A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

China and Hong Kong

Picture 3: Shanghai Skyline. We were supposed to arrive in Shanghai at 8am, but the local pilot that was supposed to guide our ship up the Yangtze River went to the wrong ship, so we didn't arrive in Shanghai until 8pm. That night we walked around the old European area called The Bund, and the next morning we went to the Bazaar before catching a train to Beijing. Shanghai is so polluted that breathing their air for a day is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarets, so that's why I'm wearing a mask in the 4th picture. Beijing was even more polluted, but we never really new if the haze was from smog or from low clouds. When we arrived in Beijing that night it was snowing.

Picture 1 and 2: The next morning we joined a tour bus to the Great Wall with a few other SASers. It was sunny but there was still snow on the wall; it was absolutely beautiful and the view from the wall took my breath away. It was the highlight of my time in China. I'm so happy I made the trip up to Beijing, even though I wasn't originally planning to do so. After walking along the wall, we were provided a traditional Chinese meal as part of our tour. They served us 12 different dishes family style, it was fun to try so many different kinds of foods.

Picture 5: Scott, Mj, and I toured Tianaman square, and the Forbidden City the next morning. This is where the Imperial family lived, and only people who worked for them were ever allowed inside. We also found a "Night Market" where we saw many strange foods including roasted bugs and seahorses (picture 6). I wasn't brave enough to try those, but I had mystery-meat dumplings and pot stickers. The food I tried in China tasted surprisingly like the Chinese food I've had in the US. That evening we flew to Hong Kong, and our flight was filled with SASers. I thought that a country as big as China would mean that we wouldn't see other SASers, but I guess we all wanted to see the same sights.
In our three days in China, I saw four car accidents, heard of multiple SASers getting scammed, and I was approached by scam artists myself; Two girls came up to Scott and I, and asked us to take a picture of them, and then invited us to a tea ceremony. If we had joined them, they would have charged us a hundred dollars for the tea and threaten to call the police if we didn't pay. Luckily we where aware of these "tea scams" so we were able to avoid it. Needless to say, China gave me a little culture shock, but it may be nothing compared to some of the countries we are going to.

Pictures 7, 8, and 9: I fell in love with Hong Kong. It's built up a steep mountain, and the hillyness reminded me of San Francisco. But it also has an element of a the tropics; the skyscrapers rise out of an untamed landscape, and none of the city parks are manicured like we might be used to. We took the famous escalators half way up the mountain, and then we took a cable car the rest of the way. I don't know what about this city I love so much, but I want to go back again someday. We also went to a "Lady's Market" where they sell knock-offs. The first thing I tried bargaining for were some fake Toms shoes. I ended up giving the her more money than she originally asked for, because I was confused by the conversions. Opps. After that I got better at bargaining, and I found a cute Jimmy Choo bag, and a little Mark Jacobs pouch for really cheep. From here on out, almost every market we go to we will have to bargain.

Posted by juliaaugh 17:51 Comments (0)

Vietnam pictures part 1

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Posted by juliaaugh 16:16 Comments (0)

Vietnam pictures part 2

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Posted by juliaaugh 16:16 Comments (0)

Vietnamese traffic

There are no traffic rules here, everyone just goes when they want to go. Same for pedestrians, you just start walking into this mess and the motorbikes and cars will go around you. The trick is a steady pace so they can predict your path, but it's hard not to run or jump back when you see endless motorbikes coming straight for you. So far I haven't heard of any injured students.

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Posted by juliaaugh 16:31 Comments (0)

