Thursday, March 29, 2007


Hello everyone,

My apologies for not blogging during the last few weeks. I blame it on the high price of internet usage in Hong Kong and Singapore. Austin, as you all probably know, returned from China alive and flew into Singapore at around midnight on the 27th.

Austin and I finally made it to Batam Island, right off the coast of Singapore. It is part of Indonesia and we were able to get our 30 day visa on arrival. Austin was sure to read over his visa thoroughly. Our lovely host Ted, Mrs. van Leeuwen's daughter-in-law, met us in Singapore and took us on the ferry to Batam. Ted's husband Roel will be arriving from Singapore on the 30th. For all those who don't know, Mrs. van Leeuwen is Sonja van Eijk's mother. For all those who don't know Sonja van Eijk, I feel terribly sorry for you. Sonja is one of the sweetest human beings on Earth, along with her mother.

Upon reaching their home in Batam, we were greeted with a glowing smile and a big hug. Afterwards we sat down for some delicious Indonesian tea and tried to remember the last time we had seen each other. That night Austin and I slept soundly and comfortably in their air conditioned guest room.

Today we went into town to get clothes more appropriate for the climate. The stores were stocked with great clothes for great prices. For about $10 CAN I picked up some nice shorts and a t-shirt. I also lopped off the majority of my hair at the barber for a whopping $2 CAN. It's great to be back in budget travel territory. We were also treated to a sumptuous meal of Nasi Goreng and Chicken Sate.

For now we are relaxing and trying to figure out the next leg of our trip. Our options are Sumatra, with dense forests and friendly people, or Sulawesi, with tropical islands and fundamentalist violence between Christians and Muslims. If anyone knows anything about these locales, we would love to hear your thoughts. We can't decide where to go. They are both so appealing but we only have a visa for 30 days....


Saturday, March 10, 2007


Hey everyone,

I have responded to your comments from last entry so you can check that out...

Here is a little background on our recent excursion into western Sichuan. Earlier in the week we left Chengdu for Songpan. Songpan is a beautiful town that somewhat resembles Banff in that its surrounded by mountains and has Chinese script on every store. On the bus there we met Pauline, a lovely French artist, who would become our travel partner for the next few days. When we got to Songpan we were ushered into the Traffic Hotel (part of the bus station) and stayed there the first night. It was brutally cold and the toilet didn't work. Fortunately they had electric heating blankets which became our best friends. The next day Pauline, Austin and I set out on a two day horse trek to Erdaohai Park. The views were pretty spectacular and our guides, Lee and John, were a lot of fun.

After our trek we booked our tickets to Maerkang, because there were no buses to Danba. In Maerkang we were met by a very sweet Tibetan girl who ushered us to a hotel (with water, and hot water at that!) where we stayed the night. The next day we woke up bright and early to catch the bus to Danba. We went to the bus station near the hotel and, after much gesticulation from a security guard there, figured out that we needed to go to another station across town. We got there just in time and booked our tickets. They apparently had no power because they were processing the tickets by candlelight. The bus we took was probably transporting people during the time of Mao. It was rickety but seemed to do all right, with the exception of a couple small breakdowns. We met two Buddhist monks who were fun to converse with, us in our broken Chinese and them in their broken English. It seems to me that the Buddhist monks (at least the younger ones) are the most decked out technology-wise. The pair we met had a 10 megapixel digital camera, mp3 players and cell phones. I've seen this with many other monks in Sichuan.

We arrived in Danba yesterday and met up with Baird, one of Liz and Doug's friends. We had a great time with him and even taught some of his English class at the middle school. Austin (a natural teacher) and I taught the kids "Head and Shoulders" as well as some basic conversation. Later we went to the Xinhua hotel and managed to get 50% off since we were students. The hotel room includes our own bathroom and shower! Today we went for a hike near Danba and spent a few hours relaxing in the honk-free countryside. You'd think one would get used to people honking their horns, but it just isn't so. Tomorrow we may explore Danba a bit more and perhaps go to Suopuo, which has some ancient towers I'm told.

- Will

Thursday, March 1, 2007


Hey everyone,

We have made it into Chengdu. We thought we had bought sleeper tickets but unfortunately they were hard seat tickets so it was another 15 hours on our bottoms. We were in luck, though, and the bus was quite clean and very large, which is highly important when driving on some of the more dangerous roads in the world. Arriving at around 23:00, we decided to spare our host family the trouble of having to stay up late for us so we went to the Dragon Town Youth Hostel. It was a nice little place with an outdoor patio on which we enjoyed a few Snow Brand beers. Nathan has commissioned us to drink the native beer in every country we visit and so far we have not failed. After a comfortable sleep we woke up and had some breakfast--banana porridge for me and chocolate pancakes for Austin. We then booked our tickets for the Yangtze River cruise and took the taxi over to Liz, Doug and Mick (their 14-year-old son with a great sense of humour) Searles place in Chengdu. They are our SERVAS hosts here. We immediately felt right at home and got some great ideas of places to visit. After setting our stuff up we went for a walk around town, trying to find an antique market we had been told about. Unable to find this, we settled on seeing one of the last large statues of Mao in China. We returned home to a delicious Sichuan meal prepared by Liz and Doug's helper whose name I have forgotten, unfortunately. Later Doug showed us their photos of Western Sichuan and the mountains and the people living in villages there. There were some really spectacular shots. Tomorrow we plan on finding the elusive antique market, the treasures of which, Doug assures me, are at least twenty-four hours old.