Champasak 

At 8am we said goodbye to our Australian friends Angie and Peter and at 11am our shuttle boat picked us up. There would be no private shuttle tour to our new destination, I had insisted on public transfer.
The shuttle boat took its time to pick every on up and only when every available seat was filled did we go to Ban Nakasang.

  

So the little place we saw at our arrival three days ago was the official gateway to the islands. We made it from the boat with only a little accident (this time Dudley fell, but in another boat) and were then transferred like sheep to the bus station. There we boarded our minibus and since I had insisted on drawing some money from the ATM we were the last to board. Big mistake, really something I have to remember: Always be the first to board a bus. Dudley and I sat in the last row and he was more than uncomfortable due to his size. To make matters worse he told me what could happen with the minivan (accident wise) so that I had to tell him to stop his horror stories otherwise I would start to panic in the confined space of the last row with no way out. I kept on reading and tried to loose myself in a different world.

But all good things must come to an end and so must also must bad things. Eventually we got off the bus with the station Champasak being in the middle of nowhere. Literally there was nothing there. We had just time to ask in which direction the Mekong was because we knew we had to cross it and then the bus left.
When we started walking with our backpacks and my front pack I felt already tired. And when Dudley showed me on his phone that the Mekong was easily 5-6km away I slightly despaired. How could our Australian friends send us into this nightmare?

We walked for at least two km, all the while trying to hitch a ride. But none would stop or they would just slow a little and then drive on. If I had been alone, now would have been the right moment to sit down and have a good cry. I was tired, I was hot and sweating and I was exhausted. But since we were two I couldn’t do that and so just drudged on. And eventually, oh miracle, a car stopped to my hold out thumb and we got on its cargo area.


This wonderful lady gave us a lift to the boats (I am sure it was more than 6km) and we had no trouble to cross the Mekong.

    

Once we were on the other side we had finally reached Champasak.

Again we had no ride and were told that the hotel was just 3km away. With a storm threatening we walked as fast as we could when suddenly a minivan stopped and offered his services. With its driver it was the first and only time that I spoke French in Laos.

So with a couple of miracles and angels watching over us we made it to our Hotel Inthira before the rain started. Quite a feat!


And here the view out back from our rooms across the street. 

Champasak had not really much to offer as we would notice shortly after checking in. Dudley and I walked up and down the main street, visited one of the many temples and then bought ice cream. There was not much else to do.

  
     

After a short power nap during which it had started to rain in earnest we met for dinner at the hotel restaurant and I enjoyed a local delicacy called laab. Minced meat with lots of herbs especially mint. Very tasty and just a bit spicy. With this new experience under my belt I was ready for bed. Yours, Pollybert

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Back to Lhasa and Lake Yamdrok

After yesterday’s work we had nothing on our tour program except to return to town. Which we did with several toilet stops. Since the air was so dry we had to drink a lot. And as long as you can pee you don’t have a health issue or so according to Dr. Sylvia. Whatever, we were all very healthy.

We made it back to our hotel and after a power nap of 2 hours we once again took the bus downtown. As I said before Sylvia was fed up with Chinese food so we went to Lhasa kitchen (the restaurant from the first day) again. There in the dining room was also an old picture of Lhasa on how it had looked before it was remodeled into a Chinese satellite city.IMG_1828
On the way into town we had noticed at the bus stop a coffee place where someone spoke German.IMG_1830 IMG_1831 But on the way to it I saw a street seller with a bracelet I liked and haggled with her until the price was right. And what a surprise, Sylvia bought it for me as birthday gift, so I will have something from her with me for the rest of the trip! I think she would have preferred to travel further with me, but now the bracelet will do it in her stead.IMG_2831

And it was to this German café that we went after dinner to enjoy a cup of excellent coffee and a cheese cake made from yak curd. Delicious!! The owner of the little place had lived for 15 years in Switzerland and also in Vorarlberg. It was such a pleasure to talk to someone in German here. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Lhasa.IMG_1967

After coffee we went home and that was it for day 5 in Tibet. Suddenly it was already our last full day. Since we had had enough of the monasteries we had asked on the second day for a change and instead of seeing more religious places we went to see Yamdrok lake.

