More trekking around Sa Pa

I was excited for my second day of trekking; planned was a much longer tour than yesterday and we would start again at 9:30. When I arrived for breakfast at 9am all the Pho had already been eaten. What a disappointment, the soup had become my staple breakfast here in Vietnam. So I had some eggs and fruits instead.

For the trek Mù told me to wear different shoes. I had left my trekking boots in Hanoi since I was told that sneakers would be enough. But Mù said it would be slippery, therefore I had to get a pair of rain boots on her recommendation. They wouldn’t have been my first choice at all, but I bowed to her greater wisdom.

Our group got bigger today with two Australian sisters and the boyfriend of one, plus a girl from Croatia who taught English in Hanoi. Then again the two ladies from Singapore decided to stay in Sa Pa and have a relaxed day. Before we started Mù asked if we wanted to do the long (12km) or the short (8km) trek. The Australians were all for the long version and Randi didn’t look very happy about it. But it was agreed and finally we started.

In my boots I felt hot and sweaty already when we passed the local market. Check out what can go onto a scooter!

  

Then Randi fixed my boots and once they were half-boots I felt better. We began the trek with a very steep incline and after about 5 minutes in, Randi decided to turn around. As it turned out she made a very wise decision.

The view on the first two kilometers was limited due to a lot of mist.

Then we passed a tea plantation in the woods.

  

And just so that you get an idea about the trail we were on, this was definitely not the same as yesterday.

We had our first real break after about an hour into the trek. The view was a lot better and very beautiful.

      

And up we went again after only a short nursing stop for Mù and her boy. Today we were not only accompanied by the mother but five more women, all in bathroom sandals.

We saw a couple of children on the way up and I noticed how dirty they all looked. Happy but very dirty. The region is one of the poorest or maybe here I got closer at the locals than anywhere else. But nowhere else had I seen toddlers run around with no pants because the parents had no money (that’s what Mù told us).

Just a bit more up and then we had another break watching the mist weave in and out.

              

And everywhere we went were animals, Kul would have called all of them mountain animals.

      

From here on we descended downhill into the mist and since it was already noon Mù wanted to know if we preferred to take the long way along a road or a shortcut to our lunch destination. Everyone was for the shortcut. And already on the first couple of meters we had the first fall. It was really interesting to see. All others except for me were falling left and right and needed the hands-on support from our local companions, the women who were walking these slopes with bathroom slippers. I don’t know if it were the rain boots or my Austrian mountain goat genes that kept me from falling, but I was the only one with a pristine butt in the end.

              

How we had made it down there without broken bones I really don’t know. But our arrival on the paved path didn’t mean we had done it, no we had to walk another 45 minutes to reach our lunch destination.

      And then finally we were in the village of Lao Chai where we had our lunch. All the women who had trudged with us and helped us on the trail packed out their wares and wanted to make business or better ‘make happy’. That was really annoying but with the poverty we saw on the way, I felt obliged to buy something. One has to see it as local development aid. And here is my favorite vendor, same age as me and so tiny I felt like a giant elephant next to her.

Lunch was “same, same but different” as the day before. It was plentiful and we were all starving. By now it was about 2pm and we had had a very challenging trek with a couple of “near-death experiences” for the others.

After lunch and after all business was concluded we thought that that was the end of it. But far from it, we had another long walk through this valley to get to the Ta Van village.

            

Here we had our last stop and then it was back on the bus to the hotel. All of our group went back to Hanoi on the night train except for the Croatian girl Marsha (I probably spell her totally wrong but this is how it sounded) and me.

  

Back at the hotel I needed a shower first and another power nap. I had already decided that I wouldn’t have dinner again in the hotel. Last night was just not great and since I was eating alone I wanted to try something new. So around 6pm I left the hotel refreshed and ready to explore another part of the city. It was Saturday and there was a plant market right in front of the hotel. Do you see that the plants are not in a plastic container? Very resourceful!

  After exploring the shopping street and deciding against any impulse buy, I settled on BBQ for dinner.

      

The stuffed green thing was bitter melon. It was the only skewer I didn’t finish. It was even for me too bitter. Then after this delicious meal I went for a foot massage and was surprised when he started with my head. It was so good I almost fell asleep.

45 minutes later the relaxation was over and I walked back to the main square where I stopped to watch the evening entertainment. But the local singer who howled more like a dog than anything else made me leave the premises and prefer my bed. Yours, Pollybert

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Strolling through Beijing

Since Babsi had a strong wifi I used my Wednesday morning to update the blog again. With a VPN connection it was possible to work a bit on it. I had decided to walk that the day through the Hutong, shop for some presents (Babsi offered to take them to Vienna at the end of May) and then slowly make my way to the park across the Forbidden City to climb up that tower that I had missed the day before.

As usual with these planned things it didn’t work out. I sat down for a little Kimchi soup for lunch, and then walked slowly through the shopping street where I tried some Taiwanese frozen yoghurt. It poured on some frost sheet and top with mango and then cut into smaller pieces while it instant freezes. Makes sense? It looked better than it tasted though and it was difficult to eat.IMG_2807 IMG_2813

Walking through the Hutong gave me time to savor the Chinese everyday life. It’s crazy btw and colorful and crowded and just great to watch.IMG_2808 IMG_2810 IMG_2811 IMG_2814 IMG_2815

This furry part in the last picture is the back of a cat that was sleeping in this shop. I really liked these figures but they were astronomically expensive. I had to take a picture though, they were really beautiful.