Back in 'Nam

Vietnam was amazing. I loved it so much. The local people made this country so great. The first place we went to was the War Remnants Museum which was an eye opening experience that made me think that the Vietnamese must hate the Americans for all of our brutal war tactics during the Vietnamese-Americal war. But the Vietnamese love Americans! I never would have visited Vietnam if it weren't for this voyage, but now I want to go back.
My favorite experience was teaching the Macarena to some locals in the park. Students come to this park to practice their english. They wait around for tourists like us, and just want to talk about American culture. There was also people ballroom dancing in the park. I danced cha cha and tango with them, then they taught me bachata.
We explored around Ho Chi Minh City the first few days. I posted a picture of me eating pho for all you pho-lovers. Don't worry, American pho is just as good as Vietnamese pho. And I got my nails done for really cheep. But apparently, I got ripped off; a local told me you can get a manicure for as little as $4.
Hailey, Kiki and I spent two days in the Mekong River Delta. We signed up for a tour through an outside tour company, and they bused and boated us all over the Delta. We visited lots of old-fashioned factories that made coconut candy, rice paper, and rice noodles. We also got to try lots of local fruits and teas. We even tried "snake wine" which tasted like whiskey, but each bottle had a snake marinating in it. We stayed at a "home stay" but it was more like cabin camping. We biked around the rural neighborhood, it was interesting to see how people lived. Everyone left their front doors open, and had music or TV on. Many of the roads were so small that no cars could drive on them, only motorbikes. Some of the houses backed up to the river where people washed their clothes, and relaxed in hammocks.
The last day in Vietnam I had a field lab for my Environmental Policy class. Every class has a one day field requirement where the teacher takes their class into a country for the day. We visited a protected Mangrove forest where we saw monkeys and fed crocodiles. The tour guide took us out into a lake in a caged boat and gave us little fishing sticks with eel on the end. We teased the crocodiles trying to get them to jump up and catch the eel. We also visited a sustainable shrimp farm, which you wouldn't even know was an aquiculture farm because it was so beautiful.
Email me if you have any questions or comments about the voyage so far :) Juliaaugh@gmail.con

Posted by juliaaugh 01:16 Comments (0)

Singapore

Singapore is fun, it feels more like Vegas than anything else. The whole city is new; there are lots of big hotels with light shows and fountains. And almost every metro stop has a huge mall. But Singapore has a very clean and safe atmosphere. It boasts to be the safest city in the world. But this is because they have really harsh punishments for even the smallest crimes like spitting on the street, or not flushing a public toilet.
We explored the Ritzy shopping area, the first picture is of a mall entrance on Orchard street. Then we explored little-India where Aley and I got henna. We also walked around the Bayfront where we saw some amazing architecture, like the Marina Bay Sands hotel that I am pictured with. That night we tried Singapore Slings at the bar at the top, and we got a peek at the infinity pool. The next day we went to the Gardens by the bay which has avatar-like trees. The last two pictures are of the gardens during the day, and at night. I would have liked another day or two to see more of this small country.

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Posted by juliaaugh 03:06 Comments (0)

Myanmar

Myanmar is unlike any place that I have ever seen. It is so rural and so underdeveloped, but has some of the friendliest people that I have met. I traveled with seven other people, I was only friends two of them before Myanmar, but it was a really fun group, and I got to know them all really well. We hired a tour guide to show us around the city. He took us to the markets, a few temples and parks, an orphanage, and an elephant camp. It was nice having everything planned out for us.

The most rewarding experience of this trip was attending an "Umbrella Ceremony." It was such a magical experience, I really can't put it into words, but I will try.
The pagodas here have Stupas, giant gold structures, I'll post pictures when I get to India. At the top of each stupa is an ornament that they call the umbrella, every few decades they replace the umbrella. Even though there are hundreds of pagodas in Myanmar, this is a rare occasion, we were very lucky to be a part of it. At first I was worried about showing my shoulders, and not knowing when to pray or bow, but everyone there was so excited to have us at the umbrella ceremony, that they couldn't care less if we knew how to participate properly. They pulled us over to take pictures of the umbrella, then pushed us over to the rope to help hoist pieces of the umbrella up to the top of the stupa. Then they cleared a path so we could be right at the front of the stupa to watch the final part of the ceremony. They threw candy and money down from the top of the stupa, and everyone went running to pic it up. Some of the children gave the candy to us. After the ceremony, they asked us to take pictures and videos with the head of the monastery, and with some of the monks. I have never felt so much love from a group of people, and never been so in the moment.

Another favorite experience in Myanmar was playing pass with an elephant. He gave me a rock, then I gave it back, and we played pass for a while. Maybe it was a misunderstanding, and he just wanted me to have the rock, and I kept rejecting his gift. I don't know what was going through his elephant brain, but it was really fun. The elephants had so much personality. When we first got to the elephant camp I went up to an elephant, and it reached out with its trunk as if to touch me, maybe just smell me. Their trunks are so strange. We got to ride them and feed them, I had such a great time! Pictures are on their way!

