car in the subway asleep.

We had the image of Tokyo as a huge city with hectic traffic, neon lights and people walking everywhere. Well, the city is huge indeed, actually the biggest in the world with 35 million people, the population of California, living in an area smaller than Hawaii. Having said all that, apart from a few streets which are indeed quite busy, one wonders: Where are all those people!? The traffic is surprisingly light, organized and the streets are so quiet. This is due to the special asphalt used on the roads to reduce noise, quiet cars, more bikes than we expected and absolutely no use of horn (which in Vietnam and India is the national sport). Coming from Vietnam it really felt like a bliss. We were also surprised that Tokyo is not all about high-rise buildings, but there are still small traditional buildings and temples in between them and there are plenty of villas in the suburbs.

Japanese are extremely nice, helpful and polite, they talk very low, friendly and smooth, and they bow, they bow constantly. There seems to be a non-written code about how low and for how long you bow, and that depends on how much respect you think the person you are bowing to deserves. The first day, we stopped to bow back (at the hotel staff for instance) but soon enough we realized you need to learn to bow as you walk, otherwise you just don't get anywhere! Many people don't speak English, but seem to assume you are fluent in Japanese. For instance, in the supermarket the clerks just talk and talk while they give you the receipt and your change. We are still wondering what the heck they were talking about. The restaurant menus was another challenge and we would have felt lost in translation hadn't it been for the art of plastic food replicas.

Fortunately, some friends of friends, Masami and Catherine, who are Japanese-Canadians, took us around in Tokyo to the real local places. We had wonderful sushi, sashimi and sake and we also met their local friends watching the football match between Japan and Korea. It turned out Catherine presents the news at the international news channel, NHK, and she kindly invited us to the broadcasting studios. So the next day, we were sitting in her news desk chair and afterwards we pretended to be the weather man/woman.

Walking around Tokyo we ended up in the Harayuku neighbourhood, claimed to be the youth fashion capital of the world. It is a crazy explosion of creativity and fashion madness which need to be seen to be understood. We turned our heads around, now and then, to confirm once again what we just had seen. We saw many girls dressed as Manga animations with long fake eyelashes, blonde wigs and cutely decorated 4th generation phones. In Tokyo it is not enough for the designer brands to have a spectacular shop, here they have a whole building. These buildings are real architectural icons, the most impressive being Prada's.

You probably heard about the capsule hotels, but have you heard about the LOVE hotels? In fact, there were some capsules at our hotel, a sort of outer space modules just big enough for a person to sleep in. Fortunately, our room was just a bit bigger than that. Love hotels, as the name reveals, are places where the young, and not so young lovers can go and spend a few hours together when there is not space / privacy enough at home. These rooms can be customized from Hello Kitty to Pirates or other funny concepts, which can include costumes and "hot" movies. We were planning to stay a night, but we could not agree where to stay as Rebecca wanted a fictitious Caribbean resort and Oscar wanted a Spiderman room ;).

All in all. Tokyo is a very nice city to visit. If you like contrast from where you live or what you are used to, this is definitely the place. Prices are not at all as high as we expected as the Yen is low and the inflation rate has been quite flat for a while. Locals are very friendly, food is delicious and there is party and action for every taste going on.

And now after the bliss, the tidiness and extreme organization of Japan, lets head to some real madness and chaos in DELHI!

Busiest crossing in the world

Busiest crossing in the world


Manga baby doll

Manga baby doll


Japanese porcelain

Japanese porcelain


Lost in translation

Lost in translation


A new recycling concept

A new recycling concept


Even garbage trucks are funky

Even garbage trucks are funky


Who needs a menu?

Who needs a menu?


A modern princess

A modern princess


Dior building

Dior building


Looking for a Vuitton bag?

Looking for a Vuitton bag?


