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Citation du moment
« Il n'y a pas de bonnes habitudes. L'habitude, c'est une façon de mourir sur place. »
Albert Quentin - Un singe en hiver


28 Feb 2014 | Pingyao, Shanxi, China


Going down from Huashan, I directly start to hitchhike in the direction of Beijing. It's already evening so I end up stopping in the little town of Yuncheng (运城, lit. lucky city) which turns out to be nice, as a standard chinese city.
I then decide to break my trip in two, stopping at the ancient city of Pingyao (平遥, lit. distant calm). I don't have much expectations on it, expecting another lijiang crowded by tourists and loosing its charms to shops and hotels.

But I was positively surprised, the city is in all senses charming, and indeed very calm. There are touristic streets wich don't take too much space -and are quite empty but probably because it's not the season; but the city is still a real one with real people living there and doing their life as usual, it has kept its inner life. So good!

How would you like your stairs?

26 Feb 2014 | Huashan, Shaanxi, China


Mount Hua or Huashan (华山), that was an old dream of mine! So I hitchhike my way and there I am.
Huashan is one of five sacred moutains in Taoism, it has thousands years long of histories and legends. It is full of little -and less little- temples and monasteries, and carries load of pilgrims. But nowadays it has also been turned in a big touristy spot, with fences and entrance gates (I get away with my VHF radio certificate that become a student ID for the day), buses, tours, cable cars, shops, expensive hotels... All those things that in my opinion spoil any natural wonder.

And as having been constantely visited and inhabited, the moutain is full of different pathways, fighting with the harshness of its cliffs and the hardness of the rock. Thousands and thousands of stairs have been carved, and more are being as the security is being improved to increase the amount of visitors coming to the site.
I of course choose the several kilometers long pathway that leads to the top, enjoying its relative emptyness and quietness before I merge with the crowd of tourist at the top. But being off season that is still manageable and I can gladly enjoy all the wonders these moutains have to offer.
I enjoy the sunrise on the East peak which was a bit spoiled by the clouds, but these very clouds have given me a great surprise during the night: unspoiled snow-white moutain to explore!

After two days of going around there, I finally take the stairs back on the other side, totally exhausted of the hard walk and my legs being off-service for several days. But it was worth :-)

Pottery and archeology

24 Feb 2014 | Xi'an, Shaanxi, China


I hitchhike my way to Xi'an where I'm gonna volunteer for a week in a mushroom farm in the suburbs. People are really nice there but the work is really dull and repetitive, I don't learn anything about mushroom farming as no one can explain me or even seems to care, they all have been there for months or years and just mechanically accomplish the required tasks. Only one of the girl speaks a little of English so also conversation is limited.
But it gives me the possibility to explore Xi'an a bit. Xi'an (西安 lit. West peace) is very interesting historically as having been the capital of the country several time, it's a walled city with the largest walls in the world, an interesting muslim district in the center... It's nice to peacefully walk around and enjoy the local life.

But one of the other main interest of the city lies in the famous Terracotta Army depicting the first Qin emperor's army whose mausoleum is close by. The 2200-years-old site is very interesting, not only you can see all this clay-made army, but it is also a museum of archeology as they explain all the technics used for the various excavations since the discovering of the first pit in 1974. And it's still growing as new pits are being discovered, recently some containing acrobats, priests or even animals.


16 Feb 2014 | Chengdu, Sichuan, China


Down from the mountains! I had first thought of continuing North stoping at Shangri-la and continue accross the mountains to Sichuan, but the man who had taken me to Qiaotou, who is from Shangri-la, confirmed me as I had read somewhere that a fire had destroyed most of the city center, and also told me that the road I intended to take afterwards wasn't practicable except if I wanted to walk -which is tempting but may take a couple of weeks I don't have- so I'd better go back South to use another road (I was surprised myself I could extract so much information from a conversation, in Chinese only please ;)

My second option is to go back to Lijiang and then take another road East accross some other mountains passing by Lugu lake which would make a nice stopover, Wujia who came that way had told me the road is in poor condition but practicable.
But fate decided otherwise: the first people who stop for me are going directly to Kunming, so I could as well go with them and take the main road to Chengdu from there. They are super nice so it's decided, I spend the day with them, we stop at some super good restaurant ran by one of their friend, and as it's late when we arrive in Kunming, I'm invited to stay at one of the lady's place who gave me her son's room, super!

The following day I start hitchhiking to Chengdu under the newly cold weather but make it only to Leshan, after trying the traditional Sichuan hot pot, where I camp overnight (to make sure I can still survive cooler temperatures after almost a year in too hot :D )

I spend a couple of days in Chengdu. I had read somewhere that you shouldn't expect to get a tan here as the city is famous for its lack of sun. Well it's true. Weather keeps gray-ish, not a single ray of sun. No much interest in the city itself, there are Sichuan mountains not far around but China is big and I don't have so much time so I'd better move on.