Posted by juliaaugh 22:26 Comments (0)

Myanmar pictures part 1

Aley, myself, Max, Haley, Pia, and Melanie

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Posted by juliaaugh 12:31 Comments (0)

Myanmar pictures part 2

Monks at the umbrella ceremony

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Posted by juliaaugh 18:51 Comments (0)

India pictures part 1

Picture 1: "New Cochi"
Picture 2 and 3: view from hike
Picture 4: our tents in Munnar
Picture 5: Auto ride thru Cochi

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Posted by juliaaugh 05:01 Comments (0)

More pictures from hike in Munnar

The last picture is of the village where our hike ended. I'm pretty sure that ever person in that town came out to look at us. It's was very rural, there were no souvenir shops, only vegetable stands. We were probably the first foreigners they had seen in a long time.

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Posted by juliaaugh 05:06 Comments (0)

India and Neptune Day

The first day in India I had a field lab for my economics class. We visited a spice refinery, which may have been interesting but I was too busy trying to breath to appreciate it. They were boiling the pepper
that is the main ingredient in pepper spay, so even with a mask it was hard to breath.
The second day in India I went shopping with Aley and Kim. I got a sari, and lots of tea.
The third days I went on a field program organized by SAS. We drove
7 hours into the mountains to camp and hike for three days. The tea plantation in the mountains were absolutely stunning. We hiked a little that evening, and all day the next day. We stopped and played volleyball with some kids, and at the end of the hike we arrived in a small village that I wrote about with the pictures. We camped in tents (pictured), and all of our meals were made at the campsite. There were fifty SASers on
the trip so I got a lot closer with friends I didn't know that well before. On the last day I had a field lab for Human Sexuality. We went to
two hospitals and got lots of information about sexual practices in
India. Fun facts: condoms cost less than 2 cents each, a month of birth control pills are 3 cents, abortions are free, and the government will
pay you $30 to get sterilized if you are in the lowest social class and have already had two children.
I have mixed feelings about India overall. I didn't feel welcome
most of the time, but it may have been a miscommunication in body language. In the village at the end of the hike I went up to a Sari shop and the people there said "by, by." In combination with their body language I thought they were saying "bye, bye" and I was a little
offended that they didn't want my business. But later I realized that
they were probably saying "buy, buy," and I just didn't understand their expressions.

This week we crossed the equator and celebrated with an old maritime tradition of honoring the god Neptune. Monday morning they woke us up
with drums parading down our hallways. We went up to the pool where they poured blue goo on us, then we jumped in the pool, kissed a fish, and kissed King Neptune's Ring. Then everyone had the option to shave their heads, a few of my guy friends took the opportunity. Now there are bald people everywhere! This is my first time in the southern hemisphere, and we are on our way to Mauritius, the furthest point of land from California.

Posted by juliaaugh 20:31 Comments (0)

Mauritius

It was pouring rain in Mauritius. But it was warm rain so it was fun, at least for a while. The first two picture are of my friends and I drenched in rain after only ten minutes in Mauritius. The plan was to go to the beach, but we just walked around town instead. The umbrellas in the next picture covered one of the shopping streets, very cute, but they didn't offer much shelter. Most of the streets were flooded in a few inches of water by the end of the day. We visited the natural history museum and I got to take selfies with a Dodo bird! They are a lot cuter than I ever imagined.

I'm enjoying being on the ship so much. In Asia we only had about two days between each country, so I would basically just sleep for two days straight, but now we have lots of time on the ship. And there has been so much to do. There was an open mike night, a passenger talent show, and crew talent show, inter-port lectures, and the Sea Olympics. I competed in SAS trivia, the hula-hoop pass, and the lip sync dance. It was a really fun day. Kiki and I also taught a line dancing class the next night. I'm going to miss ship life so much.

Email me anytime, I would love to hear from everyone. Juliaaugh@gmail.com

www.semesteratsea.org
(I am obligated to leave a link to the website in the hopes that my story will inspire someone, and SAS enrollment will increase)

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Posted by juliaaugh 23:56 Comments (1)

South Africa pictures part 2

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Posted by juliaaugh 09:26 Comments (0)

South Africa pictures part one

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Posted by juliaaugh 09:36 Comments (0)

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