Prada's signature building

Prada's signature building


Prada Jonson

Prada Jonson


Neon and crowds

Neon and crowds


Time for cars to cross

Time for cars to cross


Girls

Girls


sake

sake


HM

HM


Caribbean LOVE hotel

Caribbean LOVE hotel


Japanese hawaiianas

Japanese hawaiianas


Geishas

Geishas


Purifying smoke

Purifying smoke


Temple

Temple


Temple roof

Temple roof


Walking in Tokyo

Walking in Tokyo


Rebecca and her upset friend

Rebecca and her upset friend


Sumo postures

Sumo postures


Street fashion

Street fashion


Fortune teller

Fortune teller


Traditional fashion

Traditional fashion


Restaurant

Restaurant


Futuristic motorbike

Futuristic motorbike


Zen house

Zen house


Traditional transportation

Traditional transportation


low-rise buildings in high-rise Tokyo

low-rise buildings in high-rise Tokyo


Japanese Reflections

Japanese Reflections


Traditional decoration

Traditional decoration


Rebecca giving the news

Rebecca giving the news


Oscar ready to get on the air

Oscar ready to get on the air


The weather woman

The weather woman


Strange buildings

Strange buildings


Tower records

Tower records


Reflections

Reflections


Rail network

Rail network


Siesta time!

Siesta time!


Manga girl

Manga girl


Manga madness

Manga madness


Street fashion

Street fashion


Trendy couple

Trendy couple


Sumo boy

Sumo boy


Dinner with Masami and Catherine

Dinner with Masami and Catherine


Football!

Football!

Posted by travelevers 17:00 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Ancient wonders and recent atrocities in Cambodia

Our first encounter with Cambodia was its highlight; the remainings of the 12-th century city of Angkor. Being a top tourist destination we were not alone to admire the carvings, the sculptures and the architecture and sometimes we found ourselves doing more people watching than temple watching. However, what surprised us the most, was the extension of the complex (once holding a population of 1 million) and the number of temple ruins. This meant it was actually possible to go outside the tourist trail and find your own little jungle temple to play Indiana Jones, Lara Croft or even Tintin.

Siem Reap is well prepared to cater the tourist hordes, with luxurious resorts, restaurants and shows. A whole region is finding a living thanks to Angkor, but salaries are low and there is extreme poverty outside the town.

We had expected that Cambodia would resemble Vietnam, but on the contrary, both the country and its people are quite different. What first stroke us was the traffic. There were no fearless bikers around! The driving was much more relaxed, the roads were better and there were more cars (for some reason mostly Toyota Camrys). The first night we saw an Apsara dancing show, a Hindu-influenced dance with slow and smooth snake movements. We then noticed that Cambodian women differ from Vietnamese being more curvy. The language is also different, more like Thai, and in contrast to Vietnamese, where thanks to the French the script is readable for westerners, here we were analphabets again.

Phnom Penh was a positive surprise with its beautiful riverside promenade, plenty of good restaurants and a beautiful Royal Palace (resembling the one in Bangkok). With sideways (not blocked by motorbikes) and a more reasonable traffic it was easy to stroll around and enjoy the tropical breeze at some rooftop bar, or stop for a Khmer foot massage. It's hard to imagine that when the Vietnamese entered in 1979 this city was completely empty (as the Pol Pot regime had sent everyone out to work on the fields). To get an insight into the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge rule we visited the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Prison. You do start wondering what Pol Pot and his comrades really learnt about communism/marxism when they all studied in France. It was a hard to hear the stories, see pictures and even skulls, but it is impressive how the Cambodians have managed to make up with their past and so openly shows and talk about their cruel history. Many other countries could learn from this. It is estimated that one third of the population was murdered during the regime, so the Cambodian population is very young and you see kids everywhere, but hardly any elders.

The last week in Cambodia we went down to the coast, in Sihanoukville, to relax and enjoy beach life. However, we both fell ill (food poisoning) and spent most of the days in the hotel bed. It's hard to be sick when you have a warm sea in front of you, a cold beer costs only half a dollar and a superb seafood dinner at sunset does not reach 4$. Luckily the last two nights we managed to change the hotel bed for a beach sofa and had the chance to briefly enjoy these pleasures.

And now, fully recovered of our "tropical fever" we're heading to the winter in Tokyo!