A gutsy tiger!

12 Feb 2014 | Hutiaoxia, Yunnan, China


Following Sarka's advice, I make my way to Qiaotou (桥头 lit. bridge head) which starts the Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiaoxia 虎跳峡 in Chinese) over the Yangtze river. The legend being that to escape a hunter, a tiger jumped from one of the rock to the other side of the gorge. That one had guts because it's still quite of a jump over the rapids!

I start slowly around midday, taking my time as I want to spend several days here, making the most of the mountain far from the tourists crowd (it is not 'the season' for foreign tourist, and most Chinese tourists don't hike, they take the bus on the road down the gorge...). I meet some local Naxi people (the local minority) on the way, being nice but mostly used to 'milking cow' tourists, too bad! I stop for the night at the first village of importance after just a few hours of walk, so I can enjoy resting and reading in the mountain's fresh air, it feels so good!
The Naxi family running the guesthouse is really nice, it's only me and Wujia -a Chinese girl from Shanghai- as guest, the evening is spent chatting around the fire and drinking tea.

Second day we leave together with Wujia, it's the first time she hikes in the mountain and doesn't feel comfortable doing it alone. The walk is very pleasant, the pathway easy, and the view magnificient, perfect!
In the afternoon we split as Wujia wants to follow the pathway that goes down where there are buses, while I will stay longer up, thinking about climbing Huba mountain the following day.
But from there the way becomes much more difficult, with at some point a dangerous landslide I have to climb as I'm already too high to go back down. I finally make it to a guesthouse where I am the only guest and the people are rather cold...

The morning welcomes black clouds, it's dripping a bit, and doesn't look like it will get better. Definitely not a day to climb a mountain! Too bad, but I walk down, taking a tour at the gorge down there before hitchhiking my way out.


10 Feb 2014 | Lijiang, Yunnan, China


After Dali, I continue North and make my way to Lijiang (丽江 lit. beautiful river). I'm lucky to make all the way in a small slow truck which avoids the newly built expensive motorway full of tunnels, to take the old road accross the mountains instead, allowing me to enjoy the beautiful landscape.

Lijiang is a very old city with a lovely old town having little canals going all around. That makes it a very popular destination, crowded by tourists. But well, I know what to expect and here the old town is authentic unlike Dali or the other popular neightbouring city of Shangri-la. So I will spend a day there, trying to escape the crowd a bit and getting lost in the small charming streets.

A bit of mountains

9 Feb 2014 | Dali, Yunnan, China


After a couple of days in Kunming, I feel a need of going hiking in the mountains, it's months I didn't have a nice hike, and no need to go as far as Tibet, Yunnan is a very mountaineous region at the beginning of the Himalayas.

Thumb out, I write my first chinese characters on my hitchhiking board, and off I go. First stop Dali (大理 lit. big reason) which is made of two parts: the new town at the South of lake Erhai, and the old town at the West, which has been rebuilt recently for tourism. I settle at the latter, being at the foot of the Cangshan mountains (苍山 lit. dark blue/green mountains), and being cheaper for accomodation (in China it turns out that the western-style touristy hostel are the cheapest as you would hardly find dorms in the traditionnal Chinese ones).

At the hostel I meet another jobless traveler, Sarka from Czech republic, who wants to come hiking. The more, the merrier :) we set off in the morning after touring the market for food.
With China's recent discovery of capitalism or the religion of money, witch lead to the take off of the tourism industry (also with the end of the 'cultural revolution', now people are allowed to be interested in their own -now forgotten- culture and heritage), every sight of -even little- interest has an entry fee, and even the mountains are fenced with access gates...
Going around, we finally find a way where there is a gate guarded by militaries who register people names but don't ask for money. It leads to a cemetary from where we can reach the mountain accross the forest.
It's so good to be in the mountain! We quickly make our way out of the tourist path to climb straight up and enjoy the nature. Too bad we cannot make it to the summit but it's quite high (3700m) and time and weather are against us. We make our way down with the last rays of sun while everything is closed.

Firsts steps in China

6 Feb 2014 | Kunming, Yunnan, China


Lao being not so different from Thailand (simular culture, language, people...), and being still very hot, I decide I'll go directly to China! A couple of scooters later I'm done with the 60km left to the border (I'm not sure the second guy who took me for most of the way had any plan to go there...).
Walking accross is easy, and welcome to China!

