Late For Dinner

"Adventures...Make you late for dinner." -- Bilbo Baggins

Featuring Thoughts and Images both Adventurous and Otherwise. Dealing mostly with those Occurences and Happenings which befall one Jordan Emmans, during his Sojourn in the Far East (South Korea, specifically). Giving no promise as to Quality or Frequency of posts. Expecting, however, great Diversity of Subject Matter. Hoping sincerely to Entertain and Enlighten those Readers who would care to glance herein. Or Something.

Location: Gwangju, South Korea

I'm a follower of Jesus and a guitarist/drummer/vocalist. I'm from Cool, CA, USA, and I've been in Korea since Jan. 27, 2006. Right now I'm giving teaching a try. Next year...who knows what I'll be doing. Life is an adventure!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Shanghai, and Home

Did I mention that we didn't shower from Lhasa to Shanghai? Well, it's true. So we were oh so happy to get to our hostel in Shanghai, the land of real toilets, a variety of food, and good old fashioned civilization.

It's a cool city, very hip, very cosmopolitan, not very communist. In fact, you wouldn't know you were in Red China just by looking.

Here are me and my rockstar brothers on The Bund:

We were in Shanghai for four days. Drew and Nate went golfing (and Peter was sick and stayed at the hostel) one of the days, so I roamed The Bund. I managed to get inside the Cathay Hotel, even though it was closed for renovations. Here's the dusty piano in the lobby:

This is the ceiling in the lobby of the HSBC Building. You're not allowed to take pictures. Which annoyed me, I confess. I also confess that I managed to take this picture:

After roaming The Bund, I crossed the river to the newer part of town and went to the top of the Jin Mao Tower, the world's 5th tallest building. The views were spectacular. This is a shot of the building they're constructing right next to the Jin Mao Tower:

Here are the spires of the Catholic church we attended on that Sunday:

Here's the interior of a Protestant church I found while wandering around town:

April 30 was Nate's birthday, so we celebrated at the hostel's rooftop bar. Drew got deathly ill the night before, so he was out of commission. Here's the cake:

The gentleman on the left is Johann, a South African and a very cool guy. He's an author (in Afrikaans, his mother tongue) and a university professor, and he stood us all to drinks. He also bought the cake:

The next morning, May 2nd, we flew our separate ways, me back to Korea and the guys back to California. It was a strange feeling saying goodbye to my brothers, but I'll see them again in a year or so.

It was really good to be back in Korea, where I at least know my way around. It's funny how it felt like coming home. It's not home, but it is, in a way. Do you know what I mean? Anyway, so ends the China trip narrative. Hope you enjoyed it, thanks for reading, stay tuned for more adventures.

The Road Home II

On our way out of Tibet, we stayed in a little town on the border for a day, visiting a real working Buddhist monastary, in which were various interesting statues:

This statue was enclosed in a kind of closet. Looking through a crack, you could see, quite suddenly and unpleasantly, these guys glaring bloody murder at you. Eerie:

After that we traveled to a Catholic church, the only one we saw in Tibet, and it was like coming home. We had grown weary of all the prayer flags and the sense of mysterious cruelty you get from Buddhist monastaries. The cross was a welcome sight:

Back on the road; more remote Tibetan towns:

We finally made it to Yunnan Province in China, after four days on the road through amazing, dramatic, remote, rugged country. The Chinese town we ended up in was Zhongdian. There we saw one of the cooler sights on our trip: a large crowd of Tibetans were all basically line dancing to traditional music in a public square. They all knew the steps of the dance, and it was a trip to watch them as a whole, rather than focusing on individual dancers. They moved as one, as it were:

We stayed in Zhongdian for one day and two nights, then boarded a plane for Shanghai and the final stop of our trip.

Tibet III: The Road Home, Part I

From Everest we drove Emma, our British friend, to Tingri, which is close to the Nepal border. From there she was going to find a ride over the border, then take a bus to Katmandu. She's quite the independent adventurer.