Another scenic drive awaited us and we made several stops on the way (also for the police when necessary).IMG_1833 IMG_1836 IMG_1837 IMG_1843 IMG_1848 IMG_1855 IMG_1856 IMG_1862 IMG_1865 IMG_1867 IMG_1868IMG_1871 IMG_1872 IMG_1963 IMG_1880 IMG_1881

The lake was beautiful but since the sky was a bit overcast the view was lacking. Still we had a good time taking more pictures and it was clearly preferable to more monasteries. At the pass it was so quite cold and Sylvia said that she saw flurries in the air. It was definitely nippy at 4441m.IMG_1882 IMG_1883 IMG_1966 IMG_1895 IMG_1896 IMG_1900 IMG_1915 IMG_1917 IMG_1920 IMG_1921 IMG_1922

We drove back to the hotel and agreed on a time for our ‘Welcome Dinner’. Since we had missed to do that on the second evening we made it into a farewell dinner.

Another bus ride into the city (by then we felt like locals) and we met Dundhup at his favorite tea house in the center. Restaurants have a grading system A to C with A being indicated with a green smiley and C with a red mean face, ours had a C (probably already a health hazard).

We were greeted by our guide at the door and set down at a table on which a rag laid that I wouldn’t even use to clean the toilet. But here it was good enough to clean the table and also to stay on it for the entire dinner. And still the food was yummy, so we all need to relax with the hygiene standards.
We each had a soup (mine with yak) and then rice with more vegetables. It was served with pickled radishes which were so good that Sylvia asked for seconds and thirds (and then drank the pickle juice).IMG_1972
Then it was time to make the bus ride home while Dundhup jumped on his electric bike with a pink license plate! Yours, Pollybert

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Riding the elephant

Our last day at the Hermitage Hotel started again at 6pm. This morning there was no breakfast waiting but rather a cup of tea before we headed off to the elephant meeting place at the edge of the jungle.IMG_1097

Sylvia and I were the first to get on and the third person with us on board was an American Greenpeace worker from Peru. Our driver was clearly used to all kinds of tourists because from the first he started to entertain us. But not only that he also turned out to be gifted spotter and with his help I finally saw a rhinoceros close up in wild life (Sylvia, ever the sceptic, thinks that these rhinoceros are part of the show). We actually saw a lot of other animals too, but I figure that wild pigs, deer and wild chickens are compared to the rhinos not so interesting, plus the pictures didn’t turn out so great.IMG_1102
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And this was our elephant Sirkaly (or something similar).IMG_1226

And then it was time to move on again. After all the bananas were fed to Sirkaly we wanted to have breakfast as well. So back to the hotel to have breakfast and to pack our bags and on we moved. We were supposed to have a driver to bring us to Pokhara but he fell victim to the changed circumstances and our agency put us on the tourist bus. Which in itself should not have been a problem, merely a six hour ride instead of four. But that at the narrowest part of road a mountain slide happened and we would get a 10 hour stay on the bus in the end… this was a bit a of a downer. IMG_1241
Water became a rare commodity along the route and resourceful entrepreneurs started a cucumber business.IMG_1243IMG_1248

At least the scenery was beautiful and got only a bit marred by all these buses on the road.
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Eventually though we made it into Pokhara, organized a taxi and made our way to Castle Resort Hotel our safe haven up in the hills. Here we met the dutch people again whom we had already met the first night in Kathmandu and the Austrians from Chitwan. We had dinner, Momos for Sylvia and Dal Bhat for me and quickly called it a night. It had really been a very long day. Yours, Pollybert
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Last day in Berlin

When you have fun, time flies. Our Berlin vacation weekend was almost at an end. Just one more breakfast and that was basically it. Of course we started the day late, it was the weekend after all and everyone needed their beauty sleep. Late in this case meant by 11am since we had to check out from the Lindemann’s which was the perfect hotel for this trip except for the fire alarm the first day.