Monks in Angkor Wat

Monks in Angkor Wat


Apsara dance

Apsara dance


Street life around Angkor

Street life around Angkor


tourist hordes at Angkor

tourist hordes at Angkor


Apsara dancing

Apsara dancing


Apsara dancing

Apsara dancing


Apsara dancing

Apsara dancing


Guardians

Guardians


Elephant terrace

Elephant terrace


Between the shades

Between the shades


Jungle girl

Jungle girl


Jungle temple

Jungle temple


Nature vs history

Nature vs history


Preah Khan - jungle temple

Preah Khan - jungle temple


Brother and sister

Brother and sister


Angkor temple

Angkor temple


Temple wanderer

Temple wanderer


To be or not to be..

To be or not to be..


Angkor wat

Angkor wat


Indiana Fernandez Jones

Indiana Fernandez Jones


Apsara carvings

Apsara carvings


Jungle boy

Jungle boy


Happy kids

Happy kids


Cruising with the family

Cruising with the family


Budhas

Budhas


Sunset at Phnom Penh

Sunset at Phnom Penh


Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh


Family life in the river

Family life in the river


Sunset

Sunset


Colonial gardens

Colonial gardens


Monks and kids

Monks and kids


Kids at palace

Kids at palace


x

x


x

x


x

x


x

x


x

x


x

x


x

x


x

x


mmmm

mmmm


x

x


x

x

Posted by travelevers 17:00 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Good Morning Vietnam! The land of fearless bikers

The image we had of Vietnam had mainly been shaped by war movies. When arriving in the chaotic traffic of Hanoi it actually felt as a war scene. Everytime we tried to cross a street we felt we were putting our lives at risk. The traffic is a real madness, its density is tremendous and no one ever stops for anyone, but just tries to squeeze into any empty space. There are hardly any traffic lights and people will horn on you if you try to cross the streets on a pedestrian crossing. The rule is: There are no rules but my rules. Somehow, the traffic does never stand still and there is a constant flow. This means that when you cross the street you will have cars, but mainly motorbikes all around you. Just keep walking on a constant pace and hopefully they will find a way around you! Be aware that you will have motorbikes on the sidewalks as well, neatly parked, so that you will have to walk on the road. We did see a few accidents and many many "nearly accidents". Apparently, 12000 Vietnamese die in traffic accidents every year.

Cars are only for very rich people (there is a 200% tax) so the few ones you see are new, big and luxurious. This means that the traffic is extremelly homogeneous: motorbikes in all forms, mostly mopeds. Only in Saigon, there are 5 million and they are everywhere. Motorbikes are also they way of transporting things and they are loaded with fruit, flowers, trees, animals, furniture and construction material. They are not used only for solo drivers but we have seen up to 6 people squeezed in on the same one (photo below as proof). For Vietnamese people their motorbikes are their life, they use them not only for transport but for siesta, as a sofa on the sidewalk or to cruise the city on Saturday night (with the whole family on board of course). Helmet is compulsory, but only for the driver (¿?), and you see many babies in their mom's arms on the road without any protection at all. Helmets come in any colour and form and strange enough both Nike and Burberry seem to also sell helmets (or are they fake..??):). Many women use masks when driving, both for the pollution and to protect the skin from sun as having a tan is considered low status.

If the Vietnamese were as fearless in the war as they are in traffic it is easy to understand that they could overcome the superpower US. They have no sense of risk at all. Vietnam's population is mostly young so many did not experience the war. However, you can find evidence of the war in the museums where the Vietnamese people proudly show up war trophies as US air force planes, tanks etc that they captured. The war museum in Saigon is horrendous with crude photos and stories of the horrors of war. You might want to skip dinner afterwards. It is said to see that for the purpose of war the US was determined to destroy this beautiful country and its people entirely.

Today's communism in Vietnam is present with Ho Chi Minh smiling at you in every corner and there are big parade avenues with the star and the hammer and sickle hanging everywhere. Although Facebook is blocked one does not get the feeling that people do not dare to express their opinions. Population growth is controlled by the government by allowing a maximum of two kids per couple. Although this rule is more closely followed in the cities than in the countryside (where they claim they have no TV). In the newspapers you can read about the long term strategic economy plans. Although Vietnam is poor you will see no beggars and there is an optimism of the future which is only possible in a country that is improving its life standards by magnitudes. Rebecca's parents said it felt as being brought back to the 50s in Sweden. That feeling is somehow nice. Vietnamese people are real entrepreneurs and as governmental salaries are low, people are drawn to the increasing private sector where a big portion is tourism. Hotels and vacational areas are popping up all over the country and the infrastructure is being improved.