I start hitchhiking toward Jinghong, the first city of importance on my way. I'm soon taken by Xiao Mei and her family, they came to do some shopping and also wanted to go to Lao but were turned down at the border. To make the most of their Spring holidays, they decide to go around a bit before going back to Kunming. They are all super nice, even if communication is a bit hard -Xiao Mei being the only one who speak a little of English- they make me fill comfortable and I enjoy their company. The food is plentiful in the car and they also take me to my first Chinese restaurant, after a few days of not eating much in Lao, I'm quickly overfull :)

Once in Jinghong they offer me to stay with them in their hotel room, and restaurant again and pub... So nice for my first impression of Chinese people! The following day they are going to Pu'er, no idea what's there but I happily join. Turns out there is nothing, it's famous for the tea but that's it, so we continue to Mojiang, they have a friend living there.
Mojiang is famous for being on the Tropic of Cancef line, they have a park in the city for that one, and also made one for the Sun and one for the Moon. After visiting a bit around and eating a few times again (I can't eat anymore, too much food!), they go to their friend's place while I find a place to spend the night, we will met again tomorrow.
All the hotels on the city are full (especially the cheap ones) as it is holidays and that area of China is where the warm weather is, so as I decide I will just sleep sonewhere outside, a granny takes me to a place -which I still don't really know whether it's an hotel or not- and indicates me I can sleep on the couch in the common room, perfect!

The following day I meet Xiao Mei and family again, today they will go to the mother of her sister's husband (which is not actually her sister but cousin, the one-child-policy of China kinda screw up the whole thing), so they will take me to the next city, Yuxi, from where I can make my way to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan.
I'm a bit sad to leave them, but that's how it goes, and I'm soon taken by a family from Chongqing, in several cars, going to Kunming.
I find myself in the car with all the children (well it's more that all the children jump in the car with me haha) and they all learn english at school so it's very funny to communicate with them and gives me a couple of hours of Chinese lessons (my head hurts afterward...).

Once in Kunming, it's again a granny who find me an hotel, when I make her understand it's too expensive, she would scout all the area to find something I can afford. Checking in is also a sport in itself, when they have a foreigner they have to fill additionnal forms -if they are allowed to take foreigners at all-, and even with my passport in hand no one seems to be able to find the information they need, like name, address, country...

Looks like I will have to make great efforts in learning basics of Chinese very quickly!

Across Lao

2 Feb 2014 | Luang Namtha, Lao DPR


No direct boat to China for me finally, I'll go to Lao. I make my way to Chiang Khong and someone tells me that there is now a bridge to cross the Mekong that opened last month, no more boats. Once there I'm taken by a Philippino man who offers me to sleep in the hotel he is building in Huay Xai.

The following day I feel like walking a bit, China is some 200km away, I can see what happens... So here I go, I still get a few rides people spontaneously offer me but enjoy walking in that savage countryside. The road is brand new with almost no traffic, except those groups of Chinese cars coming by ten, twenty or sometime more than fifty, all going to Thailand enjoying the Spring festival (Chinese new year) holidays.
But after having walked some 30km, it is afternoon, the sun is high and temperatures are around 40°C, I'm of course running out of water and next village is likely quite a while away. So when a truck driver passing me makes sign for me to jump in, I don't hesitate much! He is going to the Chinese border but I ask him to leave me before, at Luang Namtha, as I didn't decide yet whether I'll stay a bit in Lao or go directly to China. I'm starving also, I had forgotten to eat that day, so I gladly accept the boiled egg he hands me, but turns out to be the kind with the embryo in, it's alright but I wouldn't recommend it on an empty stomach :D

Luang Namtha turns out to be quite relaxing place, it's a small town at the crossroad in between China, Thailand and the rest of Lao as the only road to the main towns of Luang Prabang and Vientiane is here also. So there are all sorts of cultures mixed up, travelers also which are already a better kind than the standard tourists in Thailand. I'll stay one more day there to enjoy the atmosphere and decide what to do next...

First view of the Mekong

30 Jan 2014 | Chiang Saen, Thailand


Time is for me to come back to my dear loneliness, which sounds like freedom to my ears, only me to care about, no need to discuss any (absence of) plan, alone on the road! Serena takes the train to make her way South to Malaysia from where she will fly to Turkey, I'll make my way North, flying only within my head ;)

From Chiang Mai I hitchhike to Chiang Rai accross the beautiful mountains. It's quite a big industrial and commercial city where transit goods coming from and going to China through Lao, nothing much of interest for me.
Hitchhiking out of the city, a young student girl stops with her scooter, telling me she is going to her university a few kilometers away, being late for her lecture. A few km is better than nothing, I go with her. She doesn't stop and drives straight to the next city, 30km away. When we get there, I assure her I'm alright and will find my way, so she leaves and I start walking a bit to the next road. Fifteen minutes later she's back, too late for her lecture anyway so she insists on taking me all the way to Chiang Saen and to give me a tour there. Off we go, 30 more kilometers and she takes me to some ruins and temples and to the Golden Triangle wich I had never intended to visit. The Golden Triangle is where the Ruak and the Mekong river meet, and the border point between Thailand, Myanmar and Lao, it got its name because of the opium traffic that used to transit there. Nowadays it's only built up fof tourism purposes.
Back to Chiang Saen, it's getting late so she makes her way back while I try to inquire about boats going directly to China up the Mekong, but no luck there, the only boat is in eight days time and costs something like 100€...