I think I didn’t tell you about that one. Why? Maybe I still had to come to terms how I reacted to it. It took me ages to realize that there was actually a fire alarm. And not a car gone haywire outside. Once I recognized the sound was coming from the hotel, I deliberated if I should get up. By that time the alarm had gone already for a couple of minutes. When I finally got up I checked first the hall if there was any smoke or smell. Since I couldn’t detect any, I deliberated a bit more and eventually decided to go downstairs. All the while the alarm kept ringing. Of course the moment I had my jeans on the alarm stopped.

Great, back to bed. What to do when you are already awake? You check your phone for new messages. While doing so the alarm started again. Urgh, finally called Christoph to ask him if he wanted to go downstairs. Together we decided to do so and that I would pick him up on the way down. When I took my handbag it was more important for me to check if I had my passport, my book and my kindle then saving myself by rushing downstairs. I even searched for the book since it was not in my bag. When I finally got outside my room the alarm had been easily ringing for 10 minutes. Eventually we met a guy on top of the staircase who told us it was a false alarm and we went back to our rooms. But I am still astonished about my laid-back reaction to the whole alarm thing. I really need to work on my priority skills! Survival first!

Anyway, I digress. I wanted to tell you about our last morning in Berlin. We stayed again in Schöneberg for breakfast but went to a French bistro/shop called La Cantine d’Augusta this time.IMG_9851
The name apparently came from the owner’s grandmother who was also on the cover of the menu.IMG_0106
Breakfast here was different; no eggs but instead olives, sun-dried tomatoes and a fruit salad were served with ham, salami and a variety of cheeses.IMG_0115
It was once again excellent and a great choice for our last morning. I really loved the shop, there was so much great food from France available. In a way I am glad I don’t live around the corner from it, could be the death of all good resolutions.

Sadly there was no time to linger over coffee. Just a bit later and we were taking the metro to get to the airport. As said before, public transport in Berlin is amazing. Just one metro ride and one change onto a bus was all it took to get us to the airport. Not more than 35-40 minutes tops. In no time we had to say good-bye. So very hard to do after our lovely weekend. But you know what? We will do it again!
Yours, Pollybert
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a2+b2=c2

On Friday we did more of the same. The day before we had exhausted all of our energies in Vathi therefore Pythagoron had to wait for today. First we had a great breakfast at our Hotel Niki again. Every morning we get something different with our coffee and tea, like ham, an egg or yoghurt with honey. The best part about the whole breakfast though is watching the other guests interacting with the litter of cats. There are seven young ones and they are all super cute. Problem is, the longer we stay at the hotel, they more I get sucked into the same kind of attention to the cats.282 283 284 285 286
Again we took the bus at 10am, this time already like seasoned travelers, knowing it wouldn’t be right on time and left the hotel just a couple of minutes before. Ah, to feel like the locals already after a couple of days, how great is that?

Pythagoreio turned out to be a lot more interesting than Vathi. First of all it has a castle (which Andrea likes to call “Kastl”, makes me laugh just writing it), with a church and a cemetery right next to it and a quaint little harbor. And, drumroll please now we come to the important information, it was the home of the great mathematician Pythagoras. The monument for him looks like a triangle, great choice for a great man!294 295 303 308 310 312 315 320 321 323 328

Check out the seagull on top!

From the port we walked back up the road to the bus station again. Pythagoreion really hasn’t that much to offer to stay for more than two hours during the day. It’s probably livelier in the evening.
A bit shopping on the way up and then we were on the way back to Ireon.

Our dinner on Friday was at Vuros Fish Tavern, the last restaurant at the end of the village. Right where it belongs at the end of the village, because it was definitely not good. Even the obligatory Greek salad was not tasting anything, so unbelievable. Really an achievement we hadn’t thought possible. When the waiter took away the plates I had to tell him what I thought. An urge I can’t seem to quell. But why would he ask in the first place when he sees a lot of stuff going back?
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The desert we got with a shot of sweet wine as an apology for the dinner. It was the best part of the meal.379