Now, about Jennifer, our driver. We started calling him that (I think it was Nate who came up with the name) as a way to vent our frustrations. He spoke basically no English and never caught on to the joke. But he was an interesting character. He was very rude, very uncooperative, treated Emma poorly, and tried to pull a fast one on us.

By which I mean, he suddenly said that no, he wouldn't drive us to Tingri, that the plan had been all along to go to a different town (which wouldn't work at all for Emma). So we had to call his boss, with whom we had worked out our whole Everest trip, to rectify the situation. His boss said of course, Jennifer was to take us to Tingri. That was the plan from the beginning. So it was very strange how the itinerary took a sudden turn.

We later realized that Jennifer was probably trying to avoid the road to Tingri, which was basically a 4x4 trail at some points. The suspension on Jennifer's Land Cruiser was a little worse for wear, so we figure he was worried about it. But it was really not cool of him to try to scam us, to take advantage of our vulnerability, especially because Emma really had to get to Tingri; it wasn't an option, as her China visa was nearly expired.

Anyway, it all worked out, Emma made it to Tingri, we made it back to Lhasa (after spending a miserable night in what was easily the most miserable, fithiest "motel" of our trip), and we were rid of Jennifer. And good riddance, too.

Then we had four days of down time, waiting for our permits to drive from Tibet back into China. I got the flu, was out of it for two days, then we were back on the road, with a new, much friendlier driver (and a guide who was also a nice guy), through some really amazing country. It was much less arid than the road to Everest. Here are some shots:

Here we are exploring a cave we saw from the road:

Drew wishing us peace:

Turns out it was pretty shallow, not the labyrinth we were hoping for. But still fun to climb up to.

The terrain changed dramatically every time we turned a corner. We went from the high desert, to the Rockies, to the jungle, to the Sierra Nevadas in one day. Crazy steep slopes, plunging gorges, rushing rivers, and lush vegetation -- the road had it all.

Tibet II: The Big Mountain

Alright, back to the China trip narrative. Sorry for the delay.

After Shigatze we hit the road again:

We stopped for lunch at this little town, and were promptly descended upon by a group of Tibetan boys selling...fossils. You got that, little fossils, basically rocks with imprints of small sea creatures that the kids find way up there on the Roof of the World, and sell for a bit of spending money. Here, Drew and Nate are haggling with them over price:

The Tibetan man is our driver, whom we Christened "Jennifer." I'll explain later. For now, just know that he deserved it, though he didn't understand the joke:

Here's a portion of the road to Everest. You're looking down an incredibly steep, high mountain, at endless switchbacks. It was an adventure:

Mountains, among which is Everest, though you can't see it through the clouds:

A small Tibetan dwelling, tucked away among super-high, super-remote mountains. There were quite a few of these along the way:

These folks had broken down on their way from the monastary near Everest. I think their suspension had come a cropper, from what I could gather. We gave one of the guys a ride back to the monastary, where I assume they called the Tibetan version of roadside assistance:

At around 5 pm we came into view of this:

It's big. Real big. And we're standing at about 15,000 ft. above sea level. Everest is 29,028 ft. high (8,848 meters). It blows your mind. That's near where airlplanes fly. You can actually watch the mountain create its own weather; see the clouds streaming off to the right of the mountain?

The next morning we watched the sun rise on The Mountain. It was the coldest I've ever been, but also an incredible experience:

Then we hiked to the closest point allowed, the beginning of Base Camp. You can see the tents of many a mountaineer, from all over the world. (If we had gone farther, the Red Army, which had a presence there, would have nabbed us and fined us $200. So we didn't try it.) On top of a little knoll, we smoked (as Drew would say) a delicious, delicious celebratory cigar:

Peter was too young to smoke, of course:

We also discovered the location of the true Hotel California:

I like this shot. It's very representative of the whole area -- massive, incredibly beautiful mountains, peopled by tough-as-nails, dirty-as-can-be, friendly-as-can-be yak herders: