It has been about two months since we’ve done this awesome Mekong cruise with Shompoo Cruise. During our more-than-a-year-trip we have used boats before to cross a lake, like the Tatvan – Van ferry. But this was the first time we decided to get from point A to point B via a river. Shompoo Cruise brought us from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai at the Thai border, via an overnight stop in Pak Beng. Two days of chilling on the Mekong, with the best sunsets and delicious food! Life is hard, right? We highly recommend you to try it out. Let us convince you…
The BRT, short for ‘Bus Rapid Transit’, is a bus circling the 2nd ring road in its own lane. It takes you from one side of the city to the other in no time. While connecting all the metro stops and mayor bus and train hubs, it makes for public transport running super smooth in this perfectly layed out city. Don’t bother trying to catch a ride for free though: the bus stations are in the middle of the six-laned floating highway that is only accessible from below, passing by super modern acces gates. BRT: it’s our cup of tea!
As you could read in the blog post about pandas, we were lucky enough to see pandas in Chengdu. This was on July 18th to be more precise. (http://www.planelesstravellers.com/travel/charlie-and-pandas-a-love-story/) We got there by bus… Watch out! There are many fake panda buses around.
Like this one…
… Or this one…
The one and only REAL panda bus is local bus 867. After taking bus 120 from Wanda plaza for ten stops, we transferred to the 867, an old crappy bus with only locals… But you know what? It got us all the way to the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center for 4 yuan only! We love local buses, and we love this panda bus!
Today, we used public transport like heroes: smooth and fast. We took the BRT-bus, and metro lines 1 and 2 to the Wenshu monastery as if we have known the city for years. It started to rain like crazy just when we catched the bus. The bus that saved us from the rain was bus 1, and takes about eleven stops to go from the monastery to the Jin Li food street. Since it crosses the whole city center, and because it was our first day in town, we were enjoying the views from inside a lot.
The last bus we took that day was bus 21 for ten stops to the amazing IFS-mall area, the real center of Chengdu. There we saw the giant climbing panda statue on one of the buildings, and went to a wine bar to watch our couchsurfing host performing Jazz music.
After Iran, public transport was generally limited to taxis and marskrutkas, so it’s been a while since we’ve taken a metro. The one in Almaty, Kazakhstan, is even the first one we found in Central Asia! It is also one of the newest metros in the world, so of course we had to go see it. (And we needed to keep Davy and his eye for architecture happy.) It’s a small metro; just one line and nine stations.
But wow, so modern. So tidy. So new! Every station is a worthy tourist attraction on itself. Classical themed, colourful themed, modern themed stations,… We were definitely not the only people taking pictures. Of course, we had a lot of time to do a decent photo shoot, since there rides only one train every fifteen minutes. They should really improve the frequency of the system. We feel this metro can learn something from the stream of trains in Iran. However, listen to this, Iran: men and women can at least sit together 😉
Time to move on from Dushanbe! Ien and Charlotte are leaving Davy behind to discover the mysterious Pamir mountains in eastern Tajikistan. Davy and our new friend Goga (Gorga for the friends ;-)) were a bit nervous. Two girls heading to a desolate place, hitchhiking, … Will this all end well?
We can start with telling you that it did end well! We’re not going to narrate the whole experience from A to Z, but let us at least tell you about our time in the truck.
Actually, our experience with a truck begins on the Asian Express bus from Dushanbe to Kulob, where we met a nice man who did not speak any English and who was feeding us (uuuhmm, rather disgusting) soup and rhubarb. But long story short: we already broke all our self-imposed safety rules on day one. For example, we got in the car of a stranger (not knowing where we were heading) and we didn’t text the license plate to our buddies. Fail! In our defense: we did have a good vibe with this stranger 🙂 We ended up in a small tiny winy village, did a hike with the man’s son named Ali, ate delicious chicken and fried potatoes, and had a good time.
The next day, daddy – who understood the concept of low-budget travelling (we have time but no money) – took us to a place that was random and unknown to us. He arranged a truck that would take us all the way to Khorog, some 450 kilometers further away. By the way, he was smarter then we were and did write down the license plate!
Maybe you can ask Davy, but you should know that Tajikistan is kind of corrupt. This is why tax money probably disappears in some unknown pocket (nice Villa in Saint-Tropez?) and is not used to repair or construct nice roads. One could think that the lack of maintaining the roads is because of the long distances and the altitude and landslides, but Kyrgyzstan proves that none of those things aren’t insuperable! So there we were, in a heavy loaded monster-truck, bumping our way through the mountains. Our average speed might have been 15km an hour because the road was blocked twice due to landslides, and because we had ‘balloon pssssss’* more then once. At some point we passed by a donkey, but after another ‘balloon psssss’ incident, the donkey caught up with us. Very confronting!
Don’t get us wrong, we had a lot of fun, were not bored at any time, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery from behind our giant truck window. We know ourselves, we would probably have fallen asleep all the time in a 4×4 and have ended up with not having seen shit, but being thrown from left to right, and up and down, there was no other choice then to watch the landscape for hours and hours in a row. During this long ride, we socialized with our fellow truckers, ate chorba (soup) together, drank tea, waited chilling in the sun untill the road blocks were being repaired. Yeah yeah… Pamir-truckerland has no more secrets for us.
Fifty hours, two landslides, two ‘balloon psssss’ and two nights (yes, we slept in the truck) later, we finally arrived safe and sound in Khorog for less then one third of the normal price.
WELL DONE, IEN AND CHARLIE!
Written by the Trucker Girls 😉 (because we took more trucks afterwards)
*Flat tire (since we don’t speak Russian or Tajik, mimes and sound were the only way to communicate with our driver.)