When I ended up with 4 bags and the metro was nearby I decided to go home and drop the bags, then go back for the tower. Yeah, did not happen. I spent 30 minutes at home, taking pictures of the kittens and relaxed.
IMG_2801IMG_2803 Then I took the metro to meet Babsi. Tonight we were going with her friend Jennifer to a reading from Timothy Garton Ash.

We met her at a tapas bar around the corner from The Bookworm where we shared a pitcher of some Tequila/grapefruit/soda mix (very good, light and refreshing) and some tacos.IMG_2821 IMG_2822 IMG_2823

 

From there it was only one more minute and we were right on time for the talk of ‘From Berlin to Beijing: reflections of a political writer’. I really enjoyed it, such a completely different program from everything else I have done so far on this trip. And while I will miss one book club meeting while traveling this makes up for it I think.IMG_2824 IMG_2825

But right after the event we left and searched for a taxi. I wanted to be home ‘early’ to finish packing and get some sleep. The next morning I was leaving for Shanghai. Yours, Pollybert

An afternoon stroll through Vienna

Usually I spend my Saturday afternoons on the couch, reading a book, following sport on TV or just taking a nap. But once in while I can be enticed to wander around in Vienna. Ok, that was maybe exaggerated. I don’t wander aimlessly around in Vienna. I don’t care so much because I am not a tourist in my city. And this is the problem. Vienna has so much to offer if one cares enough to take a closer look! Which I did last Saturday with my friend Evi. We walked around the Freihausviertel and a bit further afield and after a while I started to take some pictures. There were really some gorgeous shops in the area.

Take a look at this one, called Elfenkleid.006002
003 Just the way all these clothes were hanging from one color to the next was so beautiful. And then this tasteful flower arrangement on the desk. Very impressive!

A bit further we found a shop called sattGarten which was full of cosmetic brands I have never heard before.011
They closed immediately after we left, maybe they were tired of people like us just looking (and by looking I mean of course touching because how can you otherwise look? I prefer the haptic look) at everything but not buying anything. We circled the shop once and after a couple of inquiring questions from Evi we left.008009

Our last shopping stop was at Bananas, a furniture store with stuff from almost all decades of the last century. There were a few things I would have taken home with me if I had the necessary space. In the end I found something (or rather Evi when she went back there on Monday). But this is a surprise for someone else.
Yours, Pollybert

A lovely young man

After two and half days doing next to nothing – although I find “doing nothing” might be up for discussion. I really find that we did a lot. We had to decide which beach to grace with our presence (here we are the eye candy), to discover the village, decide every evening which half of the game to watch (aka go for a beer right after the beach or have a beer on the balcony of the hotel while getting ready for the evening and chose a restaurant for dinner. All of this can be very exhausting, so glad we are on vacation to relax from these exertions – it was time to explore the island.

We took the bus up north to Samos City or Vathi. The view from above was quite impressive, the windows of the bus to dirty though to take any pictures. Vathi is known for its old part, which we didn’t see. Honestly it was hot and humid, and there were better things to do like shopping. True enough, but we also went to see the church “Agios Spyridonas” and the archeological museum. Ha, I am sure you wouldn’t have guessed that. The museum has quite a few impressive pieces, some of which were found at the Heraion. For example this “Kouros” which means young man. I wonder what Hera did with him?258 260 261 262 266 270 356

Later on the way to the shopping area we passed through a small park, quite an oasis in the otherwise bare city. Thinking about it now, I have no idea why there are no other trees in villages.
Since Greece’s economy is in the cellar we tried to support them to the best of our abilities. Am taking home some lovely things.

The rest of the day was spent in the usual fashion, first a drink at our bar to hydrate again, then on the beach practicing for my future as a fakir and with an extremely late and large lunch. The small fish fried with onion might not look like much on the picture but was one of the best things we had so far.276 280 281

Since lunch was really super late at 5pm we didn’t make it to dinner that evening. Just had drinks at our favorite bar, the mezze they serve with them don’t count of course.
Yours, Pollybert

Venice, what a difference a day makes

Yesterday we had the perfect day with lots of sunshine and blue sky. Here, take a look:

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Campanile and Palazzo Ducale

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Rialto Bridge

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Basilica San Marco

And then this morning, look at the view we had from our window:

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So this is Venice when it is foggy! Just loved it. I was looking forward starting our day before all the day-tourists arrived. But first, breakfast! And this you shouldn’t miss if you stay at Bloom. Best breakfast I had in Italia so far. Not one dry biscotti to be found here.

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Instead fresh fruits, prosciutto and cornetto!

And then we were on our way to San Marco. The plan was to see the Basilica and also go up on the Campanile. We did just this and made our way around the palazzo as well to see the Bridge of Sighs.

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Now we were tired and deserved a coffee at the Danieli, one of the finest hotels in Venice.

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After finishing our cultural ‘obligation’, we started with the other important part if our trip, shopping!

Two pairs of boots and a purse later, I was exhausted and my friend hadn’t even started. We finally made it back to the hotel at 6:30, rejuvenated with a glass of Prosecco (grazie mille, Bloom) and left for dinner a bit later.

And I really don’t want to dish any place but the Taverne San Mauricio was the worst place ever!!! Stay clear off it, as should we have. We should have rather gone back to the place we went the night before, Caffe Centrale.

Below a few impressions from our lovely day. Enjoy, Pollybert

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