One of the reasons why everyone seems to be so interested in being successful might explain itself from the answer of our female guide. She told us that some of her female friends were unemployed and stayed at home being lazy and waiting for a guy to marry them. We asked if she also had male friends unemployed. She answered: NO! If a guys does not have a job he will never get a girlfriend. So we asked: "Even if he is very very handsome? To which she answered: "A handsome boy does not fill you belly"!

We were enchanted by all places except Halong Bay. Hoi An is a charming old town with beaches close, Hue has an impressive palace city, and watching the floating markets at the the Mekong delta was exhilarating. It is hard to make a choice between Saigon and Hanoi. Saigon is somehow more western, more modern and much warmer, but Hanoi has its lakes, the beautiful french colonial quarters and a different energy.

Halong Bay on the other side, has turned into a communist mass tourism destination. Thousands of people are shuttled in buses every day on a bumpy road, stopping at big mass production souvenir shops for a coffee, and then arriving in Halong Bay with soar backs. There they are transferred like sheep to hundreds of similar junks doing the exact same route around the bay. Sewage is dumped directly into the bay. The day we were there it was foggy, so we could hardly see the limestone cliffs. We definitely thought Krabi in Thailand was much nicer and not so overpromoted. The best of the trip was the impressive caves, although the traffic of people passing by each day is possibly not helping to keep their inner climate intact.

The food is fantastic! Vietnamese cuisine is 5-star, and the flavours are just so different! We enjoyed every meal and loved the spring rolls, the lotus salads and the fish sauce. There are some extraordinary restaurants in Hanoi in old French colonial mansions but you will find good food almost anywhere at a reasonable price. We were a bit confused the first days when all waitresses were asking us to kiss them. What they were trying to say was: "excuse me" (pronounced as "kiss me"). As they did not seem to react when we said "excuse me", to draw the attention to our table, we started to say "kiss me" as well. It worked much better, and strange enough we never got any Vietnamese kiss :(.

After receiving a cruel history lesson of how communism was fought in Vietnam we are now heading to Cambodia to learn how Communism fought and almost completely destroyed their own people.

Pig transportation

Pig transportation


Happy family cruise

Happy family cruise


Smiling buddies

Smiling buddies


Floating fruit stall

Floating fruit stall


Graduation day

Graduation day


A beautiful gaze

A beautiful gaze


View from Litterature temple

View from Litterature temple


Flower power

Flower power


Vietnamese cooking

Vietnamese cooking


Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi, at night

Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi, at night


Colonial times

Colonial times


Sofitel, French splendour

Sofitel, French splendour


Cheers for the colonial times

Cheers for the colonial times


A scary sight

A scary sight


Foggy Halong bay

Foggy Halong bay


Fruit stalls

Fruit stalls


Halong, colourful cave

Halong, colourful cave


War troophies

War troophies


Gardeners

Gardeners


Smoky temple

Smoky temple


New Year's with mum and dad

New Year's with mum and dad


Five secs to 2011

Five secs to 2011


Happy faces at New Year´s eve

Happy faces at New Year´s eve


Hue Citadel

Hue Citadel


Temple roof

Temple roof


Hoi An riverside

Hoi An riverside


Asian architecture

Asian architecture


Detail of pillar

Detail of pillar


Dragon

Dragon


Cocktail time

Cocktail time


Temple

Temple


Biking in Hoi An

Biking in Hoi An


Chinese home in Hoi An

Chinese home in Hoi An


Old fishing lady

Old fishing lady


Saigon's post office

Saigon's post office


Balloons anyone?

Balloons anyone?


A discrete lunch

A discrete lunch


Street cooking

Street cooking


Motorbike catering

Motorbike catering


New world record.. 6!!

New world record.. 6!!


Dress for sucess

Dress for sucess


Rice popcorn

Rice popcorn


A Mekong smile

A Mekong smile


Floating market

Floating market


Boats at Mekong

Boats at Mekong


3 generations

3 generations


Saigon from the river

Saigon from the river


Incense clouds

Incense clouds


Celebrating chinese new year

Celebrating chinese new year


Focus mind

Focus mind


Acrobatics

Acrobatics


Who needs a truck!?

Who needs a truck!?


Vase selling

Vase selling


Hue citadel

Hue citadel


Afraid of the dragon

Afraid of the dragon


Chinese temple

Chinese temple


Hoi an bridge

Hoi an bridge


Marriage rehearsal

Marriage rehearsal


Spanish "Che"

Spanish "Che"


Watching the day go by

Watching the day go by


Shoe stall

Shoe stall


Fruit in the street

Fruit in the street


Model at photo shoot

Model at photo shoot


Not without my music!

Not without my music!


Siesta!

Siesta!


The Vietnamese Jonson

The Vietnamese Jonson


Comunist christmas deco

Comunist christmas deco


Ho Chi Min

Ho Chi Min


Incense  spirals at temple

Incense spirals at temple


Ho Chi is watching....

Ho Chi is watching....

Posted by travelevers 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hong Kong never sleeps

Hong Kong (HK) brings to mind images of Asian culture, misty ambience of incense and opium, non stop trading of spices and other (by then) luxury items and endless markets of floating sampans where one could find virtually everything. It is all quite close to reality. Apart from the fact that the floating sampans have been replaced by skyscrapers (one taller than the other) and that the spices and silk have given way to top end designer brands; The Versaces, Pradas and Guccis, that they devour to the extreme of forming long queues at the door of their stores. We guess in a way that this is their new "opium". Chinese in general LOVE expensive brands and cars. It is their way of showing that they are successful. It seems HK citizens feel the same way.

One other image of historic contrast is to see those huge modern glass and steel buildings surrounded by structures of.. Bamboo! Hundreds of meters tall! They will not use the metal systems we use in Europe when they want to fix a facade, and although it seems weak, it must be working for them as they have some of the tallest buildings in the world. Rebecca's father showed us which one was the tallest building when he was here the first time in the 80's. It looked like the new skyscrapers' baby brother.

One can see the British influence in the importance of Christmas. We celebrated Christmas with Becca's parents and everyone was wearing Santa hats, whistling Christmas songs and generally behaving as we would in New Year's eve in Europe. The whole city was dressed up for Christmas. One other British influence that remains is the cute double decker TRAMS!

Apparently, there are thousands of Philippine girls working as house maids in Hong Kong. At their spare time, they gather by the hundreds in the streets to play cards or other more active games, or just giving each other a haircut in the middle of the street. At Christmas day they must all have been given a free day because they were sitting everywhere.

HK is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and we arrived the evening of December the 24th. That is probably the most energetic image of extreme consumption one can get! Kowloon was so packed with people that we could hardly reach the hotel. In HK, you can shop anything from copy watches, tailor made suits, or funky brands like: Adedas, Timy Hilfiguer, North taste or Calvin Kline unless you want to join the queues to the real stuff.

The stores would not close at 6 or 8 like in Europe. They were open well after midnight. The neon lights were so many and so powerful it seemed daylight. The streets were closed to traffic and even then it was hard to walk! In all, HK is an extremely energetic city where things for anyone's taste are always happening. Now, after a first taste of Asian culture, let's really get crazy in Vietnam's traffic and markets madness.

Hong Kong from Kowloon

Hong Kong from Kowloon


Hong Kong from above

Hong Kong from above


Queuing for Gucci

Queuing for Gucci


Shopping mall

Shopping mall


Building buildings

Building buildings


Street games

Street games


Spending the afternoon

Spending the afternoon


I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus

I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus


Walkway traffic

Walkway traffic


HK dressed for Christmas

HK dressed for Christmas


Sampan

Sampan


Shop til' you drop

Shop til' you drop


Taxi laundry

Taxi laundry


Still on the left

Still on the left


Highrise buildings

Highrise buildings


Modern buildings  vs bamboo

Modern buildings vs bamboo


Walkways

Walkways


Double decker trams

Double decker trams


Street scenes

Street scenes


Ferry to Kowloon

Ferry to Kowloon


Advertising "translated"

Advertising "translated"


Hong Kong celebrity

Hong Kong celebrity


Queuing for a Vuitton bag

Queuing for a Vuitton bag

Posted by travelevers 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

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